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Truly No Evidence for God? Some Thought Food and Verifiable Data for Skeptical Folks

Updated on November 22, 2017
Source

I sometimes encounter the words ‘no evidence’ regarding God’s existence. Do those words reflect reality? Does truly NO such evidence exist? Though some readers may perceive the lack of objective evidence — or in certain cases not want such evidence, I submit that those who sincerely seek it will find it. To assist in that process I do the following:

  1. First address a few prospective reasons for 'no evidence' positions. This section of the article may help some readers to face and perhaps overcome certain misperceptions.
  2. Present a tiny but strong sample of evidence for your consideration: four medically attested healings of irreversible conditions that simply cannot have occurred naturally — especially in the short time-frames involved — despite the human body's amazing capabilities. [1]
  3. Answer a few questions that may arise upon reading the evidence.

SOME PROSPECTIVE REASONS FOR ‘NO EVIDENCE’ CLAIMS

Do you claim ‘no evidence'? If so, might one or more of these prospective reasons apply to you?

  1. Might negative life experiences and world events cloud your perspective?
  2. Have false claims of evidence turned you off?
  3. Is your worldview closed to evidence for God?
  4. Do you presume that only scientific evidence is valid?
  5. Do you define miracles as prohibited violations of nature?
  6. Have you been influenced by Hume's anti-miracle argument?

I’ll briefly address these issues individually in the subsections below.

Might negative life experiences and world events cloud your perspective?

Such experiences and events may include the following:

  • The prevalence of evil and suffering.
  • Unresolved personal difficulties and disappointments.
  • Atrocities committed in the name of 'religion'.
  • The unwillingness or inability of people you once trusted to honestly engage your hard questions.

Might fixation on such issues prevent you from seeing and considering objective evidence for God? However emotionally difficult these issues may seem, do they nullify independent evidence for God’s existence? Does not such evidence stand on its own merits?

This article does not and cannot focus on such issues, one of which is huge and all of which ultimately sidestep the existence of independent evidence for God — disappointments notwithstanding. Therefore, I’ll limit discussion of these concerns to a few very brief comments.

The prevalence of evil and suffering

This issue is a stumbling block for many and disturbing to 'people of faith' as well. Myriad volumes only partially address this issue — some aspects of which clearly will elude human resolution forever. Therefore, the best I can do here is recommend one of those volumes: Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil. [2] For what it’s worth, I too have grappled with the problem of evil and suffering [3] and continue to do so.

However, what if the following were correct, anti-biblical prejudice notwithstanding? That eons ago humanity was given the option to continue or dump transcendent anti-evil control. In their desire for personal autonomy they chose the 'dump' option. (Some folks want both zero evil AND zero transcendent control in their lives. Reasonable?) As such, evil and suffering would be consistent with a good God's existence. How might that influence perspectives on evil and suffering?

Unresolved personal difficulties and disappointments

However implicitly human, such experiences discourage us all, albeit some of us more than others. Because this issue is deeply personal, anything I say here may seem ‘cheap’. However, do note that such problems clearly relate to the preceding topic — evil and suffering — and improved perspectives on that issue may result in improved perspectives on this one.

Atrocities committed in the name of 'religion’

Sadly, certain teachings of one prominent belief system advocate atrocities. Note, however, that supposed 'Christian' atrocities contradict New Testament teachings, sometimes blatantly.

The unwillingness or inability of people you once trusted to honestly engage your hard questions

Hopefully this article, a labor of love, contrasts with such experiences in a tiny way. (Prospectively so does a free e-book I've written, also a labor of love. A substantial portion deals with hard questions and misperceptions. See note 1 in 'NOTES'.)

Have false claims of evidence turned you off?

Have you conscientiously sought strong evidence and yet come up empty? Or have you simply seen too many fluffy claims of evidence for God that any truth-seeking critical thinker can unequivocally explain naturally? (Unequivocally is the key word here!) Yes, claims like that exist, and you can find them on the Web and elsewhere. And if those are the only kinds of claims to which you've been exposed I can understand why you might assume 'no evidence'.

Will you nonetheless consider the possibility that strong evidence exists? The evidence I present in this article differs from the claims that have turned you off.

Is your worldview closed to evidence for God?

Craig Keener, author of a large scholarly book on miracles, once asked a skeptic with whom he’d often dialogued…

“If somebody were raised from the dead in front of you, would you believe?”

He answered...

“No.” [4]

Rational? My experience suggests that claims of ‘no evidence’ sometimes stem from volitional prejudice — from willful resistance more than from reason. Were someone to publish not only evidence but absolute, unequivocal proof for supernatural involvement in humanity (if that were possible, given the lack of absolute proof for anything in life except pure math), might you reject it? For one or more of a variety of reasons, might you not want there to be a God? Might you not want to hear, read, or see evidence?

Or might you have been emotionally wounded or offended by certain negative ‘religion’-related experiences, contacts, or reports? Might you be closed to considering that your limited knowledge or experiences — however distasteful or painful — might misrepresent a more general reality? Do sick trees represent every part of a forest?

If you’re closed to evidence that contradicts your worldview, then likely you'll find what follows unhelpful. If not, however — if the door to your mind is not dead-bolted against the supernatural generally and God specifically — you might find the subsequent discussion and medically-documented evidence at least thought-provoking.

Do you presume that only scientific evidence is valid?

I never cease to be amazed and excited about certain scientific discoveries and innovations. Science has made and continues to make some truly astounding contributions to our world. That said, however, many claims of 'no evidence' for God stem from uncritical adulation of science. Therefore, establishing proper perspectives on science is essential to this article.

The folly of scientism

Some people seemingly think that the word 'science' categorically ends all discussion of the supernatural. But assuming that science has the last word on everything represents the self-refuting philosophy of scienTISM — which the methods of science do not and cannot validate.

The limited applicability of the scientific method

The so-called scientific method has great value within certain research contexts. But it....

  • ...most generally applies to observable and repeatable natural events.
  • ...applies only in a limited way in some of the 'historical' sciences.
  • ...does not routinely apply at all to most critical life decisions and positions, even for scientists. In fact, humans in general — including very smart humans — often base decisions on irrational factors. [5]
  • ...cannot, therefore, be used as an excuse to dismiss evidence for supernatural events.

The absence of proofs in science

I don't claim absolute proofs of supernatural involvement in the evidence I'll present — only strong attestation and inference. However, note that we don't have absolute proofs of anything except in pure mathematics, not even in science. We only have variably-strong evidence in science.

  • Some physical-science evidence is so strong that we call the associated principles and formulations 'laws'.
  • Other scientific principles and formulations have variably strong evidential support. These theories — variably supported hypotheses — sometimes get scrapped and often get modified in the light of new evidence.
  • However, certain kinds of science examine evidence only for unobserved, historical, one-time, irreproducible events. I suggest that the findings for some of these historical events are substantially less clear than the findings for the modern, one-time, irreproducible events that I summarize in this hub.

The implicit bias of methodological naturalism

Contemporary science commonly proceeds according to methodological naturalism, which in theory is “...naturalism in working methods, without necessarily considering naturalism as an absolute truth with philosophical entailments...” [Wikipedia] In theory, this approach exists to avoid unfounded conjecture, pseudoscience, and 'God of the gaps' thinking. In practice, however, methodological naturalism often leads to highly biased, compartmentalized thinking that...

  • ...excludes all evidence for the supernatural from consideration — categorically, regardless of merit — thereby illogically denying the unity of truth.
  • ...implicitly promotes materialism, regardless of theoretical intent. A few scientists have effectively acknowledged this. [6]

In practice, methodological naturalism extends — must extend — beyond methodology. It implicitly requires generating and reporting exclusively materialistic interpretations of findings in presentations and publications. Sometimes that's entirely appropriate. However, when interpretation options intersect with the big questions of life...

  • Where did we come from?
  • Why are we here?
  • How should we live?
  • Where are we going?

...this mandatory materialistic bias categorically excludes even obvious evidential inferences of directive influence — by fiat.

Such compartmentalized thinking — such deliberate tunnel vision — would have frustrated earlier scientific greats like Kepler, Faraday, Newton, and Maxwell. And such thinking must inevitably create cognitive dissonance in contemporary scientists who perceive legitimate warrant for supra-material interpretations.

Do you define miracles as prohibited violations of nature?

I define miracles as phenomena, typically positive, that...

  1. ...transcend (not violate!) nature;
  2. ...are accordingly implemented by a transcendent entity(s) by mechanisms, at times, and for purposes that by definition must transcend the understanding of mere humans;
  3. ...are implemented through a physical-law SUPERset that transcends the physical-law SUBset that defines the limited, special-case operations of our universe — the normally observed physical behaviors that we call call 'nature'.

Consider 'SUPERset vs. SUBset' a bit like 'general case vs. special case' in physics. For example:

  • Newtonian physics is arguably a special case for everyday large objects.
  • Quantum physics is a more general case, in which extremely small objects can do things impossible in Newtonian mechanics, such as 'tunnel' through potential barriers.
  • Quantum physics increasingly reduces to Newtonian physics as object size increases.

Hmm. What if quantum physical principles were a special case of yet more general physical principles that are...

  • ...unavailable in our SUBset of physical laws;
  • ...available in a transcendent SUPERset of physical laws;
  • ...capable of causing phenomena impossible in quantum physics?

Have you been influenced by Hume's anti-miracle argument?

In the 1700s, skeptic David Hume wrote arguably one of the most widely known (and uncritically accepted) arguments against miracles. However, his logic has perhaps been just as widely disputed, notably in detail by agnostic philosopher John Earman, who writes in summary:

"So to be blunt, I contend that ‘Of Miracles’ is an abject failure. It is not simply that Hume's essay does not achieve its goals, but that his goals are ambiguous and confused...the essay represents the kind of overreaching that gives philosophy a bad name." <Emphasis is mine.> [7]

One author summarizes Hume's position as follows: [8]

  1. "Natural law is by definition a description of a regular occurrence.
  2. A miracle is by definition a rare occurrence.
  3. The evidence for the regular is always greater than that for the rare. [Always?]
  4. A wise man always bases his belief on the greater evidence. [Regardless of evidential merit?]
  5. Therefore, a wise man should never believe in miracles."

A Wikipedia article summarizes the thrust of Hume's position in this way:

"So for Hume, either the miraculous event will become a recurrent event or else it will never be rational to believe it occurred." [9]

Per Hume's reasoning, then, it will never be rational to believe that the following two non-recurrent, potentially-directed events occurred:

  • The inception of the Big Bang — The nature of this event will arguably remain forever a mystery to science, despite empirically-untestable hypotheses and sophisticated mathematical constructs. Moreover, all such formulations are based on the physical principles of our universe now that arguably didn't yet exist then. Even experiments in our spacetime, using hypothetical particle accelerators enormously more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider, cannot elucidate starting conditions in pre-spacetime.

    Given that 'natural' didn't yet exist, supernatural inception is a logical candidate — again, arguably through a physical-law SUPERset that transcends the physical-law SUBset that defines the natural operation of our universe. [10]
  • The inception of first life — The nature of this event is still substantially a mystery to science, perhaps forever. In fact, some origins scientists now posit that first life began 'offshore' at some other location in the cosmos, from which it thereafter got transmitted to earth by 'panspermia'. Such proposals only compound the mystery by moving the inception of life to an unknown — or, at best, far-less-knowable — location. [11]

Anatomy of small intestine
Anatomy of small intestine | Source

A BIT OF EVIDENCE FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Here are three medically-attested healing accounts that cannot be explained naturally. Should you have an 'anti-religion' bias, I suggest that you conscientiously tough your way though these examples — and the 'QUESTIONS?' section that follows — before drawing conclusions,

Intestinal regeneration is impossible, but...

On November 6, 2006, as diesel mechanic Bruce Van Natta lay under the 5-6 ton tractor end of a logging truck for a last-minute check, the jack flew out, the tractor dropped, and the I-beam-shaped dropped axle crushed Bruce's middle. Bruce was rushed to the University of Wisconsin trauma center in Madison.

The accident severed critical arteries and destroyed the overwhelming majority of his small intestine, especially the most critical part for nutrient-absorption, the ileum. A typical ileum is about 350 cm long. After Bruce's accident, a measly 25 cm remained viable...

Key section of first-surgery notes from Bruce's medical records
Key section of first-surgery notes from Bruce's medical records | Source

The damaged, non-viable majority of his small bowel had to be resected (surgically removed), including 5 cm more of his critical ileum in a future surgery. Result: 116 cm remained (about 20 cm of ileum + 75 cm of jejunum + roughly 21 cm of duodenum, based on another part of the surgical report). Comparing these remaining snippets with the typical small-intestine length of around 700 cm for an adult, Bruce had roughly 116 /700 = 17% of viable small intestine remaining.

The trauma-department head, who'd never before seen anyone arrive at the ER alive with such grave injuries, expected Bruce dead by morning. But following major surgery that evening he survived the night...and indeed MUCH longer. Doctors ended up doing three more surgeries on his injuries.

However, the amount of small intestine remaining was insufficient for his survival, and three months later Bruce was slowly dying by starvation. He'd wasted from over 180 pounds before the accident to 125 pounds. Visitors thought he looked like a concentration-camp victim. [12]

Note that the human body can't be kept alive indefinitely with IV (parenteral) nutrition, so the medical staff tried some more normal (enteral) nutrition as well. Much or most of the food exited substantially undigested.

Bruce had become the focus of a nationwide prayer chain, and the prayer intensity increased as his weight decreased. An out-of-state acquaintance — another Bruce with the last name Carlson — awoke on two occasions sensing that he should go to Wisconsin to pray for Bruce. Carlson initially dismissed those thoughts, especially considering the existing flood of other prayer and the substantial airfare involved. However, he ultimately went to Bruce and prayed “Small intestine, I command you to supernaturally grow in length right now in the name of Jesus!”

Some skeptics may think, "Oh, brother (or worse)! That's stupid!" But Bruce therewith felt an electric-shock-like sensation and movement inside his gut analogous to a snake uncoiling. Not long thereafter his weight began to increase, and his radiologist ultimately reported that,

“As we spoke about today, I looked over the small bowel series that I did from June 18th, 2007. As I mentioned, the small bowel is so circuitous that it can't be measured with a ruler. But as I look at the small bowel remaining, I think you have about one half of the normal length remaining." <Emphasis is mine.>

Direct observations of his intestines during a fifth surgery (to correct a collateral issue) confirmed the quite substantial intestinal regeneration.

Hmm. From ~17% to ~50% (half) — roughly three times the length documented by the surgeons following resection. Not bad, considering the following responses to my personal inquiries about the possibility of natural small-intestine regeneration:

  • Dr. Jon A Vanderhoof, the consulting gastroenterologist for the Short Bowel Syndrome Foundation replied that, “It only gets longer if the surgery was done in a baby, not in an adult, both rats and people.”
  • A call to my personal gastroenterologist further confirmed that a resected adult small bowel cannot increase in length.

Bruce is alive and well as of the last time I communicated with him in April 2015.

Macular degeneration is irreversible, but...

After Greg S's many years of difficult police work and a brief stint as a professional driver, increasingly-severe central vision failure classified him as legally blind and forced him to go on disability. Retina specialist Dr. Richard Weleber (Oregon Health Sciences University) diagnosed his condition as macular degeneration — a condition I thrice verified to be irreversible. Images of the medical documentation, my extensive analysis thereof, and my own consultations with another retina specialist leave no doubt about the reality and severity of Greg's central vision loss. See key findings below.

Source

NOTE:

Greg's 20/400 vision in one eye indicated that he effectively needed to be positioned 20 feet from an eye chart to read letters that a normal-eyesight person (20/20 vision) can read at 400 feet; his 20/200 vision in the other eye indicated that he needed to be within 20 feet to read letters that a normal-eyesight person can read at 200 feet.

A scotoma is "...an area of partial alteration in the field of vision consisting of a partially diminished or entirely degenerated visual acuity that is surrounded by a field of normal – or relatively well-preserved – vision.” [Wikipedia] Note that Greg's scotomas were dense, causing severely degenerated visual acuity.

Source

To help you understand macular degeneration, I've provided two photos below. The left photo of two boys represents an example of what we'd see with normal vision. The right photo simulates how a person with age-related macular degeneration would see the boys.

Source

The depravity, violence, mutilation, and death Greg witnessed in his years of police work left him emotionally scarred. Mentally stored images of these horrors interrupted his sleep, sometimes awakening him with screaming. So after becoming a Christ-follower, Greg welcomed an opportunity to attend an April 19-21, 2002 Christian men's conference called 'Cleansing the Mind'.

At the conference, shortly after praying "...Lord, cleanse my mind, take this junk away, set me free," Greg experienced not only the spiritual cleansing he sought but something entirely unexpected: restoration of his central vision. He first noticed that he could now read the lighted exit sign at the front of the auditorium and see the knots in the paneling.

Thereafter, two conference officials (whom I interviewed) confirmed that Greg — delighted with his new-found vision — could even see tiny birds in the trees and grass and read distant license-plate numbers in the parking lot. He repeatedly exclaimed for the rest of the weekend and on the way home, "I can see that! I can see that!"

Moreover, only 12 days after the conference (on May 3, 2002) ophthalmologist Jon Burpee confirmed Greg's restored vision.

Source

Greg notified the government of his regained sight, and they subsequently took him off disability. [13]

"Permanently and totally disabled," but...

Ema McKinley's 1993 work accident left her dangling unconscious from one foot for over two hours. Result: Ema experienced an atypical but exceedingly painful response to trauma called RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) that can afflict susceptible individuals with agony near the top of the McGill pain index. A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit at full power didn't help her afflicted ankle.

The condition sometimes strangely spreads to opposite untraumatized limbs and did so in Ema. Moreover, misguided physical therapy sessions demanded by the medical insurer and upper-body stresses caused by use of a crutch made her condition worse. Because of Ema's susceptibility to RSD, she ended up mostly incapacitated with additional upper-body muscle contractures, internal organ issues, confinement to a wheelchair, and a need for 2000 mg/day of morphine (reference: typical starting dose is 30 mg/day).

While home alone in the wee hours of December 24, 2011 — over 18 years after the accident — Ema's wheelchair upset, pinning her helpless to the floor, unable to reach her phone and unable to alert her neighbors. So this follower of Christ called out to him for hours. Finally, during a remarkable spiritual encounter...

  • ...her crooked foot straightened;
  • ...her club fist opened and became functional;
  • ...her neck and spine straightened;

...and afterwards she could get up and walk (however stiffly and hesitantly).

Ema's Mayo Clinic doctors examined her again not long after this event and marveled at the changes. In the table below, compare the BEFORE and AFTER medical-record quotes, which Ema lists more fully at the end of her book. [14] For what it's worth:

  • My careful online search for denials of or corrections to these quotes from Ema's physicians came up empty.
  • I've verified the reported names, specialties, and Mayo Clinic employer of these doctors.
  • The physician quotes in her book contained a few grammatical errors and a very minor date error that the author identified with the notation "[sic]".

Mayo Clinic Physician
BEFORE description
AFTER description
Dr. Stephen Noll
"...permanently and totally disabled..."
 
Dr. Amindra Arora
"...left hand is clawed and immovable..."
 
Dr. Keith Bengston
"...significant truncal contracture...irreversible."
 
Dr. David Bell
"...typical posture leaning far laterally towards the left..."
"Astonishingly, she was standing independently when I entered the room...able to walk a few steps with standby assistance to her wheelchair. Has an upright posture in her wheelchair..." (January 4, 2012.)
Dr. Kathryn Stolp
“...sat in her wheelchair full time and in fact slept in her wheelchair, and she sat flexed at the waist in a very distorted posture with her left hand closed shut, and she was only able to use her right upper limb."
"...quite good cervical and lumbar range of motion...Elbows, wrists, fingers move well...This is an extraordinary case...it is amazing the joints move as well as they do." (January 18, 2012.)
Dr. Clark Otley
"...contracted in a wheelchair for as long as I have known her with severe immobility...bent over at the waist with poor functioning of her hands and feet."
"...upright, straight-spined, noncontracted individual who is able to walk with no assistance but with hesitation...skin feels very normal on her hands, and she has mobility of her hand joints...able to move her legs normally..." (March 30, 2012.)
Medical-record observations before and after the encounter

Though not all of Ema's RSD symptoms fully resolved at this point, she was able to reduce her whopping morphine intake to zero over the next 14 months.

Mayo Clinic surgeon Dr. C. Robert Stanhope noted a few months later that,

“What happened to Ema last Christmas is simply not explainable to my knowledge from a medical perspective. I believe the only explanation has to be that God intervened in her life with a miracle.” [15]

A BIT MORE EVIDENCE FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

The following account, added in July of 2017, is in effect medically attested (reported by one of the physicians who cared for and observed the patient). However, I don't yet have any hard medical records, which may become available in 2018 when the reporting doctor returns to Togo to serve yet another volunteer stint. However, I trust that honest (unclosed-mind) skeptics will find this account thought-provoking in its present form.

Introduction

A doctor friend whom I’ll call ‘Dr. Fred’ — a board-certified radiologist — has served volunteer stints in a Togo (Western Africa) medical clinic every year for 25 years. The patients he and his fellow physicians see often arrive in horrible condition, some having never received medical attention ever. Over those years he has witnessed multiple supernatural healings. During my doctor friend’s last stint, just a few months ago (I write this in July, 2017), he witnessed perhaps the most impressive case of all, summarized below.

All quotes in this summary are verbatim, except for a few trivial structural and grammatical edits. All italic emphases and notes indicated in brackets [ ] are mine.

Patient arrives in poor condition

Dr. Fred — “He is a 2 to 3 year old Filani boy who came to us severely malnourished with multiple sores and no body fat, weighing almost nothing, barely breathing, and [with] no palpable pulse."

Patient dies, despite interventions

Dr. Fred — “We started rehydration therapy with IVs, and after two days he was awake and alert. He then had a cardio-pulmonary arrest (stopped breathing) [See note 16]. We started CPR and brought an ultrasound machine in to watch his heart because he was so malnourished we still couldn't feel a pulse or even hear his heartbeat with a stethoscope. We continued CPR for approximately 30-45 minutes. We watched his heart with ultrasound and there was complete asystole (no heart motion).

We finally ceased resuscitation [CPR] and pronounced him dead, viewing his heart with ultrasound periodically following the cessation of CPR [see note 17]: no motion asystole for approximately ten minutes following CPR.

NOTE: Per my independent consultation with a pediatrician, when a physician observes absence of heart motion using ultrasound, as in this case (i.e. via an echocardiogram), cardiac standstill is sometimes considered a more appropriate term than asystole. The following findings (reported independently in a medical journal) suggest that a fatal outcome following cardiac standstill is unsurprising, at least in adults:

“One hundred sixty-nine patients were enrolled in the study. One hundred thirty-six patients had cardiac standstill on the initial echocardiogram. Of these, 71 patients had an identifiable rhythm on monitor. No patient with sonographically identified cardiac standstill survived to leave the ED [emergency department] regardless of his or her initial electrical rhythm. Cardiac standstill on echocardiogram resulted in a positive predictive value of 100% for death in the ED, with a negative predictive value of 58%. Conclusions: Patients presenting with cardiac standstill on bedside echocardiogram do not survive to leave the ED regardless of their electrical rhythms.” [18].

Patient returns to life

Dr. Fred — “We had his mom join us and prayed with her and said we were sorry. We were all bummed out and left her at the bedside and went to the nurses’ station.

About 30 minutes later I went over to the bed to talk to the mom, and when I looked down the child’s eyes were looking around! I called everyone over and we were stunned and amazed! This child was documented dead with irrefutable ultrasound evidence of at least ten minutes asystole, and here he was - alive! A flat-out miracle; no way to explain it away, except [as] God’s loving intervention in the life of this precious child.

We had pediatricians with us who were flabbergasted and amazed. Everyone was taken aback by being witnesses of such an obvious instance of God’s felt presence in that place.

He subsequently continued to improve and left the hospital neurologically intact!”

NOTE: Even if the boy had not died, he’d likely have suffered severe neurological damage due to lack of oxygen supply to the brain. Per the University of California, Santa Barbara Science Line,..

“In general, the brain can withstand up to three to six minutes without oxygen before brain damage occurs, but this may vary from person to person. If the brain goes without oxygen longer than this, serious and often irreversible damage is likely to take place. After ten minutes, severe neurological damage has generally occurred.”* [19]

…yet, the boy didn’t just come back to life; he came back to life without neurological damage.

_____________________
*The brain can sometimes last somewhat longer without oxygen in hypothermic (low body temperature) conditions. But this boy lives in Togo, a tropical country.

QUESTIONS?

I address a few anticipated questions in the subsections below.

Isn't it likely that science will one day explain these healing events naturally?

No. Even ignoring the natural irreversibility of these medical conditions, the supernatural speed of tissue regeneration in at least two of these cases (seconds or minutes) exceeded the speed of natural tissue regeneration (days, weeks, months, or years [20]) by orders of magnitude — faster than any EVER-conceivable natural biological healing process, regardless of the human body's amazing capabilities. Even Bruce Van Natta's intestinal regeneration may have been virtually instantaneous, though the nutritional benefits of course didn't manifest instantly, and confirming X-rays were taken several weeks later.

Could the changes have been psychosomatic?

No. The placebo effect — a sometimes-dramatic psychosomatic effect based on brain response to the power of suggestion and anticipation — definitely has real medical benefits for certain conditions. Neuroscientists and other researchers have recently studied the effect with some intensity and with modern tools, including functional MRI (which examines blood flow to various parts of the brain).

However, the placebo effect works only in contexts that don't apply to the three accounts I summarize above. [21] The first three accounts address the remediation of serious, unambiguously established, physically irreversible degenerations of body parts. In the the fourth account, the medically-confirmed-dead patient was hardly open to wishful thinking. The conditions and changes were evaluated using established medical procedures, in some cases scientific procedures, that established the physical degenerations involved. Moreover, the changes in the first three cases were ‘permanent’ — over years. In the fourth case, all that matters is the patient's return to life neurologically intact, subsequent improvement of his health, and release from the hospital.

Not 100.00% certain, right? For example, there's a very remote chance that in all three accounts all of the doctors involved could be mistaken in their observations or even liars.

Of course. Virtually nothing in life is 100.00% certain. But see earlier qualifiers about uncertainty even in science. More critically, evidence shows that scientists and scientific findings aren't necessarily more trustworthy than non-scientists and non-scientific findings. [22]

However, what's overwhelmingly the best explanation for the findings in these accounts (by abductive reasoning — inference to the best explanation)? I submit that if transcendent healing were a criminal offense, enough evidence exists to easily convict at least the first three patients in any court of law.

Why have these people been healed supernaturally and relatively few others?

One of my daughters suffered with a severe illness from cradle to grave (28 years), so I don't consider this question without compassion. The question is — and implicitly must be substantially unanswerable from a limited human viewpoint. However, I've partially grappled with it in verbiage too long to reproduce here. (I'll share those thoughts if you write me at bridges4hs@hotmail.com.) Here's a key perspective.

This question of course presumes the reality of miracles, unless it's asked as a straw-man diversion therefrom. In turn, the reality of miracles presumes transcendence: the existence of wisdom, perspective, and capability superior to ours — a consideration sometimes neglected in such concerns.

  • The typical human mind tends to judge everything on its terms and its experience, and its purview.
  • Therefore, we humans tend to anthropomorphize any notion of God into a being who is like us (or even inferior to us) and therefore must answer to us. We tend to position ourselves as judges presumably qualified to decide the fate of God as a defendant.

But a God who is transcendent — as any meaningful God must be — must have perspectives that are forever unfathomable to humans. Therefore, I suggest, calling a transcendent God “unfair” (or worse) from our inferior human perspective is arguably arrogant. The acceptance of 'fairness' in the relative rarity of miracles calls not for blind faith. Rather it calls for...

  • ...humble trust in transcendent wisdom that we can't fathom...based on...
  • ...evidence of transcendent involvement that we can fathom, such as in the accounts summarized above and many others. [23]

HELPFUL?

We all accumulate myriad worldview inputs, sometimes over many years, and this article constitutes just one such input for each reader. Modification of cherished viewpoints can be uncomfortable or even painful. Moreover, beliefs can reflect emotions and volition (will) that facts and rational argument may not touch. Therefore, I have no illusions that this article will cause worldview step changes. But hopefully it has provoked thought and has effected at least some change in reader perspectives. [20]

Has it helped you? What will you now do with this information? Summarily reject it? Incrementally adjust your worldview? Explore further?

Your choice.

How helpful?

See results

NOTES

  1. The stand-alone evidence summaries in this article hopefully satisfy many readers. However, some readers will want to see more details. You'll find them in the 'Miracles impossible' chapter and Appendix A of my free e-book Bridges for honest skeptics: Rational bases for belief for truth-seekers struggling with God’s existence, involvement, and relevance. The 134 small pages dedicated to this topic include more medical records, my analyses thereof, and all source citations associated with these accounts. (The book's many additional illustrations of transcendent involvement and its extensive 'Thinking further' and 'About us' discussions may further interest some readers.) You can download the book at multiple sites, quickly found via a title search.

  2. Os Guinness, Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil (Harper One, 2005).
  3. Consider the following sections of my book (see note 1): • ‘God? Then why this mess?!’, • ‘Appendix D: Some entropic perspectives on evil’, • a few subsections of ‘Talking to the wind?’.
  4. Jesus of Testimony (video), Nesch Productions LLC, 2014, Part III: Miracles (starting at time 1:00). [http://www.jesusoftestimony.com/watch/] This specific instance is discussed after time 1:17:30.

  5. Consider, for example, some of the experiments discussed in psychologist Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational (Harper-Collins, 2009) and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty (Harper-Collins, 2012) [or, alternatively, consider his video (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies on Netflix]. Consider also note 18 in this list and admissions of cognitive dissonance in the 'Materialism, determinism, and reality' subsection of Bridges for honest skeptics (see note 1).

    Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman's admonition to the scientists and engineers graduating from Caltech in 1974 seems relevant: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool." <Emphases are mine> [http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/3043/1/CargoCult.pdf. Accessed 2/22/2017.]
  6. I particularly admire the candor of Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin:

    "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." [Richard C. Lewontin, review of Carl Sagan book Billions and Billions of Demons, New York Review of Books, January 9 1997.] <Emphases are Lewontin's.>

    For what it's worth, I'm a scientist (PhD), and also a former honest skeptic. I can understand why some scientists can't tolerate the idea of supernatural involvement — a "Divine Foot in the door." The words 'supernatural' and 'transcendence' imply unfathomable, forever-unsolvable mystery — mystery that's not even hypothetically resolvable with an infinite research budget. Might the humility demanded by such mystery be intolerable to intellectually proud minds?
  7. John Earman, Hume's Abject Failure: the Argument Against Miracles, Oxford University Press, 2000, Introduction.
  8. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Crossway, 2004, pp. 205-208.
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hume. [Last accessed 1/5/2017.] See the last paragraph in the 'Problem of miracles' subsection.
  10. I suggest that the capabilities of an originator must transcend the capabilities of the originated. We find this principle at work in our own lives. The capabilities of the producer transcend the capabilities of the produced. For example, today's computers are exceedingly fast; but they're stupid relative to their transcendent human programmers. Artificial intelligence may never overcome that discrepancy — if only because of the so-called 'hard problem of consciousness', which highlights the difficulty of attributing mental 'qualia'* to neural phenomena.

    Consider evidence and arguments for supernatural Big Bang involvement in the 'Arguments and evidence' subsection of Bridges for honest skeptics (see note 1).
    ________________
    * Individual instances of subjective conscious experience. (Wikipedia)
  11. For example, consider the 'Directed fine tuning?' subsection of Bridges for honest skeptics (see note 1) particularly the last three pages and associated end notes.
  12. Bruce Van Natta, A Miraculous Life, Charisma House, 2013, Kindle Edition, page 54. (Note: The most important data for this account was transmitted to me directly by Bruce, not from his book.)
  13. The data for this account has come to me from multiple sources, which I cite in my book (see note 1).
  14. Ema McKinley and Cheryl Ricker, Rush of Heaven: One Woman’s Miraculous Encounter with Jesus, Zondervan, 2014, Kindle edition.
  15. See http://salvationarmynorth.org/2012/08/jesus-heals-paralyzed-salvation-army-volunteer/. Accessed 8/21/2015.
  16. In more detail, cardiopulmonary arrest is “the absence of systole; failure of the ventricles of the heart to contract (usually caused by ventricular fibrillation) with consequent absence of the heartbeat, leading to oxygen lack and eventually to death.” [http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cardiopulmonary+arrest]
  17. A post-declared-death check is apparently done to ensure that no infrequent myocardial beats get missed on the echocardiogram. See the paper cited in note 18, at the top of page 618.
  18. Michael Blaivas MD and John Christian Fox, MD, Outcome in Cardiac Arrest Patients Found to Have Cardiac Standstill on the Bedside Emergency Department Echocardiogram, Academic Emergency Medicine, June 2001, Volume 8, Number 6, pp. 615 – 621. Available as of 7/13/2017 at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1553-2712.2001.tb00174.x/epdf
  19. How long does it take to die from no oxygen?, UCSB [University of California, Santa Barbara] Science Line, 2015. [Available as of 7/14/2017 at http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=3643.] (See also http://www.transweb.org/faq/q3.shtml.)
  20. See http://book.bionumbers.org/how-quickly-do-different-cells-in-the-body-replace-themselves/. Last accessed 2/21/2017.
  21. See, for example, Simon Worrall, Here's What Placebos Can Heal—And What They Can't, National Geographic (online), November 27, 2016.
    [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/11/placebo-health-science-brain-suggestible-you-erik-vance/. Last accessed 3/13/2017].
  22. For example, Lancet** editor-in-chief Richard Horton concluded the following after attending a 2015 symposium on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research:

    “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness....The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data.”
    [http://thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60696-1/fulltext?rss%3 Dyes. Last accessed 3/13/2017.]

    I cite additional examples of scientist bias in the 'Science is objective?' subsection of Bridges for honest skeptics (see note 1).

    This note in no way denigrates the genuine, sometimes fabulous scientific accomplishments of conscientious scientists. I highlight these issues only to emphasize that science is a human endeavor much like any other. It is practiced by all-too-human scientists — some of whom exhibit substantial bias, particularly in interpretation of findings. I caution the reader against inappropriate adulation of science and scientists over other forms and practitioners of inquiry.
    _____________________
    **A globally prestigious medical journal.
  23. Bridges for honest skeptics (see note 1) includes 40-plus additional illustrations of modern transcendent involvement, including many additional examples of supernatural intervention and accounts of dramatically transformed lives.
  24. Some readers may find the substantial 'Thinking further' and 'About us' parts of Bridges for honest skeptics (see note 1) additionally helpful.

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    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 8 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Joel, appreciating someone's point of view may not necessarily mean agreeing to the same. Let me reiterate, I do admire the effort and some of the reasoning that you put in here. The point that I was trying to make was pertaining to specifics of the so called miracles and that they just can't be viewed in one dimension.

      Again that's my view point unless proven otherwise.

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      Joel Lantz 8 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Ashutosh, it's sad that you, after affirming the validity of some of my arguments against anti-evidence prejudice, so strongly express your own. I hope that other readers will at least evaluate the Hub's evidence for supernatural involvement on its merits and refrain from summary dismissal.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 8 months ago from New Delhi, India

      This hub has some valid arguments for non-believers like me. I personally found it interesting but you kinda lost me when you endorsed something like ".... Small intestine, I command you to supernaturally grow in length right now in the name of Jesus!” in Bruce' recovery example, not sure how to even absorb that with a pinch of salt. I guess even a skeptic would prefer to just laugh it off.

      Science never gives us a dictat like religion does which is supposed to be final and binding and that's why science always has an upper edge. It will always prompt us to question. Miracles do happen a lot whether its on an operating table or elsewhere but linking them to some divine power is an absurd idea, they could be attributed to will or fate of the individual or simply a mere coincidence.