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Frederick The Monk
621.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 4:27 am Reply with quote

I'm with you on the 'Prayer' doc Flash. We have a lot of these types of Documetary now. They start with a contentious question - is this a piece of the true cross? Did the ark of the covenant used to be in Dagenham? is it possible to live on just bananas? We then get a hour of a dodgy academic wandering around, squinting at the odd dubious document, a poorly conceived graphic and a final upsum that invariable ends with the phrase 'we may never know'. Poor.

622.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 6:31 am Reply with quote

And then they tried to imply that the findings were in some way "controversial" because of "anomalies" in the data - anomalies which were completely unspecified. D'oh.

Frederick The Monk
624.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 7:55 am Reply with quote

Exactly - what was all that about? Admittedly I'd rather lost the will to live by that point in the show but I could have sworn I heard someone say that the statistical analysis said there was no proven link between prayer and medical outcome. This was then followed with the classic - 'ah but there were anomalies'. What anomalies? In what? Why does being anomalous make them any more statistically significant? - I would have thought the reverse is true.

625.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 8:15 am Reply with quote

I haven't seen the documentary, obviously, but the BBC website says this about the anomalies:

The results indicated that prayer may help reduce patients' distress levels.

Sister Patricia, from the Carmelite Monastery in Baltimore, says:
"A person can be healed in ways were not aware of.

"Maybe their heart wasn't healed in this particular study but...maybe they're meant to be ready for death in a fuller way...that's healing in itself."

Frederick The Monk
635.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 9:28 am Reply with quote

Wow. I think if they're going to imply that a 'successful' outcome for prayer is both recovery AND death then I wonder why they are bothering to attempt a double-blind experiment in the first place.

This of course is always the problems with attempted proofs of religious effects. Whatever the outcome the believers will, probably quite rightly, claim that it was the will of God.

638.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 9:36 am Reply with quote

Yes, Jenny, they had tacked on an extra bit of research to test a system which is apparently used by some people in India, of playing relaxing music to some of the patients and laying on hands; the only positive result they came up with was that this group were more relaxed at the time of the op, but then actually fared worse than the control group in the longer term.

Then the nun came out and said that maybe the prayer didn't work because they "weren't meant" to survive, or alternatively they were healed but in some non-physical sense. Sorry, Fred already said that. I'm just getting all agitated.

Still, rest assured that I'm praying for you all.

640.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 9:46 am Reply with quote

We'll have to wait for the return of QI's Man in China for his fuller explanation of efficacy of prayer. As I understand him, though, recent scientific experiments in Oregon took place along the following lines....

Some bacteria (B question alert!) were poisoned with alcohol until they became unwell. They were then divided into two lots.

Two prayer-groups were then asked to pray.

One prayed specifically for one lot of the bacteria, the other for the general well-being of the universe.

The bacteria which were NOT specifically prayed for got better first...

647.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 10:07 am Reply with quote

I think it's a huge mistake to think of prayer as being some kind of magic fix-it mechanism. However, that doesn't mean it is pointless. If the act of prayer only has an impact on the one making it, that's a positive thing. My views aren't particularly Christian though, and I dare say somebody more orthodox than I would have a different view on it. I posted an excellent piece from Bishop Spong about this the other day, but orthodox Christians don't think much of him either.

I don't know if any of you get Mark Morford's Morning Fix on SFGate emailed to you, but he had an article on there this morning that's kind of relevant to this:

The article begins with the general angst of living in an America being reamed by BushCo (TM) and then asks what we can do to counteract it. Apologies for the long quote, but I have trimmed it a bit:

I humbly submit, here is the first part of the answer: You sift. You filter. You refine your awareness and stay very attuned and educated, yet choose what you want to let in and what you want to reject and flush away as dangerous and scarring to your heart, and you work within your range of heat and breath and love. This is the only way. Take it all on and you will crumble and short circuit and implode.

What else? You pray your ass off. But not on your knees. You do not whimper and give yourself over to some angry bitter paternalistic God and get all meek and guilty and powerless. Not this time, baby.


You do not think yourself rife with pathos and sin and irreparable flaws. You do not merely "have faith" that some higher power has a master plan, and therefore you get to take no responsibility for your life or your decisions because you're just a feeble apelike pawn grateful for even the tiniest scrap of a hint of a wisp of mercy.

You think the divine wants you submissive and passive and mushy and pathetic? Bull. You wanna know God? Look in the mirror.


To avoid karmic meltdown and utter disgusted nausea and suicidal tendencies and the bashing of one's skull into the brick wall of cultural ignorance six hours a day: You work on you. This is the only thing you can really do. What, too boring? Hardly.

You think it's easy to do everything in your power on a day-to-day basis to crank your divinity and suck the big toe of your own personal Jesus and discover that the god you seek is actually you, is your true Self, and beam that healthy sexy wet individual robustness out to your immediate world every day, minimize the refined sugar and the garbage food and the stomping of the planet and maximize the orgasmic sighs and the organic highs and the holistic everything? Verily, 'tis not.

You kiss with everything you've got. You love deep, make love with full intent, feel the divine's hot breath on your skin at every possible moment, buy the best wine you can afford, read your ass off, cherish your body, get lots of sleep, hunker down, scream your joy. There.


But goddammit, look. Look around. I do all that, and nothing changes. Still the world is imploding. Still murders and animal abuse and BushCo reaming the planet and it doesn't seem to get any better, and in fact only seems to be getting worse, no matter what I do. Right?

Wrong. The world changes with every intent. The world is affected by every single thing you do. They can't truly crush you, because working on yourself means your divine bullshit detector is cranked to 11 at all times and you laugh in the face of their debauchery and you do not eat at their trough of sameness and white noise and dread.

And this is the most powerful awareness of all.

648.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 10:13 am Reply with quote

He's very good that guy, Jenny. Thanks.

He seems a though, doesn't he?

652.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 10:20 am Reply with quote

That was pretty typical of his style Jack, but although manic he does have interesting things to say. I subscribe to the SFGate Morning Fix, which comes three times a week via email. Nearly always worth at least a scan.

I have to say, that living in Bush II's America is quite enough to make many of us react like this. It's not a very nice vibe to live with actually - you have to work hard to stay balanced and not be angry with people, especially when continually confronted with what Morford describes as 'the brick wall of cultural ignorance'.

655.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 10:25 am Reply with quote

I can well imagine.

Shouldn't be flippant because I really like his style, the interesting stuff embedded in the raging vernacular. Very arresting.

681.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 3:32 pm Reply with quote

Some years ago, an experiment was done in France, I believe, where half a dozen perfectly healthy students sat reading, studying, etc, in cubicles across one wall of a hall, wired to electrowhatsits to measure their vital signs. In the hall sat an audience, watching the sitters through a glass wall of each cubicle. Above each cubicle, where the sitters could not see it, was a small light. Each light was switched on randomly, for about ten minutes a time. The audience was asked to think positive thoughts towards the sitter whose light was on, and only towards that person, to see if his state of health altered. Apparently whenever a light went on and the sitter was the target of these positive vibes, although unknown to himself, his metabolism speeded up to a measurable degree over the ten minutes, and slowed again fast when someone else's light went on and the thoughts went elsewhere. A form of prayer? Telepathy?

691.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 4:02 pm Reply with quote

That's very QI Frances.

Can you find a source for the information?

692.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 4:04 pm Reply with quote


On your earlier point about last night's TV show's allegedly low-celebrity wattage...

I can't understand you haven't come across Jackie Clune before, but Jimmy Carr? Surely he's quite famous isn't he?

693.  Fri Oct 24, 2003 4:22 pm Reply with quote

I've never heard of him, Jack...


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