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  #11  
Old 02-21-2014, 10:46 PM
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Meditation and the Brain
New imaging technology makes it possible for scientists to document the brain activity of Buddhist monks.

Meditation and the Brain | MIT Technology Review



Dalai Lama visits brain imaging facility

Dalai Lama visits brain imaging facility (May 21, 2001)


What the Dalai Lama Has to Say About Neuroscience

"I feel very strongly that the application of science to understanding the consciousness of meditators is very important… if the good effects of quieting the mind and cultivating wholesome mental states can be demonstrated scientifically, this may have beneficial results for others." – Dalai Lama


If you ever get a chance watch the episode "Through the Wormhole Mysteries of the Subconscious" Its excellent.


Herbert Benson led a study to determine if prayers by congregations who did not know heart bypass patients would reduce the complications of surgery. They didn't. In fact, some prayed-for patients fared worse than those who did not receive prayers. (Staff file photo Jon Chase/Harvard News Office)

Prayers don't help heart surgery patients Some fare worse when prayed for

By William J. Cromie
Harvard News Office

Harvard Gazette: Prayers don't help heart surgery patients
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  #12  
Old 02-22-2014, 12:44 AM
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Originally Posted by George-ananda View Post
I've seen other studies showing prayer does work.

So people will gravitate to the study whose conclusion they like. The other sides' studies are always flawed of course.
I've seen studies showing that placebos work. Typically they are viewed as the same result.


To truly have a good study they must have 8 groups of people.

Group 1- Prays and is prayed for by others. They let them know they are being prayed for.

Group 2- Prays and is prayed for by others. They are not aware anyone is praying for them.

Group 3- Prays and is not prayed for by others. They are told they are being prayed for by others.

Group 4- Prays and is not prayed for by others. They are aware they are not being prayed for by others.

Group 5- Does not pray. Is prayed for by others and is aware of it.

Group 6- Does not pray. Is prayed for by others but are not aware.

Group 7- does not pray. Is not prayed for by others. They are told however that they are being prayed for.

Group 8- Does not pray. Is not prayed for by others and are aware.


Then you cover all angles of possibility.

Is it the act of prayer itself that causes the benefit (if any)? If so then we should see all instances where prayer is involved to have higher rates of healing or whichever variable we choose. And there should be no difference between those who know they are being prayed for and those that aren't.

Is it the act of praying itself that is therapeutic? Then we should see only instances when someone actually prays have the benefits. The ones where they are prayed for should have no inadvertent affect.

Is it simply the knowledge that they are being prayed for or that their own prayers would have a difference and its some kind of psychological placebo? Then we should see benefits ONLY when they think that they are being prayed for or when they pray regardless if they do or do not have people praying for them.

And if there is no difference what so ever then it should be either random or uniform across the board. If we had a decent enough sample size (at least 100) for each then we could start drawing some conclusions. Many of the so called "studies" we have now are picked afterwards. As in its mostly just a survey taken after the fact and not a controlled experiment. Such things are far less accurate usually.
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  #13  
Old 02-22-2014, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Quintessence View Post
Compared to others I've read, yeah, it's quaint. That's a polite way of saying that I've seen worse, but that this one is pretty bad in that it really doesn't tell us much of anything useful.



You don't consider the epic failure to document the methodology of the prayers to be a serious over sight? Dear gods, I do. It's enough to easily invalidate the entire study. It's tantamount to going "we told a bunch of volunteers to treat these people for their colds, but didn't give them any standards or guidance about how to do this in a controlled fashion." The volunteers could have done anything from serve chicken soup to prescribe bed rest! You can't do a study on the efficacy of prayer on serious medical conditions and then not bother to document the actual prayer methods used. It's sloppy.

Ah, and there are studies that cover more pieces of information. I presume you're familiar with metanalyses? I like them. They're spiffy.

At any rate, aside from this particular point I made, I didn't mean to suggest that the study is "invalid." I'm a scientist, sir. I get all the such and such about scope and framing and the like. You asked for a critique, so I gave one. I pointed out some problems and limitations of the study.



I was talking about this paragraph:



Background noise. This is the other aspect I regard as a serious issue, but it's one of those unfortunate confounding factors that there is probably no reasonable way to control for.
I don't think it is necessary to document more than 1000 individuals specific prayer methodology. Whether x individuals got on their knees, folded their hands, prayed in the morning, etc, is mostly useless data, unless these methods are to be controlled. But this study was not comparing the differences in efficacy of getting on one's knees rather than standing during prayer.

Assuming god hears all prayers, and there's no wrong way to pray, i don't think the data collected here is invalid. It is what it is and, agreed, improvements could be made. Science builds on itself. Small steps result in long journeys.

I can understand how developing a specific prayer methodology and having each intercessor adhere to it may add depth to similar studies. I don't think there is enough information yet to develop such a method.

I'm not aware of any significant meta-analysis of intercessory studies. If you have a reference it would be appreciated.
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  #14  
Old 02-22-2014, 07:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monk Of Reason View Post
I've seen studies showing that placebos work. Typically they are viewed as the same result.


To truly have a good study they must have 8 groups of people.

Group 1- Prays and is prayed for by others. They let them know they are being prayed for.

Group 2- Prays and is prayed for by others. They are not aware anyone is praying for them.

Group 3- Prays and is not prayed for by others. They are told they are being prayed for by others.

Group 4- Prays and is not prayed for by others. They are aware they are not being prayed for by others.

Group 5- Does not pray. Is prayed for by others and is aware of it.

Group 6- Does not pray. Is prayed for by others but are not aware.

Group 7- does not pray. Is not prayed for by others. They are told however that they are being prayed for.

Group 8- Does not pray. Is not prayed for by others and are aware.


Then you cover all angles of possibility.

Is it the act of prayer itself that causes the benefit (if any)? If so then we should see all instances where prayer is involved to have higher rates of healing or whichever variable we choose. And there should be no difference between those who know they are being prayed for and those that aren't.

Is it the act of praying itself that is therapeutic? Then we should see only instances when someone actually prays have the benefits. The ones where they are prayed for should have no inadvertent affect.

Is it simply the knowledge that they are being prayed for or that their own prayers would have a difference and its some kind of psychological placebo? Then we should see benefits ONLY when they think that they are being prayed for or when they pray regardless if they do or do not have people praying for them.

And if there is no difference what so ever then it should be either random or uniform across the board. If we had a decent enough sample size (at least 100) for each then we could start drawing some conclusions. Many of the so called "studies" we have now are picked afterwards. As in its mostly just a survey taken after the fact and not a controlled experiment. Such things are far less accurate usually.
Unfortunately it's much easier to design such an experiment than it is to overcome the logistical hurdles. But I believe this shows that there is no reason that any hypothesis that makes an observable prediction is beyond the scope of science, and that any relevant religion makes observable predictions. It may be very difficult to tease apart the factors, but it is within reach of mortals.
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  #15  
Old 02-22-2014, 08:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Monk Of Reason View Post
To truly have a good study they must have 8 groups of people.

Group 1- Prays and is prayed for by others. They let them know they are being prayed for.

Group 2- Prays and is prayed for by others. They are not aware anyone is praying for them.

Group 3- Prays and is not prayed for by others. They are told they are being prayed for by others.

Group 4- Prays and is not prayed for by others. They are aware they are not being prayed for by others.

Group 5- Does not pray. Is prayed for by others and is aware of it.

Group 6- Does not pray. Is prayed for by others but are not aware.

Group 7- does not pray. Is not prayed for by others. They are told however that they are being prayed for.

Group 8- Does not pray. Is not prayed for by others and are aware.


Then you cover all angles of possibility
I like it. The only angle it doesn't cover is the method of prayer, which in these case, would need to be uniform and to the same deity within a particular study group.

There is the other problem of how one measures "benefits." I mean, sure, there's the obvious "getting better" that is simple to quantify, but I don't think we should overlook psychological benefits either. Feeling loved is important. For most humans, at any rate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FunctionalAthiest View Post
I don't think it is necessary to document more than 1000 individuals specific prayer methodology. Whether x individuals got on their knees, folded their hands, prayed in the morning, etc, is mostly useless data, unless these methods are to be controlled. But this study was not comparing the differences in efficacy of getting on one's knees rather than standing during prayer.
Sure, I understand that; my suggestion was that they control for methods by making them identical across the board, because I really see not controlling for the possible differences associated with methods is sloppy. I see things this way in particular because I come from a religious background that where it is not at all reasonable to assume that different methods are equivalent. I understand that the Abrahamic religions are not particularly orthopraxic, but even outside of Paganisms, there is emphasis placed on the proper way of doing a ritual/prayer. What kind of incense you burn, what candles you light, what invocation you speak, or even what language you speak that invocation in can all be considered important... especially to religions that emphasize ritual efficacy. Because of this, I have a really hard time overlooking the lack of detail on the prayer methods used. I have no idea what the Christian god prefers for its offerings and rituals, but I would never assume that all methods of attempting to placate that deity are equal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FunctionalAthiest View Post
I'm not aware of any significant meta-analysis of intercessory studies. If you have a reference it would be appreciated.
Ah, if I was still in grad school. Alas, my happy access to a plethora of peer-reviewed articles is considerably more hampered nowadays. Anybody want to hack at some Web of Science and get us a sense of how many articles have even been published under the relevant keywords over the past three decades? This journal probably has something, but it's got some sturdy, locked gates.

Must...not...rant...about...the gates....
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  #16  
Old 02-22-2014, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Quintessence View Post
I
Sure, I understand that; my suggestion was that they control for methods by making them identical across the board, because I really see not controlling for the possible differences associated with methods is sloppy. I see things this way in particular because I come from a religious background that where it is not at all reasonable to assume that different methods are equivalent. I understand that the Abrahamic religions are not particularly orthopraxic, but even outside of Paganisms, there is emphasis placed on the proper way of doing a ritual/prayer. What kind of incense you burn, what candles you light, what invocation you speak, or even what language you speak that invocation in can all be considered important... especially to religions that emphasize ritual efficacy. Because of this, I have a really hard time overlooking the lack of detail on the prayer methods used. I have no idea what the Christian god prefers for its offerings and rituals, but I would never assume that all methods of attempting to placate that deity are equal.
I agree with this. While letting practitioners do what they do is fine, I agree that documenting the exact parameters of what that entails would be very valuable.
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  #17  
Old 02-22-2014, 08:36 AM
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Did see a tv science documentary about prayer.

Hook up a believer (during prayer) to a brain wave scan....and you see a change.
Hook up a non-believer in quiet meditation....and nothing happens.

So....maybe.....
Believers are using the speech portion of their brains as they do believe they are speaking to Someone.

Non-believers do no more than meditate....so nothing seems to happen.

Maybe...just maybe....belief is needed to get the action up and running?
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  #18  
Old 02-22-2014, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Thief View Post
Did see a tv science documentary about prayer.

Hook up a believer (during prayer) to a brain wave scan....and you see a change.
Hook up a non-believer in quiet meditation....and nothing happens.

So....maybe.....
Believers are using the speech portion of their brains as they do believe they are speaking to Someone.

Non-believers do no more than meditate....so nothing seems to happen.

Maybe...just maybe....belief is needed to get the action up and running?
Makes sense as there is already a known difference between the two populations. I wonder if you asked non-believers to pretend to be talking to an imaginary friend, or a relative, if they'd have a similar reaction.
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  #19  
Old 02-22-2014, 07:33 PM
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I have done a lot of research into a lot of this with some top doctors who study it all.

Practices such as Prayer, meditation, clinical hypnosis, relaxation techniques all have some similar psycophysiological underpinnings with the mind body. The neuroscience behind a lot of this is extremely interesting. They can cause physical changes in the brain and the body. The subconscious also protects us and is connect to the "illusion" of free will.

"But now, scientists say that mediators like my husband may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes."

Mingyur Rinpoche’s “Science of Happiness:” Buddhism, brain scans, and quantum physics collide - One City


VS Ramachandran is one of the top neuroscientist on the planet.

Here is one to contemplate.

Neurologist VS Ramachandran explains the case of split-brain patients with one hemisphere without a belief in a god, and the other with a belief in a god. (Clip taken from talk at 2006 Beyond Belief Conference, link below)


Split brain with one half atheist and one half theist - YouTube
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  #20  
Old 02-22-2014, 09:02 PM
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Wow, that is amazing.
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