No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.
— David Hume
Last week the Vatican announced that a meeting of cardinals and bishops had ruled that the late Pope John Paul II was responsible for a second miracle, and thus the way was cleared for sainthood.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints decided he had cured a woman from Costa Rica in 2011 after a panel of doctors apparently ruled that her recovery was otherwise inexplicable.
There's the rub, of course. There are many medical results we do not understand. Spontaneous remission of cancer, for example, occurs in a reliable but small fraction of the population; no immediate explanation can be presented on a case-by-case. basis.
Attributing that lack of understanding to the intercession of a dead pope is a huge step, and it illustrates a fundamental difference between "evidence" in religion and "evidence" in science.
The physicist Richard Feynman pointed out that in science, when we have an idea, we try to prove it wrong as well as right. This is an essential feature of scientific skepticism that helps us avoid the trap of interpreting accidental coincidences as significant results.
In every experiment, anomalies occur. We accept such randomness in science and test to see if any purported exciting new result is statistically significant before we then begin to examine it more carefully to see if we might be misinterpreting something mundane as something exciting.
Written By: Lawrence M. Krausscontinue to source article at latimes.com