Monday, February 19, 2018

Does prayer stop bullets?

Tyson is a "public intellectual". Like Carl Sagan, Jerry Coyne, and Richard Dawkins, he's become a vocal spokesman for "scientific" atheism.

There's a problem when people try to act cleverer than they are. His tweet is meant to be witty, but it's really stupid.

i) To begin with, we can't pray for things we can't anticipate. We can't pray to God to stop things we didn't see coming. School shootings at any particular location are very rare and highly unpredictable. It's too late to pray to God to stop something after the fact, when the outcome is known. To pray is not an act of prophecy. It doesn't see the future.

ii) The theology of prayer was never predicated on God answering every prayer.

iii) How does Tyson know that prayer is insufficient to stop bullets from killing students? To take a comparison, suppose Tyson said time-travel is insufficient to stop bullets from killing students? But if a time-traveler succeeded in changing the timeline to avert a catastrophe, then that erases the original timeline. The very success of his temporal incursion covers his tracks.

By the same token, if there are occasions when prayer prevents a massacre, there will be no record of what didn't happen. A nonevent leaves no trace evidence. If prayer changes the future, in a counterfactual sense, then that's consistent with the future that actually eventuates. Efficacious prayer and naturalism are empirically equivalent at that level.

There are, however, situations in which there's evidence for the efficacy of prayer. But atheists don't move in circles where that happens, since their social circle generally consists of people who don't pray, so they've excluded themselves from the evidence.


  1. This tweet is what 382k people find sufficient as a 'problem of evil' argument against God. SMH.

  2. Evidence collected over many years, obtained from many locations, indicates that the promoting gun control in America is insufficient to stop bullets from killing school children.

  3. Thanks Steve. This is a good example of where you excel. I learn a lot from you!

  4. Your i) was my first thought when reading that ridiculous, utterly stupid drivel.