Robert Parks book, Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science was published in 2008, in order to place people’s beliefs and superstitions under a microscope scientifically. The reason behind Park’s writing of this book stems from an incident that he had when he was crushed by a tree and should have died, but somehow was able to survive. Park had to decide whether it was a higher power that saved him because it was his destiny, or the new scientific and technological advances at the time had saved his life. His near death experience lead him to write Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science, which takes everyday “beliefs” such as healing through prayer, the human soul, the suffering of the innocent, a belief in evil, etc. and debunks them with scientific reasoning. The overarching goal of Park’s book is to solidify that people’s superstitions can be justified through scientific reasoning.
My favorite section of the book was Chapter 3 titled “Miracle at Columbia”. In this chapter Park discusses the idea of prayer and its theoretical healing powers. Park does agree that prayer and meditation can have the power to alleviate stress, however; he disagrees with the fact that it can cure illnesses. Park explains how prayer is like a placebo, in life our bodies can heal them selves, bones knit together, antibodies fight viruses’ etc.; however, people whom pray for better health believe that it is the prayer making them better. A study also showed that those who pray regularly are convinced it helps them in the long run.
Chapter 3 also goes into a study done by Francis Galton in 1872 titled “Statistical inquiries into the efficiency of prayer” This study was able to prove that there is no evidence that links prayer to healing powers and the longevity of life. The study was conducted through the Anglican Church, whom calls for daily prayer for the longevity of the lives of the bishops, monarchs etc. Being possibly the most prayed for people in England there would certainly be a significant increase in the life span of these gentlemen, however, the data showed they lived just as long as everyone else.
With relation to the class lectures, the idea of prayers healing powers falls under the first power point presentation, which is about different ways of thinking. I believe that the healing power of pray likely falls under pseudoscience, or the belief that prayer is being based on scientific method. Prayer truly is based off of the ancient wisdom from the bible. For generations now there has been limited scientific research into prayer and its actual effect if any. Pseudoscience uses fast thinking and heuristics, and that is in my opinion what prayer and religion is. There is no scientific proof that God exists, just as there is now way to prove prayer can scientifically help cure illnesses.
This book is highly relatable to the world around us. From the debate on science vs. religion and the topics of prayer, plan b, natural disasters, and the soul, Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science reaches out to all readers and shows them that not everything is a “miracle” that happens by chance. Readers can use the knowledge-learned form this book to look into everyday scenarios and be able to justify a true scientific reason behind a situation rather than believing in an unrealistic power. After all, just as the last line of the books states “Science is the only way of knowing everything else is just superstition”.
Video below shows why some doctors believe prayer can truly heal illnesses.