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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Does Pres. Hinckley Have An Unfair Advantage? » Does Pres. Hinckley Have An Unfair Advantage?

Does Pres. Hinckley Have An Unfair Advantage?

Don - November 1, 2006

Faith works -right?! Prayers work – right?! Prayers work on behalf of other – right?!

So if you have several million people praying for you each day and or night it has to effect you doesn’t it? President Hinckley is the beneficiary of that. He’s even acknowledged those prayers.

I can’t even come close! If I’m really really sick I might get 8 or 10 family members and hopefully a few groups each day in the temple praying for me. But not on a regular every day basis.

I thought about starting an email prayer pryamid – you prayer for the two people on the last line of the list and send the email to 10 or your LDS/Christian friends and ask them eliminate the top row of names, move everyone down and pray for the bottom row…and pass it on. But somehow I just don’t think the sincerity and faith would be there…so that probably wouldn’t work.

Then I thought about starting a prayer list for the bloggernacle. Everyone could add their name, it could be printed off and then each person could pray for everyone on the list…either by name or as a group. That probably wouldn’t work either, I’d get flamed for just suggesting it, and most bloggers could care less….they have enough problems of their own to pray about.

So I guess that leaves one alternative, I have to pray for myself excersizing my own faith….how dull is that? Oh well, I guess President Hinckley deserves our faith and prayers…I don’t know if he needs my prayer, but he gets them anyway and I hope they help.


  1. Your post gave me a chuckle. I’d pray for you Don, but I don’t really know you. I always thought it was kind of weird to pray for someone you don’t know all that well. I guess it’s ok to pray for people you don’t know. We do it all the time for the missionaries, the troops and the general Authorities. But those are people you don’t need to know to know the kinds of things that they are going through. If you know what I mean.

    Comment by Ian Cook — November 1, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  2. Thanks Ian, I am a nice guy, so you can pray for me if you want. Obviously I need all the prayers I can get.

    Comment by Don Clifton — November 1, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

  3. I’ll pray for ya, Dad. (But I guess I’m in the category of people already praying for you, huh?)

    As for President Hinckley, I’ve wondered something along similar lines: if tons of Church members are praying for him to be healthy, but it’s really time for him to go, then how long will Heavenly Father extend his life just to satisfy the faith of so many people? I mean, for poor “old” Pres. Hinckley’s sake, I hope we are all praying for him to “be able to do the work he needs to do” rather than prolonging that perhaps rather welcome (?) step for him in the Plan of Salvation…

    Comment by Amy — November 1, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

  4. True vharity seems to be the key for praying for someone you don’t know so well. Remember on your mission how much better you got at praying for investigators you just barely picked up towards the end of your mission than when you started?

    Comment by Bret — November 2, 2006 @ 2:06 am

  5. Actually, in spite of the common human desire to the contrary, prayer doesn’t work at all. Numerous published studies have come out over the years which make this fact perfectly clear. The idea of prayer — and the fact that it’s still alive and flourishing after thousands of years — demonstrates the human tendency to only count the “evidence” which supports our beliefs (termed “false positives,” e.g., spontaneous remission of disease) as well as the human tendency to generally take the most rewarding view of things, i.e., a strong preference to believe that each of us is somehow favored, chosen, special, deserving, superior.

    Comment by Paul — November 2, 2006 @ 7:42 pm

  6. Darnit Paul, you proved us wrong! Curses!

    I’d love to see a published study that has made the “FACT” that prayers don’t work “perfectly clear”. I think you mean it’s perfectly clear to someone who prefers to believe prayer doesn’t work.

    Comment by Rusty — November 2, 2006 @ 8:09 pm

  7. They’re easy to find if you know how to use Google:


    No, that’s not what I mean. I mean that what documented evidence exists so far clearly indicates that prayer does not work, regardless of anyone’s personal preferences — including my own. What is clear, however, is that since there’s no downside to believing that prayer works, people will continue to prefer believing that it does.

    Comment by Paul — November 2, 2006 @ 8:46 pm

  8. Paul, the problem with using Google is you can find references contrary to your conclusion and the articles you site. quote: “While experimental evidence has yet to reveal large direct effects of prayer on physical health, the effects which have been found are notable and encourage further study. In this article the authors review the major studies, discuss problems in their interpretation, and suggest considerations for future experimental study of prayer.” And this quote appeared a month after your article appeared. http://www.springerlink.com/content/w77g4741xjpl1m68/
    I’m sure there are others if we want to get into a “spitting” match.

    Comment by don — November 2, 2006 @ 10:05 pm

  9. I wouldn’t say there’s a “problem” with using Google at all. What the problem in this instance appears to be is the reliability of the studies and information, as well as the ambiguous and equivocal use of words (and, undoubtedly, a general lack of critical thinking skills on the part of many readers).

    For instance, in your first reference, they say, “While experimental evidence has yet to reveal large direct effects of prayer on physical health, the effects which have been found are notable and encourage further study.” What is this supposed to mean, exactly? “Notable” is a subjective word — what’s “notable” to one person might be insignificant to another. Making such conclusions for the audience in the abstract (especially while omitting the relevant factual statistics) already would seem to indicate bias. (And it should go without saying that “evidence has yet to reveal large direct effects” could also mean: there is, in fact, zero evidence).

    It’s interesting how your second reference doesn’t indicate the number of patients used in study [1] — the only one that actually reports a concluded result. For all we know, it might have been two, and was likely very few as compared with other, much larger studies. All the rest of the references are currently in process — but are reported in this article as if they were already completed, and conclusive of similar evidence. Just what are we supposed to conclude about that?

    These would appear to be better examples of propaganda than of any kind of legitimate research. And yes, I would be the last to dispute that there are many more of this sort.

    Comment by Paul — November 2, 2006 @ 11:15 pm

  10. I sure don’t understand how you can “prove” prayer doesn’t work. That’s like trying to prove that their is no God or that rap music is beautiful.

    Comment by Bret — November 3, 2006 @ 2:07 am

  11. Paul, for your sake – I hope you never have to use it…prayer that is.

    Comment by Don Clifton — November 3, 2006 @ 10:33 am

  12. That’s an interesting issue, Bret. In general, if there is no identifiable evidence for something, is having full confidence in it a justifiable position?

    Rational standards would seem to indicate that one’s level of confidence should be proportional to the quality and quantity of evidence which supports it (as established within a just court system, for instance). If I make the claim that something works, you might justifiably expect to have some sort of discernable demonstration of that claim. If I cannot provide that, you might justifably suspect something’s wrong — perhaps I’m trying to intentionally mislead you, or that I’m deluded or crazy, etc. It seems to me that many people make prayer an exception to this. Perhaps someone can explain why that is.

    Don, let’s please keep this about the ideas at hand, not about each other. If we’re trying to remain intellectually honest, making aspersions violates those standards.

    Comment by Paul — November 3, 2006 @ 11:11 am

  13. Paul, I think, in a way, Don is just rephrasing the old chestnut, “there are no atheists in foxholes.”

    And Paul, while I appreciate your civility I’m having a difficult time understanding your motive. It seems the logic you apply to disproving prayer isn’t being used in your judgement coming to a site of people who strongly believe in the power of prayer. And what’s the ultimate goal? Convince us ignorant folk that prayer doesn’t work? That there is no God? To what end are you doing this? Are you suggesting life is better or freer or happier without a belief in God? Do you think you have greater insight into human nature, love, politics and what’s best for other people because you don’t have God to burden you? I’m just not understanding what you’re trying to do.

    Comment by Rusty — November 3, 2006 @ 12:37 pm

  14. Paul, I guess I have a difficult time with proving something. Proofs today seem to vanish or change tomorrow. Just because no one has proved conclusively that prayer works and supposedly have shown it has no effect doesn’t prove a thing.

    How many years did the scientists of the day prove that the earth was the center of the universe? How many times have the scientists looked thru their telescopes and pronounced they were looking at the very edge of the universe?

    When I was in High School electrons orbited around in an atom in percise orbits. When I was in High School it was impossible to see in the dark.

    How about the computer and what it can do, what about the microscope and what we can now see and know.

    There is so much evidence to point out that what we know and can prove today has changed and will continue to change. Proof of prayer today…I think I can prove it to me…maybe tomorrow you can prove it to yourself.

    By the way this blog started out as a tongue in cheek effort about prayer, not a debate on proving it works.

    Thanks for your comments, they has stimulated my toughts, and I really do mean that sincerely.

    Comment by Don Clifton — November 3, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  15. Rusty-

    It actually turns out that that old chestnut is patently false. There were, in fact, many atheist soldiers in Vietnamese foxholes who did remain consistently true to their doubts. I know of a few (highly decorated, in fact) who report of knowing many more such guys that they knew. Truth be told: being in a war often makes people doubt things even more.

    Regarding my motives — are they really relevant? You would seem to suggest that, by questioning them, the validity of what someone says depends on how you perceive them as a person. Does “what I’m trying to do” somehow change the value and substance of what I say?

    Is the fact that I take these questions seriously somehow offensive?


    I think your suspicions of proof are well founded. Perhaps I can shed some more light on this.

    Everything you mention as examples were, at some point, assertions made as a result of someone’s rational observations of evidence. In other words, they were all at least initially founded on something that qualified as proof to some degree. But later on, additional observations forced them to change to various degrees — slightly modifying some and completely overturning others. That’s the essence of the scientific method. The point is, they we all based on something. If you’re so skeptical of those things, why aren’t you even more skeptical of prayer, which is founded on much less than anything you mention?

    You would seem to indicate that since our base of knowledge is constantly expanding and subject to refinement, it’s unreliable. Therefore, ideas which cannot be proven are the only reliable ones.

    While the burden of proof rightfully belongs to the individual making the claim, I do believe it’s possible to prove a negative as a practical matter.

    To illustrate this, let’s say I make the claim that I have managed to construct a device that will spontaneously produce gold from air. Out of curiosity, you then request some kind of proof, such as a firsthand demonstration, or tons of gold, etc. Naturally, I fail to produce anything like that. But let’s say I persist in my claim, adding, “and you can’t prove that it doesn’t work.” You would then probably respond with something like, “So what?” In addition, let’s say you also point out that the burden of proof rightfully lies on me, not you.

    But, you’re still curious. You then ask me if you can get the plans for my device, which I then provide. So you then build it and try it out for yourself. Again, nada.

    Later on, you then happen to hear that other people have actually tried the same thing you did, in order to verify the original claim — and they got the same results you did.

    Have I proved my claim about the device? Certainly not. Have you proved it doesn’t work, as a practical matter? The same might be said of alchemy, phlogiston, ether, tooth fairies…what makes prayer so special?

    As for what this thread is about — I was under the distinct impression that it began, in fact, with the very question we’ve been discussing. Did I somehow misinterpret it?

    Comment by Paul — November 3, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

  16. Also, Don-

    If it’s true that little about prayer’s efficacy can indeed be verified — as you indicate — what’s the point of discussing it? Wouldn’t it just be idle speculation? In the very acts of asking and taking it up for discussion, aren’t you implying that things about it can, in fact, be determined? (Trying to determine these things is, of course, what the original thread questions are all about).

    Comment by Paul — November 3, 2006 @ 8:52 pm

  17. Paul,
    Yes, motives are relevant and it’s naive to think otherwise. “Does ‘what I’m trying to do’ somehow change the value and substance of what I say?” Um, did you have a straight face when you wrote this? Yeah, I think what you’re describing is called “lying”. Rape is founded on this principle.

    You are a stranger on my blog who will soon get bored with telling us all how wrong we are, and then you will dissappear. You will leave smugly congratulating yourself for once again proving how smart you are and how misguided believers are. Good job, you should be proud. You’re maturing into the pure cliche I knew you’d be.

    I’m sure if you kept this up I’d get sick of it and ban you, but because I know you’ll go away soon there’s no reason to even create the controversy (“I just wanted to talk civilly about the fact that God doesn’t exist and he BANNED me!! CENSORSHIP!!”).

    Comment by Rusty — November 3, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

  18. Thanks Rusty.

    Paul, one final comment from me. I have personal proof from my own experiences that prayer works for me. Does it matter whether millions of others have had the same experience, or that millions have not? Or does it matter that someone devised an experiement that shows it didn’t work under that experiemental condition?

    To use your gold machine analogy: The machine produces gold for me, I can use the gold, it works for me. If I give you the machine and it doesn’t work for you…sorry. Do I have to make gold on demand in front of you to prove that the machine works? No, when I need it, when I have the faith – desire etc. then it produces gold for me.

    And more importantly, prayer for me has proved more valuable than any gold the machine could produce.

    Oh, I noticed that your description of atheists in foxholes used the word doubt….not know.

    Comment by Don Clifton — November 4, 2006 @ 5:25 pm

  19. Cliche as what I’ve said may be, it’s nothing compared with that of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

    Comment by Paul — November 5, 2006 @ 6:40 pm

  20. Oh, and Rusty-

    I did have a straight face when I wrote that. It turns out that your analogy of lying and rape is invalid. In such cases, the truthfulness of the matter depends on subsequent actions taken by me. In the case of prayer, it does not — I cannot in any way influence the outcome for someone else; it’s entirely objective and testable for oneself. To assume that I could is, well, absurd.

    Congratulations to you also on your prescience — a total failure to address the issues, coupled with willfully ignorant hostility, is boring indeed.

    Comment by Paul — November 5, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

  21. Paul, I’ve been doing this blog for a long time. I’ve seen many versions of you. You come, smugly tell us we’re wrong, and leave. I’d rather interact with those who are interested in dialogue.

    Comment by Rusty — November 5, 2006 @ 9:16 pm

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