Wednesday, December 25, 2013


A miracle is an event or phenomenon of rare occurrence or circumstances, for which the cause or sequence of events is not clear to the observer.

Recently, I have been asked to support the idea of a belief in "miracles".

Nope. I'm not going to - but not for the reason you'd assume, especially if you are in the habit of taking things on faith, without thinking too carefully.

Look at the description above, then consider any event that you find extraordinary, or maybe one that you have heard described as "miraculous" by some observer. If you look closely, you will find that the observer very simply cannot understand how such a thing has happened.

The short story is that the incredulity or expertise of the witness has NOTHING to do with how any event or phenomenon occurs. Suggesting this effectively insists that something happens differently depending on whether Albert Einstein or Forrest Gump is watching.

If you went back in time and handed your cell phone to Dad in 1970, he'd have called it a "miracle" - and you know Samsung or Apple built it, even if you don't know how, so it's not miraculous to you.

On a more personal level, "miracle" is often applied to events with harsh consequences. We hear of the cancer survivor beating horrible odds, or the infant flung a hundred feet from the flipping SUV and surviving. In fact, neither of these events violates a single natural law.

We don't consider a lottery win a "miracle", because we know that a Lottery Commission controls the odds of a win and publishes them for all to see, but we'll use that term lavishly for things which are more common. 

Have you considered the term, "believe in"? That indicates a serious emotional investment in whatever is being discussed. Do the emotions of an observer change the process by which an event occurs? NO.

The laws of cause and effect are not changed by anything. Do you, or do you know someone who is prone to call something a "miracle" and then assign divine intervention of some kind to the event? That's common, because people fervently wish for there to be some force acting to keep order, so that they can be safe and comfortable -- but in order to claim one cause, you must actually rule all other causes out. I'm sorry, but this does not change based on how good a person you are, what church you attend or which way you face when the National Anthem is played.

When you see or are told "a miracle" has happened, do not stop there, with mouth open in astonishment. Work to understand what happened. If there was injury or death involved, you may discover a way to avoid that risk.

And you will not disperse any of the wonder and awe that attended the event. I think you will marvel, instead, at the forces at play.