Pray this doesn't get passed

By Phil Plait | November 6, 2009 12:00 pm

I was going to write about how Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and John Kerry (D-MA) were trying to somewhat slimily slip a provision into the health care bill about paying for prayer-based health services, but then wouldn’tyouknowit, Steve Novella (who apparently does not need to sleep or eat or breathe) beat me to it. Besides his take-down of the odd and wholly unrealistic beliefs of Christian Scientists, I’ll note that is has been pretty definitively proven that prayer doesn’t work in healing. So not only is this provision unconstitutional, it’s just an all-around bad idea.

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Comments (107)

  1. Big Fat Earl

    Gee, John Kerry doing something slimily? Who’dve thought it?

  2. Gus Snarp

    @Big Fat Earl – But not Orrin Hatch?

  3. pallendo

    Funny, my Dr. was telling me about this on Wednesday. I told him that since I was ordained in the ULC, we should be able to start up a side practice together to do faith based healing.

  4. Sad thing is, Sen. Kerry is my senator. I’ve wrote his office a while ago asking that he withdraw support of this amendment. [sarcasm]Surprisingly, I have yet to receive any kind of response.[/sarcasm]

  5. Matt

    I agree with the science. Prayer healing simply does not work.

    The constitutionality argument is fuzzier, though. The first amendment prohibits the government from establishing a religion or abridging the freedom of religion for any citizen, which has historically been interpreted to mean it also cannot favor one religion over another, etc.

    So I’m not sure that unless this provision specified CHRISTIAN prayer healing as opposed to more faith-generic prayer healing, I’m not sure it would really be unconstitutional. Retarded, yes, but maybe not unconstitutional.

  6. John Powell

    Ah, but such an amendment would give would give preference (in the form of pay-for-prayer) to religious organizations who believe in the healing power of prayer over those that don’t. Clearly unconstitutional.

  7. Mapnut

    “We think this is an important aspect of the solution,” Davis said, arguing that Christian Scientists are leading the fight for all who believe in spiritual healing. “We don’t believe there should be hurdles between an individual and spiritual treatment that could be the most important solution to healthcare in this country.”

    There you have it. If you get sick in the United States, you better pray.

  8. If it were just Sen. Hatch offering this provision, I would suspect it was simply an attempt to portray its opponents as “anti-Christian” – with Kerry on board, you have to wonder what on earth is going on.

  9. Mike

    The separtation of church and state point is valid, but probably not the best approach. A better argument is that this loop-hole allows for any religious/spiritual groups (mainstream or otherwise because we allow freedom of *religion* in this country) to offer their services as “healers”…de-evolving over time until any off the street shister can get taxpayer funded reembursement.

  10. [Hiccups and loses moral compass]
    I wonder if I can get in on this action. Buy my “Wellness Rocks” today. Sure they look like ordinary rocks, but they’ll heal you if you buy them. If you aren’t healed, well then you just haven’t bought enough of them! Lobby to get your insurance provider and governmental agencies to cover the purchase of my “Wellness Rocks” only…
    [hiccups again]

    Rats, my moral compass has been restored. So much for that get rich quick scheme.

    And sadly, “Wellness Rocks” would have had just about the same affect as “spiritual healing” would have.

  11. badnicolez

    Once again, our tax dollars hard at work! When does this nonsense ever end?

  12. Lisa

    We paid a lot for dental work last year, so I thought we’d get to claim some of that when we did our taxes. It was considered cosmetic, so no luck there. But fees paid to a Christian Science practitioner can be included. (http://www.irs.gov/publications/p502/ar02.html#en_US_publink100014809)

  13. Lawrence

    And right-wingers complain about how “Big Government” wastes so much money? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

  14. Dennis

    Is this that “single-prayer” system I keep hearing about?

  15. Sarcastro

    It’s not a church-state issue, it’s a common good issue.

    It is not in the best interest of the state to subsidize a practice that puts more people at risk of contracting a disease. Getting prayed over when you’ve got Flying Pig Flu and then going to work or other public areas is endangering others and, thus, placing more burden upon the health system.

  16. Dennis

    And where is the morality in charging a fee for prayers?
    How many Shekels did Jesus charge for his services?
    WWJC?
    (what would Jesus charge?)

  17. Bigfoot

    Paid prayer services? What kind of omnipotent entity would decide the fate of the ill based on how many paid pray-ers are received? Does the almighty keep an accurate accounting of which and how many prayers are received for each of the ill? And why would the prayers of anybody affect the willingness of this all-knowing all-caring God to offer help to one of his/her stricken subjects?

    Frankly, if paid prayer DID make a difference, I would much rather spend the money on prayers to tell this entity to @#$% him/her/itself!

  18. Sam

    Why do people notice Constitutionality with regards to church and state, but not the rest of the bill? Where does the Constitution say the federal government has any right to force me to buy health insurance, any right to provide that health insurance?

  19. The big issue is that this opens the door for any quack treatment you can imagine. No quality control – no science-based standard of care.

    But it is also unconstitutional. Favoring one religion over another is just one criterion for violating the establishment clause. In order for a law that deals with religion to not violate the establishment clause it must have a clear secular purpose – it cannot be purely religious. Prayer is overtly religious. In order to defend the law, or any practice, it might put them in the position of having to prove efficacy, which should be fun to watch. Since prayer does not work, only a religious purpose is left.

  20. Steve Huntwork

    This sir, is why you will not win this year’s Science Blog award.

    As a long time astronomer, what you have devolved into this year is rather disgusting.

  21. J

    Pray this doesn’t get passed

    I’ll pray really HARD.

    prayer doesn’t work in healing.

    I does if you pray HARD.

  22. Art

    PRAYER: America’s only HOPE- This is the latest fad in lawn signs in my region.

    If prayer is our only hope, we’re in big trouble. Even worse, if things have gotten so bad that Christians can’t do anything but pray, then we’re really stuck out.

    Ever heard of activism? Besides placing signs in your yard?

  23. What are the chances that this is being slipped in to make the heath care bill easier to pass, but with the understanding that the Supreme Court will kill the prayer bit almost immediately?

  24. My stance on prayer is this: Do it if it helps to give peace of mind.

    As a medical treatment, I would not pray or have someone pray I get better without medical intervention. I might pray that my treatment, administered by a medical professional, works. Again, that’s to make myself feel better, mentally. I wouldn’t pray that my disease be cured by way of miracle.

    I like to think of a prayer as a well intended thought and something that can make us feel better, mentally. Sort of like a mental pep talk.

    While that can go a long way, it can’t replace valid medical treatments for disease and ailments.

    If anyone has ever seen Squidbillies, there is an episode where Granny ‘vaccinates’ the son (Rusty) by praying to Jesus. To which the dad (Early) states that his yearly inoculations is done. Haha, very strange but entertaining show.

    Speaking of which, I go my seasonal flu shot today. Now, the quest for H1N1!

  25. That shouldn’t even be slipped in there anyway. The problem with the Constitution is the “Necessary and Proper Clause” or “Elastic Clause,” which as it’s name suggests permits the Federal government to do anything necessary for the nation, despite issues like these not being in the Constitution verbatum. This clause allows for too many loopholes. Though I am glad it’s a VERY Flexible, yet STRONG document, it can cause corruption and laws like these to pass. Plus, there’s Congress’ ability to propose an amendment to the Constitution, though the states need to ratify it. Sadly, in this day and age, that is also a problem with the Constitution.

  26. Steve Huntwork Says: This sir, is why you will not win this year’s Science Blog award.

    Is there something scientific about the efficacy of prayer we should know?

    Our laws should be grounded in science, or at least not contradict it. When Congress strays too from reality, it is our job as citizens in a democratic republic to call those lawmakers out. Next thing you know, they will want to re-define pi.

  27. Steve @#16: Phil’s covered this before: IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, SHUT UP AND LEAVE. Nobody cares about your endless whining about how Phil isn’t doing what YOU want on HIS site.

  28. Bob

    If “prayer” is free, and the bible says to help your fellow man, why are they charging $20 bucks for a session?

    erm?

    @Steve Huntwork Says: “This sir, is why you will not win this year’s Science Blog award.”

    face palm

  29. Steve Huntwork

    Phil;

    Seriously, as an astronomer, I respect what you have contributed. Most of the things that you post on your blog are seen un Universe Today first, but your additional information has always been educational and respected.

    When you go off onto other subjects, you sound rather stupid, even if what you are saying is partially correct.

    When you were talking about anti-vaccinations, I fully understood what you were tying to say. My step-father was the director of immunization (CDC) during the first “swine flu” outbreak in 1976 and he did his job darn well. The vast majority of the U. S citizens were immunized from the H1N1 virus and we did not have a pandemic outbreak of that disease in America.

    However, since that vaccination caused other health problems, there was a Congressional investigation, and some of the health officials involved lost their jobs.

    With the Amish, my mother and father would live with them for a month each year, to establish trust. The Amish refused to support any immunization because of their religious beliefs, but eventually, my step-father was able to convince them. That took years to establishing that trust, the the results were well worth it.

    Phil, I could spend hours typing a reply about what you have done right and wrong this this.

    Please stick to astronomy, because when you stray outside of those crayon lines, you start to sound rather stupid.

  30. @Tree Lobsters

    I think that, with Orrin Hatch behind it, the purpose is to make it easier for alt-med to gain legitimacy by being able to claim reimbursement from insurers.

  31. ChrisZ

    Dear Phil,

    Please stop having opinions on things, or thinking that anything other than astronomy is important. You chose your profession now stick to it and NOTHING ELSE! I disagree with you on this point, and some others you have brought up before, therefore you should SHUT UP ABOUT THEM!

    Thanks.

  32. Steve Huntwork

    Yesteray, I was recovering from surgery in my wife’s office. Finally, after waiting for months for the H1N1 vaccination to arrive in this hospital, they received 200 doses.

    As “spaced out” as I was after recovering from surgery, my wife put me to work within two hours. Since I could not drive anyway, she had me filling out notices for the people who were on the priority list to receive the H1N1 vaccinations first.

    Remember, in 1976, my step-father insured that nobody in the United States had to wait for a vaccination!

  33. It would be totally awesome if they added a clause allowing patients whose condition worsened after prayer to sue for malpractice. If it’s being turned into an economic commodity, why not?

  34. SplendidMonkey

    Under this plan could I get reimbursed for administering tagliatelle flagellation therapy?

  35. Steve Huntwork

    Notice how I have also addressed the problem with the Amish and their religious beliefs? How my step-father, by spending years to build up trust, was able to get the Amish to agree to obtain basic immunization?

    Have I said that Phil should not talk about subjects that he feels are important?

    But, when he does so, he must be accurate.

    As a “science” blog, I expect a little something extra from Phil. Otherwise, this blog is no longer anyting special.

  36. Sarcastro

    Steve,

    Seriously, as a user of the English language, you should really try and make some sort of cogent point before accusing others of sounding stupid.

    Phil, I could spend hours typing a reply about what you have done right and wrong this this.

    Why not try five minutes first? You know, to give us some inkling of a clue as to what your beef is rather than some meandering anecdotes that seem only tangentially related to anything under discussion here.

  37. Thanks for the reminder to write Kerry (my very own congress kritter) about this. I’m just shocked he’d support something that’s so against the growing biotech and health industries in the state.

    As for how this is unconstitutional, the only faith healers that this would apply to are Christian Science. If that’s not establishing a religion, I don’t know what would be.

  38. Ray

    @Phil,

    “So not only is this provision unconstitutional, it’s just an all-around bad idea.”

    Agree its a bad idea, but not sure its unconstitutional.

  39. Steve Huntwork

    Perhaps I will wait for Phil to reply. Email would be best.

    As for sticking on the subject, believe me, I was! You may not realize it, but my replies were directly on target.

    Ok, how about five minutes first?

    “Phil, I could spend hours typing a reply about what you have done right and wrong this year.”

    Now, is that a little better for the grammar police?

    Phil has done an outstanding job explaining some rather complex subjects on astronomy. For that, I respect and read this blog each and every day.

    Orrin Hatch has been a personal enemy of mine for almost 30 years now. Believe me, the harm he did to my family was very personal and I will hate that SOB for the rest of my life.

    However, that is not the subject…

  40. ChrisZ

    @Steve Huntwork #31

    “Have I said that Phil should not talk about subjects that he feels are important?”

    You didn’t say that exactly, no. Here is what you did say . . .

    “Please stick to astronomy, because when you stray outside of those crayon lines, you start to sound rather stupid.”

    Forgive me for thinking that when you said “please stick to astronomy” you didn’t actually mean that he should stop talking about other things . . .

  41. Steve Huntwork Says: Notice how I have also addressed the problem with the Amish and their religious beliefs? How my step-father, by spending years to build up trust, was able to get the Amish to agree to obtain basic immunization?

    Q: If a man will allow his child to die before receiving medical treatment, how on earth can you possibly reason with him?

    A: You cannot. He is utterly beyond reason, and any attempt to write laws to respect his beliefs is stupid. His beliefs do not deserve respect, they deserve contempt.

  42. SinisterBill

    I’d drop the constitutionality argument and concentrate on the scientific aspect and it’s potential for abuse. I think you’ll wind up alienating more people with the former than the later and it would be nice to see this get slapped down with the biggest majority possible.

  43. Steve, to put it bluntly, this isn’t your site. You don’t have any say on what gets put on here. Now shut the hell up.

  44. Steve Huntwork

    Eventually, he was able to convince the Amish that God was providing these vaccinations to the people, by teaching and educating men to develop the medication under his guidance.

    ………..

    Remember this old joke?

    There was a flood and my family stood on top of the roof. Every hour, someone would come by with a boat and try to help us. No thanks, God will help us!

    Eventually, everyone drowned. When the father came before God, he was very upset and asked why he had not helped him.

    God said:

    Did you not see all those people with boats that I sent to help you with?

    …………..

    Something along those lines is how the Amish were finally convinced to immunize their children by my step-father.

    Obviously, he learned how to do it RIGHT!

  45. Steve Huntwork

    Phil will understand exactly what I have been talking about today….

    Enough said.

  46. ChrisZ

    Phil will understand exactly what I have been talking about today….
    Enough said.

    lol

  47. breadfred

    @Steve: this is a science weblog. Religion is not science based. Medication is science based. So, by logical reasoning, religion should stay out of medication and healthcare. I believe that religion can have a place in society for some people, but it should not be receiving funding from the government for medical purposes without proven benefit.

    As was pointed out by7 Phil, prayer has been proven NOT to have any influence on patients. Feel free to pray for ill people, but do not ask to get paid for it.

  48. JT

    Steve, you mentioned that yesterday you were recovering from surgery. I strongly encourage you to seek medical attention right now. Your posts are borderline incoherent and it is not outside the realm of possibility that you have suffered a stroke.

  49. lagomorph

    I’d be praying none of it gets passed if I believed in that sort of thing.

  50. Steve Huntwork

    Thanks JT….

    You have an outstanding ability to provide scientific evidence to support your side of a debate.

    I must remember that quality scientific argument in my next published paper!

    Just laughing, and I know that there are NO hard feelings intended or implied by either of us.

    However, that did get me laughing and I will tell all of the doctors and nurses about that one in the morning.

    Still laughing….

  51. Bill

    @TechyDad:
    > And sadly, “Wellness Rocks” would have had just about the same affect as “spiritual healing” would have.

    or…
    http://www.peterpopoff.org/msw.php

  52. MartyM

    I think this bill has been slapped down.

  53. T_U_T

    Seems concern trolls are really seriously concerned today.

  54. Steve Huntwork

    Look, I will try to be nice:

    About two years ago, I asked fellow astronomers to take pictures of the quarter moon. By measuring the ratio between the dark and bright side of the moon, this is a direct measurement of the albedo of the Earth.

    The “outstanding and “well educated” lovers of Bad Astronomy lectured me all about the fiction that the Moon had a dark side! All I could do was laugh, since I was writing my replies during the dark side of the Earth, which we call NIGHT!

    That is when I realized how some of the lovers of the Bad Astronomy could use a little extra education. Or in simple terms: Pull their heads out of their [snip]?

    Phil has done an absolute astounding job of educating people who are willing to learn. And sadly, sometimes even the basics like night and day need to be taught.

    And yes, there is a dark and light side of the Moon!

  55. Radwaste

    Here’s a nice link explaining how prayers don’t work.

    You’re welcome.

  56. Bob

    Laws that require insurance contracts to provide for the coverage of services related to spiritual healing (faith healing, etc) are not unconstitutional any more than requiring coverage for such things as chiropractic which, in my totally biased opinion is little more than faith healing. However, government stupidity is not in and of itself unconstitutional.

  57. Steve Huntwork

    Does anyone have a link to the actual language in the proposed bill? All Phil linked to was from the LA Times.

    In China, many of their medications are considered “faith based” to modern health care services in America. Acupuncture and “dragon bones” (ground up fossils) would be primary examples.

    Now, should all Chinese based health treatments be prohibited by Federal Law?

  58. Chris A.

    @Steve:

    It is truly astounding the sheer quantity of verbiage you’ve managed to generate without yet explaining, even in vague terms, what it is about Phil’s post that you feel “makes him look stupid.” Do you honestly expect the rest of us to take your word for it because of your stepfather’s achievements?!

    And your smug comment about making the grammar police happy by correcting a sentence which was originally unintelligible makes you look stupid…twice.

    You’re sounding an awful lot like someone who pathologically craves attention, good or bad.

    Note to self: Must not feed the trolls, must not feed the trolls, must not feed the trolls…

  59. Alareth

    Charging to pray for someones health doesn’t sound like a very Christian thing to do.

  60. I'd rather be fishin'

    Actually, I don’t see the problem with pay-for-prayer faith healing. It doesn’t work, but neither do most of the herbal remedies out there in the marketplace. Big deal. This is a rightwing-fundie-capitalist’s wet dream come true! Just think what would happen to the economy if this actually passed. Everyone and their dog will start a church to cash in on the windfall. Prayer is America’s only hope, right? More money in circulation, spending goes up, economy gets healthy. People stay sick, but the economy doesn’t.

    There’s only one minor side-effect. Churches don’t pay any taxes so city/county/state revenue goes downhill fast. No roads so no meeting people in the mall to exchange pathogens. Commerce is all electronic, greenhouse gases production go down…

    Anyone want to help found the Church of Isaac Newton: Scientist?

  61. Steve Huntwork

    Sorry, this “Troll” has been a long time lover of Bad Astronomy for many years.

    I have replied with many fact based examples. The replies to my examples have been nothing but personal attacks.

    Therefore, I have won this debate!

    But thanks Chris A. and everyone else for participating. It was fun to listen to your debating points.

    Now, how about those Chinese and their faith based health cures?

  62. ndt

    Steve, nobody is saying faith-based health cures should be prohibited, just that taxpayers shouldn’t pay for them, because they don’t work.

  63. Gus Snarp

    I had a friend who grew up in the Christian Science religion. He watched his father die while church members read to him to make him better. No, I don’t think we should be paying for that.

  64. jhonkarlos

    Steve, you’re a Nazi.

    I figured I’d just go ahead and get that out of the way, otherwise it would be this Damocles-like thing hanging over the discussion, everyone wondering when it was going to happen.

    I think there’s really only two possibilities here. One is that “Steve” has a real reason for feeling that Phil’s post sounded stupid, but it is a personal reason which he will reveal only in an email exchange with Phil. The other possibility, of course, is that Steve is a lunatic and actually believes he has answered everyone’s objections. If it is the first, then Steve has been posting his responses fully aware that they sound irrational, likely doing so with the express purpose of irritating everyone else.

    I doubt there’s a point to talking at him in either case.

  65. jhonkarlos

    Here’s an interesting point:

    At one point in the article the Christian Science church is quoted as denying that anyone has died as a result of their prayer-therapy in over twenty years. In a later passage they say:

    “Christian Science leaders say many critics misunderstand their faith. Christian Scientists do not reject medical care, church leaders said. Instead, they promote spiritual healing and do not interfere with decisions about whether to pursue medical help.”

    I wonder if that would be more accurate if it read “no longer interfere with decisions…”

    It’s a pretty weasel-word filled article. Kerry’s camp is claiming that the provision does not actually force anyone to pay for prayer services, only that it somehow prevents “discrimination.” It seems to me to be more of an issue of common sense versus idiocy rather than science versus non-science. How could anyone certify that one person’s prayer is professional while another’s is not?

  66. Steve Huntwork, you have accused me of being stupid, and perhaps I missed it, but you never gave an actual example of this. Where in my antivax posts have I been stupid? Where is it in this one?

  67. MC

    Sorry Phil. It was great getting to your blog on science, but the same things you are accusing faith-based organisation of, you are doing. Science=faith? You and your group are doing well together walling in too much hate-speech and negative talk bad-mouthing anyone who is not with you. I will now exercise my right not to visit your blog on science(?) anymore. Thanks

  68. MC, something tells me that Phil doesn’t have the same need to evangelize as you do, and so you’re really hurting yourself more than him by “leaving”.

    I told a friend of mine about this blog tonight and he’ll be along soon to fill any void you’ve left. I believe that he did some graduate work in astronomy before ultimately ending up in atmospheric physics. This is all up his alley as someone who values science and education and is highly skeptical of supernatural claims.

  69. James B

    I’m a new-comer to this blog, I’ve spent some time reading some of the expansive catalogue of backposts. I have to say, I find it really enjoyable reading, and (on topic) I couldn’t disagree with Steve more; I find the digressions away from astronomy both well informed and entertaining. So good work Phil, I look forward to reading your future posts.

    And on the point of Chinese faith based medicine, I’m an Englishman living and working in China and I can assure you that the healthcare system here is as science based as you might expect from ‘western healthcare’. There are ‘traditional’ based cures available, some of which are medically sound and some of which are not, but you won’t find them in a hospital or doctor’s surgery. There’s quacks everywhere, just use your common sense and don’t use tax payers money to support them.

    If you’re bitten by the healthcare bug I would suggest you pay a visit to Dr. Ben Goldacre’s blog “Bad Science”, apposite and well written.

  70. ndt

    What hate speech? All Phil said is that faith healing doesn’t work. This is demonstrably true. Phil then expressed the opinion that, because faith healing doesn’t work, the government shouldn’t pay for it. I’m failing to see the hate speech, fundamentalism, or intolerance there.

  71. ndt

    …and also that insurance companies shouldn’t be required to pay for treatments that don’t work. Is that hate speech?

  72. Chet Twarog

    I had CSPAN on this morning. On opening the US House of Representatives for the healthcare debates, a Roman Catholic chaplain, the HOUSE CHAPLAIN, gave an innvocation. The house chaplain is a paid position–once, again, Congress is in violation of the 1st Amendment. You won’t see a Hebrew Rabbi, a Muslim Imam, an American Indian Medicine Man, a Secularist, or any other religious priest as House Chaplain.
    Not sure, but I “believe” the US Senate does, too.
    Gosh darn, if only there was an actual god, we wouldn’t have all this craziness!
    “The Internal Revenue Service allows the cost of the prayer sessions to be counted among itemized medical expenses for income tax purposes — one of the only religious treatments explicitly identified as deductible by the IRS. Some federal medical insurance programs, including those for military families, also reimburse for prayer treatment.”
    I usually don’t agree with Pelosi but in this case: “Two committees in the House voted to include the measure in their versions of the overhaul, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) stripped it from the consolidated House bill last week after a few members argued it was unconstitutional.”

  73. Petrolonfire

    .. about paying for prayer-based health services, …

    Weirdly enough, for a second there, I read that as “praying for payer-based health services!” 😉

    Oh well, never mind, I’m with ya here Phil!

    For whatever little that counts ..

  74. James B says: If you’re bitten by the healthcare bug I would suggest you pay a visit to Dr. Ben Goldacre’s blog “Bad Science”, apposite and well written.

    Thanks for that recommendation. I’ve linked it here to make it easy for people to follow up on it.

    I have one too: Science Based Medicine. I think my favorite recent thread there was the post entitled When homeopaths attack medicine and physics. There’s some great commentary there between real doctors and an apparent homeopath trying to defend his practice.

  75. James, thanks for that recommendation. I’ve linked badscience.net here for the benefit of anyone interested.

    I have one for you too: Science Based Medicine. If you visit, make sure to check out the recent post “When homeopaths attack medicine and physics” wherein an apparent homeopath tries to defend his practice to real doctors and scientists.

  76. Crap. I think my posts are getting marked as spam, likely due to attempts to embed links. I tried to thank James for that recommendation and also to suggest sciencebasedmedicine.org where homeopathy is currently getting the ridicule it deserves.

  77. Trying, possibly in vain, to thank James for the badscience.net recommendation and add my own for sciencebasedmedicine.org. It seems I’m unable to post comments at all today.

  78. I’m having trouble posting anything at all here today… is it just me, or is it the content of what I’m posting? This would be a test post to determine if my previous content was filtered for some reason.

    OK, now that the comment published maybe I can insert the real content?

    James, thanks for the recommendation for badscience.net. I have one for you too: sciencebasedmedicine.org. Be sure to check out this recent piece on homeopathy for some great smackdowns in the commentary by real doctors and scientists as an apparent homeopath tries to defend his profession.

  79. Petrolonfire

    66. Phil Plait Says: Steve Huntwork, you have accused me of being stupid, and perhaps I missed it, but you never gave an actual example of this. Where in my antivax posts have I been stupid? Where is it in this one?

    It’s all in the projection! 😉

  80. James B thanks for that recommendation. I tried linking the site for you but the system flags my comments as spam. I have a return recommendation which is for a site called “Science-Based Medicine” and Google will find that easily for you. They had a recent post about Homeopaths attacking physics that was hilarious, especially the commentary where an apparent homeopath tries to defend his practice to real doctors.

  81. Jar Jya Binks Killer

    @ 22. Art Says:

    PRAYER: America’s only HOPE- This is the latest fad in lawn signs in my region.

    If prayer is our only hope, we’re in big trouble. Even worse, if things have gotten so bad that Christians can’t do anything but pray, then we’re really stuck out.

    Ever heard of activism? Besides placing signs in your yard?

    Well they got dem their bumpa stickas too! :roll:

    Yep, you gotta pray for da stoopid.

    God help America – ‘coz with folks like these no one else can! 😉

  82. LOL, it figures they’d all get released from quarantine :@

    Now wishing I could delete about 5 of them.

    Oh well, thanks for the help Phil. I think I got my point (and links) across 😉

  83. @Oroboros:

    Any post with a link is automatically moderated, pending Phil’s OK on them. I’ve seen the same URL posted by several people who were unaware of others who’d already posted it, but were unaware of the others because of that lag.

    As for the idea of ‘prayer based healing’ and such, how about having a burnt sacrifice in the hospital/home for the ill person?

    J/P=?

  84. If I get to pick who gets sacrificed I’m all for it. :)

  85. DaveS

    Wow. 85 posts already.

    I was raised in the religion of Christian Science. I actually used to know Phil Davis, mentioned in the article, though I’ve had no contact with him since I left the religion as a tweenager.

    I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions. Christian Science is not quite the same in conception as other (claimed) faith-based healing. CS is a 19th century transcendental religion. It teaches that the material, visible world is illusion. Think “The Matrix”, and you’ll get an idea. So the object of a christian scientist is to transcend the illusion. It’s that simple. They teach that when you do that, when you break out of the illusion into reality, you’ll find God there.

    Christian scientist believe that through studying and changing thought, you can move toward that escape.

    Healing is simply seen as bringing yourself closer to that real bit, and away from the illusion. It’s getting closer to God, so in a way it relates to the object of prayer, but it’s a totally different idea.

    A CS practitioner, the person who gets paid to “pray” is not pleading with God on your behalf, they are giving you a “hand up” the ladder of transcendence. They would do it freely, but they’re the closest thing CS has to clergy, and like clergy, they spend all their time doing religious stuff. The church doesn’t pay them, and in turn tithe everyone like they do in most churches. They simply are paid by the people they’re specifically working for.

    They’re not paid like doctors. They’re paid more like your doctor visit copay, once per day of the “treatment”. $15-$50/day, generally.

    Personally, I think that’s wasted money, I think CS healings are wishful thinking, I think it’s all BS, and I certainly don’t think the government should be giving CS practitioners money.

    Oh, and the double-talk about “not discouraging medical choices”, is poppycock. All the writings by the founder of the religion, which along with the KJV Bible are taken as the only “authoritative writings” in the religion, constantly rail against 19th century
    medicine (for good reason–it sucked) and claim CS is more effective. If that’s not discouraging medical choices, I’ll eat my shorts.

  86. mike burkhart

    I don’t want the goverment giving any money to any religious groupsbecause if the goverment give money it takes control . the last thing we need is the goverment runing religon this will lead to a national church and persecution of those who refuse to be members of it this is want the founding fathers wanted to avoid. I disagree prayer can help the sick as long as it is used alongside medicine and not to replace it

  87. Jimbo From Irmo

    I personally believe that all religionists of all tribes should ALL eschew ANY “doctor” or other “science-based” assault on G_d’s Special Creation!

    If you get a cold, you pray for a week and it goes away, right? Pray over a cut long enough and it WILL stop bleeding!

    So how hard is it for everyone to understand that same prayer (maybe a slightly different one) would have the same miraculous effect on, say, cancer? If only someone just had enough faith!

    Much is left unsaid…

    If you cut your arm off on a farm implement, just clasp that other hand & pray for another hand, the better to pray with. If you don’t believe enough, it won’t happen.

    All people of Faith: Prove it to the world in the most sincere way you can.

    Just say NO to science!

    (Leave all that heathen stuff to the rest of us.)

    Thank you.

    ROTFLOL!

  88. Here are a couple of vaccine related sites:
    1– Are you a Denialist? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120139776

    2–The Jenny McCarthy body count site: http://www.jennymccarthybodycount.com/Jenny_McCarthy_Body_Count/Home.html

  89. PlasticRectangle

    The bill passed, going to Senate next, where hopefully this thing will be ironed out.

  90. *Sigh*: if only they were open-minded enough to provide coverage for retail therapy (link in French, careful). Now THAT actually works, based on extensive personally collected anecdotal evidence… But wait, strangely, none of the advocates of faith-based healing or other altmeds seem to approve this. Why oh why? 😉

  91. Gary Ansorge

    It appears it’s just a cynical ploy to get the health bill vetoed . These conservatives are bound and determined to scuttle any health bill with a public option. I’m pretty sure, if we look into the contributors to these two rats, we’ll find a big chunk from the insurance industry.

    Gary 7

  92. gdave

    @ndt (#71)
    To further digress from the topic of this thread:
    The position of House Chaplain dates to 1789, the same year the 1st Amendment was ratified. While it’s certainly possible to make a solid argument that an official House Chaplain violates the 1st Amendment, it’s not exactly a slam-dunk, especially given that many of those who were actually directly involved in drafting and ratifying the 1st Amendment served in the Congress in which the position was established, and they apparently didn’t see it as a violation. While it is true that every regular House Chaplain has been Christian (albeit with three Unitarian Universalists, a church that is only nominally Christian), since 2001, House Guest Chaplains have included three Muslim imams, over 30 rabbis, and a Jainist monk. See the House Chaplain’s website at chaplainDOThouseDOTgov for more information.

  93. ndt

    Uh, that wasn’t me talking about the chaplain.

  94. James B

    @ Oroboros

    Thanks for adding the Bad Science link, but especially the Science-Based Medicine one, I hadn’t seen that before, given me a whole new load of information and entertainment (its great how they can mix isn’t it? I should thank a homeopath) off to get stuck in.

  95. Nigel Depledge

    Steve Huntwork (20) said:

    This sir, is why you will not win this year’s Science Blog award.

    As a long time astronomer, what you have devolved into this year is rather disgusting.

    Try reading this again, matey:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2007/07/15/politics-science-me-and-thee/

  96. Nigel Depledge

    Steve Huntwork (29) said:

    Seriously, as an astronomer, I respect what you have contributed. Most of the things that you post on your blog are seen un Universe Today first, but your additional information has always been educational and respected.

    When you go off onto other subjects, you sound rather stupid, even if what you are saying is partially correct.

    When you were talking about anti-vaccinations, I fully understood what you were tying to say. My step-father was the director of immunization (CDC) during the first “swine flu” outbreak in 1976 and he did his job darn well. The vast majority of the U. S citizens were immunized from the H1N1 virus and we did not have a pandemic outbreak of that disease in America.

    However, since that vaccination caused other health problems, there was a Congressional investigation, and some of the health officials involved lost their jobs.

    With the Amish, my mother and father would live with them for a month each year, to establish trust. The Amish refused to support any immunization because of their religious beliefs, but eventually, my step-father was able to convince them. That took years to establishing that trust, the the results were well worth it.

    Phil, I could spend hours typing a reply about what you have done right and wrong this this.

    Please stick to astronomy, because when you stray outside of those crayon lines, you start to sound rather stupid.

    Actually, Steve, go back and re-read some of Phil’s posts about vaccination. He pretty much always says: go and ask your doctor for advice. If you think that’s stupid, then you clearly have not been paying attention.

    Furthermore, as the president of a sceptics’ foundation (or were you unaware that Phil was president of JREF?), Phil is quite right to challenge uncritical, credulous thinking wherever he spots it. If I had to summarise Phil’s stance on all of the non-astronomy stuff he posts, it would be in three areas:
    (1) Criticising credulousness;
    (2) Supporting the attempts of sceptics elsewhere to challenge irrational thinking; and
    (3) To promote an approach to issues that is based on a rational and logical worldview.

    Despite having a PhD myself, I have learned more about being critical and rational by reading Phil’s blog than I did when I was learning how to do science.

  97. Nigel Depledge

    Sarcastro (36) said:

    Why not try five minutes first? You know, to give us some inkling of a clue as to what your beef is rather than some meandering anecdotes that seem only tangentially related to anything under discussion here.

    To which Steve (39) replied:

    Ok, how about five minutes first?

    “Phil, I could spend hours typing a reply about what you have done right and wrong this year.”

    Now, is that a little better for the grammar police?

    Phil has done an outstanding job explaining some rather complex subjects on astronomy. For that, I respect and read this blog each and every day.

    Orrin Hatch has been a personal enemy of mine for almost 30 years now. Believe me, the harm he did to my family was very personal and I will hate that SOB for the rest of my life.

    However, that is not the subject…

    Steve, seriously, you need to get some reading comprehension coaching. The point Sarcastro made was “what’s your beef?“. Yeah, it’s nice that you spotted your typo and corrected it, but that was a side issue, which I think is clear in Sarcastro’s comment.

    So, rather than vaguely accuse Phil of being inaccurate, perhaps you’d better spend those five minutes building a case. Otherwise, what has he to answer?

  98. DaveS

    @92: Modern Unitarian-Universalism isn’t even nominally Christian. It is congregational by nature, so individual UU churches could have Christian content and still be part of the national movement, but all of those are on the east coast. I’ve been attending UU churches (congregations, fellowships, etc) for about 20 years, and I’ve not once seen a single call for me to accept Jesus as my personal savior (most Christian’s definition of Christian). It would be VERY out of place.

    The entire history of the Unitarian movement involves denying the divinity of Jesus, and the need for his intervention.

  99. JD

    As a resident of supposedly progressive Massachusetts, hearing that John Kerry worked with Orrin Hatch to add this provision to the healthcare reform bill depresses me.

    I’m livid. The buffoons running our country can’t even agree that all Americans should have access to affordable healthcare without corporate strings attached (‘right to LIFE, liberty and pursuit of happiness’), but they think its ok to add a provision for us to ‘pray the sick away’!?!?

    Keep your religion out of my government! Try adding provisions that actually help people like removing the healthcare industry from the federal antitrust act to force them to compete fairly. Or just expand Medicare to ALL US CITIZENS at similar rates to what a reasonable health plan’s rates are and allow people to choose. If corporate bureaucratic healthcare is so good, it will be able to compete. If not, and more peoeple go to Medicare then the free market has spoken.

    Senator Kerry, if this is true, I promise I will work to vote you out of office next election to replace you with someone who will act in the best interest of their constituents. Also, if your constituents want a strong public option or single payer, and you work aagainst that, then I say you should give up your government, taxpayer-sponsored healthcare. Next time you get sick, don’t use my money to see a Dr., go tell your priest.

  100. Nigel Depledge

    Steve Huntwork (61) said:

    I have replied with many fact based examples. The replies to my examples have been nothing but personal attacks.

    Wrong again.

    Your examples are useless without a premise or concept to exemplify!

    The attacks that you have taken to be personal are all variations on the same theme: “What is it about Phil’s posts that you think make him look stupid?”; and “What makes you think you look any less stupid when you haven’t stated an argument for your examples to illustrate?”

    Moreover, you are dismissing genuine criticism of your sequence of comments (see, for example, #40 by ChrisZ) without recognising that the people you dismiss actually have a point.

    Unless you are prepared to state clearly what your contention with Phil’s posts is, you should stop commenting.

  101. Nigel Depledge

    MC (67) said:

    Sorry Phil. It was great getting to your blog on science, but the same things you are accusing faith-based organisation of, you are doing. Science=faith? You and your group are doing well together walling in too much hate-speech and negative talk bad-mouthing anyone who is not with you. I will now exercise my right not to visit your blog on science(?) anymore. Thanks

    Well, if you ever do come back, perhaps you would deign to share with the rest of us exactly where Phil’s posts are “hate-filled”, and where he assumes that science = faith (if I take your cryptic remark correctly). Quoting specific examples would be best.

    As far as I have been able to tell, science makes one large assumption, which is that the things we observe and measure genuinely correlate with a reality that is external to the self. I do not think this assumption is unreasonable, nor do I think it requires one to have faith, since one makes exactly the same assumption every time one crosses the road or eats a meal.

  102. ndt

    I also think the government shouldn’t pay for weapons systems that don’t work. Does that mean I’m hate-filled?

  103. Früv

    My favourite part of this article was that when I read it in my news reader, the Google ad at the bottom was a scientology video!

  104. Nigel Depledge

    @ ndt (103) –

    Obviously, the hate is overflowing from you. I can see it from my house.

    😉

    I’m hate-filled, too : I think that all of these decisions should be based on empirical data (which, as you have obviously worked out, is the criterion for hate in such matters).

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