The other day I linked a little story about a brain dead guy who stopped being brain dead (according to his parents) after they prayed for him. I riffed on the old Harvard Law of Animal Behavior (“Animals, under carefully controlled laboratory condiitions, will do whatever they feel like”) by saying “God, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, can do whatever the heck he feels like.” Some atheist blogger here at Patheos, who seems a bit obsessed with me, managed to translate that as “god showed up in laboratory conditions.”
For those who are not humor-impaired, my point was not “this occurred under laboratory conditions”, but “God is weird and does whatever he feels like.”
Now you’d think that at least one of the Highly Evolved Intellects reading JT would point out to him that his reading of my words was, if not absolutely illiterate, at least remarkably clueless. But online atheism generally tends to worship rather than use the intellect and speech in those circles is usually exercised in order to say, “That’s it! Keep it up, Chief! You’re tellin ’em!” and not to question the Mastermind when he addresses the theistic inferiors. This explains why a herd of independent minds all showed up in my comboxes generally sneering and trying to shout down the story, just as the Patheos dude needed so badly to do. They have, after a rigid and dogmatic faith to protect, so they have to–absolutely have to–insist that God could not possibly have answered the parents’ prayer. Brights react with offense, anger, sneering, and something that looks a lot like fear when you note that–because their dogmas require that God not be there and answer prayer. So they shout down such stories because they are not afraid to follow the facts where they lead and Christians are obscurantists who allow dogma to get in the way of the Pursuit of Truth, doncha know.
Me: I don’t need anything from the story. I merely note that people who sound pretty much like honest and intelligent people reported that their son was brain dead, they prayed, and he stopped being brain dead. I see no reason to assume the parents are liars or stupid, nor to doubt that the guy was brain dead and woke up.
Was it a miracle? Beats me. There might well be a natural process that was very highly coincidentally–one might even say “providentially”–timed that accounts for the wake up call while the parents were praying. I generally assume that God works through nature anyway and that answered prayers are typically wrought through natural means. Indeed, even if they can’t find some natural cause for the wake up call, that just means “We don’t how the guy woke up”. It doesn’t mean we know that God by some direct exercise of supernatural power, bypassed the ordinary course of nature (which is typically what we mean by a “miracle”). But so what? My faith in God is not predicated on this particular healing. Rather, this healing comports with what I generally know of God: namely, that sometimes he does weird and extraordinary things like wake up brain dead people in response to prayer. I certainly don’t think the parents are crazy or stupid for being grateful to him for providentially arranging this in response to their prayer (since providentially arrange it he most certainly did as the God for whom all the hairs of our head our numbered. Nothing in the universe occurs apart from his governance, so this did too. I think that’s cause for gratitude. Brights think it cause for telling grateful parents that they are either liars or stupid. This is one of the many reasons that Brights strike so many people as people with some kind of major defect in their ability to pick up on the normal social and affective cues that normal people readily perceive.
Such defective perception of normal social and affective cues is also why Brights don’t get jokes about “God doing whatever the heck he wants” and instead assume people are making claims of laboratory precision.
Dear Brights: Your fellow atheist Phil Plait has an important message for you. So does fellow atheist Brenden Neill who, being a person capable of normal social and affective perception and interaction, describes you as “the most colossally smug and annoying people” on planet earth. Moral: if your sole boast is the superiority of your intellect, you should consider actually using, rather than merely worshipping that intellect if you wish to be take seriously by us inferiors.
In addition, you might want to bone up on the basic tenets of your deep religious faith in materialist dogmatism–a fundamentalism far *far* more dogmatic than the Catholic faith.