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SkepticalScience
18th August 2003, 11:21 AM
Hey guys. . .

I am still developing my list to ask a priest, but i ran into a religious person yesterday asking me how i explain miracles. . .

She mentioned that in Lourdes there are hundreds of people, that conventional doctors and scientists gave up on, that went to lourdes, prayed and were cured.

When i asked if we can do a test she says that god works in mysterious ways, and won't always do things on command.

So i was wondering if someone can give me another explanation that i could have bounced off to her.

(She also mentioned an event in fatima where the sun came out and dried up a whole bunch of people. . . i forgot what it was called but if someone knows what it was, please post it)

Thanks a lot guys!

Skeptical Greg
18th August 2003, 11:38 AM
Originally posted by SkepticalScience
Hey guys. . .


She mentioned that in Lourdes there are hundreds of people, that conventional doctors and scientists gave up on, that went to lourdes, prayed and were cured.


Thanks a lot guys!

You could point out that it is simply not documented...

Ask her if she would like to take a tour of a local childrens cancer ward, and continue the discussion about miracles. Ask her if God owns a travel agency, and gets a big kick-back from Air France?

SkepticalScience
18th August 2003, 11:43 AM
Well, her claim is that it IS documented.

All over the place actually. . .

I asked her for these papers. . .but i wish i had something more substantive than, 'I don't trust your scientists'

I'll_buy_that
18th August 2003, 11:44 AM
Ask why he's so selective. There are numerous times where people will state something like

the tornado killed my neighbors, but god spared my house.

god cured the cancer from my sister. (i guess he didn't care about the thousands of others who die every year)

Anything to do with fatima is a fallacy. Nothing is ever documented, all stories start out like every other urban legend "once my sister has a friend who knows this guy..."

Aoidoi
18th August 2003, 12:16 PM
Randi had a good comment about Lourdes and other similar places. They always have crutches and such arrayed to imply people are healed, but they never seem to have glass eyes, or pacemakers, or surgical pins... :D

I doubt it will do any good to argue with her, but the fact is that people are not healed at these places. There is often a short term improvement (or impression of improvement) due to adrenaline and endorphins that can make a person feel better, but this is not a cure. People may convince themselves that they are better, but delusions of healing do not translate into health.

The Faith Healers by Randi was an good read on the subject (shameless plug, but it's the only reference I know off hand).

Edit: oh, and Fatima was one of those times when a bunch of people after the event kept adding to it until I doubt a single person who watched the occurance would recognize it. Some people saw something, some didn't... and I'd imagine staring at the sun in midday heat would cause a number of interesting perceptions if you did it long enough.

... and if it is true, it really just points out the utterly arbitrary nature ascribed to God. I mean, he's willing to make the sun bounce around for some people already faithful enough to go out and stare at on the word of a girl it what does that say for him?

triadboy
18th August 2003, 12:34 PM
How come 'miracles' always happen in backwater, Catholic, third-world locations?

jasonmccoy
18th August 2003, 12:37 PM
Originally posted by SkepticalScience
Hey guys. . .

I am still developing my list to ask a priest, but i ran into a religious person yesterday asking me how i explain miracles. . .

She mentioned that in Lourdes there are hundreds of people, that conventional doctors and scientists gave up on, that went to lourdes, prayed and were cured.

When i asked if we can do a test she says that god works in mysterious ways, and won't always do things on command.

So i was wondering if someone can give me another explanation that i could have bounced off to her.

(She also mentioned an event in fatima where the sun came out and dried up a whole bunch of people. . . i forgot what it was called but if someone knows what it was, please post it)

Thanks a lot guys!

First, your friend must understand that the plural of anecdote is not evidence. Also:

Anecdotal Evidence

Usually very weak 'positive' evidence

Description of one, or a small number of specific instances, presumably of the same type, general nature, or structure. Better used as 'negative' evidence; as counterexamples

An anecdote is one sort of example. How does anecdotal evidence really work?
Obviously an anecdote, or another kind of example, cannot prove a general statement, so
avoid treating a single case as proving a general point. On the other hand, a single
anecdote or counterexample is alone sufficient to disprove a general statement. One successful anecdote will show that one must modify one's claim. An anecdote will not
count as weighty evidence, however, either in support of or in opposition to a more
limited, narrower claim, which is not intended to apply generally.

Hope this helps.

You might also try Joe Nickels book Looking for a Miracle. It does a great job of poking holes in the miracle cure theory! Also, it can be found for 1 or 2 dollars at half.com

arcticpenguin
18th August 2003, 12:49 PM
Millions of people have visited Lourdes and Fatima. A few hundred people who temporarily think they're cured would be no big deal. If they insist there are ironclad cases where the medical records are available before and after visiting Lourdes, and the cure is established beyond what could be expalined by psychosomatics, etc., then you should demand they supply that evidence.

(Hint: it doesn't exist)

arcticpenguin
18th August 2003, 12:51 PM
You could also point out that even exposed frauds like "faith healer" Peter Popoff have their "satisfied csutomers". Generally, documentation is lacking.

Flaherty
18th August 2003, 01:30 PM
Originally posted by SkepticalScience
Hey guys. . .

I am still developing my list to ask a priest, but i ran into a religious person yesterday asking me how i explain miracles. . .

She mentioned that in Lourdes there are hundreds of people, that conventional doctors and scientists gave up on, that went to lourdes, prayed and were cured.

When i asked if we can do a test she says that god works in mysterious ways, and won't always do things on command.

So i was wondering if someone can give me another explanation that i could have bounced off to her.

(She also mentioned an event in fatima where the sun came out and dried up a whole bunch of people. . . i forgot what it was called but if someone knows what it was, please post it)

Thanks a lot guys!


Unless I am mistaken, the Catholic Church has officially recognized about 65 miraculous cures attributed to Lourdes since the apparitions. Let's just assume for argument all the cures are genuine. Probably 1 million people on average visit that shrine every year and hope to be cured. Just to use round numbers, that means that 65 of 100 million people have been cured, which yields a cure rate of about 0.000065%. Apparently, this cure rate is *less* than the standard remission rates for many kinds of cancer. So, does visiting Lourdes worsen your chance of a cancer remission? Who knows. But it does appear that the cure rate at best is no different than if those 100 million people had made pilgrimages to the big Hollywood sign in California.

Edited to add that the www.lourdesfrance.org web site claims 5 million people a year visit the town. It's not clear what % visit the town for the purpose of seeking a cure.

arcticpenguin
18th August 2003, 03:07 PM
You could also point out that a recent "miracle" documented by the Holy Roman Catholic Church and attributed to Mother Teresa is highly questionable: http://www.rense.com/general30/terr.htm
http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501021021-364433,00,00.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2593073.stm
http://indiabroad.rediff.com/news/2002/oct/19teres1.htm

So that even if the Church did give their stamp of approval to some Lourdes cures, it doesn't matter much because they have not maintained standards.