Friday, April 07, 2006

Jesus on Thin Ice

The news has been aflutter this week with the story of an oceanographer who came up with a hypothesis for how Jesus could have walked on water.
Doron Nof, a professor of oceanography, said a rare combination of water and atmospheric conditions in the Sea of Galilee 2000 years ago may offer a scientific explanation for one of the miracles recounted in the Bible. Nof said a patch of ice floating in the Sea of Galilee — which is actually a freshwater lake — would have been difficult to distinguish from unfrozen water surrounding it.
--USA Today
I really don’t understand why some people feel the need to try to justify Biblical miracles scientifically. Either you believe in miracles or you don’t; there’s just no point in trying to come up with some hypothetical freak circumstance that would make the miracle into a plausible natural event. Such hypotheses generally just diminish the event into something inconsequential, anyway.

In another example, a preacher told my youth group years ago that there’s a place in the Sea of Reeds where if a strong wind blows in the right direction, it will literally part the waters and make a dry path across. If the Biblical translation were a bit off – the Red Sea was really the Sea of Reeds – Moses’ parting of the waters would actually have been possible. The rub, of course, is that the water is never more than a few inches deep in that spot to begin with. Talk about a pointless miracle.

Any attempt to scientifically justify a miracle is pretty much doomed to failure. You could probably find ways to simulate any given miracle with a modern illusionist’s tricks or a wildly improbable set of natural circumstances, but that’s totally missing the point of the story, a waste of a scientist’s time, and an effective way to offend religious sensibilities for no good reason.

Biblical miracles don’t need rational explanation. In fact, there isn’t supposed to be a rational explanation: that’s what makes it a miracle. DUH!

What science can do is evaluate modern claims that a miracle occurred. The claims of faith-healers and psychics are certainly subject to scientific study. They may claim that their abilities go beyond the realm of known science, but that’s really irrelevant. Science can determine – through double-blind clinical trials and similar experiments – whether modern psychics, faith healers, and the like can actually do what they claim to do; figuring out how it happens would then be a subject for further study.

So, Professor Nof, could you please stop pointlessly annoying Christians with unlikely rationalizations of religious stories? Save your time and credibility for useful research, eh?


Rev. Bob said...

Bravo! Besides, everybody knows Jesus created Ice-9 [wikipedia] under his feet. Good thing he made it disappear as soon as he was done with it.

Leon said...

Aww, but annoying the christans is fun

aidan nattrass said...

thanks for your honesty. i have used your comments in an re lesson with 16 year old agnostics in a catholic school in sheffield england. you are on the same page as darwin, newton, paley and nietzsche!!! great company, eh? 1145am london time. i don't surf at crazy times during the night. toodle pip what? god save the queen