Miracles: Fab or Fable?
Written By Jood Abu Hantash
Miracles, by nature, are incredible events beyond what man can fathom, often making them incomprehensible. Some of us have been exposed to accounts of these events since childhood from family members or friends, while others believe that they themselves have experienced miracles in their lifetime. Most people, however, can agree that they resonate with the following questions: were these events sheer luck, were they a culmination of human persistence, or were they somehow influenced by a greater power? Well, these questions are precisely what we’ll be investigating today! So, get your magnifying glasses and thinking caps on!
Throughout time, human history has been intertwined with stories of the divine. Miracles were noted in hopes of reaching and connecting with something of a higher power. It’s human nature to want to believe in something greater, hence it is only sensible to assume that the search for the inexplicable will result in some sort of proof of the divine. Some even believe that certain places or people have a tendency or power to create miracles. Lourdes is one such place. It is a famous center of Christian pilgrimage in the mountains of southwest France known to be a renowned miracle site (a French grotto with healing properties that had miraculously cured a total of 67 since 1858). Lourdes was named after a young, 14-year-old girl who had claimed to witness Virgin Mary in a nearby cave! In 1987, a man called Jean-Pierre Bely came to Lourdes, his condition severe beyond treatment. Suffering from multiple sclerosis, Jean had no hope. Upon arriving at the scene, however, and spending time near the waters, he was miraculously cured!
More recently, humanity witnessed the beyond remarkable miracle of Annabel Beam. a young girl who had suffered from rare life-threatening digestive disorders and was cured by not-so-coincidentally falling into a hollowed-out tree with no scratches or wounds but rather an astounding remedy. Annabel fell down 30 feet. This fall somehow caused her nervous system to regenerate, almost like her inner software had been reset. The fall didn’t kill omit nor paralyze her and instead healed her, medically referred to as spontaneous remission. Spontaneous remission is the term medical professionals use to explain what cannot be explained.
It is known that culture and religion are inseparable. Religion plays a major role in adding to the bigger umbrella of cultural identity. So, let’s explore miracles from a religious outlook. Many religions share an unshakeable belief in miracles. In Islam, for example, it is believed that the holy book, the Quran, is a miracle in itself that no man can change or erroneously distribute. The Quran is denoted as a gift from God. The very words are so unbelievably put together to create perfect meanings, grammatical structure, and pure rhythmic excellence. The words are composed so diligently to create meaning, to the extent that altering just one single aspect changes the whole meaning. Every element in the Quran has a mathematical composition as well, ranging from the verses to the number of letters, spelling, and even more. This holy relic also discusses and methodically explains a plethora of topics including various religions, historical events, scientific discoveries, and moral ideologies. Due to its apparent perfection, it is believed that this composition is beyond mankind’s abilities and instead is the work of divinity.
In Christianity, Jesus himself is attributed with miraculous abilities to prove his authority and accordingly his greater connection with God. The Bible explains that Jesus could heal people; from the blind to the sick. Scriptures even show that Jesus had the ability to resurrect people, a prominent example being the case of the known account of the widow’s son. Jesus is represented as a symbol of God. He is a role model to humanity; his compassion, love, forgiveness, and patience are all model characteristics. All of these abilities are themselves miraculous and can be used as a basis to explain some of the humanity of the inexplicable event has witnessed over the years
The list of religions that can explain human miracles is endless, but let’s change directions and take a look at how science and the psychology of our brains can have a role in one’s belief system. How one feels psychologically and their tendency to believe and sacrifice for their respective groups is known as one’s sense of belonging. For example, something we all remember doing when we were younger is cracking our knuckles. Then, from there, being reprimanded and taught that you could potentially suffer from arthritis. So, why does this happen? This is where your biases and subliminal psychology come into play. Here’s the breakdown of things. First, as a child, you subconsciously feel that you identify with your family, as a group, and will strive to continuously do so. That is your sense of belonging, and you will then try to match your beliefs to what you are being told from this safe space you identify with and trust, in order to gain family acceptance. This will result in you mindlessly agreeing to the fact that you would get arthritis by cracking your knuckles.
Picture the previous arthritis example on a bigger scale such as religion and the belief in miracles; these seemingly small details in what you have been taught will automatically be reflected in what you learn to have faith in. This effect is further amplified if just by nature, as we tend to have a sort of “gut instinct” to believe in something greater. Your mind will instigate shortcut connections between nature and nurtured beliefs.
Your sense of belonging and its effects work conjointly with your confirmation cognitive bias, whereby people favor prior judgment and convictions over new ones. Subsequently, if a specific belief is passed on continuously between families, generations, and cultures it can be deduced that one would rather stick to what they have been taught. Your inner monologue might sound a bit like “welp this is from a credible source, my own family!” So it is important to take into account that you might be considerably clouded and biased, but it’s a mental shortcut that you could unknowingly rely on, otherwise known as a heuristic. Specifically, you’d be applying the availability heuristic which involves making decisions based on what would easily come to your mind through examples readily available in your memory; information that you already know and trust.
Now that we’ve discussed theory, you might be wondering how this applies to miracles? If you strongly believe that something happened, then this may be a consequence and could be further magnified through the science that goes on in your brain. The two psychological phenomenons, your sense of belonging and confirmation bias will unavoidably sway your thought process. For example, when we discussed the French grotto, Lourdes, many people were convinced that it was miraculous. If this tale had progressed for centuries, then people could have concluded that it was, in fact, a “fabulous, spectacular” truth. Combine this conviction with the placebo effect (when people’s bodies respond to a substance despite no tangible therapeutic value) and boom! you could find yourself cured of an illness simply by sitting in Lourdes.
Yes, you could easily conclude that miracles and the belief in them are entirely fantasy. A fable in its entirety. However, looking from another perspective, another light could wholly alter your conclusions. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Miracles can come in many forms, hiding in plain sight, situated right under your nose. Goodness, kindness, love, friendship, creation, the world, and life itself, they are all miracles. A hug from your mom, your child’s laugh, or that deep breath of fresh, clean, earthy-scented air you took in while dancing wildly in the rain; are miracles. Everything around you, and you yourself are a living, breathing, spectacular miracle.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/ (research for paragraph one)
https://www.templeton.org/news/innate-tendency-believe (research for beginning of paragraph two; innate tendency to believe)
https://www.history.co.uk/article/five-miracles-in-history and https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/apr/02/religion.france#:~:text=A%20total%20of%2067%20miraculous,been%20healed%20of%20acute%20rheumatism. (research for paragraph two)
https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2016/03/27/where-medicine-and-miracles-meet/sZLv1OBdBukE8DCtin5GDN/story.html (research for paragraph three)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spontaneous_remission#:~:text=Spontaneous%20remission%2C%20also%20called%20spontaneous,or%20final%20improvements%20in%20cancer. (research for end of paragraph three; spontaneous remission)
https://www.tutorialspoint.com/what-is-the-importance-of-religion-in-our-lives (research for paragraph 4)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_of_Jesus#Resurrection_of_the_dead , https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/history/miraclesofjesus_1.shtml https://academic.oup.com/jts/article-abstract/51/1/400/1666532?redirectedFrom=PDF , and https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-character-traits-of-jesus-to-emulate/ (research for paragraph 6)
https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-94-007-0753-5_2646#:~:text=The%20sense%20of%20belonging%20and,Macmillan%20%26%20Chavis%2C%201986%20p. , https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-need-to-belong-2795393 , and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belongingness (research for paragraph 7)
https://www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias and https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-heuristic-2795235 (research for paragraph 9)
https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/what-is-the-placebo-effect (research for mid paragraph 10; placebo effect)