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wicked act, as estimated by the modern instinct of right and wrong, than
that which has been so airily suggested by Milton.
We have thus far considered the effects upon statistical conclusions of
possible theocratic intervention when given unasked; we have now to
consider that which may be accorded in response to petitions. The
offering of devout prayer must depend either on the initiative of the Deity
or on that of the man. The former condition has just been disposed of
under the head of theocratic intervention unasked, the latter can be dealt
with in an equally simple manner. The desire to pray, arising
independently in the heart of a man, must be due either to his natural
character (that is, to his nature), to the external circumstances (all of
which I include under the term of his Nurture), or to his free-will. The two
first of these are already disposed of, leaving free-will as the only
remaining consideration. There are two senses to the word. The popular
sense is caprice, or at all events something that acts irrespectively of race
and nurture; it therefore falls under the fourth of the conditions already
disposed of. Another sense is freedom to follow one's bent, the bent being
due either to nature or to circumstances; these cases have also been
already considered.
It follows from what has been said that theocratic intervention,
whether in response to prayer or given unasked, cannot affect the value of
statistical conclusions on the relative total effects of Nature and Nurture,
unless Milton's horrible supposition be seriously entertained.
Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer
[Fortnightly Review vol. 12, pp. 125-35, 1872]
An eminent authority has recently published a challenge to test the
efficacy of prayer by actual experiment. I have been induced, through
reading this, to prepare the following memoir for publication, nearly the
whole of which I wrote and laid by many years ago, after completing a
large collection of data, which I had undertaken for the satisfaction of my
own conscience. 
The efficacy of prayer seems to me a simple, as it is a perfectly
appropriate and legitimate subject of scientific inquiry. Whether prayer is
efficacious or not, in any given sense, is a matter of fact on which each
man must form an opinion for himself. His decision will be based upon
data more or less justly handled, according to his education and habits. An
unscientific reasoner will be guided by a confused recollection of crude Previous page Top Next page