Praying to Particles

Jeremy Sig
God-Particle--40354

In my last article I pondered some of the issues surrounding Deepak Chopra’s quantum theory of divinity. This post will jump further into the world of quantum physics. As before, I must preface with my own naivety when it comes to this field of discipline. The writing that inspired this post was an article in National Geographic entitled ” The God Particle”. The focus of this article is on the massive Hadron collider that is set to launch its most extensive tests later this year. In case you haven’t heard of this massive machine, let me give you a quick run down. The Hadron collider is a vortex of tubes and magnets which pulses high level particle beams through it at a high rate causing them to collide at its center. The purpose of this machine is multi-faceted. However, its overarching  purpose is to see what happens when particles collide. collider2

Now in case you failed science class like I did, let me give a quick rundown of our current understanding of physical reality. Our material world is made up of tiny molecules. These tiny molecules can be broken down into Atoms. Beyond Atoms lies a world of particles which are classified as protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons can be broken down into quirks and gluon’s. As far as electrons, physicists think that these are foundational. Protons and neutrons are classified as hadrons, which give the collider its name. While there are many things that happen when particles collide, the one that fascinates me the most is the possible discovery of what has been coined “the god particle” (or the Higgs Boson particle as it is properly referred).

Broken down as simply as possible, the god particle is the carrier of  what physicists theorize is a Higgs field. This field is what gives  particles their mass. Borrowing from the physicist John Ellis, the Higgs field is like mud on a rainy day. As particles, like shoes, pass through the field, or mud, they collect varying amounts of mass dependant on their sub-atomic structure. Thus some bigger particles collect large quantities of mass, while some are so small that they simply float right over the surface without any growth. Put another way, the Higgs particle can be said to be the creator of life or mass in particles. So when particles collide and explode in a mess of energy it is theorized that the Higgs particle goes to work giving new mass to the ball of particles. This unseen creator is as close as one comes to the God of physicists. As of now, the god particle is the theorized core of all existence.

All of this is fascinating to me, but the real question is, so what? What does some underground particle collider have to with my personal understanding of God? The answer to this question is much simpler than quantum physics. Put colloquially, I want to know if I am praying to a bunch of particles. My spiritual journey to this point, has been about finding God. This is why I study and pray and worship. For most of my life I attempted this search under the constraints of a specific tradition of Christianity. Now I don’t mean to put down Christian tradition. All I am saying is that I have recently felt like the boundaries of Christianity were too limiting for me to find all I wanted of God. Thus I have undertaken the task of broadening my scope to include other religious traditions as well as secular ones. After all, I just want to find God, I don’t care who helps me get there. So when a group of physicists say they have found God and “he” is something called a Higgs field I listen to what they are saying. Now I understand many of the inherent weaknesses in this perspective of God. First of all, the Higgs field is a scientific theory ( which as many will point out is not much different than theology). Furthermore, even if God is a Higgs field, this doesn’t prove whether or not this field has a conscience or some form of intention in its creative design. Its quite possible that during the process of smashing particles together a white bearded man will emerge from the particle mayhem and declare himself Higgs God of the universe. Its also just as possible that no discernible field will come through. This experiment may end up proving only that the Higgs theory is incorrect.  Whatever the result I will be watching just in case it turns out I’ve been praying to particles.

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50 Comments

  1. jeremy,

    How does the idea of a “mass giving particle” square with what you have said of your own semi-platonic spirituality? Usually you refer to God as something like, a field of transcendence; but is a particle transcendent at all?

    p.s. – you know how much I love to throw book titles around. One of the pre-eminent quantum physicists of the previous generation is also an Anglican priest and theologian. Fr. John Polkinghorne has written extensively about science and faith, and even particularly about quantum theory.

    http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Physics-Theology-Unexpected-Kinship/dp/0300138407/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1248975101&sr=8-6

    and

    http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Theory-Short-Introduction-Introductions/dp/0192802526/ref=pd_sim_b_12

    Or is your God perhaps taking on the dual characteristics of transcendence and immanence? Sounds quasi-Trinitarian to me 🙂

    Reply

  2. Whittling Down God
    One main function of “God” is to serve as spackle – the spackle god. Through the ages, anytime something was not understood, we explained it with gods/demons (thunder, disease, disasters, death, depression eclipses, birth …) . But as things become understood, the god(s) get whittled down. It is often said that it is useless to argue with a religious person, but it is instead just better to overwhelm them with facts. It is in this sense of “God” that I think the particle was named. And it was meant to be funny, of course. Now, there could be a god left after all the spackle is removed, I guess.

    Your Search
    When I say I am searching for something, I usually know what it looks like or feels like or smells like so I can distinguish it from all the other stuff in front of me. Jeremy, you speak of trying to “find God”, but how do you search if you don’t know what you are looking for? Just curious what your methodology is.

    Reply

  3. This thread is hilarious! LOL! The spackle god has now become the particle god, and all of his followers are chasing down Christians with a weapon called the “Factthrower 2000”!

    This from one who is trying to teach Jeremy how to think. Jeremy has a socratic skepticism based in genuine intellectual humility. His skepticism is tentative, provisional, and still searching. But, Jeremy is chastised by a Sophist for not having a more definitive and final skepticism. Jeremy assumes that there may be an answer somewhere, he simply has not found it. The Sophist assumes there is no answer and halts the pursuit of more knowledge on the subject.

    Then, the Sophist thinks he “throws facts” to overwhelm the searchers. LOL!

    🙂

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  4. LOL ! ;0

    The facts: demons and spirits don’t cause diseases, thunder, rain, floods, rainbows and death. And indeed, the domain of the gods has dwindled to theological debates. While some still read these stories and debate the inspired nature of these myths.

    But I am overjoyed that my foolishness has brought such back-slapping unity to such theologically diverse Christians as Roger and Adhunt.

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  5. I know that if I got burned with the “Factthrower 2000” I’d also think it funny. I do believe Roger that that is the funniest thing I’ve heard you say.

    You are right though Sabio. We probably think of “facts” being funny for very different reasons.

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  6. Sabio,

    “Through the ages, anytime something was not understood, we explained it with gods/demons (thunder, disease, disasters, death, depression eclipses, birth …) . But as things become understood, the god(s) get whittled down.”

    Man, you hit the nail on the head for me. This started trickling into my brain in middle school.. and it’s taken this long (I’m twenty-eight now) to finally face-up to reality. I couldn’t feel better about it all.

    And in case you want a picture of God, I just found this one and it’s fascinating.

    http://www.nakedpastor.com/archives/3615

    Don’t worry, despite he URL, there is no naked-ness on this page!

    Reply

  7. P.S.

    Sabio,

    I just started reading a book on Zen and it looks an awful lot like what I’ve been thinking life in general should look like for years now. Personal responsibility, trying to seek truth and be at peace with the world… ten precepts that guide your life but that are not end-all super-literal laws that will incite eternal torment if you break one. In fact, sometimes you have to break one to be moral.

    As Isaac Asimov said, “Don’t let your sense of morals keep you from doing what’s right.” (or something very close to that.)

    Reply

  8. About the LHC, or well… related.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/large-hadron-collider/3314456/Surfer-dude-stuns-physicists-with-theory-of-everything.html

    This article is about the guy who just might have come up with the Theory of Everything, which *testable* predictions, as opposed to Hawking’s windbag String Theory and all that nonsense.

    The LHC will be testing some of these predictions, which means there is a possibility of a Theory of Everything within our lifetime.

    Science is exciting.

    Reply

  9. Awwww, ADJ, your “belief” in “science” is so cute. I should take a picture and put it on my wifes facebook.

    (btw – that was a jest)

    Reply

  10. ADJ,

    Burn accepted.

    Though, it is neither God’s, nor ‘Christianity’s’, nor ‘Theisms’ fault that you were taught as a child that God is a bubble gum machine. Prayer in, healing out.

    Neither does any critical thinking, natural or epistemological, preclude the reality of God and so on a basic logistic level you burn fails. I myself have no problem reconciling my own belief in God and love of science. I have loved science since I was a kid and score well above average in Chemistry and Biology.

    To “believe” in “science” in opposition to “god” is in reality to accept the a priori assumption of atheism – not to disallow a believer to examine the cosmos critically.

    Still, burn taken 😉

    Reply

  11. Alright, to be candid for a moment, all ‘burning’ aside…

    I agree my upbringing has made it hard on me to adjust to reality. As hard as I try, I still think I’m supposed to turn to a pastor figure to tell me what to do next in life. I’m trained to turn to religious authority for all those big questions and it makes me sad because at times it’s like I can’t make my own decisions, but I’m learning to undo that conditioning and stand on my own feet. I have a family to look after, I need to act like it.

    But I don’t “believe” in “science” in that sense, and certainly not in opposition to “god.” I might say that I still “believe” in the possibility of a God-figure, in some form; but I “trust” in science.

    I’ll leave the door open for God to interact with me, but I’m at the point of actively pursuing critical thinking for a while and seeing how that pans out. It’s nothing against you guys, you know that, I hope.

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  12. If you were still here we’d have a beer over it. I’m an “all truth is God’s truth” type. I don’t think that you could live with yourself if you don’t go where you are going all the while having a predetermined “route back.” As long we keep talking I think we’ll both be more whole for it.

    Peace

    Isn’t tomorrow the launch date?

    Reply

  13. Sabio,
    You can save your straw-man accusations for Kenneth Copeland and the Word of Faith group or for Frank Hammond and his ghostbusters. It is obviously not the way anyone here thinks.

    You might be surprised at my own connections to the medical profession, but that is beside the point. I will simply say that I find no problem with medicine. It seems that God’s prophets had no problem with it either. In Isaiah 38 the Lord sent Isaiah the prophet with a salve to heal Hezekiah.

    Reply

  14. @ adhunt

    Inclination vs. Training
    Human intuition is frought with mechanisms that do not allow it to unveil actual mechanisms of reality. We have all sorts of optical, kinestetic and cognitive illusions built in that blind us. Science has slowly developed ways to control for these and to better test reality.

    The chemistry and biology we learn as kids is still at the memorize phase and not the research phase and so you never really learn the skills of such controls unless you practice science usually at a graduate level. You may even say the same for many fields. And so, it is often difficult discussing such things with people who don’t have, not only strong science and math knowledge (for example, knowledge of cellular automatons is rather critical), but also have not been trained in the method.

    When I say “trained”, I don’t mean just learning to parrot it. Do actually see where your habits of mind get you without disciplining the mind is difficult. As I review journal articles with students over-and-over and watch it take them a full year to begin to get behind hidden presuppositions of their own or the authors or to see methodology flaws, took time.

    I am not saying you don’t have these skills, but you did try to put forward your credentials. And I am not saying you can’t have conversations without these skills, but we need to be aware of them. Just as both you & I need to be aware of my lack of theological knowledge.

    Reality of God
    I think we are making the classic mixing here. Let’s call “god-spark” the original cause (deistic deity), while we call “god-intervene” the theistic intervening, loving, all powerful god. True, god-spark is hard to discuss and not yet “precluded” but science. But god-intervene has been tested and never found. Dude, the church has taught the power of prayer for thousands of years, no denying. You can say, “Wait, bubble-gum-religion ain’t MY Christianity”, and that is fine. But we all know history. So go ahead and cause a reformation and rid Christianity of its miracle granting god. Help them get a cleaner god that we can’t test. But we will have to call it something else then. In ages past and still today, most Christians believe you should pray to heal Leukemia — yes, some say you should also trust the doctors, but why are they praying — because they still want interventions.

    Reply

  15. @ Roger

    So let’s examine my strawman.
    Below is stuff rrom your Assembly of God site (and this may be stuff Adhunt left behind in his voyage over to intellectual episcopal theology):

    8. THE INITIAL PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY GHOST
    The baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.
    Acts 2:4
    The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.
    1 Corinthians 12:4-10, 1 Corinthians 12:28

    So, can we record these miraculous mutterings, interview the speakers and test for actual foreign language production? It would be a phenomenal waste of time. Oh, but even if we came up with definitions of language, the believer would find a way out and say that god ways are not the way of man.

    12. DIVINE HEALING
    Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.
    Isaiah 53:4,5, Matthew 8:16,17, James 5:14-16

    Sounds like my strawman walks — he has flesh and blood.

    Seriously, Roger. Let’s be honest.

    Reply

  16. Sorry, must add, you guys do know I am an ex-Christian, right.
    I use to pray in tongues, spend hours talking to Jesus/God and feeling his love, pray for miracles (and claimed miracles occurred). Heck, I still have faith (an untested and perhaps untestable belief) that compassion, love and forgiveness are needed for a deeply meaningful life. So, I am not claiming to be a super rationalist by any stretch. I think my posts make this clear — much to the disdain of many atheists.

    Reply

  17. Sabio wrote:
    THE INITIAL PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY GHOST
    -snipped for brevity-
    So, can we record these miraculous mutterings, interview the speakers and test for actual foreign language production? It would be a phenomenal waste of time. Oh, but even if we came up with definitions of language, the believer would find a way out and say that god ways are not the way of man.
    RESPONSE:
    Or he might simply say that your experience with tongues was evidently phony and based on your attempts to fake what you heard from someone else. Instead of the “gift of tongues” you seem to have received the “gift of imagination” but not from God. Your failure does not negate the real.
    Furthermore, tongues is not always meant to be “translated.” When someone attempts to speak English with no understanding of the grammar it is generally broken and barely intelligible. That is true of all languages.
    The gift of “interpretation of tongues” is not called the gift of “translation of tongues.” It is not simply the translation of languages. One without the Spirit of God can have the natural talent of translating languages. Nothing supernatural is required to translate a language.

    Sabio wrote:
    DIVINE HEALING
    Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.
    Isaiah 53:4,5, Matthew 8:16,17, James 5:14-16
    RESPONSE:
    Where does this doctrinal statement include what you claimed? Where does it state that sickness and disease is always caused by demons? IT DOES NOT! So, once again, you have created a strawman, and you cannot recognize it without help.

    Reply

  18. I have some further comments on healing. There were people who Jesus walked right by and did not heal, such as the lame man who sat at the gate beautiful everyday (Acts 3:2). Jesus had passed though this gate, had obviously seen this man, and yet did not heal him. There were many Christians in the first century who did not get healed for various reasons as is evident from 1Cor 11:29-32 but that does not negate the gift of healing which is mentioned in the next chapter (1Cor 12:9).

    In 2Tim 4:20 it mentions Trophimus as being sick. The Greek word for sick here is “astheneo” which means feeble, strengthless, and weak. It does not mean that his sickness was from a demon or a spirit. Its root is translated “without strength” in Romans 5:6. Trophimus was no doubt run down in body and had a physical breakdown because of his many labors for Christ. He needed to stay at Miletum to regain strength and rest for a while. A similar statement is made about Epaphroditus who had a physical breakdown because of overwork, and who was brought back to health by proper rest and faith (Phil 2:25-30).

    I think this next quote is probably one of the favorite verses among the theophiliacs. Paul told Timothy:
    1 Timothy 5:23 (NIV) Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

    Reply

  19. Sabio,

    I don’t recall making any claims to being able to converse on science at a graduate or research level. I said that I have always enjoyed science and have excelled in the classes I have taken.

    But I would say that I know a bit about the philosophy of science. There is no amount of epistemological purging that can release one of all their presuppositions. This isn’t just a convenient way to laugh at scientists, it’s sometimes simply a matter of history. I think that in conjunction with ADJ’s site, I might do a couple posts on Thomas Kuhn the philosopher of science. We could talk more then.

    on miracles: Having professed your lack of understanding theology you should realize that you’re speaking out of your ass at this point. Having been a tongue talker you may have also believed in the bubble gum God (I myself was raised Pentecostal and am still charismatic), but that doesn’t mean that Christians must believe such. You make the classic mistake of assuming that your individual experience of conservative protestantism makes you some sort of expert on Christianity through the ages and of our Doctors.

    But perhaps I am supposed to be flabergasted by your quick use of facts?

    Reply

  20. Reed,

    “@shawn
    Tongue in Cheek foxnews. my, my, my … how I hate those people. I hate them all the more because I actually did think that article was funny.”

    I have to keep saying this to James, there is no such thing as an “all bad” or “all evil” news corporation. ;0)

    Shawn

    Reply

  21. Reed,

    I agree that science and religion are not necessarily diametrically opposed to each other. Off-base pseudo-faith claims can be proven false by science, but that does not address honest to goodness faith claims, since the definition of a faith claim is that it does not and should not rely on evidence. If it relies on evidence, it is not faith.

    Reply

  22. Wow I leave for a few days and this post blows up. I am not going to try to interject into all the debates that this post brought out. I simply want to address the question that was asked directly of me.

    Tony,
    You are right that this post does not square with my previous posts. I posted this because it made me think, not neccesarily because I have ascribed to it. To be honest, the reason that this appealed to me was because I saw in it a way to escape my platonic dualism. I have professed many times that a dualistic view of existence has always bothered me. That said, choosing this pseudo humanistic approach may or may not prove to be more fruitful. I guess what I am saying is that this post is just part of my process of working this whole God thing out. It was not meant to relay any conclusions on my part. That said, you will be the first to know when I resolve this for myself.

    ps: Shawn fox news is the exception to your rule. They are evil incarnit. If you need some empirical proof just watch Ann Coulter.

    Reply

  23. @ adhunt

    Hey I appreciate the kind evaluation:

    you should realize that you’re speaking out of your ass

    Concerning healing by interventionist prayer, if you have time, check out this article and tell me your opinion. I let someone else speak for me since you find my flatulence offending.

    Reply

  24. Sabio,

    I wasn’t familiar with that particular study, but I’ve read results on a couple others where they establish that, in the very least, double-blind intercessory prayer doesn’t statistically make cancer patients improve at all over the ones who are not being constantly prayed for.

    On healing in general: I’ll believe it when I see it at this point. I leave the possibility open, but I’ve heard all the stories, and read many more; suffice it to say:

    Pics or it didn’t happen*

    (*tongue clearly in cheek)

    Reply

  25. Sabio,

    I wasn’t arguing for “interventionist” prayer ( I don’t have to on account of an ontology of creation ex nihilio) I was saying that I don’t know of any serious Christian thinker that thinks that a healing simply will occur for every prayer for healing. Which is what I was getting at with the “bubble gum god.”

    I wasn’t re-fitting the Christian understanding of God to fit my needed paradigm. Which is what you were getting at when you implied I was looking for a “cleaner god I can’t test” (on a related note, who would worship a god they could test?)

    – Actually, at my age I still find flatulence funny.

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  26. Ya got to keep it simple for me adhunt, remember, I am just an old fart.
    Questions:
    1) Do you believe in interventionist prayer (It is one of your 16 fundamental truths, right?)
    2) If you do, what do you then feel is wrong with this analysis of studies which shows it does not work?

    Reasonable questions no?

    Reply

  27. Sabio,

    1) The 16 Fundamental Truths are the core doctrines of the Assemblies of God. The vast majority of which I found problematic enough for me to leave that fellowship. So, no it is not one of my fundamental truths.

    But do I believe that prayer can be effect a change in the ontological status of a human being? Yes. Do I believe that it will or must happen every time a prayer is offered? Not at all.

    2) I don’t feel that anything is “wrong” with studies, though I have not taken much time to investigate them. The problem being of course that they attempt to study non-empirical realities with empirical methodologies. Or expect Newtonian physical interactions with the meta-physical.

    Hypothetical situation. A person is sick with something. This something will, if allowed to run the “natural” course will eventually make this person more sick or cause them to die. There is no known cure so treatment is unavailable. If it so happens that something unexpected happens and this something clears up without treatment except for the fact that there were relatives praying for the person we can take several points of view.

    1 – would be that an unperceived cause of “natural” origin “healed” the sickness. This would, quite simply, be a faith statement based on un-empirical evidence.

    2 – assume that somehow the prayer of the relatives “caused” the healing in the person. This also would be a faith statement based on un-empirical evidence.

    Both proceed from a priori assumptions about how the world is and works and in effect are the same thing.

    Reply

  28. That is, whatever sickness they had is gone in a “real” way, not just the symptoms which will just pop up later (which often happens at the ‘revival’ meetings with the ‘faith’ healers)

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  29. @adhunt

    I think you are mistaken: The studies are testing empirical realities. Sick or Not Sick. Some, I think, were dead or not dead — pretty empirical.

    The Jesus stories have “Newtonian physical interactions with the meta-physical”, don’t they?

    Your Hypothetical appears to show that you don’t understand what a controlled experiment is. These things are controlled for. Or am I misunderstanding you?

    Reply

  30. Sabio,

    – On the Jesus stories – In the Gospel stories Jesus’ healings were not merely to make someone well, or make them feel better or to make himself look cool or what have you. Jesus’ healings operated in such a way as to “include” the ritually and socially unclean. Taking the outcast and “sinner” to his table, focused around himself instead of Torah or Temple, was making prophetic “points” about who he was claiming to be and what he was attempting to do.

    – So, even in controlled experiments, what is taken for granted is that what Christians are claiming is that prayer will necessarily and always result in a healing. This is simply not what Christians believe. Praying for something wil not yield the controlled results that can be expected of mixing Potassium and Water.

    So the most that can be said of controlled “prayer” experiments is that healing did not occur in these circumstances, nor does it seem statistically to occur in a manner with more regularity than medication. Not “prayer” doesn’t work because of these experiments.

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  31. But Jesus did heal and so did the Apostles, right?
    I don’t care about the deep ontological, teleological meanings, I am asking about the empirical facts. I know you care about these — that is fine and I like many of those themes, but I am trying to stayed focus here.

    Question 1: Do you believe that interventional prayer can sometimes physically heal someone?

    I am assuming when reading between your lines, that the answer is yes.

    Question 2: Would it upset your religious inner life if someone could prove to you that intercessory prayer does not work. — Mental experiment.

    BTW, The experiment do not assume prayer will always result in healing.

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  32. Sabio,

    I believe that prayer can result in change. The reason that I don’t use the language of “intervention” is because it implies that God has the same relationship to us (or in this case an illness) that we do to the computer in front of us. God doesn’t “intervene” as something foreign acting “upon” something like a hammer to nail or whatever.

    Like Aristotle, I think that even the natural sciences need to keep in mind teleological causes. And he wasn’t a Christian! So they would play a part in my argument.

    So, in a way, yes I do believe that prayer can sometimes physically heal someone.

    Question 2 – IF it could be “proved” to such a degree as there would be no possible refutation of it, that intercessory prayer never works – then yes, that would upset my inner religious life.

    Reply

  33. Thank you for the frank answers.
    I think the NT stories of prayer are very mechanical (but requiring faith, of course). And the promises are pretty clear. Maybe I am wrong.
    I think careful study of the study I sent you would then upset your inner religious life. But I will leave it there. To discuss the design of these experiments and results would take too long. But you must imagine that those designing them took into account all your caveats.
    BTW, this is all I meant by being overwhelmed by facts.
    Others will read and understand. Those committed and who know it will rock their worldview will avoid.
    But I could be wrong, I realize that.
    We can just sort of disagree here.
    Discussing it with a Christian who feels the study is meaningful would be a better dialogue for you. Discussing with an apostate like me will not be productive from here out on this topic, I’d imagine.

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  34. Sabio,

    If I ever feel like investigating what these experiments have to say about the unreality of intercessory prayer I’ll have them on hand.

    But I have very great doubts that they will be able to upset my inner religious life.

    As I rudely tried to point out to you on ADJ’s new blog, I do not believe in the “objectivity” of any dialogue.

    In philosophical terms it’s referred to as “post-foundationalism” That is to say that there are no unassailable first principles or methodological foundations that guarantee the universal accessibility to natural or supernatural phenomenon or the study thereof. You seem to live in a Newtonian world of simple cause and effect and an Enlightenment trust in the ability of “science” or “reason” to give a true account of the world. I live in a world of Quantum Physics with all it’s irregularity, and of post-modernity where all worldviews and truths are relative.

    You seem to think that I am intimidated by you and/or your arguments. Otherwise why would it be better for me to discuss these with anyone else?

    I can understand this. You are used to “overwhelming” Christians with facts. And when confronted with the intimidating, most react defensively as I have.

    But my defensiveness is of a different sort. In a funny way I think you have a naive view of the world and our ability to know it. That sounds rather forward for someone of my age and experience talking to one such as yourself, whom I don’t really know anything about. I’m sorry. I’m truly not trying to talk down to you. I respect your life experience and your career as an educator. I hope to be an educator myself. Someday.

    But I think that your internet interactions are just soaked in rich irony. It seems you like to lurk around Christian blogs and attempt to convert them to your way of thinking because you think it is more true than theirs. Perhaps you even in a benevolent way want them to experience the same “conversion” experience that you had. At other times you like to hang out with fellow atheists and skeptics and talk about how right you are and how wonderful it is to not be a silly religious person who doesn’t understand things “objectively” or know the “facts.”

    It’s like religious people who like to evangelize people who don’t agree with them and who like to talk about how sad it is that they refuse the truth of the Bible or whatever. You’re a regular evangelist! 🙂

    Be as apostate as you want, I don’t mind. If you’re ever up in the Twin Cities call me up and we’ll grab a Guiness.

    Reply

  35. @ Tony (adhunt)

    I’d prefer a nice bitter IPA to a Guinness but may someday visit Minneapolis again. I use to live in & loved Minneapolis (graduate school of Philosophy) — not sure if you peeked at my bio.

    Actually, I am not sure if you read anything on my site. You stated prior that you don’t want to read any links I sent, you don’t want to read an article I sent. All that is fine, of course, because we only have so much time in the day. But since you are writing this much, I thought you’d want to get a fuller picture of me to see if your typing me a “Newtonian” while you are “Quantum Physics” is accurate. I must admit, that made me chuckle.

    Actually, I don’t think you are intimidated at all — pissed off, yes, but not intimidated. I was just looking at your defensiveness and thought maybe it would be a bit unfruitful to discuss the prayer issue much. We seem to get as far as we could and I thought maybe letting that part sit was wiser.

    I think if your read some of my stuff you will see that you misunderstand me in part. But you are certainly right about my arguing/debating — I do enjoy it. You are right that I have an evangelist side also. Depending on the person, I do feel I have perspectives that may be useful to them. A likewise, I stay in conversations with people I disagree with hoping for the same at times. And of course, I do think I am right in many ways, we all do. When discussing with Christians (being an ex-Christian) who are intellectual (I won’t engage the others), I am curious how they hold certain beliefs — I am genuinely curious. Once I feel I understand, I really don’t go much further. I am more explorative. I have discovered that I am not familiar with modern theological perspectives and I am relearning about them. I am in a Christian community where my kids and myself are hounded by Christians and family ties have been broken by other families who have discovered we are not Christian.

    I doubt you will read any of my stuff, but I today I will write a post on Web of Beliefs and perhaps on Generous Translations (they are in my draft files) which may help you see my points of view. If you are interested.

    Even in your Newtonian-Quantum Physics dichotomous world, you may find me a bit fuzzier than you imagined. Over the last 6 months of my blogging, I have learned several things and my opinions have altered a bit. I like that part of discussion. But, indeed, I am still a nasty “naive” apostate in part.

    To use your analogies, I am very Quantum Physics at times, but when people make empirical claims, I jump to that view to test their truths in their own claimed arena. I felt that claiming that prayer works is an empirical, non-Quantum claim so I was checking on your operational definitions and verification methods (both used in Quantum Physics by the way). But we can drop that, why don’t you look at the two posts I will put up now and maybe read about my view of Self, if you are the least bit curious.

    Hope these paragraphs helped round things out a bit.

    Gassho, Sabio

    Reply

  36. Sabio,

    As it so happens I live not 2 miles from a brew-pub whose IPA has won countless awards and is even sometimes on the pull @ cellar temp. (Town Hall Brewery)

    I read your posts and they do help fill in things. I apologize if I misunderstood you.

    At the end of the day though, I like to follow “normal blog etiquette.” I like to stay relatively on topic to the thrust and intention of the post in question. Following rabbit holes happens and I’ve been known to do it, but I then usually make a clean break and wait to write a fuller post on it. I wasn’t really terribly interested in pursuing the (un)reality of results for intercessory prayer.

    For my part, I am perfectly comfortable “getting around” to topics in time, and until then holding them in tension and faith. I take God’s existence for granted without wanting (or believing it is possible) to prove it to be true. Similarly, a belief in Revelation takes it for granted that there are things about God that we simply do not nor could we know without his self-revealing, and so I don’t get too up in arms about the attempt to empirically test matters of revelation, such as prayer. I’m not a fan or believer in Natural Theology outside the bounds of Revelation.

    And since I take these things for granted I pursue questions like, “Given Scripture is Inspired, how is it so?” or “How can Protestants and Catholics reconcile relationships and make a more coherent case for the Gospel?” etc…

    Moreover it is quite difficult for me to touch on subjects like prayer or whatever with one whose worldview is so completely irreconcilable to my own, not because I don’t want to, but it is hard to see how we can dialogue when the basic assumptions are so distant. Which is what I was sort of trying to get at with “interventionist” prayer and so on. Nonetheless, the site is dedicated to dialectic, so I welcome your questions and conversation and value the potential for growth in both knowledge and patience.

    Cheers!

    Reply

  37. Sabio wrote:
    when people make empirical claims, I jump to that view to test their truths in their own claimed arena.

    RESPONSE:
    You imply that empirical evidence is necessary to believe in prayer. You claim that you search for empirical evidence “to test THEIR truths.” But, have you searched for empirical evidence to support YOUR truths? Do you have any empirical evidence to support the need for empirical evidence? What empirical evidence do you have to support the view that all beliefs must be substantiated by empirical evidence?

    In terms of using empiricism to test prayer, I cannot imagine such an idea originating from anyone that has truthfully been involved with Christianity for as long as you claim. Anyone that is familiar with Christianity understands that the church is not a monolith, and there is no singular agreed upon set of qualifications and method of prayer.

    Anyone that is familiar with Christianity will immediately question the methodology used in your test. One group of Christians will ask, were those who prayed truly Christians? Do they have the vital type of relationship that is required for God to hear and answer their prayers? Were they praying in accordance with promises recorded in Scripture? They might give you a quote from James 5:16. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” This might be followed by more questions. Did they confess their faults? Were the prayers effectual? Were the prayers fervent? Were the prayers conducted by a “righteous” person? Another group of Christians, such as the Roman Catholics might question whether or not the person lit a candle and prayed to the proper saint for the proper need. The Reformed Christian might simply question whether or not the prayers were in accordance with God’s sovereign will. Anyone who is as familiar with Christianity as you claim to be, should be familiar with differences and the long standing debates over those differences.

    Ultimately, there is no way to satisfy all of the various prayer traditions of all Christians with one simple test. If you were truly involved in Christianity to the extent that you have claimed, then why don’t you know these things? FAIL!

    Furthermore, the whole idea of skeptics, like yourself, being able to test for a miracle is more facetious than you can realize through your dark grey colored glasses. If there was a miracle staring you in the face there is high probability that you would attempt to label a different cause for the event based on the presuppositions of your worldview. For example, I am reminded of a widow that was praying for God to provide food for the evening meal for her family. An atheist living next door happened to overhear the widow praying and decided to trick her. He quickly drove to the grocery store and bought some groceries. Then, he placed them on the widow’s front step, rang the doorbell, and ran away. When the widow came to the door and found the food she began to rejoice and praise the Lord. The atheist came back around the corner of the house and scolded the poor widow. He informed her that God had nothing to do with the groceries because he (the atheist) had heard her praying, purchased the groceries, and placed them on her porch. The woman began to dance and shout. She said, “Hallelujah! God got me some groceries, and he used the devil to get them to me.”

    The point is, the widow saw this as a miraculous answer to prayer, but the skeptic could not see it.
    I would imagine that similar things would happen when skeptics test for answers to prayer in a hospital setting. The skeptic may blame all healing on the doctors and medicine. The person of faith may look at the same events and see God guiding the hands of the doctors in answer to prayer.

    Reply

  38. @adhunt — that be cool — well put.
    Meanwhile, back to post theme. I have never been a fan of string theory. For the last 10 years I have been cheering for Quantum Gravity Theory. The Hadron Collider should help.

    Reply

  39. Sabio,
    Just so you know, I did read your web and traced the source to Leanne Roberts at Hertford Chapel, Oxford before writing my initial post. But, I am happy to drop this here if that is what you wish.

    Reply

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