Home » Intelligent Design » G.K. Chesterton on Why Materialists, Not Theists, Are The Dogmatists

G.K. Chesterton on Why Materialists, Not Theists, Are The Dogmatists

The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder. The plain, popular course is to trust the peasant’s word about the ghost exactly as far as you trust the peasant’s word about the landlord. Being a peasant he will probably have a great deal of healthy agnosticism about both.

Still you could fill the British Museum with evidence uttered by the peasant, and given in favour of the ghost. If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural. If you reject it, you can only mean one of two things. You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story.

That is, you either deny the main principle of democracy, or you affirm the main principle of materialism — the abstract impossibility of miracle. You have a perfect right to do so; but in that case you are the dogmatist. It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence — it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed.

But I am not constrained by any creed in the matter, and looking impartially into certain miracles of mediaeval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred. All argument against these plain facts is always argument in a circle. If I say, “Mediaeval documents attest certain miracles as much as they attest certain battles,” they answer, “But mediaevals were superstitious”; if I want to know in what they were superstitious, the only ultimate answer is that they believed in the miracles. If I say “a peasant saw a ghost,” I am told, “But peasants are so credulous.” If I ask, “Why credulous?” the only answer is — that they see ghosts.

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102 Responses to G.K. Chesterton on Why Materialists, Not Theists, Are The Dogmatists

  1. Chesterton was spot on, as usual. I think people are beginning to appreciate him more these days. I saw a website of a G K Chesterton Club in Argentina or Brazil recently.

  2. The problem is that we have evidence of murders and landlords, but none of ghosts.

  3. I like the way Chesterton cites fact after fact.

  4. Starbuck,

    Do you mean, evidence other than eyewitness testimony?

  5. Materialists dont get to decide what counts as evidence and what doesnt, nor do they get to impose their self serving definition of evidence onto others. Geez, the arrogance of these people! They just dismiss whole swaths of human experience with the wave of a hand.

  6. 6

    Absolutely fabulous!!! Thank you Starbuck and LarTanner. I put up a post in which Chesterton makes a particular point, and then you come into the comment section and prove Chesterton’s point. Your Christmas present is either a little late or a lot early. Thanks again.

  7. As to evidence for ‘ghosts’:

    NDE’s (Ghosts) certainly trump Evolution in terms of evidence:

    Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test – Dr. Michael Egnor – October 15, 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, about 20 percent of NDE’s are corroborated, which means that there are independent ways of checking about the veracity of the experience. The patients knew of things that they could not have known except by extraordinary perception — such as describing details of surgery that they watched while their heart was stopped, etc. Additionally, many NDE’s have a vividness and a sense of intense reality that one does not generally encounter in dreams or hallucinations.,,,
    The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species (or origin of life), which is never.,,,
    The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. NDE’s show fellows like Coyne at their sneering unscientific irrational worst. Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn.
    Note: Dr. Egnor is professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65301.html

    As to the plausibility of NDE’s (ghosts) concerning the structure of physical reality, well, they are found to be very plausible from what we can make out of the structure of physical reality:

    It is important to note that higher dimensions are invisible to our physical 3 Dimensional sight. The reason why ‘higher dimensions’ are invisible to our 3D vision is best illustrated by ‘Flatland’:

    Dr. Quantum in Flatland – 3D in a 2D world – video
    http://www.disclose.tv/action/....._2D_world/

    Perhaps some may think that we have no scientific evidence to support the view that higher ‘invisible’ dimensions are above this 3 Dimensional world, but a person would be wrong in that presumption. Higher invisible dimensions are corroborated by Special Relativity when considering the optical effects for traveling at the speed of light. Please note the optical effect, noted at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape around the direction of travel as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light:

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5733303/

    The preceding video was made by two Australian University physics professors. Here is the interactive website, with link to the relativistic math at the bottom of the page, related to the preceding video;

    Seeing Relativity
    http://www.anu.edu.au/Physics/Searle/

    As well, as with the ‘scientifically’ verified tunnel for special relativity to a higher dimension, we also have scientific confirmation of extreme ‘tunnel curvature’, within space-time, to a eternal ‘event horizon’ at black holes;

    Space-Time of a Black hole
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0VOn9r4dq8

    It is also interesting to point out that a ‘tunnel’ to a higher dimension is also a common feature of Near Death Experiences:

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    The following testimony, at the start of the following video, is interesting for the NDEr (Vicki) tells of trying to reach out to someone in the operating room and yet her hand passed right through their shoulder:

    Near Death Experience Tunnel – Speed Of Light – Turin Shroud – video
    http://www.vimeo.com/18371644

    Vicki also commented:

    “I was in a body, and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head, it had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And it was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.”,,, “And then this vehicle formed itself around me. Vehicle is the only thing, or tube, or something, but it was a mode of transportation that’s for sure! And it formed around me. And there was no one in it with me. I was in it alone. But I knew there were other people ahead of me and behind me. What they were doing I don’t know, but there were people ahead of me and people behind me, but I was alone in my particular conveyance. And I could see out of it. And it went at a tremendously, horrifically, rapid rate of speed. But it wasn’t unpleasant. It was beautiful in fact. I was reclining in this thing, I wasn’t sitting straight up, but I wasn’t lying down either. I was sitting back. And it was just so fast. I can’t even begin to tell you where it went or whatever it was just fast!” –
    Vicki’s NDE – Blind since birth – quote taken from first part of the preceding video

    What’s more is that special relativity (and general relativity) also confirm the ‘eternity’ for this higher dimension. i.e. Time, as we understand it temporally, would come to a complete stop at the speed of light. To grasp the whole ‘time coming to a complete stop at the speed of light’ concept a little more easily, imagine moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light. Would not the hands on the clock stay stationary as you moved away from the face of the clock at the speed of light? Moving away from the face of a clock at the speed of light happens to be the same ‘thought experiment’ that gave Einstein his breakthrough insight into e=mc2.

    Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight Into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6545941/

    “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.”
    Albert Einstein – The Einstein Factor – Reader’s Digest

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    It is also interesting to point out that this ‘eternal’ framework for time at the speed of light is also witnessed in Near Death Experience testimonies:

    ‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’
    Mickey Robinson – Near Death Experience testimony

    ‘When you die, you enter eternity. It feels like you were always there, and you will always be there. You realize that existence on Earth is only just a brief instant.’
    Dr. Ken Ring – has extensively studied Near Death Experiences

    ‘Earthly time has no meaning in the spirit realm. There is no concept of before or after. Everything – past, present, future – exists simultaneously.’ -
    Kimberly Clark Sharp – NDE testimony

    ‘Time dilation’, i.e. eternity, is confirmed by many lines of scientific evidence but basically the simplest way to understand this ‘eternal framework’ is to realize that this higher dimensional, ‘eternal’, inference for the time framework of light is warranted because light is not ‘frozen within time’ yet it is also shown that time, as we understand it, does not pass for light. This paradox is only possible for time at the speed of light if temporal time is a lower dimensional time that was created from a higher dimension that ‘contains all temporal time’,

  8. Moreover, the correct ‘top down’ structure of how our bodies are constructed certainly support “Ghosts”,,,

    1.The lowest level of our bodies are the material atoms of our body.
    2.The next higher level of our bodies is the energy of our bodies (biophotons).
    3.The next higher level of our bodies is the quantum entanglement/information of our bodies (of which the classical information that is encoded on our DNA is found to be a subset of that quantum information).
    4. The highest level of our bodies is the consciousness of our mind.

    References:

    Light is found to be directing the chemical reactions of the material particles in the body by the following:

    Are humans really beings of light?
    Excerpt: “We now know, today, that man is essentially a being of light.”,,, “There are about 100,000 chemical reactions happening in every cell each second. The chemical reaction can only happen if the molecule which is reacting is excited by a photon… Once the photon has excited a reaction it returns to the field and is available for more reactions… We are swimming in an ocean of light.”
    http://viewzone2.com/dna.html

    Moreover, Quantum entanglement/information is now found in our body on a massive scale:

    Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight – 2009
    Excerpt: DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn’t be able to.,,, The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.
    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_.....ave-t.html

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – Elisabeth Rieper – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Physicists Discover Quantum Law of Protein Folding – February 22, 2011
    Quantum mechanics finally explains why protein folding depends on temperature in such a strange way.
    Excerpt: First, a little background on protein folding. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that become biologically active only when they fold into specific, highly complex shapes. The puzzle is how proteins do this so quickly when they have so many possible configurations to choose from.
    To put this in perspective, a relatively small protein of only 100 amino acids can take some 10^100 different configurations. If it tried these shapes at the rate of 100 billion a second, it would take longer than the age of the universe to find the correct one. Just how these molecules do the job in nanoseconds, nobody knows.,,,
    Their astonishing result is that this quantum transition model fits the folding curves of 15 different proteins and even explains the difference in folding and unfolding rates of the same proteins.
    That’s a significant breakthrough. Luo and Lo’s equations amount to the first universal laws of protein folding. That’s the equivalent in biology to something like the thermodynamic laws in physics.
    http://www.technologyreview.co.....n-folding/

    The implications of finding ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, quantum information/entanglement in our body on a massive scale are fairly self evident:

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: The remaining option is to accept that (quantum) influences must be infinitely fast,,,
    “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142217.htm

    Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? – Stuart Hameroff – video (notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/29895068

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness (Permanence/Conservation of Quantum Information) – Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video
    https://vimeo.com/39982578

    Music and verse:

    The Police – Spirits In The Material World – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq0KW-_48Cc

    Luke 23:43
    Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

  9. You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story.

    I’m sceptical about any story involving discontinuities and I am also aware that people are eminently capable of making things up, as, say, with Chesterton’s Auberon Quin. Shared experience and other such corroboration is a good test. Barry, of all people, (I would have thought) would be aware of the danger in condemning anyone on the word of a single witness.

  10. @starbuck – Starbuck you have a problem because you do exactly what Chesterton says, your decision is not based on all the evidence, but is based on your rejection of some evidence. Your problem ( which I expect you think is rational, but is actually incredibly irrational (see further down) ) is you reject all but scientific evidence.

    Scientific evidence is a particularly limited set of evidence which is rarely present in large quantities. This is because of the stringent requirements of an ensemble of controllable, repeatable events.

    In any investigation of a singular event we are only making a probability calculation. Given the hypothesis what is the probability of it being true? When you say we have evidence for murders or landlords – all you are saying is you have a whole lot of repeatable, controllable events that we classify with the abstract labels “landlords” and “murders”. There can be no scientific evidence of a singular, non-controllable event. All miracles by definition are singular and non-controllable.

    Thus the circular argument. I only accept scientific evidence => I will never find evidence for the miraculous. This is the essence of dogmatism.

    ________

    Now the reason i say the your rejection of all but scientific evidence is irrational is that your claim of rationality has no scientific basis.

    In order to make a rational decision, you must make your decision based solely on piecing together the immaterial abstract ideas to make a choice. The reason this must be done in the immaterial abstract world is otherwise we can not possibly compare all the evidence.

    For example – If I am going to claim there is a fire – I need to integrate sense of touch ( it’s hot ), sense of sight ( it’s bright ), sense of smell ( it’s smells like ash ) along with immaterial ideas ( some bloke just shouted “FIRE!” ), ( someone else told me last week that there was flammable material here ). In order to do the comparison and contrast of all the information, we must either import the immaterial ideas to the physical world, or import the physical inputs to the immaterial abstract world.

    Since the decision itself ( I think a fire exists ) belongs to the immaterial set of ideas, we must be importing the physical facts to the realm of immaterial information. We then make a rational decision.

    So rationality itself depends on us being able to import physical information into the realm of the immaterial. You may classify this immaterial realm as “natural” as some do, or “supernatural” as I do. But either way it is not physical ( i.e. it has no lifetime ( it is always present), and does not respond to any natural forces ( strong nuclear, electro-weak, gravitational ). So the claim to make rational decisions depends on the existence of a world beyond the physical. Rational decisions are therefore non-physical entities that only exist in the immaterial world. Simply put, to believe in only physicalism and profess rationality, is irrational.

    So let’s investigate your claim that you make “rational” decisions. Since a rational choice involves the comparison between non-physical entities, there can be no scientific evidence that you made a rational decision. I can therefore reject your claim you made a rational decision because you present no scientific evidence for it.

  11. I mean independent evidence of murder and landlords, yes.

  12. I am perfectly happy for the ID people to be endorsing the evidential value of uneducated, superstitious peasants claiming to have seen ghosts. Although it’s a little funny that no one has managed to get one on video in the modern age, what with the ghosts being so commonly seen and all.

  13. 13

    @Alan re[9]: “Barry, of all people, (I would have thought) would be aware of the danger in condemning anyone on the word of a single witness.”

    How about thousands of witnesses Alan?

    Cheterton again: “If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural.”

    I assume you will discount all of them, and that, of course, is Chesterton’s point. You are a dogmatist, and dogmatists are not open to any amount of evidence. They will always find a reason to be skeptical of evidence that contradicts their dogma.

    Are there any materialists out there who will come onto this thread and attempt to negate Chesterton’s argument instead of providing further proof of its validity?

  14. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them

    You bet. Ockams razor.
    Barry: If I told you my bus was late this morning, and then told you that when it arrived, it descended from the sky accompanied by a heavenly choir, I think (I hope) you would regard the 2 pieces of information with very different levels of skepticism.

  15. Barry quoting Chesterton;

    If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural.

    I prefer to speak of reality and imagination. If we are talking about ghosts, then people’s imagination is the only evidence we have for ghosts. There is incidentally, an imaginative ( ;) ) explanation as to why people are prone to imagine scary critters lurking in the dark. There may be some survival advantage.

    Dogmatism, Barry? I’ll let you judge. Seems you have a talent for it!

    Are there any materialists out there who will come onto this thread and attempt to negate Chesterton’s argument instead of providing further proof of its validity?

    Sorry, I’m a realist.

  16. Hehe, uneducated superstitious peaseants arent the only ones to report paranormal or supernatural phenomena. Scientists, some of which were atheists or materialist, have reported supernatutal phenomena such as reanimated corpses and other such things. Many of these reports are well documented in Craig Keeners book, “Miracles”. In short people from all walks of life and all sorts of educational and cultural backgrounds have reported supernatural experieces, throughout all of history and into the present. Not just ” superstitious peasants.” I really wish atheist skeptics would drop the presumption that they get to speak for every rational person on the planet and that their mundane personal experience is universally shared among intelligent people.
    As for video evidence of ghosts, LOL! Would that even faze the skeptic? They could just claim its fake or whatnot. And btw there is video evidence of ghosts.

  17. 17

    Alan Fox: “If we are talking about ghosts, then people’s imagination is the only evidence we have for ghosts.”

    Another statement emanating from your dogma. How do you know that every single one of the thousands upon thousands of eye witness accounts of ghosts is solely the product of imagination? Answer: Your dogma demands it. Alan, your inability to see this simple truth is another manifestation of your dogmatism.

  18. 18

    Graham2 @ 14. You don’t seem to understand what Chesterton is saying. He is not saying we have to suspend our credulity with regard to every single account of a supposedly supernatural event no matter how absurd.

    Let’s use your “bus from heaven” as an example.

    As a rule miracles do not occur. That’s why we call them miracles. If you told me that story I would be skeptical. In fact, I would not believe it.

    But what if hundreds of unrelated people from all walks of life reported the same miraculous event? And what if they persisted in their story while being tortured to death when all they had to do to stop the torture was to recant?

    Chesterton and I would say, “We have to be open to at least the possibiliy that they are telling the truth.” You, being a dogmatic materialist would not have that option. Instead, you would have to say they allowed themselves to be tortured to death when all they had to do was recant a story they knew to be a lie.

    Occam’s razor indeed.

  19. Even “scientific evidence” is based upon witness testimony.

    So by all means, let’s disregard all witness testimony.

    And scientists believe in things they cannot even see, or measure! How’s that for a step down from belief in ghosts?

  20. Some miracles are rare, others are so commonplace that we have stopped recognizing them for what they are.

  21. Multiple witnesses claimed to see uri geller bending spoons, and this supernatural claim (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QlfMsZwr8rc) was debunked on national tv, but not before fooling many. I’m not against testimony as evidence, it’s just unreliable, which is why many on death row get off on DNA inference. Come back to us, come back to mainstream society, come back to the 21st century. There’s so much you all can do.

  22. What proper noun designates the practitioner of scientism? I would suggest, a ‘nescientist’: in popular parlance, a ‘know-nothing’. With their insane assumptions – never mind if the corporate funders of todays’ seats of higher learning say otherwise – no academic accreditation, no matter how elevated, can offset the baneful bankruptcy of their intellectual dereliction.

    I couldn’t help thinking of these infinitely gullible pseudo-sceptics, when reading the opening paragraph of Chapter 6, Amid the Demigods, of Palle Yourgrau’s book, A World without Time, the forgotten legacy of Godel and Einstein.

    ’6/ Amid the Demigods

    “When pygmies cast such long shadows, it must be very late in the day”

    GIAN-CARLO ROTA

    ‘Princeton is not Vienna. Having fled Nazi-occupied Austria, Godel and Adele found themselves in an Ivy League college town, small, provincial and inbred, dominated by the imposing presence of the University, itself outclassed by the still more prestigious Institute for Advanced Study. Princeton’s students may have touted themselves as the creme de la creme; the institute could boast that mere students, of whatever calibre, were not welcome. In these streets, it was hard to avoid rubbing shoulders with the intellectual elite, and with those who thought themselves as such. Bertrand Russell was unimpressed, He found Princeton ‘full of new Gothic, and… as like Oxford as monkeys can make it.’ Einstein was more delicate (evidently, Yourgrau’s tongue is as wickedy satirical as either): Princeton is a wonderful piece of earth and at the same time an exceedingly amusing ceremonial backwater of tiny, spindly-shanked demigods.’ The pygmies on stilts would have to make way for the entrance of two giants.

    If only… Incredible as it seems, Godel felt intimidated by the pygmies’ culture of nescience to the point where he was ashamed of his Christian faith and sought to conceal it!

    What is perhaps still more fantasmagorical, is that those great exponents of the merits of the common-sense belief in, nay, the certainty of Intelligent Design, and indeed, their peers, such as Planck and Bohr, would still be ‘on the back foot, today!!!!! Albeit for not much longer.

  23. Your passion and brilliance is being wasted on Bronze Age myths

  24. Alan Fox:

    If we are talking about ghosts, then people’s imagination is the only evidence we have for ghosts.

    And how do YOU know that, Alan? It is a given that you don’t know what evidence is. So how would you know if there is evidence for ghosts or not?

  25. Nick, Alan, starbuck, and LarTanner are just upset because there is more evidence for ghosts than there is for there position.

    Deal with it guys…

  26. Starbuck, although I have disagreed very strongly with you on many things in the past, this following video on your site just earned my respect for you very much:

    “Legitmately” Raped
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m_nuhi-Jqc

  27. Bornagain, much appreciated, I don’t always respond to your posts but I do read them

  28. If david blaine or cris angel do a trick where it seems like they pulled a chickens head off with their hands and then put it back, and I report that I saw what looked like a chicken getting its head pulled off and put back, does that mean that my testimony is unreliable? I would think not. The trick is deliberately done to make it SEEM that way. Thats what you are supposed to see. This has no analog to stories of ghosts. What, I saw something that looked like a ghost but it really was just a holographic trick by a prankster? LOL! You fail.

  29. 29

    A little something I wrote some time ago in a forum far, far away:
    Why it is irrational to believe there is no afterlife

    There is evidence (yes, even scientific) for the existence of god, the supernatural, and the afterlife; there is no evidence (that I’m aware of, that anyone has offered me) that those things do not exist.

    Even if there were a lack of evidence (which there is not), a lack of evidence is not evidence of nonexistence. At best, one can say they are unconvinced by the evidence, which would make them undecided or agnostic about such claims; however, they certainly cannot reasonably claim that the evidence supports a view that such things do not exist.

    It’s fairly obvious that the belief that such things do not exist are rooted in ideological commitment and not reason or evidence-based positions.

  30. Chesterton should have read Bayes. A priori unlikely events require stronger evidence that likely ones, so Chesterton should be a bit more skeptical of his apple women’s (or anyone else’s) testomony.

  31. Nick at 12,

    The peasant’s personal ghosts seem to be rather like the materialist’ mythical mechanisms of life, correct? And the peasant has as much of an explanation for disembodiment as you do for the irreversable relationships required to organize biochemistry.

    Perhaps the peasant has a bit more evidence, since he is a conscious agent himself. Although he can launch an object of his own making millions of miles into space to hit a small passing rock, and can alter his own genetic code and count the number of atoms in the universe, he has no evidence whatsoever for anything but an act of agency to resolve your little problem of the missing mechanism. Not only does he realize that an agent is inferred by the evidence, but he also knows that agents sometime leave a unique discoverable signature on matter, and that unique signature happens to be found at the precise point where your mechanism goes missing.

    Perhaps in humbleness to incontrovertible facts – as unrefuted and incomprehensible as this one may be – he believes he has ample reason to believe the inference. You can alway offer him the camaraderie of your myth, and if he doesn’t accept it, you can blast him with your disdain. Either way, the evidence remains.

  32. The Miracle of the Sun (The Virgin Mary at Fatima)

    An Eyewitness Account by Dr. José Maria de Almeida Garrett, professor at the Faculty of Sciences of Coimbra, Portugal

    It must have been 1:30 p.m when there arose, at the exact spot where the children were, a column of smoke, thin, fine and bluish, which extended up to perhaps two meters above their heads, and evaporated at that height. This phenomenon, perfectly visible to the naked eye, lasted for a few seconds. Not having noted how long it had lasted, I cannot say whether it was more or less than a minute. The smoke dissipated abruptly, and after some time, it came back to occur a second time, then a third time

    “The sky, which had been overcast all day, suddenly cleared; the rain stopped and it looked as if the sun were about to fill with light the countryside that the wintery morning had made so gloomy. I was looking at the spot of the apparitions in a serene, if cold, expectation of something happening and with diminishing curiosity because a long time had passed without anything to excite my attention. The sun, a few moments before, had broken through the thick layer of clouds which hid it and now shone clearly and intensely.

    “Suddenly I heard the uproar of thousands of voices, and I saw the whole multitude spread out in that vast space at my feet…turn their backs to that spot where, until then, all their expectations had been focused, and look at the sun on the other side. I turned around, too, toward the point commanding their gaze and I could see the sun, like a very clear disc, with its sharp edge, which gleamed without hurting the sight. It could not be confused with the sun seen through a fog (there was no fog at that moment), for it was neither veiled nor dim. At Fatima, it kept its light and heat, and stood out clearly in the sky, with a sharp edge, like a large gaming table. The most astonishing thing was to be able to stare at the solar disc for a long time, brilliant with light and heat, without hurting the eyes or damaging the retina. [During this time], the sun’s disc did not remain immobile, it had a giddy motion, [but] not like the twinkling of a star in all its brilliance for it spun round upon itself in a mad whirl.

    “During the solar phenomenon, which I have just described, there were also changes of color in the atmosphere. Looking at the sun, I noticed that everything was becoming darkened. I looked first at the nearest objects and then extended my glance further afield as far as the horizon. I saw everything had assumed an amethyst color. Objects around me, the sky and the atmosphere, were of the same color. Everything both near and far had changed, taking on the color of old yellow damask. People looked as if they were suffering from jaundice and I recall a sensation of amusement at seeing them look so ugly and unattractive. My own hand was the same color.

    “Then, suddenly, one heard a clamor, a cry of anguish breaking from all the people. The sun, whirling wildly, seemed all at once to loosen itself from the firmament and, blood red, advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge and fiery weight. The sensation during those moments was truly terrible.

    “All the phenomena which I have described were observed by me in a calm and serene state of mind without any emotional disturbance. It is for others to interpret and explain them. Finally, I must declare that never, before or after October 13 [1917], have I observed similar atmospheric or solar phenomena.

    Professor Almeida Garrett’s full account may be found in Novos Documentos de Fatima (Loyala editions, San Paulo, 1984)

    (70,000 people witnessed and and reported on the event).

  33. The people wh0 investigate these matters call them apparitions. There is little doubt that people “experience” them, they are well documented by innumerable investigators of every stripe e.g. “Apparitions Of The Living” by Frederick Meyers. The investigators themselves are divided over what they are. Most consider them a kind of hallucination. The reasonig is people may have spirits, but do clothes have spirits. Some of them are carrying things, or even riding a horse. Others think they are hallucinations triggered by esp(telepathy) Still others think they are generated by something at the local. The latter because there are many case of multiple percipients they mostly agree on what they see such as clothing and they are in the proper perspective. Me I have no idea. I do think it’s evidence of something.

  34. Starbuck, @ 23:

    Your passion and brilliance is being wasted on Bronze Age myths

    First, given Dawkins’ ill-tempered, rather accusatory sophomoric outbursts and talking-points, that is ill-advised, loaded language. I suggest that your very terms indicate that you have taken aboard some rather loaded and ill-advised talking points. The next suggestion is that such is liable to affect how you evaluate evidence. Which brings up one of my concerns for many inclined to selective hyperskepticism — that “I” do not like or reject “your” evidence or conclusions does not make the evidence that was rejected vanish into nothingness. Or, as Aristotle put it, our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are very different from those we make when we are pained and hostile.

    Indeed, I think we may define a new fallacy: the “there is no evidence” fallacy.

    (Any suggestions for a concise definition? My first try: waving a dismissive rhetorical magic wand to try to make otherwise relevant and reasonable but unwelcome facts and reasoning vanish. But, facts are like mules: stubbornly insistent on standing their ground. Speaking of which, we probably also need to talk about the magic wand that tries to turn just so stories about the unobserved deep past into practically certain fact comparable to the roundness of the earth. [Which last, contrary to C19 rationalist myths, was the dominant view of educated Westerners since c. 300 BC with Eratosthenes' shadows exercise. The debate with Columbus was over his implied estimate for the circumference of the earth, not its roundness. And, his critics were RIGHT.])

    I would suggest, too, that there is a pivotal, historical case in point from C1 that is the decisive case to study.

    I suggest you may find it useful to begin here — which responds to Dawkins’ recent Playboy interview in which he tried to brush aside the historicity of the principal character in question (you can’t make this stuff up) — and go on from that [e.g. here on in context], bearing in mind criteria for credibility of historical reports and the cluster of minimal facts that have commended themselves to the absolute to the overwhelming majority of scholarship over the past generation. (Of course, you would not learn such from the likes of the usual Cable TV channel shows etc.)

    From this case, you may then reflect on issues of evidence, the supernatural [and BTW, can you define "natural" cogently for us . . . ] and the miraculous.

    KF

  35. WD400: How do you know — without begging questions — that that which you dismiss as unlikely is in fact so? (Consider the OP and VJT’s post here in your considerations.) KF

  36. Barry quotes AF

    “If we are talking about ghosts, then people’s imagination is the only evidence we have for ghosts.”

    Then Barry asks me:

    How do you know that every single one of the thousands upon thousands of eye witness accounts of ghosts is solely the product of imagination?

    Then Barry supplies his own wrong answer!

    Answer: Your dogma demands it. Alan, your inability to see this simple truth is another manifestation of your dogmatism.

    As a matter of fact, I am not a dogmatist. If labels mean anything other than a way of demonizing people who don’t share your own dogma, I am a pragmatist!

    You have asked me “How do you know that every single one of the thousands upon thousands of eye witness accounts of ghosts is solely the product of imagination?”

    In case you were interested, the correct answer is that I don’t know. However you seem to be confused between whether ghosts exist (to which the answer is I really don”t know) and whether people ever actually perceive ghosts or always imagine them. The answer to this is again I don’t know but there is only the evidence that they report seeing. I’d be most curious and fascinated to learn of any evidence of the imaginary that was something more than people’s reported experiences.

  37. StephenB writes:

    (70,000 people witnessed and and reported on the event).

    Really, Stephen? There are 70,000 recorded, written and signed eye-witness accounts?

  38. Really, Stephen? There are 70,000 recorded, written and signed eye-witness accounts?

    Oops missed a tag!

  39. PS

    It occurs to me that there are alleged to be some 1.3 billion followers of Islam. Should I then be swayed about the reported visions and assorted miracles that occurred to and around the prophet Mohamed?

    Joseph Smith? More than 70,000 followers, I think! Doesn’t anyone think I ought not to be sceptical about the book of Mormon, the gold plates and the stone spectacles?

  40. Semi related:

    An Atheist Encounters Jesus – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fFFCOnAf0k

  41. OT: Tyndall house just loaded the Stephen Meyer lecture that was associated with the recent Steve Fuller lecture featured on UD:

    ‘Intelligent Design: The Most Credible Idea?’ A Lecture by Dr Stephen C Meyer – video (lecture delivered July in Cambridge, England)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a-h88ziYA4

  42. Alan

    “Really, Stephen? There are 70,000 recorded, written and signed eye-witness accounts?”

    Well, let’s try this one. 70,000 to 100,000 people, after leaving home to witness a promised miracle, returned to make the following report: “Yeah she promised a miracle, but all she did was move the sun out of the sky——big deal.”

    How about this? 70,000 to 100,000 people didn’t congregate to witness a promised miracle. Each one just happened to stumble on to the scene at the same time and, with no prompting, experienced the same hallucination to the very last detail.

    Do those two interpretations work better for you, Alan.

  43. Alan Fox,

    You are swayed by the imaginary evidence of evolutionism, so who do you think you’re fooling here?

    And if you are really curious about ghosts you would go to the sites that are said to be haunted and investigate. But you don’t because you aren’t curious at all.

  44. 70,000 to 100,000 people, after leaving home to witness a promised miracle, returned to make the following report: “Yeah she promised a miracle, but all she did was move the sun out of the sky——big deal.”

    So no 70,000 individual written accounts then. Just one account claiming 70,000 witnesses.

  45. Alan:

    Joseph Smith? More than 70,000 followers, I think! Doesn’t anyone think I ought not to be sceptical about the book of Mormon, the gold plates and the stone spectacles?

    Oh that’s right. You think that 70,000 devoted followers who simply believe in an event is pretty much the same thing as 70,000 witnesses who actually observe an event. Nice sense of proportion you’ve got going there.

  46. You think that 70,000 devoted followers who simply believe in an event is pretty much the same thing as 70,000 witnesses who actually observe an event.

    No. we are not that far along in either case.

    Is there any wiggle room here? Is there the option that whoever is manipultaing the time-space continuum planting the experiences directly into the chosen consciousnesses à la “Total Recall”? Seems a much more economical way of working than, say, actually moving the Sun about.

  47. Oops manipulating!

  48. Stephen,

    I’m also puzzled about, if true, what the events reported by De Marchi are supposed to signify.

  49. Is there any wiggle room here? Is there the option that whoever is manipultaing the time-space continuum planting the experiences directly into the chosen consciousnesses à la “Total Recall”? Seems a much more economical way of working than, say, actually moving the Sun about.

    It’s possible, I suppose. Why not? Whatever the case, skeptics, scoffers, and newspaper reporters had the same experience as believers. Or perhaps the miracle would be in the perfect timing of a natural event–calling the shot, so to speak. My personal opinion, though, is that the laws of nature were suspended.

  50. I’m also puzzled about, if true, what the events reported by De Marchi are supposed to signify.

    Only a miracle can establish heavenly credibility. Recall the Gospels where Jesus says, “If you don’t believe me, believe my works (miracles).” Anyone can claim to speak for God or be a prophet and many have. That doesn’t mean they have credibility. Why should I believe that Joseph Smith or Mohammed speaks for God? I have only their claim that they received a revelation. That’s not enough.

  51. OT: ‘How Darwin Destroyed Reason: Formal and final causes’ A Lecture by Prof. Stephen Clark – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc3zH4GKaj4

    Though I haven’t watched this recently uploaded video yet, it looks very interesting.

  52. Why should I believe that Joseph Smith or Mohammed speaks for God? I have only their claim that they received a revelation. That’s not enough.

    No, indeed!

    Yet if if we look here, there seem to be many reported miracles associated with Mohammed (or Muhammad, even). Imagine I was a curious alien asking about religion. I would have no particular racial or cultural bias. How would I assess say Islamic miracles against Christian ones?

  53. In truth there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it. ~ G.K. Chesterton

    The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statuettes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen – that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics. ~ G.K. Chesterton

  54. Alan, excuse me, but are not you still a Darwinist even though we are now faced with the fact that the simplest cell on earth is shown to be far more functionally complex than was dreamt about even a few short decades ago?,,, Thus, if you can’t properly discern the ‘miracle of the cell’ which is right in front of you, how in blue blazes will you be able to discern the much finer distinction to be made as to which historical miracles warrant credibility and which warrant suspicion?

    notes:

    To Model the Simplest Microbe in the World, You Need 128 Computers – July 2012
    Excerpt: Mycoplasma genitalium has one of the smallest genomes of any free-living organism in the world, clocking in at a mere 525 genes. That’s a fraction of the size of even another bacterium like E. coli, which has 4,288 genes.,,,
    The bioengineers, led by Stanford’s Markus Covert, succeeded in modeling the bacterium, and published their work last week in the journal Cell. What’s fascinating is how much horsepower they needed to partially simulate this simple organism. It took a cluster of 128 computers running for 9 to 10 hours to actually generate the data on the 25 categories of molecules that are involved in the cell’s lifecycle processes.,,,
    ,,the depth and breadth of cellular complexity has turned out to be nearly unbelievable, and difficult to manage, even given Moore’s Law. The M. genitalium model required 28 subsystems to be individually modeled and integrated, and many critics of the work have been complaining on Twitter that’s only a fraction of what will eventually be required to consider the simulation realistic.,,,
    http://www.theatlantic.com/tec.....rs/260198/

    Three Subsets of Sequence Complexity and Their Relevance to Biopolymeric Information – David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors – Theoretical Biology & Medical Modelling, Vol. 2, 11 August 2005, page 8
    “No man-made program comes close to the technical brilliance of even Mycoplasmal genetic algorithms. Mycoplasmas are the simplest known organism with the smallest known genome, to date. How was its genome and other living organisms’ genomes programmed?”
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/c.....2-2-29.pdf

    Here is one ‘miracle’ that refuses to be easily dismissed:

    Shroud of Turin – Carbon 14 test proves false (with Raymond Rogers, lead chemist from the STURP project) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxDdx6vxthE

    Shroud Of Turin Carbon Dating Overturned By Scientific Peer Review – Robert Villarreal – Press Release video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4041193

    Turin Shroud Hologram Reveals The Words ‘The Lamb’ – short video

    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4041205

    Three Hebrew Letters on Surface of Solid Object – ‘The Lamb’ – pictures of neck area
    http://shroud3d.com/findings/t.....lid-object

  55. I have never seen a ghost, I have however witnessed a miracle, since I know miracles exist, I am open to the possibility that ghosts exist. And BA is correct if the miracle of a single cell does not convince you that miracles are true then you my friend whoever you are is blind to truth.

    Be vets your response had me thinking…. why is evolution the only scientific theory protected by law?

  56. How would I assess say Islamic miracles against Christian ones?

    The Quran states that Muhammed performed no physical miracles and when Christians challenged Muhammed to prove he was from God, he said he didn’t do miracles. He was simply a prophet. If the leader doesn’t do miracles, and if the Quran states that believers shouldn’t need miracles, that should settle the matter. Granted, some Muslims have claimed miracles anyway, but there is no evidence to support their claims.

    On the other hand, when Jesus performed real miracles– numerous and varied miracles– such as raising people from the dead, He often did it in the presence of his enemies, who didn’t even both to deny their validity. They simply attributed them to the power of Hell. When your enemies agree that you have performed a miracle, that’s pretty strong evidence.

  57. Hi StephenB and Alan Fox:

    In response to the above posts, I started searching for good links regarding the events at Fatima, and half-way through my search, I stumbled across something that caused me to change my mind about the solar miracle. I no longer think it’s supernatural. At the end of my post, however, I’ve attached a link to a miracle which is absolutely indubitable: the levitations of St. Joseph of Cupertimo, which were witnessed on literally thousands of occasions. I invite the skeptics to try and explain these away.

    Re the events at Fatima, the following online book is full of historical information: The True Story of Fatima by Fr. John de Marchi – especially chapters IX and X.

    Quotes below are taken from Fr. John de Marchi’s The True Story of Fatima on the EWTN Website.

    Here are some eyewitness reports from people who saw the solar miracle at distances of 11 miles and 25 miles from Fatima. Bold emphases below are mine:

    Actually, this hypothesis of mass hallucination suffers decisive defeat from an incontrovertible fact: the phenomenon was observed not only at Cova da Iria, but by people who were substantial distances away from there, and by no means in receptive spiritual moods. The Portuguese poet, Alfonso Lopes Vieira, observed the bright display – from a distance of nearly 25 miles.

    On that day of October 13, 1917 (Senhor Vieira recalls), without remembering the predictions of the children, I was enchanted by a remarkable spectacle in the sky of a kind I had never seen before. I saw it from this veranda….

    An interesting document has been left by the late Father Inacio Lourenco, a priest from Alburitel, a village about eleven miles from Fatima. We have ourselves taken the trouble to verify his recollections with many of his surviving parishioners, and especially with the school teacher, Dona Delfina Lopes, to whom he refers. Here is Father Lourenco’s report:

    I was only nine years old at this time, and I went to the local village school. At about midday we were surprised by the shouts and cries of some men and women who were passing in the street in front of the school. The teacher, a good, pious woman, though nervous and impressionable, was the first to run into the road, with the children after her.

    Outside, the people were shouting and weeping and pointing to the sun, ignoring the agitated questions of the schoolmistress. It was the great Miracle, which one could see quite distinctly from the top of the hill where my village was situated — the Miracle of the sun, accompanied by all its extraordinary phenomena.

    I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.

    Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fatima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralysed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to our Lady.

    Meanwhile the people continued to cry out and to weep, asking God to pardon their sins. We all ran to the two chapels in the village, which were soon filled to overflowing. During those long moments of the solar prodigy, objects around us turned all the colours of the rainbow. We saw ourselves blue, yellow, red, etc. All these strange phenomena increased the fears of the people. After about ten minutes the sun, now dull and pallid, returned to its place. When the people realised that the danger was over, there was an explosion of joy, and everyone joined in thanksgiving and praise to our Lady.

    The evidence mounts that for the devout, the pagan, and the coolly in-between, it must have been an exciting afternoon. Decide as you will whether the power of God or the faulty eyesight of 70,000 is responsible for this chapter of contemporary history. Believe only that we, who are reporting it here, lived for more than seven years within sight of the Cova da Iria, and have yet found no one to confound or deny with just reason, the events of this memorable day.

    Perhaps less dramatic than the visible acrobatics of a heavenly body ninety million miles removed from earth, was another phenomenon we have not yet emphasised. In that hectic noontime, while the great star hung in cloudless clarity, the people, who had been drenched and soggy with the pelting, unremitting rain, were suddenly and completely dry — their shoes and stockings, their skin and their clothes, as though the Lady of the Rosary had invoked the power of some new machine.

    Here are some notes from a critical reflection on the Miracle of the Sun by Fr. Pio Scatizzi S. J.:

    In world history, outside ordinary eclipses, nothing prodigious has been recorded or the sun, with the single exception of the biblical miracle of Joshua — the day’s standstill of sun and moon. This fact and no other marks Fatima with a stupendous singularity quite apart from the rest of the story.

    The thousands of pilgrims, as we know, were caught in pouring rain, while gusts of wind swept the rocky hillsides. Suddenly, at midday, the heavens opened and the clouds drew back to the horizon, leaving the air pure and clear as a mirror…

    [T]he sun looked opaque, with a well-defined rim, and at the same time prove that there was no intervening mist.

    This opaqueness of the sun in a clear sky was but the beginning of events, for immediately there began to radiate from its center, thousands upon thousands of colored monchromatic lights in sectors, which, in the form of spirals, began to whirl around the center of the solar disc in such a manner that the sun itself seemed to turn on itself rather like a catherine wheel, while the colored rays spread out in a centrifugal movement covering the sky as far as the curtain of clouds, and turning everything various colors as if by magic. Such a spectacle of red, yellow, green and violet rays from the sun, spreading and sweeping over the sky, cannot be explained by any know laws, nor has such a thing been seen before.

    Could it have been a rainbow? Obviously not, for the simple reason that a rainbow is usually stationary. Further, the rainbow is drawn on a vertical plane opposite the sun and does not originate in the solar disc itself, but in the opposite line of vision. The eye rests on the summit of a cone on whose base rests the plane of the arch. The solar rays, which are parallel and horizontal, radiate form behind the observer, not from the front, and with a penetrating action reflect themselves once or twice in the falling drops of water, returning to the eye with the dispersion of the iris. In the case under review, on the contrary, the phenomenon is one of radiation over the whole circle of the horizon with uniform and continuous movement. Certainly there can occur other prismatic effects in the atmosphere, but they are seen, as is well known, at dawn or sunset. The air then operates as a prism, dispersing the light in various colored beams — those of the spectrum…

    The only comparable phenomenon is, perhaps, the aurora borealis. Professor Vercelli, in his book, quotes a description by Mr. Herdel of an exceptional aurora which was seen in the state of Iowa on the night of May 14, 1921. Taking this account as a base for comparison, I note a great divergence between the two events. In Fatima, stable, compact, above all homogeneous. The aurora was variable, disordered, unstable…

    It now remains to examine the third phase of the phenomenon, that is to say the movement of the sun, which appeared to detach itself from the sky and to fall on the earth in a zigzag path. It can be affirmed that such a phenomenon is outside and against all natural and astronomical laws. It appears that with this final occurrence, all doubts as to the natural origin of the events, all skepticism on our part, must be laid aside.

    At this point it would be well to refresh our motives for belief in such an unheard of incident. The number and nature of the witnesses exceed all requirements for verification. With twelve such, the law justifies the execution of a man. In this case, eyewitnesses numbered some 70,000.

    To resume our study: first, we have the rotation of the sun and the various colors; secondly, a movement outside the normal daily path of the sun in the heavens. In the first case there would be a normal admiration such as would be excited by a first view of an aurora borealis. There would be no cause for terror. Yet, suddenly, without the intervention of any new factor, the multitude is seized with terror as if menaced by a cataclysm. Everyone feels threatened by imminent catastrophe. There is a sensation that the sun is about to fall on the earth; that it is being torn from the cosmic laws of its eternal path. Hence the invocations, the prayers, the cries of affliction, as in a universal cataclysm.

    Observe well the second phase. It is not religious hysteria, nor a species of pentecostal fervor. It is sheer panic in the presence of Him who alone can dominate the forces of the universe. Contemporary accounts will show that it was not a case of suggestion, but that an objective vision was the cause of the panic which, when it had passed, left everyone perfectly calm, contented even, at having witnessed a prodigy which had been exactly foretold and anxiously awaited. How also could everyone have seen the danger pass at one and the same moment?

    Of the historical reality of this event there can be no doubt whatever…

    The above-mentioned solar phenomena were not noted in any observatory. Impossible that they should escape the notice of so many astronomers and indeed the other inhabitants of the hemisphere. It must then be admitted that there is no question of an astronomical or meteorological phenomenon as we have already said. We are thus confronted with an inescapable dilemma. Either all the observers in Fatima were collectively deceived and erred in their testimony, or we must suppose an extra-natural intervention.

    I should mention that I visited Fatima in 1995. I bought a book while I was there (unfortunately I don’t have it now) which had a collection of historical documents relating to the solar miracle. One thing I should point out is that the solar miracle on October 13 wasn’t the first one to be witnessed at Fatima. There was another, smaller one in Fatima on August 13, even though the children were not present. To quote from Fr. de Marchi’s account:

    Just after the clap of thunder came a flash of lightning, and then we began to see a little cloud, very delicate, very white, which stopped for a few moments over the tree, and then rose in the air until it disappeared. As we looked around, we began to notice some strange things we had observed before and would see again in the months to follow. Our faces were reflecting all the colours of the rainbow—pink and red and blue and I don’t know what. The trees suddenly seemed to be made not of leaves, but of flowers. The ground reflected these many colours, and so did the clothes we wore. The lanterns that someone had fixed to the arch above us looked as though they had turned to gold. Certainly our Lady had come, I knew, even though the children were not there.

    Again, on September 13, many thousands of people witnessed supernatural phenomena related to the Sun. To quote again from Fr. de Marchi’s account:

    At midday there was complete silence. One only heard the murmur of prayers. Suddenly there were sounds of jubilation and voices praising the Blessed Virgin. Arms were raised pointing to something in the sky. “Look, don’t you see?”

    “Yes, yes, I do… !” Much satisfaction on the part of those who do. There had not been a cloud in the deep blue of the sky and I, too, raised my eyes and scrutinised it in case I should be able to distinguish what the others, more fortunate than I, had already claimed to have seen.

    With great astonishment I saw, clearly and distinctly, a luminous globe, which moved from the east to the west, gliding slowly and majestically through space. My friend also looked, and had the good fortune to enjoy the same unexpected and delightful vision. Suddenly the globe, with its extraordinary light, disappeared.

    Near us was a little girl dressed like Lucia, and more or less the same age. She continued to cry out happily: “I still see it! I still see it! Now it’s coming down… !”

    After a few minutes, about the duration of the apparitions, the child began to exclaim again, pointing to the sky: “Now it’s going up again!” — and she followed the globe with her eyes until it disappeared in the direction of the sun. “What do you think of that globe?” I asked my companion, who seemed enthusiastic at what he had seen. “That it was our Lady,” he replied without hesitation.

    It was my undoubted conviction also. The children had contemplated the very Mother of God, while to us it had been given to see the means of transport—if one may so express it — which brought her from heaven to the inhospitable waste of the Serra da Aire. I must emphasise that all those around us appeared to have seen the same thing, for one heard manifestations of joy and praises of our Lady. But some saw nothing. Near us was a simple devout creature, crying bitterly because she had seen nothing.

    We felt remarkably happy. My companion went from group to group in the Cova and afterwards on the road, gathering information. Those he questioned – were of all sorts and kinds, and of different social standing, but one and all affirmed the reality of the phenomena which we ourselves had witnessed.

    With immense satisfaction we set off for home after this pilgrimage to Fatima, firmly resolved to return on the 13th of October for further confirmation of these facts.

    The impressions of Monsignor Quaresma on this day were confirmed by thousands of eyewitnesses who beheld the identical phenomena This is not carelessly stated. It is legitimately known. Other manifestations, strange and moving, were observed by many but not by all. The sudden freshening of the atmosphere that had attended prior apparitions, the midday sun paling strangely until stars were visible in the daytime sky; a falling of flower petals that somehow disintegrated and were gone before they could reach the earth.

    Another interesting fact is that not everyone at Fatima witnessed the miracle on October 13. Fr. C. C. Martindale, S. J., in his pamphlet on Fatima (which I cannot locate online) mentions two Catholic ladies who were there who saw nothing, while a third lady, who was between them, saw the whole thing.

    On a more critical note, the following discussion in Wikipedia may also be of interest: Miracle of the Sun .

    After reading the Wikipedia article, I have been reluctantly convinced that the events at Fatima on October 13, 1917, were most likely natural. My change of mind was prompted by the following 2003 essay (referenced in the Wikipedia article) by Professor Auguste Meessen, of the Institute of Physics, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, entitled, Apparitions and Miracles of the Sun (International Forum in Porto, “Science, Religion and Conscience”, October 23-25, 2003, Actas do Forum International, Centro Transdisciplinar de Estudos da Consciencia, 2005, Consciencias, 2, Editores: J. Fernandes, N.L. Santos, ISSN: 1645-6564, p. 199-222), is also well worth reading. Here’s the abstract and conclusion:

    Abstract

    Apparitions are subjective experiences, but can be accompanied by “miracles of the sun”, observed and described by numerous witnesses. An extensive study of these phenomena reveals a set of characteristic features, suggesting the existence of an underlying mechanism. It is shown that the hypothesis of an extraterrestrial intervention is not sufficient to explain all observed facts, while this is possible in terms of natural, but very peculiar physiological processes. The proof results from personal experiments and reasoning, based on relevant scientific literature. Apparitions are more complex experiences, but the content of the “messages” raises theological problems. Moreover, it is necessary to relate these “mystical experiences” to new insights in psychological processes that involve altered states of consciousness. This subject calls urgently for continued, rigorous and responsible research.

    Conclusion

    The general conclusion is that apparitions and miracles of the sun cannot be taken at face value. There are natural mechanisms that can explain them, but they are so unusual that we were not aware of them. Miracles of the sun result from neurophysiological processes in our eyes and visual cortex, while apparitions involve more complex processes in our mind’s brain. The seers are honest, but unconsciously, they put themselves in an altered state of consciousness. This is possible, since our brain allows for “dissociation” and for switching” from one type of behaviour to another. A new conception of apparitions and miracles of the sun seems thus to be emerging, but much more research is needed in this domain, especially because of its socio-cultural importance.

    What accounts for Meessen’s skepticism? Consider the following facts he adduces relating to solar miracles that occurred in relation to other visions not approved by the Church:

    So-called “miracles of the sun” were observed, for instance, in Tilly-sur-Seuilles (France, 1901), Fatima (Portugal, 1917), Onkerzeele (Belgium, 1933), Bonate (Italy, 1944), Espis (France, 1946), Acquaviva Platani (Italy, 1950), Heroldsbach (Germany, 1949), Fehrbach (Germany, 1950), Kerezinen (France, 1953), San Damiano (Italy, 1965), Tre Fontane (Italy, 1982) and Kibeho (Rwanda, 1983). They have been described by many witnesses and from their reports we can extract the following characteristic features, appearing successively.

    * A grey disc seems to be placed between the sun and the observer, but a brilliant rim of the solar disc is still apparent. This is comparable to an “annular eclipse”.

    * Beautiful colours appear after a few minutes on the whole surface of the solar disc, at its rim and in the surrounding sky. These colours are different, however, and they change in the course of time. They are vivid and can be blue, red, yellow, green, pink, violet, etc. A large part of the surrounding sky is coloured, but this region is irregular and changing. This can give the impression that coloured lights are ejected from the sun. When the observers are looking away from the sun, they see that the landscape and surrounding persons are also coloured in a changing way.

    * The sun begins to “dance”. First, the solar disk rotates about its centre at a uniform and rather high velocity (about 1 turn/s). Then the rotation stops and starts again, but now it is opposite to the initial one. Suddenly, the solar disk seems to detach itself from the sky. It comes rapidly closer, with increasing size and brilliancy. This causes great panic, since people think that the end of the world has come, but the sun retreats. It moves backwards until it has again its initial appearance. These forward and backward motions can be combined with rotations and sometimes with lateral oscillations. All these motions are, of course, unexpected and very impressive.

    * Finally, after 10 or 15 minutes, the sun is “normal” again: its luminosity is too strong to continue gazing at it. But after about another quarter of an hour, the prodigy can be repeated in the same way. The spectators are astonished that their eyes did not hurt, although they were looking straight into the sun during a very long time.

    * Most observers had noted slight local changes in the luminosity of the solar disc, as if there were some kind of images, but they were unable to recognize what they could
    represent. Some persons were more lucky, gifted or privileged, however. In Heroldsbach, the “seers” reported that they had successive visions of the Virgin Mary, without
    and with the Jesus-Child, the Holy Family, the Trinity and some symbols, like a cross and the letters IHS. Some other persons reported also that they saw the Virgin Mary and religious symbols. In Fatima, the “seers” had similar visions at that moment.

    * Coloured spheres, drifting slowly from the sun towards the earth, were observed and mentioned at several places. This happened not only during miracles of the sun, but also for some time after them. When these spheres arrived at the ground, they never left there any material trace.

    Meessen then goes on to describe experiments he conducted on himself:

    At this stage, I engaged in a systematic study of after-images (produced at the retinal level) and after-effects (resulting from the neural processing in our brain). Experimenting myself with a large and powerful white electric light bulb, I saw vivid colours and noted their temporal changes. I scanned the medical and psychological literature, to get information on peculiar visual effects and I focalised my attention on the biochemical, physiological and neurological processes that are involved. In November 2002, I looked directly into the sun, at about 4 p.m. The sun was relatively low above the horizon and its light intensity was attenuated, although the sky was clear. I was able to look right into the sun and was amazed to see that the sun was immediately converted into a grey disc, surrounded by a brilliant ring. The grey disc was practically uniform, while the surrounding ring was somewhat irregular and flamboyant, but did not extend beyond the solar disk. It coincided with its rim. I stopped the experiment, since I wanted to be prudent, but I had experienced myself the initial phase of a typical “miracle of the sun” and I could explain it…

    In a second experiment, realized at 3 p.m. in December 2002, I looked straight at the sun during a much longer time. After some minutes, I saw impressive colours, up to 2 or 3 times the diameter of the sun. They changed, but were mainly pink, deep blue, red and green. Further away, the sky became progressively more luminous. I stopped there, since I understood that these colours resulted from the fact that the red, green and blue sensitive pigments are bleached and regenerated at different rates. Moreover, it is well known that receptor fields combine the responses of cones, to form blue-yellow, red-green and white-black opponent pairs. These neural responses are analysed in the visual cortex, where information about form, colour and motion are extracted at separate places. The brain is functioning like a parallel computer, but it can instantaneously keep track of everything that belongs together by means of synchronous oscillations. Previously, I had already established a brain-wave equation that accounts for these oscillations. In spite of separate analyses, performed in specialized areas, the necessary perceptual unity can thus always be preserved.

    These highly efficient methods imply, however, that illusions are possible. Some of them are automatic and intrinsic to the hard-wired part of the brain, while other illusions can result from dynamic processes…

    What about the motions of the sun? I didn’t see them, because I didn’t look at the sun for a sufficiently long time or my brain knew already too much. Once, after I had been looking at a very long passing train, I had (for about 30 seconds) the illusion of an opposite motion. Joseph Plateau discovered that when we look at the centre of a spiral that is rotating at some given velocity about this point, and when we stop this rotation, we see a reversed rotation. It lasts for several minutes, although in reality, there is no motion at all. This is a good example of motional after-effects. The “dance of the sun” is initiated, however, by a spontaneous generation of apparent motion. This means that some groups of neurons of the visual cortex have chosen this possibility. It is reversed, by opposing excitatory and inhibitory activities. The same concept applies also to oscillations and to forward and backward motions.

    A very interesting study was recently devoted to this “zoom and loom effect”. It tends to appear when the brain is confronted with the two-dimensional retinal image of an object that is situated at some unknown distance. The brain will then consider the possibility that it could come closer, by performing an illusory mental zoom, where the apparent size of the object is progressively increased. This results from the fact that evolution preserved the tendency to take into account the possibility of a dangerous approach: a rapid evasive action could be beneficial for survival. When the “idea” of an approach does not lead to any real danger, the perceived object returns to its normal place. In Heroldsbach, people were so afraid by the “descending sun”, that they fled into the adjacent fields and threw themselves on the wet and dirty ground. Subjective perceptions seemed to be conformed by those of other persons.

    After about a quarter of an hour, the sun takes on again its “normal” appearance. It becomes too brilliant for continued gazing. This means actually that bleached pigments have been regenerated and that secondary biochemical processes are not effective any more for some time. Dr. J.B. Walz, a university professor of theology, collected over 70 eye-witness reports of the “miracle of the sun” that occurred in Heroldsbach on December 8, 1949. These documents disclose some individual differences in perception, including the fact that one person saw the sun approaching and receding three times, while most witnesses saw this only two times! The “coloured spheres” that were usually perceived after the breathtaking “dance of the sun” are simply after-images, but they were not recognized as such, since the context of these observations suggested a prodigious interpretation. In Tilly-sur-Seules and Kerezinen, the coloured spheres were mentioned quite often, since the witnesses did talk to one another…

    The final result of this investigation is that “miracles of the sun” can be interpreted without assuming an intervention of supernatural powers or extraterrestrial intelligences. Some people will claim that they knew this already, but they couldn’t prove it. Actually there is no reason at all to be arrogant with respect to those who believed in a miracle or assumed the presence of a UFO. We were confronted, indeed, with a highly remarkable illusion, displaying many sophisticated and completely unexpected features.

    I should add that the solar miracle at Heroldsbach was also witnessed by people who were some kilometres away, just like the solar miracle at Fatima. What happened at Heroldsbach? Meessen narrates the story:

    In Heroldsbach, on October 9, 1949, four girls, 10 – 11 years old, had collected coloured leafs [sic] and were playing when they heard the clock of their village church. It was 5 p.m. Spontaneously they started to pray and at that moment, they saw in the sky, above a birchwood, an indistinct white silhouette. One of the children compared it to a nun, dressed in white, but then it seemed more plausible to say that it was the Mother of God. That’s the usual German expression for the Virgin Mary. During the following days, the “apparition” became more and more distinct. On October 14, one of the children asked: “Dear Lady, who are you?” She answered: “I am the Mother of God“. A few days later, the children asked the luminous Lady, carrying now a rosary, if she had a message for humanity. She simply said: “pray!”. Heroldsbach is a small village, near Nurenberg and the Second World War was still very present in the mind of everyone. On October 31, 1949, one of the children questioned the Lady: “will there be war again?” She replied: “when you pray, there will be none.

    Then, she did not appear anymore until December 8, 1949. That was the day where the “great miracle of the sun” occurred in the presence of 8.000 to 10.000 persons. It started at 3 o’clock, during a procession, but the Virgin Mary appeared already to the children at 14:30. For the first time, she was bearing a golden crown on her head. It was “brilliant like the sun” and on her left arm, she carried the Jesus-Child. After that event, the apparitions became more and more explicit, with constant, heavy insistence on prayer and penitence! The group of “seers” was now constituted of 6 girls, all about 11 years old.

    On May 15, 1950, Our Lady announced that “the Russians will come and there will come a great famine!”. Over the birch-wood, where the children had initially perceived the apparition, they saw now an agitated war-scene, with solders that were shooting at one another. The soldiers fell on the ground and remained there, bleeding and suffering. That terrifying vision lasted for about 10 minutes, but during all this time the Virgin Mary covered the village of Heroldsbach with her protective veil. The following day, the children saw again a fierce battle in the sky, but now, there were brown and black soldiers. The brown ones had Mongolian eyes. They were winning and went into a village. They entered the houses, dragged their habitants on the street and pushed them towards a place, where they were savagely killed. The children recognized the village. It was their own. These visions were interpreted (by N. Langhojer) in the following way: “when the request of the heavenly mother is fulfilled, the first vision of the Russians will be realized. The homeland will be saved, but when humanity does not listen, the second possibility occurs. Destruction will take its horrible course.”

    The next day, the Virgin Mary appeared with the Jesus-Child, who said himself: “Dear children, if you don’t pray with diligence, the Russians will come and slay you!” We have to recall that in 1949, the Russians had performed their first experimental atomic explosion and that in 1950, the US announced the construction of a hydrogen bomb. (Bold emphasis mine – VJT.)

    Meessen also compares the apparition at Fatima to anotehr false apparition at Beauraing, Belgium, in 1932:

    When I studied the official documents, that had been used for the evaluation of the apparitions of Beauraing, in Belgium, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of precision and clarity in the description of the basic events. Then I found the book of E. De Greeff, professor of criminology at the Catholic University of Louvain. He was present during some of these apparitions. Moreover, he had carefully studied the testimonies of the seers and other witnesses. His professional competence and his integrity are undeniable, but his conclusions were not in favour of an official recognition.

    In the evening of November 29, 1932, when five children were near a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, they saw a strange light, and the idea came up that it could be an apparition of the Virgin Mary. De Greeff shows that the children were quite emotional and that the light could actually come from a car. During the following evenings, the children saw similar lights at about the same place and their initial concept was strengthened. The four girls and one boy, between 9 and 14 years old, were interrogated, but this happened at first in a very uncritical way. When the methods changed, partially because of De Greeff, it appeared that the seers did not have identical visions and that they did not “hear” the same words and sentences. There were even some contradictions.

    Every evening, before the apparition started, the five children were standing in a row and praying the rosary with the surrounding assembly. Suddenly, they fell on their knees, in perfect synchrony, and during the whole apparition, they prayed with a shrill voice and at an unusually rapid rate. This behaviour astonished some observers, since it is atypical of apparitions, but most observers considered that it pleaded in favour of an authentic and simultaneous mystical experience. The sudden and synchronous kneeling down could be explained, however, since they were waiting in tense expectation and could thus react as soon as one of them started to move, while the end of the apparition was easily synchronized by the modified acoustic signals. Even when the “seers” were immediately separated from one another after the apparitions, to be subjected to separate interrogations, their declarations could still be relatively coherent, since they had ample opportunity to communicate during the day and to prepare – in good faith – the questions they would ask the luminous Lady.

    Then I found the book of Dr. A. Ladon, a Belgian neurologist, who collected data on the series of apparitions that developed in several parts of Belgium, after the events of Beauraing. In 1933, there were 47 persons who claimed that they saw the Virgin Mary. There were even two groups of over [a] hundred persons who had apparently common visions. Ladon’s analysis led him to the conclusion that this was a remarkable phenomenon of contagion: “a mental epidemic”. Actually the archbishop of Belgium, Cardinal van Roey, reacted very soon. In agreement with his Study Commission, he denied the supernatural character of all these alleged apparitions with the exception of the initial ones, at Beauraing and Banneux. They were the subject of much longer examinations and negotiations, but finally recognized.

    Meessen’s warning to his readers is well worth quoting:

    I am particularly sensible to the feelings of those who pray with great fervour, since they are deeply suffering and hope to get help from a loving God. But I am also a scientist, who has to search the truth, and as professor of a Catholic University, I feel particularly responsible with respect to the Church and all humans. If necessary, it would be much better to change some ideas, instead of to dwell in illusions or deception. I hope that everyone will understand this point of view.

    Lastly, I should add that the seers at Fatima did not see the same thing. Francisco did not see Our Lady’s lips move, but Lucia and Jacinta did. Fr. Karl Rahner, in his 1961 book, Visions and Prophecies, also relates that when Our Lady disappeared, she didn’t do so all at once. Different body parts disappeared in different stages: head, trunk and feet. Finally, the difficulties associated with Lucia’s prophecy on October 13, 1917, that the war would end that day, are well-known. One might dismiss these as minor aberrations, but after reading Professor Meessen’s account of the false Marian apparition at Heroldsbach in 1949-50, as well as his neurophysiological explanation of the events that occurred, I think it is prudent to conclude that they were probably natural. Even the sightings at a distance from Fatima may have been prompted by widespread public expectation of a miracle on that day, coupled with the fact that small-scale solar miracles had been observed at Fatima previously. (I should add in fairness, though, that the sighting by the Portuguese poet, Alfonso Lopes Vieira, doesn’t fit this explanation, as he wasn’t thinking about the miracle when he saw it from 25 miles away.) The sudden drying of the eyewitnesses’ clothing remains a puzzle, too.

    ============================================

    A Genuine, Indubitable Miracle

    If someone is looking for a genuine miracle, however, then I would advise them to have a look at this account of the life of St. Joseph of Cupertino, who was the phenomenon of the 17th century.

    The Flying Saint , by Renzo Allegri, is an article about the 17th century saint, Joseph of Cupertino. Here’s an excerpt:

    He has entered history as the ‘flying saint’. One of the characteristics of his extraordinary mystic experiences was his ecstasies. All he needed to see was an image of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Saint Francis or another saint, or hear their names spoken aloud, and he went into ecstasy. He let out a cry and floated into the air. He remained there, suspended between the earth and the sky for up to even an hour, two hours, three hours… while people ran to see this phenomenon. Crowds of the devoted and curious thronged around him, all amazed and moved, while doctors and scientists attempted to reach him using ladders and ropes in order to subject him to tests and try to understand how such a thing was possible…

    He was subjected to three trials and yet even before the judges he went into ecstasy and rose up into the air as happened to him often. The judges, frightened, didn’t have the courage to condemn him and they sent him to Rome. This time, Joseph was interrogated before the Pope, Urban VIII, and so great was his joy at seeing the Vicar of Christ, that he went into ecstasy floating high in the air above the Pope and the cardinals gathered there. Having witnessed such a miracle before their very eyes, the cardinals all became great admirers of this humble friar.

    Friar Joseph was never condemned, but remained ‘under suspicion’ by the Inquisition. The judges of the terrible tribunal always kept him under control, and every now and then, in order to lessen and hinder his popularity among the faithful, they intervened with restrictions, prohibitions and orders to change friaries. Friar Joseph was obliged to live in exile, yet wherever he was sent, the crowd flocked to see him. In 1639, he was in Assisi for 14 years. His reputation for saintliness preceded him, and he was welcomed to this little town by an enormous crowd. The deputies of the city, gathered together for a plenary meeting, attributed him with honorary citizenship, and he welcomed this news with tears in his eyes declaring, ‘Now I am a fellow citizen of my father St. Francis.’

    In Assisi, the ecstasies and other mystic phenomena continued to increase. A celestial perfume emanated from his body at all times. Many sick people were healed through touching his habit. Among the many visitors, there were many illustrious ecclesiastics, famous theologians, bishops, cardinals, princes and princesses, knights and ladies. The Venerable Infanta Mary of Savoie was one of his penitents. The Lutheran Prince of Brunswick converted after attending one of Joseph of Cupertino’s Masses…

    It has been calculated that Joseph’s ‘ecstatic flights’ took place at least 1,000 to 1,500 times in his lifetime, perhaps even more, and that they were witnessed by thousands of people. They were the phenomenon of the century. They were so sensational and so public that they attracted attention from curious people from all walks of life, Italians and foreigners, believers and unbelievers, simple folk, but also scholars, scientists, priests, bishops and cardinals. They continued to occur in every situation, in whatever church in which the saint prayed or celebrated Mass. It is impossible to doubt such a sensational and public phenomenon which repeated itself over time.

    Now that’s a miracle for you!

  58. VJ Torley,

    As you know, we first need to know what contemporary accounts exist of Joseph of Cupertino. Since you brought in the flying saint, would you be so good as to list sources that witness to the levitation, from about 1645-1663? I admit to not looking very hard for the sources, as I imagine you have them readily at hand.

    Per Chesterton, we are to be as open to the levitation story as we are to reports of midnight rides on flying horses or to belief in the realm of Barbelo. So, we’re all open. Nevertheless, you can agree that the actual sources might be of value here.

  59. Alan, excuse me, but are not you still a Darwinist even though we are now faced with the fact that the simplest cell on earth is shown to be far more functionally complex than was dreamt about even a few short decades ago?

    Hi Phil,

    You have this backwards. I think Darwinian evolution is the only way to explain the current and former diversity of life on Earth. Also bear in mind that is all it explains and all it is intended to explain. The origin of life on Earth? A complete mystery!

    PS:

    I don’t read your comments as a rule. It Caught my eye because of the first word. Not my business but you might find more people would engage with you if you tried to be more concise and on-topic.

  60. Alan Fox:

    I think Darwinian evolution is the only way to explain the current and former diversity of life on Earth.

    Yet no one can even form a testable hypothesis nor provide any positive evidence for it.

    So why would Alan think that Darwinian evolution is the only way to explain anything? Oh, that’s right- he’s a dogmatist.

    Also bear in mind that is all it explains and all it is intended to explain.

    Except it only explains how things break and/ or deteriorate.

    The origin of life on Earth? A complete mystery!

    Then so is how the diversity of life arose as the two are directly linked.

  61. So Alan, when faced with the unfathomed complexity of the simplest cell on earth, that drastically surpasses what was expected just a few decades ago, you simply ignore it as if it will go away? I believe that type of thinking is called denialism of reality (head in the sand). As to you holding that once you got that ‘miracle of the cell’ in play then it is all easy pickings for Darwinism, well my man, go for it, demonstrate the very next step to me of single cells evolving to multicellular creatures using all the purely Darwinian processes you want to use.

    There simply isn’t any evidence in the fossil record indicating that single cells ever formed anything other than ‘simple aggregates’:

    “We go from single cell protozoa. which would be ameoba and things like that. Then you get into some that are a little bit bigger, still single cell, and then you get aggregates, they’re still individual cells that aggregate together. They don’t seem to have much in the way of cooperation,,, but when you really talk about a functioning organism, that has more than just one type of cell, you are talking about a sponge and you can have hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of cells. So we don’t really have organisms that function with say two different types of cells, but there is only five total. We don’t have anything like that.”
    – Dr. Raymond G. Bohlin – quote taken from 31:00 minute mark of this following video
    Natural Limits to Biological Change 2/2 – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo3OKSGeFRQ

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    Excerpt: “I think this is a major mystery in paleontology,” said Chen. “Before the Cambrian, we should see a number of steps: differentiation of cells, differentiation of tissue, of dorsal and ventral, right and left. But we don’t have strong evidence for any of these.” Taiwanese biologist Li was also direct: “No evolution theory can explain these kinds of phenomena.”
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    Nor does the experimental evidence suggest that such a transition from single cell aggregates to multicellular organisms is possible. To highlight the monumental problem that Darwinian processes face in going from a single cell to a multicellular creature,,,

    “The likelihood of developing two binding sites in a protein complex would be the square of the probability of developing one: a double CCC (chloroquine complexity cluster), 10^20 times 10^20, which is 10^40. There have likely been fewer than 10^40 cells in the entire world in the past 4 billion years, so the odds are against a single event of this variety (just 2 binding sites being generated by accident) in the history of life. It is biologically unreasonable.”
    Michael J. Behe PhD. (from page 146 of his book “Edge of Evolution”)

    And yet, Dr. Behe, on the important Table 7.1 on page 143 of Edge Of Evolution, finds that a typical cell might have some 10,000 protein-binding sites. Whereas a conservative estimate for protein-protein binding sites in a multicellular creature is,,,

    Largest-Ever Map of Plant Protein Interactions – July 2011
    Excerpt: The new map of 6,205 protein partnerings represents only about two percent of the full protein- protein “interactome” for Arabidopsis, since the screening test covered only a third of all Arabidopsis proteins, and wasn’t sensitive enough to detect many weaker protein interactions. “There will be larger maps after this one,” says Ecker.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....144936.htm

    So taking into account that they only covered 2%, of the full protein-protein “interactome”, then that gives us a number, for different protein-protein interactions, of 310,000. Thus, from my very rough ‘back of the envelope’ calculations, we find that this is at least 30 times higher than Dr. Behe’s estimate of 10,000 different protein-protein binding sites for a typical single cell (Page 143; Edge of Evolution; Behe). Therefore, at least at first glance from my rough calculations, it certainly appears to be a impossible step that evolution cannot make, by purely unguided processes, to go from a single cell to a multi-cellular creature.

    Further experimental work agrees with this conclusion:

    More Darwinian Degradation – M. Behe – January 2012
    Excerpt: Recently a paper appeared by Ratcliff et al. (2012) entitled “Experimental evolution of mulitcellularity” and received a fair amount of press attention, including a story in the New York Times.,,, It seems to me that Richard Lenski, who knows how to get the most publicity out of exceedingly modest laboratory results, has taught his student well. In fact, the results can be regarded as the loss of two pre-existing abilities: 1) the loss of the ability to separate from the mother cell during cell division; and 2) the loss of control of apoptosis.
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....gradation/

    In fact Dr. Stephen Meyer’s, who wrote “Signature In The Cell”, next book is going to be on the sheer impossibility of neo-Darwinian processes to explain the origination of ‘Body-Plan information’ from single cells to multicellular organisms in the Cambrian Explosion:

    Here is a sneak peek at his forthcoming book:

    Dr. Stephen Meyer: Why Are We Still Debating Darwin? pt. 2 – podcast
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....6_22-07_00

    Related notes:

    New Way to Look at Dawn of Life: Focus Shifts from ‘Hardware’ to ‘Software’ – Dec. 12, 2012
    Excerpt: By addressing the causal role of information directly, many of the baffling qualities of life are explained.”
    The authors expect that, by re-shaping the conceptual landscape in this fundamental way, not just the origin of life, but other major transitions will be explained, for example, the leap from single cells to multi-cellularity.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....205918.htm

    The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories – Stephen Meyer
    “Neo-Darwinism seeks to explain the origin of new information, form, and structure as a result of selection acting on randomly arising variation at a very low level within the biological hierarchy, mainly, within the genetic text. Yet the major morphological innovations depend on a specificity of arrangement at a much higher level of the organizational hierarchy, a level that DNA alone does not determine. Yet if DNA is not wholly responsible for body plan morphogenesis, then DNA sequences can mutate indefinitely, without regard to realistic probabilistic limits, and still not produce a new body plan. Thus, the mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutations in DNA cannot in principle generate novel body plans, including those that first arose in the Cambrian explosion.”
    http://eyedesignbook.com/ch6/eyech6-append-d.html

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681

    As to you ignoring me Alan, that’s all fine by me.

  62. Hi Lar Tanner,

    Re documentation on the life of St. Joseph of Cupertino, here’s someone whom you might like to contact: Fr. Giulio Berettoni, rector of the Shrine of St. Joseph of Cupertino in Osimo, Italy. In the article I enclosed, he alludes to documentation for eyewitness accounts:

    To doubt is understandable,’ Fr. Giulio Berettoni, rector of the Shrine of St. Joseph of Cupertino in Osimo tells me ‘but it isn’t justifiable. If we take a serious look at the saint’s life from a historical point of view, then we see that we cannot question his ecstasies. There are numerous witness accounts. They began to be documented in 1628, and this continued until Joseph’s death in 1663, i.e. for 35 years. In certain periods, the phenomenon is recorded to have taken place more than once a day. It has been calculated that Joseph’s ‘ecstatic flights’ took place at least 1,000 to 1,500 times in his lifetime, perhaps even more, and that they were witnessed by thousands of people. They were the phenomenon of the century.

    P.S. I just came across this obituary. It looks like Fr. Berrettoni died last year. However, if you contact the Rectory of the Shrine, they’ll be able to point you right:

    http://www.sulatesta.it/stampa.....ttoni.html

  63. VJ Torley @62,

    Thanks. We keep hearing about documented, “witness accounts”; the accounts themselves, however, remain absent.

    Chesterton would agree, I think, that the proper stance toward Cupertino’s levitation is neutral, until we get closer to what these witness sources actually say.

    This can hardly be called dogmatism, can it?

  64. Here is an account of a strange and scary, supernatural incident, which apparently ensued from a pact that the young St John Bosco had made earlier with a recently-deceased friend and fellow-seminarian, and was witnessed by the 20 other seminarians as they were preparing to turn in for the night in their dormitory:

    http://happycatholic.blogspot......story.html

    Evidently, God had decided to humour them in their innocence, while making it clear that necromancy, however obliquely pursued, is forbidden.

    On the other hand, it seems that God can and does authorise apparitions of loved-ones on occasions. My deceased brother appeared to my sister when she was suffering a great deal with dialysis and the renal problems necessitating it, and feeling very sick and weak.

    She woke up suddenly at about 3 in the morning, I believe, to see Barry, my brother, standing close by, looking perfectly solid and not like a ghost at all. She said she could have stretched out her hand and touched him. Apparently, he was simply looking at her and smiling gently, as if to encourage her. Then, after a while, he did slowly fade from her sight.

    By the way, she is extremely unimaginative, although she did have an NDE as a very young child; she has a very linear way of thinking, so that she often suffers needless stress, as a result of ‘irresponsibly’ thwarted expectations.

    I’ve found that whenever you ask people about such incidents, you have to drag it out of them. They’re not very forthcoming. This was the case when I was in an artillery regiment in Germany, and we had an epidemic of ghostly incidents, oddly enough, mostly occurring to Catholics between Good Friday and Trinity Sunday, during which period Catholics are expected to go at least once to Confession. Anyway, the upshot of it was that most of the lads, including the Protestants, hung rosaries they’d asked me to get for them, above their beds.

    One strange phenomenon that really struck me, was that in most cases where the person had been terrified – often, not having believed in ghosts, I suppose wouldn’t have helped in some cases – their faces were still really pale throughout the following day.

  65. Joe @25

    good one

  66. Hi VJ, thanks for entering into the fray. In case you are interested, there is a movie about the life of St. Joseph of Cupertino, entitled, “The Reluctant Saint. It features the Oscar-winning actor, Maximilian Schell as the Saint and can be found on the internet.

    On the miracle of the sun, I am inclined to argue on behalf of its authenticity. It seems to me that the preponderance of the evidence justifies that conclusion:

    [a] The event was foretold three months in advance, to the day, to the hour, and to the minute.

    [b] A three-day-old rain stopped immediately, the clouds rolled back, a ball of flame raced toward the earth, and the environment was radically changed. Optical illusions do not cause water-soaked clothes and puddles in the ground to dry up instantaneously.

    [c] Almost all of the 70,000 people present, including reporters, skeptics, and believers observed the event. The numbers have to mean something.

    [d] Obviously, a “local” miracle will defy a scientific explanation. A sun that moves out of its place would affect he whole earth. That is what miracles do. They defy the laws of nature and do not, therefore, answer to them. (If the ground immediately became dry from the heat, why weren’t the people incinerated?)

    (e) I question the relevancy of Meessen’s experiment. Why would witnesses at the Fatima site have been looking into the sun on a rainy day? What would prompt them to be faced in that direction? They did not expect a dancing sun, only a miracle. More likely, they did not look at the sun at all until there was something extraordinary to see. The marvel they witnessed was not the EFFECT of sun gazing; it was the CAUSE of sun gazing.

    (f) Indeed, those who heard about the event after the fact–those who were prepared to consider the possibility of a multi-colored sun–would be the ones most likely to find one in the form of an optical illusion. This would apply equally to skeptics like Meessen, who was motivated to take a major health risk in order to disprove the miracle, and to zealous believers, who would later be tempted to replay the Fatima tape [1932, 1954 etc.), For that reason, I find the report of E. De Greef, who observed the false apparation(s) credible, while I question Meessen's report, which seems to equate them with what occurred at Fatima.

    [g] The Catholic Church is always reluctant to classify any event as a miracle. In this case, however, after reflecting on all the relevant points, the final judgment was positive.

    In summary, then, I find that there are more reasons to accept the testimony of the witnesses than to question it.

  67. The paradigm of scientism, applied to empirical phenomena of such a highly anomalous, abstruse and, as in the case of Fatima, diffuse character, as miracles, is a version of ‘painting by numbers’, masquerading as the only appropriate methodology – and totally universal in its purview.

    Scientism cannot, by its very nature be other than self-limiting folly of the first magnitude. To the ‘painting by numbers’ aficionado, a superby-executed ‘painting by numbers’ is a master-piece, since its author is unable to appreciate the difference in the order of imaginative input required by an original painting.

    Nor is it, we can see clearly from some of the responses on here, merely a matter of paucity of imagination. No. It is a deliberate setting of their face against recourse to the legitimate, nay, essential, exercise of the imagination; above all, the willingness to imagine that, for example, ghosts might exist, despite the immemorial testimonies of countless credible witnesses down the millennia in all walks of life, or that the sun appeared to ten of thousands of witnesses to have ‘danced in the sky’.

    Perhaps a better comparison than ‘painting by numbers’, and one that has actually been applied to scientism, is the so-called Law of the instrument, or Maslow’s Hammer:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_instrument

    In short, the practitioners of scientism are simply not competent to have anything to with anything but the most routine scientific activity, plain drudgery. The analogy of the infant with the hammer hits the nail on the head.

  68. 68

    LarTanner writes:
    “Thanks. We keep hearing about documented, “witness accounts”; the accounts themselves, however, remain absent. Chesterton would agree, I think, that the proper stance toward Cupertino’s levitation is neutral, until we get closer to what these witness sources actually say. This can hardly be called dogmatism, can it?”

    Skepticism is, of course, not dogmatism. But that is not what Chesterton is talking about in the quote in the OP. He is talking about ruling these events out a priori.

    If all you are saying is that we should examine the evidence and let it take us where it will, we are in total agreement on the matter. I have no idea whether this fellow VJ mentions actually levitated. I am skeptical of the claim and would demand convincing evidence before I would believe it.

    That said, I am open to the possibility that convincing evidence could exist. The dogmatic materialist of which Chesterton speaks is not.

  69. BURNING QUESTIONS

    If supernaturalism is true, do witches exist? And ought they to be burned?

    If supernaturalism is true, why have Protestants (including B.B. Warfield) spent centuries debunking Catholic tales of miracles? Protestant have only recently come to claim even Catholic miracle tales in the fight against “atheism.”

    If supernaturalism is true based on common tales from common men and women, then what ISN’T true? Allah, Brahma, Buddha, Zeus, Marduk, New Agers, Wiccans, tossing salt over one’s shoulder, keeping clear of the paths of black cats, UFOs, urban myths, chain letter threats, alien abductions, werewolves, vampires, elves, et al.

    I’m agnostic, partly because, I’ve not been blessed with any experiences that appear to be miraculous in a strictly inexplicable sense. I’ve never seen a levitating object, never seen a ghost, nor heard God’s voice, nor seen Jesus, etc. And even if materialism is not true, death might be certain — as the early Hebrews and other ancient Near Easterners believed, everyone went to Sheol (except a few heroes, very few of them). NDEs feature some truly weird stuff. Not sure what to make of them. And not everyone whose heart stops seems to have them. Nor does one have to be in danger of dying to have one, so it’s not necessarily a near “Death” experience. http://edward-t-babinski.blogs.....ki-on.html

    I’m agnostic partly because I do not fear the threats of hell which appear to have gained prominence during the inter-testamental period, during a time when the Hebrews both had interaction with the Persian ideas of a hell, and when Hebrew hatred of being under the thumb of Greek and then Roman rulers made them believe that the world was no longer firmly under God’s control, but that He’d leased out the world to dark forces. The rise in the idea of a hell seems appropriate in such a milieu. Eternal literal revenge of the most painful sort the ancient mind could imagine (unremitting fire on one’s body). But it makes no sense to me to imagine an infinite Being with infinite powers of persuasion and demonstration at its disposal, knowing everything each individual would find most impressive and able to use such information to draw people closer, instead casting them into a lake of fire (metaphorical or not). I think such a Being instead would be able to crack everyone’s code, because time and God would be the best teachers, and because if God is the only reality, illusion is of no eternal substance. I also don’t wish an eternal toothache on anyone, and can’t imagine a God who wishes far worse on vast numbers of His own children whom He brought into existence. Just doesn’t make sense to me. And with all of the rival holy books and rival interpretations of each holy book and rival religions and denominations this God doesn’t seem all that concerned to stop them and present the one true faith, as if there is only one.

    NATURE, THE GODS, AND WHAT HAPPENED AS WE LEARNED MORE ABOUT THE FORMER. . .

    Prior to the development of the telescope and microscope and experimental sciences such as chemistry, there were loads of supernatural theories as to how nature worked. Some thought that the body’s organic chemicals required a miracle to form, but that was disproved when urea was formed via a chemical reaction using inorganic chemicals not found in living things. It was also believed that photosynthesis was a miracle, until we understood the structure and function of the chlorophyll molecule and others in plant cells, as well as understood photons and how that energy was released via a natural reaction. But prior to that time it was believed that a supernatural vitalism was what gave planets their energy from the sun.

    Ancient near easterners also used to believe that the earth was flat with deities living literally overhead and not light-years away, and that they placed the sun and moon and stars in the sky to mark religious festivals and remind us to honor them. That’s what the Bible says, as well as the Enuma Elish (Babylonian creation epic)–see the Hebrew-Babylonian comparison chart in my paper, “The Cosmology of the Bible,” in The Christian Delusion.

    Ancient near Easterners also believed that all manner of happenings on earth that blessed or cursed humans were due to the whims of the gods, therefore trying to please such deities was the order of the day, with temples, prayers and sacrifices, to secure all the benefits the god(s) could provide–good harvests, safety from enemies and disease, etc. That was the accepted method back then of dealing with the vagaries of nature, honor the god(s). It was their way of attempting to manipulate nature.

    Do we believe that today? Or do we accept that weather simply happens and we base our safety round a weatherman’s predictions of weather and wind patterns, and take action based on such predictions? And seek to make better crops ourselves, and avoid disease ourselves, based on plumbing, safety regulations, medical science?

    Do we believe in prayer as much as we believe and hope for the latest scientific advance? Perhaps our belief is at least equal, we’re pragmatic and will try anything when we are in pain or need.

  70. Speaking of tales of levitating saints . . .

    Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s St Christina the Astonishing

    http://www.ship-of-fools.com/f.....s/027.html

  71. Edward you ask:

    If supernaturalism is true based on common tales from common men and women, then what ISN’T true? Allah, Brahma, Buddha, Zeus, Marduk, New Agers, Wiccans, tossing salt over one’s shoulder, keeping clear of the paths of black cats, UFOs, urban myths, chain letter threats, alien abductions, werewolves, vampires, elves, et al.

    Yet ironically:

    Look Who’s Irrational Now – 2008
    Excerpt: “What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....54585.html

    In fact when Darwinian evolution itself is scrutinized for pseudo-scientific properties, It ‘reeks’ of them:

    Is evolution pseudoscience?
    Excerpt:,,, Thus, of the ten characteristics of pseudoscience listed in the Skeptic’s Dictionary, evolution meets nine. Few other pseudosciences — astrology, astral projection, alien abduction, crystal power, or whatever — would meet so many.
    http://creation.com/is-evolution-pseudoscience

    Edward, as to your claim that God would not allow hell to exist, well that simply does not follow since God wanted ‘free moral agents’ who freely choose to love Him instead of wanting ‘puppets’ who really had no choice in loving Him. i.e. A tape recorder saying “I love you” certainly does not mean that the tape recorder truly loves you! Without true free will, and the ‘real choice’ of being eternally separated from God (i.e. hell), loving God with all your body, heart, mind, and soul, becomes merely empty rhetoric with no real purchase in reality. Moreover ‘true free will’, is found to be a foundational part of the way reality is constructed:

    In the following video, at the 37:00 minute mark, Anton Zeilinger, a leading researcher in quantum teleportation with many breakthroughs under his belt, humorously reflects on just how deeply determinism has been undermined by quantum mechanics by saying such a deep lack of determinism may provide some of us a loop hole when they meet God on judgment day.

    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3ZPWW5NOrw

    Personally, I feel that such a deep undermining of determinism by quantum mechanics, far from providing a ‘loop hole’ on judgement day, actually restores free will to its rightful place in the grand scheme of things, thus making God’s final judgments on men’s souls all the more fully binding since man truly is a ‘free moral agent’ as Theism has always maintained. And to solidify this theistic claim for how reality is constructed, the following study came along a few months after I had seen Dr. Zeilinger’s video:

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: Being correct 50% of the time when calling heads or tails on a coin toss won’t impress anyone. So when quantum theory predicts that an entangled particle will reach one of two detectors with just a 50% probability, many physicists have naturally sought better predictions. The predictive power of quantum theory is, in this case, equal to a random guess. Building on nearly a century of investigative work on this topic, a team of physicists has recently performed an experiment whose results show that, despite its imperfections, quantum theory still seems to be the optimal way to predict measurement outcomes.,
    However, in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (*conscious observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice, free will, assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

    So just as I had a slight suspicion of after watching Dr. Zeilinger’s video, it is found that a required assumption of ‘free will’ in quantum mechanics is what necessarily drives the completely random (non-deterministic) aspect of quantum mechanics. Moreover, it was shown in the paper that one cannot ever improve the predictive power of quantum mechanics by ever removing free will as a starting assumption in Quantum Mechanics!

    Henry Stapp on the Conscious Choice and the Non-Local Quantum Entangled Effects – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJN01s1gOqA

    of note:

    What does the term “measurement” mean in quantum mechanics?
    “Measurement” or “observation” in a quantum mechanics context are really just other ways of saying that the observer is interacting with the quantum system and measuring the result in toto.
    http://boards.straightdope.com.....p?t=597846

    Needless to say, finding ‘free will conscious observation’ to be ‘built into’ our best description of foundational reality, quantum mechanics, as a starting assumption, ‘free will observation’ which is indeed the driving aspect of randomness in quantum mechanics, is VERY antithetical to the entire materialistic philosophy which demands that a ‘non-telological randomness’ be the driving force of creativity in Darwinian evolution! Also of interest:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators biased by ‘intention’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiments, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

    Of note: since our free will choices figure so prominently in how reality is actually found to be constructed in our understanding of quantum mechanics, I think a Christian perspective on just how important our choices are in this temporal life, in regards to our eternal destiny, is very fitting:

    Is God Good? (Free will and the problem of evil) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfd_1UAjeIA

    Ravi Zacharias – How To Measure Your Choices – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Op_S5syhKI

    You must measure your choices by the measure of
    1) eternity
    2) morality
    3) accountability
    4) charity

  72. Edward as to your claim that photosynthesis is NOT considered miraculous anymore, well I don’t know what year you graduated school in, but science has advanced to the point of indicating that photosynthesis is, by all rights of reasoned thought, ‘miraculous’:

    In what I find to be a very fascinating discovery, it is found that photosynthetic life, which is an absolutely vital link that all higher life on earth is dependent on for food, uses ‘non-local’ quantum mechanical principles to accomplish photosynthesis. Moreover, this is direct evidence that a non-local, beyond space-time mass-energy, cause must be responsible for ‘feeding’ all life on earth, since all higher life on earth is eventually completely dependent on this non-local, beyong space and time, ‘photosynthetic energy’ in which to live their lives on this earth:

    Non-Local Quantum Coherence In Photosynthesis – video with notes in description
    http://vimeo.com/30235178

    What’s quantum physics got to do with biology? – June 2012
    Excerpt: certain bacteria can capture 95% of the light that hits them and turn it into useful energy. Solar panels also convert light from the Sun into energy—but they aren’t nearly as good at it. The very best solar panels ever tested in a lab (i.e., not the ones actually available for sale and installation on your house) were able to convert about 34% of the light that hit them into electricity.,, Why can’t we use the Sun’s energy as effectively as bacteria can? The secret may be that the bacteria are using quantum physics to transmit energy.
    http://boingboing.net/2012/06/.....ology.html

    Unusual Quantum Effect Discovered in Earliest Stages of Photosynthesis – May 2012
    Excerpt: The quantum effects observed in the course of the experiment hint that the natural light-harvesting processes involved in photosynthesis may be more efficient than previously indicated by classical biophysics, said chemist Gary Wiederrecht of Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials. “It leaves us wondering: how did Mother Nature create this incredibly elegant solution?” he said.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....092932.htm

    Evidence for wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic systems. Gregory S. Engel, Nature (12 April 2007)
    Photosynthetic complexes are exquisitely tuned to capture solar light efficiently, and then transmit the excitation energy to reaction centres, where long term energy storage is initiated.,,,, This wavelike characteristic of the energy transfer within the photosynthetic complex can explain its extreme efficiency, in that it allows the complexes to sample vast areas of phase space to find the most efficient path. —- Conclusion? Obviously Photosynthesis is a brilliant piece of design by “Someone” who even knows how quantum mechanics works.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17429397

    Quantum Mechanics at Work in Photosynthesis: Algae Familiar With These Processes for Nearly Two Billion Years – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: “We were astonished to find clear evidence of long-lived quantum mechanical states involved in moving the energy. Our result suggests that the energy of absorbed light resides in two places at once — a quantum superposition state, or coherence — and such a state lies at the heart of quantum mechanical theory.”,,, “It suggests that algae knew about quantum mechanics nearly two billion years before humans,” says Scholes.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....131356.htm

    Life Masters Physics – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: Collini et al.2 report evidence suggesting that a process known as quantum coherence ‘wires’ together distant molecules in the light-harvesting apparatus of marine cryptophyte algae.,,,“Intriguingly, recent work has documented that light-absorbing molecules in some photosynthetic proteins capture and transfer energy according to quantum-mechanical probability laws instead of classical laws at temperatures up to 180 K,”. ,,, “This contrasts with the long-held view that long-range quantum coherence between molecules cannot be sustained in complex biological systems, even at low temperatures.”
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100210a

  73. A few notes on the theistic implications of light itself:

    It is found that light is extremely fine tuned to the atmosphere, to biological molecules and to water, for life to exist:

    Extreme (1 in 10^24) Fine Tuning of Light for Life and Scientific Discovery – Richards, Gonzalez – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/7715887

    Visible light is also incredibly fine-tuned for life to exist. Though visible light is only a tiny fraction of the total electromagnetic spectrum coming from the sun, it happens to be the “most permitted” portion of the sun’s spectrum allowed to filter through the our atmosphere. All the other bands of electromagnetic radiation, directly surrounding visible light, happen to be harmful to organic molecules, and are almost completely absorbed by the atmosphere. The tiny amount of harmful UV radiation, which is not visible light, allowed to filter through the atmosphere is needed to keep various populations of single cell bacteria from over-populating the world (Ross; reasons.org). The size of light’s wavelengths and the constraints on the size allowable for the protein molecules of organic life, also seem to be tailor-made for each other. This “tailor-made fit” allows photosynthesis, the miracle of sight, and many other things that are necessary for human life. These specific frequencies of light (that enable plants to manufacture food and astronomers to observe the cosmos) represent less than 1 trillionth of a trillionth (10^-24) of the universe’s entire range of electromagnetic emissions. Like water, visible light also appears to be of optimal biological utility (M.Denton; W.Bradley; G.Gonzalez; J.Richards).

    Fine Tuning Of Light to the Atmosphere, to Biological Life, and to Water – graphs
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AYmaSrBPNEmGZGM4ejY3d3pfMTljaGh4MmdnOQ

    The extreme fine tuning of light for life is discussed further in the following video:

    Fine Tuning Of Universal Constants, Particularly Light – Walter Bradley – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4491552

    As well, interestingly, it is in the ‘thought experiment’ of ‘riding a light beam’ that gave Einstein his breakthrough insight into special relativity:

    Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight Into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6545941/

    “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.”
    Albert Einstein – The Einstein Factor – Reader’s Digest

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182

    Moreover, light is found to be of a ‘higher dimensional’ nature:

    Please compare the similarity of the optical effect, noted at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape around the direction of travel as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light, with the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ reported in very many Near Death Experiences: (Of note: This following video was made by two Australian University Physics Professors with a supercomputer.)

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5733303/

    Amazing — light filmed at 1,000,000,000,000 Frames/Second! – video (so fast that at 9:00 Minute mark of video the ‘higher dimensional’ time dilation effect of relativity is caught on film)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoHeWgLvlXI

  74. As well Edward, it is very curious to note that it takes a infinite amount of information to give a complete description of a photon in its quantum wave state:

    Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1)
    http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/fa.....lPSA2K.pdf

    Quantum Computing – Stanford Encyclopedia
    Excerpt: Theoretically, a single qubit can store an infinite amount of information, yet when measured (and thus collapsing the Quantum Wave state) it yields only the classical result (0 or 1),,,
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....tcomp/#2.1

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/7201

    The following experiment actually demonstrated that information can be encoded into a photon while it is in its quantum wave state,

    Ultra-Dense Optical Storage – on One Photon
    Excerpt: Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.,,, Quantum mechanics dictates some strange things at that scale, so that bit of light could be thought of as both a particle and a wave. As a wave, it passed through all parts of the stencil at once, carrying the “shadow” of the UR with it.
    http://www.physorg.com/news88439430.html

    Moreover, the wave collapse of photons in this universe are found to be geometrically centered to each unique point of conscious observation in the universe:

    Centrality of Each Individual ‘Conscious’ Observer In The Universe and Christ’s Very Credible Reconciliation Of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/17SDgYPHPcrl1XX39EXhaQzk7M0zmANKdYIetpZ-WB5Y/edit?hl=en_US

    Now, I find all the preceding evidence to be absolutely fascinating! Light is found in our experiments with special relativity to be ‘eternal’. As well, a photon, in its quantum wave state, is found to be mathematically defined as a ‘infinite-dimensional’ state, which ‘requires an infinite amount of information’ to describe it properly, can be encoded with information in its ‘infinite dimensional’ state, and this ‘infinite dimensional’ photon is found to collapse, instantaneously, and thus ‘non-locally’, to just a ’1 or 0′ state, out of a infinite number of possibilities that the photon could have collapsed to instead! Moreover, consciousness is found to precede the collapse of the wavefunction of the photon to its particle state. Moreover, a non-local, beyond space and time, cause is needed to explain the ‘harvesting of energy’ in photosynthesis. Energy that all other complex biological life on earth is ultimately dependent on. Now my question to materialistic atheists is this, “Exactly what ’cause’ has been postulated throughout history to be completely independent of any space-time constraints (eternal), as well as possessing infinite knowledge, so as to be the ‘sufficient cause’ to explain what we see in the quantum wave collapse of a photon and in the non-local quantum coherence of photosynthesis???

    ,,,In my personal opinion, even though this is not hashed out in exhaustive detail yet, and regardless of what atheists may think, all this evidence is about as sweet as it can get in experimental science as to providing empirical proof that Almighty God created, and sustains all life in the universe.,,,

    John 1:1-5
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

    Jeremy Camp – The Way (Official Music Video)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q6o4sbndVE

  75. Prior to the development of the telescope and microscope and experimental sciences such as chemistry, there were loads of supernatural theories as to how nature worked. Some thought that the body’s organic chemicals required a miracle to form, but that was disproved when urea was formed via a chemical reaction using inorganic chemicals not found in living things.

    It’s hard to know if this is just horrific wording, horrific logic, or both.

    There are 117 elements on the Periodic Table. If compounds of these elements existing both inside and outside the body was to tell us anything of value, then we needn’t look beyond the existence of water for that lesson. In any case, the synthesis of urea from those elements tells us absolutely nothing whatsoever of how a protein is made.

  76. It’s hard to know if this is just horrific wording, horrific logic, or both.

    Consider a third possibility. You have misunderstood. Ed is referring to “Vitalism! LMGTFY

  77. BA77:

    So Alan, when faced with the unfathomed complexity of the simplest cell on earth, that drastically surpasses what was expected just a few decades ago, you simply ignore it as if it will go away?

    Your mind-reading talents are somewhat limited, I’m afraid! To say we don’t know how life got going on Earth today does not mean we may never know. I think the best chance we have in advancing our knowledge of life’s origin is in the exploration of space. I recommend “Planetary Dreams” by the late Robert Shapiro for more on where that might lead.

  78. No need to google it Alan, the synthesis of urea tells us nothing whatsoever of how the body produces a protein (one of the “body’s organic chemicals” as mentioned above).

  79. …the synthesis of urea tells us nothing whatsoever of how the body produces a protein…

    But the point was that inorganic synthesis of urea disproved Vitalism as a hypothesis.

    Is this a lead in to semiotics? ;)

  80. Alan,

    But the point was that inorganic synthesis of urea disproved Vitalism as a hypothesis.

    The point is that the observation of urea synthesis is useless in understanding how the “body’s organic chemicals” are formed.

  81. Alan Fox as to your assertion that Vitalism,,,

    Vitalism is the doctrine, often advocated in the past but now rejected by mainstream science,[1] that “living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things” – wikipedia

    ,,,is laid to rest as far as science is concerned, let me be the first to inform you of the resurrection of Vitalism:

    Non-local, beyond space and time, quantum entanglement/information (a quote unquote ‘non-physical’ element) is now found in molecular biology on a massive scale:

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – Elisabeth Rieper – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Does DNA Have Telepathic Properties?-A Galaxy Insight – 2009
    Excerpt: DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn’t be able to.,,, The recognition of similar sequences in DNA’s chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.
    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_.....ave-t.html

    Physicists Discover Quantum Law of Protein Folding – February 22, 2011
    Quantum mechanics finally explains why protein folding depends on temperature in such a strange way.
    Excerpt: Luo and Lo’s equations amount to the first universal laws of protein folding. That’s the equivalent in biology to something like the thermodynamic laws in physics.
    http://www.technologyreview.co.....f-protein/

    Coherent Intrachain energy migration at room temperature – Elisabetta Collini & Gregory Scholes – University of Toronto – Science, 323, (2009), pp. 369-73
    Excerpt: The authors conducted an experiment to observe quantum coherence dynamics in relation to energy transfer. The experiment, conducted at room temperature, examined chain conformations, such as those found in the proteins of living cells. Neighbouring molecules along the backbone of a protein chain were seen to have coherent energy transfer. Where this happens quantum decoherence (the underlying tendency to loss of coherence due to interaction with the environment) is able to be resisted, and the evolution of the system remains entangled as a single quantum state.
    http://www.scimednet.org/quant.....d-protein/

    The reason why quantum entanglement resurects vitalism back in biology is because,,,

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: To derive their inequality, which sets up a measurement of entanglement between four particles, the researchers considered what behaviours are possible for four particles that are connected by influences that stay hidden and that travel at some arbitrary finite speed.
    Mathematically (and mind-bogglingly), these constraints define an 80-dimensional object. The testable hidden influence inequality is the boundary of the shadow this 80-dimensional shape casts in 44 dimensions. The researchers showed that quantum predictions can lie outside this boundary, which means they are going against one of the assumptions. Outside the boundary, either the influences can’t stay hidden, or they must have infinite speed.,,,
    The remaining option is to accept that (quantum) influences must be infinitely fast,,,
    “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142217.htm

    As to ‘life’ preceding material reality instead of simply (ahem) ‘emerging’ from it, well quantum mechanics even goes there to provide answers for us:

    The argument for God from consciousness can be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    Three intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities):
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G_Fi50ljF5w_XyJHfmSIZsOcPFhgoAZ3PRc_ktY8cFo/edit

    Perhaps Alan you would care to provide some counter evidence that consciousness emerges from a material basis instead of preceding a material basis, as quantum mechanics strongly indicates, so as to be ‘scientific’ instead of dogmatic??? Good luck with that endeavor Alan:

    Logical Proofs of Infinite External Consciousness – January 18, 2012
    Excerpt: (Proof # 2) If you believe in the theory of Quantum Mechanics, then you believe that conscious observation must be present to collapse a wave function. If consciousness did not exist prior to matter coming into existence, then it is impossible that matter could ever come into existence. Additionally, this rules out the possibility that consciousness is the result of quantum mechanical processes. Either consciousness existed before matter or QM is wrong, one or the other is indisputably true.
    http://www.libertariannews.org.....ciousness/

    Darwinian Psychologist David Barash Admits the Seeming Insolubility of Science’s “Hardest Problem”
    Excerpt: ‘But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run.’
    David Barash – Materialist/Atheist Darwinian Psychologist

    Neuroscientist: “The Most Seamless Illusions Ever Created” – April 2012
    Excerpt: We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    Jerry Coyne, a Holy Warrior for Darwin – James Barham – April 20, 2012
    Excerpt: Darwinists deny the objective existence of purpose, value, and meaning.,,,, (Yet) everyday human life as we experience it is saturated with purpose, value, and meaning. Therefore, to ordinary people — as to most philosophers who have given the matter deep thought — the reductionist claims of the Darwinists are absurd on their face.
    In fact, they are self-contradictory, and just plain silly. Every word that comes out of Jerry Coyne’s mouth contradicts his official philosophy. Why? Because he presumably means something by what he says. Because he obviously values some things (Darwinism) and disvalues other things (religion). And because he manifestly has the purpose of convincing his readers that he is right and religious believers are wrong.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....58811.html

    Music and verse:

    Apocalypitca – Nothing Else Matters -
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSMXMv0noY4

    Romans 11:36
    For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

  82. Re your 81, Phil, I am not here as the pet science advocate. If you want scientific answers to scientific questions, ask a scientist. That’s what I do.

    This is a site that is “serving the Intelligent Design community” according to the header. I have asked a few questions about ID to which there have been precious few intelligent responses. But I live in hope!

  83. Hi everyone,

    Just a few quick comments. By the way, I’d like to wish you all a happy New Year.

    Stephen B (#66)

    Thanks very much for your response. After reading your defense of Fatima, I have to agree that you make some very telling points. Honestly, I’m not sure what to think. I’m troubled by (a) the similarities between Fatima and Heroldsbach, including the solar miracle witnessed by thousands at the latter; (b) the fact that a few people at Fatima didn’t witness the miracle, even though 70,000 people did; (c) the fact that people witnessing the miracle saw quite different things, even though there was a substantial core of phenomena witnessed by nearly all people present; (iv) divergences in the seers’ own accounts of what they saw; and (v) problems associated with the prophecies of Fatima.

    On the other hand, I’m impressed by (a) your point about the timing of the miracle being foretold in advance, down to the exact minute; (b) the inexplicable change in the weather that occurred at that very minute; (c) the inexplicable drying of the spectators’ clothes; and (d) the fact that the miracle was witnessed from a distance of up to 40 kilometers, by people who weren’t expecting a miracle.

    Upon reflection, I have to admit that there is much that hasn’t been explained about Fatima, and perhaps I was mistaken in dismissing it at natural. However, I would be extremely wary of using this sign when arguing with a skeptic. There are too many awkward and troubling features about the events at Fatima that an intelligent non-believer could point to, and use to undermine the miracle, if he so wished; hence its apologetic value in the 21st century is very limited.

    Barry Arrington (#68) and Lar Tanner (#63)

    I quite understand your skepticism regarding the miracles attributed to St. Joseph of Cupertino, and your desire to see the relevant documentation. I did a bit of searching around on the Internet, and here’s what I found out from a short pamphlet entitled, The Life of Saint Joseph of Cupertino by Fr. Christopher Shorrock O.F.M. Conv. (1985):

    A number of biographies of St Joseph of Cupertino have been prepared in the past and give us extensive details of the extraordinary life of the saint. Of paramount importance are the thirteen volumes of the Process of Canonization preserved in the Vatican Archives. In this great literary work we find recounted the numerous testimonies of witnesses (including princes, cardinals, bishops and doctors) who knew St Joseph personally and in many cases were eyewitnesses to the wonderful events of his life. These episodes clearly reveal a man completely open to the transforming grace of God.

    These volumes, however, are not available in English and are not readily accessible. Therefore it is my intention, in producing this small pamphlet of the life of this great, yet little known, saint, to attempt to show how the hand of God clearly manifested itself in St Joseph’s life and at the same time lead us to the realization that with total openness to God’s grace we may be able to recognize all the possibilities presented in our own lives…

    With reference to levitation I have relied on an article found in the New Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. 8 p. 683). In this article “levitation” is described as the suspension of a material body in the air without any visible support, in apparent opposition to the law of gravity. There seems to be little doubt concerning the fact of levitation, but it is not scientifically proved that this type of bodily suspension surpasses the psychological powers of nature. It is noted that the three possible causes of levitation are: God (directly or through the agency of angels), the devil (with God’s permission), or some force or power of nature as yet unknown. Among the numerous canonized saints who experienced levitation, the following are the most renowned: Ss Teresa of Avila, Joseph of Cupertino, Catherine of Siena, Phillip Neri, Peter Alcantara, Paul of the Cross, John Bosco, Peter Claver, and Gemma Galgani. It also pointed out that levitation is not admitted as one of the miracles required for the canonization of the saint, though it may be considered a testimony of the person’s heroic sanctity…

    Joseph was always truthful when people approached him for prayer, even when he saw an imminent danger in the lives of the people. To one woman who asked Joseph to pray for her two sons who were about to receive doctorate degrees, he replied that soon the doctors would be in heaven. The two sons died a few days later. He also predicted the deaths that Father Palma would become Bishop of Oria, Monsignor Roberti the bishop of Leuca, Monsignor Albergati the archbishop of Bologna, and Cardinal Emil Altieri, Pope…

    Another extraordinary event occurred on the vigil of Epiphany in 1655. Joseph told the superior, in confidence, that the Pope was dead. He recalled that while he was celebrating Mass, God had granted him the grace of seeing the Pope lying in his bed at Rome, breathing his last. As a result of this vision Joseph was able to offer the Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope Innocent X. Official news of the Pope’s death arrived at Fossombrone the next day. This was the second time that Joseph had seen the death of a Pope…

    Due to the many and astounding miracles, by which God glorified his servant after death, the Holy See directed that inquiries should be conducted regarding the virtuous life of Joseph of Cupertino. These inquiries began in those dioceses where Joseph had lived, namely: Osimo, Assisi, and Nardo (in which diocese was Cupertino).

    So there you are. You’ll have to go to the Vatican Archives if you want to find out more about the levitations. The pamphlet also provides many detailed examples of St. Joseph’s levitations, and is well worth reading.

    Alan Fox (#77)

    You mention the origin of life scenario proposed by the late Dr. Robert Shapiro. You may not be aware that Shapiro’s metabolism-first scenario was extensively critiqued by Leslie Orgel in his article, The Implausibility of Metabolic Cycles on the Prebiotic Earth (PLOS Biology, January 2008, Volume 6(1):e18), in which he highlighted the lack of experimental support for these scenarios, as well as their failure to address the fundamental problems relating to the origin of life. Here’s a short quote from the conclusion:

    …In view of the importance of the topic, it is essential to subject metabolist proposals to the same kind of detailed examination and criticism that has rightly been applied to genetic theories [29,30]. In the case of these latter theories, an appraisal of their plausibility can be based on a substantial body of experimental work. In the case of the former, because little experimental work has been attempted, appraisal must be based on chemical plausibility.

    Almost all proposals of hypothetical metabolic cycles have recognized that each of the steps involved must occur rapidly enough for the cycle to be useful in the time available for its operation. It is always assumed that this condition is met, but in no case have persuasive supporting arguments been presented…

    The most serious challenge to proponents of metabolic cycle theories — the problems presented by the lack of specificity of most nonenzymatic catalysts — has, in general, not been appreciated. If it has, it has been ignored. Theories of the origin of life based on metabolic cycles cannot be justified by the inadequacy of competing theories: they must stand on their own.

    The situation with respect to chemical cycles unrelated to those involved in contemporary metabolism is different. At least one well-established autocatalytic cycle, the core of the formose reaction, is understood reasonably well [1,18] and, as discussed previously, there is experimental support for the existence of one or two other simple cycles [2,3]…

    The prebiotic syntheses that have been investigated experimentally almost always lead to the formation of complex mixtures. Proposed polymer replication schemes are unlikely to succeed except with reasonably pure input monomers. No solution of the origin-of-life problem will be possible until the gap between the two kinds of chemistry is closed. Simplification of product mixtures through the self-organization of organic reaction sequences, whether cyclic or not, would help enormously, as would the discovery of very simple replicating polymers. However, solutions offered by supporters of geneticist or metabolist scenarios that are dependent on “if pigs could fly” hypothetical chemistry are unlikely to help.

    bornagain77 (#71)

    You made some excellent points in response to Ed Babinski’s objections regarding Hell. Thank you. Thanks also for the video links on mind-body influences and photosynthesis.

    Edward T. Babinski (#69, 70)

    Thank you for your comments. Regarding Hell: I would also like to add that (a) belief in visions has never been obligatory, even for Catholics; (b) although there have been Christians who held that most people go to Hell, this is not a point of Christian teaching, and there have been prominent saints who held a contrary view. You might find the following article interesting: The Population of Hell by Avery Cardinal Dulles.

    As for the idea that God would condemn people to Hell for not believing in the face of insufficient evidence, the New Testament does not support this notion. It is only willful, obstinate unbelief which is punished, not honest doubt. Many prophets in the Old Testament were encouraged by God to ask for a sign from Him.

    You ask whether belief in the supernatural would justify the burning of witches. Several quick points in reply:

    (i) belief in witchcraft, far from being part and parcel of the Christian tradition, emerged relatively late in the history of Christendom – indeed in earlier times the notion that witches existed was even regarded as a heresy;

    (ii) until well into the Middle Ages, Satan’s sway and influence over earthly affairs was popularly held to have been drastically curtailed after Christ’s saving death on the Cross, with the result that ordinary people simply didn’t worry about attacks from the Devil;

    (iii) the European hysteria regarding witchcraft was almost entirely confined to a period of two centuries (1450-1650) in the 2000-year history of Christianity;

    (iv) in some countries, persecution of witches was especially savage, while in others (including Orthodox Russia and Catholic Spain, at a time when the Inquisition had a strong influence) it was virtually non-existent;

    (v) certain Catholic and Calvinist clerics were at the forefront of efforts to stamp out popular hysteria surrounding witches in the early 17th century; and

    (vi) while it is a cause for great shame that any witches were killed by Christians at all, the total number of victims (men as well as women) was probably in the neighborhood of 50,000 and certainly less than 100,000 – which is nowhere near the figure of nine million that is often repeated in anti-Catholic literature.

    Links of interest:

    European witchcraft (article in Wikipedia).

    Case Study: The European Witch-Hunts, c. 1450-1750 and Witch-Hunts Today by Gendercide Watch.

    Friedrich von Spee. Article in The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912.

    Re St. Christina the Astonishing: I had heard of her feats, but I don’t know how good the documentation is with regard to the miracles alleged on her behalf. The following online biography may be of interest to you:

    St. Christina the Astonishing by Cynthia Large. In her essay, Large makes the following observations:

    The earliest account of the life of St. Christina the Astonishing comes to us courtesy of the 13th century Dominican, Thomas de Cantimpre[1], who wrote the lives of several holy men and women from the diocese of Liege. The tales of Christina’s wild exploits might have been dismissed as an example of the medieval imagination run amok, were it not for the eyewitness account of Cardinal Jacques de Vitry, a man considered, then and now, to be a reliable and sober character…

    Christina of Liege has been a saint in popular tradition almost from the time of her death, although no formal beatification ever took place. She stands out from the canon, as Compass editor Tony Staley[5] points out, because her life, alone among the others, is not held up as an example to be followed. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    Referances
    1. “The Life of Christina the Astonishing,” by Thomas de Cantimpre, translated with introduction and notes by Margot H. King, assisted by David Wiljer. ©1999 Peregrina Publishing Co.

    5. Tony Staley, “The Compass,”
    Catholic Diocese of Green Bay,
    1825 Riverside Drive, P.O. Box 23825,
    Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
    E-Mail: [email protected]

    See also this Wikipedia article: Christian the Astonishing .

    Unlike St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Christina the Astonishing was never canonized by the Holy See, but by popular acclamation instead. It is fair to say that the latter procedure is much less rigorous than the former, in its fact-checking.

  84. 84

    EdwardTBabinski writes: “If supernaturalism is true based on common tales from common men and women, then what ISN’T true? Allah, Brahma, Buddha, Zeus, Marduk, New Agers, Wiccans, tossing salt over one’s shoulder, keeping clear of the paths of black cats, UFOs, urban myths, chain letter threats, alien abductions, werewolves, vampires, elves, et al.”

    Edward, you don’t seem to understand the point of the OP. Let me try to explain. Chesterton never says we must suspend our credulity and accept uncritically outlandish claims. At the other extreme is selective hyper-skepticism where we refuse to believe anything that does not fit comfortably within our preexisting worldview. Chesterton advocates for a balanced middle ground. He does not say we must always believe the old apple woman. He says we should credit her testimony regarding proposition A (supernatural events) to the same extent we would credit her testimony regarding proposition B (non-supernatural events). In other words, if she is generally credible, we should conclude that her testimony is positive evidence for either event and vice versa. The analysis does not end there. Just as a single witnesses’ testimony rarely conclusively establishes anything in court even if the witness is believed to be credible, the testimony of a single credible individual to an allegedly supernatural event does not necessarily establish the matter. It is only evidence, not conclusive apodictic proof.

  85. EdwardTBabinski

    I would just like to thank you for taking the time to so eloquently offer your opinions on miracles etc. I have even visited your blog, such is my interest in what you have said thus far. And it is because of your undoubted depth of thought on this matter, and my experiences which are in stark contrast to yours, I feel I should respond.

    For many years, 38 to be exact, I didn’t believe in miracles either, but during a stay at a Christian run drugs rehab, in 2006, that changed. To cut a long story short I gave my heart to Christ and what followed was one miracle after another.

    Now before you suggest that whatever it was I witnessed was brought about by 25 years of addiction, or due to the effects of ‘cold turkey’ I have to say that I had been completely clean for almost 3 weeks, was the healthiest I had ever been, both physically and mentally, and was well aware of all that was going on.

    The first thing to happen to me was being visited by Jesus. He came to me one night and talked with me. From that point on my life began to change, and all for the better. I then encountered many instances where I would be filled with various feelings, as I prayed, was prayed for, or read my bible, when I would be filled with a warm glow, or receive amazing insights, and on other occasions experienced things in the physical like lumps and scars from years of injecting disappearing before my very eyes. And that was only the beginning.

    Any way, I’m not going to go on, but simply wanted to let you know that the very things you don’t believe all happened to me (as well as many other people I have spoken to over the years). And nothing I can say or do can ever change that.

    I have seen things, felt things, even heard things, that I can only attribute to the supernatural (Holy Spirit).

    I can’t vouch for any of the things you have mentioned ‘Allah, Brahma, Buddha, Zeus, Marduk, New Agers, Wiccans, tossing salt over one’s shoulder, keeping clear of the paths of black cats, UFOs, urban myths, chain letter threats, alien abductions, werewolves, vampires, elves, et al.”, as none of those things have revealed themselves to me, but I can vouch for Jesus Christ.

    Whether or not we like the idea, or the problems it’s causes our intellect when we consider ‘galaxies colliding’ ‘Cousin species becoming extinct’ etc, it doesn’t change what I have experienced.

    I suppose this would be a good opportunity for me to pug a book I have written about those things. See link below.

    Hope you one day discover this for yourself.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Design.....038;sr=1-1

  86. Alan you state:

    If you want scientific answers to scientific questions, ask a scientist. That’s what I do.

    And therein lies your fault Alan for if you truly want scientific answers to scientific questions, what you must ultimately do is not ‘ask a scientist’ (argument from authority) as you think settles the matter, what a person must do is he truly wants scientific answers to scientific questions, is check and see if the scientific evidence confirms or disconfirms a certain position. This is exactly what I have done to overturn your claim that ‘vitalism’ is no longer a viable line of thought in science.

    P.S. Alan, your dogmatism is showing with this ad homenim

    “This is a site that is “serving the Intelligent Design community” according to the header. I have asked a few questions about ID to which there have been precious few intelligent responses. But I live in hope!”

    Thus you have both ‘appealed to authority’ and ‘attacked the man’ in that short post instead of offered ANY scientific evidence whatsoever in support of your position! It is clear by such shallow tactics on your part that you are not really concerned with finding the truth of the matter but only in clinging to your atheism no matter what the evidence may say to the contrary!

  87. BA77: Well said. I think there is a need to pause, turn down rhetorical voltage and go back to the merits of fact and logic, including through scientific investigation not held captivity to a new a priori evolutionary materialist magisterium dressed in the holy lab coat. KF

  88. vjt, the references in the Old Testament, to mediums, and specifically, the Witch of Endor, who was consulted by Saul the day prior to his death on the battle-field (Samuel I: 28), indeed, the proscription against them under the Mosaic Law, render your assertion in your point 1) very puzzling to me. Although, clearly, Samuel’s compliance with a medium’s summons must have been authorised by God, for his own purposes.

    Likewise, Matthew 27:50-54 reads :
    “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

    My impression is that those bodies of holy people seen in Jerusalem were spirits, ghosts, of the dead, rather than resurrected bodies, although I suppose it is arguable that God might have glorified their bodies to the degree that the body of Jesus, himself, was glorified, before his Ascension and full glorification. Remember his words to Mary Magdalene, when, after his Resurrection, she kissed his feet:

    ‘Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’

    I can’t imagine they would have been zombie-like or even normal, living bodies, those risen, holy people were endowed with. What would happen to them then? Going back into the grave bodily?
    —–
    ‘As for the idea that God would condemn people to Hell for not believing in the face of insufficient evidence, the New Testament does not support this notion. It is only willful, obstinate unbelief which is punished, not honest doubt. Many prophets in the Old Testament were encouraged by God to ask for a sign from Him.’

    Absolutely agree. Why would our God ask for blind credulity? As James says in his letter: ‘Even the devils believe and tremble.’

    However, I don’t believe the point you make in your second, quoted sentence should be considered without reference to Christ’s specific mission on earth with regard to his own incarnation; and to our own one, which is to demonstrate the same selfless love or charity, by a loyal commitment to himself and to his calling, in our treatment of others who are in need of one kind or another; as indicated in Christ’s description of the Last Judgment, in Matthew 25.

    That commitment of faith seems to have been rather different from that required of us, today; albeit, this is perhaps less and less the case, with the rise of secular fundamentalism by courtesy of our Western governments, bought and paid for by the multinationals.

    For, to all appearances, Jesus would have been an eccentric, indigent, itinerant preacher, not merely shunned by the theocratic establishment, but demonised by them, to the extent that to be seen with him, could have incurred banishment from the Synagogue; a heavy social sanction in such a small theocratic society, irrespective of exigencies of personal piety.

    Today, there are a host of other deterrents to the faith, youngsters, particularly, being vulnerable to the faux, worldly wisdom of their unbelieving peers, who write the faith off as just superstition of a chauvinistic character, depending on what country and culture they grew up in, etc, etc. But, there are, of course, many more deterrents and means of trial.

    It’s true, of course, that some prophets, we are told, were prompted to ask God for a sign, but there is one incident that I cannot help finding hilarious: when King Ahab, who gives the impression of being a very slobbish type, was invited by Isiah to ask for a sign, he declined, seemingly instructing Isiah in piety, declaring that he ‘would not put God to the test!’

    Whereupon, unsurprisingly, Isiah asks him if he was not content with trying the patience of men, that he should try the patience of God, too!

  89. PJ: I hear you, one of millions who too often are not listened to today. In my case, absent a miracle of guidance for my mom when she had nowhere left to turn to to deal with a life threatening chronic illness that was out of control, over 40 years ago, I would not be here today. Let us just say that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” is not a mere poetical flourish. KF

  90. ‘prophets’ is the wrong word in the first line of the penultimate paragraph. I believe it was patriarchs, judges, prophets, and perhaps relatives. Some signs, I believe, were offered gratuitously by the Angel of the Lord.

  91. And didn’t Chesterton realise to the full what you guys are up against in arguing with atheists:

    ‘When men stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.’

    ‘I’ll have a multiverse please… with just a dash of junk DNA and errr… oh, a wee dish of primordial soup for starters, if you please.’

  92. KF, I keep wondering about these empty responses given by Darwinists to the overwhelming evidence for ID, “Exactly what is the payoff for dogmatic atheists?”,,, Surely they can’t be so blind! Do they think that if perhaps they lie to themselves enough maybe God will go away? Well He certainly is not going to ‘go away’, although He is also certainly big enough to let those who want nothing to do with Him have their way in the end and withdraw His presence from them permanently. i.e. Hell!

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
    ? C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

  93. Oh, and tell the chef, that for all his wizardry, that ‘bombe Cambrienne’ I had the other day, was absolutely atrocious.
    There were all sorts of ‘foreign bodies’ in it.

  94. Alan Fox:

    But the point was that inorganic synthesis of urea disproved Vitalism as a hypothesis.

    Cuz you say so? LoL!

    No, Alan the inorganic synthesis of urea did nothing to Vitalism. Nothing at all.

    Only a crank would say otherwise and here you are.

  95. Axel@91,

    And didn’t Chesterton realise to the full what you guys are up against in arguing with atheists:

    ‘When men stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.’

    ‘I’ll have a multiverse please… with just a dash of junk DNA and errr… oh, a wee dish of primordial soup for starters, if you please.’

    Per the Chesterton quote in the OP, shouldn’t we all keep an open mind about the multiverse, etc., just as we keep an open mind about levitating saints, holy folk who carry around their own severed heads, miracles, and so forth?

  96. Absolutely LarTanner- a designer could just as easily designed a multiverse system, thereby allowing many tangents to play out, to see what happens, what changes.

    Also to see what changing constants would do and what changes each variation produced.

    Heck I say there could be multiple designers, some working together and some designing their own verse in the multiverse system.

    BTW anyone who accepts the theory of evolution already accepts miracles. The miracle of imagination and miracle mystery mutations…

  97. A review of the key quote in the OP: “The Dangers of Quoting (Out)Dated Wisdom”

  98. Axel,

    Thank you for your post. It is certainly true, as you point out, that the Old Testament prescribed capital punishment for witches, and condemned Saul for consulting with one. However, I would argue that the term “witch” in the Old Testament referred to someone who claimed to be in communion with spirits, rather than a person with magical powers, as many people in the late (not early) Middle Ages believed witches possessed. In Old Testament times, a witch would have promoted the cultic practices of pagan religions in that region – including child sacrifices. Capital punishment was a harsh but necessary way of getting rid of this evil, which was the worst form of child abuse. Here’s the context: Deuteronomy 18.

    9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.

    The early Church believed that the power of Satan had been broken through the death of Christ on the cross. Hence the lack of concern about witches’ spells.

    I should add, though, that evil spirits are quite real, even though many so-called “educated” people scoff at the very notion of them. See here: Among the Many Counterfeits, a Case of Demonic Possession.

  99. Mr. Arrington,

    Is it possible to have an blog post about the different types of Atheism? Something like a family tree or flow chart? I am getting confused by people using the terms “naturalist”, “Materialist”, and “Atheist” and would like to be able to articulate these differences.

    Additionally, since ID is fighting a social battle (i.e. the Wikipedia post by KF) I think it would be important to distinguish between science and atheistic-materialism which is the main opponent of ID. Some type of exacting definitions would be of great help.

    What do you think?

  100. I should add, though, that evil spirits are quite real, even though many so-called “educated” people scoff at the very notion of them. See here: Among the Many Counterfeits, a Case of Demonic Possession.

    Yes, vjt, I’ve never seen a ghost but twice an attempt was made to throttle me, hundreds of miles and several years apart (London and Edinburgh), the first time when I was on my bed, the second in it. It was enough for me to tense my neck-muscles to resist, what evidently, in those circumstances, had limited strength.

    Also, in the army in Malacca, when in bed, at the time, asleep, stretched out on my back, the full length of my body was physically raised about six to ten – as in pictures one sees of a conjuring trick, with someone supporting a person by their head, and another, by their feet (or is that hypnotism?).

    I just as swiftly became aware that whatever this entity was, it was intent on sodomizing me, so clenched my gluteal muscles, as I was later to tense my neck muscles, to timely effect, thus thwarting the perverse designs of that priapic, phantom limbo-dancer.

    In Malaysia, we didn’t wear pyjamas – not sure we did in Germany; certainly not jackets. But also, in Malaysia we just slept with a single sheet over us. I suspect it was a ghost, not a demon.

    When my nephew, as a fourteen-year old, was asked by a ghost in a monk’s garb, who seemed to have taken up residence in a former house my mother lived, what he was doing there, he retorted, ‘I might ask you that.’ Not in the least bit scared, yet, like me, not obvious cage-fighting material.

    People are scared of different things, aren’t they? I remember an uncle of mine who had been in Palestine with a parachute regiment after WWII, remarking how a very good boxer, he was driving with, was terrified of shells, etc. Quite a healthy fear, I expect, but arguably not as healthy as a blithe trust in Providence, whatever your fate.

    Anyway, I suspect all three of those experiences I mentioned were of ghostly provenance – we’ve had poltergeists playing up, to – but I was really struck by one angelic and two demonic experiences. You know, demons are fallen angels, and as such, ‘pure’ spirits, although able to assume just about any appearance I would think.

    I woke up in the night, to see a dull glow moving from my direction in the bed over my late wife’s body (presumably having tried to enter my soul), and was struck by two things: one that it was a dull glow, as described in a TV programme by someone who’d witnessed a similar glow ascending a staircase in a notoriously-haunted house; the one I saw was a dirty yellow, as in an oil slick, and no bigger than a fist. I don’t remember if the woman in the TV programme mentioned the colour, though I suspect she did.

    And secondly, that, also similarly, it moved in a strikingly straight line. Well, it would be obvious ascending a staircase, but not so much moving across a bed. Then I remembered how the prophet Ezekiel had described (good) angels he saw in a vision moving in a straight line, and it occurred to me that the reason why it was striking to us, is that in our experience, most living creature have limbs, and thus, when we see other people walking, we automatically factor in the slight rising and falling of the person’s body with each foot-fall, as well as the slight swaying from side to side, and the slight deceleration and acceleration, with each foot-fall. So, to us, they are ‘walking in a straight line’.

    It is said that we see supernatural visions through the filter of our own cultural heritage. Be that as it may, Christian scripture sometimes depicts the Devil as a dragon, and one night, evidently in some kind of dream, I was suddenly made aware of a great dragon swooping down on me. I started frantically casting about in my mind, whether to call out to St Michael, the archangel and leader of the heavenly army, or St Joseph, terror of demons.

    But I very soon ran out of time, so I just bellowed out in panic, simultaneously waking up, ‘Help!’ The word hadn’t left my mouth before relief from the dragon’s attention came. He disappeared instantly. I felt sure I must have woken up my wife and people in neighbouring flats, but I was evidently shouting ‘in the spirit’, only. It tallied with a similar response to a supernatural horror of a lad in my billet in a regiment in Germany. No one heard a word, all of us remaining blissfully asleep.

    Had I been a Protestant, I expect I’d have just yelled out, ‘Jesus help me!’, but in any case, my heavenly rescuer must have known what an idiot I am, so dispensed with the formalities. As I wrote that, I sensed my late wife’s presence in her armchair behind me, endorsing their assessment. God does have a sense of humour.

    The good angelic experience was also strange. Again, if there was a visual element to it, it was dwarfed by the tactile element. I did see a small, very fleeting flash of light, but not such as I would ordinarily have taken notice of, thinking it a trick of the light, or optical illusion, like ‘seeing stars’.

    A young lad at the time, I was returning to a boarding house I was staying at in Reading, and saw our landlady trying to catch her cat; she was a lovely lady, but pretty neurotic and seemed to be conveying it to the cat.

    With my customary presumption, I thought I’d try to catch it. Well, to my surprise, instead of bolting off again, it stayed still and as I stooped down to pick it up, my lead forearm and hand felt suffused with an incredible gentleness. My landlady remarked how gently I’d picked the cat up, as well.

    Anyway, in case anyone wants to forward my name for canonisation on the basis of this latter experience, I’m still fighting a losing battle to stop hurling four-letter words, in moments of stress.

  101. Speaking about it to my wife one night, I said that gentleness was an absence of violence; to which, with immeasurably more insight, which was not unusual, she replied, ‘Oh no. It’s love.’

  102. Axel, I think you just derailed the thread!

    Happy New Year everybody!

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