Friday, October 21, 2011

Should we pay attention to miracle claims?

In my opinion, yes. It is a shame that miracles claims aren't investigated more vigorously. Most Atheists set their "skeptronimers" to 11, and most Christians don't even have one. In other words, Atheists ignore them, and Christians accept them totally uncritically. Here is a small example of what I mean. In this article on faith healing, the author mentions a few cases in which patients were cured, seemingly by prayer. The author than lays out the two strongest possible scenarios:
"Only two explanations appear reasonable - either they were spontaneous remissions which coincidentally occurred after prayer, or they are genuine healing miracles. "
Spontaneous remissions which coincidentally occurred after prayer- really? Did the author forget that most Medical Doctors are Religious? This means that most Doctors, like most Religious people, will most likely pray for their patients to get better. With that said, I think we should really focus on how many of these prayer recipients died, not how many survived. For according to the "spontaneous remissions theory, a relatively small group of patients will always resuscitate! It seems to me, however, that with the "miracle theory", we should expect more people to survive.

Now not all cases are the same. In one case, a doctor named Chaucy Crandall claims that he heard a "voice" in his head, telling him to pray. Firstly, I'd like to know what he means by "voice". If he means a sort of intuition, I can relate to him. On several occasions, I have felt a strong need to do something- often mundane, and often with no reward. Also, according to this news report, he prays for every patient he sees. Now with that in mind, doesn't it seem at least plausible that he just panicked at the sight of his patient and prayed out of desparation?

In addition to healing miracles, there are also miracle claims regarding dreams and visions. A particularly unimpressive one can be found here. In it, a Muslim man sees Jesus in a dream and converts to Christianity. Why do I think it's unimpressive, you ask? Well, according to the video, the guy already doubted his own Islam, as he said he wanted to know the "true God". Also, he started attending Christian mass prior to his dream. And if that isn't enough to cast doubt on this miracle claims authenticity, the physical description he gives of of Jesus doesn't even match what a first century Jew would look like. If anything, it sounds like it was influenced by the Christian paintings and popular media so common in the modern day! The only miraculous part of the story was when his children claimed to  see Jesus. However, their two visions were private and they occurred at night- so it seems like this is a case of "waking dreams"- a type of hallucinatory experience that is caused due to just waking up. Another possibility is that the visions were nothing more than dreams as well. This claim, like most miracle claims out there, is just not very well testified.

Now, despite my strong opinion of the last few cases, I do believe that there are some miracle claims that are difficult if not impossible to explain without appeal to the divine. Look at this one for example. Now how the hell can an Atheist prove this one false? I think CS Lewis' liar, lunatic or lord scenario sums up the skeptics dilemma quite well. So, what do I make of it? I think the liar branch is quite plausible. His crying was a bit over the top, if you ask me. Plus, psychic powers are empirically testable. He could easily force choke a grip if he really wanted to convert people. Not supplying us with evidence when you can is either being lazy or disingenuous with your supposed "gift". Also, I'd like to know whether there are other Muslims (like he was) that believe they have psychic powers given to them by Jinn. I mean, lets look at it this way- there are a dozen Muslim psychics. One of them becomes a Christian. Does this mean the eleven other Muslims are being deceived by Demons- or perhaps the one Christian? Either way you look at it, this miracles seems just too strange to believe.

1 comment:

  1. This article on miracles is also very good.

    http://patientandpersistent.blogspot.com/search/label/Tim%20McGrew

    I like the part were he mentions that the healings at lourdes all occured 100+ years ago. So it seems reasonable to conclude that they were just mis-diagnosed.

    http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/approved_apparitions/lourdes/downloads/lourdes_cures.pdf

    ReplyDelete