Re: Scientific study of the effects of prayer

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Oct 01 2001 - 15:54:39 MDT

Bryan Moss wrote:
> The real fun would begin if you had yet another group pray for
> the experiment to turn out positive. Indeed, perhaps they did
> have such a group and it's simply not documented. It's
> possible that the scientists spouses and/or friends prayed for
> the experiment to turn out positive (or, more likely, just for
> the scientists to be successful) without the scientists
> knowing. The problem, for me, is that the conjecture - that
> prayer is effective or that people can influence the outcome
> of events from a distance - undermines the experiment if true.

The conjecture as I automatically rephrased it - that people can alter the
outcome of arbitrarily selected events by wishing - undermines the whole
of science, if true. But the conjecture is not self-undermining. Whether
the outcome of the experiment was influenced by the researchers wishes, or
the individual patients were influenced by the prayers, the experiment (if
reproduced, which I predict it won't be) definitely and unambiguously
indicates that Something Darned Funny Is Going On, which is all one can
really ask of such an experiment.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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