Friday, March 23, 2007

Monkey Love

You've probably seen articles referencing a recent study done by an ASU professor suggesting that prayer helps the sick. And you've seen letters like this one.

I respectfully disagree, for many reasons.

Dawkins does fair enough a job of demolishing this kind of medieval nonsense in his latest book The God Delusion, and I'll skip a rehash of his work so I can eventually get to my real points.

Daniel C. Dennett writes in Breaking the Spell, Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, that belief systems evolved just as other human behaviors did, and recent studies of primate behavior strongly suggest that morality developed before religion became a part of culture.

Monkeys are nice to each other but they do not fly planes into buildings because of religious convictions, because they have none. No religious convictions, that is. Plenty of monkeys have planes, personal jets, whatever.

Anyways, all I really wanted to say here is that yeah, maybe, a little prayer never hurt anybody. For example, we all know people who maintain freedom from various addictions by relying on their "higher power" however they choose to define that.

But if you really want to help sick people, stop wasting time and money studying prayer, whatever that is, and provide universal healthcare coverage.

That's my first point.

My second one is that morality and religion have nothing to do with one another and evolved differently. Yes, evolved. These came from evolution and the pressures of natural selection, not just old books written by Bronze-Age madmen.

First came morality, then came religions, and for some of us lucky ones, spirituality comes.

Many people, however, remain spiritually deprived despite their religious protestations, and of course some are just so mentally ill, like our current President, that their "faith" makes them cry and legislate for blastocysts while calmly exploding innocent soldiers, women, old men, and children in far-off lands. Only religiosity can produce that sort of craziness.


Me said...

The only way I can see religion, prayer and faith as having any sort of positive impact on a person's health is by helping that person maintain a positive mindset. Aside from that, I know what wins when it comes to prayer versus penicillin.

Alicia Morgan said...

I think that we may be hard-wired to do better with living by a spiritual code. Whether or not God exists, we do better if we choose to believe in a Higher Power of any kind, because then we are able to let go of the fallacious notion that we can control the world around us.

Dirk Gently said...

i think believing in a higher power gets one off the hook, because it removes all but selfish motivation (heaven's carrot and hell's pointy stick), and because it removes free will at least to some degree (by superceding god's will).

we may not be able to control the world, but we can control some local sphere. and we can improve that sphere for others solely from our own shared humanity. or monkeyanity. in the long run, this can lead to survival of not just the fittest or the individual, but the species.

Joyful Alternative said...

I prayed and got every churched person I knew to ask their congregations to pray, and then to my TBI husband in a coma with a poor prognosis I explained, often, who was praying for him and what congregation had prayed for him in Sunday services and that strangers thousands of miles away were sending him strength and good vibes. And eventually he opened his eyes and could squeeze my finger yes or no to answer questions and began to recover.

My theory is that knowing about all that prayer encouraged his will to live and helped him pull through.

Then again, when I told him this, maybe all he sensed was the annoying buzz of my voice, and I'm full of shit.