On Miracles

Dr. Michael Lemole, the chief of the Division of Neurosurgery at the University, is one of the doctors caring for Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ). For me, as a person interested in the interface between science and theology, this comment by Dr. Lemole caught my attention:

A lot of medicine is outside of our control, so we’re wise to acknowledge miracles.

Dr. Lemole is a man of science. By defining science as the search of an explanation for what we observe in nature, I establish the parameters of science. To me science is a like football – there is an established playing field with boundaries (nature), players (scientists), playbook (methodologies), and referees (other scientists).

Science assumes natural causes, yet the hypothesis No supernatural cause for any natural phenomenon is possible cannot be tested. At the same time, many major faiths believe in miracles, as Rev Tim Keller defines as the intervention of God into the natural order.

Whereas modern science may not be able to explain miracles, it also cannot prove or disprove God’s existence. Regardless of the mantra at either end of the science and theology issue, most of us are not faced with the dogma that we must make a choice between science and theology – but rather, we face questions about how to integrate and reconcile these two aspects of life. Perhaps more of us should look at not only Dr. Lemole’s words above, but also his next sentence:

We can’t control that (miracles) – and when we’re dealt that hand, we are very thankful.

25 thoughts on “On Miracles

  1. What’s the old phrase common among honest doctors? “God heals the patients, and the doctor collects the fee”? I think MASH once had one of the doctors (probably Hawkeye) stating that he could do things in the operating theatre that he knew he wasn’t capable of. With all the commentaries about “He shouldn’t be alive” and “He’ll never walk again” repeatedly being proved wrong, there seems to be only one of two answers. We either have a heck of a lot of doctors without a clue as to what they’re doing (a definite possibility – I can think of a couple candidates!), or there is something else involved in the healing process. I’d rather go with the second theory – the concept of God (in whatever form) beats the concept of a mass of ham-fisted medical personnel fumbling their way through our medical system!

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    • John,
      No profession/vocation is immune from incompetence. Whether a doctor, a hair stylist, a plumber, a teacher, and so on – all of us prefer a good one, but that isn’t a guarantee. Nonetheless, in the Giffords case, competence doesn’t seem to be an issue. Thanks for commenting.

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    • Sorry, Frank, I wasn’t clear on my point. What I was trying to say was, with the number of stories that appear starting with “The doctors said he would never walk again, but…”, those doctors saying that must not realise that the person COULD walk again (and would), and therefore, they were incompetent or perhaps grossly under educated – an exaggeration for dramatic effect, since most doctors (I would HOPE!) are well-trained AND competent. I realise there are under-achievers in all professions – I could point to a few dozen in the hierarchy of Citicorp, based on personal experience, just as I’ve encountered a couple of idiotic doctors (thankfully only 2, only1 of which I’d consider getting disbarred). I’ll still stick with the miracle concept, and again with my first quote “God heals the patient and the doctor collects the fee”.

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      • No problem John … and thanks for the clarification.

        PS: I’m curious. Any favorite blogs to share that I probably don’t know about?

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  2. Miracles, That’s a complex idea for me. I don’t want to deny their existence, certainly not. And yet I am not happy with definitions like Tim Keller’s because it implies (unintentionally I think) that God is not involved in “natural processes” on a regular basis. God is involved moment by moment, not micromanaging but sustaining.
    And the scientist in me also knows that events that appear miraculous may look that way because we have insufficient knowledge.

    So all I can do is be grateful and wonder.

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    • Nancy,
      I was hoping you would stop by as I value your thoughtful input.

      I admit to not researching a range of definitions for miracles, but having read Tim Keller’s A Reason for God not all that long ago, I decided to use his definition out of both handiness and reasonableness. I agree with you that Rev Keller’s intent in his definition is not to exclude God from natural processes … and as you said, God is NOT a micromanager.

      Good point about the role of insufficient knowledge, which could be a reason, thus possibly explainable in the future due to new knowledge. I recall thinking about this while writing the post, but my mind must have been focusing on something else. I know … likely excuse. 🙂

      In the end, at least to me, your closing statement of “grateful and wonder” fits right with Dr. Lemole’s statement. Thanks for visiting and sharing.

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  3. A site you folk might want to visit, provided you have a high tolerance for science fiction, is called Orion’s Arm. One of their cornerposts is that of sapience level, a set of terminology being bandied about today. Their concept is that there are levels of sapience. Humans today are S0 (S-zero); our next level will take us to S1. It goes back to an Arthur C. Clarke quote: “Any science sufficiently advanced will seem like magic”. The point I am (LABORIOUSLY!!!) getting to, is that God to us may be an S1 or S2 (or higher) being, and that “miracles” to us are simply highly advanced science, for example nanotech robots working inside a person to accomplish “miraculous” healing. We at S0 can comprehend technology at S1, though we may not be able to build it yet. We can mostly understand S2, but it is well beyond our technology, S3 is barely comprehensible, S4 becomes Godlike, and so forth. As Nancy said, it may just be a lack of knowledge – our S0 minds may not understand what’s going on, though we may at S1 and be able to replicate it at S2. You can look up the explanations of moving up levels – it’s hard to explain briefly. But definitely worth a look!

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    • And now that I’ve bored you all to death, WAKE UP FRANK! 😀 You wanted blog sites? I think you know most – Padre Steve, the World According To Tom, some goof from Cincinnati with really weird ideas … oops … um … I mean your wonderful, erudite, enlightened MASTERPIECE of a blog (hey, I’m in farm country, I know how to shovel BS!). There is my British buddy James Daly – he does naval history as well as things peculiar to Britain (gee, peculiar and Britain in the same phrase – who’da thunk it!). There is TheIdiotSpeaketh, a “gynocracy” of a guy relating typically guy things (hence the Idiot in the title) to a loyal (and ferocious) group of women. I managed to weasel my way in, but I’m on thin ice – too much testosterone, too little common sense, too many “typical guy” comments!
      That’s all I can think of! My defence-related reading takes up the rest of my online chores. I do need to do some proofreading, so that’s the chore for the next few days.

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      • Dude, we gotta have a SERIOUS talk. Did you really say you find Sarah Palin easy on the eyes? You know the lady on WriteChic (at least via online), I think you know Unabridged Girl, and you are SERIOUSLY talking about Palin as attractive? Man, it’s MY glasses that are 10 years out of date! We gotta get you Lasik or SOMETHING! 😀

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        • I think we crossed wires. I saw a blog entry on another site where (I thought) you described Palin as “easy on the eyes”. I was hoping I read that post wrong! And as to Palin as a miracle? Maybe more as a test of faith – if some of her inane commentary doesn’t test your faith in the existence of God, you’re doing better than I am!

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        • How about this for a test of faith? Why does God keep dumping snow on His house of worship, when none of the people who attend it will get off their lazy butts to shovel the snow, but the guy who does doesn’t even attend the church, has constant migraines, a bum hip, and a recently torn shoulder (yours truly)? Don’t know about you, but after the fifth trip out to clear snow (and it’s STILL dumping by the ton), I sure as HECK am starting to wonder. It wouldn’t be as bad if Vicodin made ME sleepy, like it does everybody else, but it WIRES me. Joys!
          (Sorry to crab, I just needed an outlet. Thanks! 🙂 )

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        • John,
          We got 6″ of snow on this round. Though it started as wet, the moisture content decreased throughout the day. When I shoveled this morning, it was very light. By the way, God didn’t dump the snow … the meteorological forces did. Nonetheless, I hope you are done shoveling! Roads are probably still slick, so be safe.

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        • Can I be frank, Frank? (Man, I have ALWAYS wanted to say that!! 😀 ) I was actually just bi….um…. crabbing last night. I don’t blame God for the snow, I just get irritated that I bust my as…um….butt shoveling out a church I don’t even attend, and get no help from those that do! (And yes, I know that’s not HIS fault, either.) I was just in a pissy mood last night, I shouldn’t have spouted like that. I wanted to yell at somebody, and you got in the way. Sorry, my friend! 🙂
          We got about 7-8″, it did get lighter later into the night, but thankfully stopped shortly after my last outing. Now if we could just get the dang plow trucks out here – my driveway mouth is the only visible pavement in town!
          (Sarcasm Mode) But God made the Earth, and the Heavens, so if the Heavens poop snow onto my Earth, it’s God’s fault, right? 😉

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        • John,
          Well blessings to you for shoveling a church you don’t attend. That’s special … although I also wondering about “where are the members?” Meanwhile, very cold today … and I can imagine what the road will be like later when the temp drops. Stay warm … and stay home!

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        • Oh, and if I appear a little less witty than normal (what is less than a nitwit? 😉 ), I learned this morning that one of our old-timers, a veteran and a guy who liked me and my military remembrance kick (no accounting for taste, eh?), died late last night. He had great stories, he’d lived in this area all his life, and had a family full of service members. A major loss – for me, for this town, for this state, for this country, and for Mankind. He was old (Korean vet) and was fighting cancer, but the loss is still a shock, and really does hurt. I may end up shoveling a path to his house (about 2 city blocks away down unploughed streets) to visit his family. He, like my mother, are the proofs I use for the existence of God and Heaven. I can’t believe the Universe can be so cruel as to not have some kind of reward for people who gave so much of themselves. Sorry to be a downer – I think I’ll go shovel some more snow. There’s an old phrase I use for that kind of work – “mental floss”. It helps get the little things that are bugging you off your mind, if only for a short time.
          Thanks for your patience!

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        • John,
          Most sorry to hear about your loss as I can tell your admiration for him. Cancer is tough as it not picky – age, gender, type of person – you name it, it can take anyone. Remember those good memories with him! … and glad your comment served as your mental floss.

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  4. No worries on the weather, my friend, I can’t drive while taking my medications, so I’m a pedestrian these days! (Or a co-pilot on rare occasion, which drives the wife crazy, ’cause I “drive”, especially with my feet. Nothing like stomping on a non-existent brake pedal to get the wife pissed! 😉 )
    And thanks for your condolences on Lee. I really wished I had written down more of the stuff we talked about. (I do want to approach the family about seeing some of his stuff, but absolutely not right now.) It’s not helping that this situation is bringing up thoughts of not being bedside when my mother died. Now I’ve missed the actual passing of someone else close to me. Sunday may just find me in the pews for the first time since my wedding – our pastor is also down sick with what may be pneumonia – we’re waiting for the results. I believe there are good days and bad days. I’m looking forward to the good ones, ’cause yesterday and today sure ain’t been good ones. So I’ll follow my motto – Keep Smiling! 🙂
    And thank you for listening, my friend. Here’s to you! 😉

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    • John,
      Ah ha … you either love driving from the passenger’s side or driving your wife crazy … then again, there’s always all the above! Hey … don’t forget want Annie says … the sun will come out – tomorrow. Have patience.

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    • Actually, it’s because there is only one area where I’m a control freak – the car. If you lead me up a hill into enemy fire, if I trust you, I’ll kick in the very gates of Hell. If you want to build something, I’ll do all the grunt work. BUT I GOTTA DRIVE!!! I’ve never figured it out – I’m certainly not type-A personality (or an alpha male, except among the dogs and goats 😉 ), I’m not anal about anything else. It’s just something about being in a vehicle – put me in the back of a minivan, I get nauseous. Put me anywhere on a bus, and I’ll read or fall asleep. Put me on an airplane, ain’t got time to take a fast train….. dang, hate when the old songs creep into the brain! Anywho, I can be a passenger in anything other than a passenger vehicle. There, I gotta drive, man. Doesn’t help that my theme song is Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55”. (And I have the tickets, MANY tickets, to prove it! Only 1 accident that I caused, and it was a fender-bender – I’m a leadfoot, not insane!) Just another quirk in the fascinating montage that is me! 😀
      Oh, and you are prophetic – the sun is out! 😉

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  5. Pingback: Flashbacks: On the Science-Religion Interchange | A Frank Angle

  6. I love that quote and I feel sorry for people who can’t acknowledge that there is something bigger than us who can intervene in our world. I’ve always believed in miracles and having had a child involved in an extremely serious accident that involved ambulances and helicopter transfers to specialist hospitals only to be told, ‘there’s nothing we can do’, then to to see that child rise above an inoperable heart condition, we can only say we definitely believe that God over-ruled where the problem was beyond man’s ability to control. While very humbled by the experience, I’m glad I can at least say that unlike Thomas, I believed before I could see xx

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