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Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

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The New York Times recently ran an article on the subject of miracles. Specifically, the article adressed the question of whether a French nun’s claim of being cured of Parkinson’s disease was a miracle performed from beyond the grave of the late Pope John Paul II.This matter-of-fact article reporting the potentially miraculous curing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierce of her Parkinson’s disease by the late John Paul II left me stunned. Not because of the enormous significance of such a supernatural feat, but because of the journalist’s unflinching credulity. The fact that many believe in the existence of miracles should not free journalists, or their papers, of the obligation to report stories of objective, truthful, and meaningful substance. If indeed this woman was cured of Parkinson’s Disease, that is a scientific occurrence of immense significance, yet this aspect of the story was not even approached. The truly fascinating story here is that in the 21st century the existence of miracles and the supernatural can remain unchallenged while evolution and global warming is debated.While this may be a trivial story, I could not let it go unaddressed. It was, once again, an example of how inured we have become to the term “miracle”. Usually the term is used in accordance with the third definition of The New Oxford American dictionary,

“an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something”.

For example, “the separation of the conjoined twins was nothing short of a miracle”. The term, used in this way, however, does a disservice to the great skill and science that lies behind this wonderful feat, and subtly (and irrationally) lends to it a level of supernatural significance. Physicians who operate on conjoined twins rely on a great level of skill acquired through rigorous training, and supported by generations of scientific advances. They certainly do not rely on supernatural forces of any kind. In the above NYT article, the term “miracle” is used with it’s original definition in mind,

“a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency”.

There are only two ways to read this article. One requires us to interpret it as tongue-in-cheek reporting on the laughably irrational notion of supernatural miracles. The other is to assume it was meant as an objective piece of journalism on an issue before the Vatican. Neither interpretation is acceptable nor passes as valid journalism. Unfortunately, I found the substance of this article more worthy of The Weekly World News than The New York Times.

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