There was a minor flap in some quarters of the media and other precincts of the intelligentsia a few days ago when a news photo appeared of Vice President Mike Pence leading a White House meeting of the coronavirus task force in prayer.
Among those disgusted/amused/outraged/otherwise non-plussed by the photo was evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, who snapped:
“There’s even a picture of the virus task force praying together! We don’t need prayer; we need science! Here’s the photo, which distresses me but doesn’t surprise me… [a]fter all, one godly intervention is just as delusional as another!”
Well, it’s still a free country, so Coyne is entitled to his opinion but is it grounded in mere opinion or is there historical or scientific evidence to support the efficacy of prayer during crisis times? The answer is yes, according Michael Eignor, writing for Mind Matters.
Eignor, who is a senior fellow at the Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence, says the ultimate answer depends on whether there is some being to hear and respond to prayers. But there is a but:
“But it’s interesting to note that, as historian Rodney Stark has pointed out, prayer and Christian faith during ancient epidemics saved lives because faithful Christians stuck around during epidemics.
“They provided care to afflicted neighbors who would not have survived except that they had kindly courageous friends to nurse them. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital—the world’s leading cancer center for children, was founded because of a prayer. So the focus and compassion evoked by prayer saves lives, whether or not God is there to hear the prayer.”
Eignor has much more to say about Coyne’s lack of logic or science to support his outrage over the Pence prayer, including a handy five-point summary of philosopher Thomas Acquinas’ proofs of God’s existence. Go here for the balance of Eignor’s post.