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To detect the presence of a supernatural being.


"[I]f you asked a supernatural being to do certain actions at precise times (cause a lightning bolt, materialise a bar of gold, have an apple fall from a tree, or whatever), and those events occurred exactly as requested, then surely that would be considered a case of detecting the actions of a supernatural being."[1]


A Storehouse of Knowledge is not responsible for injury or death resulting from this experiment.


  1. Indicate your name and (optional) religion below.
  2. Control: Ask a supernatural being for something other than a lightning bolt. Record results below.
  3. Treatment: Ask a supernatural being for a lightning bolt. Record results below.


  • Sterile 17:13, 16 December 2009 (UTC), weak atheist
  • Control: The heat turned on in my house, and cars continued to drive by.
  • Treatment: No change.
  • SallyM 17:44, 16 December 2009 (UTC), Christian
  • I have asked (and will continue to ask) that God open Mr. Rayment's eyes so that he may understand and appreciate Biblical interpretations other than his own. This has not happened yet, but I am hopeful!
  • Treatment: Still a beautiful, sunny day!
  • -- Edgerunner76 19:21, 16 December 2009 (UTC), weak atheist
  • Control: I was not able to fly.
  • Treatment: It is remarkably sunny here.
  • Control: a variety of gods were asked not to mess with the lights while I'm trying to sleep. The lights remained off until I turned them on again this morning.
  • Treatment: a variety of gods were asked to smite Ken DeMyer's testicles with lightning and bring me their smoldering remains. Nothing happened because either the testicles or the gods don't exist. Only the existence of the testicles is really falsifiable.
  • Control: None, sorry, I don't know how to pray.
  • Treatment: Even without my efforts, I'm sure there was a lightning bolt somewhere today. Perhaps you guys could be more specific about location?
  • Jesuit 01:12, 17 December 2010 (UTC), Rational Roman Catholic
  • Control: Dog did not drop dead.
  • Treatment: Still dark outside.
  • --Tonatiuh 19:45, 17 December 2010 (UTC), Fundamentalist Christian
  • Control: Presented a final exam without studying, just praying for a good mark. Got a perfect 10.
  • Treatment: Even though I have done this before, it did not worked out this time at first. Then I offered my best cow as a sacrifice. After I put it on the altar, I prayed again, and fire came down from the sky. I will have to go vegetarian for a week, but it was worth it.
  • Hamster 03:43, 18 December 2010 (UTC) , nominal Luthern
  • control - asked the IPU for orange slices , and found orange slices in my fridge
  • Treatment - genericly asked anything for lightening , no lightning yet.
  • I asked again for lightning , but specified a time interval, no lightning in my area.


Commentary on Experiment

Your experimental premise is flawed, because I have already asked God not to respond to any such requests. Fortunately, his refusal to respond to your requests is confirmation that he is responding to my request.--Martin Arrowsmith 17:29, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

Oh, no! Well, I'd like to collect the data anyway. It took a long time to come up with this experiment. Sterile 17:35, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
My philosophy is this: Pray cautiously, lest your prayer be answered. o ListenerXTalkerX 19:21, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
I asked Marduk, Baal, Zoroaster, Ganesh, Jesus, and Huitzilopochtl to leave the lights off while I was sleeping last night. They were off when I woke up this morning so I have to assume these various gods favor me and I should ask for something more interesting next time. However, I also asked them to smite Ken's testicles with lightning and bring me the crisped remains. That didn't happen. Would an expert in experimental design let me know if this is because these gods don't exist or if the problem lies with Ken? Teh Terrible Asp 19:24, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Not even Zoroastrians pray to Zoroaster. o ListenerXTalkerX 19:31, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Assuming only 1 god among those to whom I made my request actually exists, there is a 17% chance that god favored me in this experiment. Can you say that? I'm 95% certain you chose the god who doesn't exist and doesn't answer half-assed entreaties. I don't care who Zoraostrians pray to if Zoroaster answers my requests to stop screwing around with the lights while I'm trying to sleep. Teh Terrible Asp 20:32, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
But Zoroaster was not a god. He was instead the founder of the Zoroastrian religion. The god in Zoroastrianism is Ahura Mazda. o ListenerXTalkerX 22:19, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
You're right. In my zeal to complete the experiment I appealed to the wrong made-up guy. Sorry. Teh Terrible Asp 22:54, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

I think you need to consider your experimental design. If one prays that the sun rises tomorrow and it happens, few would regard that this is proof of the existence of the God you prayed to, as it is something which is likely to happen anyway. If on the other hand you pray that you win the lottery and you win, this still isn't proof. It's simply an anecdote. So what you need to do is consistently win the lottery each time you pray and not win it if you don't pray.

One could then vary which god's one prays to and identify when the lottery is won or not won and so establish which god is the most powerful. Too many of the prayers tested here show poor experimental design as they only ask for a single event which could happen by chance.

One could also experiment with different groups of people praying for lottery wins for a particular individual in order to test the power of concerted prayer as opposed to individual prayer.--Bob M 20:45, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

Except if you pray and do not win, that means that your prayer has not been answered, and if you do not pray and win, that is just your winning a lot of money without any divine assistance. o ListenerXTalkerX 20:52, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
My point is that it should be repeatable.--Bob M 21:34, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Hey, I asked about falsifiability, and this is what Philip came up with. I thought we should do the experiment. Sterile 20:55, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
I agree. Let's all start reporting our lottery winnings and which god we prayed to.--Bob M 21:34, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Except you'll never know if PJR or anyone else is praying to his god for you not to win. Teh Terrible Asp 22:56, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

1. "No" is an answer.

2. The absence of an "extreme hypothetical example" of evidence is not evidence of absence, to paraphrase slightly. The concept should be familiar to you.

3. Despite your assertion this is not what Philip suggested regarding falisifiability, it was in response to your claim of undetectability. FYI, detectable and falsifiable are not the same thing.

4. Your experiment is fundamentally flawed in that you assume God has reason to a) listen to those who won't listen to Him and b)comply with the will of those who don't comply with His will.

BradleyF (LowKey) 23:43, 16 December 2009 (UTC)

I propose that we don't listen to Bradley. He looks at this experiment and sees his religion and his god crumbling under its mighty logic. He has mounted a predictable and sadly risible rear-guard action in an attempt to ward of the inevitable day when he will be forced to stand before us and admit that his belief in a god was delusional. Pity him people. --Horace 23:55, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Nope, I look at this experiment and see lax thinking and a misrepresentation of the discussion that actually took place. BradleyF (LowKey) 00:52, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
(EC) Note how you assume that there is only one entity capable of answering prayers. This experiment casts a slightly wider net that does not maintain conformance with the First Commandment.
Note also that God has been credited with answering many prayers from non-Christians, this being how a number of conversions were effected. o ListenerXTalkerX 23:57, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I did assume that. Broaden point 4 a) from God to "any given supernatural entity" then, and it still stands. Point b) still stands, in that the assumption is being made without reason being given. As to the "believer's prayer", it is an example of someone both listening to God and complying with His will. BradleyF (LowKey) 00:52, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
I agree that the requesting stuff from God is not falsifiable. (Philip claims something about supernatural intervention is falsifiable, but he seems to be keeping that secret.) However, "detectable" is really just avoiding the issue. How can you tell for sure that God did something "detectable?" I would say we cannot tell whether God is doing anything or not. Sterile 00:41, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Then you propose this experiment for no reason! This experiment is not about falisifiability (I will look at the discussion about that before saying much more) but about detection, which you raised but now claim is avoiding the issue. Does that mean you admit that you are avoiding the issue? You are spamming everyone and wasting our time. BradleyF (LowKey) 02:08, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Hey, I asked about falsifiability, and this is what Philip came up with. As Bradley has pointed out, this was NOT a response to you asking about falsifiability, but about detectability. What is interesting, however, is that everyone else here seems to agree that the actions of a supernatural being can in fact be detectable, contrary to your (Sterile's) claim. So thanks for your support on that, everyone! Bob M in particular, although pointing out flaws with your approach, also implicitly makes the point that such actions could be detectable. (And note that a key criteria he mentioned is repeatability, which is something that I implied also (note the plurals "actions" and "precise times"), although didn't emphasise.) Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 01:39, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Why shouldn't a supernatural event be detectable if it actually happens? However, It's that actually happens part that is the kicker. -- Edgerunner76 02:17, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
If they existed of course they would be be detectable. And by extension, if they can't be detected then we can conclude they don't exist. I'm glad that we agree on this one Philip. I hope you take part in the experiment and share your repeated lottery winnings with us.--Bob M 07:45, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
As I've said below, they would only be detectable if they chose to be, so your "of course" is unfounded, as is your presumption of my agreement with you. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:31, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
What does your second "they" above refer to? Can miracles make a choice? Or have I misunderstood you?--Bob M 14:09, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Ah, but "detectable" and "attributable" are different as well. Even if God did intervene, we could not for sure attribute it to Him. Really, I'm still looking to learn the answer to the question, "What observation would indicate design is invalid?" I thought this would be a good discussion starter. Sterile 15:04, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
What does your second "they" above refer to? The same as the first "they": supernatural beings.
Even if God did intervene, we could not for sure attribute it to Him. Nothing is ever 100.000% certain. If we saw Fred light a fire, could we be sure Fred lit the fire? Perhaps it was an alien or supernatural being taking on Fred's appearance? But we don't give weight to unlikely explanations. If the intervention can reasonably be attributable to God, then why not consider that as reasonable evidence?
Really, I'm still looking to learn the answer to the question, "What observation would indicate design is invalid?" Apparent design occurring through natural processes, such as a building being constructed by growing from the ground.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:06, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
I think this experiment is slightly flawed. Controls need to eliminate the entirely natural 'wee folk' that might do some of the mundane things, like oranges.
Lightning isnt always supernatural. Hamster 03:51, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Proposal for next experiment

First, it might need to be something a god would be interested in interfering with. Also, it has to be mundane enough to be repeatable - so, say, asking for a sick person to get better wouldn't work, because it's a one-off occurrence. The first point is the hard one - it would be easy to do statistical tests of card suit or coin flips and see if praying affect the outcome, but the chances of a god caring enough to tip the scales are probably too low (after all, people "pray" to the "card gods" all the time, and casinos still make a profit). ħuman Number 19 02:36, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

The big problem with any scientific study of the effects of prayer is this:
'Within the Christian tradition, God would be expected to be concerned with a person's eternal salvation, he said, and "why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they're in a research study?"'[1]
The point being that although the studies are or can be double-blind studies, then can't be blind to an all-knowing God, Who would know that the people are being prayed for as part of a research study, and may or may not choose to go along with the study. Therefore results like the one in that link above. Of course if God did choose to go along with it, then the results would show that, as is apparently the case here, although I haven't checked out their claims. But the fact that God may choose to go not go along with the study means that claims that science has shown prayer to be ineffective are illogical.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 05:03, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Errr, so is there an experiment that could reliably provide empirical evidence for the existence of some god (or your god, whatever)? Teh Terrible Asp 05:11, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
My point above was to do with an experiment that requires God's participation. If the "some god" was willing to participate, then yes, experiments could be done. If not, then no. As for experiments that don't require his participation, by their very nature such experiments cannot test for God actually doing something, so I'm not sure that such experiments would be possible, or if possible would prove anything.
However, that is a different matter altogether than saying that there is no evidence for God.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 05:52, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
If you are expecting us to swallow material from old-earth creationists, does that mean you are admitting their claims about the age of the earth to be credible? o ListenerXTalkerX 05:55, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
PJR, please propose an experiment that would prove the existence of your god. Please also, if you would be so kind, explain the difference as you see it between evidence and proof. Teh Terrible Asp 06:09, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
"My" God is not someone I can cause to do things on my bidding, so how do you suggest that I could propose an experiment?
As for the difference between evidence and proof, see ask:Encyclopaedias and neutrality.
Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 10:11, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
Sounds like you need a better god. Fortunately, there are hundreds to choose from. May I suggest something in a Hermes for sir? --Jeeves 16:36, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
I wasn't asking how you do it, since I'm not the one whose worldview depends on the existence of a god. I was simply asking you to do it. Since you're apparently declining to do so, will you concede that there is no experiment that would provide objective evidence for the existence of your god? Teh Terrible Asp 17:11, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
I wasn't asking how you do it, ... I was simply asking you to do it. Yes, and I in turn asked how I was supposed to do the thing that you asked me to do.
Since you're apparently declining to do so, will you concede that there is no experiment that would provide objective evidence for the existence of your god? I wasn't so much declining as pointing out the impossibility. As for conceding, see my answer of 05:52, 17 December 2009. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:16, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

This is kind of a problem of evil thing, but wouldn't a good "test" prayer be something large scale that we would find despicable if it were ignored? -- Edgerunner76 12:08, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps you would find it despicable (but then by what standard are you defining "despicable"?), but the quote I gave above addressed this very point. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 13:07, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
My understanding is that communal prayer is believed to be more effective than individual prayer. So if lots and lots of people took part in the experiment would god be more likely to respond? Could you give us some idea of the threshold Philip?--Bob M 14:13, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
I have no idea of the threshold, and intent also counts, which brings us back to my comments above of 05:03, 17 December 2009. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 03:16, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
in test for telepathy, foresight , etc a low success rate is just as meaningful as a high success rate. If god choses to not answer a prayer to mess up the test then a negative result might be expected and obtainable. Hamster 04:11, 18 December 2010 (UTC)
True, but only if we knew which way God would choose. Philip J. Raymentdiscuss 08:01, 18 December 2010 (UTC)


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