Evidential Asymmetry, Scientific Confirmation of Prayer, and Horrific Evils

1. The General CaseOne of the most important (and equally most often forgotten) lessons that Bayes's Theorem can teach us about evidence is that the strength of evidence is a ratio. To be precise, let H1 and H2 be rival explanatory hypotheses, B be the relevant background information, and E be the evidence to be explained. Now consider the following ratio: Pr(E | B & H1) ----------------- Pr(E | B & H2) If Pr(E | B & H1) > Pr(E | B & H2), then this ratio is greater … [Read more...]

Playing The Mystery Card (incl. McGrath vs Dawkins) from my book Believing Bullshit

 PLAYING THE MYSTERY CARD   Suppose critics point out that not only do you have little in the way of argument to support your particular belief system, there also seems to be powerful evidence against it. If you want, nevertheless, to convince both yourself and others that your beliefs are not nearly as ridiculous as your critics suggest, what might you do?   Perhaps Play The Mystery Card. As we will see, this sort of strategy is particularly popular when it comes to defending b … [Read more...]

One Man’s Modus Ponens…Part 2

Here is another argument for God, based on answered prayers:1. If God exists, then it is very likely that prayers to God for healing from injury or disease would usually be immediately followed by instantaneous and complete healing, except when the injury or disease was the result of self-destructive, foolish, or morally wrong actions on the part of the person who is suffering from the injury or disease.2. If it is NOT the case that God exists, then it is very unlikely that prayers to … [Read more...]

Atheist Prayer Experiment

Justin Brierley reviews the results of an experiment in which atheists pray for 40 days for God to reveal himself to them. Go here.Thanks to The Atheist Missionary for drawing attention to this on twitter.This is a win-win experiment to set up for the purposes of evangelizing of course.Reasons why you should perhaps expect some positive reports include:(i) Atheists who agree to sign up to this fairly onerous prayer regime are more likely to think there might be something to religious belief (one … [Read more...]

Flowchart on the Futility of Prayer

  HT: Atheist At Large … [Read more...]

Negative study on intercessory prayer

Information on the Herbert Benson-led study on the possible health benefits of intercessory prayer has begun to appear in the media. The results appear to be negative.(Disclaimer: the actual journal article appears next week. And I'm a physicist, not qualified to comment on the details of medical research anyway. And as some of the questions raised about prior positive studies show, doing this sort of research properly is very difficult.)It's interesting to see that the news article I link to … [Read more...]


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