Monday, June 8, 2015

Typical Brit-Centrism In Galton's Prayer Study

A long, long time ago, I wrote up a piece  giving my reasons why it was not possible to study the effects of prayer with science.  Which I will post tomorrow as I will be working.  I recently came across Francis Galton's 1872 article detailing his attempt at debunking the effectiveness of prayer based on the official act of praying for the health and well being of British monarchs and their average age as compared to those of other people.

After chugging through the long article, written in Galton's tedious style, I noticed that he had left a lot of things out of his consideration.  If lots of Brits were praying for the health and well beings of  the monarch, I can imagine lots of Irish, Scots, Welsh, American, Indian, South African, Australian, etc. were not thinking fondly of various of those monarchs who the Brits were praying for.  I can imagine many Irish who were dying of starvation during Galton's life time did not wish her majesty, the head of the indifferent government that exacerbated the famine, knowing what they were doing, wished her well.  Perhaps they were even praying for an early demise for all of them and their deliverance from her. It happens.   While I'm sure that the habits of believing that any God worth considering had England as the apple of his eye - he spoke English, didn't he? -were and are widespread among most Brits, it's rather funny for a scientistic atheist like Galton to have made that assumption, as well.  Some habits are harder to give up than others, perhaps.   I could document other eminent scientists of his circle who shared that idea, only without mentioning God.

Another thing he seems to forget is something many of us were told by our mothers, that God answers all prayers, it's just that quite often the answer is no.
The idea that God is like a force of nature that can be channeled and manipulated into doing our biding is a quite childish notion.  Perhaps the nature of what science was invented to do, to discern those forces and to manipulate them to our ends makes it impossible for many scientists to imagine God in any other way than that, which gets me back to my theme in the last piece.   Galton's use of statistics proves he was that kind of thinker, in that statistics are used to determine what is typical of some aspect of the workings of the physical universe.  Even in the practice of statistical analysis, outliers are cast out of consideration because they don't go along with the general trend of events and phenomena.   As such, statistics would be about the worst possible tool to choose to discern miracles or the effectiveness of prayer asking that the typical course of events be deviated from.  They would also be useless to discern the thoughts and decisions of God, if God is held to be able to surpass his own created order if God chooses to.

What he was doing with attempted elegance was about the same kind of stuff atheists are up to now, with no more discernment as to the thing they're attempting and what that would require.  Perhaps what Galton proved was that God doesn't listen to Brits praying to him in English any more than anyone else, that prayers for the rich, the high and the mighty are no more likely to be effective than those for the non-eminent or even the least among us.   Or maybe he was betraying the typical thinking of atheists about these things, turning God into an aspect of the physical universe instead of its creator.   That's a god I don't happen to believe in, not even when it's not called "god".

Update:  Yeah, I did see that.  I just didn't want to go into Galton's clear hypocrisy about what he was doing as he did it.

No comments:

Post a Comment