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Monday, 9 April 2007

The Times and the retreat from reason

While I'm on the subject of the Times newspaper, take a look at this rant from Matthew Parris: Did John Paul II perform a miracle? Am I Mother Teresa?.

As we all know, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre has claimed that she has been cured of Parkinsons Disease through the intercession of Pope John Paul II. Her condition was such that she could hardly move her left side, she was unable to write legibly, she could not drive, had severely limited mobility and her pain kept her from sleeping.

After praying to Pope John Paul II one evening, she claims that she found she was able to write and woke up the next morning completely cured of her condition.

As is customary in any claim of a miracle, medical experts have been interviewed to verify that the condition had actually been diagnosed, that it is no longer present and that there is no medical explanation for the cure.

So what does Parris say to those who would cite these facts and ask him how he can be sure that the miracle did not happen?
“But how can you be sure?” Oh boy, am I sure. Oh great quivering mountains of pious mumbo-jumbo, am I sure. Oh fathomless oceans of sanctified babble, am I sure. Words cannot express my confidence in the answer to the question whether God cured a nun because she wrote a Pope’s name down. He didn’t.
Now I think I understand why Richard Dawkins speaks of faith as he does:
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and to evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of the lack of evidence… Faith is not allowed to justify itself by argument.
This is a notoriously inaccurate description of religious faith in the Christian tradition as Alistair McGrath and many others have pointed out. But it is an excellent description of the kind of secularist blind faith exemplified by Matthew Parris in his article. If he were at all interested in any rational discussion or evidence, Parris would have a number of possible avenues to explore. The claim of a cure is, after all, a falsifiable claim. He could try any of the following:
  • Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre did not have Parkinsons to start with.
  • Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre has not been cured - she still has Parkinsons.
  • Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre has been cured but there is a medical or other non-miraculous explanation for the cure.
Instead, he has the blind, unquestioning faith of the modern secularist that he is right. Of course "words cannot express" how sure he is - his certainty is not open to challenge from the evidence or from rational argument.
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