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Why should this be so? Two contradictory reasons can be considered.

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On the one hand, as shown in chapter 5, the narratives are shaped by the formal questions. The stability, nature, and sequence of those questions generate an organized set of replies that tends to mold the story to a prescribed form. The more files that I examined, the more familiar became the questions and the easier it was for me to ferret out the particular material that I sought. Regardless of the century in which they were written, I could count on these records to "deliver" in a reliable way through those numbered questions.

Gradually I realized that the questions were "ordering" the story itself, even as they elicited its details. In a similar manner, doctors "order" patient histories to make them amenable to their canons of knowledge-a point to which I will return in the "doing" section below.

This observation implies that the stability of miraculous experience was a product of the process, more apparent than real. On the other hand, consider the opposite possibility that these narratives reflect a certain timelessness in human suffering and transcendence. Could the intrinsic nature of human experience have generated the questions that shape the records and the process? This explanation invites the possibility that religious and medical traditions are constructed in response to the perennial, inevitable challenges of suffering and death.

Three surprising and telling elements of these files tend to support this second explanation. First, the most constant aspect of medical and religious reality is the subliminal intelligence that we all must die. As a wag teacher used to quip, "Life is the only 'disease' that has one hundred percent mortality.

Sometimes, as discussed in chapter 2 [ The Supplicants and Their Saints ], the person who had been miraculously healed had already died before the investigation took place.

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As a result, the "miracle"-the thing of wonder-had nothing to do with breaking natural law by replacing death with immortality; rather, it lay in the contemporary inability to explain the recovery. The second surprising feature of the records is their deep commitment to scientific evidence and the essential ingredient of medical surprise. The extent to which the religious observers relied on scientific skepticism came to me as a genuine shock. Daniel Dennett, a famous atheist, labels this process a form of going "through the motions" [1].

With the exception of ignoring the events altogether, no other "motions" or methods are available to us mortals. Even Dennett must admit that there is no science other than that which is known today, and he overstates his premise that the process does not challenge its witnesses [2].

BBC - Religions - Christianity: The Miracles of Jesus

As this analysis of four centuries of inquiries has shown, the clerics question every witness and they readily defer to the opinion of scientists. They withhold a judgment of supernatural agency until they are convinced that the diagnoses are accurate, the investigations and treatments up-to-date, and the experts prepared to label the events inexplicable. In this sense, religion celebrates and endorses medical science, and it appears to have no need to refute it. Religion relies on the best of human wisdom before it imposes a judgment from inspired doctrine. When science provides a plausible explanation, religion will wait.

A corollary arises to this observation: religion sits more comfortably with medical science than vice versa. However, medical discomfiture stems not so much from the details of individual cases, but from the heart of medical identity. As shown in chapter 4 [ The Doctors ], some treating physicians expressed doubts about the entire process; similarly, a few experts hesitated to pronounce on the cures, as if cooperation would constitute a betrayal of their own belief systems. In the fifth century B.

Blind Woman Healed in front of 200,000 People!

In Western medical tradition, all diseases are natural; therefore, all cures must be natural too, even if we cannot explain them yet, or ever. This objection is not new. Absence of an explanation does not automatically turn an event into a miracle, a position strongly argued in debates between Protestants and Catholics during the nineteenth century [4].

A hematologist colleague insists that "we may never find the natural explanation, but one must exist. I will return to this essential trait of medical science below.


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Religion little cares if an explanation may come along in the future; medicine confidently expects that it will, and if it does, the explanation may disqualify the miracle retroactively. With his insistence on heroic virtue as a necessary condition before considering miracles, a canonization would nonetheless remain justified, as it was for martyrs whose recognition did not require miracles.

Saints were human, and like us they were once confined to time and space; invocations are similarly anchored in physicality.

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For all its emphasis on the eternal, in the domain of saint making, religion displays a surprising comfort with temporal relativism. Science does not, and the gap counts in this process. These three surprising features of the miracle records suggest that the regularity of human experience in confrontation with suffering and death have shaped the questions and the process.

This possibility is unimagined by skeptics, including many of my medical colleagues who are baffled by this research.


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They simply assume that all the healings must have been produced by autosuggestion, as described in the section on hysteria Chapter 3 , or worse, by deception. They are confident that modern techniques of examination would have exposed the majority of the diagnoses as honest mistakes or frauds.

Surprised by Healing: One of the Greatest Miracles of the 21st Century

They may be right, but their objections are metahistorical, even presentist. Medical scientists are uncomfortable with relative truth; for them, somebody must be lying or misled. This posture flows from the commitment to natural if unknown explanations cited above, and it has been a characteristic of medicine since antiquity [5].

These concrete attitudes about truth and demonstration inform the recent randomized controlled trials on the effectiveness of intercessory prayer for healing. Attempts to gauge the effectiveness of prayer stretch back at least to the nineteenth century [6].

In these studies, people are prayed for at a distance by collectivities of strangers or friends; the outcomes are assessed together with those of controls who ostensibly suffered without the benefit of prayer. Improved outcomes in the prayed-for group are construed as evidence for the effectiveness of prayer and the immanence of transcendence in our lives. Equal or worse outcomes are construed as evidence in favor of atheism and futility. Skeptics often refer to these studies and their failures as "proof" that appeals for divine help do not "work" and never will.

But the so-called evidence-based method cannot really address the questions that are most pressing. On the one hand, as the Vatican's chief medical expert explained, the miracle is in the particular, in the exceptional; statistics cannot prove or disprove that singular cause-and-effect relationship [7]. The possibility of falsification is used to design experiments and is considered a hallmark of the scientific method [8]. Both are beliefs, and they fall outside the realm of scientific method as we know it. Because the one belief utterly pervades the scientific community, it seems not to be a belief but a "fact.

As an atheist, how do I explain the ' miracles ' that the Bible People in the ancient world believed that miracles were possible. Are they saying the biblical God is the one that would exist if there was a god?. The same way I believe I can reject the claims of miracles made in the 21st century.

Posts about Healing written by revnettie. Anointing oils were regularly used by the Christian church of the time to treat the sick and elderly by rubbing them directly onto the skin. A number of people believe an ingredient used in some of these oils may have had psychoactive properties and could have featured a cannabis extract.

The Hebrew version of the holy oil recipe in Exodus contained almost 3 kilos 6lb of an as-yet unidentified herb referred to as keneh-bosum. Holy anointing oils used in the early days of the Christian church contained kaneh-bosem, an ingredient Bienenstock suggests was a cannabis extract. Most historians think the herb refers to calamus - a root extrac also known as 'Sweet Flag' that has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Bienenstock added that anyone healed by cannabis-lined oils would have see the practice as a 'miracle'. Some cannabis advocates claim early Christians, including Jesus himself, put cannabis in annointing oils used to heal the sick and elderly.