Friday, 25 February 2011

I'll believe anything if it's true.

Stranger things have happened.

My favourite news story last week was that of George Hudspeth, whose sight had totally deteriorated through Macular Disease over the last ten years. After talking to a photograph of his dead wife (as was his daily wont) his sight suddenly came back. The 76 year old was able to see his baby granddaughter for the first time, saying (and this might be my favourite bit) "She has a right chubby little face." 

Now, being healed by talking to a photograph of your dead wife doesn’t particularly fit into my faith (I would describe myself as a Jesus-worshipping, nature-loving, candle-lighting, vaguely panentheistic reader of CS Lewis and M Scott Peck) but I can be open minded. For me, the real kicker came in the quote provided by the Macular Disease Society, “Mr Hudspeth must have been misdiagnosed because recovery is impossible.”

Now, you would think that someone with a scientific bent and inquiring mind would say, “Well, gosh, we THOUGHT this disease was incurable, but this highly unusual event may force us to rethink that theory. Thanks for the heads up!” But the powers that be cannot accept anything that deviates from the accepted wisdom. So, gangster style, they inform us “This never happened. Got it?”

My dad tells me “there is no such thing as an expert,” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a fairly meaningless term which tells you a person has put some effort into studying a subject – not that they know everything there is to know about it. Unfortunately, being fallible humans means that we inevitably bring our own personal prejudices to the table.

It’s said that science is excellent… at answering the questions it chooses to answer. But being scientific SHOULD mean being open-minded; as opposed to coming up with a theory and then bending all the evidence to suit it (and denying any evidence to the contrary).

(Just to be devil’s advocate  / crazy conspiracy theorist for a moment; “experts” also tell us that there can be no aliens living on other planets because nowhere other than earth can sustain life. Apparently, they are basing this on the idea that any other life would thrive in similar conditions to ours, which seems to me a rather gigantic assumption. Maybe Martians love heat. How the hell would we know?)

(Not that I believe in aliens. Just sayin’.)

The funny thing is, when stories recounting “miraculous” events appear in the media, a lot of knee-jerk reactions are cynical. It’s as if trusting that THERE ARE NO MIRACLES is the absolute cornerstone of some people’s belief systems.

I once read that healings (the kind you get in churches where people fall over a lot)
which have been properly documented (thus eliminating many of the usual objections) have been explained by a sudden, natural spontaneous healing which was going to happen anyway. Forgive me, atheists, but you’d need an awful lot of faith to believe that. (You could at least call it a placebo effect.)

(Incidentally, why do people talk so disparagingly of placebos? Surely they are less a failure of medicine, more a testament to the awesome power of the human mind…?)

It makes me wonder; in the unlikely event that you could show Richard Dawkins irrefutable proof that God exists, would he say “Well slap my grandma, I had it wrong all this time. I am surprised, but I clearly can’t ignore this new information.” Or would he shut his eyes, stick his fingers in his ears and say “La la la I can’t hear yoooooouuu”?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

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