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The “Fatima Miracle” (Caller George) from Episode #799

George, if you recall, identified himself in earlier calls as some sort of instructor who had kids in his class tuning into our show. He said in later calls that he is Eastern Orthodox. And his last call was about a big list of evidence he wanted to present on behalf of god’s existence. We asked for his best evidence, and he put forward the “Miracle of Fatima,” sometimes also known as “The Miracle of the Sun.”

After the call, George wrote to us to pursue the case for this evidence further. And I am happy to publish our exchange below in its entirety, for reader review of the evidence, starting with his initial letter I ran through and swiftly cleaned up obvious misspellings and other format issues, but I have not adjusted the items below for content, grammar or readability in any other regard. I encourage you to read it through to the end.

 

George’s Letter 1:

Dear Atheist Experience,

I had the pleasure of speaking with Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris on the latest taping of the show. I brought up the topic of evidence outside of the bible for the existence of God, specifically The Miracle of the Sun. Unfortunately however I seemed to have a problem hearing the hosts at times and was not sure when they were speaking so the call ended abruptly. I have since taken the advice of the hosts and looked up some rebuttals to this miracle although I had already been aware of most of them prior to my call. I have found what I had expected to find which are very poor arguments by people who are just looking for a reason not to believe. Below are some of the week rebuttals I have found:

“I call it MASS HALLUCINATIONS.”

“Not all eyewitness accounts speak of seeing the same thing. Also, people in the surrounding areas saw nothing – and if this was truly occurring to the sun, the entire earth would have witnessed it. Alas, only 70K Spaniards report seeing it.”

“So you are seriously saying that a bunch of peasants saw something in the sky about 90 years ago in one of the most superstitious countries in the world, so therefore Christianity must be correct? That is sometimes referred to as an illogical argument. I could say “70,000 people didn’t see anything in the sky today, so therefore Christianity is wrong and atheism is true.”

“Even if 70 000 people saw something, it would not “prove atheism wrong and Christianity right”.

“If this truly was a miracle, how come I never heard of it before now? Also, when was this? And if it’s true, why has there not been widely publicized conversions? Also, where’s the guarantee it was not a herd delusion effect, much like religion? One guy says something is true, others want to believe it, and the all ‘see ‘ it….Or a cheap magic trick?”

These are some of the responses I have come across and as you can see they are at best very weak and ignorant. Many people have said that this was nothing more than a mass hallucination. Nonsense!! First of all why would so many people be standing in that field staring into the sky to begin with? Is it something the people of this village would normally do? I think not. They were there as I tried to say on the telephone, because the miracle was for told by the Blessed Virgin Mary days in advanced. The children had gathered the villagers there on her instructions to witness the miracle. So that throws out all the nonsense about this being a hallucination or simply misidentification. Below are two excerpts from one of the newspaper articles at the time.

“I feel incapable of describing what I saw. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes. Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zig-zag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.”

“Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws— the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people.”

I had other examples as well as this but I feel as though you did not give me any time to speak. I don’t understand why you have a call in show where you invite viewers to call in and discuss a topic yet you don’t allow them to speak, and hang up on them when they try.

Below is a photograph of Fatima during the time of the miracle which shows the huge crowd of on lookers who witnessed the miraculous transformation of the sun, which I might again add was predicted by the children through the Virgin Mary. Do you have any explanations for this other than pulling foolishness out of the air?

Thank you for your time.

 

Tracie’s Response #1:

Yes, a crowd of people in a photo. You say 30,000, another source below says 70,000, and I found others that say 100,000. The claims get ever larger, and more impressive, it seems.

There are a number of claims of people saying they saw the sun move. But all available evidence points to the sun not moving.

1. Not everyone at the event says something odd even happened.

2. People in other areas with access to a view of the sun reported nothing unusual.

3. No observatories/astronomers reported the sun changing location.

4. For those who said it was the sun hurtling toward the Earth (rather than those who saw it dancing, those who claimed it spun, or those who saw showers of light), no rise in the planet’s temperature was evidenced.

5. The Earth did not change orbit, gravity, or anything measurable that should have accompanied the sun changing location just a smidge—let alone moving all over, shattering and showering sparks, or moving rapidly toward the planet—depending on whose miracle description you incline toward most.

In the end, then, all verifiable, physical evidence points to: The sun did not move even an inch that day.

Lies and errors are actually identified by demonstrating that what a person or group is claiming does not correspond to reality—isn’t that correct? Does it matter how many people make a claim if you can demonstrate that what they are saying does not correspond to reality?

We know, factually, the sun never moved. And yet we have people claiming it did. This is actually a scenario covered in Sagan’s essay “Dragon in My Garage”:

http://www.users.qwest.net/~jcosta3/article_dragon.htm

From the article: “…the only sensible approach is tentatively to reject the dragon hypothesis [or in this case the 'sun moved' hypothesis], to be open to future physical data, and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.”

The claim, itself, is not the evidence. When people claim to have encountered Big Foot—that isn’t evidence, that’s the claim. That is the claim that needs to be supported BY corroborating evidence. You seem to think that what supports a claim is repeating the claim more times. But how many people have to claim to have encountered Big Foot, before any number of claims becomes evidence? Claims never become evidence. And they shouldn’t even be taken seriously when they can be demonstrated to be in contrast to real, demonstrable reality.

In other words, it would be as though the blind man, whom Jesus healed in the Bible stories, was still unable to see after Jesus was done with him—but 100 witnesses were claiming the man was healed. You would say that is a miraculous healing and not 100 delusional people? If the man still cannot see—how many people claiming that he was healed, would it take for you to believe their claim?

 

George’s Letter #2:

Thank you for your reply. I do understand what you are saying but you are missing the point I think. I am not trying to prove to you or convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt that this incident occurred exactly as the witnesses described. I am however hoping that you will admit that this can indeed be considered plausible evidence. Eyewitness accounts are in fact admissible in court as evidence.

As to your five points you don’t seem to get the fact that a miracle is something that which science cannot explain. (Miracle: “An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.)

1. Not everyone at the event says something odd even happened.

(Even if in fact half of the people said nothing odd happened, how do you explain the other half who said it did?)

2. People in other areas with access to a view of the sun reported nothing unusual.

(The fact that only the people at the site in question witnessed the miracle only means that the others were not meant to see it. God can make it so.)

3. No observatories/astronomers reported the sun changing location.

(Because it is quite possible the sun did not actually move out of its location in the solar system.)

4. For those who said it was the sun hurtling toward the Earth (rather than those who saw it dancing, those who claimed it spun, or those who saw showers of light), no rise in the planet’s temperature was evidenced.

(Once again this was not a mere natural occurrence but something which was instituted and controlled by God. Therefore no harm to the earth would occur or have been expected.)

5. The Earth did not change orbit, gravity, or anything measurable that should have accompanied the sun changing location just a smidge—let alone moving all over, shattering and showering sparks, or moving rapidly toward the planet—depending on whose miracle description you incline toward most.

(It is not unexpected that with such a large group of people there would be many different descriptions. If the towns people had heard an earth shattering noise I am sure they would not all describe it as a boom. Some would probably choose to call it a bang, pow, roar, or rumble. And again if this was a miraculous sign sent by God as a message then why do you assume it would destroy the world? Do you not think God would have ample control over the situation?)

One of your biggest mistakes is trying to find physical evidence in order to prove or explain a miracle when the very definition of the word is something which “can-not” be explained. To use science to explain a miracle is featherbrained. Another point you are missing is the fact that this was not an unexplainable event which happened one day and the folks who witnessed it simply attributed it to God because they could find no other explanation. The Virgin Mother instructed the children to gather all the towns folk into that field specifically to witness the miracle. How to you explain such a thing?

“Claims never become evidence. And they shouldn’t even be taken seriously when they can be demonstrated to be in contrast to real, demonstrable reality.” As you say, and you give Jesus healing the blind man as an example. Let me ask you this if I may. If your best friend told you that he saw big foot while camping in Yellow Stone Park you would probably think he was pulling your leg. But what would you then think if you heard the same thing from a stranger who described the creature exactly as your friend did? And what would you think to hear a report on the news that 20 other people claimed to have seen the same creature in the same park in the same area doing the same thing. You might still not believe they were seeing big foot. But perhaps you would no longer think your friend was just pulling your leg and perhaps he did see something. How do you deny the evidence that something may be there??

 

Tracie’s Response #2:

>Thank you for your reply. I do understand what you are saying but you are missing the point I think. I am not trying to prove to you or convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt that this incident occurred exactly as the witnesses described. I am however hoping that you will admit that this can indeed be considered plausible evidence. Eyewitness accounts are in fact admissible in court as evidence.

And when they conflict with actual physical evidence, then the testimony is considered unreliable and not credible. In other words, I can submit testimony that I did not rob a bank, and have 20 people confirm my alibi. But video of me actually robbing the bank, and my DNA/fingerprints all over the area would mean the testimony admitted as evidence would be demonstrated as unreliable and not credible—even if you had no reason to think the people backing up my alibi would lie. The fact is, admitting testimony doesn’t mean that testimony is reliable and credible. And when it conflicts with facts and demonstrated reality—it’s considered to be unreliable and not credible.

Again:

“In other words, it would be as though the blind man, whom Jesus healed in the Bible stories, was still unable to see after Jesus was done with him—but 100 witnesses were claiming the man was healed. You would say that is a miraculous healing and not 100 delusional people? If the man still cannot see—how many people claiming that he was healed, would it take for you to believe their claim?”

>As to your five points you don’t seem to get the fact that a miracle is something that which science cannot explain. (Miracle: “An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.)

What you’re asserting is that if the man remains blind, science must explain why 100 people claim he can see, and if science can’t explain it, then the man must be sighted. If the “extraordinary event” does not actually “manifest”—there is nothing to explain—and by your own definition, no miracle has even occurred. The man is blind. The sun did not move. It may seem odd to you that people would suffer from a common delusion—but we have confirmed no event occurred.

>>1. Not everyone at the event says something odd even happened.

>(Even if in fact half of the people said nothing odd happened, how do you explain the other half who said it did?)

If the man remains blind, it may be odd there are people claiming he can see—but as adamant and numerous as they might be—the man has not been cured. And those saying he’s still blind are vindicated, not those claiming he’s now sighted.

>>2. People in other areas with access to a view of the sun reported nothing unusual.

>(The fact that only the people at the site in question witnessed the miracle only means that the others were not meant to see it. God can make it so.)

And the fact that the man cannot see, and others can see he cannot see, then, is not evidence in your mind that he has not been cured? It’s evidence that he has been cured, but only a select few are aware of that?

>>3. No observatories/astronomers reported the sun changing location.

>(Because it is quite possible the sun did not actually move out of its location in the solar system.)

Then the people who claim they saw it do this, are lying or in error. And their testimony is demonstrated to be unreliable, because it conflicts with what we can verify.

>>4. For those who said it was the sun hurtling toward the Earth (rather than those who saw it dancing, those who claimed it spun, or those who saw showers of light), no rise in the planet’s temperature was evidenced.

>(Once again this was not a mere natural occurrence but something which was instituted and controlled by God. Therefore no harm to the earth would occur or have been expected.)

This becomes irrelevant the moment you admit that the sun never moved. If you believe the man can see, and we can confirm he does not—then you are suffering from a delusion.

>>5. The Earth did not change orbit, gravity, or anything measurable that should have accompanied the sun changing location just a smidge—let alone moving all over, shattering and showering sparks, or moving rapidly toward the planet—depending on whose miracle description you incline toward most.

>(It is not unexpected that with such a large group of people there would be many different descriptions. If the towns people had heard an earth shattering noise I am sure they would not all describe it as a boom. Some would probably choose to call it a bang, pow, roar, or rumble. And again if this was a miraculous sign sent by God as a message then why do you assume it would destroy the world? Do you not think God would have ample control over the situation?)

Some descriptions are similar—some are not even in the same ball park. God didn’t *do* anything here, because nothing happened. The man was blind when Jesus touched him, blind afterward. Those who call that a miracle that healed a blind man, are demonstrably wrong—whatever their reasons for claiming as much, and regardless of their level of sincerity. We can verify they are wrong.

> One of your biggest mistakes is trying to find physical evidence in order to prove or explain a miracle when the very definition of the word is something which “can-not” be explained.

You’re pitting claims that something happened against a mountain of evidence that nothing did. There has to *be* something to explain in order to offer an explanation. If the sun had been clearly observed to move, and the Earth suffered no consequences, that would be something spectacular. But the sun remaining in its normal position, and the Earth behaving normally does not require explanation. That represents a normal day. You have claims (Jesus healed a blind man). Claims are not the event (saying he’s healed is not the same as him actually being healed). You have no event (the man is still blind). Not being able to explain what happened is different than being asked to explain something that can’t even be confirmed to have ever happened. What exactly are they supposed to be explaining? That the man is still blind and was not miraculously healed? That the sun never did anything odd that day?

>To use science to explain a miracle is featherbrained.

To look at a blind man that is still blind and call it a healing miracle is featherbrained.

>Another point you are missing is the fact that this was not an unexplainable event which happened one day and the folks who witnessed it simply attributed it to God because they could find no other explanation. The Virgin Mother instructed the children to gather all the town’s folk into that field specifically to witness the miracle. How to you explain such a thing?

You’re working from reports after the fact. You’re following hearsay. Additionally, you should take into account that if someone did prime these people for a religious miracle, that would be an indication of potential *bias* in the results. But it’s irrelevant, as nothing even occurred. We started with a blind man, ended with a blind man—and you are convinced by reports saying he’s sighted now. When I say “No, he still can’t see,” you reply with “That’s the miracle.” It’s nonsensical. Also your claim that people predicted god would do something, and that thing occurred demonstrates a god is responsible is not correct. That is not how we verify causation.

>> “Claims never become evidence. And they shouldn’t even be taken seriously when they can be demonstrated to be in contrast to real, demonstrable reality.”

>As you say, and you give Jesus healing the blind man as an example. Let me ask you this if I may. If your best friend told you that he saw big foot while camping in Yellow Stone Park you would probably think he was pulling your leg. But what would you then think if you heard the same thing from a stranger who described the creature exactly as your friend did?

I watch a show sometimes called “Finding Bigfoot.” I think some of the people saw a bear most likely and were confused by it. I think others are merely attention seekers. There is no evidence such a creature exists, and claims will never demonstrate it does. Unless there was some corroboration of their stories, I would guess they must be mistaken—if I thought they were sincere; and lying if I thought they were attention-seekers.

>And what would you think to hear a report on the news that 20 other people claimed to have seen the same creature in the same park in the same area doing the same thing. You might still not believe they were seeing big foot. But perhaps you would no longer think your friend was just pulling your leg and perhaps he did see something. How do you deny the evidence that something may be there??

I would only find it odd, not convincing, if 20 people were there, and 10 said their camp was attacked by a Big Foot that tore everything to pieces, and the other 10 said they recalled nothing odd about that day. It would seem especially odd if the camp site situation was well documented—say with lots of people taking vacation videos, and there was no evidence at any point of any damage to the camp. It would seem to me there was something wrong with the people who thought they saw Big Foot tear up the camp. Again, I may not be sure what was up with them—but clearly they are wrong or lying. When it comes to 10 saying nothing happened, and 10 saying there was mayhem, I would need to look at the evidence to see who was correct. They cannot both be. Either Big Foot tore up the camp, or not. And if there was no destruction demonstrated, then those saying it was destroyed are demonstrated as not being credible witnesses.

You are saying that we should believe that the 10 who saw Big Foot tear up the camp are correct, otherwise, why would they make such a claim? But I don’t have to explain why they are making nutty claims. I only need to demonstrate their accounts aren’t reliable—which is easy in this case.

Again, if the man still can’t see, and that can be demonstrated by a physician—how many people saying that he has been miraculously healed will it take to convince you that he is not blind?

 

George’s Letter #3:

I appreciate your well thought out replies and agree that you have some very good points. But I do not believe that you use that degree of skepticism outside the realm of religion. I am assuming you believe that on July 20th 1969 man did in fact land on the moon. If so (again I am assuming that you believe this) why in the world would you believe such a thing?? By your logic I do not believe that NASA has met the burden of proof. Where is the evidence that man landed on he moon? We have some grainy film footage of men in space suits jumping around somewhere. We have the NASA scientists claiming that the event actually did occur and also some moon rocks. But were you there? Did you actually see the two men step out onto the barren satellite? How is the video of astronauts running around on what appears to be a desolate surface any different from the photo of the villages watching the sun? How is millions of people watching the event on television relevant? By your logic it does not matter how many witnesses there are. (The fact that they thought they were seeing Americans on the moon did not make it so, correct?) You are also just taking NASA’s word that they achieved the task, they could be fibbing. The entire thing could in fact have been a mammoth cock & bull story! If this sounds absurd to you I would recommend reading “We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle” by Bill Kaysing.

If we in fact have yet to step foot on the moon then no matter how much evidence points to the contrary it does not make it so, correct? If you do believe in the moon landing then I would like to know how you are able to distinguish fact from fancy.

 

Tracie’s Response #3:

>I appreciate your well thought out replies and agree that you have some very good points. But I do not believe that you use that degree of skepticism outside the realm of religion.

And I am not kidding to say I was thinking you can’t possibly use the same degree of non-skeptical thought when it comes to religious claims outside your own, or even other claims generally of an extraordinary nature. Hindus, Muslims, many other religions make claims as well supported as this Fatima miracle, but you’re not a Muslim or a Hindu, and so I assume you dismiss their claims as not reliable, since you’re in a different religion, despite the number of people claiming witness to these miracles?

>I am assuming you believe that on July 20th 1969 man did in fact land on the moon.

Yes, and there is a mountain of physical evidence, including detailed explanations of how this was accomplished. And other nations that went on to do similar things with their own space programs as a result of the technology used and explained. I have personally witnessed at (relatively speaking) close range a Space Shuttle launch. So, I’ve seen a huge hunk of machinery literally go into orbit. The physics involved in the launch and return to Earth aren’t really all that complex. It took a lot of power to get out of Earth’s atmosphere, but much less to return as the moon does not have the same level of gravitational pull. That’s the beauty of things in science, you don’t have to take it on faith—if you really are interested in it, you have access to public information explaining exactly how it works. This is utterly missing in religion, which make authoritarian claims, and asks you to accept them on faith. In your case—even in the face of a mountain of contrary physical evidence.

>If so (again I am assuming that you believe this) why in the world would you believe such a thing??

Again, because it’s not just a claim—the method used to accomplish it is available for public consumption. Not so with Fatima. Additionally, we have all witnessed (at least I have, having living in Texas and Florida) shuttle launches and returns first hand, repeatedly. Not so with Fatima. We have a very good grasp of how to launch things out of the atmosphere—and even have amateur competitions to do this. Not so with Fatima. You can visit the space museums and talk to the people who developed this technology in addition to seeing the actual footage of it. Not so with Fatima—for which the footage of that day at the site itself shows nothing unusual, and no place on the planet has a record of anything happening unusual that day with the sun.

What we don’t have is 200 people saying we have accomplished this, making claims about when and where it happened, with thousands of others saying “I was there, and that never happened,” and a mountain of evidence that no such thing ever occurred. It’s apples and oranges.

>By your logic I do not believe that NASA has met the burden of proof.

In addition to allowing public viewings of the launches—and having nobody who has seen one come back saying “I didn’t see any rocket go up that day…?”—you can read the explanations of how it’s done. And you can even build your own amateur rockets to accomplish the same sort of launches to go beyond the atmosphere of Earth. Can you recreate Fatima in your own backyard?

This cannot be compared to a group of people claiming a thing that has no physical evidence supporting it, and much evidence contradicting it.

>Where is the evidence that man landed on he moon? We have some grainy film footage of men in space suits jumping around somewhere. We have the NASA scientists claiming that the event actually did occur and also some moon rocks. But were you there?

This is not the same thing at all. Even if men never went to the moon, we can verify we have the technology to accomplish it. Please explain to me in understandable terms how this is the same:

1. Where are the majority of people who were present at the launches who claim there was no launch—as with Fatima?

2. Where are the observation stations in other nations that said they tracked nothing during that time (at least a few of those nations would have LOVED to have presented evidence the U.S. was just faking it, correct?)—as with Fatima?

3. Where is NASA claiming you just have to believe it happened, but they can’t do it again or explain how it happened?—as with Fatima?

4. Additionally, many similar missions have recreated this event to various degrees—something also, not done with Fatima.

>Did you actually see the two men step out onto the barren satellite? How is the video of astronauts running around on what appears to be a desolate surface any different from the photo of the villages watching the sun? How is millions of people watching the event on television relevant?

Because people recorded the events at Fatima—and there was nothing to show. THAT’s how it’s relevant. If we had footage of the “launch” area at the time of the launch that showed nothing at all happening that day—nothing going into the air—that would be something. If every other nation tracking it said the rocket never went up on their radars—that would be something. If we had a lot of people come back from the launch saying “I never saw a rocket launch?” That would be something. Fatima actually has claims and ONLY contradicting physical evidence. The moon missions were some of the most recorded, most explained, most observed events in history.

You said testimony was evidence. I pointed out it’s only considered credible if the physical evidence is supportive of the claims. The moon landing claim has no evidence contrary to it, and only evidence in support of it. The Fatima claim has only evidence contrary to it, and no evidence supporting it. They’re not only not similar—they’re opposite in nature. One represents what we consider credible testimony—the other is rendered as not credible and unreliable.

>By your logic it does not matter how many witnesses there are. (The fact that they thought they were seeing Americans on the moon did not make it so, correct?)

Correct, it’s not about “number of witnesses.” It’s about whether the available evidence supports or calls into question, their claims.

>You are also just taking NASA’s word that they achieved the task, they could be fibbing.

No, because science and technology are not authoritarian. They don’t ask anyone to just take their word. Again—they actually publish their work for peer review and public review as well. They don’t just say “believe we went to the moon”—they spend pages and pages explaining the methods and physics behind how this can be done. In other words—if another nation wanted to do it, they could do the same thing and see if it works. Can you recreate Fatima if you need to? Can it be tested and understood in the same way? I don’t think so.

>The entire thing could in fact have been a mammoth cock & bull story! If this sounds absurd to you I would recommend reading “We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle” by Bill Kaysing. If we in fact have yet to step foot on the moon then no matter how much evidence points to the contrary it does not make it so, correct? If you do believe in the moon landing then I would like to know how you are able to distinguish fact from fancy.

The fact is, even if men never walked on the moon, we know we have the technology to do it at this point—so it’s a mundane claim, whether true or not, as “how to do it” has been explained in detail, and the same methods used repeatedly by different nation’s space programs. Engineers and physicists grasp how this is/can be/was done. So, we understand how it can be done—whether it was actually ever done or not.

And for the last time, I ask you again:

“In other words, it would be as though the blind man, whom Jesus healed in the Bible stories, was still unable to see after Jesus was done with him—but 100 witnesses were claiming the man was healed. You would say that is a miraculous healing and not 100 delusional people? If the man still cannot see—how many people claiming that he was healed, would it take for you to believe their claim?”

You have been asked this three times now, and never once answered me. Is it fair for me, addressing all your questions honestly—to keep going on with this while you won’t answer this *one* for me?

 

George’s Letter #4:

First I will answer your question about the blind man and the 100 people who claimed that he was cured. Here we do not have 100 witnesses, 1000 witnesses or even 10,000 witnesses. We have the man himself. In his words: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” The evidence is coming straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. The villagers who knew this man were astonished by the fact that he could now see and that he no longer needed to sit and beg. If a man who you knew to be blind all his life came to you and demonstrated that he could see are you saying you would still not believe?

But let’s say we did not have his testimony but only the testimony of the 100 witnesses. Let’s use the “dragon in my garage” example again.

Of course if some featherbrained simpleton told you that he was hiding a dragon in his garage which you could not see, hear, smell, or touch, of course you would think he had bats in his belfry. What if however someone told you that a polka dot dragon lived in the cave down by the abandoned mine. I am sure you would not believe this either. But let us say that you hear the same claim again, this time from a different random stranger. Next, it is a few of your friends who claim to have seen the beast with their own eyes. Soon more and more people are telling you that they have seen this remarkable creature sleeping in the cave . It isn’t long before your friend Mr. Dillahunty is telling you that there is indeed a polka dot dragon sleeping in that very cave. And before long James Randi himself is a believer in polka dot monstrosities.

Would you still be as confident as ever that there was no dragon in there? Are you sure you wouldn’t just have to take a little peek to make sure? Mind you there is not one shred of physical evidence, it is simply the claims of various people. Yet if you decide that you must see this for yourself then the claims of these folks were enough to sway you into thinking, “maybe.” So if 100 people are telling you that Jesus just cured a man who had been blind all of his life yes it does not prove that the man can in fact see. But it is certainly enough you must agree to warrant investigation and should not be simply ignored.

Onto the rest of your reply,

“And I am not kidding to say I was thinking you can’t possibly use the same degree of non-skeptical thought when it comes to religious claims outside your own, or even other claims generally of an extraordinary nature”

I in fact do dismiss any claims that do not make sense to me and do not appear to display any truth. Folks who claim that the face of Christ has appeared in their pickle loaf sandwich for example, or that a corn chip resembles Christ on the cross. Villainous parents who claim that God told them to harm their children and claims by the mentally insane or disingenuous people who twist God’s will to their evil purposes. I do not dismiss all the claims of other religions, I just feel that the followers of those religions are interpreting the visions and miracles incorrectly. I believe that the God of the bible is the one true God and that he speaks to everyone fairly. Believers of another religion however may see him as they wish, and that’s OK.

“In addition to allowing public viewings of the launches—and having nobody who has seen one come back saying “I didn’t see any rocket go up that day…?”—you can read the explanations of how it’s done. And you can even build your own amateur rockets to accomplish the same sort of launches to go beyond the atmosphere of Earth. Can you recreate Fatima in your own backyard?”

I was referring to only the moon landing of 1969 and not of space flight in general. Yes you can witness rockets and space shuttles soaring into space and there is a good chance that we have been to the moon. But can you be sure we were there on July 20th of 1969? There are very good reasons why The US might try to pull off a hoax, such as bragging rights and to boost US morale. The United States had a lot at stake in this venture due to the space race with Russia. Also they would have wanted the dream of JFK to be realized by going to the moon before the decade was over. You have given me evidence supporting the moon landing, well here is some supporting a hoax:

1.The American flag is seen waving in several shots despite the fact that there is no air, and certainly no wind on the moon.

2.There are no stars visible anywhere in the background. On earth countless stars can be seen but not on the moon? Which has no atmosphere??

3.No blast crater is seen in the photos of the lunar landing module.

4.The module weighs 17 tons yet leaves no impression in the dust, and the astronauts do?

5.The astronauts capture a very romantic photo of a footprint on the moon surface despite the fact that the moon has very week gravity and no moisture.

So there is some very damning evidence against the moon landing on July 20th of 1969. If you do believe that this truly happened then I say you are believing it on faith. Again, there is strong evidence that the technology and knowledge to go to the moon is possessed by mankind and it is very possible we have been there. But were we there in 1969?

Now if I may I would like to give you some evidence supporting the miracle at Fatima:

1. The miracle was witnessed over 20 miles away by numerous groups of people scattered across six hundred square miles of terrain. Most of these individuals were simply going about their daily activities when the miracle occurred. Here are a sample of some available testimonies:

“I was watching sheep, as was my daily task, and suddenly there, in the direction of Fatima, I saw the sun fall from the sky. I thought that it was the end of the world.”

Joaquim Lourenco— 9 miles away from Fatima:

“I feel incapable of describing what I saw. I looked fixedly at the sun which seemed pale and did not hurt my eyes. Looking like a ball of snow, revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people…”

Mrs. Guilhermina Lopes da Silva— 16 miles away from Fatima:

2. Not everyone in the crowd was a believer and not everyone was expecting the miracle to occur. Some individuals were atheist and converted to Catholicism after witnessing the miracle.

3. The miracle was predicted to the exact moment at noon on 13 October 1917 in the exact location, which is why 100,000 people (Dr. Joseph Garrett’s estimate) were present.

4. Scientists were also present that day and have provided firsthand accounts of the event. None of them has ever offered a natural explanation of the event.

5. No witnesses 40 or more miles away from the epicenter of the event reported seeing anything unusual, a distance that, due to the curvature of the earth, would have placed the miracle below their horizon. No social/psychological theory postulating mass hallucinations or mass ecstasy can account for this.

6. It was never claimed by anyone, either before or after the miracle, that the physical sun would undergo any type of physical transformation; rather, it was prophesied on at least three separate occasions that a miracle on 13 October 1917 would occur “so that all may believe.” No believer in the Miracle of the Sun has ever claimed that the physical sun at the center of our solar system underwent any type of physical transformation and/or disturbance of any kind. The miracle that occurred that day was prophesied to be a local one, which was the motivation behind people traveling to the Cova da Iria fields in the first place. They wanted to see the miracle for themselves.

To me this evidence cannot simply be thrown aside as nothing. Something did occur that day which was beyond any one’s understanding, even the scientists. The miracle was predicted and told to three children which explains why so many of the townspeople were there that day. I just cannot understand why you put so much faith in science but not in religion. The Miracle of the Sun is but one of many events which needs to be taken more seriously and researched more thoroughly. It should not simple be ho-hummed at and thrown aside. I still say that you have faith in science and the scientists who work for it. Don’t get me wrong, science is a marvelous thing. But scientists are wrong more so than not and they don’t know quite as much as they think they do. I would much rather put my faith in God then a scientist who could be terrible wrong, or even be lying to me. Please just think about what I have said Tracie, and remember that no matter how far we come with scientific discoveries and no matter the vast distances we may travel to in space, Gods already been there.

 

Tracie’s Response #4:

>First I will answer your question about the blind man and the 100 people who claimed that he was cured. Here we do not have 100 witnesses, 1000 witnesses or even 10,000 witnesses. We have the man himself. In his words: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” The evidence is coming straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. The villagers who knew this man were astonished by the fact that he could now see and that he no longer needed to sit and beg. If a man who you knew to be blind all his life came to you and demonstrated that he could see are you saying you would still not believe?

You did not answer my question. But you do later, indirectly. For the record, the question you rephrased and answered above is not the one I asked. I have given up expecting a direct answer. Clearly you aren’t going to offer one. Here is what I asked:

“In other words, it would be as though the blind man, whom Jesus healed in the Bible stories, was still unable to see after Jesus was done with him—but 100 witnesses were claiming the man was healed. You would say that is a miraculous healing and not 100 delusional people? If the man still cannot see—how many people claiming that he was healed, would it take for you to believe their claim?”

>Would you still be as confident as ever that there was no dragon in there? Are you sure you wouldn’t just have to take a little peek to make sure?

If you read the essay, Dragon in My Garage—which apparently you didn’t—you would see it isn’t about one person making the claim. It is about a number of people making the same claim, in the face of zero evidence to support the claim. Sagan does not suggest you don’t consider the evidence—that you don’t go have a peek. In fact, he suggest you not just take a peek, but examine every possible avenue to try and help substantiate this dragon is real. However, if in the end, you exhaust an examination of available evidence, and there are only claims, then you have a bunch of delusional people who can’t demonstrate why they’re making this claim. In other words, it would be akin to claims about Big Foot and Alien Abduction. Lots of people saying it, but no evidence to make the claims credible.

Here I will actually help you answer the question of the blind man I keep posing to you: If a claim is false, the number of people who accept it as true NEVER makes it true. There is no number that, once you hit that number of believers, will make a false claim true.

You are talking about having a man that can now SEE, and saying “how can you deny this?” I’m saying, what if, as is the case with Fatima—we can examine the man and he cannot see still—how can you *believe* this? All of the evidence we would expect to see corroborating a claim that the sun moved, actually contradicts the claims. They do not correspond to demonstrated reality, and in fact, stand in conflict with it. And that is the very definition of a “false” claim. We have a blind man, and you are saying he’s a healing miracle.

>I in fact do dismiss any claims that do not make sense to me and do not appear to display any truth.

You have just defined the Fatima Miracle.

>I was referring to only the moon landing of 1969 and not of space flight in general. Yes you can witness rockets and space shuttles soaring into space and there is a good chance that we have been to the moon.

Yes, based on what we understand about engineering and physics, the claim “we sent people to the moon” is not miraculous or even amazing anymore, because we get how easily we could accomplish this with current technology—not even any appeal to magic. What we already *know* is sufficient to make the claim we walked on the moon, extremely mundane.

But you are saying the sun shifted position in the sky—and moved all over the place, and we only have about 200 reports of people saying they saw this. When we look to see if we can corroborate this, we find all the supporting evidence we would expect to find if it were true, contradicts the claims.

Let’s say there were 30,000 people there. And of those, a few attention seekers, a few people who have stared at the sun a bit too long, and a couple loons start saying that they see the sun moving. According to conformity research, in a mixed crowd of people, we can expect conservative estimates of about 5% of the group to conform to saying they saw this, too. That would be 1500 people. I believe the high estimate of reports taken from witnesses is 200 or thereabouts? That’s less than 1/7 of the people conformity tests say would simply go along with false claims they could see, for themselves, are false. I don’t know how or why this amazes you. And we are even dealing with a crowd biased and primed, hoping to see a miracle. I use these same studies when addressing Pentecostal claims of mass Holy Ghost powers in their church services. Here is more information broken down, if it helps. But to me, the main thing is that whether we understand why people would make false, wild claims or not—being able to demonstrate physically that what they claimed never occurred, should be sufficient for any reasonable person to reject the claims, regardless of numbers. So, two things.

First, here is the research:

http://psychology.about.com/od/classicpsychologystudies/p/conformity.htm

Second, here is the reasoning error you continue to make—that Matt correctly identified the first time you called:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

>1. The miracle was witnessed over 20 miles away by numerous groups of people…

If you are now asserting that this was observable by objective methods—then we should have observatories who confirmed this. If it wasn’t localized, an entire half of the planet should have reported it—do you not see that as a potential problem? Also, you are going by third world reports after the fact, and claims about claims.

>4. Scientists were also present that day and have provided firsthand accounts of the event. None of them has ever offered a natural explanation of the event.

None of them confirmed any event took place. So, they have nothing to explain. I’ve addressed this before.

>5. No witnesses 40 or more miles away from the epicenter of the event reported seeing anything unusual, a distance that, due to the curvature of the earth, would have placed the miracle below their horizon.

Far more people would have been in view of the sun than 40 miles of the globe. This claim is simply demonstrably false. Do you actually believe the sun is visible to a 40 mile radius of the planet at any given time?

>6. It was never claimed by anyone, either before or after the miracle, that the physical sun would undergo any type of physical transformation; rather, it was prophesied on at least three separate occasions that a miracle on 13 October 1917 would occur “so that all may believe.”

And that clearly did not happen, as many in attendance said nothing occurred. So the prophecy was false.

>To me this evidence can not simply be thrown aside as nothing.

You haven’t supplied evidence. You’re just supplying more unsubstantiated claims that conflict with what can be verified. These people, at best, incorrectly thought they saw the sun move. We know it did not.

What you are demonstrating is that religion can convince a person to believe claims without evidence, even when they are confronted with undeniable evidence to the contrary. It’s the power of indoctrination. And I’m glad your kids are watching our show. I hope, sincerely, they continue to do so. If the man remains blind—you say he has been healed so that “all may believe.”

Thank you for answering the question. I really have nothing more to add. At this point I expect I’d just begin repeating myself. But thank you for contacting our list.

 

And that concluded the exchange.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow, well written thanks… George seems at points like he gets it. Then he deflects the “blind man” metaphorical example into Biblical “reality” to avoid addressing the obvious answer which he doesn’t want to address!

    Maybe he’ll get it if he contemplates other religions “miracles” as they are probably more easily debunked using the toolkit you have given him. This one is pertinent to me as a work colleague from India gave me a first person account of something similar happening to him in his temple (Dunno if it was the same one)
    http://angels.about.com/od/FactFiction/f/Did-Statues-Of-Hindu-Gods-Miraculously-Consume-Milk-Offerings-To-Them.htm

    Note the “Scientists and believers had no explanation as to why it stopped” … The gods had their fill of milk of course!

    • escuerd says

      Interestingly, the first person who posed the “sun miracle” argument to me was a Catholic who also seemed to lend credence to the Hindu “milk miracle”. At least he was consistent in that regard. But the guy could have learned a little about how to actually verify incredible claims.

      With regards to the milk miracle, he kept insisting that it had never been seen to happen before or since (even after another poster, arguing that it was done by capillary action, claimed to have replicated it with their roommate’s statue of Ganesha).

      Not sure if it was capillary action or something similar, but what struck me about the putatively miraculous videos were the trails of milk you could see running alongside the statues.

  2. Joe says

    If there’s anything that could play havoc with the eyes, I’d imagine staring into the sun would rank high on the list.

    Any person who would make such a point in their opening statement should probably be ignored:

    “…people who are just looking for a reason not to believe”

    Yes, that is exactly what we’re doing, as should he. The whole point of critical thinking (when presented with a fantastical story) is to determine the probability of it being truthful. Once you find holes, you can move on.

    • Joe says

      I almost forgot. He also removes the definition of a ‘miracle’ by stating that it doesn’t actually need to cause anything physically measurable.

      So, a miracle is now diluted to god being able to trick our minds. And since people have been known to be able to do this themselves, I don’t see the need to project god into the scenario.

      • says

        “I almost forgot. He also removes the definition of a ‘miracle’ by stating that it doesn’t actually need to cause anything physically measurable.”

        Ya! He SAID the definition of a miracle was something that can’t be explained, but from the context it was clear that he thought that meant they can’t be verified by science!

        I repeatedly wanted to reply to him as I read, but Tracie did better than I could have :)

    • says

      If there’s anything that could play havoc with the eyes, I’d imagine staring into the sun would rank high on the list.

      I DID stare at the sun once, while tripping on mushrooms. The after-image alone (which stayed with me for YEARS afterword) could have passed for “OMG the Sun danced in the sky!!!” if I’d been les educated and self-aware. (NOTE: Professional druggie in (more or less) controlled circumstances. Don’t try this at home, kids!)

      • Once Was A Dumb Kid says

        re staring at the Sun….when younger, I used to do this in the morning waiting for the school bus (early teen years)….eventually, what I remember seeing is a kind of darker ring around the Sun, which would start rotating back and forth.

        Never tried looking at the Sun at *noon*…maybe that’s a good thing.

        CTYankee

      • Lord Narf says

        Nah. Still doesn’t match the reports.

        Most of the people who were there said that not a damned thing happened, and none of the many observatories on that half of the globe noted anything happening. If there was a physical cause of all of the visions, someone besides the religious zealots who were expecting something would have seen something. We have to look to internal causes within the people who reported experiencing something and to crowd behavior and other sociology.

  3. says

    Clearly he is not saying that the Sun actually moved. He is saying that *something* took place and that something was selectively visible. The problem here is that he still thinks it miraculous that it was selective, while it really strengthens the case that it was delusional. As you note, no number of claims make a miracle, only a physical phenomenon that violates physical law constitutes a miracle. Now it is true that a large number of claims might suggest that there is a common reason, but not knowing that reason still does not mean it was a miracle.

    • says

      Yeah, I got a fairly strong impression that he was basically saying “so many people hallucinating at the same time is a miracle!” but couldn’t use those words since hallucination doesn’t sound very spiritual. I kept wanting to ask “ok, so if the sun didn’t physically move in the way that was described then what is miraculous about this?”

      Also wanted to ask “So if you had some kids relay a prophecy that it was going to, and people took it seriously enough to travel to the area and stare at the Sun, but the Sun didn’t actually do anything, then what do you expect people would say about it?” The only self-preserving thing he could say would be “none of those thousands of people would say the Sun did anything strange” but then you could pin him all the harder with the confirmation studies.

    • sonorus says

      I have met NASA engineers. I have no doubt that they could figure out how to get people to the moon or even to Mars and back given a big enough budget. I also know a lot of people who work for the government and have watched enough news to know that the ability for a large group of government workers to keep a secret is for all practical purposes zero. One thing is likely and the other is improbable at best. I would require a great deal of explanation to explain the “faking” of the moon landings and also would want to know why the Soviets would not blow the whistle on such a fraud since they were obviously monitoring (and none to happy) about the whole thing.

    • says

      Rob: Honestly, this struck me harder than anything else George wrote. There is no way he is not familiar with “time zones.” And as you say–anyone who has ever traveled East on a road trip, knows you can drive more than 40 miles *away* from the sun, and still see it for many miles more than 40. To reach 40 miles, would take you less than an hour in an auto on any highway. This was probably the most gruesome example of how drastically indoctrination can get a person to “compartmentalize” information. The *fact* of how the sun impacts the Earth is so well known and common that for him to have set aside all of his own experience, everything we learn as children in elementary school Earth Science classes, and just plain old day-to-day life (knowing the entire U.S. has diverse time zones from coast to coast, all in daylight at the same time–all in view of the sun…it honestly boggles, doesn’t it?

    • says

      Also, I tried to find where he got this claim about the Earth’s curve and 40 miles of sun visibility, but was unable. I only did a cursory search, though. But I’d love to know if any source has actually published this claim somewhere. It doesn’t sound like something he’d make up. It sounds more like something he pulled from elsewhere. But who knows? Still, upon reading it–any child, by 3rd grade or better knows enough to realize it’s false.

      • scott1328 says

        At any given time the sun shines on exactly half the globe, it is therefore visible to exactly half the globe unless the view is obstructed by clouds, geography, or the moon.

        To say the sun is below the horizon is by definition saying it is night time. But only half the glob is experiencing night time at any given moment.

        • says

          Yes, this is basic Earth science for elementary school children. You can buy kid’s models online to demonstrate this. This is SO vastly understood and recognized and demonstrated, that the fact a grown man who is educated sufficiently to use a computer and speak decent English and even be having this dialog–can’t be unaware of this. His vision of the “sun” seems to be like a flashlight circle on a wall, when it should be more like a marble in front of a search light. But I can guarantee you that if he weren’t defending a miracle claim, and you addressed how the sun/Earth integrate–he’d understand that and be on board with you. It was this religious claim, his desire for it to be right, and his indoctrination, which allowed him to compartmentalize something so vastly commonly known and just “forget it” when he read a piece of evidence he thought would help his case. He wasn’t being deceitful–seriously, he can’t have been consciously aware of how the sun/Earth interact, and think he could pull that over on anyone over the age of 7 or so. He really just “forgot it” while he was reading this “40-mile radius” weirdness.

          • Lord Narf says

            Yeah, that one jumped out at me, too. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the kind of twisting the human mind will go through, in an attempt to continue being right.

    • says

      I think he stated himself incorrectly here:

      5. No witnesses 40 or more miles away from the epicenter of the event reported seeing anything unusual, a distance that, due to the curvature of the earth, would have placed the miracle below their horizon. No social/psychological theory postulating mass hallucinations or mass ecstasy can account for this.

      I’m pretty sure he meant to say that witnesses 40 miles away did report seeing unusual things. Otherwise there is nothing at all to “account for.” “People 40 miles away saw nothing.” So…? Why mention it at all since it suggests the opposite of his assertions.

      It seemed to me he was trying to counter Traci’s statement that this was a local phenomena caused by group dynamics and not God. If it was seen 40 miles away, it could not be a local hallucination caused by the proximity of a packed group of overwrought believers waiting for a miracle because people 40 miles away, and presumably not part of the immediate and overwrought group, did after the fact report seeing it even though the actual area where it was supposed to have happened was out of their line of sight and not directly visible. That would make some sort of sense to support his claim that while the sun didn’t really change, God actually did something miraculous in the area that cannot be attributed to “mass hallucinations or mass ecstasy.”

      It doesn’t make his claims any more believable or the event more miraculous, but it does show a lot of credulity in the local population (and some really sloppy proofreading.)

      • Lord Narf says

        Actually, this is consistent with his earlier claims. During his actual call (I think it was during that, at least), he said something to the effect that the fact that it was only seen by certain people is further evidence of its miraculous nature, because only they were meant to see it.

        He seems to be completely dismissing the possibility of mass delusions, despite the well documented cases. It’s yet another point of willful ignorance on his part.

        I dunno, maybe it was one of the counter-skeptic sites. Either way, it’s pretty freaking insane, but consistent.

  4. Monti says

    After reading his email, I would have much rather been staring at the sun than his long winded nonsense… i got a massive headache… thanks a lot!

  5. jacobfromlost says

    If I remember correctly, some people could actually see Apollo 13 with telescopes–and make out the bubble of gas it was leaking that surrounded the space craft.

    Also, George’s assertion of “people who are just looking for a reason not to believe” seems to suggest he has inverted the burden of proof, and made his claim worthy of belief before it’s been demonstrated to be true. He then seems to think that since it is worthy of belief (before it has been demosntrated true), he can therefore just go ahead and say it is true. Why would something be worthy of belief it it weren’t true? Duh. lol

    And then, when you insert the beliefs of others in other religions, he can dismiss them as unworthy of belief because they are not his belief, which is worthy of belief because it’s his belief, and the fact that it hasn’t been demonstrated to be true is fine because being worthy of belief is pretty much the same as true, right? lol Those other beliefs are nonsense because they are not his belief.

    So he’s getting an undemonstrated claim confused with an demonstrated claim because he already believes the claim before it is demonstrated and feels that’s so damned close to demonstrated…shrug…what’s the difference?

    So yes. Brick-freakin’-wall.

  6. says

    According to some of George’s points in both his Letters #2 and #4 it would seem that the miracle was not that the Sun physically moved (he actually concedes that it probably didn’t) but that God made it only appear to move and only then to a select group of people. That doesn’t sound like much of a miracle.

    • John Kruger says

      Yes, I was struck by this as well. He had to more or less concede that the “miracle” only happened in people’s minds, which is not much of a miracle at all. It did not really happen, people only observed that it did, and this is somehow the work of god. Weird.

  7. brishadow says

    Tracie, you have much more patience than I ever will.

    btw I absolutely have a Dragon in my garage :D.

    B

    p.s. In going through old episodes of TAE, I quite enjoyed the 2 part comparison of Batman Begins and Sodom and Gommorah lol.

  8. billhelm says

    and it really is a “brick-freakin-wall” when they play the circular [God made it so there wouldn't be scientific evidence] card. God made it so the sun being moved didn’t affect anything in the solar system. How convenient. And of course it was a miracle and proves God because the Blessed Virgin (ya know, the 4th deity of the trinity) — who we learned about from the same books which are in debate — foretold it. Checkmate atheists! :)

    • Lord Narf says

      And of course it was a miracle and proves God because the Blessed Virgin (ya know, the 4th deity of the trinity) …

      Yeah, Catholicism becomes more henatheistic as you go through history. They’re closing back in on their Ugaritic roots.

  9. Lord Narf says

    … starting with his initial letter I ran through and swiftly cleaned up obvious misspellings and other format issues, but I have not adjusted the items below for content, grammar or readability in any other regard.

    Umm, he’s a teacher, and he needed a spelling and formatting cleanup? Does anyone else find that funny?

  10. Orneon says

    “I would much rather put my faith in God then a scientist who could be terrible wrong, or even be lying to me.”

    What if one of his kids becomes ill, he will trust more his god than a doctor ? This man is dangerous.

  11. L.Long says

    Gawd, Fatima, and the dragon all have the same quality. They are all IRRELEVANT.
    Is gawd (dragon) real? Yes? No? well actually they are irrelevant.
    The dragon cannot be touched, seen, heard, smelled, and cannot stop me from using my garage workshop or parking my car, so just because some one keeps warning me about the dragon as I park my car does not change that it is irrelevant as the dragon can do nothing, just like gawd and just like the effects of Fatima did nothing.

    • Lord Narf says

      Honestly, it’s a lot better than most miracles, in that there was the vision of Mary associated with it. Most don’t even have that strong of a connection to the religion they’re trying to prove. Still sad, just not as sad as many others.

  12. Jim B says

    I’m an ex-catholic (stopped going to church in college; didn’t believe in god since at least age 13) and heard about Fatima, Lourdes, Padre Pio, Shroud of Turin many times growing up. My mother ate that stuff up. I vividly remember being told that the children at Fatima conveyed some secrets that had been revealed to them, and that each new pope (and only the pope) gets to read the letter; each, ashen faced, puts the letter back into the safe box and never mentions it again.

    Tracie makes the point that pressure to conform might have motivated the couple of hundred people who reported seeing a miracle. But at the same time, she makes the point that only 200 out of 75000 (or however many) reported seeing anything unusual. If anything, conformity would have silenced the oddball 200. The more likely explanation is simply priming.

    In an odd twist, it would seem that those who saw the miracle could no longer enter heaven, because they didn’t require faith to believe in god. :-)

    • says

      If you look at the conformity experiments, when you have confederates that support you in your dissent, then you expect ratios of conformity–in controlled environments–to be between 5 to 10 percent. When you don’t have confederates that support dissent, the percentages are FAR greater. I used the lowest possibly percentage in a “mixed” group of confederates, where some were saying “miracle” and some saying “nothing.” In such a group, the conservative estimate of people influenced to provide a false/wrong answer is 5%.

  13. says

    Skeptoid did an episode on that particular miracle. Episode 110 from July of 2008. As far as miracle claims go it’s pretty weak.

    And to go with George’s claims about his god being able to have the sun dance around for some people, but not for the vast majority of the population and not leave any physical evidence seems to me to be claiming that this god didn’t want anyone to believe it. If he wanted to make an obvious miracle he ought to be able to do a far better job than that.

  14. Jim B says

    I forgot to add: the astronauts left a corner cube mirror on the moon. This is a device which reflects light directly back to the sender at the same angle that it came in as, no matter the incident angle (well,within about 90 degrees).

    What it means is that from any point on earth, an individual can pulse a (strong, well collimated) laser at the appropriate point on the moon and then get a return pulse a couple of seconds later.

    • escuerd says

      Thanks Jim, you beat me to it. Plenty of third parties can and have bounced lasers off these retroreflectors. I’ve never seen the moon hoax believers respond to this except to cast a general aspersion on all scientists as potential conspirators. Seems like this correspondent’s method would be to shift the goal posts and say “Oh, well, maybe we landed on the Moon at some point, but there’s a good chance that the first one was a hoax. See, here’s a bunch of evidence that’s super-scientific and totally hasn’t been debunked by people who are actually competent.”

      I really get annoyed when these brainless metabolic sacs insist that we must have “faith in science”. [Morbo]Science does not work that way![/Morbo]

      Anyone who has ever bothered to read a scientific publication will tend to notice a section prominently labeled “Methods” where there is a detailed explanation of exactly what kind of experiment was carried out and another section detailing the results. If they had any clue about how science works, they’d realize that if there’s a spectacular result (or often even a mundane one), it’s unlikely to be accepted too readily until several independent groups have replicated it.

      The “faith in science” gambit is insulting to people who actually know how much work, care, and consideration of possible sources of error goes into designing experiments. But it’s also revealing about the people who use the argument. They are so used to an authoritarian “believe it because I told you so” mindset that they can’t seem to comprehend that anyone else could think differently. They, ahem, “reason” that since their authority, being omniscient, is more authoritative than any scientific “authority”, they must have a more solid basis for their belief than anyone has for believing in any scientific claim. They know it’s real (and omniscient) because people say it said so. Nicely circular.

    • Curt Cameron says

      I don’t think the retroreflectors are a particularly convincing piece of evidence. We had already landed unmanned spacecraft on the Moon (Surveyor), so someone who thinks that the Apollo program was a hoax could simply say that one of the Surveyor craft carried along a retroreflector. The Apollo 12 Lunar Module landed a stone’s throw from one of the Surveyors – here’s a cool picture of it with the LM in the background: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/0103/surveyor3_ap12c_big.jpg

      • escuerd says

        True enough. There’s nothing that will convince a sufficiently hardcore conspiracy theorist who’s willing to add any number of ad hoc layers of complexity to their claim.

        But then, pretty much any theory can, in principle, be defended from a supposed falsification by introducing auxiliary claims that explain why it seemed to fail the test. If a claim keeps requiring more such auxiliary claims to prop it up, and there’s no independent evidence for these, then it undermines the original claim’s credibility.

        It’s pragmatically helpful in curbing the hoax claims too in that it’s proactive. It keeps the proponents on the defensive by forcing them to respond to a chunk of evidence that they likely hadn’t considered rather than simply pointing out the flaws* in their standard battery of arguments.

        *This could be seen as akin to introducing auxiliary claims in trying to save the straightforward explanation that we did in fact go to the Moon. But usually, for the claims I’ve seen the CT promoters make, that’s not the case. It’s most often a case of either looking at context that they ignored (e.g. that the flag had a horizontal support and that astronauts were shown holding onto the flag and moving it to make it appear to “wave” rather than hanging limply) or explaining the relevant physics or technology. E.g. they’re often shocked, shocked that daylight exposure times on the camera don’t show any stars. Just because the sky ain’t blue doesn’t mean the sun is any dimmer.

  15. Lord Narf says

    Interesting to see the e-mail that you’d previously shared, in context, by the way, Tracie. Thanks. Very painful, though.

  16. tosspotovich says

    Perhaps the blind man was never fully blind.

    Well written, as usual, Tracie. Obviously you won’t convince George but hopefully some of his followers can employ some critical thinking.

    • says

      This was my reason for posting. In early calls to us, I believe I recall George saying he has students of about middle school age watching the show. If they follow TAE, I hope they read the blog.

  17. thorarin says

    So he claims that mass delusion cannot explain the “miracle” (although he never explains why it cannot) but the fact that nothing actually happened is not counter evidence because nothing actually happened and the “miracle” was that god created a localized mass delusion. Because that makes perfect sense…

    • says

      Yes, it was especially weird because the photos of the event in no way confirm the figures estimated, which have quite a range. Yes, it’s a crowd/throng…but how does that confirm 30,000 or 70,000 or 100,000… or even 10,000 for that matter? I did call him out on the fact we don’t know how many people were there. Maybe he thought I was asserting that there was no one? Or just a handful? But my claim was merely nobody did a head count.

  18. escuerd says

    One more point that bugs me about these kinds of stories is when people claim “There were 70,000 [or whatever number] of eyewitnesses to this event,” when there are really a much smaller number of accounts. It’s a sort of meta-claim. They need to realize that simply claiming “There were X eyewitnesses,” is not equivalent to receiving X independent eyewitness testimonies.

    But eyewitness testimony itself is a lot weaker than they seem to think. It’s notoriously unreliable, and there are lots of cases of people convicted of crimes based on such testimony only to have it overturned much later based on DNA tests and the like (you know, some of that scientific mumbo-jumbo that might all be lies).

    • says

      Well, additionally in this case, we have X,000 eye-witnesses, many (most?) of whom claimed they saw nothing. So, it gets conflated with X,000 people saw “this miracle”–rather than X,000 where there, but we have only a limited number saying they saw anything unusual.

  19. docslacker says

    George has an amazing ability to miss the point. So in the end, if the sun didn’t actually move, because that would cause the destruction of the planet and all that, then god’s miracle was to cause an optical illusion. Wowee. I can replicate Fatima by staring at the sun for a few minutes! I can just attribute it to the sun god Inti.

    And one more thing: Fatima took place in Portugal, which, yes, back then was pretty much a third world country being run by a military dictatorship. Very low levels of education, high rates of poverty, the Catholic Church had huge influence, etc.

    • says

      Our viewers in Portugal contacted us not only to tell me I was wrong that it took place in Mexico, but to assure me this “miracle” provides quite the tourist income for the Fatima area, that it’s considered a fact there that the child who mainly made the claims of visitations by Mary was a bit learning disabled, and also that she was coached by priests. Obviously, I have no clue about any of this. But just to say, sources on “the ground” seem more dubious about the claims than Catholics abroad, and seem to have ulterior reasons for promoting this “miracle” as real, whether it is or not.

      • busterggi says

        I think they’re confusing it with the even less credible ‘miracle of the virgin of Guadelupe’ – a miraculous picture that only coincedently (according to believers) has paint covering the miraculous image.

      • Ze Miguel says

        Funny that i was reading to see if anyone had already mentioned that it was Portugal, guess i’m not the only listener from Portugal :-D

        In Fatima there were revealed 3 secret’s by the virgin Mary about things that would happen in the future. But guess what, they were only revealed after happening, how convenient…

        And it’s all but consensual around here, there’s a priest who says that the biggest secret of Fatima is the amount of money they make.

  20. says

    I’m so jealous that Tracie has seen a live shuttle launch… Also, it takes light 4.6 seconds to travel the diameter of the sun, so if God made it move any faster than that it would be miraculous indeed.

    • says

      It remains the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed. I not only got to see the launch, but I got access to an area that is not open to public viewing–as close as even workers are allowed to go to the launch area. I sat with maybe 20 other people, watching that. And photos can’t do it justice. I also watched live when the first shuttle disaster occurred–saw it in the sky falling apart. I’d seen so many launches, as had the neighbors, we knew immediately something was not right.

      • brishadow says

        Yikes. I can’t imagine what it was like to be there during that. I watched it happen live on TV, during Science class. I was in 7th grade at the time. Christa McAuliffe was kind of a hero to everybody I knew in school at the time, teachers and students alike. I was into astronomy from a very young age.

        Hell, I even built a Space Shuttle model from scratch in 3rd grade, when the Columbia was making headlines. I still can’t believe Columbia’s fate either. It has been just over a decade, too.

        RIP to both.

        B

  21. Scott Benton says

    One thing missing from all of this – even if we could all agree that Fatima was an actual miracle by God, what was the point? What is different now because of it? If it was meant to demonstrate the power of God or that God exists, it fails miserably since so few people regarded it as such.

    • JE Hoyes says

      Yes, as usual, the biblical god chooses to make his presence known by exposing his works to a small group of peasants in a time and place that is rife with superstition and lacking in even basic education, and expects that to do the trick.

    • says

      This is addressed at the end of my final letter to George:

      ***

      >6. It was never claimed by anyone, either before or after the miracle, that the physical sun would undergo any type of physical transformation; rather, it was prophesied on at least three separate occasions that a miracle on 13 October 1917 would occur “so that all may believe.”

      And that clearly did not happen, as many in attendance said nothing occurred. So the prophecy was false.

      ***

      • says

        As mentioned throughout this thread, if it only appeared to the faithful, and those already believing, then it was pointless insofar as it was intended…? Not only did “all” not believe from this–but it seems those who saw this “evidence” that was supposed to make believers, were believers already. It was epic fail if this was the goal.

  22. Compuholic says

    From George:

    (The fact that only the people at the site in question witnessed the miracle only means that the others were not meant to see it. God can make it so.)

    Seeing things that no other people can see is also something could be considered as insanity.

    So what exactly was the point of God making such a display? If the “miracle” was meant to convince the world of his existence he should have shown it to the entire world. If the miracle was only meant for his followers he basically ensures that no one will take them seriously because their reports are indistinguishable from people who suffer from hallucinations.

  23. Compuholic says

    Plus:

    Even if the sun actually bounced around. What exactly is that supposed to tell me?

    Would that be a weird event? Sure.
    Would I have difficulties to come up with an explanation? Yes.

    But just because I don’t have an explanation does not mean Goddidit.

  24. grumpyoldfart says

    Hey George, even if your god existed, even if he threatened me with the fires of hell, I’d still have nothing to do with the miserable sod (tough as nails, me).

  25. Yellow Thursday says

    One of the things that has bugged me about miracle claims, in general, is why? Why would a God only perform miracles for people who were expecting them? Why are the only witnesses people who already believe or want to believe?

    A few years ago on another forum, a commenter tried to use another miracle to demonstrate that Catholicism was true. When I picked apart the “miracle” as being nothing out of the ordinary, even, the commenter said, “you pick a miracle, then!” LOL! I had to tell him, “No, you picked this miracle. You must have thought it was convincing. If you want me to examine a miracle to see if it convinces me, then you need to pick the one you think is most convincing.” Instead, he just dropped out of the conversation. Go figure.

  26. mineralfellow says

    About the Moon landing:

    1) We actually don’t have the technology to do that today. That is one thing the Constellation Project under Bush was supposed to accomplish, and Obama cancelled it in favor of developing technology to go to an asteroid. But if we dumped ~5% of the budget into the space program, as was the case in the 60′s, we could get there pretty quickly.

    2) The best evidence that we went there is that anyone in the world can bounce a laser off of the reflectors left behind by each of the missions. This is done routinely to monitor the distance to the Moon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Laser_Ranging_experiment )

    3) More recent missions have imaged the Apollo landing sites (http://www.space.com/12796-photos-apollo-moon-landing-sites-lro.html )

    4) The technology to fake the moon landing did not exist in 1969 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sGXTF6bs1IU )

  27. Comment1 says

    This is so weird to me! He quickly agrees that nothing really happened so it appears that the miracle here is the “mass” aspect of mass delusion.

    For him, the prophecy element makes it all the more miraculous whereas for me it’s a pretty good explanation for how a bunch of people could get teary-eyed from staring at the sun and call it a miracle.

    As far as I can see, these are the two most significant issues.

  28. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile says

    When I was a child, I foolishly looked up at the sun for about 2-3 seconds, primarily because I was warned by my mother not to do that. Anyway, I do recall that as I stared, the inner portion of the sun became shaded, almost a grayish-blue. It also moved within the sun. Took about 20 minutes to get that blotch out of my eyesight once I looked away.

    I attributed the grayish-blue blotch moving around to my eyes moving around and that what I was seeing were my eyes attempting to adjust to the stupidity of me looking directly at the sun.

    Can’t help but wonder if that was what was happening to some people in Fatima. If they kept looking at the sun, then their eyesight would be compromised by doing so, perhaps resulting in the things they thought they were seeing.

    Maybe someone is familiar with the eyes who could shed light on that. oh and my eyesight is fine. I never did that again.

  29. otrame says

    If George is still watching this thread:
    Turn on a bright lamp in your home tonight, when ambient light from outside is reduced. Stare at it. It may be bright enough to hurt your eyes and you’ll tend to look away, but keep going back to it. Do that for a couple of minutes.
    I guarantee that you will see the light “dance” every time you look away from it. The light may appear to swoop around. It works staring at the sun, too, but I don’t want you damaging your eyes.
    Actually, you have already observed this. You have noted that when you look away from a very bright light to a less bright area you still have afterimages of the light that appear to move across your field of vision as your eyes move. You do not consider that to be a miracle. And you are correct. It is only when people, especially ignorant and superstitious people, have been primed to expect something special that some of them will observe a frequently seen phenomenon and call it a miracle.
    It’s called retinal fatigue. Look it up.

    • otrame says

      Damn. I meant to add that “mass hallucination” is not needed to explain what happened at Fatima. The people that “saw” something that day were not hallucinating. They were misinterpreting a phenomenon that is so common that we normally pay no attention to it.

      • Lord Narf says

        Plus, it was a very poor area in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere Portugal. A lot of the poor farmers who were there had probably never seen an intense man-made light, like a very strong light bulb. Through lack of experience in what happens when you stare into an intense light for a long time, having not previously stared into the sun for a minute, I can see how some of them would interpret the screwed-up effects of retinal burnout in such weird ways.

  30. busterggi says

    George said, “We have the man himself. In his words: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” The evidence is coming straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.”

    Well George, no we don’t. We have an anonymous account (none of the orthodox gospels contain the name of the author) written decades after the supposed event (plenty of time for any actual witnesses, if any, to die off or conflate their stories into legends) for a religious agenda (establishing an ‘authoritative biography’ when no actual contemporary records of Jesus existed) which was later subject to editing & interpolation for later religious agenda reasons.

    So technically as far as the account of the blind man being healed this would NOT be accepted in any court as eyewitness testimony but would be dismissed as hearsay.

    • says

      Also, keep in mind that the average lifespan back then wasn’t great (40-50 years maybe), so most of the people supposedly involved might have been dead before the writings… and before then, it was oral tradition.

      • escuerd says

        People did still live to be old. Life expectancy was low because a higher percentage of them died before getting there (especially as infants). But yeah, several decades is still plenty of time for lots of confabulation. I’ve met people full of tall tales who haven’t lived that long yet, and that’s without a religious agenda to push.

        • Lord Narf says

          Admittedly, that is one of the statistical misunderstandings that lots of people have.

          Life expectancy was very low, well below 40 or 50 years, largely because of childhood mortality rates. Someone who actually made it to adulthood was probably good for 50 or 60 years.

          Of course, there were other contributing factors that trimmed off a few years. Warfare and the occasional famine got a lot of people. Plenty of people lived into their 80′s, though. It was just a small percentage of the people born.

          • escuerd says

            If I had a nickel for every time I heard a teacher say that someone who lived to be 30-40 would be considered old, I’d have three nickels.

  31. says

    The more I hear it described, the more I think it sounds like a fireworks pinwheel. Sparks flying, spinning about, moving around and in and out. Not saying it was fireworks but, is it not likely that a group of simple country folk who have may have never seen a flare burning could think it is as bright as the sun.

    If someone was standing on a hill, at a particular time of day, when the sun is just behind them, could they use such a flare to pretend they are the sun? If these people are expecting the miracle and somewhat blinded to the possibilities of it being anything but the sun, it would be easy to believe. I am sure it would have been mentioned in churches all around the country by the time it was due, over and over again.

    Also, is it not the case that any place that has “miracles” becomes a religious pilgrimage site? We know very well that Christians will travel to the ends of the earth to be at one with their saints; to be healed, to find grace, to feel saved. Who wants to say no I did not see it and be condemned by their community or feel as though they are not holy enough to see what the crowd “saw”.

    We know that more often than not no one is healed but, the town in question sure makes a lot of money through tourism and the church makes a lot through donations. Is it not more likely that the people were just so desperate for this event to occur that they just accepted it, for whatever their motive.

    • Lord Narf says

      If someone was standing on a hill, at a particular time of day, when the sun is just behind them, could they use such a flare to pretend they are the sun?

      I dunno, man. If there were serious shenanigans going on, someone would have noticed and reported on it. There were plenty of educated people there, sent from newspapers and such. It’s just that the ones who reported seeing something were mostly grossly ignorant, expectant believers. The majority of the people there saw nothing out of the ordinary.

      I think we have to look to internal causes. The rest of your post is a bit more on target. I think it can mostly be written off as optical effects to start the ball rolling, then reinforcement through conformity and wishful remembering.

    • curiousgeorge says

      Your theory sounds as good as anything I’ve heard. But, I really think you are onto something with this tourism angle.

      The Catholic church should build on that and build a theme park in Fatima. with an all Catholic theme. Just imagine, thrill rides like the Screamin” Jesus Roller Coaster and Bishop’s Bumpem Cars. The possibilites are endless

      Of course, the night ends with the “Miracle of the Sun” fireworks extraveganza !!!! :)

    • curiousgeorge says

      Oh, and I thought of another couple of attraction ideas.

      The Stations of the Cross House of Horrors and the Flying Nuns Airplane Ride !!!

    • escuerd says

      I have to second Lord Narf on this one. This explanation sounds unlikely to me for exactly the reasons he mentioned, especially when it’s fairly easily explained by what we know about psychology and the physiology of the eyes. Remember Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.” Or something like that.

      Having stared at the sun more than once as a child, I can attest to having seen it “change color” (probably differential bleaching of cone cell pigments in retrospect), and appear to move. I guess that latter was my eyes given that they don’t tend to actually stay still when we fixate on an object, but move about somewhat, leaving traces of afterimage. Looking straight towards the Sun at noon wouldn’t leave you with lots of other points of reference. Add the priming to expect a miracle, the big crowd of believers to provide social reinforcement, and it doesn’t really seem so miraculous.

      • curiousgeorge says

        I don’t reallythink it was likely fireworks. It was jst a reference to tie together the naming of the fireworks show at the end of the evening.

        Still, it is not out of the question for the Catholic church to stage an event. They are quite good at deceiving their members. They have a history of intentionally doing so as well.

  32. Aaroninaustralia says

    I wonder whether there’s something else going on when theists get emotional over a story like this.
    In particular, I’m interested in the language being used. There are two words that stand out to me in their odd usage: one is “evidence”, the other is “plausible”. This fits in with both Tracie’s discussion with George, and Jen’s concept of the Bible as fan fiction.
    Could it be that we’re dealing with people who, due to indoctrination, conflate literary concepts with real-world concepts for specific stories?
    Starting with the word “plausible”, in fiction it means the willing suspension of disbelief to accept as “true” or “believable” that something could happen within the realms of the story. We know people cannot fly, but accept Superman flying as “plausible” because of the device of him being from another planet to explain away anything that defies physics. In reality we might talk of a “plausible” story, but we don’t talk about “plausible” evidence: you might say “his story is plausible” but not that “Your conclusion that the pen is blue is plausible because I can see it”. The word very much fits to stories, not evidence.
    The word, “evidence” too is used in odd ways. It seems to be used interchangeably with “story”: the Fatima miracle tells us nothing, but is accepted by theists is evidence because it’s a story linked to their mythologies, and because the Fatima story been linked to their myths, that makes it evidence for their myths. The only link here is the story link, not evidence. But even when physical objects are labeled as “evidence”, it tends to be the corresponding story that steals the show: “Jesus died on the cross and the evidence is this lump of wood… which was part of the cross…”
    Could it be that part of the underlying problem is the mislabeling of stories as “evidence” and the misuse of storytelling/literary concepts like “plausibility” to misinterpret stories, as a result of indoctrination?

    • Lord Narf says

      Good points.

      I’d add that there’s an entire profession, the priesthood, dedicated to reinforcing this screwed up way of thinking. The priests encourage this sort of thinking, because it’s the only thing that supports their livelihood. If people learned to think skeptically and scientifically, the priests would lose their cushy positions.

  33. nicksonz says

    Even if this “miracle” did occur as described, it’s a pretty useless miracle. I mean a dancing sun??? How about fresh food raining down on poverty-stricken areas, or all illnesses and diseases removed from the world. A dancing sun indicates that God is a show pony with a “look guys, no hands” attitude. What a dick.

    • Lord Narf says

      Yeah, an amazingly sad step down from the amazing stuff that Yahweh did in biblical times. He must be suffering from omnipotence issues, in his old age.

        • curiousgeorge says

          Lord Narf is making a joke by using a play on words of the similiarity between the similiarity of the English words omnipotence and impotence.

          Impotence means a man who cannot get an erection. As men get into their old age they are more likely to have prostrate problems and not be able to get firm or hard erections, so they are much more likely to become impotent and less “powerful” in that regard.

          So, the joke is God isn’t as powerful in his old age. It’s very witty, but if English is not your primary language I can see where it doesn’t make sense.

          • mike says

            escuerd got the joke, as he spelled out omnimpotence, not omnipotence, thus making the joke better.

            It’s very witty, but if spelling is not your forte I can see where it doesn’t make sense! ;) (just teasing!!)

          • curiousgeorge says

            Hay Mike,

            What R U sayin ?

            I was fith place finishur of duh thurd grade spellin be write hear n Rabbit Hash, Ky. :)

  34. Carlos Cabanita says

    I’m commenting from Portugal. First, let me point George’s ignorance when he talks about ‘Spaniards’. It may seem irrelevant for him, but we Portuguese don’t like to be confused with our eastern neighbors. Nothing bad about them, and we both being in the Schengen space, we can cross the frontier without even stopping, but we are different, ok?
    Fatima was an obvious hoax by the Catholic church. It all begun as a local even like many with a confused story by some children. Usually the church squashes those things as superstition but at the occasion they were hard pressed. The monarchy had been toppled some years before and the governments in power were overtly anticlerical. The Catholics were mobilizing as an opposing monarchic force. So the local priest and the bishop of the diocese of Leiria, to which Fatima belonged, decided to use the occasion to blow it up into a copy of Lourdes. The cardinal in Lisbon was initially hesitant, but finally decided to go along.
    But it was when the fascist regime of Salazar took power in 1926 that the peregrinations to Fatima became national events, with open state endorsement.
    The famous secrets of Fatima were obviously redacted afterwards. There is an appeal for the conversion of Russia that seems strange, because the first ‘apparition’ was May 13th 1917 and the Russian revolution was only November 7th the same year. As a boy I always wondered, hearing my fervent catholic mother talking about it, if the expected the Russians to convert to Roman Catholicism or if they had any idea that their initial faith was Christian Orthodox.

  35. Carlos Cabanita says

    There is an even stranger story about Fatima, though I have no Web sources to point it. In the eighties, some Shia scholars from the Lisbon mosque and abroad asked for a meeting with the foreign affairs minister of the then socialist government, Jaime Gama, They asked to have an official delegation to the Fatima peregrinations. Their justification was that place in the 9th century, under Muslim rule, was already a center for Shia pilgrimages due to apparitions attributed to the daughter of Muhammad, Fatima. Jaime Gama refused.
    This story offers a justification for the strange name of the place and points to a millennium tradition of apparition cults in the region.
    Of course, now there are thousands upon thousands of Portuguese women named Fátima and Maria de Fátima, but before 1919 only Muslim women would be named so.

  36. Roman says

    Why no one even mentioned that this event is so much reminiscent of modern UFO sightings? A modern man sees a UFO and interprets it as such, but what a man from 100 years ago would see? He virtually has no concept of life on other planets(?), interdimensional travel and vehicles to accomplish it. So it is almost 100% certainty that he would interpret such an event in a religious framework.
    Fatima event is a perfect case of a very advanced, “out of this world” technology meeting ignorance and superstition.

  37. sonorus says

    Amazing. So when backed into a corner he starts in with conspiracy theory nonsense about landing on the moon? Really? REALLY?

  38. says

    Wow, if goalpost-moving was an Olympic event, this guy would have won gold! This guy’s athletics are even more impressive than a guy in a kilt throwing a utility-pole!

    George seems at points like he gets it.

    Of course he gets it — he knows exactly how full of shit he is, and he’s reading from a script that’s been carefully written, and adapted over time, by people who know they’re engaging in a con-game.

  39. says

    Oh, and I loved his bit about the flag waving on the Moon, even though there was no air to make it wave. Had this wanker even looked at the photos? First, NO ONE ever said the flag was “waving,” and no photos claim to show it waving; and second, there’s a cross-bar attached to the pole, and the flag is CLEARLY held up by the cross-bar. That’s because they had SCIENTISTS who knew the flag would otherwise hang limp, ’cause there’s no air on the Moon.

    And why are there no stars visible in the photos? Because they were filtered out in the process of compensating for the intense glare reflected off of all that stuff in the foreground!

    This George guy has absolutely no common sense.

    • Warp says

      The photos are not filtered. It’s simply a question of exposure time. The cameras were set to photograph the sunlit ground and objects, and this requires an exposure time that’s too short for stars to register on the film.

      If the exposure time had been longer then stars would have become visible, but everything else would have been badly overexposed.

      • says

        Thanks, I used the wrong word to describe how they compensated for foreground glare.

        They DID, however, have plenty of filters in the form of at least one layer of heavily tinted visors — without which I suspect all that unfiltered sunlight would have given them both sunburn all over their faces and permanent damage to their eyes.

  40. says

    I remember going to a high school football game when I was very young. I was pretty bored by the game but I became interested by the afterimage I got by staring at the lights. I would stare very intently and then look away. The afterimage would seem to dance and zigzag, sometimes quite rapidly.

    The effect became even more pronounced if I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the image I was seeing. It would seem to change colors, often taking on a bright green hue, change shape, and even zip back and forth.

    Sometimes I’d replicate the effect with a lightbulb at night. I’d stare very intently at the bulb and then turn off the light and stare at the ceiling in the dark. Your brain and visual system can do strange things at times!

    In any event, it’s likely that the people staring intently at the sun looking for some sign probably had a similar experience. Hope they didn’t go partially blind in the process

    There’s a really bizzarre optical effect which is a great demonstration of retinal fatigue will do. Just google “black and white spanish castle illusion” and choose the top result. It’s possible to fool the eye into seeing brilliant colors in a black and white image.

    Love the show! Thanks for all you do.

  41. Warp says

    This guy, along with tons and tons of other believers (and even many non-believers), seems to be incapable of understanding the fact that “something miraculous happened, therefore God exists” is a completely erroneous and fallacious argument. Like so many others, he goes on and on trying to prove that the “miraculous” event really did happen, as if that would be unambiguous evidence for God. And therefore he’s missing the core point completely.

    The vast majority of theists fall under this fallacy. In fact, even many atheists and skeptics fall under this fallacy too. Whenever the conversation goes to miracles and whether they happen or not, it’s rare to see the skeptic pointing out the actual fallacy, and instead they start arguing about whether the alleged miracles are real or not (as if that were somehow relevant to the question in hand, ie. whether God exists or not.)

    Moreover, many (if not most) theists cannot actually comprehend the fallacy even if it’s explained to them in a simple and clear manner. It just doesn’t register. When a skeptic explains to them the fallacy, all they comprehend is “this atheist is just stubborn and denying evidence out of principle, because he doesn’t want to accept God.” Trying to put through their thick skulls that “miracle happened” does not somehow automatically imply “God exists” is a really difficult task.

    I don’t blame people for not immediately understanding this, though. In fact, it took me quite many years to understand this fact, even though it now sounds so simple and trivial.

    I wonder what kind of psychological phenomenon lies behind this. Why is it so hard for the average person to understand that “miracle happens -> God exists” is an invalid deduction, even after it has been explained to them?

    • says

      The thought process isn’t unlike the argument “The universe exists, therefore God exists”.. where they’re assuming that the event confirms a cause, that they just pulled out of the depths of their ass, and asserted as the cause.

      At best, we can confirm that an event happened. Why, and how, is a separate investigation.

    • says

      Also, it’s the same thing for supposed prophecies in the Bible. We had a Chrsitian in the AETV FB page repeatedly bringing up the prophecies. I started drilling him with a hypothetical – let’s say that the Bible has exacting prophecies that all came true, and has usable science knowledge, the entire human genome, etc. … how does that prove that a god exists?

      After drilling him for awhile on that point, his best defense of the connection between fulfilled prophecies and the existence of a god was literally “well how else could it have happened?”

      • Warp says

        Making them understand why argument from ignorance is another fallacy is at least as hard. Somehow there seems to be a hard-wired connection in the human brain that “if you can’t give me a better explanation than this, then my made-up explanation is proper”. At its core, for some reason a simple “I don’t know” is unacceptable. Better some explanation than no explanation at all.

        Although, oddly, this only with certain subjects. In more mundane settings the exact same people would not deem the argument as valid.

        (Btw, you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to explain what “argument from ignorance” means, and that it’s not an insult.)

  42. says

    By your logic I do not believe that NASA has met the burden of proof. Where is the evidence that man landed on the moon?

    OMG, a moon landing denier? We have probes orbiting the moon that have taken photographs of the landing sites. You can see the tracks made by foot prints, the lunar rovers, etc. Not to mention that we have had probes, albeit unmanned, fly to the farthest reaches of our solar system, but we’re supposed to believe it is impossible that we successfully landed men on the moon and brought them back safely to the Earth

    • Lord Narf says

      Yeah, I love the lists of things like seeing the flag waving in the breeze, demonstrating that they weren’t actually on the moon, in vacuum. Dude, pictures of the flag show it waving in the breeze, because that’s the way they constructed it. When you see a video if it, it’s rigid.

      The worst part is that they pull out things that are obvious quirks of the environment, when you stop to think about it for even a few seconds. Why did the astronauts leave tracks in the dust? Because … well, #1, it’s dust and is very easy to leave tracks in. #2, the astronauts still had muscles developed on earth and were jumping around rather high, in very heavy space suits. What part of it is surprising?

      Also, it was freaking NASA faking the moon landing. You’d think that the elite teams of scientists, movie producers, and cameramen would think through the scenario and compensate for the “obvious flaws” in the record or just freaking get it right in the first place, if they were going to fake it.

    • says

      I really don’t think he gives a shit whether this conspiracy story is true. He’s just using it to try to prove that us atheists rely on “faith” and “belief” just as much as religious people, therefore science is no more provable or firmly grounded than superstition, therefore science is just another religion and can’t really disprove whatever a religious person pulls out of his bum.

      And now that his latest iteration of the old “science is based on unquestioning faith too” canard has been disproven, he’ll like as not just retreat further into the standard rationalizations of all conspiracy theories. Or just drift off and forget this whole dialogue…

      • Lord Narf says

        Well, yeah, I don’t think he was saying that he was actually a moon-landing denier, himself. I think he was just trying to say that the Fatima miracle was just as credible as the moon landing, somehow.

        Damned if I know how he twisted that around that direction, in his head. Having a few half-assed claims of faked footage and such does not negate all of the massive amount of physical evidence and turn it into anecdotal claims of the people involved, as with Fatima.

      • Lord Narf says

        Good point, though. I didn’t think to bring it up, myself.

        I don’t think George was trying to tear down the moon landing. I think he was trying to raise the Fatima miracle to the level of the moon landing, by comparing the objections to the Fatima miracle to the moon-landing hoax idiots. We’re talking about magnitudes of differences in the amount of evidence, here … but then George doesn’t seem to understand what evidence is, so I don’t expect him to understand that.

  43. llbguy says

    tl;dr. I did see the episode and the first few comments, but not till the end so sorry if this repeats anything.

    In some of these discussions, wouldn’t it be more valuable to try to establish common ground than point by point refuations? Obviously if George is finding strong rebuttals “weak”, then he is either applying an undisclosed standard, or just asserting “this doesn’t sit right with me.”

    So toss aside this discrete instance. Where is George’s starting point for determining the validity of evidence and conclusions? I think these are useful preliminary questions. However, I do understand that mapping theoretical frameworks can be entirely tedious, and even offensive to someone who thinks what is at stake is their credulity rather than their method.

    I think another point that could have been raised is that 70,000 people experiencing diarrhea on the same day might not be evidence of God revealing himself. It would be evidence of something wrong with the food or water supply. We also know what halucinations occur from illnesses as well, and probably vary with the degree of sanitation found in a community. That would be a simple explanation.

    • Lord Narf says

      Still reaching too much. When staring at the sun can cause fucked up vision all on its own, then that, combined with a hyper-religious mindset in many of the observers, explains the whole experience. Occam’s Razor, man.

      • llbguy says

        that assumes they were staring at the sun too long. we don’t know that. it’s conjecture. if it can be alternatively explained by tripping out, and cursory glances to the sky, it is not a multiplied hypothesis…just another explanation.

        • Lord Narf says

          The timing of food-based and water-based contamination hallucinations or something caused by illness seems to make that a less likely cause. The odds of people experiencing it in large numbers at the time of the event seems a bit of a confounding factor to me.

          I’d consider a hallucination caused by something onsite to be more likely. Retinal burnout isn’t exactly a hallucination, but you get my point.

          • llbguy says

            well lets be clear. This whole event is extremely unlikely. I’m not seriously endorsing anything but looking at naturalistic explanations, wherever they may be found. And I would even turn things around and say that the retinal burnout is fairly unlikely because, assuming their eyes aren’t scorched, having seen the sun jump once, they are going to be more keen to watch the movements of the sun in the future and repeat their phenomenon. you know, looking out for God again. The further point being that if it was repeatable, you’d have less claiming it was a miracle, and more finding fun ways of passing time with their eyes playing tricks on them.

            Anyways, you can appreciate that an effective way of dismissing the intoxication hypothesis is by showing that there was no bad fruit or whatever around. Or by saying that certain atmospheric conditions would accomplish the trick better. Not by saying “naaah”. :)

          • Lord Narf says

            Someone saw something. Or at least some people reported that they saw something. The event “actually” happened, as far as that goes, even if only in the minds of the observers.

            All that we’ve got is post hoc musing, more than a couple years after the fact … never mind almost a century after, as we are now. The fact that the records of the time were shit to begin with, coupled with there being plenty of easy explanations, tosses the whole thing in the crapper.

            I don’t know that people in a religious fervor would act as rationally as you say, looking away when their eyes started getting all fucked up. I could see a bunch of peasant farmers doing it to themselves, after being induced by miracle claims and religious mania. They probably also wouldn’t be too eager to try to repeat and test the miracle, after being struck down for hours or days after their witness of the glory of God.

          • llbguy says

            we can speculate and speculate. Though my counter to that would be that even if some people saw themselves as being stricken by god, you’d have some who wouldn’t. we’re talking about 70 000 right? It would just be rife with contention I would assume, without knowing more about the broader social dynamics.

            Anyways, who knows. The actual simplest explanation is an emperor has new clothes situation. Someone saw something, called it God, and others wanted to claim they were in God’s presence so they “saw” it too. Mass exhuberation followed

          • Lord Narf says

            In reality, nowhere near 70,000, no. The actual news reports of the time, dug up by a couple of our commenters in Portugal, apparently had a couple hundred people who actually reported seeing something.

            Judging from the pictures of the event, it was probably more like 2,000 or 3,000 there, I’ve heard estimated … the vast majority of whom didn’t see a damned thing. It’s classic inflationary storytelling that pumped it up to 30k, 70k, or 100k, depending upon who’s telling the story. The Christians who pull it out as proof of God aren’t going off of records of the time but rather something told to them by their pastor, who heard it from an apologist in the 70′s, who read it from a book, etc, losing or adding some detail at each step … losing the detail about very few people there reporting seeing anything.

  44. sonorus says

    Why are modern miracles always so lame. Imagine if someone went and prayed for all the people who’ve lost limbs or had brain injuries at Walter Reade Hospital and they were all fully restored to pre-injury or amputation condition. That would be amazing! Instead we’re supposed to settle for Jesus or Mary appearing in the mildew on a garage door? Lame.

    • Lord Narf says

      Because the modern miracles actually happened?

      … for a given value of “actually”. In the modern, recordable period of history, people expect photographic or video evidence, if something actually happened. Back in the Bronze Age, people could make up any wild stories, and a certain portion of the population would accept the stories at face value, particularly those indoctrinated into credulity.

      Believe it or not, people are getting more intelligent and more skeptical, over time. It’s just sometimes hard to tell. Plus, the fraudsters are getting more clever at pushing things like their creationist bullshit.

  45. llbguy says

    I think that sounds about right. one reason miravles don’t happen as often is that we are better at replicating miracles through tricks, which diminishes their weight. If someone today were to turn water into wine, you’d have a James Randi saying “I can do that too.”

    The other reason is that grand miracles always happen to people who can’t be questioned. All the great miracle events in the Bible are recorded years after they actually were supposed to have happened. So in that case maybe modern miracles are happening as we speak. In a hundred years, who knows what books will appear talking about “the miracle of the destruction of the two towers.”

    • Lord Narf says

      Yeah, speaking of God not healing amputees … thousands of magicians have healed amputees, assuming you amputate the girl’s legs at the waist. ^.^

      Miracle of the destruction of the Two Towers …
      Didn’t Tolkien already do an historical analysis of that? I seem to remember something he wrote.

      • llbguy says

        haha yeah, maybe a bad example. But that really is the formula. Pick something big, fantastic, and unnatural. Put it in a historical setting. Add dashes of contemporary wonderment. So the modern miracle may actually be the man who had his limbs grow back in the year 2013. Write it out, put it in a time capsule for the year 2399 along with some other innocent items. When discovered, people will say “naaah, no one would really write this to fuck with us, right?”

  46. Meena says

    I’m not sure if anyone else mentioned this, but if you are witnessing a miracle and you have a camera (like the ones who took pictures of the stunned crowd during the Fatima miracle) why wouldn’t you take a picture of the miracle???? Or a whole slew of pictures for that matter?! It’s a miracle for Pete’s sake! Get it on film!!

    All the more reason to believe it didn’t happen. There are all kinds of photos of the onlookers, but no one bothered to photograph the actual miracle?

    • Lord Narf says

      Well, those with the cameras were the newspaper reporters. They were generally more worldly that the credulous farmers and pilgrims.

      I vaguely recall a mention of a few photos taken, at the time, which showed … well … the sun … doing what it always does.

  47. pyrobryan says

    No witnesses 40 or more miles away from the epicenter of the event reported seeing anything unusual, a distance that, due to the curvature of the earth, would have placed the miracle below their horizon.

    This is one of the most ridiculously lame-brained statements I’ve ever heard.

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