Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Limits of Science part 3: Things Fall Through the Cracks

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True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, of course. To say we have empirical proof, in the literal sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for as long as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousands of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truly in an empirical sense because we might have missed one. That's impractical for science to do this so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, and it worked the same way every single time. That's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, and there was no observation of cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. The correlation, however, was so tight we assume cause and effect. Empirical scientific observation covers the unobserved instances with probability based upon tight correlation that allows things to fall through the cracks. For example, on average most men are stronger than most women. There are women, however, who can lift a lot more weight than I can, women who make me look weak, and they are probably not hard to find. We make assumptions and then construct standardized tests to measure our assumptions. If one of those assumptions is that intelligence means the ability to work math, there can be intelligent people who for one reason or another have trouble with math. Someone might be better at philosophy or history than a mathematician and not be good in math. The standardized test will say the mathematician is smart and the historian isn’t. Things are always going to fall through the cracks.
            The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight correlation gives us causality. The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturalistic cause and effect, and it excludes anything that challenges this assumption. So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense. Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabilistic assumptions building constructs to form a world view) is inadequate because it is merely a construct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

Other realms
Consciousness—dualism in a new package
Lourdes miracles


            The Question of other realms is a good test for the limits of science. Up to this point in human history science had no way to tell if there were other realms or not. For most of the life of modern science the idea of other realms, conjuring in the popular mind images of heaven, hell, Dante’s Inferno, and Superman’s Phantom zone were a laughing stock. With the advent of the twentieth century, relativity, Quantum theory and a lot of other physics, other realms have not only become fashionable they are basically mandatory. Atheists treat the idea of a multi-verse as though it’s a proven fact when in reality there’s no empirical evidence for it at all. There are now physicists making noises about maybe having the first hint of proof, maybe we are in a position begin real systematic study of the question, but as it stands now there is no actual proof that all scientists are willing to accept as fact at the moment. The question of other realms is all tangled up in the popular mind be it atheist or believer with the fear that God will be proved and the hope that God will disproved. This removes most atheists from the sphere of the objective status the prize so highly. There are disinterested scientists working on the question who seek pure knowledge (if they aren’t human). David Detsch, an Oxford Physicist, claims to have proved mathematically that the multiverse is “the only explanation for the nature of reality.”[i] National Geographic has reported:

"Dark flow" is no fluke, suggests a new study that strengthens the case for unknown, unseen "structures" lurking on the outskirts of creation. In 2008 scientists reported the discovery of hundreds of galaxy clusters streaming in the same direction at more than 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometers) an hour. This mysterious motion can't be explained by current models for distribution of mass in the universe. So the researchers made the controversial suggestion that the clusters are being tugged on by the gravity of matter outside the known universe.Now the same team has found that the dark flow extends even deeper into the universe than previously reported: out to at least 2.5 billion light-years from Earth.After using two additional years' worth of data and tracking twice the number of galaxy clusters, "we clearly see the flow, we clearly see it pointing in the same direction," said study leader Alexander Kashlinsky, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.[ii]

We are all being sucked toward some opening or other leading to this multiverse, the collection of parallel worlds. Of course with such an amazing claim such scanty evidence it’s easy to over look the fact that we have no empirical evidence at all to validate it. The observation galaxy cultures heading off in the same directing is empirical in a scientific sense (although not the philosophical sense) the problem is it just doesn’t tell us what’s doing it. It’s all fine and good to say “it doesn’t’ conform to any known model” but what’s the real cash value as proof of multiverse? It could just as easily be a an astronomical feature that doesn’t conform to a known mode but isn’t a multiverse. Its one thing to say “no known model” another to say ‘we are really working hard at coming up with another model that it could be instead.’ It’s probably not a giant handkerchief or a turtle that’s about we can say about it. 
            While we should not doubt that the search for mulitverse is undertaken from the standpoint of the human drive for pure knowledge, there is a very obvious cash pay off in terms of atheist apologetics and it’s pretty clear this is in the minds of many who do the “pure” scientific research. Discover magazine does a spread on what is at the moment Hawking’s new book, it talks about “M theory” and it relates to physics, adding this:

STEPHEN HAWKING'S new book The Grand Design sparked a furore over whether physics can be used to disprove the existence of God. But few have noted that the idea at the core of the book, M-theory, is the subject of an ongoing scientific debate – specifically over the very aspect of the theory that might scrap the need for a divine creator. That the laws of nature in our universe are finely tuned for life seems miraculous, leading some to invoke divine involvement. But if there is a multiverse out there – a multitude of universes, each with its own laws of physics – then the conditions we observe may not be unique.[iii]

The article in which this appears is entitled “M-Theory, Doubts Linker over Godless Multipverse.”[iv] This doesn’t mean they don’t have pure scientific motives, but everyone who studies the issue, from the top physicists to the science beat reporters to the average aficionado who buys the magazine, they all understand the relationship to the issue of God’s existence. That doesn’t mean the scientists are cooking up the theory to thwart religious believers, but they do know they on whose toes they are stepping. Why are they talking about God to begin with? It’s totally out of their domain.
            Not all physicists are convinced either. Peter Woit is a mathematical physicist at Columbia University, he’s not a joiner. Woit has authored a booked entitled Not Even Wrong (a phrase by Wolfgang Pauli that became an  inside joke among physicists meaning so bad it’s not even wrong) in which he argues that there is no proof of string theory. What does string theory have to do with this? M-theory and string theory are both important to the hunt for a unified theory that will tie everything together and explain everything. Hawking identifies M-theory with the grand unified theory, according to Woit it is the super symmetrical theory of gravity.[v] String theory, according to Woit is:

a very complex set of ideas that lots of people, a very large amount of people have worked on and have done a lot of different things with. Probably what it's best known for and what got people all excited about it in the physicist community is the conjecture that, at the most fundamental level, you can understand matter and the universe in terms not of point particles, which is the way our best theory is, currently, you can understand things, but in terms of, if you like, vibrating in loops of some elementary objects here, your elementary object instead of being a point-like thing is something you should think of more as a one dimensional loop, or a string which is kind of moving around.[vi]


These are not exactly the same things but they are very related. Woit writes his book about the inadequate proof for string theory, but in his article about Hawking’s soon to be released book he shows the inadequacy of M-theory. Grand unfied theory is not some attempt to disprove God, it’s a much more purely scientific quest for knowledge. It centers on the basic need science has to explain everything. Woit talks about the beautify of the standard model and how successful its been but it doesn’t explain everything. There are many open questions it does not answer, such as why do different kinds of particles have different masses.[vii] This is a purely scientific question but as the origin of religions got tangaled up with attempts to explain the natural world, so pure attempts at doing modern science are always tanagled up with the need to answer the question of God; or to deny the question of God as the case may be.[viii]  As for the proof of string theory:

Question: Will string theory ever be verifiable or unverifiable?
Peter Woit: Yeah, well as I said, String Theory is actually a very complicated story. If you start out with this hypothesis that maybe your ephemeral objects are not points, but are these strings, there's a lot of different things you can try and do that you have a whole different class of theories you can play with. So, I think a lot of - if you look at what most people, who are still going String Theory are doing, they're actually not directly trying to develop this unified theory anymore. They're off doing other things with String Theory. People these days are trying to apply it to problems in nuclear physics; they're applying it to problems in Solid State Physics, understanding super conductors. So, the people who are still interested in it are often kind of - even if they may or may not explicitly admit that they've given up on the unified theory idea, but they're often doing other things. So, there's a very active pursuit of String theory with other applications that don't have anything to do with unification.
It's also turned out to be very interesting in mathematics. There's a very, one of the things that I'm most interested in is the intersection between mathematics and physics and the way the two fields affect each other and ideas from physics lead to very interesting things about mathematics, ideas in mathematics get used in …physics. And String Theory has been very, very fruitful in terms of raising questions which have led to very interesting mathematics. So, there's a very active field of research kind of in between math and physics in String Theory. But it just doesn't seem to be relevant to this question of unification.[ix]

            As for the proof of M theory, the new Hawking book is a very interesting case of public relations over science. Woit comments on the book n his blog “Not Even Wrong.” He quotes Hawking in a full reversal of this question forr grand unified theory. The publishers focused upon the shcok of “brilliant major scientist gives up on God” but the publicity guys forgot to point out that he’s actually giving up on is his replacement for God. Woit quotes Hawking thirty years ago when he said “we are quite close to a final unified theory.”[x] He quotes him in the new book where he says “we seem to be at a critical point in the history of science

We seem to be at a critical point in the history of science, in which we must alter our conception of goals and of what makes a physical theory acceptable. It appears that the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle. The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes.[xi]

In other words, he’s giving up on grand unified theory because it can’t square with logic or the laws of physics. On the other hand we can set parameters in any number of ways (he means ignore logic and physical law) the math can be self consistent. That is to say it works on paper but we can’t really prove it. Above I showed that he left gravity as the way out through the back door, gravity replaces his organizing principle of grand unified theory which he previously called “the mind of God.”[xii] One wonders which “god” did he really give up on, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in whom he did not believe in the first place, or the grand unified theory God? Woit Quotes him as saying in the Grand Design that it may not be possible to decipher the nature of M-theory: “People are still trying to decipher the nature of M-theory, but that may not be possible. It could be that the physicist’s traditional expectation of a single theory of nature is untenable, and there exists no single formulation. It might be that to describe the universe, we have to employ different theories in different situations.”[xiii] Woit points out that M-theory doesn’t meet the basic criteria Hawking sets forth for a successful theory:
A good model:
1. Is elegant
2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.
The fact that “M-theory” satisfies none of these criteria is not remarked upon.[xiv]

            What is falling between the cracks here, apart from proof for the theory? The whole scientific community seems not to even be waiting for the eggs to hatch, they have not yet been laid, they are just thought about. Suppose they do prove the theory of everything, suppose they do prove a mutliverse exists, does this actually disprove God? The only God it could disprove would be the big guy in the sky; It would only be differing examples of being and thus the fact that more more examples of being have been found would hardly disprove the ground of all being. Moreover it would not even disprove the guy in the sky, as there would still have to be some sort of explanation for a first cause for the mulitverse. Where did gravity come from? Where did the laws of physics that makes the multiverse come form? Why do these disembodied laws seem to work? No doubt they would have to repair to a infinite causal regression. This is something real science has not done in relation to the question of world. They have provided the ability to understand the concept, but they don’t actually say “this is a  scientific fact.” Why would they say that for the mutliverse? What about the ability of plantes in the multiverse to bear life? Wouldn’t we have to actually go there to see if they do? Unless we have empirical proof that many parallel planets actually do bear life the existence of a mulitiverse of barren gracious planet is not disproof of the fine tuning argument. Of course let us not forget all of this assumes we argue for a guy in the sky anyway. People are assuming that a mulitverse would have the same laws of phsyics and thus would produce life as our universe has, but that is not an assumption Hawking makes. As already quoted above: “The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes..” (see FN 27 above). In other words, all the other universes could have different laws of physics and all of those laws of physics could produce a bunch of empty rocks or bags of gas as planets and no life. But all of these possibilities slip between the cracks. The way induction works we make statistical averages, since the only concrete data we have to go by is us, we just average in the factor of live instead of ruling it out, and we assume a godless universe teaming with life.
            Another idea lost between the cracks is an answer to Deutch (above) who says that the Mv is offers the only explanation for the nature of reality. The problem is that is only because they are not willing to a possibility that reality si beyond our ability to understand. They can’t really accept that even if it’s true because it would mean there’s an absolute limit on their mission as scientists. As scientists their basic assumption is they have to keep going until they know it all, at least in terms of the physical world. For other matters they rule that out a prori because it’s not part of the mission. So when he says the Mv theory is the only one that explains reality, the unspoken obvious caveat is, “without becoming a mystic or philosopher.” At this pinot naturalism becomes circular reasoning. Mysticism and philosophy are ruled out because they require one to go beyond naturalism. The assumption is made that only science can prove absolutely in concrete terms what it postulates. The problem is it’s already ruled out other view points, not on concrete terms but because they aren’t’ in its domain. Well, the fact is the theory of everything is not proved, so it can’t be that we are ruling out mysticism on the basis of scientific proof against it! Another possibility that’s ruled out is that even with a naturalistic universe it may not be possible to have a theory of everything. That is also ruled out on ideological grounds, this point will be driven home all the more since Hawking has admitted it.

            Miracles are a good example of things falling between the cracks. Miracles are a very difficult thing to discuss. There are many modern academics who will run in dread at the mention of the term, but that serves to prove my point all the better. Miracles, while they are extremely difficult to prove, are not banned from reality from modern thinking because they have been proved false, the methods used to keep them out, both by creating such amazing prejudice that no one will listen, and by circular reasoning which fallaciously makes them out to be false a priori, these methods are merely the enforcement of a truth regime not indicative of scientific discover. Time and space does not permit a discussion that would truly do this complex subject justice, I shall hit upon some of the scarce highlights. The object here is only to prove, not that miracles happen, but that if miracles did happen their exclusion would be based entirely upon falling through the cracks in the web of naturalism. Or to put it another way, the point is to prove that the exclusion of miracles is not a scientific fact but an ideological protocol. Atheists and skeptics often assume that this kind of talk is motivated by creationist assumptions, and they construe it as an attack upon science. I am not a creationist! This is not an attack upon science; it’s an attack upon the ideology that accompanies science, the doppelganger of science to speak. Atheists assume science is an arm of atheism. Scientists assume they are neutral and no concerned, as scientists, with sectarian matters. Many scientists have their opinions about religious belief and thus they might be gung ho on the ideology that accompanies science as anyone. Science is a human endeavor it cannot be divorced from human motivations in practice. In terms of pure science itself it’s a great and wonderful thing. I would be the last person who wants to put the kybosh on scientific thinking. Nor do I construe scientific thinking as privileging the Bible. As a theologian I privilege the Bible, not as a scientific thinker. I don not call myself a “scientist.” The closest I come to scientific thinking is as a historian of science, in which I was trained at Ph.D. level. There is a distinction between a scientist and historian of science. While I refrain from calling myself that out respect for those who are truly trained academically in the actual pursuit of scientific learning, not out of any disregard for science, I am not exactly unaware of scientific thinking.
            Miracles would be impossible to disprove scientifically. To say that miracles are disproved one would have to disprove all reports; there could always be a report somewhere that hasn’t been disproved. In order to get around these problem naturalists just make an abstract extrapolation based upon induction. We fail to observe miracles in any occasion that we know of and thus we can extrapolate to all of reality. On the other hand, this is the formula for things falling through cracks. It means that some miracle could happen and because it didn’t make it into the reports that science has considered then it’s assumed not to be true. This is even significant than an instance of some drug working or smoking not causing cancer in a few cases, because such things will always be ruled out as anomalies. A true miracle has to involve God (to be a true miracle) and thus if it could be proved to be a true miracle would prove that God is real. Thus that one miracle could happen and fall though the cracks would be very significant. As it so happens there is a great deal of evidence for miracles. The problem is the crack falling process is made even worse because the naturalists take the lack of proved miracles as proof that they don’t happen. It then asserts that further evidence must be false because “there is no evidence.” So even when good evidence exists and is proved it’s ignored. The thing that makes it easy to ignore is that there is and always will be an epistemological gap (this goes back to what I said at the first of the chapter) that science can’t penetrate. Unfortunately, faith can’t penetrate it either. We will always have this gap; it’s the chiasm over which one must make a leap of faith. We can’t observe an event and know by looking if God did it or not. A woman has a broken leg. We x-ray it and see clearly it is broken. We pray for her leg and x-ray it five minutes latter and it’s not broken anymore. The believer will say “the prayer was answered.” The skeptic will say “It was an ‘atypical healing process’ but there’s no proof God did it.” They both have their points. In such a situation the failure to prove God’s involvement is not disproof of a miracle. On the other hand, in a situation like the one described there’s a huge probability argument the believer can make to back up the assumption of a miracle. That assumption would immediately ignored by the skeptic on the grounds of all the other examples where the proof has been ignored. There is no way to overcome the epistemic gap, except by a leap of faith. The gap could be made more easily traversable by a really good platform from which to leap, that’s where arguments come in. Science can’t really ever say “this is not a miracle” because that is beyond its domain. What it can say is “this outstrips our ability to determine the naturalistic reasons for it.” The only thing the believer can say is the very same thing. So there is always going to be a epistemic gap that must be bridged by a leap of faith.
            The absolute best evidence for miracles is the Catholic miracles committee attached to the miracles of Lourdes. The miracles committee operates with the strictest rules in the world for miracle hunters.


The paradox of human miracle assessment is that the only way to discern whether a phenomenon is supernatural is by having trained rationalists testify that it outstrips their training. Since most wonders admitted by the modern church are medical cures, it consults with doctors. Di Ruberto has access to a pool of 60 - "We've got all the medical branches covered," says his colleague, Dr. Ennio Ensoli - and assigns each purported miracle to two specialists on the vanquished ailment.

They apply criteria established in the 1700s by Pope Benedict XIV: among them, that the disease was serious; that there was objective proof of its existence; that other treatments failed; and that the cure was rapid and lasting. Any one can be a stumbling block. Pain, explains Ensoli, means little: "Someone might say he feels bad, but how do you measure that?" Leukemia remissions are not considered until they have lasted a decade. A cure attributable to human effort, however prayed for, is insufficient. "Sometimes we have cases that you could call exceptional, but that's not enough." says Ensoli. "Exceptional doesn't mean inexplicable." "Inexplicable," or inspiegabile, is the happy label that Di Ruberto, the doctors and several other clerics in the
Vatican's "medical conference" give to a case if it survives their scrutiny. It then passes to a panel of theologians, who must determine whether the inexplicable resulted from prayer. If so, the miracle is usually approved by a caucus of Cardinals and the Pope.

Some find the process all too rigorous. Says Father Paolino Rossi, whose job, in effect, is lobbying for would-be saints from his own Capuchin order: "It's pretty disappointing when you work for years and years and then see the miracle get rejected." But others suggest it could be stricter still.

There is another major miracle-validating body in the Catholic world: the International Medical Committee for the shrine at
Lourdes. Since miracles at Lourdes are all ascribed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, it is not caught up in the saint-making process, which some believe the Pope has running overtime. Roger Pilon, the head of Lourdes' committee, notes that he and his colleagues have not approved a miracle since 1989, while the Vatican recommended 12 in 1994 alone. "Are we too severe?" he wonders out loud. "Are they really using the same criteria?"[xv]


I will not go into any detail about the development of rules which is very complex and a rich history in itself. After 1977 the following list became opporational:


1) The diagnostics and authenticity of the disease has been preliminarily and perfectly assessed;

2) The prognosis provides for an impending or short-term fatal outcome;

3) The recovery is sudden, without convalesce, and absolutely complete and final;

4) The prescribed treatment cannot be deemed to have resulted in a recovery or in any case could have been propitiatory for the purposes of recovery itself. These criteria are still in use nowadays, in view of their highly logical, accurate and pertinent nature.[xvi]

This is in addition to very rigorous rules Author: Cardinal Prospero Lambertini,
future Pope Benedict XIV, 1734. The committee requires the finest modern diagnostics and they much receive the records from the patients
doctor. They control for remission, for this reason do not accept leukemia cures unless the person has been cured for ten years (because remission often go back). The committee is made up of medical experts, they use skeptics on the committee as well. The town doesn’t own or control the committee and has no role in the process. The theological issues and input of church hierarchy only go to work on cases passed to them by the medicos.
            These arrangements are so rigorous that out of thousands of miracle claims only about 65 have been accepted as official miracles. They also have 2,500 “remarkable” claims[xvii] that are inexplicable but don’t make the cut due to technical problems in documenting or something of that nature.[xviii] There’s good reason to think a miracle might have occurred somewhere in all of this. There is reason to understand it as a miracle, an event unexplained connected to the divine and guided by the divine for purpose of getting human attention. The only factor that isn’t nailed down with medical documentation and adds to any potential change in the satiation is prayer. The length of time between the healing and the prayer is so short the two can clearly be connected. That leaves a lot of room for gaps in cases where the process is not submitted to the Lourdes committee. In other words who really can say that God would not take a long time to answer a prayer for healing? That rules all those cases and make the epistemic gap even greater, but it is entirely possible miracles could be overlooked all the time.


Since the apparitions at Lourdes in 1858, a procedure has gradually developed for verifying the cures and healings which occur there. Today, Lourdes is recognized as the Church's foremost center for investigating healings. There, medical personnel from all the world are invited to investigate the evidence for reported healings. Included among the medical examiners are those who allow and those who exclude the possibility of miraculous healings. The procedure also attempts to respects the dignity of the person who has been cured. John Paul II reminded the medical personnel of Lourdes that the verification of miraculous cures is Lourdes' "special responsibility and mission" (Nov. 17, 1988).[xix]


This is nothing for a skeptic to deny. Skeptics can always deny. There is no trick to denial, one can deny anything. The point is any or all of these cases could well be miracles. Here are examples of some of the cases:[xx]

Colonel Paul Pellegrin
3 October 1950
age 52; Toulon, France Post-operative fistula following a liver abscess in 1948. By the time of his pilgrimage in 1950, the condition had degenerated to an open wound that required multiple dressing changes each day, and showed no sign of healing. On emerging from his second bath in the waters, the wound had completely closed, and the condition never bothered him again. Recognized by the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France on 8 December 1953.

Brother Schwager Léo
30 April 1952
age 28; Fribourg, Switzerland multiple sclerosis for five years; recognized by the diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland on 18 December 1960

Alice Couteault, born Alice Gourdon
15 May 1952
age 34; Bouille-Loretz, France multiple sclerosis for three years; recognized by the diocese of Poitiers, France on 16 July 1956

Marie Bigot
8 October 1953 and 10 October 1954
age 31 and 32; La Richardais, France arachnoiditis of posterior fossa (blindness, deafness, hemiplegia); recognized by the diocese of Rennes, France 15 August 1956

Ginette Nouvel, born Ginette Fabre
21 September 1954
age 26; Carmaux, France Budd-Chiari disease (supra-hepatic venous thrombosis); recognized by the diocese of Albi on 31 May 1963

Elisa Aloi, later Elisa Varcalli
5 June 1958
age 27; Patti, Italy tuberculous osteo-arthritis with fistulae at multiple sites in the right lower limb; recognized by the diocese of Messine, Italy on 26 May 1965

Juliette Tamburini
17 July 1959
age 22; Marseilles, France femoral osteoperiostitis with fistulae, epistaxis, for ten years; recognized by the diocese of Marseille, France on 11 May 1965

Vittorio Micheli
1 June 1963
age 23; Scurelle, Italy Sarcoma (cancer) of pelvis; tumor so large that his left thigh became loose from the socket, leaving his left leg limp and paralyzed. After taking the waters, he was free of pain, and could walk. By February 1964 the tumor was gone, the hip joint had recalcified, and he returned to a normal life. Recognized by the diocese of Trento, Italy on 26 May 1976.

Serge Perrin
1 May 1970
age 41; Lion D'Angers, France Recurrent right hemiplegia, with ocular lesions, due to bilateral carotid artery disorders. Symptoms, which included headache, impaired speech and vision, and partial right-side paralysis began without warning in February 1964. During the next six years he became wheelchair-confined, and nearly blind. While on pilgrimage to Lourdes in April 1970, his symptoms became worse, and he was near death on 30 April. Wheeled to the Basilica for the Ceremony the next morning, he felt a sudden warmth from head to toe, his vision returned, and he was able to walk unaided. First person cured during the Ceremony of the Anointing of the Sick. Recognized by the diocese of Angers, France on 17 June 1978.

Delizia Cirolli, later Delizia Costa
24 December 1976
age 12; Paterno, Italy Ewing's Sarcoma of right knee; recgonized by the diocese of Catania, Italy on 28 June 1989

Jean-Pierre Bély
9 October 1987
age 51; French multiple sclerosis; recognized by the diocese of Angoulême on 9 February 1999  


            There are any number of reasons why these would fall through the cracks. One of them main reasons is because they are Catholic. They are not the work of official medical academic entities, although they certainly make use of medical experts and scientific data. The official channels of the academy are important. There good logical reasons why we couldn’t trust information if it had no connection with outside sources. On the other hand, skeptics will merely demand that it has to be a lie if it has any connection with a religious institution and then it’s down between the cracks. There may be logical reasons to be couscous but the point is if something falls between the cracks of the world view, the truth regime the ideology in question whatever that may be, science is not in the business of excavating the cracks and it would take remarkable effort to even admit there can be cracks. What the existence of cracks the potential for any sort of epistemic question or ontological reality to fall between them proves is that science is limited, science is human observation, and science is not all knowing. These limitations of science and the propensity to fall between the cracks is a good indication that questions like the question of God are not scientific questions. Saying God is not a scientific question does not mean that God is not a valid belief or that there’s no reason to believe in God. What not being a scientific question means is that we have to use other methods to seek God. Perhaps we should try the method that God seems to have indicated he should try, the human “heart,” meaning the deepest recess of our consciousness, the part of ourselves that is capable of wonder, of desire, of making commitments.



[i] Susan Barber, “A Physicist Explores The Mulitpverse: Quantum Computer Predict Parallel Worlds,”  Electrinic Magazine: The Spirit of Ma’at. Vol 2 number 2. URL: http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/sep2/multivrs.htm visited 9/13/10.
[ii] John Roach, National Geographic Daily News, online for National Geogrphaic News, (March 22), 2010, URL: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100322-dark-flow-matter-outside-universe-multiverse/, visited 9/13/10.
[iii] Kate McAlpine, “M-Theory: Ddoubts Linger Over Godless Universe,” New Scientist, (14 September) 2010 Magine isse 2778 URL: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727780.301-mtheory-doubts-linger-over-godless-multiverse.html visited 9/13/2010.
[iv] Ibid
[v] Stephen Hawking and Peter Woit, bouth statements on Woit’s blog, “Not Even Wrong” 9/7/2010 URL: http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/ visited 9/13/2010.
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Peter Woit, Interview, “Is Sting Theory Stringing us Along?” Big Think Electronic magazine. (Jan 18) 2010. URL: http://bigthink.com/ideas/18234 visited 9/18/2010
[viii] J.L. Hinman, the Trace of God, op cit, chapter 3, “Aguments.” The origin of religion is the sense of the numinous, the human sense that there is some form of holiness or unified nature ot reality, something beyond our understanding that makes reality special. The Atheist assertion that religion was invented to explain nature is really based upon their need to explain nature, once religion became part of human consciousness human naturally looked to it for all answers, but that doesn’t mean that was it’s origin. I draw an analogy between that origin of religion and it’s relation to primitive science, and modern science and It’s tangential nature of questions of God.
[ix] Woit Interview, Ibid.
[x] Woit paraphrasing Hawking, Ibid.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time. New York: Random House, 1991, 185. “if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God.”
[xiii] Ibid
[xiv] Ibid.
[xv] David Van Biema, and Greg Burke, “Modern Miracles Have Strict Rules,” Time Magazine on line. April 10, 1995. URL: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,982807,00.html
[xvi] Franco Balzaretti Vice Presidente Nazionale - Associazione Medici Cattolici Italiani (AMCI)
Membre du Comité Médical International de Lourdes (CMIL) Online Chatolic Newsletter Leadership Medica 2000. http://www.leadershipmedica.com/scientifico/sciedic02/scientificaing/10balzae/10balzaing.htm visited
9/16/2010
[xvii] Marian Library Newsletter, No 38, (new series) 1999, the original quotation is form Nov, 17,1988. URL: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/respub/summer99.html visited 9/17/2010.
[xviii] Balzaretti, Ibid
[xix] Marian Library Newsletter, Ibid.
[xx] Patron Saints Index Lourdes cures. Website URL: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/stb06001.htm visited 9/17/2010. More detailed information available @ Our Lady of Lourdes, another website, URL: http://www.theworkofgod.org/Aparitns/Lourdes/Lourdes1.htm visited 9/17/2010

14 comments:

A Hermit said...

"A good model:
1. Is elegant
2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out."


Seems to me that God is the ultimate "arbitrary or adjustable element..."

Can you explain why we should take the alleged Lourdes cures as more reliable than the claims of Benny Hinn or Peter Popoff? What method, other than empiricism, can we use to reliably distinguish between real and fraudulent miracles?

Metacrock said...

Can you explain why we should take the alleged Lourdes cures as more reliable than the claims of Benny Hinn or Peter Popoff? What method, other than empiricism, can we use to reliably distinguish between real and fraudulent miracles?

those guys don't have rules for determining what to claim as a miracle, Lourdes does. Lourdes had the most struck rules in the world they have a team of medical experts, the rules are designed to screen out remissions and their rules require that they have everything documented by medical scinece.

the other guys don't do any of that. That's how we know Lourdes is seriously those other guys are not. The Lourdes site does not generate revenue for anyone. People in the town generate their own revenue by taking advantage of it but the RCC doesn't.

The town doesn't own the site.

Ron Krumpos said...

In "The Grand Design" Stephen Hawking postulates that M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics...the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate, but never completed. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

E=mc², Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

A Hermit said...

"those guys don't have rules for determining what to claim as a miracle, Lourdes does."

My question was, what methodology are you applying to distinguish the "real" miracles from the fake ones?

Scientology has "rules" for Dianetics too. What makes the Lourdes committee's rules more reliable?

Metacrock said...

so you didn't read the post?

MonkeyBarrs said...

The scientific method is not particularly helpful for understanding phenomena outside a controlled environment. Real life involves too many variable, and real life is where I have to live. When my wife was receiving cancer treatments at Johns Hopkins, we were often encouraged by members of the staff who admitted that they were praying for us and that they prayed for all their patients (I must add that they were exceptionally professional and waited until we brought up faith before they said anything). I thought about how these prayers by members of medical community and staff probably invalidate studies of the efficacy of prayer where there is a control group of patience who supposedly are not being prayed for. Was my wife's healing a result of the application of medical knowledge (e.g., scientific reductionism), yes. Can I rule out the involvement of God, no. Once you accept that God's ultimate revelation was as a homeless wanderer sentenced to die as a worthless criminal in a backwater colony of an ancient empire, you realize that God is a lot more subtle than we would like him to be.

Keep up the good work.

Metacrock said...

hey monekybarrs that is a priceless post. thanks for your comments. that's really good to hear.

I have known for a long time that people in the medical profession know about those studies and they even teach little classes on faith and payer in some medical schools. I fact I used to have pages arguing about we are in a paradigm shift because of those studies and other things.

a-hermit said...

'so you didn't read the post?"

Yeah I did, but it doesn't really answer my question.

a-hermit said...

The question was, "What method, other than empiricism, can we use to reliably distinguish between real and fraudulent miracles?"

The Lourdes rules are clearly an attempt to demonstrate that something out of the ordinary, or miraculous, has occurred.

What they don't do, of course, is demonstrate that there is any reason to connect a visit to Lourdes to the spontaneous remission of any condition, especially since such spontaneous remissions occur at a greater frequency for patients who DON'T travel to Lourdes than for those who do. Having a fever appears to be more closely associated to spontaneous remission of some cancers than visiting a shrine of any kind. So, if anything, Lourdes appears to be associated with a suppression of such "miracles", which are more probably die to hormonal or immune system mechanisms.

Kristen said...

Hermit, this seems disingenuous:

"What method, other than empiricism, can we use to reliably distinguish between real and fraudulent miracles?" (Emphasis added)

What are you really asking? Metacrock gave you empirical methods (ie., the careful empirical examination of the before-and-after state of health of the individuals involved), that help reliably distinguish that the healing was not fraudulent. As to whether it was from God, Metacrock admitted that it could not be empirically proven that these(empirically demonstrated to be actual) healings were from God.

Are you questioning whether the healings were actual? If so, why are you insisting on non-empirical means? A healing is an event that can be determined empirically.

If you are questioning how we can "know" that these healings are from God-- Metacrock told you, we can't. But neither can we "know" that they are not from God. That's actually the point Metacrock's making. It requires a leap of faith. But it is not unreasonable or irrational to make such a leap, especially given one's own experiences of the numinous.

But you want to know how to non-empirically establish that the miracles were not "fraudulent." What exactly are you asking? Plese define "fraudulent," and explain why you are insisting upon non-empirical methods to establish lack of "fraudulence."

Kristen said...

. . . Because here's the deal. One day scientists might discover a purely physical explanation for the Lourdes miracles, or a reason why the only thing they have in common is a visit to this religious site immediately prior to their occurrence. Just as scientists might someday discover real empirical evidence for a multiverse. But until they do, their belief in the existence of these things is based on rational warrant, just as beliefs in God are-- and they have no more evidence (according to their own definition of acceptable evidence) for their "leap of faith" than theists do. To deny this is to claim special privilege for their position.

Metacrock said...

All Excellent points Kristen

Metacrock said...

The question was, "What method, other than empiricism, can we use to reliably distinguish between real and fraudulent miracles?"


Empiricism is the method for that. Of cousre it goes without saying you have to combine logic withe empiricism or you can't interpret your data.

The Global knowledge idea deals with the overall question God and life and the big picture, the ascertaining of miracles is really small picture. Empirical methods would be the method there, but empiricism as an ideology or a philosophy is way too limited.


The Lourdes rules are clearly an attempt to demonstrate that something out of the ordinary, or miraculous, has occurred.


What's wrong with that? that's what your trying to figure out.

What they don't do, of course, is demonstrate that there is any reason to connect a visit to Lourdes to the spontaneous remission of any condition, especially since such spontaneous remissions occur at a greater frequency for patients who DON'T travel to Lourdes than for those who do.

No you are clearly confused about the nature of remission. Now this is what the member of Lourdes committee told me in our exchanges of email: Remission never means the total absolute vanishing of traces overnight. Remission is not the condition is totally gone in one night as though it never existed. That's what some of the Lourdes miracle are and that is not remission. Remission is the backing up of the condition over time, it reverses itself for a while. Many remissions cease and the disease comes back.

Moreover, as I pointed out in my piece, the rules are set up to screen out remission. You are also confused in saying there's no way to tell, there certainly is, because you go by the appearance of remissions that we know are remission. Study the instances that re not claimed as miracle see if the case conforms to it. that's why they are able to determine how to screen for it in the rules.

For example they don't take leukemia healing for 10 years after the incident becuase remissions are high.




Having a fever appears to be more closely associated to spontaneous remission of some cancers than visiting a shrine of any kind. So, if anything, Lourdes appears to be associated with a suppression of such "miracles", which are more probably die to hormonal or immune system mechanisms.

Your thinking is so illogical. If you have a case where the disease is gone without a trace overnight, that is not remission that's something different. So you look to see what int h patient background is different than other Patience. If the only thing is going to Lourdes then you got it. that's every reason in the world to connect the two, especially since the rules say it has to be immediate.

a-hermit said...

"...their belief in the existence of these things is based on rational warrant, just as beliefs in God are-- and they have no more evidence (according to their own definition of acceptable evidence) for their "leap of faith" than theists do. To deny this is to claim special privilege for their position."

What leap of faith? I'm saying that something may happen which we do not understand and do not(and may never)have an explanation for. Atheism, for me at least, is in part the patient acceptance of the fact that we can't know everything.

And I'm sorry, but I don't see any more rational warrant to associate a trip to Lourdes with spontaneous healing than I see for associating a lucky rabbit's foot with a compulsive gambler the occasional win at the craps table.