Miracle or coincidence? – latimes . com

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Would Lawrence R. [sicKrauss "recognize a miracle if one sat down and bit him on the ankle"? Reader Nathan Post wondered as much in his letter published Thursday in response to Krauss' July 8 Op-Ed article on miracles and the canonization of Pope John Paul II.

Post also wrote:

"Noting the dearth of miracles reported at Lourdes, France, Lawrence M. Krauss appears to make several assumptions. In a nutshell, he is saying that the number of miracles reported at Lourdes and recognized by the Roman Catholic Church as legitimate is solid evidence — almost proof — that miracles do not occur.

"One thing we do know is that if a single miracle occurred at Lourdes, Krauss would be proved wrong.

"Another assumption Krauss appears to be making is that God is some kind of spiritual gum machine: You put something in and something comes out. If true, that would betray an incredible ignorance of the church or its thinking on the subject."

Lawrence R. [sicKrauss responds:

It is correct that if a single miracle occurred at Lourdes, or anywhere else, I would be proved wrong. However, a miracle is something that cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be attributed to natural causes.


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  1. “Another assumption Krauss appears to be making is that God is some kind of spiritual gum machine: You put something in and something comes out. If true, that would betray an incredible ignorance of the church or its thinking on the subject.”-
    The spiritual gum machine sadly does exist in many churches in America, as well as South-Africa, where I was raised as a Christian, and encouraged very often to believe in such nonsense. It is simply known as the Prosperity Ministry, and many churches use it to similar ends.

    The basic premise is this: “Invest your time, energy, emotional resources and, most especially, your finances in the church. As fully as you can.” They justify this by saying that people that give freely will get X times the reward from god, through miracles, emotional richness and spontaneous financial gain. They also go on to say, that if you invest your time with the intention of making this gain, then god will not grant it, because you are investing for selfish reasons… methinks they’ve been factoring the statistical anomaly known as coincidence into this just a little too conveniently.

    “In themselves, irrational beliefs are not harmful or bad, I suppose. It doesn’t hurt anyone for a person to believe in, say, unicorns. But such beliefs become dangerous when they cause people to behave in self-abusive ways, such as avoiding good medical care in the hopes that a god will cure you” – The last time I was in a church, I was watching this happen to people. Good, hard-working people were investing massively, hoping for miracle cures. When they didn’t get it, they were told their faith wasn’t strong enough, or they were investing for selfish gain. The best most got was a temporary placebo effect.

    I for one, find the whole thing sickening.

    • I was also raised in South Africa – you wouldn’t by any chance be talking about Ray McCauley would you? Like so many individuals who have gone “Evangelistic” route, seeing the opportunities to get rich fleecing the ignorant who he knew were looking for “salvation”. I think he’s a cynical opportunist whose personal life was featured in our local gossip magazine recently. An ex body builder – now quite obese!In reply to #1 by ThePaganMonkey:*

      “Another assumption Krauss appears to be making is that God is some kind of spiritual gum machine: You put something in and something comes out. If true, that would betray an incredible ignorance of the church or its thinking on the subject.”-
      The spiritual gum machine sadly does exist in many churc…

      • In reply to #18 by capetownian:

        I was also raised in South Africa – you wouldn’t by any chance be talking about Ray McCauley would you? Like so many individuals who have gone “Evangelistic” route, seeing the opportunities to get rich fleecing the ignorant who he knew were looking for “salvation”. I think he’s a cynical opportunist…

        I wasn’t referring directly to him. This was my own pastor who started bringing in Prosperity Preachers to get more money, then eventually he started doing it himself. By the point he did though, I was already disillusioned.
        However, what you said about Ray McCauley; oh yes that man is sneaky, opportunist with millions of Rand supporting him. He gets away with it on a grand scale.

        • In reply to #20 by ThePaganMonkey:

          In reply to #18 by capetownian:

          I was also raised in South Africa – you wouldn’t by any chance be talking about Ray McCauley would you? Like so many individuals who have gone “Evangelistic” route, seeing the opportunities to get rich fleecing the ignorant who he knew were looking for “salvation”. I…

          How do people get so sucked in by these characters? Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, ad nauseam…Hard to understand.

  2. The cognitive bias of small numbers is at work in the minds of the religious. The world of doG seems much more regular to them as a result of a few ‘false positives’ than it really is. Natural remission rates could be potentially higher than the 68 claims on all the sad people that visit Lourdes.

    So………. stay at home your chances of survival are as good if not better.

  3. This is what Krauss is doing, for the enlightened,

    1. He is taking the term ‘belief’ as a mind-belief and not a gut feeling.
    2. He judges that the mind-belief’s are not a bad thing – to the relief of viewers who are religious but dont realise what he is going, and who will be encouraged there after to view their own religion as a mind belief and not a gut/heart/balls/waters/etc feeling. To eventually be proved wrong scientifically by science and to accept it, and to accept a coming science religion “of the stars”, and NOT to go with how they feel on the inside.
  4. ‘Finally, it is telling that there is no evidence, in all of human history, of a miracle that has been validated by entities that are not affiliated with churches.’ VERY TELLING,indeed.I rest my case.

  5. “Another assumption Krauss – Professor Krauss surely – appears to make is that God is etc etc.”

    He does nothing of the sort Mr Post, the religious mentality assumes that God exists on the basis of blind faith.

    Anything that God does or influences is predicated on God’s existence and, the Professor, I think I’m safe in saying, does not believe in that existence, and therefore cannot believe that the supernatural entity of which you speak with such alacrity is anything at all.

    Oh the wondrous ability those of blind faith possess to go back and forth between the Indicative to the Subjunctive without batting an eyelid.

    We rationalists find the world as it is wonderful enough without having to make things up and pretend all the time; of course, we did that when we were children but it’s something we’ve grown out of.

  6. Its very easy to trick gullible people or influence their perception, especially if they don’t suspect they are being tricked…They completely trust the authority that tricks them.
    There is a whole history of how religious leaders, temple priests and oracles of Greece and Egypt employed secret trickery to seem like they had magic powers and secret knowledge ….Their tool kit included using smoke and mirrors, magnets and hidden machinery, dice and carrier pigeons and of course plenty of fabricators on the inside and complicit people ready to claim any improvement in health as a “miracle”…Only religious “believers” believe in miracles by misunderstanding rational explanations for everything…random coincidence can be good if it goes in your favour, but random coincidence that goes against your favour is called a disaster would you wish for that ?
    Miracles are similar to TV advertising only worse.. they both tell a lot of lies and exaggerate any small positive to sell very average or placebo products to gullible people.

  7. The Only rational explanation for Miracles is….they are a good tourist attraction for the weak & gullible and an excellent hand rubbing – money maker for the church…..who of course….keep churning them out….
    Just because the church agrees that they are legitimate…means nothing – of course they would say that….scientific evidence would say they are not legitimate or miracles….but rationally explainable events…..

    Oh gullible followers….send your prayers and CASH to the weeping statue of our lady of Guadalupe….so that she might miraculously weep wax in the tropical sun… easily fooled….grow up people !

  8. Of course Lawrence Krauss has nailed it! Like him, I will believe in miracles when the first human limb is spontaneously re-generated, (by God), as is claimed in the Bible ! So far 2000 years of inaction by Jesus !

    • In reply to #9 by Mr DArcy:

      Of course Lawrence Krauss has nailed it! Like him, I will believe in miracles when the first human limb is spontaneously re-generated!

      Hell, it would take a lot less than that to make me a believer. If I were to place any flat object (a book, a saltshaker, whatever) on a flat surface in front of me (a table, a desk etc) and said “Alright God, make this move three inches to the left,” I would consider that a good enough indication that some sort of paranormal superior being wants me to take him/her/it seriously. Ain’t gonna happen, though.

  9. This-

    http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/5252/do-visitors-of-lourdes-experience-spontaneous-recovery-more-often-than-would-be

    has a reconstruction of Carl Sagan’s dismissal of the Lourdes miracle statistics, using slightly better (more conservative) numbers and suppositions than he used. The result though is still damning. The “miracles” for the specific of cancer cures are down in the noise of expected spontaneous remissions. Carl Sagan’s advice to stay at home rather than have the schlepp is still apposite.

    • In reply to #10 by phil rimmer:

      Good article

      People who are sick or troubled surely respond to all the natural factors and their bodies and minds benefit from simple things like an outing, a holiday, leaving responsibilities, some new scenery, forested, mountainous or coastal and expansive…the fresh ionised air and clean mountain mineral water, a careful diet, quiet contemplation….would all help you feel better…but zero to do with imaginary religious figures….

      • In reply to #11 by Light Wave:

        In reply to #10 by phil rimmer:

        ….a careful diet, quiet contemplation….would all help you feel better…but zero to do with imaginary religious figures….

        I’m sure you’re right about the diet and such but probably the prospect of a curing ritual will also contribute to a modest healing effect. Placebos work for 35% of the population.

        I am greatly persuaded by Nicholas Humphrey’s theory on the placebo effect, that the body does not naturally unleash its full immune system to fight infection because it evolved at a time when energy/food resources were in short supply. (Being ill means you yourself can no longer gather food and unless someone was there to minister to you and easily get extra food illness meant hunger anyway.). In calorie restricted times you could be killed by your own immune system and its extra energy demands, if you couldn’t eat enough to support it. Indeed the malnourished do not experience fevers. What is possibly happening with most placebo effects is the action of ministering to the patient is itself enough to convince her subconscious brain that calories are not a problem and to let loose with the prostaglandins and attract the leukocytes.

        The placebo uplift might however be cancelled out by the risks you run mixing with a large quantity of ill possibly infectious people, sleeping in the same rooms, drinking “healing” water from the same vessels….

        (Nicholas Humphrey’s is cool btw. He worked with Dan Dennett on consciousness at Tufts, discovered blind sight in monkeys and, in my view, gave Antonio Damasio some of his best ideas.)

  10. For a miracle to occur something highly unusual must happen. Either unusually few or unusually many cures would be of interest. The catch is the number of spontaneous cures is the same with or without prayer.

    What Christians effectively like to do is claim that someone winning the lottery is a miracle. No, that is rare as ticket buyers go. What would be a “miracle” is if nobody won the lottery for years at a time, or if there were 100,000 first place winners each time, (or more likely fraud).

  11. A quote from the article:

    “In themselves, irrational beliefs are not harmful or bad, I suppose.”

    And a quote from Peter Singer:

    “Once you give up standards of reasoning and of using evidence for your beliefs, anything is possible, including a belief that it’s a good thing to fly aeroplanes full of people into office buildings full of more people, and that somehow that will lead to you being rewarded in an afterlife. That’s why I think it’s time to take the offensive on this sort of belief.”

    I think Peter is correct

    • In reply to #17 by David W:

      A quote from the article:> “In themselves, irrational beliefs are not harmful or bad, I suppose.”

      It depends on the strength of the belief, surely. Theoretically, all religious people believe a heap of crazy stuff. All Muslim men ‘believe’ that they get free food, free drink and free prostitutes in Heaven. Yet, strangely, the desire for martyrdom seems very limited. In Occupied Palestine, there must be daily opportunities to get shot by an Israeli soldier, yet Palestinians wait patiently at the check-points.

      Despite the claim that faith can move mountains, it must be difficult to be operationally convinced of something patently impossible.

  12. I find these amusing;

    “Another assumption Krauss appears to make is that God…”

    When will god bothers remember that we are making “assumptions” based on what they’ve been telling us. If they don’t like having talking donkeys and genocide on their side why not join us and look less insane?

  13. I don’t understand the whole Lourdes thing. This 14 year old girl, see’s the virgin in the water falls in 1858, and turns it into a tourist trap. Sheep have been flocking to Lourdes for their dose of miracle water ever since. What really gets me is she died at age 35 drinking the Lourdes water. I guess the miracle man was out of town. And of course, she’s saint number 12,023 or so. Love them Catholics, man.

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