The age old question, is there a God? We don’t intend to answer that here, but we can answer the next best thing:
“What is the effect of prayer on God’s attitude towards mankind?”
That was the title of a paper published by economist James Heckman in the Economic Inquiry in 2010. I know what you’re thinking, why would an economist be writing about religion? Well, it’s not that odd. Economists have been diversifying into different fields for decades, it was inevitable that one of us would eventually come up with a ‘mad-scientist’ type plan to use economics to study God!
Heckman’s approach to answer the question was simple, yet brilliant. His article used “powerful statistical methods” (i.e. questionable econometric techniques!!) to analyse data from the National Opinion Research Center’s survey on religious attitudes. His aim was to find out if prayer had an affect on the attitude of God towards us petty mortals.
In his quest for answers, Heckman built an econometric model with the dependent variable being God’s attitude (arrayed on a scale ranging from 0 to 1) and the independent variable being the intensity of prayer in the population (scaled between 0 and 1). As Heckman notes, “the population density of prayer is summarised by a univariate density f(X), which has been estimated by Father Greeley (1972)”.
In his conclusion, Heckman states that “A little prayer does no good and may make things worse. Much prayer helps a lot.” So it would seem that God’s attitude towards us positively depends on us praying to him: the more we pray to him, the the better he treats us. More importantly, if Heckman discovered that God treats us better the more we pray to him then that means, by the unquestionable laws of logic, that he does actually exist. Well then, I guess that’s case closed on the whole “is there a God thing”.