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Skeptic Benjamin Radford on the Fátima Miracle

Fatima

Paranormal investigator Benjamin Radford has written a piece for Live Science on the The Lady of Fátima & the Miracle of the Sun. Mr. Radford is the deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and a Research Fellow with the non-profit educational organization the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Mr. Radford answers the question:

What really happened at Fátima?

 
On October 13, 1917, between 30,000 to 100,000 people gathered near Fátima, Portugal at the behest of three young shepherd children. The children claimed to have seen visions of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and they also claimed that at high noon the "lady" would perform a great miracle in a field near Fátima called Cova da Iria, so that "all may believe." According to many witnesses, it started raining shortly before noon and then dark clouds rolled in. But then suddenly an opaque, spinning disc appeared in the sky, which many witnesses described as a "dancing sun." This took place right at the predicted time. Some witnesses also reported that their previously wet clothes became "suddenly and completely dry." Several newspaper reporters were in attendance and they took testimony from many people who claimed to have witnessed the extraordinary solar activity.

Now, Radford gives what he calls a scientific explanation for this apparent miracle. According to him, it was “an optical illusion caused by thousands of people looking up at the sky, hoping, expecting, and even praying for some sign from God.”

After a gracious reminder on the danger of damaging eyes by staring at the sun too long, he asserts that those gathered at Fátima on October 13, 1917 looked at the sun so long that they experienced an illusion of solar movement because their eye muscles got tired. He explains that these folks weren’t pulling a hoax, it’s just that they experienced something in the mind, not in the real world. He attributes the sustained belief in the miracle to the “power of suggestion” among the masses.

So what about the Fátima miracle then?

 
I am not an expert on all details of the Fátima phenomenon, but I’m expert enough to know that many opinions exist, a vastly large number beyond what Mr. Radford’s article covers. He summarily dismisses them though. How does he know it can all be ascribed to illusion? How does he even know what people actually saw? What if something did happen in the sky that day? Plenty of other scholars certainly think it possible. After all, there were also people there that day who played the role of dispassionate observers and also reported seeing the sun move. They weren’t all praying for a sign from God.

The biggest problem, though, is that his scientific explanation is unscientific, and unscientifically derived. It could have been a sun spot, an air lens, some turbulent clouds, or maybe even eye tricks. But how did he arrive at the certainty that it was an optical illusion on a mass scale?

In contrast, the late Fr. Stanley L. Jaki, the Benedictine priest, physicist, and historian had a little more to say. He wrote a book about this event, God and the Sun at Fátima, and he spent over a year intensely focused on researching this question, reading some sixty books and articles on the event, browsing the actual Fátima archives in two visits to Portugal, and interviewing other historians. Surprising even to him, the book project turned into a nearly 400 page account. His thesis is that there may be some sort of physical, scientific explanation, but he still holds that the event was a miracle.

Why was it a miracle?

 
Well, first we have to define miracle. According to St. Thomas Aquinas a miracle in the strict sense is “something done outside the order of the entire created universe.” According to Jaki, with whom I agree, the fact that the event occurred is the miracle. Even if the behavior of the sun was a purely natural phenomenon, the event in totality put this event in a class all its own. How did it come to be that a child knew when to tell the multitudes that gathered to look up for a sign from Heaven at just the right moment? Was the cause outside the order of the entire created universe?

That's not an unreasonable question to ask. In fact, it's a necessary one.

So, Radford may be right in asserting that there is a scientific explanation for what happened with the sun that day, but he didn’t even explore all of those possibilities, instead dismissing the whole thing, way too conveniently, as a mass mind trick, a conclusion that is not only unproven, but unprovable. How would you prove that tens of thousands of people were all simultaneously delusional?

On a bigger note…

 
An open-minded skeptic and systematic thinker must first grapple with the question of whether miracles are indeed possible or not, and demonstrate the truth of their non-existence before concluding that they do not exist. One challenge I'd propose to atheist commenters here at Strange Notions is to defend this belief. Reports of miracles are not rare among Catholics, and thousands have been confirmed by genuine investigation (ergo the title “Devil’s Advocate"). Dismissing them all as mental illusion perpetrated by the power of perception is a stretch, but even worse, if the mind plays tricks on us that much, then on those grounds we can call all our knowledge into question—including science itself.

 

 
(If you'd like to learn more about the Fátima Miracle, I'd highly recommend The Sun’s Miracle, or of Something Else?, a summary booklet Fr. Jaki wrote to explain why he investigated this question and what his general conclusions were.)
 
 
Originally posted at StacyTrasancos.com. Used with permission.

Dr. Stacy Trasancos

Written by

Stacy A. Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She teaches chemistry and physics for Kolbe Academy online homeschool program and serves as the Science Department Chair. She teaches Reading Science in the Light of Faith at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. She is author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press) comes out October 2016. She works from her family’s 100-year old restored lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband, children, and two German Shepherds remain top priority. Her website can be found here.

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  • Steven Dillon

    If the testimony of thousands convinces you the sun danced, the silence of millions should convince you it did not.

    • jakael02

      Millions did not attend Fatima. So if you are to consider the millions who choose not to believe, yet where not there; then you must consider the millions who choose to believe, yet where not there. To be consistent. Regardless, the truth of this is not dependent upon the majorities opinion yet should be weighted with a whole body of evidence.

      • I think Steven is wondering why, if the sun actually danced, only a small number of people in one part of the world saw it. I think Stanley Jaki gives one possible answer for why that is. Jaki says that it's because the miracle involved an atmospheric phenomenon.

        • jakael02

          Thanks Paul. I see his point now. I misunderstood.

    • Care to elaborate on this, Steven? Given that what's under discussion is a miraculous event, not a natural fluctuation of the sun, would it be logically necessary for everyone around the world to witness the same event? Couldn't part of the event's miraculous nature be that the sun only appeared to dance locally?

      • Steven Dillon

        Sure, Brandon. I guess it all depends on what exactly the miracle is said to have consisted in. Without qualification, the claim that the sun danced seems to be overwhelmingly disconfirmed by the silence of millions.

        But, if the claim is not that the sun danced, but that it appeared to, and only to a relatively small group of onlookers, I would struggle to see this as a 'miracle' claim. What would the miracle be?

        • Pedro Dias

          There were reports of people seeing the phenomenon from up to 20 miles away. Interestingly, the Portuguese newspaper "O Século", which was not supportive of Catholicism at all, had a detailed report of what happened, and I don't remember anyone saying "I was among the crowds, and nothing unusual happened at the scene". Trust me, I'm from Portugal and I believe I've dug enough through this...

          • Geena Safire

            You might want to consider what I wrote in another comment regarding the situation in Portugal at the time of the event, including three long years of the War to End All Wars. This would likely have a strong effect on the suggestibility of the people, in addition to their faith.

          • Pedro Dias

            Actually, the reports done by the kids were largely rejected by the families and local communities, as the credibility of 7, 9 and 10 year olds is easily questioned.
            If any link is placed between Fátima and the Great War, was that Benedict XV attributed Mary the title "Queen of Peace" and pleaded for guidance for peace on the war. The Fátima apparitions began about a week later, and as the community was largely made of shepherds, I doubt they'd get any news about that, and I doubt even more if any of them could actually read.
            Besides, the Portguese politics were looking towards secularism and anti-clericalism. On a rather ironic remark, Mary did say Portugal would never lose the dogma of the faith or something like it. (I don't read about this for quite some time, sorry)

            The point, I find that factor very unlikely. And I point out again, the report of an anti-clerical and pro-government newspaper (not based on witnesses, first-hand report) would make me give it the benefit of the doubt.

          • Geena Safire

            Thank you for your native input, sincerely.

            I would appreciate your insight on this idea. Although anti-clericalism was quite high, my guess is that this would be the strongest in the cities and among the rich and educated and weakest among the more rural folks, the illiterate, and the poor. I would also think that the church would be aware of the trend and might see, in this apparition, a way to reverse the trend by rallying the faithful to support the church and appealing to those fallen away to return..

          • Pedro Dias

            You're correct in much that you have said on your idea. To put you a bit more in-denph, Portugal has two regions that are distinct on their "religiousity", if we can call it that. The Northern area is profoundly religious, and it's no surprise that you often find priests with accents from these places, even in Lisbon. The Southern is historically more anti-clerical, and the distribution of sacraments and ministry was trusted to the religious orders since the Middle Ages. With the expulsion of these orders in 1834 following the Civil War was no help, and this region was largely left with no minister of the sacraments and became more irreligious, adopting a Leninist-Marxist mindset later on. The effects of this can still be felt today, as the religious orders that eventually revived are afraid of possible extinction, and Southern Portugal is the bulk of the communist parties of the country.

            With this in mind, and being Fátima a bit on the middle of the broad frontier I can give to North and South, I can't really say how much of a role the anti-clericalism played in this area, wheter to the expulsion of 1834 of the government's laicization. This Summer, when I was doing a pilgrimage to Fátima (if you want proof of it, look at my picture!), I received mixed reactions along the way. Some areas received us well, some didn't, and I can't say unambiguously how it was back then. It could've been either better or worse. But the point of all this is, there were more significant factors that could have played a part on the opinions of the folk, even though the community of the little shepherds, judging by the accounts of Sr. Lúcia, seemed religious.

            "I would also think that the church would be aware of the trend and might see, in this apparition, a way to reverse the trend by rallying the faithful to support the church and appealing to those fallen away to return.."

            I agree, completley. If God exists (to be clear, I firmly believe so), you would guess He would give the Church such an ace on its deck to recover the country, and the rest of the world later on. This place converted God-knows-how-many people, launched a chain of events that gave the Church some moral authority back over time in the country, and it's fair to say that it became the country's new religious center. Jesus taught to "judge a tree by its fruit" - be my guest! :)

          • Geena Safire

            Thank you for that!

            I would be interested in how you consider the effect on the church & the faithful of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. I understand the event had large social effects across Europe.

          • Pedro Dias

            I'm no expert in this part of history (I'm more into Middle Ages and 20th century), but I can tell you as much as I've been told and what I found in my own personal searches.

            The immediate effects of the earthquake were far from being social, but were more philosophical, as the emergent Enlightenment folk had a way too convenient argument falling onto their hands to support the problem of evil. I mean, an earthquake, fire and tsunami on a nation which its foundation, according to legend, was supported by Christ (I won't deviate to explain that), on a capital conquered by men of God in the Crusades, hitting the center of it, while leaving minor damage on the "red-light district" as Wikipedia puts it, and destroying major churches, in the middle of the Mass of All Saints' Day, having the cerimony's candels caused most of the fire, forcing people to go near the Tagus river, only to get washed off by a humongous wave. I mean come on, despite the 12,000 casualties, that'd leave a grin on every anti-Catholic's face.

            I don't recall any immediate effect on the church and its faithful, at least not any significant one. Major churches and a famous Carmelite convent were destroyed, and people might've wondered what caused this, but it didn't have any real effect on the people's faith...

            As far as I've understood it, social effects only happened in Portugal, and they were mainly political and among the aristocratic/noble class. A country squire that was striving in politics, showed an example of leadership immediately after the disaster, and gained much power, did many reforms, and restricted the Inquisition up to the point of stopping discrimination between Christan descendants of Jews and Muslims and executions.
            However, he was influenced by the Enlightenment, and though he was being hated by most of the high classes, he was able to rise in power and controlled Portugal for some time with an iron fist, eventually expelling the Jesuits from the country over false claims, executing a Duke and an entire noble family, ensuring absolute political power. So much for Enlightenment ideals of freedom, I guess... (and before you think I'm being too harsh, try to imagine my face when I discovered he shares my coat of arms; he's apparently a distant cousin of mine, and I kind of need to drag that in my surname).

            All in all, I think the only thing that affected the Church was an after-effect, the expulsion of the Society of Jesus, which was responsible for much of the country's education and scientific research. A win-lose situation for some, a lose-lose situation for others...

          • Andre Boillot

            I don't remember anyone saying "I was among the crowds, and nothing unusual happened at the scene".

            No, obviously not - at the very least they witnessed a lot of people claiming a miracle.

            Trust me, I'm from Portugal...

            Why didn't you just lead off with this and leave it at that?

            On a related note, I'm from France, so trust me, all that Lourdes stuff is bunk.

          • Pedro Dias

            "No, obviously not - at the very least they witnessed a lot of people claiming a miracle." - I doubt anyone wouldn't add that they didn't see anything themselves, especially when this event gave an impact like it did.

            "Why didn't you just lead off with this and leave it at that?" - I didn't want to sound like I was appealing to authority with that statement. All I'm saying is that I do have an easier access to more raw information on the matter and, if I was really into it, still-living witnesses (impressibely, there seems to be still a bunch of them, and I know who to talk to in order to find them if they exist).

            "On a related note, I'm from France, so trust me, all that Lourdes stuff is bunk." - I get it, the fact that I can speak both Portuguese and French doesn't convince you of the sources I can find on these event. If you're minimally interested in doing a reliable research, good luck with Google Translate then, I guess....

          • Steven Dillon

            Pedro: It doesn't seem to me that one needs to wade through the details because the probabilities would remain unaffected: thousands for, millions against.

            But, as far as the details go, of those who were present for this event, how many were confirmed to have claimed the sun danced?

          • Pedro Dias

            The number people who used the expression, I don't honestly know (for the huge majority of iliterate people that were there, I doubt they could be in any way more descriptive than that). The exact number of people who witnessed the event seems to have quite a broad range, having one report with 30,000, another with 70,000, and another with 100,000. There seems to be more usually accepted the 70k one, but don't quote me on that.

            What you need to understand as well, is that this miracle has only been reported on a local level. The three little shepherds that witnessed these visions went always to the same spot when they saw certain unusual weather conditions appear for a Portuguese Summer (and always on the 13th day, apparently); I don't remember exactly which were the weather conditions, but I think they were something like the quick appearance of clouds in the sky (I go to that area constantly, and to see a single cloud there in the Summer seems like a miracle) and a fainter sun brightness and intensity, which is not usual, either. I think however, that the day of the miracle, 13th of October, didn't have these weather conditions, and the kids simply knew the hour that a convincing miracle would happen. As I said before, the same type of report (of a "danding sun") seems to have been sighted in the immediate area, up to 20 miles away, whose people may have had little to no knowledge of what was happening in Fàtima.

            On the "millions against" regard, I stress that this event seem to have happened on a local level, not global. There were reporters of certain papers that I would doubt deeply that their intention to be there was to corroborate the claims of the kids, but to the contrary.

      • "Couldn't part of the event's miraculous nature be that the sun only appeared to dance locally?"

        Sounds like special pleading Brandon. Your response could be used to explain away any experience of the crowd whatsoever. Say 10 people saw the sun dance, and the rest saw nothing special. You could just say "couldn't part of the event's miraculous nature be that the sun only appeared to dance to 10 people?"

        I think the lack of outside viewers corroborating the event is evidence against its having occurred, ad hoc rationalizations notwithstanding.

  • Argon

    On a related note... Are there miracles that are associated with or supportive of non-Christian and non-RCC faiths? Are they more or less likely to be investigated skeptically by Catholic authorities?

    • picklefactory

      Are there miracles that are associated with or supportive of non-Christian and non-RCC faiths?

      You might say that Lord Krishna couldn't possibly support an entire mountain on one finger in order to save the people that lived on it from a flood, but then why didn't all those people drown?

    • jakael02

      Catholic authorities typically just investigate miracles that the Catholic faithful are encountering. They don't see themselves as a body that is to validate any miracle claim, but rather protect their flock from superstituous claims.

      • Argon

        That's interesting but somewhat similar to what I've found elsewhere today. For example, here's a response on another Catholic forum thread. Is that response the general view among Catholic authorities regarding the legitimacy of miracles that may occur in outside faiths?
        http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=308298

        Comment #13:

        The purpose of a miracle is to bring someone to the Truth. The fullness of Truth only resides in the Holy Catholic Church. God is not going to lead someone away from His Truth by leading someone to some other faith or belief through someone who does not believe in His One True Faith. It's just not going to happen, why would it?

        Remember - the miracle is not the healed body, it is the spiritual transformation that occurs within the person or others as a result of that healing (for example). If someone is healed and they don't grow in their spirituality and come closer to the Truth, then it's just another medical fluke.

    • Geena Safire

      The RCC considers, as an essential element of a miracle, that it must contribute to the belief of the faithful. (This is, actually, more significant than the actual scientific truth of the event.)

      • Argon

        Thanks Geena. I was moderately surprised to learn this during this discussion. As I mentioned earlier, butchering the line from Orwell's Animal Farm: Some miracles are more equal than others. This discussion about open mindedness with regard to miracles is reminiscent of Matthew 7:3.

  • picklefactory

    An open-minded skeptic and systematic thinker must first... demonstrate the truth of [miracles'] non-existence.

    Please explain how we are to demonstrate something's non-existence.

    • Lobi

      Well, the strongest way of attempting to do so is to demonstrate that the something is logically impossible. A second, lesser way, might be to prove that one never has epistemic warrant for believing in the things existence (this seems to be what David Hume had in mind for miracles). Other ways might include showing how the contingent realities of our universe preclude some particular thing, or proving that there are insufficient mechanisms for that thing to occur.

      If not proof in the sense of logical proof, a decent start would be to explore some of the other options, such that one arrives at justification for believing in the non-existence of, in this case, miracles.

  • David Nickol

    First, I think it is only reasonable for skeptics to acknowledge that although they may believe (and even believe correctly) that there is a "rational" explanation for everything, many things nevertheless remain unexplained. Something happened at Fatima, and it doesn't seem possible to me that almost a century later, there is going to be a convincing explanation for it.

    From what I have read, different people who were present reported different things. The one thing I think we can be pretty sure of is that the sun itself did not do anything unusual, otherwise everyone there would have reported the same thing, and people who were not present would have seen it. So it only makes sense to look at what it was that caused some people present to see the sun appear to do something unusual. It seems reasonable to conclude that either it was an optical illusion, "mass hysteria," or a "vision" that was granted to only some of those present.

    • Geena Safire

      Something happened at Fatima

      I might reword that as "Some people had an experience at Fatima." That doesn't mean that anything actually happened external to their sense experience.

      • Loreen Lee

        Thanks for this clarification. Each 'miracle' I believe should be adjudicated on it's own merits. In this case, it is quite astonishing that on the word of the children, much anticipation undoubtedly arose among the crowd. Indeed, that 'something' happened is quite amazing in itself. Even if the 'seeing' is considered to be an illusion as in the article, that so many people did 'experience something' throws a possible new definition on 'miracles'. Perhaps it is no longer necessary to define them within the context solely of an 'empirical reality'. We have not only 'seeing is believing', but 'believing is seeing'.

        • Geena Safire

          Recall that, in late 1917, The War To End All Wars (later called World War I) had been raging throughout Europe for more than three long years, and there was no end in sight. (The war ended more than a year later.)

          The war had taken out about 4% of Portugal's civilian population as casualties, and 4,000 Portuguese soldiers were being sent out every month to fight in the war, both in Europe and in its African colonies. Mozambique was under serious pressure from German troops at the time and fell shortly after the Fatima experience.

          The war also severely affected the Portuguese economy due to European conflict and the loss of revenue from its colonies caught up in the war.

          The Lady's claim that peace would come but only through devotion to her was clearly a more significant message to those people at that time.

          • stevegbrown

            It was my understanding that Our Lady said to "pray so that Russia may be converted"... it was a conversion away from atheist materialism to her Son and her Immaculate Heart.

          • Geena Safire

            The Fatima miracle was during the troubles in Russia, but before the October Revolution, so Russia wasn't atheist yet.

          • stevegbrown

            Just because Russia wasn't yet officially atheist doesn't mean that the secular intelligentia had not already been won over to "scientific materialism", aka atheistic Communism; otherwise how could there have been a revolution in the first place, led by Lenin?
            In any case, I don't understand the point you are trying to make.
            On July 13, 1917, Our Lady told Lucia:
            “God is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Communions of reparation and for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart ... In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

            Peace.

      • David Nickol

        I don't think I agree. If a large number of people in a crowd report seeing something that was a natural phenomenon, or even if a large number of people in a crowd report seeing something that cannot possibly have been there, something still happened. If somebody says, "Look at the sun," and a lot of people look at the sun and all they get are afterimages from looking at a bright light, something still happened. There are contemporaneous newspaper accounts that report something happening. Whether it was mass hysteria, an atmospheric anomaly, or people who didn't see anything but didn't want to admit it, something still happened.

        • Geena Safire

          That doesn't mean that anything actually happened external to their sense experience.

          If somebody says, "Look at the sun," and a lot of people look at the
          sun and all they get are afterimages from looking at a bright light, something still happened.

          As I wrote, David, "That doesn't mean that anything actually happened external to their sense experience." There may have been some mass hysteria also, but that still doesn't mean anything happened with the sun or the sky or other non-human features in the area. Nothing external to the people.

      • guy

        What about the people in towns forty miles away who knew nothing about the Fatima prophecies who also nigh ubiquitously claimed that the sun danced and appeared to crash to the earth. Atheists are so dumb and obtuse, and will say any crazy theory, so they can persist in their sin...

        • Michael Murray

          Not much point in replying to Geena as she was banned along with many other atheists over a year ago. So she won't be able to reply to you. Why not come over here and have a chat where she is still posting.

          http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com

    • josh

      David, your first paragraph makes a really important point that people in general don't get, although I think good skeptics do. There will always be unexplained things. Given the billions of people on earth, thousands of years of recorded history, malleable memories and rumors... the world is just so much bigger than we are that there will always be seemingly bizarre and even miraculous events reported. Whether it be extreme coincidences or rare phenomena or virtually unheard of psychological conditions, people are going to encounter things they can't explain. And that by itself is no threat to the 'natural' order, it is part of it. It's when you can confront those aberrations, test them, push the boundaries of the current paradigms that you might have reason to revise our idea of the 'natural' order.

      There are plausible explanations for the Fatima reports, but we will probably never know for sure that we have the right one. That doesn't rule in the implausible explanations that involve divine visions.

  • David Nickol

    Reports of miracles are not rare among Catholics, and thousands have been confirmed by genuine investigation (ergo the title “Devil’s Advocate").
    Dismissing them all as mental illusion perpetrated by the power of
    perception is a stretch, but even worse, if the mind plays tricks on us
    that much, then on those grounds we can call all our knowledge into
    question—including science itself.

    From what I know, it is not accurate to say that "thousands [of miracles] have been confirmed by genuine investigation." The number of "official" miracles at Lourdes, for example, is 67.

    Pope John Paul II abolished the office of "devil's advocate" (Promoter of the Faith) in 1983. To the best of my knowledge, a "devil's advocate" had a role only in beatifications and canonizations.

    I would have to say that the few "confirmed" miracles I have read anything about (for example, the case of Monica Besra, whose alleged cure was one of the "miracles" counted toward the canonization of Mother Teresa) leave ample room for skepticism.

  • Raphael

    If Fatima was not a miracle, skeptics would be able to easily duplicate the events.

    • A miracle is only an unlikely event? Every thermodynamic fluctuation, every new bacterium or breeze or lightning strike, is therefore a miracle! Maybe it's like Einstein says. Either nothing's a miracle or everything's a miracle.

      • Raphael

        Who are the skeptics of thermodynamic fluctuations, new bacteriums, breezes, or lightning strikes?

        • Every event is at some level unlikely. No event can be perfectly duplicated. Since inability to duplicate seems to be your requirement for a miracle, everything's a miracle. And there are no skeptics.

          • Argon

            As Kurt Vonnegut writes in Galápagos:

            "My boy," he said, "you are descended from a long line of determined, resourceful, microscopic tadpoles -- champions every one.”

            Statistically unlikely, every one of us!

          • Raphael

            He does things great and unsearchable,
            things marvelous and innumerable.

            Job 9:10

    • David Nickol

      The problem with duplicating the "miracle of the sun" is that some people who were there didn't see it, and people who did claim to see something apparently did not all describe it the same way.

      • Raphael

        If you can duplicate the events at Fatima, you should be able to duplicate the varying eye witness accounts as well.

    • josh

      Taken from Wikipedia:

      "Meessen observes that Sun Miracles have been witnessed in many places
      where religiously charged pilgrims have been encouraged to stare at the
      sun. He cites the apparitions at Heroldsbach, Germany (1949) as an
      example, where many people within a crowd of over 10,000 testified to
      witnessing similar observations as at Fátima. Meessen also cites a British Journal of Ophthalmology article that discusses some modern examples of Sun Miracles"

      If you want skeptics to duplicate this kind of thing you're going to need some relatively unscrupulous experimenters and probably to get lucky. But you can look up Meessen's article where he claims to duplicate a number of the reported visual effects just by staring at bright lights.

      • Raphael

        The events at Fatima include not just the solar phenomenon, but the events that led up to it and after it. For starters, the skeptics would need to find three peasant children who can convince 30,000 to 100,000 people that the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing to them. Next, the multitude of people need to come watch a miracle of the sun happen at a certain place at a certain time. The miracle of the sun needs to not only dance in the sky but it must dry up the rain soaked earth and the people's clothing within 10 minutes. And lastly, believers and unbelievers would need to still be talking about this miracle 100 years later.

  • I accept as a metaphysical premise that all all events are natural events that have an explanation. Miracles are simply natural events without an explanation yet. This seems to be a sensible premise, given the possible events I may witness. My argument involves a sort of Pascal's wager:

    When we humans come across an event that we cannot explain, we can either seek out an explanation for that event or not. If we think that the event in question is supernatural, then we don't bother looking. If we think the event in question is natural, then we do bother looking. Now, either the event is actually natural or supernatural. If it's natural and we think it's natural, then we look into possible explanations and maybe learn more about the world. If it's natural and we think it's supernatural then we miss out on new knowledge. If it's supernatural, then it doesn't matter whether we think it's natural or not. We won't find an explanation either way.

    It therefore seems most sensible for me to hold that everything has a natural explanation, and to encourage others to do the same. Some things people know and some they don't. Some of the events we can't explain get called miracles.

    I believe miracles happen. My hope is that we get rid of all of them by explaining them.

    • jakael02

      Paul, you make a fair point. Personally, prayer and personal experiences have led me to know God exists and I get rid of all my miracles by accepting that God does miracles. To me, it's his way of reaching out to us, without impending on our free will to believe in him or not. I sense you sometimes struggle with the numerous unexplainable miracles and seek an intellectual reason to explain them all away, such as the one noted above? Am I mislead?

      • Not at all mislead. I am not aware of any plausible natural explanation for the Fatima miracle. Given the lack of comprehensive and careful records of the phenomenon, it is unlikely that the Fatima miracle will ever be explained, but I believe that there is a natural explanation nonetheless.

        • jakael02

          I find that you are always well balanced & insightful in your posts. I applaud you for that. Do you find yourself "hoping" their is a natural explanation to Fatima miracle that forms your position? Since I am already a believer in Jesus, and a big follower of Marian apparitions, the fatima miracle was easy for me to accept, so it's different for me I suppose.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I have to disagree respectfully with you, Paul.

      I think this assumption of yours is false: "If we think that the event in question is supernatural, then we don't bother looking" for an explanation for it.

      The reason for rejecting your assumption is that in order for us to know if an event is supernatural we have to look at all possible natural causes to rule them out.

      One example could be the studies that have been carried out (and will continue to be carried out) on the Shroud of Turin to try to determine what it is. And, in fact, those studies have revealed all kinds of amazing things about it.

      • The reason for rejecting your assumption is that in order for us to know if an event is supernatural we have to look at all possible natural causes to rule them out

        Considering that no one knows all the possible natural causes for anything in nature, how could your project of investigating miracles possibly be carried out?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I hope I don't totally misappropriate a scientific terms, but depending on the kind of miracle, there is a kind of event horizon beyond which we cannot (yet) see.

          What I mean is that the claim that something is a miracle can never be absolutely rationally determined because, as you say, all the possible natural causes are not knowable. So the conclusion, from reason, that something is a miracle or not, would have to be akin to evidence in law, a preponderance of the evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt.

          • hillclimber

            Hi Kevin,

            Your explanation is in line with the way that I have preferred to think about miracles, but I have had a hard time determining whether this is in line with what the Church teaches. (I don't worry about this too much and I don't hesitate to think of myself as Catholic anyway, but I am curious ...). For example, unlikely as this may be, what if we one day discover a proximate explanation for the turning of water into wine? Given that knowledge, it might be that the event would no longer amaze us. At that point, would it cease being a miracle?

            To say it another way, does the Church define miracles in terms of ontology (e.g., "secondary causality was not involved"), or is it enough to simply define them in terms of epistemology (e.g., "we don't currently understand how it happened, and we probably never will [and since God is ultimately the cause of all things anyway, both explained and unexplained, let's feel free to interpret this as God's special way of grabbing our attention]")?

            I know I could research the Church's teaching on my own, but I suspect that others reading this already have?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Fr. John Hardon, S.J.,--a pretty good source--defines a miracle this way:

            "In theological language, a miracle is an extraordinary event, performed by God, which can be perceived by the senses and which exceeds the powers of nature."

          • hillclimber

            Thanks Kevin. That definition is representative of others that I have seen. Based on that type of definition, I tend to agree with Paul Rimmer's point, though I am inclined to phrase it more theologically: Who are we to know what exceeds the powers of nature? Doesn't God determine the powers of nature? Who are we to discern which phenomena might one day be explained? Doesn't God choose what will be revealed to us through our scientific exertions? It would seem to require the mind of God to identify a miracle, if they are defined as "exceeding the powers of nature". Maybe I'm missing the intent or the nuance of those definitions, but I do seem to a bit apostate on this point. I am stuck with my conceit that maybe some of these Church definitions aren't quite expressing the truth that they are intended to express.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I wouldn't make it so complicated.

            Please forgive me for throwing a chunk of text at you, but this is from the Gospel of Mark (chapter 2). The priciple is very simple.

            1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3* And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say,' Rise, take up your pallet and walk? 10 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--he said to the paralytic-- 11 "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." 12* And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"

            The visible miracle confirms an invisible truth.

          • hillclimber

            Well, I agree that the visible healing confirmed an invisible truth, and I agree that this is the essential truth of the story, and that everything else is overcomplicating the matter. I would be happy to stop there for my own purposes. However, additional complications, not of my own making, are introduced when others add the layer of interpretation that this event "exceeded the laws of nature" or "did not involve secondary causality" (expressions that I suspect wouldn't have meant much to first century Jews). To me it would be enough leave secondary causality out of it and simply say that, "We don't know how it happened, and we probably never will, and that was one of the moments that woke us up to the unique role of Jesus in the universe".

          • Based on my metaphysics, it's unlikely that there could ever be enough evidence for any event to be considered a miracle. As a rule, unexplained events would always have a natural explanation, even if we don't know what it is. Even if the whole world saw someone come back from the dead after a number of days, I would favor a scientific explanation of the event involving new physical and/or biological principles that are not yet known.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why do you adopt and invariably insist on the principle that everything must be a natural phenomenon?

          • Let's say that there is no natural explanation. How could we ever know that?

            It seems more useful (in a Pascal's wager sort of way) to assume that everything has a natural explanation so we keep looking for one. If it does and we look we find it. If we don't look we'll never find it.

            I wouldn't have trouble with people accepting events as provisionally supernatural, although I wouldn't, because it's more personally satisfying to assume everything has a natural explanation, even if I'll never know it. Approaching any unexplained phenomenon as a provisional miracle seems at odds with the religious approach to miracles. Does one's faith that the Fatima Event is really a miracle go away if it were discovered that someone had a good video of the event at the place where it was witnessed, and the video showed the sun doing nothing?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This link, I think, is both an example of a modern-day miracle and it reveals the real but limited nature of the claim that a miracle has occurred:

            http://www.vatican.va/latest/documents/escriva_miracolo-canoniz_en.html

          • I'm not a doctor, so I can't say much about whether the claims in the report are accurate (although I wonder if the report was subjected to a peer review process? I don't know). To be honest, I'm not sure I could ever respect a scientific committee that would conclude that something is "scientifically inexplicable." If they had concluded something along the lines of "our current scientific understanding is inadequate to explain this..." or even "we suspect that there is no possible scientific explanation..." that would be much better.

            Your example seems to be prima facie a good example of a miracle. No one knows how to explain it. But maybe there is a natural explanation that we don't know about. If we could understand how Dr. Nevado recovered naturally, we could use that knowledge possibly to cure cancers. Calling it a miracle and people saying that it's "scientifically inexplicable" means people will be less likely to look at this as a natural event, and it is less likely to be investigated objectively and learned from.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree with what you have said.

            However, the purpose of this "finding" was not to promote medicine. It was an internal process in the Catholic Church to advise the pope on whether he should declare Josemaria Escriva a saint. The criteria are determined by the Church, of course.

          • Vasco Gama

            In some sense you are saying that if (even if very unlikely) you would witness a miraculous event (such as the one described by the three little shepherds) you would have reason to question your own rationality (I am not saying this as an insult, rather I am describing my own reasoning as an atheist).

        • Argon

          The sage, Arthur C. Clarke described three 'laws' that may be apropos to the question here.

          1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

          2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

          3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

          "I don't know" is always a viable option, IMHO.

          • To reply to (1), I'm not old yet. ;)

            It's perfectly fair to say when you don't know. I don't know for sure that there's no such thing as the supernatural. But I'm going to assume it. If I'm wrong, then I'll fail to find an explanation.

    • Geena Safire

      One possible explanation for the Fatima experience, pareidolia, is related to the functioning of our brains, perception, and our nature as pattern-seeking creatures, the latter of which is usually advantageous but can overreact.

      "Pareidolia (parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant, a form of apophenia. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records when played in reverse.

      The word comes from the Greek words para (παρά, "beside, alongside, instead") in this context meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of; and the noun eidōlon (εἴδωλον "image, form, shape") the diminutive of eidos.

      Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, seeing patterns in random data. The word matrixing is used of ghost-hunters seeing ghostly images in photographs."

    • Geena Safire

      While considering group phenomena, it might be helpful to consider the findings of the 1841 classic, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds" by Charles MacKay (reprinted in 2013). (This treasure is in most top-10 lists of books in marketing.)

      A more recent and scientific examination can be found in neurologist Oliver Sacks' latest offering, "Hallucinations." He notes that hallucinations are actually a common experience, in fact nearly universal, of everyday people who have no symptoms of mental illness.

      These can happen at any time, unbidden, but are more likely to happen when something is fervently desired, such as the anticipation of the crowd at Fatima.

      (Note: The difference between hallucination and delusion is huge. A delusion is an unreasonable belief regarding actual things, people or experiences. A hallucination, on the other hand, is a sensed experience of something that doesn't exist or occur in external reality.)

      • Thanks. It is possible that the Fatima miracle can be explained psychologically, and I'm too ignorant about psychology to see how. I'll start looking into the literature. Especially the book by MacKay. Even if it doesn't answer Fatima to my satisfaction, it looks interesting for its own sake.

        • picklefactory

          In my opinion it's a stone cold classic and very entertaining. If you are OK with reading things on a computer or e-reader, you can get it from Project Gutenberg.

    • guy

      Hey genius, of course by your "logic" you don't accept miracles. Your premise is really just the bald, unsupported conclusion that there are no such things as miracles; that only the natural world exists (of course this would preclude all morals too, since they are not tangible---by this flawed line of reasoning, Adolf Hitler was not objectively evil, and neither is slavery). Your "argument" really reads that miracles do not exist because they do not exist. This is, in fact, not an argument. Instead it is a worldview, and an anti-intellectual and misguided one at that. What undergraduate course did you get your lobotomy in? Atheists are so smug in their errors. If only they'd do the smallest amount of actual studying, as opposed to regurgitating tripe from morons like Hume that deny causation.

      • Alexandra

        Guy, please read the commenting guidelines.

      • Replying to a year-old comment, calling Hume a moron, calling me a genius, invoking Godwin's law, and then inquiring about my lobotomy. All in a single comment! Made me laugh. Thanks for that.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      In current Catholic hagiography, every claim of a miracle of healing is met with skepticism. It is only after every current plausible explanation is ruled out that the claim can be considered a miracle, assuming other additional criteria are met.

      • How can we mere mortals have any confidence that we have ever ruled out every alternative plausible explanation for a given unusual and often singular historical event?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          God: Hey, dude.
          Dead Paul: Um, how can I be sure I'm not just haven' a near death hallucination?
          God: Well, its been goin' on like this a millennium.
          Dead Paul: I'm just a mere mortal. I can't rule out what I don't know.

          • Very funny!

            Seriously, though, positive evidence would be appreciated, and not simply a lack of known alternative evidence. It wouldn't even need to be my experience of life after death (although that definitely would work for me).

            Instead of cheap magic tricks involving crackers and wine, or old saint's blood (the Catholic Church seems to be convinced by the most shoddy sorts of miracles!), why not something actually significant and open to long-term observation and confirmation, like re-arranging the stars to spell out John 3:16? English or Greek. I'm easy. Convincing me would be mere child's play to an all powerful God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What do you mean by "cheap magic tricks involving crackers and wine"?

          • Alexandra

            Paul, Catholics are not required to believe in private revelations.

            For more on private revelations:
            http://www.catholic.com/tracts/private-revelation#.VRg2GV1YDHw.mailto

          • Thanks. I think that's a good point. Catholics don't need to accept these as miracles, even though they may not know of a plausible alternative explanation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I still don't know what you are talking about.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know about that. The Catholic Church does not say that anybody has to believe this is a miracle. But what does this have to do with a cheap magic trick involving crackers and wine?

          • It passes the test you gave, no good known alternative explanation. Looks like a cheap trick to me, even if I can't tell how it's done. It involves a cracker, I suspect stained with some Italian blood. But who knows?

            This, along with Kreeft's favourite: St Januarius's Truly Amazing Congealing Blood@, just isn't near enough to convince me. I'm more impressed with some of David Copperfield's tricks. I can't explain how Copperfield performs his tricks, but I don't think he's a real wizard.

  • The key claim of the article:

    An open-minded skeptic and systematic thinker must first grapple
    with the question of whether miracles are indeed possible or not, and
    demonstrate the truth of their non-existence before concluding that they
    do not exist.

    It's the classic fallacy, "I'm right until you prove me wrong." Strangely, it's a very popular fallacy for theists to toss out against atheists, but theists don't use it much against theists from another religion. For example, a Catholic talking to a Muslim (rather than an atheist) about Fatima would actually go into the reliability of the reports, the congruence of the reports with Christian doctrine, the plausibility of other explanations, and so on. That's because it ought to be obvious that the fallacy is not a useful pattern of thought for finding out what's real.

    So what goes wrong when y'all talk to us atheists, that evidence-based thinking flies out the window and we get left with a fallacy? I'm not sure, but I suspect the answer has to do with how Catholics and Muslims share common priors regarding miracles, but Catholics and atheists have divergent priors regarding miracles. If that's true, it would explain why, on the topic of Fatima, Catholics would be correct to talk to Muslims about evidence but to atheists about metaphysics. Given that, I think it's a fair assumption that the article's fallacious move was just a rhetorical mistake that the author would happily have fixed if she had noticed it before publication.

    The corrective to the fallacy is that the most reliable pattern of thought for getting at reality is this: we provisionally assume that what occurred was the most ordinary type of event that would lead to us having the evidence that we do have, then we look for more evidence.

    In the case of Fatima, the evidence we have is that, out of thousands of religious fanatics who gathered in a remote field for hours, waited for hours praying fervently, and were directed to look at the sun, a small fraction of them documented claims of having seen strange visual effects in the vicinity of the sun. The claims are mutually contradictory, most of the visual effects lacked religious content, some of the visual effects can be experienced right now by anyone who stares at the sun, the visual effects were not observed anywhere else in the world, and some observers present at Fatima also reported observing nothing unusual. Yes, that the visual effects could have been divinely ordained signs as a seal of approval for the children's prophecies is an imaginable possibility. But the ordinary explanation is that people in a suggestible state induced by religious fervor were inclined to interpret optical illusions in a religious manner. That's the explanation that sensible people should presume true until there is evidence making it less plausible than an alternative explanation.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think Stacy's "key claim," as you put it, is not that miracles exist until skeptics can prove they do not. Rather, I think she is alluding to the a priori assumption of "scientism" that miracles are impossible. In other words, some rule out the very possibility of miracles and so reject them based on that, not on evidence of the events themselves.

      But maybe Stacy can provide her own clarification.

      • Yeah, I agree that that's what she was probably aiming for. And I agree that that kind of scientism is hogwash. Maybe she was just having a good rhetorical moment and the words didn't come out in a logically-correct way.

        If that's the case, then only my last three paragraphs were relevant.

      • David Nickol

        I think my own personal answer as to whether miracles are possible or not is, "I don't know for a fact that they are, and I don't know for a fact that they aren't, but I certainly approach each claim of a miracle with great skepticism."

        According to Wikipedia (in a very brief description that I have no way of knowing the accuracy of), Fr. Jaki believes the "miracle of the sun" was a natural phenomenon, but he counts it as miraculous that it happened when and where it did. If that is accurate, then it seems to me that people predisposed to believe in miracles would accept the "miracle of the sun" as a miracle, and skeptics would believe it was a natural phenomenon. It doesn't break the laws of nature for a dramatic natural phenomenon to occur when a crowd is assembled awaiting a miracle.

      • Geena Safire

        Trasancos has the habit of jousting with straw men and claiming victory. Perhaps this is popular with the mainly Catholic audience of her blog. Her '"key claim" here is also present in several of her articles here and many of her blog posts. She accuses skeptics or atheists as being unreasonable a priori materialists and demanding proof for their materialist stance -- as if the default position regarding a claim has any burden of proof. This is always fallacious and quickly becomes tiresome.

        I could suggest that Trasancos might be more judicious in the blog posts that she selects for use here at SN, which has a more mixed audience -- with the atheists being especially invited to the party. Or perhaps she could edit them, before the transfer, to remove the most common apologetic fallacies and save us the effort of constantly reminding her in chorus. She has a science Ph.D., after all, so she has evidenced the ability to learn.

        A passionate, spiritual piece extolling the position in favor of the miraculous claims of the Fatima experience would have been more moving than another rant against the skeptics that always only want to spoil her fun.

  • An open-minded skeptic and systematic thinker must first grapple with the question of whether miracles are indeed possible or not, and demonstrate the truth of their non-existence before concluding that they do not exist.

    And the burden of proof issues rears its head, just as it has for the existence of God. So let's point out again the difference between, "This is undoubtedly untrue," and "I do not find sufficient evidence to regard this as true."

    The open-minded skeptic and systematic thinker is likely to take the second position, which does not require demonstrating "the truth of their non-existence."

    • Geena Safire

      As Christopher Hitchens said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

      • That's a commonly quoted, but flawed assertion. It's better just to admit that claims require evidence, period.

        • Andre Boillot

          I agree that claims should require evidence. However, I'm surprised you don't think that, as claims move further and further from the norm, we should increase our scrutiny.

        • If someone wants to prove they own a copy of the Bible, I imagine the evidence wouldn't have to be that impressive (a copy in hand with a credit card receipt?).

          But if he somehow managed to prove that a flock of angels descended from the heavens and placed a hitherto unknown testament in his hands, one that restored youth and vigor to every aged person in a hundred-mile radius the moment he opened it?

          I imagine that evidence would be pretty extraordinary.

          Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence because any evidence that does actually prove them would end up being as mind-boggling as the claim itself.

        • Geena Safire

          "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

          That's a commonly quoted, but flawed assertion.

          Brandon, please continue regarding the flaws in this assertion, if you would be so kind.

          • Colin Gormley

            There are a couple:

            1. The notion that the claim that the existence of God is "extraordinary". It is never really defined what is extraordinary about the claim of God's existence. In fact, given that atheism is a minority opinion, one would think the maxim actually applies to them.

            2. Evidence is never really defined. Most often this is asserted that scientifically verifiable physical evidence is needed, but given that God is claimed as a spirit the demand for physical evidence becomes irrational.

            3. Comes from 2. A claim only needs to be supported in relation to the nature of a claim. For example, if the existence of God can be proven by reason, this is sufficient.

          • Andre Boillot

            Colin,

            "In fact, given that atheism is a minority opinion, one would think the maxim actually applies to them."

            First, it should be noted that the major religious groups - when taken individually - are all minority opinions. Then you have the problems of how different and contradictory many of the varying accounts of god are, and how provincial they can seem to each other. All in all, it seems like a dubious assertion to make in support of the existence of god.

          • Colin Gormley

            Perhaps. The belief in the Divine however is widespread, and the skeptic claim is clearly the minority. In any event this does not impact the main point of #1.

          • Geena Safire

            A belief in something non-material, supernatural, non-provable, non-falsifiable does nothing to support the reality of that which is believed but rather supports the known human ability to form beliefs based on little evidence. This belief ability can be a useful feature; for example, it is more adaptive to suspect a tiger in the grass rather than just the wind, because it just takes one tiger.

            Further, there are tens of thousands of different conceptions for one or more deities. This is why Andre's point about the differences disputes your claim regarding a majority of believers. Since there are so many, all it points to is a tendency to believe in unseen things rather than the reality of what any of them believe.

          • Colin Gormley

            >A belief in something non-material, supernatural, non-provable, non-falsifiable does nothing to support the reality of that which is believed but rather supports the known human ability to form beliefs based on little evidence.

            You are good at making bald assertions with no actual attempt to argue the point. You aren't interested in having a discussion so much as scoring debate points. Hence your attack against Mrs. Trasancos personally in another comment. Are you so threatened by people who disagree with you?

          • Geena Safire

            In what way do you consider that I am not arguing the point? A belief (in anything) supports the human ability to believe and is not evidence of the thing believed. That is a factual statement, not a bald assertion. Please provide an example, in this thread, where I have made a bald assertion.

            If you have a concern with what I may have said about Trasancos in another comment, you are welcome to respond to it there.

          • Colin Gormley

            > Please provide an example, in this thread, where I have made a bald assertion.

            Ahem:

            >A belief in something non-material, supernatural, non-provable, non-falsifiable

            That would be this.

          • Geena Safire

            That's not my claim, Colin. That's the church's claim.

            Are you disputing that the Catholic Church claims all of these features for its deity?

          • Colin Gormley

            >That's not my claim, Colin. That's the church's claim.

            Another bald assertion. Care to back this up?

          • Geena Safire

            Would you expect me to "back up" a "bald assertion" that Paris is the capital of France? Sheesh!

          • Andre Boillot

            I mean, again, when trying to fit the likes of say Catholicism and Buddhism under the same umbrella - as you try to do here in order to paint atheism as the minority - the commonalities you're left with are so vague as to render the point meaningless, IMHO.

            Also, I'm not convinced that snapshots of what humans believe at any particular time is a great indication of reality. I doubt the percentage of the world's professing Muslims weighs heavily on the minds of Christians, Hindus, etc. (or vice versa).

          • Colin Gormley

            >when trying to fit the likes of say Catholicism and Buddhism under the same umbrella - as you try to do here in order to paint atheism as the minority - the commonalities you're left with are so vague as to render the point meaningless, IMHO.

            The main point being that there is more beyond what we can verify in a lab. Atheism posits little beyond the denial of anything beyond ourselves. That in and of itself is more extraordinary than what the rest of the planet thinks.

            >Also, I'm not convinced that snapshots of what humans believe at any particular time is a great indication of reality.

            Does this principle apply to itself? Is your discernment of this open to the same scrutiny?

          • Geena Safire

            The main point being that there is more beyond what we can verify in a lab.

            You claim that there is more beyond what we can commonly know by consensus. I am not convinced of your claim.

            Atheism posits little beyond the denial of anything beyond ourselves.

            That is factually false. Atheism is a response to a single claim, the claim that one or more deities exist. That response it one of not being convinced due to the lack of sufficient evidence.

            Atheism posits nothing.

            Materialists or naturalists are not convinced of the existence of anything beyond the natural/physical reality.

          • Colin Gormley

            >That response it one of not being convinced due to the lack of sufficient evidence.

            No. It is an explicit denial of such things existing. New atheists like to play a definition game citing "a simple lack of belief" yet insist one answer to the question is not just wrong but stupid. It's an intellectually dishonest position. It hides behind the fact that it cannot prove its claims so it assaults competing claims, often without regard to what those claims actually are.

            >Atheism posits nothing.

            False.

            >Materialists or naturalists are not convinced of the existence of anything beyond the natural/physical reality.

            And which are you?

          • Geena Safire

            That response [to a god-claim by atheists] is one of not being convinced due to the lack of sufficient evidence

            No. It is an explicit denial of such things existing.

            There are two categories of atheism. One includes all atheists, and that is the absence of a belief in any deity. (You also, are an atheist with respect to 5,000+ deities. We just go one god further.)

            The second category is a subcategory. It includes those atheists who take a position that no gods exist or even that the very idea of a god is incoherent. This is a subset of all atheists. (Some people refer to the two categories as 'weak atheism' and 'strong atheism.')

            All atheists are not convinced by the evidence for any god-claim.. Some atheists claim that no gods exist. Even Richard Dawkins, on a seven point scale from belief to non-belief with 7 being convinced that no gods exist, rates himself somewhere between 6 and 7.

            Therefore, as I stated, atheism per se posits nothing.

            Materialists or naturalists are not convinced of the existence of anything beyond the natural/physical reality.

            And which are you?

            Is that your idiosynchratic way of acknowledging my definition?

            ------------------------------------

            btw, Colin, in case you are interested in doing that quote thing with the grey bar along the side:

            Put this before the text you want to quote: <blockquote>

            Put this after the text you want to quote: </blockquote>

            Of course, your way is completely fine too.

          • Andre Boillot

            "The main point being that there is more beyond what we can verify in a lab."

            Now who's making bald assertions?

            "Atheism posits little beyond the denial of anything beyond ourselves."

            I think it would be more correct to say it posits a lack of evidence for the supernatural.

            "That in and of itself is more extraordinary than what the rest of the planet thinks."

            More extraordinary than how different faiths view each other?

            "Does this principle apply to itself? Is your discernment of this open to the same scrutiny?"

            Absolutely. I'm always happy to revise my opinion, and someday I might even revise how happy I am to do so.

          • Colin Gormley

            >Now who's making bald assertions?

            The point I'm making is that most hold that there is more to life than what is perceived.

            >I think it would be more correct to say it posits a lack of evidence for the supernatural.

            And this would be wrong. Modern atheism likes to have its feet in both camps, making the claim that deities don't exist yet shirking any responsibility to defend such a claim.

            >More extraordinary than how different faiths view each other?

            Yep.

            >Absolutely.

            Then the principle is self-defeating.

          • Andre Boillot

            "And this would be wrong. Modern atheism likes to have its feet in both camps, making the claim that deities don't exist yet shirking any responsibility to defend such a claim."

            That you've had to qualify atheism with "modern" is already a bad start when claiming my definition to be wrong. You then make a bald assertion about 'modern atheism'. While I doubt many modern atheists would be foolish enough to claim proof of a negative, I can think of a few that have made concerted efforts to argue against the evidence cited in favor of deities, as well as arguments against the likelihood of the same.

            Incidentally, the charge of having ones cake applies to your attempt to have your faith in the supernatural supported by all the other faiths while claiming that the falseness of other faiths has no bearing on your own.

            "Then the principle is self-defeating."

            I wouldn't go that far, I would just say it's always qualified.

          • Colin Gormley

            >That you've had to qualify atheism with "modern" is already a bad start when claiming my definition to be wrong.

            Not really. "traditional" atheists such as Voltaire had no issue claiming that God didn't exist and sought to demonstrate such. By modern atheists I mean the Hitchens/Dawkins school of "thought" that try to avoid making positive claims while ridiculing those they disagree with.

            >the charge of having ones cake applies to your attempt to have your faith in the supernatural supported by all the other faiths while claiming that the falseness of other faiths has no bearing on your own.

            Never claimed such. My claim was that the majority of people believe in something supernatural, and that it is the atheist skeptic who is in the minority. The differences in faiths clearly has an impact on what one chooses to adhere to. They however do not undermine the base claim.

            >I wouldn't go that far, I would just say it's always qualified.

            A principle that has to exempt itself to avoid its own weight is a false principle. To salvage it by qualifying it ad hoc is special pleading.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Not really. "traditional" atheists such as Voltaire had no issue claiming that God didn't exist and sought to demonstrate such. "

            This Voltaire?

            What is faith? Is it to believe that which is evident? No. It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being. This is no matter of faith, but of reason.

            "A principle that has to exempt itself to avoid its own weight is a false principle. To salvage it by qualifying it ad hoc is special pleading."

            Let's revisit the 'principle' I put forth:

            I'm not convinced that snapshots of what humans believe at any particular time is a great indication of reality.

            Unless you're just taking issue with skepticism in general, or can think of no instances where a majority of the population was mistaken about reality, I'm not sure why this isn't a reasonable stance to take.

          • josh

            1. Belief in God is ordinary. Sufficient reason for belief in God would be extraordinary. Just by calling God supernatural theist's admit that God is not part of 'ordinary' experience. Demonstrating a magician who can make a rabbit seem to appear is fairly ordinary, though you would want evidence since most people can't do it. Demonstrating a genie who could make a rabbit with actual magic is extraordinary, we all know it isn't part of everyday life. Demonstrating a God of infinite power is infinitely extraordinary. Atheists obey this maxim since they don't believe what hasn't been sufficiently demonstrated. If God is as extraordinary as theists claim to know he is, it shouldn't be so hard to demonstrate it.

            2.It's a maxim, not a dissertation. God's putative nature actually has nothing to do with it. If God, as a spirit, can't provide evidence for himself then you have no evidence. End of story. If God is physical and can't provide evidence, then you still have no evidence. Same principle.

            3. God's existence can't be proved by reason alone. I would say in fact that nothing's existence can. For a claim as extravagant as the existence of God, you're going to need an extraordinarily good argument if it could be done at all. The actual arguments that have been attempted aren't even close.

          • Colin Gormley

            >Sufficient reason for belief in God would be extraordinary.

            Claimed, not defended. The rest of your post does not demonstrate what is in fact extraordinary about the existence of God.

            >God's putative nature actually has nothing to do with it.

            It actually does. Whenever this maxim is invoked it almost always devolves into "since scientifically verifiable evidence isn't available, God doesn't exist". The maxim is irrational.

            Everything in #3 is a bald assertion. Thus there is no need to respond.

          • Geena Safire

            our post does not demonstrate what is in fact extraordinary about the existence of God.

            Ground of all being, universal creator, goodness itself, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, ...

            You think these claims are not extraordinary? Wow! Really?

            Everything in #3 is a bald assertion,

            The fact that you may be convinced based on certain arguments that appear reasonable to you does not mean that they are reasonable to all people. Otherwise, everyone would be Catholics.

          • Colin Gormley

            >You think these claims are not extraordinary? Wow! Really?

            Emotionalism does not equal an argument. If you wish to argue that they are extraordinary you are welcome to do so.

            >reasonable to you does not mean that they are reasonable to all people

            Something is reasonable or it isn't. An unreasonable person may describe something as unreasonable. They would be wrong. The person's disposition in no way impacts the reasonableness of a proposition.

          • Danny Getchell

            Something is reasonable or it isn't.

            "Reasonable" is a word of more than one meaning, Colin.

            If we mean by reasonable that something is demonstrable using formal logic, then yes, that thing cannot be reasonable to John but not to Jane, provided they agree upon the postulates.

            If we mean "reasonable" in the common sense of "not irrational, absurd or ridiculous" (as the OED defines it), then there is certainly room for disparate views to both be reasonable. I may decide to not mount my snow tires until December 10th, while my neighbor may insist that November 1st is best - each of us can make a convincing case for his opinion, and I dare say that an objective listener could conclude that both are "reasonable".

            I do not think that either of us can prove or disprove the event at Fatima using formal logic (although you are welcome to have a go at it), therefore the second ("common sense") definition of the word is appropriate.

          • josh

            "Everything in #3 is a bald assertion. Thus there is no need to respond."

            So you're claiming I need some sort of evidence to back up my assertions? Hmmm, maybe you should have thought this out before responding. If you want to learn about the flaws in the arguments for God, look back through the posts and comments on this site, we've covered most of them.

            I'm sorry you didn't understand the other points. Your unevidenced claim about what the maxim 'devolves into' obviously can't make the maxim itself irrational. The fact stands: the claim that God is undetectable by nature has no bearing on the need for evidence when asserting a claim.

            On the first point, I outlined a couple quick arguments about why God is a (claimed) extraordinary being. Again, read more elsewhere if you want details. I would think that, since Catholics claim miracles like the resurrection are extraordinary events that demonstrate the existence of extraordinary claims, like Jesus being God, this point wouldn't be so difficult to follow.

          • Colin Gormley

            >If you want to learn about the flaws in the arguments for God, look back through the posts and comments on this site, we've covered most of them.

            That they were covered does not mean they were defeated.

            >the claim that God is undetectable by nature has no bearing on the need for evidence when asserting a claim.

            And you fail to understand the objection. That "evidence" demanded of a thing that does not correspond to a thing's nature is irrational.

            > I outlined a couple quick arguments about why God is a (claimed) extraordinary being.

            No you didn't. You claimed such yet failed to define what exactly made the claim extraordinary. Like so:

            >Just by calling God supernatural theist's admit that God is not part of 'ordinary' experience.

            Not true. The fact we may not be aware we are experiencing does not indicate we are not experiencing. As I said to another: If my existence depends on God's continuous Will, I experience God's existence even if I'm not aware.

          • josh

            "That they were covered does not mean they were defeated."

            Shifting the goal posts.

            "That "evidence" demanded of a thing that does not correspond to a thing's nature is irrational."

            Failure to respond to the point.

            "No you didn't. You claimed such yet failed to define what exactly made the claim extraordinary."

            Failure to read. Misrepresentation.

            "The fact we may not be aware we are experiencing does not indicate we are not experiencing."
            Irrelevant.

          • Ben Posin

            1. Extraordinary: beyond the ordinary. Outside of our normal experiences and knowledge. Depending on your definition of God, you are claiming that that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being exists; that he is responsible for the creation of the world, and humanity; that he has endowed us with souls, and arranged for a life after death, despite the destruction of our brains and bodies; that he has given specific commands concerning how humans should behave, and punishes or rewards based on whether these commands are followed; that he took on the form of a human being, and somehow redeemed those who had broke his rules through his own self-sacrifice, and so forth. Do these claims not strike you as extraordinary?

            I have experience with dogs, everyone does, and there are lots of them and people commonly own them. Tell me there's a dog in your garage, and I won't think that's extraordinary. Tell me there's a dragon in your garage and I will. Tell me a being like the above exists, and I'll find it quite extraordinary.

            2. Evidence: we could have a long talk about what evidence means and doesn't mean, and might not agree. You're basically dropping the non-overlapping magisteria argument on top of this, and that's not an argument we're going to settle while dissecting a quote. For the record, I've been defining evidence as encountering things that would be more likely to happen/exist/etc if something is true, and less likely if something is false. I think that definition can rationally be applied to most definitions of God.

            But anyway, it seems like rather than disputing the general sense of what Geena/Hitchens is saying, you are arguing for a carve out for God. I suspect you'd agree that you would require more evidence to believe your spouse won the lottery today than to believe your spouse found a five dollar bill, and that your reason would be that your spouse winning the lottery would be a far more extraordinary occurrence.

          • Colin Gormley

            >Depending on your definition of God, you are claiming that that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being exists; that he is responsible for the creation of the world,

            Fairly basic claims. A root cause and the source of existences orientation.

            As for the rest, that would be beyond the scope (to some degree) of what one may discover by reason alone.

            > Do these claims not strike you as extraordinary?

            Not really. That they are unique does not mean that they are extraordinary, which still needs to be defined in a way that can be applied to God. If my existence is predicated on God's continuous exertion of His Will, my experience with that is ordinary, even if I'm not aware of it.

            > For the record, I've been defining evidence as encountering things that would be more likely to happen/exist/etc if something is true, and less likely if something is false.

            The definition talks about probability, not evidence per se. It then prejudices the notion that the existence of God is somehow "less probable". This is an invalid assumption.

          • josh

            "If my existence is predicated on God's continuous exertion of His Will,
            my experience with that is ordinary, even if I'm not aware of it."
            If your existence is predicated on an Alien programmer mistyping a letter in his simulation code, your experience of it is 'ordinary'. But it is still an extraordinary claim.

          • Colin Gormley

            >If your existence is predicated on an Alien programmer mistyping a letter in his simulation code

            False equivocation. My existence does not depend on the programmer in a way the my dependence on God would.

          • josh

            I think you meant 'equivalence', but no, the principle of my point is the same. Or would you like to skip straight to special pleading?

          • vito

            believe me, your beliefs are "extraordinary" not only to unbelievers but to all others who believe in another God (gods), perhaps extraordinary even to some in other Christian denominations (for instance, some protestants would hold that real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or Catholic position on Virgin Mary are pretty extraordinary). So we are always in a minority position whatever religious views we hold. Besides, "extraordinary" does not necessarily imply "minority". Most people where I live, for instance, believe in horoscopes and some form of reincarnation. I don't, but I still find their beliefs extraordinary, not mine. Extraordinary, I would say, is a belief that contradicts scientific knowledge and evidence, not popular beliefs.

        • Danny Getchell

          It's better just to admit that claims require evidence, period.

          Claims which are within the common experience of mankind "I saw water flowing downhill" require less evidence for their acceptance than do claims "my car is capable of exceeding 300 mph on a level roadway" which, although possible, are not within that experience.

  • Savio M Sacco

    What if it was a simple case of "emperor's new clothes" whereas people felt they needed to see something, otherwise they would be deemed less holy? I'm not saying they lied, but I think that under such pressure they would have been compelled to interpret any thing that looked out of the ordinary as a miracle.
    Don't take me wrong, I'm a Catholic myself but I don't put much weight on apparitions for two reasons. One is that faith is about believing things you can't see. If you can see it than their is no point in having faith....you just know it. The other is more biblical in nature since Jesus himself talked about people claiming to see stuff and that we shouldn't follow them and there is also the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The unnamed rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to rebuke the former's brothers, but the answer he got was that if Moses and the other prophets are not enough, then not even someone brought back from the dead would change anything. Just my two cents.

    • John Bell

      "One is that faith is about believing things you can't see. If you can see it than their is no point in having faith....you just know it."

      I'll never understand why faith is considered a good thing. Why would you want to believe in something you can't see (defined as something for which there is no evidence)?

      • David Nickol

        I'll never understand why faith is considered a good thing.

        Well, it would be impossible to function without a certain amount of "faith." There are fascinating accounts of people who, because of brain injuries, can't make the simplest decisions, like what restaurant to go to. They will endlessly weigh all the factors—how near or far the restaurant is, how recently they have eaten there, how recently they have had similar food, the cost, past experience with the service—endlessly continuing their deliberation without ever reaching a conclusion. They can't make the leap of "faith" to choose one place. That may not exactly be the same as religious belief, but I see similarities. It is difficult ever to deliberate based on all the data available, since even the amount of data for picking a restaurant for, say, a party of four is potentially astronomical.

        Evolution has "programmed" human beings to take "shortcuts" in arriving at many types of conclusions—shortcuts that are not based on exhaustive analysis of the data. This, by and large, is a good thing.

        I think one could rationally examine all the evidence for and against God and religious faith and never come to a conclusion. I don't think it's wrong to go one way or the other based on "instinct," gut feeling, intuition, or whatever you want to call it.

        I do not however, think atheism is a "religion."

        • Savio M Sacco

          Thanks David. Was going to answer John using a similar example about ebay sellers but I think your restaurant example is better. :)

          • John Bell

            There is a big difference between faith and trust.

          • Savio M Sacco

            According to dictionary.com the first definition of "faith" is "confidence or trust in a person or thing".

            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith?s=t

          • Ben Posin

            Nevertheless, in the context of discussing religious belief, the two are often used quite differently. Even if the distinction in the definitions is not universally recognized, I have trouble taking someone seriously who won't acknowledge that someone "trusting" their wife is doing something different than someone "trusting" a God. The situations are different enough that the mental act is not the same, even if we use ambiguous vocabulary some of the time.
            I'm not sure that David's talk of heuristics is relevant to this distinction, though heuristics are real and fascinating. But I'll think on that.

          • Savio M Sacco

            "someone seriously who won't acknowledge that someone "trusting" their wife is doing something different than someone "trusting" a God." I never said that. Just pointing out there isn't such a "big difference" and that both have similarities in that both require a belief in something that cannot be proved or not worth the while verifying.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        John Bell, were did you get this definition of faith as "something for which there is no evidence"?

    • Geena Safire

      Lara Buchak, philosophy professor at UC Berkeley, gave a fascinating talk about the nature of the term 'faith' in secular, theological and 'game theory' contexts entitled Evidence Gathering and Belief in God at the recent UK "Is God Explanatory?" conference.

      This conference was presented by the Philosophy of Cosmology joint project of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

  • In terms of whether or not miracles are possible, on the definition proposed, I would say impossible, depending on what you mean by "order of the entire created universe". If this truly means against some kind of inviolable rules of the Cosmos, I would say, no, impossible. I don't know whether such rules are real or if I could ever comprehend them of course.

    The question seems to be "are you open to accepting that some impossible things are possible?"

    If the question is "are you open to the possibility that there are unseen phenomena at work?" My answer is of course! But unless we can say something about what these forces might be, I see no reason to call it miraculous.

  • Jun

    About 15 years ago, I recall my eldest daughter Faith(12) and my youngest son Ivan(8) telling us about what they saw of Christ's and the Blessed Mother's image appearing on white a cloth covering the altar table in a small Catholic chapel in a remote barrio during a Sunday liturgical celebration. The two of them, except my two other daughters Princess and Keith who were also with us during that liturgical celebration, saw what they call the 'image of Christ(wearing a crown of thorns) and that of the Virgin Mary wearing a veil' appearing 'for quite a time' on a white cloth cover of an altar table facing the people attending the celebration-the celebration was presided by a Lay Minister. The images slowly 'disappeared' when they begin to fall in line to receive communion. The white cloth, covering an altar table where a Catholic Priest or Lay Minister celebrates, was actually a plain white cloth without any décor upon our thorough examination just after the gathering. According to them(Faith and Ivan), they were hesitant beforehand to attend the celebration that's why maybe they were 'reminded' by Christ and the Blessed Mother. On that particular time at the age of about 8 and 12, I believe they (Faith and Ivan)told us the truth of what they really saw. Until now they are still claiming they really saw it and they believe it was a 'reminder for them' and for the rest of my family.

    • Argon

      I remember that as a child I used to explore the sorts of the visual afterimages I could see by first staring at an object and then moving my gaze to a white wall. It was much harder to pick up afterimages on dark or textured surfaces although sometimes closing my eyes produced similar effects.

  • vito

    actually it is claimed that it was a visual miracle, rather than the actual movement of the sun. So, I am afraid, you cannot disregard this event purely because it was not seen outside Fatima. It was never claimed it would be or was observed around the world. The point of gathering people at that particular place reflects the intention that it was to be seen only at that place.

  • Danny Getchell

    This article is misfiled under the heading "The Existence of God".

    The discussion of whether or not God chooses to (a) occasionally move the earth from its path with the sun, or (b) make it appear to humans that he's done so, is more properly a question of "God's Nature", since it's certainly possible to believe that there is a God but that he does not engage in this sort of fiddling about.

  • Meena_B

    If God had actually moved the Sun in this way it would have meant the destruction of the solar system. The Sun was not of course "observed" to move this way anywhere else on the Earth which was in daylight - so it actually didn't.

    So it was definitely an illusion, and the question then is: did God cause this illusion of was it simply a product of the situation and the minds of some of the people? - some of whom seem more interested in the camera talking their image.

    The whole tale is full of uncertainty and confusion:

    between 30,000 and 100,000;

    the disc was "opaque" yet "like the Sun", which isn't;

    "Several newspaper reporters were in attendance and they took testimony from many people who claimed to have witnessed the extraordinary solar activity." Yet although "in attendance" they took OTHER people's testimony;

    SOME witnesses said their clothes became dry....

    Above ALL don't forget that we now know that the eye and brain are NOT, save in trivial respects, similar to a video camera and recorder.

    As a Catholic I feel that the whole silly business of miracles, apparitions etc is an embarrassing hotch potch of nonsense. Please, can't the Church grow up - and quickly.

    PS: I have a PhD in mathematics, but what has that to do with anything? I am not impressed.

    • Doug Shaver

      If God had actually moved the Sun in this way it would have meant the destruction of the solar system.

      I think I have some good reasons to doubt that it really happened, but that isn't one of them. It seems to me that if there is a God powerful enough to move the sun, he should be capable of doing it without breaking anything.

  • inkadinkadoo

    I'm reading through these threads and notice a conspicuous lack of the other significant things associated with this miracle as everyone seems focused on the dancing sun part . If I recall the events, it was raining really hard and when the sun appeared everything suddenly became bone dry (somebody please speak to this). There are other things like the girls reporting several things told to them by "the visitor" about Russia spreading her errors which occurred shortly afterwords in the form of a war. It was also noted that these small children made references about things and places they could not possibly have known about. (Yes, I supposed someone could have coached them before hand), but that would seem highly unlikely considering they very accurately linked a specific place with a major future event. Would not the odds of that happening be astronomical?

    • Andre Boillot

      "There are other things like the girls reporting several things told to them by "the visitor" about Russia spreading her errors which occurred shortly afterwords in the form of a war."

      As I, and many others have pointed out, predicting trouble in Russia, in 1917, wasn't exactly 'prophesy' material. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Revolution

      • inkadinkadoo

        I guess that leaves the question any good investigator would ask; what was the motivating factor in certain adults rehearsing with and coaching three peasant children to put on such an elaborate hoax ? Was it money ? Political reasons ? What would certain people stand to gain by such a put on? I don't see any reward in it.

        • Andre Boillot

          Never thought of it that way. It would be interesting to look at the revenue that 100 years of pilgrimages have brought to that area.

          • inkadinkadoo

            I suppose that is possible, but that would mean the perpetrators must have been marketing geniuses with extreme Machiavellian tendencies and the children, in spite of being ridiculed and threatened were still willing to go along with the charade.

          • Michael Murray

            Hi. Just for your information Andre B was purged awhile back in one of this sites many anti-atheist pogroms. You can find him over here

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com

        • Doug Shaver

          what was the motivating factor in certain adults rehearsing with and coaching three peasant children to put on such an elaborate hoax ? Was it money ? Political reasons ?

          What about religious reasons? Aren't Christians commanded by their God to convert others to their religion?

          • inkadinkadoo

            I suppose that possible but it means people conspiring to tell a big lie in order to promote a god who abhors lying and who commanded them not to do it. How crazy is that!

          • Doug Shaver

            You believe that God has commanded people not to lie. If the conspirators themselves didn't believe that, then there was nothing crazy about their behavior.

            I don't accept the hoax hypothesis, by the way. I was just answering one objection to it.

  • stevegbrown

    It's been a long time since I have read about Fatima. Does anyone know of any miracles associated with Fatima directly? I am comparing Fatima to Lourdes and Alex Carel the (the only Nobel Laureate to have witnessed) a miracle.

  • Dan Torag

    Too many things to consider here. If the testimony of the girls was dismissed even by their parents because of age then there isn't a reason to attribute the phenomena to God at all, but that is the only thing that actually puts this in the class of being a miracle in the first place. If God wanted to send a message of belief why only Fatima? Did the rest of Portugal see the phenomena at all or is the geography of the region such that it is entirely possible that Fatima could have exclusively viewed it? Did any other countries in the same timezone see it, why not? If the news or meteorological website informed of the same thing happening in 2013 before the event would it be a miracle, ah no. Even if it was after the event, no. but then all of the publicity of it would overwhelm the susceptible masses into believing it was a miracle and then nullifying any argument to the contrary... It's not the point of is this a miracle or not it is the fact that science at the time couldn't disprove it and the story is almost 100 years old now. The point is that if a story is still being told after 100 years even if it was possible for science to disprove Fatima as a miracle, faith will always prevail. For each person you logically convert to even question the possibility that it was a natural phenomena and not a miracle there will be 10 willing to accept it on face value, I'm not saying it was a miracle I'm not saying it wasn't. I'm saying there is no way that science can ever disprove this being a miracle to the satisfaction of anyone who believes it, but to me the questions outweigh the answers logically and my faith also... The symbolism of a dancing sun means what? Rain that instantly dries? Seems vague enough that you can think of so many possibilities that it almost isn't a symbol of any worth, but then again what did it feel like to experience it? None but those who experienced it know...

  • Rufus Dsouza

    I CAN TELL YOU, FOR SURE, THAT SHE, OUR LADY OF FATIMA, PULLED
    ME OUT OF THE SEWERS !!! And, how !!!!