Sent to The Star, Johannesburg, Thu 23/04/2015 18:08 in response to the reader’s letter below. Not published.
I refer to the letter “Proof angels are among us” in The Star, Thursday April 23, by Judy Bennett.
Linden Cycle Shop is to be praised for their “angelic” behaviour. They are obviously good people.
However, the letter can hardly convince us that real angels –mythical spirit beings commonly depicted with wings, haloes, and harps— exist. Good people, or at least people who behave commendably in certain circumstances, definitely exist: The letter is proof of that. Taking it as proof of the supernatural is not a logical conclusion.
It is also not logical of Ms Bennett to thank her god and pray for Linden Cycle shop. What evidence does she have that a god was responsible, let alone the specific one that she believes in?
If I were the unnamed owner of Linden Cycle Shop, I would be annoyed that Ms Bennett believes that a supernatural agency made me behave well, rather than that I did it myself out of my own goodness!
As for praying, scientific studies of the effects of prayer have concluded that it does not work. The most extensive of these was the "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer" in 2006 (see the STEP project in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer). It found that prayer had no noticeable effect on healing, unless patients knew they would receive prayers, in which case (on average) the patients fared worse!
Ms Bennett’s letter may be good for the cycle shop, but her prayers are just a way of pretending to do something, while doing nothing.
Thanks and RICKgards