Of Minds & Miracles

Recently, two news stories struck me as evidence of how our emotions tend to rule us, mostly at the expense of rational thinking. The first event regards those 33 miners finally freed from their subterranean confinement following a mining mishap. For over two months these men endured an environment that was barely tolerable. The small space they inhabited was an adverse atmosphere, both in the physical and mental sense. But they endured, persevered and prevailed by being retrieved, rescued by  lots of up-top determination and inventiveness. Naturally, the men’s loved ones prayed, hoped, prayed and hoped even more, finally to see each man emerge from what could have been a grave half-a-mile below their family’s feet. Was their rescue a miracle? Well, of course it was! A miracle of science and technology, I’d say. Nasa helped design the rescue capsule. Doctors, engineers and mining rescue experts worked steadfastly to give this human drama a happy ending. Naturally, of course, others, including some of the miners (all of them?) and friends and family (all?) feel their prayers to a higher power were answered. God’s will, etc. Well, they can credit their faith in whatever diety they worship, but it was, after all, science and technology that saved their lives.  If any “miracles” occured, it had to do with how smooth the rescue operation unfolded once it was set in motion. No cables snagged, no earthquakes (Chile, remember?) sealed their doom, no glitches or goof-ups of any kind got in the way of 33 miners beating the odds over 68 days of doubt duking it out with hope.  However, when the going gets tough, even some hard-bitten non-believers will find their faith, and thank, more than any other circumstance of good fortune,  supreme beings they previously preferred to do without. Fine. But don’t forget to thank what you can see and touch, smell  and hear, that being the material mechanisms that brought them home.

The other story popped up on a TV report about a tent-bound evangelist in Alabama and his flock of followers and true believers. The report showed video clips of “laying on of hands” and some speaking in tougues, both of which are standard issue occurances in the realm of evangelical fervor. The reporter noted that this preacher has gotten a buzz via YouTube and its seeming documentation of spontaneous healings, including someone who suffered from a desease that kept her wheelchair bound but who was able to “stand” after the rapturous theatrics of the man with the healing hand had finished his incantations.  She stood alright, with the help of three others holding her up. Later the reporter asked the preacher, if the person was able to get up, but still needed help to do so, why couldn’t the devine interventionist simply make the “cure” complete? Why doesn’t she just walk? The reply was, she at least got up at all (with assitance). Can you say flim-flam? Another woman, blind and deaf, went crumbling to floor after the evangelical spell was again incanted, but alas, she remained sightless and without hearling. Her husband, however, insisted they’d come back for another shot at a miracle. For whatever amount a “true believer” wants to drop into the donation basket, they can buy a bit of hope, fine. The disturbing part (for me) of these instances where people let their hearts rule their heads is that it seems to be the rule, not the exception. The miners wanted to live, and they did. Thanks to science and technology. The people who fill the seats in revival tents, and at places of worship for one religion or another, or who even confide in horoscopes, rabbit’s feet, lucky charms or whatnot, want results, too. But there’s this thing called “critical thinking” that is grounded in reality, that demands the head to have at least equal footing with the heartstrings. Critical thinking and listening produces results, too. It can vastly improve one’s ability to make sound choices, choices that can benefit one’s mind and body, and certainly one’s pocketbook.  Those miners and their families are entitled to believe whatever they want about how they survived, but take away the science and technology from their situation and one thing is absolutely certain: they’d all be doomed to die together in that mine. If your spinal cord has been damaged and you can’t walk, putting your faith in medical science is a better use of “faith” than going to the evangelist or even Father O’Reilly down the street. If one is swayed by others who use emotional appeal at the complete expense of any logical, evidence-based reasoning, a famous quote by W.C.Fields come to mind, a quote having to do with “suckers”…

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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