Monday, June 07, 2010

You haven't got a prayer

A friend of mine has recently posted on that most widely spread of all time wasters: prayer. And the comments from the opposition have poured in. It seems that people get a bit testy when you tell them that they're just talking to the ceiling.

But what evidence is there that they're doing anything more than that?

Any time a person wants an event to occur, there are three possible outcomes: it happens, it doesn't happen or it happens at a later time. If the event is something over which we have a direct influence, we can have an effect on which of these outcomes happens. If it's an event over which we don't have a direct influence, then it pretty much relies on random chance.

An atheist will realize that this is the way the world works and accept it. He might not like it, but he accepts it.

A religious person will pray in an effort to guide the outcome. If events break in his favor, he says that God answered his prayer. If events break against him, it wasn't part of God's plan (which none of us can understand). If it happens later, then God decided it wasn't yet the proper time.

So we have the same outcomes but different interpretations. The tenet of Occam's Razor tells us that the explanation that requires the fewest suppositions is probably the best one.

The atheist's explanation is based on a single supposition: random things occur.

The religious person's explanation is based on the existence of an almighty, omniscient, omnipotent being who listens to the prayers of billions of people and decides, using incomprehensible reasoning, who will benefit and who will not.

Occam's Razor has cut the bologna away on this one.