Pharyngula

A little godless amusement

What’s gotten into the Huffington post? There’s a flood of entries making

fun of

Christian self-pity. Two possible interpretations: liberals are all god-hating elitists, or fundamentalist fanatics have made easy targets of themselves lately. I’ll let you guess which hypothesis I favor.


Laugh long and hard, everyone, and let’s all sing out, “I told you so!” Prayer is worthless. Despite his job description, I think I’d rather like Dr Koenig:

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center, who did not take part in the study, said the results did not surprise him.

“There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either,” he said.

Science, he said, “is not designed to study the supernatural.”

Once again, the Templeton Foundation throws another bucket of money down a rathole of foolishness.


This is a very well-timed result since “The National Day of Prayer” is coming up on 4 April. How about celebrating a National Day of Reason instead? And how about doing something with an actual medical benefit?

Counter the “Day of Prayer” with Positive Action! Donate Blood!
If you decry the so-called “National Day of Prayer” as a forced encroachment of religion into our official
calendar, join us, the Center for Atheism (CFA) in celebrating
the supremacy of reason by donating blood on 4 May 2006 in a nationwide program.
Blood is a simple way that any secular person can observe the Day of Reason
in a positive way. Everyone can take part: There is no marching or picketing, no placards to make or carry, no
permit is necessary, there is no confrontation with authorities or the religious community. We call
our blood donation program B.L.O.O.D., an acronym for Benefiting Lives Of Others Donations, and we intend to do it every year on the Day of Reason.

Comments

  1. #1 wamba
    March 30, 2006

    This is a very well-timed result since “The National Day of Prayer” is coming up on 4 April.

    Seems to be about 3 days late.

  2. #2 wamba
    March 30, 2006

    Ahem, the National Day of Prayer is scheduled for May 4, 2006

  3. #3 wamba
    March 30, 2006

    From the David Horton piece:

    A religious belief which relies on evolution not having occurred is like a religious belief that relies on the sun revolving around the earth, or on thunder and lightning being the result of gods fighting, or on Spring coming only after a virgin is sacrificed.

    Well put. Which brings us to Robert Sungenis’ new book:
    ‘Galileo Was Wrong,’ claims geocentrist writer

  4. #4 demoman
    March 30, 2006

    Why do you spend so much time attacking something you are claim is beneath notice?

    Like Fred Phelps, attacking the very thing you are secretly attracted to ?

  5. #5 BronzeDog
    March 30, 2006

    I don’t know about PZ, but until all the Christian “Scientists”, faith healers, and the like give up healing by prayer and start performing productive actions instead, then I’ll consider the idea beneath notice.

  6. #6 darukaru
    March 30, 2006

    Like Fred Phelps, attacking the very thing you are secretly attracted to ?

    I bet you think this is some kind of rhetorical super slam, don’t you.

  7. #7 The Brummell
    March 30, 2006

    “…we intend to do it every year on the Day of Reason.”

    I’m not allowed to give blood now in Canada, due to a childhood spent partly in the UK (Mad Cows, doncha know). But if I remember correctly, an average adult’s physiology is sufficiently robust to tolerate donating blood about every three months. So there’s no reason to limit this good deed to only one day a year.

  8. #8 wamba
    March 30, 2006

    Why do you spend so much time attacking something you are claim is beneath notice?

    I, for one, would be happy to start ignoring the wacko fundy religionists, just as soon as they stop trying to take over the public school curriculum and the government.

    Fire up your favorite search engine and look up “red heifer”. Then tell me it’s safe to ignore these people.

  9. #9 pough
    March 30, 2006

    wamba, that Sun Herald article has Robert C. Newman (featured in “At last…a specific Intelligent Design hypothesis”) giving a smackdown on geocentrism. So he’s pulling double-duty as both a quack and a quack-smack on Pharyngula on the same day!

  10. #10 BronzeDog
    March 30, 2006

    Fire up your favorite search engine and look up “red heifer”. Then tell me it’s safe to ignore these people.

    Did I just cross over into the Twilight Zone? I’m getting the skin-crawling sensation I felt during a New Year marathon of it.

  11. #11 wamba
    March 30, 2006

    But if I remember correctly, an average adult’s physiology is sufficiently robust to tolerate donating blood about every three months.

    The Red Cross sez:

    To give blood for transfusion to another person, you must be healthy, be at least 17 years old or 16 years old if allowed by state law, weigh at least 110 pounds, and not have donated blood in the last 8 weeks (56 days).

    Unless you’re doing their new “double red” procedure, in which case the time requirement doubles. Then there’s all those probing questions about your health and sex life. My next donation will be in April.

  12. #12 Brent T.
    March 30, 2006

    It is interesting how people’s views of whether science should test religious beliefs often come out differently depending on what the result of the science happens to be. Rationale people should be expected to judge information fairly regardless of whether it fits nicely with their ideology.

    Who thinks Dr. Harold G. Koenig would have been more supportive of this study if the findings would have shown a postive effect for prayer?

    By the way, it seems entirely reasonable to me that the current study tests whether people who are prayed for have better health outcomes, granted that the research method is sound (i.e. sources of bias are minimized). While the level of evidence against the benefits of prayer may be overwhelming to many/most scientists, if you are a scientitst (or a group that funds scientists) that is unconvinced, then the appropriate response is to try to make a testable hypothesis and report the results of the study regardless of whether or not it confirms your hypothesis. Many many people believe that praying for someone will improve health outcomes, and much money is spent to this effect. It is sometimes just as important to find evidence in support of a negative as it is to find evidence in support of a positive. Science can test religious claims when the religious claims are linked to measurable natural effects such as health outcomes. If prayer is supposed to JUST help someone’s soul or have other supernatural effects, then science can’t do much with that, but then the clergy should also be more specific with their congregants in saying that their church attendence, offering, and prayers are only going to help the soul and not the physical health. I would bet that billions of dollars have been donated to churches under the belief that the offerings might improve health. Whether this research will prevent the wasting of additional sums of money, I am not sure, but in my opinion it is more likely to be cost saving than a lot of published literature.

  13. #13 Stuball3D
    March 30, 2006

    Ironically, on the NDPTF website is a link titled “How Prayer Works.” Stuff like that always makes me laugh. As do books like Prayer for Dummies and The Bible for Dummies. I generally don’t like Dummy books, but my most hated is Sex for Dummies. Do we really want them knowing how?!? Judging by our population size and make-up, I think they’re already too good at it.

  14. #14 Carlie
    March 30, 2006

    Even better, become an apheresis donor. That can be done every two weeks, if you’re so inclined (three days minimum, the Red Cross likes a two week period). Plus, it’s wicked cool to sit there and realize that almost all of your blood is being sucked out and centrifuged and sent back in. But, maybe that’s only cool to biologists. Anyway, it’s a great way to help, and there are a lot fewer platelet donors than blood donors. It takes about two hours, but you get to bring in movies to watch – it’s like enforced vacation time!

  15. #15 george cauldron
    March 30, 2006

    Like Fred Phelps, attacking the very thing you are secretly attracted to ?

    I bet you think this is some kind of rhetorical super slam, don’t you.

    I’ve seen him use that line several times and at different places. I suspect it’s the best weapon in his arsenal.

  16. #16 A
    March 30, 2006

    Blood is a simple way that any secular person can observe the Day of Reason in a positive way.

    Not any secular person, just the ones without Lyme disease, HIV, anemia, etc.

  17. #17 Rocky
    March 30, 2006

    George, I’ll bet we’d all agree we love this site, (and others like it), because we now have access to more centralized interesting reading material on a wide range of scientific subjects. “We” vote with our feet and mouses.
    PZ’s popularity obviously scares and bothers nitwits who can only come up with “I know you are, but what am I?” childness.

  18. #18 Warren Terra
    March 30, 2006

    In the linked CNN story, they note that 59% of those who were told someone was definitely praying for them suffered complications (n=600), versus 52% of those who were only told that someone might be praying for them (two groups of 600, with and without prayer).
    Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have had a group who *knew* someone was praying for them – but didn’t. Clearly, this is a calls for: More Funding!

  19. #19 Siamang
    March 30, 2006

    George Cauldron wrote: “I’ve seen him use that line several times and at different places. I suspect it’s the best weapon in his arsenal.”

    PLEASE don’t put a weapon in your arsenal.

    It might go off.

  20. #20 SkookumPlanet
    March 30, 2006

    A National Day of Reason, done correctly, is an excellent, psychomarketing-intelligent counter-campaign to a National Day of Prayer.

    [It should not directly reference DoP at all because reason can stand on it’s own. Direct reference indicates weakness. Ignoring indicates strength. Not always, but here it does. And, such an implication-only counter-attack is much harder to program against. That’s neither a dishonest nor manipulative tactic.]

    Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!

    P.S. Unfortunately, having it sponsored by atheists isn’t a good idea. Because that immediately and directly “frames” the issue in the opposition’s terms! It’s further confirmation of many observations that people simply don’t get Lakoff. Doing it in this manner negates, to a large degree, even it’s name. It becomes “National Anti-Prayer Day”. So then, it becomes counter-programming yourself! This approach also defines a “community of reason” that a huge majority of Americans will feel excluded from, instantly. Why? None of that is necessary. And it ain’t smart!

    It’s about REASON. So use your brains. It’s not “A National Day of Irony”, although that might be worth starting also.

  21. #21 Azkyroth
    March 30, 2006

    I’m afraid I’m gonna have to pass on the “B.L.O.O.D.” thing; Bloodsource will let me donate again on April 8th and they require a 2 month waiting period. Of course, I’m a big enough guy that I can easily spare another pint donating to a different bank…I wonder if these guys share information…

    As for questions about your sex life, most of it makes sense, except the form asks specifically if you’re a male who’s had sex with another male, even once, since like 1978 (and tells you you can’t donate if you are), and says little or nothing about unprotected casual sex which is the real problem. Idiotic stereotyped biases, anyone?

  22. #22 impatientpatient
    March 30, 2006

    Can’t do it!! No donating blood this week or any other in the near future. I would welcome another idea, however…

    How come I have already seen this somewhere before? I know that in my internet travels I found this bit of info somewhere.

    Did anyone watch the PBS special on The New Medicine last night? Same hoopla different package. We can’t cure you but we can make you FEEL better about what ails you. Whatever….

  23. #23 Anonymous
    March 30, 2006

    Actually I think this particular study is useful as it discredits the idea of prayer.

  24. #24 John Marley
    March 30, 2006

    I fully support a National Day of Reason, but I, too, can’t give blood. Ever again, apparently. It’s that whole Mad Cow disease thing that was mentioned above.

  25. #25 Great White Wonder
    March 30, 2006

    Even better yet: sperm donor.

    Spread the atheism gene (aka the gene for religious belief with the region encoding the active site deleted). Sure, it’s a recessive gene but every little bit helps.

  26. #26 impatientpatient
    March 30, 2006

    GWW

    Can’t do that sperm thing either -female- and the eggs are past their best before date. Anyone else with suggestions?

  27. #27 J. J. Ramsey
    March 30, 2006

    “Once again, the Templeton Foundation throws another bucket of money down a rathole of foolishness.”

    Think about this. Why is a controlled study on prayer a waste simply because it has a negative result? Anecdotal evidence against prayer is one thing, but a controlled study is better evidence.

  28. #28 the valrus
    March 30, 2006

    I’d love to donate blood on the Day of Reason, but I just did it yesterday for the first time. Yay me!

  29. #29 RPM
    March 30, 2006

    Once again, the Templeton Foundation throws another bucket of money down a rathole of foolishness.

    Maybe they’re trying to undermine religion by masquerading as an organization that sponsors religion, taking money from religious folks to disprove their belief system. It’s sort of like “religion’s trojan horse”.

  30. #30 Rey
    March 30, 2006

    Seems to be about 3 days late.

    Ah, but you see, April 4 is 4/04. As in “404 Error-God Not Found.” Ha ha! Yeah, I spent all day working on that one.

    By the way, I think everyone should just ignore demoman from now on, it’s pretty clear he’s just a hit and run artist.

  31. #31 Bardiac
    March 30, 2006

    I love the idea of donating blood on the national day of Reason!

    Thanks for the heads up!

  32. #32 aiabx
    March 30, 2006

    Nuts! I just gave blood last week, and I can’t donate again until after the Day of Reason. Next year I’ll time it better.

  33. #33 Phoenix Woman
    March 30, 2006

    The date April 4 is also the opening date of Orwell’s 1984.

  34. #34 Azkyroth
    March 31, 2006

    Even better yet: sperm donor.

    Spread the atheism gene (aka the gene for religious belief with the region encoding the active site deleted). Sure, it’s a recessive gene but every little bit helps.

    I think that trait may be inherited memetically rather than genetically, but in any case, I’d prefer to distribute the genes in the conventional way. ^.^

  35. #35 G. Tingey
    March 31, 2006

    4 Prayer has no effect on third parties.
    (Ref. F. Galton; “Statistical inquiries into the efficacy of prayer.”; 1872. )
    I originally wrote that: “This should be given further examination, and fresh tests should be devised and performed”. This is where experimental, falsifiable scientific tests can be made, as they can for proposition 1. But, now attempts have been made to do double-blind tests over a reasonably large number of subjects. The results so far certainly seem to show that prayer has no discernible effect whatsoever.
    Note that religious believers always say that both: (a) “prayer works” AND (b) “It doesn’t work like that, and cannot be tested.”
    Why not? If prayer has any effect, or works at all, then that working or effect will be measurable.
    Thus: (i) Prayer will affect first parties: those who are doing the praying. In the same manner that any organised directed thought by an individual may, and usually will affect the actions of the person thinking those thoughts.
    (ii) Prayer may, and probably will, have an effect on second parties. People who are being prayed at, or over. Thus, even if the effect is to increase the resistance of the victim, it will have an effect. Typical examples would be: A group of Scots’ evangelicals praying at / over a woman who has had a baby out of wedlock, or the condemnation of Shostakovitch for musical formalism in1948
    (iii) Third parties, who are not present, will not be affected in any way, provided they are not informed of the prayers. In other words, provided they are kept in ignorance of others’ intentions. Some double-blind trials of this, similar to those used in medicine and experimental psychology have now been performed. The results are being carefully ignored into the ground by the believers.

    Corollary: 4a ] There is no such thing as “Psi”.
    Similarly, any so-called “Psi” forces and supernatural powers have no real effect, or existence.
    If these had any reality whatsoever, consider the enormous evolutionary advantage that such a talent, skill, or ability would give to any person, or any other animal, so endowed. No such advantage has ever been seen, or noted. The simple reason is that “Psi” is not merely a myth, but a possibly comforting lie. It is also a source of great exploitation of the gullible by stage magicians and unscrupulous fraudsters.
    All of the above applies to “miracles” as well.
    Thus ; superstition: – “If you pray hard enough, you can make water run uphill. ……… How hard do you have to pray? ….. Hard enough to make water run uphill, of course!” ( R.A.H.)
    Hence, prayer is superstition.

  36. #36 vairitas
    March 31, 2006

    but what if,on national prayer day, every body prays for a big surge in blood donations? saints be praised! god has answered our prayers!!

  37. #37 Kadin
    March 31, 2006

    Alas, I donated blood just last week, 3 months before I can again.

  38. #38 Jake Blues
    March 31, 2006

    Wasn’t there a prayer study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine?

  39. #39 Ricardo
    March 31, 2006

    Blood is a simple way that any secular person can observe the Day of Reason in a positive way.

    Any straight secular person, that is: gay people are still not allowed to give blood. Is there someway gay atheists can celebrate the Day of Reason?

  40. #40 Fernando Magyar
    March 31, 2006

    Now go and read ” Sole Sago Mine survivor heads for Miracle Road” CNN on line. If that doesn’t make you wanna puke you have a stronger gut than me…

  41. #41 Busted_Astromech
    March 31, 2006

    But we NEED the National Day of Prayer to fight the godless communists!

  42. #42 craig
    March 31, 2006

    I kind of don’t think they’d want my blood as it seems to have a tendency towards false positives for Hep C. I’ve been misdiagnosed because of that, and had to get a so-called “genome” test (whatever that is) which takes longer to get results, in order to rule it out.
    I’ve just always kind of assumed they would do a quick and cheap test on my blood and then toss it.

  43. #43 wamba
    March 31, 2006

    Hey folks, get off the 4/04 meme – the National Day of Prayer and the National Day of Reason are both on May 5 this year – Cinco de Mayo!

    Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have had a group who *knew* someone was praying for them – but didn’t. Clearly, this is a calls for: More Funding!

    Don’t they explain that in the article? You see, it would be unethical to tell someone you’re praying for them and then not do it, because… uh, because… I forget. Every well-designed well-run study that was not fraudulent has found prayer to be ineffective for healing. The Mayo Clinic did a very good study ~ 5 years ago with the same result.

    Since this new study was funded by the Templeton Foundation, I wonder if Templeton prize winner Charles Townes has finally given up his fervent wish-based belief in the healing power of prayer.

  44. #44 Steve
    March 31, 2006

    Depending on the numbers wishing to donate, it might be better to spread yourselves out over the year. More useful that way. Blood doesn’t last forever and a large number of donations around a particular date will increase the chances of it not being used.

  45. #45 Slippery Pete
    March 31, 2006

    This was a flawed study. The Christians were only given the patients’ first names and first initals of the last names. Are you telling me that with 6 billion people, God is somehow supposed to know which “Jack M.” he’s supposed to help out in post-op? There are probably like 400,000 of them! That is totally unfair to God.

    JK of course.

  46. #46 CousinoMacul
    March 31, 2006

    “Hey folks, get off the 4/04 meme – the National Day of Prayer and the National Day of Reason are both on May 5 this year – Cinco de Mayo!”

    What’s the effect of drinking Tequila right after donating a pint of blood?

    And on the topic of the “War on Christians,” I really hate the overuse of the war metaphor. Is that a Christian thing or an American thing? I prefer to see it as an effort to get people to question their beliefs and think for themselves. But even that would probably get branded as a “war of ideas.”

    I guess I’ll just have to launch a war on bad metaphors.

  47. #47 aiabx
    March 31, 2006

    I’m a god-hating elitist! And I want a t-shirt that says so.

  48. #48 ivy privy
    March 31, 2006

    What’s the effect of drinking Tequila right after donating a pint of blood?

    Severe dehydration.

    And on the topic of the “War on Christians,” I really hate the overuse of the war metaphor.

    Coming next: The War on people who don’t like the war metaphor.

  49. #49 Prayer works
    March 31, 2006

    How fragile your “reason” must be that you can’t even pick a seperate date from the National Day of Prayer (“an annual abuse of the constitution” – Hahahahaha!) for your “Day of Reason” idea.

    Clowns.

  50. #50 craig
    March 31, 2006

    “Clowns.

    Posted by: Prayer works”

    Who would Jesus insult? 🙂

  51. #51 BronzeDog
    March 31, 2006

    How fragile your “reason” must be that you can’t even pick a seperate date from the National Day of Prayer (“an annual abuse of the constitution” – Hahahahaha!) for your “Day of Reason” idea.

    I like pasta because my house is made of bricks.

    Of course, the whole idea is to lead by example: DO something, rather than sit around begging some invisible guy to do it.

  52. #52 Fade
    March 31, 2006

    I would love to join the CFA but I don’t support blood transfusions because the world is overpopulated and the last thing we need is more humans outliving their usefulness. Were they ever useful?

  53. #53 Norman Doering
    March 31, 2006

    Craig asked:
    “Who would Jesus insult? :)”

    Yes, and in fact he did — it’s recorded in the New Testament. He called people vipers and dogs. He kicked over tables in the Temple and said the money changers had turned the place into a den of theives.

  54. #54 SkookumPlanet
    April 1, 2006

    How fragile your “reason” must be that you can’t even pick a separate date from the National Day of Prayer (“an annual abuse of the constitution” – Hahahahaha!) for your “Day of Reason” idea.

    Clowns

    -Prayer Works

    Of course, the whole idea is to lead by example: DO something, rather than sit around begging some invisible guy to do it

    -Bronze Dog

    Bronze Dog

    Pw is not correct, but he’s intuitively picked up what the general public will pick up. As presently constituted, “National Day of Reason” is reactionary. Not politically reactionary, psychologically reactionary. It’s defined in terms of the opponent.

    Sometimes that’s the appropriate, smart thing to do. “The War on Christianity” is explicitly defined so. [Even smarter, doing it this way, defining it in term’s of / relation to an opponent, literally defines a non-existing opponent into being. Does that make sense?] The WoC is very clever. It’s very professional work. It’s a campaign that’s been spec’ed out.

    Sometimes it’s not appropriate. It’s not appropriate for a “National Day of Reason”.

    Let me see if I can explain it. Would “reason” exist if there were no religions? Of course. So, it’s existence, it’s definition, does not depend on there being anything religious on the planet. Reason stands on it’s own! Agreed?

    But the instant you do anything referential to religion vis-a-vis defining Reason you, to use Lakoff’s terminology, activate the “religion” frame in people’s minds. This is exactly what the title of his book means — Don’t Think of an Elephant. You then are creating a frame for Reason that includes religion and in practical terms, this turns Reason into Anti-Religion. It may be that, in your mind, in the minds of the organizers, etc. That is the purpose of the “Day.”

    But’s that’s an impractical approach. The potential “market”, or demographic, for the “Day of Reason” becomes only atheists and thus becomes, in effect, a “National Day of Atheism.” There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what people want. But then it ceases to be a day about “Reason”. Also, the sponsorship, especially sole sponsorship, by atheist organizations does the same thing as any other religious referent would do.

    Now, again, I stress, there’s nothing wrong with that if the desire is for a “Day of Atheism”.

    But if the organizers and enthusiasts want something more than a pep rally for themselves, in that case, it’s a fatal blunder. If organizers and enthusiasts really believe in what I’ve heard a few speak of, a cleaving to reason [I don’t dare say conversion — see?] among the “masses”, as it were, this won’t cut the mustard. It automatically excludes these very people because they exclude themselves.

    Finally, it doesn’t have to be done this way. The “National Day of Reason” can have it’s cake and eat it too. If it focused on “Reason” and let the rest just “naturally” tag along, it’s a “National Day” that could be made quite attractive to a large number of Americans. Understand, I have no knowledge of the thinking and motivation that went into to putting the idea and organizing together. If my analysis doesn’t apply to the specific situation, then it simply doesn’t apply. But the concepts in it are valid, the thinking, if I may, the Reasoning, in it applies to the left’s ongoing, giant political struggle.

    Boy, I was sure tempted to say “…giant political struggle with the forces of evil.

    But I didn’t. Right?

  55. #55 doug
    April 4, 2006

    Whoooaaa………
    This is the biggest back-patting session I ever seen.
    I wish I was more religious. I would honestly be flattered by all of the attention you guys/gals give to theists. You’d think atheists wouldn’t have such fragile feelings. I guess if you believe the universe is inherently meaningless you might as well spend your time doing SOMETHING. I just didn’t think that crying over hurt feelings would be the activity of choice.
    It’s funny though; so much passion, emotion, arrogance, and imperiousness… I could only imagine what it must be like to live with one of you (more pontificating than well…. the pontiff).

  56. #56 dijital bask?
    January 10, 2008

    I fully support a National Day of Reason, but I, too, can’t give blood.

  57. #57 dijital bask?
    January 10, 2008

    I fully support a National Day of Reason, but I, too, can’t give blood.

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