Mark Shea: “god showed up in laboratory conditions”.

Mark Shea pompously posted this today:

After his folks say the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.

Because God, under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, can do whatever the heck he feels like.

Go ahead and read the link.  A person was supposedly brain dead and recuperated when the family prayed.  God, we’re to believe, gets the credit.

First things first: I doubt this happened.  The only source available for this is the article is the story on Divine Mercy News to which Shea links (it has only been minimally shared, and all other links point back to this one).  We have no testimony from the doctors and no way to investigate this to see if it happened.  We have only the word of Divine Mercy *ahem* News.

Second, god doesn’t do shit under laboratory conditions.  He was not detected at all.  These parents prayed over their child like the parents of just about every other set of parents in the same situation.  Prayer didn’t do squat all those other times, but this time they prayed and a two hours later things changed.  This would be like praying every single day, multiple times each day, to find $20 on the ground and then, sixty some years into your life, finding $20 on the ground and thinking it must’ve been the prayer that caused it.

There were likely multiple things going on in the hospital room: the dad might’ve been wearing loafers (which never cured anybody of anything before and there’s no reasonable method by which it could), the mother might have been wearing jewelry (which never cured anybody of anything before and there’s no reasonable method by which it could), and somewhere else in the world I was charging my cell phone (which never cured anybody of anything before and there’s no reasonable method by which it could).  These things were happening at the same time as the guy was recovering, but no reasonable person would conclude that because they were being done at the same time that they must have shared the responsibility for the recovery (since these things also transpire when people die).  But some people mumbling to themselves in stark seriousness?  Hey, it was happening at the same time (which never cured anybody of anything before and there’s no reasonable method by which it could), so it must’ve been responsible!  For people who can’t see that the presence of something doesn’t mean it necessarily had an effect on something else is why the phrase “correlation does not equal causation” is one of the first things taught in every introductory science course.

Of course, it’s more likely this whole story never happened, or has been embellished upon and had details omitted (which is more likely, that a person actually recovered from full neuron failure or that a couple of pious people could lie?).  It could’ve been a bad reading by the machine, a glitch in the equipment, a misdiagnosis, etc.  And yet Shea, and the commenters on his blog, leap to the conclusion that the same god who regularly watches people just as devout die before their time showed up “in laboratory conditions” where the only thing detected was the patient’s parents whispering to nothing while the doctors scrambled to save his life.

Which brings me to my next point: experiments have been conceived to pursue supernatural influence.  You see, it’s not enough to have laboratory conditions: you must also be testing for something specific.  All such experiments have shown no supernatural influence.  So if god wanted to extend his hand into laboratory settings to prove himself, he missed his chance.  Instead he performed a bunch of miracles before we could document and spread them in a way that distinguished them in credibility from all the “We saw dem miracles!” claims of other religions, and then stopped doing such miracles when we developed “full laboratory conditions”.  Fancy that.

But we still have “I saw dem miracles” stories, and we always will as long as their are people like Mark Shea willing to accept them at face value, without any investigation, since those stories confirm what some people already think they know.

Don’t act like science confirms god’s existence or Catholicism.  It doesn’t.  And if you think it does, you are wrong – regardless of how much faith you have.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • islandbrewer

    … under carefully controlled laboratory conditions …

    These words. Mark Shea does not actually understand what they mean.

  • islandbrewer

    Also, this says a lot about Mark Shea that he unquestioningly accepts this as a miracle.

    • viddy_well

      That he desperately seeks out that which supports his faith with no regard for its veracity? In that sense, he’s no different than most of the devout.

    • Pofarmer

      That’s kind of the mark of a true Catholic, they don’t question, they just accept.

  • baal

    I was hoping for an assertion of a corporeal god and some iron clad (non-chariot) miracles. I would settle for a non-ambiguous non-corporeal manifestation. Given HIS wisdom and power, that should be doable right?

  • GCBill

    Miracle reports suffer from a *very* extreme case of the File Drawer Problem. No one ever thinks to take note of unanswered prayers and rituals – indeed, they’re more often than not reasoned away. Yet without a way of knowing how many prayers get no answer (or an answer of “no” if you’re religious) in comparison to those that (appear to) get answered, you can’t even *in principle* weigh the strength of the positive evidence. That’s why I can never take claims like this one seriously.

  • Stev84

    All the Catholic bloggers on Patheos should be committed to an insane asylum. They are just as crazy as fundamentalist Protestants. Which is usually not the case with your average adherent.

    • Pofarmer

      Yeah, I sorta disagree, the Catholic Priests and Bishops are turning up teh crazy in the U.S. Church.

    • islandbrewer

      I don’t think I’ve ever personally known any Catholic that’s as out there as the bloggers on Patheos. Does the RCC have a special “batshit” denomination that I never knew about?

      • Zinc Avenger

        The Catholic Crazy Clown Corps.

        • Pofarmer

          Folks, at least among the clergy and more active, they ain’t that rare.

      • fiona64

        You clearly haven’t come across a fellow calling himself DivineWordRadio … yet. But he’s here … and yes, he’s batshit crazy.

        • islandbrewer

          Oh, I’ve seen his posts. Again, he’s not like any Catholics I know out here in the meat world.

          Yea, the opportunities afforded by the internet to open up a world of crazy.

  • Mick

    The people who involve themselves in prayer vigils can easily give the impression that they are trying to help the patient, but deep down they are egotistical sociopaths who can’t wait to strut into church next Sunday and take all the credit for themselves. “Look at me everybody. My prayers decide who lives and who dies.”

    • Mogg

      No, mostly they’re praying because there is social pressure to be seen to praying, and if they don’t conform, other people at church will perceive them as Not A Real Christian.

      • Joseph O Polanco

        Let me be more explicit then:

        וְכִֽי־ יִנָּצ֣וּ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים וְנָ֨גְפ֜וּ אִשָּׁ֤ה הָרָה֙ וְיָצְא֣וּ יְלָדֶ֔יהָ וְלֹ֥א יִהְיֶ֖ה אָסֹ֑ון עָנֹ֣ושׁ יֵעָנֵ֗שׁ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר יָשִׁ֤ית עָלָיו֙ בַּ֣עַל הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה וְנָתַ֖ן בִּפְלִלִֽים׃ – Exodus 21:22

        Tell me, where do you see כְנֵ֣פֶל (nephel – miscarriage) mentioned anywhere?

        • Mogg

          Er, were you trying to reply to my comment on a different blog? How about you do it there, and not mess up a comment thread on a completely different topic.

          • Joseph O Polanco

            I would if I could but the cowards blocked me.

          • Mogg

            Given that you were repeatedly in breach of the clearly posted commenting policy, the only surprise is that you were extended the courtesy of being allowed to comment for as long as you were. That you have been banned does not mean that it is appropriate to take the conversation to someone else’s blog, and I will not engage you on the topic here or elsewhere unless it happens to be the topic under discussion on that blog as well. If you can’t engage in good faith, expect your discussions on other people’s spaces to be cut short and not allowed to continue.

          • Joseph O Polanco

            What a cop out …

          • Mogg

            You have now been told three times that I will not engage you on this topic other than at the original site, which means not at all as you have been banned. Be told. Your continuing to make comments is beginning to verge on cyber-stalking and harassment.

          • Joseph O Polanco

            How can you be so dramatic and not faint?

          • Cake

            How can you be so obtuse and self important?

            Oh yeah god is on your side, he can justify anything no matter how despicable and horrific.

          • Joseph O Polanco

            You misapprehend. Suppose we concede for the sake of argument that an evil Creator/Designer exists. Since this being is evil, that implies that he fails to discharge his moral obligations. But where do those come from? How can this evil god have duties to perform which he is violating? Who forbids him to do the wrong things that he does? Immediately, we see that such an evil being cannot be supreme: there must be a being who is even higher than this evil god and is the source of the moral obligations which he chooses to shirk, a being which is absolute goodness Himself. As such, if god is evil then there must necessarily exist a maximally great, supreme God who is all powerful, all good and all loving; One who is the very paradigm of good.

            So we don’t praise God for doing His duty. Rather He is to be adored for His moral character because He is essentially loving, just, kind, etc. It is because God is that way that these qualities count as virtues in the first place. Essentially, God is good the same way rain is wet, diamond gemstones are hard and blue stars are blazing hot. So if we think of God’s goodness in terms of His possessing certain virtues rather than fulfilling certain duties, we have a more exalted and more adequate concept of God.

          • Fred

            Shorter Joseph O Polanco: Blah blah, off topic, tired apologetics blah words.

            Keep this up and JT might give you your own thread so you can redefine words and poo all over yourself in it.

          • The Thinker

            How can a being of “absolute goodness” permit human slavery and killing cantankerous children? Are these “moral obligations” you think we are bound by for all times?

            Ephesians 6:5
            “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear.”

            1 Peter 2:18
            “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”

            Titus 2:9
            “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,”

            God commands that unruly kids are to be killed in Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Proverbs 20:20, Matthew 15:4, & Mark 7:10.

          • Joseph O Polanco

            Matthew 7:6.

          • The Thinker

            Tell me how Matt 7:6 overrides Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Proverbs 20:20, Matthew 15:4, & Mark 7:10, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Peter 2:18 & Titus 2:9. Are these “moral obligations” you think we are bound by for all times?

            Are you implying that your god contradicts himself? Or is it that you contradict yourself? Or both? Maybe you follow in your lord’s footsteps?

          • fiona64

            He stalked me all the way to a Seattle newspaper site. I could see it being coincidental on the same site (e.g., Patheos), but to follow me over to the Seattle paper was just creepy. It’s also the reason my history is now private.

          • islandbrewer

            That’s just totally obsessive and creepy. And that’s not taking into account the obsessiveness and creepiness of many of his comments.

          • Mogg

            Sensible. And yeah, I didn’t think I was overreacting, he seemed to me to be behaving in a way which required a short, sharp warning as to what his behaviour was verging on, even if it was only mild in my case. I’m sorry that my instinct was correct :-(

          • Pofarmer

            If it’s any consolation, I’ve got a good Catholic stalking me on disqus sites now, too.

          • fiona64

            You have my sympathies.

        • fiona64


  • ThisIsTheEnd

    I’m glad somebody else noticed his post. I’ve asked him a couple of questions and as far as I can tell his rationale for believing the story is “God owns creation so he’s capable of anything” which admittedly is a good summary of 2000 years of Christian theology. But his answer was directed at somebody else’s questions. All I got was ” Atheists want to crush human happiness” and “People want excuses to deny God because we are threatened by his existence”. So in other words he can’t offer any reasons. I don’t know why I’m surprised by that.

    But yeah the Patheos Catholics are out to lunch. In comparison the evangelicals seem sober and intellectual.

  • Mackinz


    *becomes a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man*


  • Psychotic Atheist

    Normally I pray for terminal people to die. I forgot to pray this time and he lived. Sorry about that folks.

  • iknklast

    post hoc, ergo propter hoc. And I was wearing my green suit the day I applied for the job I am now working in, so my green suit must be what caused it (I didn’t pray that day – or any other day – so if it was God, he was acting on his own without instructions, which any suitably omniscient being should actually be able to do). I was also wearing my green suit at one of the interviews for jobs I didn’t get, but hey, that was just coincidence. The only thing that matters is the time I got the job, right?

    I tell my students this fallacy is lazy thinking.

  • HoodyCentral

    Ah. Yet another wonderfully Dogmatically Materialist Echo Chamber. What a delightful trip down memory lane for me.

    Just a question: How many of you (authors and commenters) also bow at the Altar of PZ Pharyngula?