Baker’s “Miracle” Minions

March 14, 2011

My letter to the Buffalo News —calling for an end to the “miracles game” played by the Catholic Church for its canonization process (and quoted at the end of my previous blog)—provoked many responses to the newspaper. Indeed it represented the News’ top letter writers’ response for the week. Three of the letters were published in the March 6 edition.

The lapses in critical thinking were profound. Not one of the three seemed to grasp the fundamental illogic of an “argument from ignorance” (e.g., ‘We don’t know why a person’s medical condition improved remarkably, so it must be a miracle’). Responded Ron Solomon, “That’s why it’s called a miracle, because there is no scientific explanation for a cause of the effect of a supernatural occurrence.” In fact (as Mr. Solomon could probably understand if he tried), if we don’t know why something happened, we cannot claim we therefore do know and that it was a miracle.

Solomon also showed he did not understand the principle that the burden of proof regarding a claim lies with the proponent, not on someone else to prove a negative. Regarding me, he said: “His statement that there’s no credible evidence for other than a real, natural world may be true right now. But there also is no credible evidence that can prove that all existence did not come from a super intelligent being.”

Solomon’s failure to understand who has the burden of proof was shared by the other two letter writers. Dawn Curazzato wrote: “He went on to say that science has never proved the occurrence of a single miracle but he neglected to say there are thousands of miracles that science has not been able to disprove either.”

Likewise, Gary H. Kent replied: “There is no scientific proof that God exists, but look around you. Nor is there scientific proof that God does not exist. Similarly, there is no scientific proof that a miracle did not occur.” Kent also wondered: “Does there have to be ‘scientific proof’ that a miracle occurs? And what is scientific proof really? Is it not feasible that if someone believes a miracle occurred, it did?”

Curazzato mentioned Lourdes, but the medical bureau there—an international panel of physicians appointed by the “Church to identify “miracles” at the shrine—announced in 2008 it would end the unscientific practice. Henceforth, the panel will only indicate whether a case is “remarkable.” (See my blog, “Lourdes Medical Bureau Rebels,” December 25, 2008.) The doctors have taken an important step in the right direction; defenders of the miracle game please take notice.