Donald B. Ardell has written a book review of “The Science of Miracles” by Joe Nickell (pictured). It is carried in Perry Street Palace:
“I’m more or less a nice person,” he starts out . . .
. . . I try not to hurt people’s feelings. But, it is nearly impossible not to channel my inner Lewis Black when I encounter people who believe maniacal lunacies. How can seemingly sane people, unsupervised adults capable of dressing themselves, communicating with others, using the bathroom and even safely crossing busy intersections take any of the following things seriously?
[ . . . ]
- That the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus, produced by a miraculous burst of radiant energy at the moment of the Resurrection.
He says almost nothing about the book or the subject matter but lavishly praises Nickell:
Joe Nickell, author of The Science of Miracles, has long been known and respected as a fair-minded expert at sniffing out facts and unraveling secrets. His latest book casts a scientific eye on all of the beliefs noted above and many more. It is a valuable source for all who hold faith-based beliefs. It should be read by anyone who gives so much as a microscopic glimmer of credulity to one or more of the miracle claims described in The Science of Miracles.
[ . . . ]
What I’d Like to See Joe Investigate Next
How about an investigation of the efficacy of prayer and the evidence for a heaven or hell, the resurrection, the trinity, transubstantiation or, the biggest miracle of all, the validity from a science perspective of the existence of God – any god? I dunno. Maybe Joe is at work on such a book. I hope so. If so and if he finds any science that supports any of these religious claims embraced by billions of Christians, Islamics, Jews and others all over the world, that will truly be a miracle.
Lewis Black? Black is a barely amusing comedian. He specializes in ridiculing politics, religion and certain cultural groups of people. Think Don Rickles on steroids in a T-shirt.
Interesting to see that a couple of the most vocal current shroud skeptics are stage magicians…. whoop di do
Stage musicians pride themselves on being able to reconstruct illusions and flim flam. They are indeed very good at it as James Randi has proven over the years.This is why the Shroud vexes them so. They have not been able to reconstruct it.Thus they have to confront the possibility that either they are not as skilled as they think they are (the horror!), or the Shroud is not flim flam (the believers have a leg to stand on…say it ain’t so Joe).
Stage magicians, not musicians. Though they do have a lot in common.
Had a few too many amazing south australian shirazs tonight, so what should I do? Go to the bathroom, assume shroud man position over old cloth, trickle said shiraz under left wrist, said shiraz trickles down hip region, falls off body, drops on cloth below elbow creating a small poll, and then a thin trickle funs back towards middle of back… not at all dissimilar to shroud
Wine plus typing on smart phone equals typos… ‘poll’ should read ‘pool’, ‘funs’ should read ‘runs’
If Black is a barely amusing comedian then he has succeeded in being a little more funny and even ridiculous in writing a “review” of Nickell’s book. He is venturing into an area that is not his by writing on topics about which he has not understood enough.
Actually, it is Donald B. Ardell who is a Lewis Black wannabe.
Thanks for the correction, but in this case, again, what does a person who writes about wellness to do with the topic?
Further to the above, there is an interesting case of an Indian-born Hindu surgeon, professor at Kings College Hospital,London who testified in favour of a Catholic miracle for the canonization of a Maltese saint, went to Malta as requested by the Church commission there and was present at the canonization together with the cured child’s family at the Vatican ceremony. Readers can of course draw their own conclusions. The link is:
Well, sort of interesting. The surgeon is quoted as saying that the liver failure of the child was so severe that there was a 90% chance that the child would die without a liver transplant, but this child recovered spontaneously. If he is correct, he means that one in every ten people in a similar condition recovers spontaneously. That’s about 50 miracles a year….
To be precise, it is the journalist who is quoting, not the youtube video of the doctor talking directly. What journalists do with one’s words to fit their own agenda or just because they do not understand what they are talking about is a known banality.
Yes. The surgeon is quoted as saying… Should I have said “The surgeon is quoted BY THE JOURNALIST as saying…” ? And is there a youtube video of the doctor talking? The only “Anil Dhawan” I can find is a Bollywood singer. Here is the Daily Telegraph (UK) on the subject:
“Dr Dhawan, who is leading research into whether liver cell injections can replace transplants, said: “There was a 90 per cent plus chance that he wasn’t going to survive without a liver transplant. But he survived.
“Furthermore, he improved on his own. Acute liver failure in children is quite a devastating illness. The majority of them die. Scientifically I do not have an explanation for this child’s recovery.”
Hugh and Jesterof: There was another report on the Internet which said that the surgeon Anil Dhawan, Indian-born and Hindu by religion, had made arrangements to prepare for the child’s death before he went home from Kings College Hospital, London, where he was (is?) a professor. The next day he learnt that the child had recovered spontaneously, repeat, spontaneously. He has spoken at conferences abroad and apparently has a lot of experience. It appears that he found this case different, testified in favour of divine intervention and went for the canonization, despite being a Hindu. It also led him to read about the lives of some Catholic saints and, particularly, Mother Teresa, who worked in India.
The case for canonization where Dr. Anil Dhawan was the main witness is explained in the German website http://www.kbwn.de/html/priester.html
Unfortunately the site is in German, but Dr. Dhawan’s photograph can be seen there if you scroll down, so he is not a Bollywood singer but a renowned paediatrician….!
Catholic Herald (UK) still has its report stored in its archives, see #9
It does not mean he said EXACTLY THOSE WORDS.
It means that what the journalist attributes to him being said.
1) might be his words ( unlikely)
2) might be what the journalist have understood from his words
3) might be the journalist confabulation altogether.
option 2 has the highest probability.
You clearly have too much faith in the integrity and intellect of the media community ))))
I do not dispute the case.
What I have disputed is the journalist’s representation of the doctor’s words, which does not mean he did not say the child was cured miraculously, I was only referring to the ambiguity of the statistical representation of possibilities, which Hugh made ironic comment on.
Since I have a first-hand experience with media community and know how they work and what do they know and what they aim at – therefore my comment.
It is only about 90% chance and 10% chance as well.
Being a physician you could grasp what the surgeon was saying without problems and that is good. There are also other phenomena related to saints that could be attributed to divine intervention, but this will be taken up on another occasion.
and Hugh’s comment on that “90%” :
“If he is correct, he means that one in every ten people in a similar condition recovers spontaneously. That’s about 50 miracles a year”
that is what I dispute as attributed to the doctor’s words. it was, probably, more convoluted, but it is what is most likely understood in it’s simplicity by an outsider.
One candidate for sainthood being studied is Charles I von Hapsburg-Lothringen, last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who did his best to stop World War I, and died as an exile in Madeira island, Portugal, at the age of 34. Some information is available at
Part of the phenomena associated with some Catholic saints is there but as that is not enough people interested in his canonization will have to wait.
That is exactly why I am considering that the words of the hepatologist were somewhat transfigured by the journalist..
I am not objecting to the very issue of the healing and that the liver failure was an imminent death threat – I know what it is, I only object to the way the statistics are presented.
However, description “90% chance of dying” does not mean that 10 people out of 100 survive.
Personally, I think without a liver transplant that child have had more like 100% chance of dying, but that is just me :-)
Do you mean stigmata?
This is in reply to both #21 and #22. You have raised a good question about the liver transplant but I remember vaguely that the parents flew at a very late stage from Malta to London and that was what probably made the surgeon rule out transplant and expect the imminent death of the child. The spontaneous recovery was so unexpected for him that he cooperated with the Church commission in Malta and went to Rome for the canonization.
#22 The reference was to incorruption.Some years ago I interviewed a scholar who was studying the phenomena and heard that there were around 500 of these bodies, in varying conditions of incorruption, and of these about ten were in perfect condition, saints like Isabel, queen of Portugal, Philip Neri, the one in Lourdes and so on. There are other cases where people involved in some religious phenomena like apparitions have been found incorrupt, such as Jacintha, but not her brother Francisco, of the Marto family, in Fatima, Portugal. Another curious case is the Blessed George Spencer, whose tongue is intact, and he was known for preaching. Some time before she died Lady Diana (Spencer) sent boxes with material on this her saintly ancestor to the Vatican.
The Church ordered an investigation into this phenomenon some years ago.
incorruption is totally unexplainable from the materialistic point of view, especially the real one, not the mummification of the body.
It is interesting that this phenomena is never addressed by our dear atheists :-)
Happy Independence Day!
That’s right, Jesterof, true incorruption involves no mummification and there are other factors that are used to judge on a case by case basis. I will go through my files to try and find what these other factors mentioned in the interview are. A sweet perfume is known to emanate from the bodies of some of these saints, what the famous English Jesuit scholar Father Herbert Thurston — no Shroud enthusiast! — called the “odour of sanctity”.
Yes, I know about fragrance of sanctity as a phenomena.
Was connected to Padre Pio and his bi-locations and miracles.
And still is.
You´re welcome, Jesterof. I hope to find the other factors mentioned in #24 because they refer to other causes that may cause incorruption. It seems that depending on what kind of medicine they took previously, that is, in the days preceding death, some people remain incorrupt, As a physician perhaps you have heard about that?
Jesterof,further to the above unfortunately I couldn’t find anything now and the files will probably be available in August or September. I also remember that there are bodies where the blood is still intact.
I have not heard about this in particular, since I was not very much into researching the incorrupt bodies ( I just take the word in face value) but one might assume that some medications taken for a long time and in higher concentrations might be a factor. However, I can’t think about anything immediately to have a balm effect. Most of the time whenever the incorruption is mentioned, the physical conditions around the body ( temperature, dryness, air flow) is considered, but as I’ve stated before, this is just memories what I’ve heard or read sometimes somewhere.
I would wait until August or September if you will have the possibility to post anything then – I will highly appreciate it.
In a meanwhile I’ll try to find something over the web – you got me interested :)
Louis & Jesterof may be interested in this little known case of incorruption in NZ which I only discovered this evening from an article in our archdiocesan newspaper. The article is by Mgr John Broadbent, a highly regarded church historian in NZ. It concerns Fr Antoine Marie Garin, 1810-89, a French Marist missionary to NZ associated with Bishop Pompallier, and a major founder of Catholic education here, particularly in the Nelson province (Ernest Rutherford country). I’ve since discovered other material about Fr Garin, including a college student’s competition essay, but Fr Broadbent’s piece will have the authority of proper historical research behind it.
The full article can be found at:
http://wel-com.org.nz/wel-com-articles/3633-catholic-pioneers-fr-antoine-marie-garin and includes a portrait by noted artist Goddfried Lindauer. The article concludes:
“Following his death on 14 April 1889 Fr Garin was buried in a temporary grave in Nelson’s Wakapuaka cemetery [I have a great-grandfather buried there (db)]; the whole district wanted to build a memorial chapel over his remains. The body was disinterred 18 months later and found to be completely intact, though the vestments had rotted.” “It is now buried under heavy concrete in the chapel’s crypt.”
Elsewhere it is stated that although the coffin was water-logged and his vestments had rotted, Fr Garin’s body was incorrupt, a number of winesses signing an affidavit to this effect. The article also mentions that Fr Garin suffered severe bronchitis in his last years. It is possible that he had been taking medication for it, which I suppose might satisfy a naturalistic explanation. Apparently the heavy concrete was placed over the grave as a disincentive to a popular cult developing.
That is a good lead, David, and a similar case was seen by me some years ago, the difference being that it was the body of an archbishop dead for a hundred years and whose body was being transferred to the crypt of the recently completed cathedral. The Church spokesman said that this was probably due to the fact that no air had entered the coffin, implying that now that it had been opened it was most likely that decomposition would set in.
Jesterof, I will forget the files for the time being and have a look at two taped interviews with the scholar, one of which was published but was on a different topic, things like magic, resurrection etc. It will take some time because it is old stuff and the language spoken by me and the scholar was not English and he had a very strong accent, so please wait.
Jesterof, both interviews were taped, the first one by me personally, the second tape delivered to me after the questions were given in writing due to the scholar´s lack of time. It is for this reason that the second interview left some gaps when the topic was incorruption and no further explanation was available. Anyway, there are some details that should help you clear your doubts regarding true and false incorruption:
Factors such as dry lands, with the climate influencing the state of the body
“Larvas” – the body remains intact depending on the conditions in which it is preserved,
then turns into powder instantly when exposed to air. This can happen when
some coffins are opened.
Calcification – organic material can influence the preservation or decomposition of the
Freezing – due to natural conditions, in places like Siberia, the Himalayan region etc.
Fat – Fat derived from pork can be used to preserve bodies, some tribes in Africa have
used this method
Lightning and radioactivity – These can also influence the state of a body, but it seems that
it depends on the body
Hypha Pombicina Pers – fungus that can preserve the body, at least for a while. Can
apply to the bodies of the Capuchin monks in Palermo, Sicily
“Saponification” – ammonia is involved and the external skin becomes hard
There are hundreds of bodies of saints that are partially incorrupt, some in a
cardboard-like state. This is the case of the body of the Basque saint Francis Xavier,
preserved in Goa, India, from which it can be deduced that it remained totally incorrupt for a long time. Many of the bodies still have blood in them, or oil/fragrance emanates from them, and these are in a perfect or semi-perfect state. Some of the saints cited were Francis de Sales, Bernadette Soubirous (Lourdes), Queen Isabel of Portugal, Philip Neri. The blood of some martyred saints has remained intact,outside the bodies.
Hope you will find this helpful and, as mentioned earlier, the Church is still investigating the phenomenon.
Another notable case of incorruption is that of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, 1901-25, son of a prominent Italian family, dying at the early age of 24 abd beatified by Pope JP II in 1990. Interestingly, he was born in Turin, and his feast day is, would you believe it, July 4! Pope Benedict nominated him as a patron for the World Youth Day in Sydney 2008, along with Our Lady of the Southern Cross. The casket with his incorrupt body was brought to Sydney for the occasion and was placed in a shrine at St Mary’s Cathedral there. However the Australian border authorities would not give their consent for the casket to be opened while it was there. Official web-site is:
http://www.frassatiusa.org/ . He is, naturally, seen as a patron and example for Catholic youth.
Thank you, Louis and Dave.
Very interesting, indeed.
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