Author Topic: Some of the "refutations" of Josiah Ministries about WWGHA and God is Imaginary  (Read 5861 times)

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Offline kaziglu bey

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I would just like to clarify that I realize that this post is not original to Hatter. I still felt the need to address a few problems I see with it. Here we go.

Why Won't God Heal Amputees? and God is Imaginary are two websites that have sparked considerable interest in the atheist and theist communities. <snip>
This site is not attempting to prove that God exists. Rather, it is exposing the errors and bad argumentation of God is Imaginary. In this site's previous incarnation as a blog, many commenters made the error that I am attempting to positively affirm God's existence. I am not; I am merely trying to argue that God is Imaginary doesn't do a thing to disprove God.
Yeah, good luck with that. Let's see if your argument is "bullet-proof".
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TRY Praying
Let’s think carefully about proof #1 and see if succeeds in showing that god is imaginary. If it does, that’s big news; we’d have found out something very interesting. We may express proof #1 succinctly as follows: <snip>
Sure, it requires that assumption. An assumption that is entirely reasonable, given A)Many believers think that the Bible is entirely inerrant and without contradiction, B)Most believers think that the Bible was directly inspired by God, and C)most believers think that God is "perfect". If a perfect God inspired a book that is entirely inerrant, it should NOT contain ANY errors or contradictions.
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My sense is that the vast majority of people would find Premise 3 implausible. After all, it seems perfectly possible for a morally perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing being described by the Bible to be real whether or not the Bible itself makes mistakes. So, Premise 3 is questionable (to say the least).
Really? That is just painful to read. So basically "The Bible, being inspired by an inerrant God, is always right and accurately depicts God and his actions. Except for when it doesn't. Just ignore that stuff.

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Someone might reply that perhaps “the God of the Bible” just means “the God that would exist if the entire Bible were true.” In that case, Premise 3 would be axiomatic. However, then the conclusion would be compatible with there being a perfectly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing being. And certainly any argument that’s compatible with there being a perfectly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing being is not an argument that God is imaginary.

It's not clear to me that the conclusion would be compatible with a " perfectly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing being". If anything, I would say such a conclusion casts serious doubt on any other "perfectly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing beings". Showing that one such alleged entity is not real goes a long way to demonstrating that all similarly "alleged" entities are not real also. Especially when those entities are largely inspired by or based on the Bible.
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Why, then, does Jesus say that “everyone who asks receives”? A standard answer, which proof #1 fails to address, is that background conditions on prayer are implicit and would have been understood by his audience.

Wait a minute! You were the one who said that it wasn't acceptable for an atheist to make an implied assumption, but it is ok in your "standard answer" This is just absolute hypocrisy and bullshit.
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Indeed, that’s exactly what Jesus’ earliest followers thought: the Johanine text says that we know that we have what we ask for if we ask according to his will (John 5:14-15).
it should also be noted that Jesus' earliest followers also expected the events described in revelation to happen in their lifetime. How is that working out for you?

Also, I think it's bold to state that a prayer that is merely in line with God's will is one that is answered. In those cases, the prayer has NO CAUSAL EFFECT.
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Now it certainly does seem good for all cancer to be cured. But the crucial question is this: could God instantly cure all cancer without thereby forfeiting a higher good? That’s a difficult question, and proof #1 doesn’t even attempt to answer it.
Cherry picking, ignoring the counter evidence (in this case inconsistent statements made by JC), and begging the question, possibly even amazing familiarity. Why wouldn't JC include these "background conditions" when he said we will receive anything we ask for if we believe? That would seem to be the best time to throw in any disclaimers or fine print. These statements also assume that God is interested in a "higher good", but don't specify how something can be a higher good than alleviating massive amounts of pain, suffering, and premature death. Also, proof #1 doesn't attempt to answer whether or not healing cancer patients would get in the way of God's "higher good".
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<snip>
These are admittedly complex and difficult questions, with many books and articles devoted to them. So, if someone claims to prove that suffering cannot act as a means to outweighing goods, he better have a carefully spelled out argument to back that up; otherwise, reflective truth-seekers won’t be moved. Proof #1 offers us nothing of the sort; therefore, it fails in to establish its premises.
Perhaps someone making the claim that suffering DOES outweigh good, they should "have a carefully spelled out argument to back that up".
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A Real God isn’t a Magical God

<snip>
The scientific studies we have on prayer are actually compatible with a “realistic” interpretation of the biblical statements on prayer (contrary to what GII says). The only catch is this: some types of prayers appear to be more effective than others. The least effective ones seem to be prepackaged, one time prayers, from a distance for people one doesn’t know or care much about. A famous 2006 study indicates this. But when people pray fervently for people they care about, then the statistics change: such prayers have a statistical effect. Truth-seekers may wish to investigate studies referenced here and here.
I refuse to believe any such thing unless you have have the scientific studies to back them up.
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Proof #1 is too simple. Its view of God is too simple. Its interpretation of Jesus’ statements is too simple. In a nutshell: it fails to address the possibility that a perfect, rational being might reveal complex layers of truth that truth-seekers may grow in their understanding of.

But you see, simplicity is what we as rational people look for in an explanation. How much of the Bible has to be not true in order for it to be true?


Note: Sorry my original post was such a mess, hit post instead of preview and immediately realized it was effed up. Should be better now.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2011, 07:08:27 PM by kaziglu bey »
Seriously though... What would happen if the Great Green Arkleseizure didn't fram up the rammastam before the hermite curve achieved maximum nurdfurdle velocity? Now THAT would be something. AmIrite?

Offline kaziglu bey

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"the god of whatever parts of the Bible aren't in error"

Request permission to highjack this line, with proper credit given of course. I just now stopped laughing after 5 minutes. Seriously though, I think that simple statement is very revealing of the nature of the issues Atheists have with BibleGod and TrueChristians.
Seriously though... What would happen if the Great Green Arkleseizure didn't fram up the rammastam before the hermite curve achieved maximum nurdfurdle velocity? Now THAT would be something. AmIrite?

Offline kcrady

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For my reply to the part of the article in the OP discussing prayer studies, I googled my way to the original site so I could incorporate the hyperlinks used there in the quoted portion:

Quote from: Cory Tucholski
The scientific studies we have on prayer are actually compatible with a “realistic” interpretation of the biblical statements on prayer (contrary to what GII says). The only catch is this: some types of prayers appear to be more effective than others. The least effective ones seem to be prepackaged, one time prayers, from a distance for people one doesn’t know or care much about. A famous 2006 study indicates this. But when people pray fervently for people they care about, then the statistics change: such prayers have a statistical effect. Truth-seekers may wish to investigate studies referenced here and here.

Clicking on the second "here," the first thing one ought to notice is diversity of results.  The linked page not only includes a number of studies that show no effect from prayer, they also include other studies showing health benefits from things like Buddhist Vipassana meditation.  This shows us the importance of Methodology and Locating the Hypothesis

Methodology:

Methodology is extremely important in studies like this (or any statistical study).  There are many ways health studies in particular can be flawed.  Insufficient sample size, failure to correct for variables in the study groups like smoking, diet, ethnicity, lifestyle, etc. (human beings are just chock full of idiosyncrasies), flaws in the statistical methods being used to collate the data, and so on.  We see this all the time in health studies not related to prayer.  It's so common to see a headline saying, "Studies show [X] reduces heart disease!" followed, not too much later, by a headline saying "Studies now show [X] causes increased rates of prostate cancer" or "Studies show [X] has no effect on heart disease" that it's a cliche.  Or you can look to the latest re-re-re-ordering of the Food Pyarmid.  I remember when it was "the Four Food Groups."  Designing studies to test the effects of something (whether it be boiled cabbage or prayer) on human health is hard, especially if the proposed effect is subtle.

Let's look at the first study cited on the link from the first "here," an apologetics site called "godandscience.org:"

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1. "Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population"
Methods

Cardiac patients from the San Francisco General Medical Center were randomly divided (using a computer-generated list) into two groups. The names of the patients in the "test" group were given to a group of Christians, who prayed for them while they were in the hospital. The intercessory prayer team members were chosen on the following basis:

    Born again Christians on the basis of John 3:35
    Led an active Christian life on the basis of
    Daily devotional prayer
    Fellowship in a local Christian church

The "placebo" group received no prayer. Neither the "test" nor the "placebo" group of patients knew if they were receiving prayer. Likewise, the hospital staff, doctors, or nurses were "blinded" since they did not know which patient belonged to which group.
Results

Statistics were acquired from the prayer and placebo groups both before and after prayer, until the patients were discharged from the hospital. There were no statistical differences between the placebo and the prayer groups before prayer was initiated. The results demonstrated that patients who were prayed for suffered "less congestive heart failure, required less diuretic and antibiotic therapy, had fewer episodes of pneumonia, had fewer cardiac arrests, and were less frequently intubated and ventilated."

Here are some of the methodological flaws in this study, based on the description given:

1) The so-called "placebo" group is actually a control group, not a placebo group.  A "control" group is a group where nothing is done, to get an idea of what baseline results would be.

2) The study should have had a placebo group--a group of people being "prayed for" by people just going through the motions, who are not Born Again  Real, True Christianstm.  In ordinary medical trials testing for the efficacy of a medication, placebo patients are given inert pills (usually sugar pills) by doctors who do not know they're giving out placebos.  The inclusion of a placebo group in addition to the test and control groups is a necessary part of any legitimate clinical trial.  For a prayer study then, it would be necessary to find a way to produce "fake" or "inert" prayer.

3) The study should have incorporated one or more test groups of devout practitioners of other belief systems that employs prayer or "focused intention" or whatever for purposes of healing.  The purpose of this would be to (try to) rule out the possibility that spiritual devotion and focus (without regard to which god/s or spiritual tradition/s is/are being invoked) is not the efficacious factor.  This has to do with the issue of "Locating the Hypothesis" below.

Here's the methodology from the second study cited:

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Cardiac patients from the CCU at the Mid America Heart Institute (MAHI), Kansas City, Mo, were randomly chosen and assigned to control or prayer groups. In this study, patients were not told about the prayer study and doctors did not know which patients were assigned to which groups. According to the paper, "The intercessors represented a variety of Christian traditions, with 35% listing their affiliations as nondenominational, 27% as Episcopalian, and the remainder as other Protestant groups or Roman Catholic. Unlike the Byrd study, the intercessors of the MAHI study were given no details about the medical conditions of the patients, but were only given their first name.

(bold emphasis added)

Here, the prayer comes from a variety of Christian traditions, without any mentioned effort to make sure that they're sufficiently devoted.  At least some of those "Christians" (Catholics, Episcopalians) would likely be considered Vile Heretics by the Born Again Real, True Christianstm of the first study, and vice versa.  That this study also ostensibly shows results actually contradicts the implicit claim of the first study, that the prayer of devoted Born Again Real, True Christianstm is the prayer that's efficacious.  We have yet to see whether the prayers of Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, Animists, etc. are comparably effective.

Here's the third study:

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This study involved 3393 patient subjects whose bloodstream infection was detected at the hospital from the years 1990�1996. Remote, retroactive intercessory prayer was said for the well being and full recovery of the intervention group. Results were measured through mortality in hospital, length of stay in hospital, and duration of fever. Mortality was reduced in the intervention group (28.1%) compared to the control group (30.2%) although the difference did not reach statistical significance. However, length of stay in the hospital and duration of fever were significantly shorter in the intervention group than in the control group (P = 0.01 and P = 0.04, respectively). According to the author of the study:

"Remote, retroactive intercessory prayer said for a group is associated with a shorter stay in hospital and shorter duration of fever in patients with a bloodstream infection and should be considered for use in clinical practice."

The citation here does not tell us what sort of Christians the intercessors were, or even if they were Christians. 

If you look at the actual results of the cited studies, they show, at best, a modest statistical nudge produced by prayer.  Look at Table 2 (for some reason, there is no Table 1) and you'll see that most of the health effects tested for show "NS" (Not Significant, i.e., no results).  In Table 3, the p (significance) values are all well above (that is, statistically closer to chance) than the the scientific "standard level of significance" of p=.05 cited in the article.  This seems like pretty weak sauce for the mighty acts of an "omnipotent" deity.

Locating the Hypothesis:

One of the most difficult tasks a scientist has is "locating the hypothesis," that is, identifying, out of a wide range of possible explanations for an unknown phenomenon, which hypothesis is the one most worth testing.  The author of the apologetic article cited above (and Cory Tucholski) already "know" what answer they want to get ("Yay Christianity!"), so they start there and go looking for evidence that will confirm their preferred answer.  This is lousy, backwards methodology.  The most important work--identifying and eliminating possible hypotheses and finally converging on the one most likely to explain the data--is skipped, as they jump straight to Christianity.

First, you have to eliminate the null hypothesis (nothing out of the ordinary is happening).  This means eliminating all non-prayer related possible explanations for the effect.  If, as a matter of pure, dumb luck, the prayed-for group of patients happened to have better diet on average, or more income, or be members of an ethnic group with a higher average heart health, or have fewer smokers or coffee-drinkers among their number, or have better familial or community support, etc., etc., they could easily show a noticeable statistical "boost" that is not related to prayer.  Likewise if the control group happens to score worse than average on variables like those.  Eliminating these types of variables is very difficult to do, which is a major reason why "Studies Showtm" headlines fluctuate so much.

But lets say, for the sake of discussion, that there is some kind of genuine effect that cannot be explained within the confines of currently known medicine, biology, or physics.  There are a number of hypotheses which could explain such an effect.  Here are a few:

1) Christianity is true!  Halleluiah!

2) There is a prayer-answering Divine agency (one Deity or many) which does not care which sect praying people belong to, but responds equally to all without discrimination.

3) Humans possess presently-unknown powers of the mind (psi)[1] that operate by means of focused intention and/or mystical states of consciousness.  Under this hypothesis, the specific religious trappings would not be important in themselves except that they help the believer achieve the necessary state of consciousness.  IOW, a Born Again Protestant, a Carmelite nun, a Buddhist monk, a Wiccan, and a Golden Dawn Ceremonial Magician could all generate comparable effects by reaching comparable states of consciousness.

4) There is an impersonal cosmic Force that responds to focused human intention.

5) BabblebabblequantumbabbleblahblahSchrodinger's CatbabbleTwo-Slit ExperimentblahblahBell's Theoremblahbabbleyadayada...

6) A malevolent, deceptive spirit is working false miracles to trick people into believing in Christianity instead of [insert One True Faith here].

7) The Simulation Argument is true, and prayer/focused intention/mystical states of consciousness act as cheat codes.  There is no spoon, Neo.   

I could probably go on, but the above ought to be sufficient to show that it wouldn't be easy to pick the best hypothesis to explain a "prayer effect."  I consider "Yay Christianity!" to be the least likely hypothesis because it seems to me that we ought to anticipate that a god as infinitely big and awesome as the Christian (or any of the Abrahamic omnimax god-concepts) is supposed to be would produce commensurably awesome effects.  The observed subtlety of effect is more consistent with the null hypothesis[2] or something like a modest level of psi ability in humans.  This is also consistent with the fact that traditionally most humans have believed that prayers to their gods and/or magic spells (i.e. focused intention) are efficacious.  It is not as if Christians are the only people who have come to believe that prayer is worthwhile.

However, to actually narrow things down, we would need to devise tests that would falsify hypotheses one by one, until only the most probable was left standing.  Given the difficulties inherent in this type of study to begin with, that wouldn't be an easy task, to say the least.  This is why the automatic "leap-to-Christianity" method employed by Mr. Tucholski is such a crappy way to go about this.  It would be just as bad if it was Raven Silverwolf doing an automatic "leap-to-Wicca" method. 

We skeptics tend to employ a "leap-to-the-null hypothesis" method, but there is an important distinction to be made here.  The null hypothesis has an automatic advantage of parsimony, in that it is not calling upon us to alter the body of currently validated scientific theory or add any new entities or principles to our understanding.  The claimant bears the burden of proof, whether they're claiming to have found a new sub-atomic particle, or a psi ability, or a god.  The null hypothesis has earned its status as the most probable default on the basis of all of the accumulated evidence upon which present understanding of reality is based. 

For example, the third study is described as being based on retroactive intercessory prayer.  If I'm understanding this properly, it would be claiming that people can influence events in the past (retroactively) by praying in the present!  That is an extraordinary claim, to say the least!  If true, it would overturn causality as we know it and imply the possibility of time travel and superluminal signaling.  It would overturn the well-established theory of relativity and arguably imply temporal paradox.  What if lots of people prayed really hard for a different one of Alois Schickelgruber's spermatozoa to win the race, resulting in the birth of someone other than Adolf Hitler? 

It should be obvious that the null hypothesis holds a huge advantage of prior probability ("extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence") in cases like this.
 1. Dean Radin, in his book Entangled Minds, cites studies of this sort, and others, such as people attempting to influence the output of random number generators with their minds, as evidence for psi as an innate human ability.
 2. Improbable things do happen.  People get royal flushes in poker, or catch home run balls from their favorite major-league slugger, or win lotteries.  So an occasional statistical bump amidst a sea of "NS" findings as in Table 2 is not impossible.  Or some other scientifically normal variable(s) is/are responsible.
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Offline kcrady

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Richie, welcome to the Forum.  If you look to the right on the bottom of your post, you should see a little icon of a pencil and a piece of paper.  This is an "edit" icon.  Could you please click on that and edit your post to include some paragraph breaks?  Currently your post is the Great Wordwall of China, :) and it's hard to read.  If you break it up into digestible, paragraph-sized pieces, I think you would get more and better consideration given to what you have to say.
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Online Azdgari

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This appears to be a word-for-word copy/paste of his initial post.
The highest moral human authority is copied by our Gandhi neurons through observation.

Offline Anfauglir

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Richie, welcome to the Forum.  If you look to the right on the bottom of your post, you should see a little icon of a pencil and a piece of paper.  This is an "edit" icon.  Could you please click on that and edit your post to include some paragraph breaks?  Currently your post is the Great Wordwall of China, :) and it's hard to read.  If you break it up into digestible, paragraph-sized pieces, I think you would get more and better consideration given to what you have to say.

Not just line breaks.  End some sentences within the paragraphs as well.

Seriously Richie, I've tried a couple times to read your post and I just can't - all that text just blurs and its impossible to make any sense of it.
Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.
Why is it so hard for believers to answer a direct question?

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To all:  If you wish to respond to Richie's mega-post, I re-formatted a copy and posted it here.
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Offline monkeymind

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Even if all the studies mentioned were "done" properly there would still be a need for a meta-study.

I remember a book by Larry Dossey, where he claimed over 7,000 studies show prayer is effective.
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Offline jtk73

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Re: There is a God...We'll all find out real soon.
« Reply #66 on: December 20, 2011, 06:14:07 PM »
I can't believe you people are basing your premise on whether or not god is real on if he will answer your demand and in the time frame you request.  He won't heal my amputated arm....no God.  he won't stop murder... no God.  He won't appear and do jumping jacks when I want him to...No evidence of a God.

Let me make a parable.  say you were creating a beautiful piece of handmade furniture that required many pieces and those many pieces had to be precisely cut, and sanded, and stained, and varnished, and assembled to perfection to make this extraordinary outcome.
What a horrible analogy. More accurately...
I am creating a beautiful piece of handmade furniture that requires many pieces and those many pieces have to be precisely cut, and sanded, and stained, and varnished, and assembled to perfection to make an extraordinary outcome. So, after I do all this and have my wood pieces that are "perfect" according to my designs, I decide suddenly that the wood pieces that earlier I deemed "perfect" are not up to my expectations. There are tiny flaws and scratches in that wood that I caused accidentally during the sanding (actually there aren't really any flaws, I just get offended if two pieces of wood touch each other with their grain in the same direction or if the pieces of wood don't adore and worship me). YET I blame the pieces of wood for the tiny flaws! So I tell the pieces of wood that I love them but I tell them that they are flawed and if they don't obey and worship me that I will burn them in the fireplace and that their time as a chair is just a pathetic waiting room but in the future they will be in a super-happy land of wood. (of course I write this all down in a book because that is the best way to convey a very important message and then I hide and leave no evidence that I had anything to do with working on the wood or chair).
The End.

Offline kcrady

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Re: There is a God...We'll all find out real soon.
« Reply #67 on: December 21, 2011, 04:43:02 AM »
I can't believe you people are basing your premise on whether or not god is real on if he will answer your demand and in the time frame you request.  He won't heal my amputated arm....no God.  he won't stop murder... no God.  He won't appear and do jumping jacks when I want him to...No evidence of a God.

No, we do not think Yahweh is imaginary because he doesn't heed our every command.  We think Yahweh is imaginary because he doesn't do anything at all that distinguishes his existence from his non-existence.  Since reality behaves exactly as we would expect it to if Yahweh doesn't exist, that is the most parsimonious understanding to have. 

Let me make a parable.  say you were creating a beautiful piece of handmade furniture that required many pieces and those many pieces had to be precisely cut, and sanded, and stained, and varnished, and assembled to perfection to make this extraordinary outcome.

Then one of the pieces of wood jumped out at you and said what the fuck are you doing?  Why the fuck is my arm cut off right now and why won't you heal it immediately?  If you truely are my maker and have good intentions for me in the end then you will do as I ask you to do right now.  If you do not then I will deny that you even exist.

Then you say I'm sorry piece of wood but in the near future you will be happier and more beautiful than you could ever imagine.  I'm not going to heal your cut because the time is not right and I can foresee this where you cannot.  And you say fuck you I can see just fine.  Heal me Now!  I can think for myself!  I know this because I am so smart that I know where I came from.  Wait a minute,  I don't even know that, but I am still so fucking smart HAHAHA

What an utterly abominable idea!  This is the reasoning behind every totalitarian massacre ever undertaken.  "You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet."  Or, in this metaphor, maim some wood to make a chair.  But don't worry, the Dear Leader has a wonderful Plan!  This is not some marvelous spiritual truth, it's the plot of The Human Centipede.   <---Google at your own risk.
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