Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Science and Religion

Recently a study came out regarding the effects of prayer on cardiac patients, concluding that prayer had no measureable effects on the outcomes of the patient's surgeries. Being both devout and scientific, I needed to read this.

The study divided patients into three groups. One group knew that people would be praying for them; two groups were told that people might be praying for them (and they did).

The results were illogical. The two groups that were in doubt had the same complication rate, while the group that knew others were praying for them had a significantly higher complication rate. All three groups did, however, have the same mortality (which does imply that the group with the most complications survived them best), although this was not necessarily statistically significant.

The true problem in the study, however, is theological. There are hundreds of theobloggers complaining about how these studies attempt to put God in a box that you can measure, and while I can't argue with them, I won't be joining them. I have other issues.

God is not a robot, or a machine. He makes choices. That he makes choices is at once the reason we pray, that we might influence his choices, and the reason prayers go unanswered, that he makes his own choices.

Perhaps, and if I may be permitted to speculate as to the mind of God, what happens to him if this study is a success?

God does not want empty worship. He wants love. He wants our hearts. How many people now attend services for shallow motives: social status, political connections, or the appearance of virtue? If it were scientifically proven that there was something, anything, out there, how many more would fill the pews with ignoble intent, hoping with hollow hearts to get something from the almighty?

It is a burden to those with faith that God hides. I struggle with belief each day. But perhaps it is better that I face fears alone than a thousand empty converts be won. Maybe.


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