On Miracles

A friend commented on a recent post here that Kirsten’s recovery has been miraculous, and that the advancement of science itself is a miracle. I vehemently disagree.

Kirsten’s body has progressively been destroyed by her several diseases. She’s wasted away to ~75 pounds. When I wash her skin she cries, realizing as she looks at her weak, frail little legs just how far she’s deteriorated. I haven’t posted pictures because her body is so sickly it would be disturbing to some, and embarrassing to Kirsten.

Kirsten almost died Wednesday. That was avoided by a heroic effort by her medical team and myriad advanced products of science. On several occasions, different people who were there with me have wondered aloud how it is that she is still alive. Attribute that to god if you wish.

Kirsten has not gotten up and walked out of the hospital. She still has a neck fracture that paralyzed her right upper arm. She still has advanced Cushing’s syndrome. She still has two liver lesions. She still has a non-functioning pituitary gland and tumor. She still has Type I diabetes. She likely has cancer. She’s still ~75 pounds. Is that the best god can do? Kirsten’s recent improvements are all within the domain of statistical probability for someone her age who is being cared for in a modern hospital’s Special Care Unit.

Is science itself a miracle? I suppose it depends on your definition. I define miracle as a suspension of natural law. Colloquially, you may use “miracle” where you might also use “statistically improbably” or “fortunate.” I think this is a lazy use of language, and cedes too much to the supernatural.

Positing that god uses science to do his work makes god extremely weak and quite pathetic. Science is great and wonderful, but its method is a slow and incremental progression toward understanding. That’s not at all what you’d expect from a supernatural god who created the universe in six days. And it’s inconsistent with the myths in the Bible.

Science is a method of understanding the world in which we live. That method, quite simply, is observation, hypothesis, experimentation, peer-review, theory. At no point in that process do scientists assert that, “god did it.” The very notion that the advancement of science is miraculous is antithetical to the nature of science itself.

The underlying implication is that, I think, the credit for Kirsten’s recent improvements ought to go to god. Was the hand of god guiding the hand of the surgeon? Did god inspire the chemists and computer scientists? If you think so, you are not convincible. However, you must ask yourself, how did god allow Kirsten to decline to her present state? Is God, essentially, willing to suspend the laws of physics to improve the conditions of those who are suffering, but unwilling, or unable, to prevent those conditions? What does that say about god?

Should our strategy be to surround ourselves with believers who will offer intercessory prayer on our behalf if and when we need it? If we’re alone and without these pious friends, are we doomed to whatever fate god will ignore?

Religion offers no consolation. There are no miracles. Prayer does not work. Superstition is for the weak and ignorant and pathetic.

This is not a miracle. The assertion that god will bend to your will if you simply pray is arrogant. The notion that god allowed this to happen so that you would pray and experience its awesomeness, as Jesus said with regards to the blind man, is offensive. Keep your mythologies to yourself. I have no need of them.

This is not a miracle

20 Comment

  1. Katie Prior says: Reply

    Way to be subtle about it.

    1. I am rarely subtle. :)

      It’s not at all personal, Katie. Your ideas are very common, and the same as my own when I was your age.

  2. I concur emphatically.

  3. Kris Lethin says: Reply

    I’ll take boringly stable. That doesn’t have to be a miracle to make me smile.

    Keep up the great work! Love you guys.

    1. Agreed. I’ll take this, too. :)

  4. Beautifully said, Brent, and I simply couldn’t agree more.

    The notion that god allowed this to happen so that you would pray and experience its awesomeness, as Jesus said with regards to the blind man, is offensive.

    Shockingly offensive.

    1. Thank you, Kerry. I wonder how religion, with its blatant immorality and inconsistencies, hasn’t already imploded on itself.

  5. Ryan Dlugosz says: Reply

    First, great to hear of the recent progress. Hopefully the darkest days are past.

    Second, this – and the related “prayer” post before it – are wonderfully honest statements that too often go unsaid.

    1. Thank you, Ryan. I have been thinking about this a lot recently, obviously. Why is it perfectly “reasonable” for adults to believe in fairy tales? Why aren’t those believers a small minority that isn’t taken seriously by anybody else? #scratcheshead

  6. David Anderson says: Reply

    Brent-
    All beliefs aside, I would like Kirsten, you, the girls and anyone who is affected our deepest sympathies for what Kirsten is going through. Witnessing a loved one suffering is one of the most devastating times in our lives. Danni and I sincerely hope she pulls through for not only her sake, but for you, the girls and everyone affected.

    1. Thank you, David. It has been pretty awful. I’m certainly hoping for better days.

  7. Kris Lethin says: Reply

    The reason religion hasn’t gone away is because it is useful. Being a believer does not require religion though, there are plenty of examples of good men and women who were just following their own sense of what is right and their legacy is claimed by religion. I for one appreciate your atheism and the honesty with which you express yourself even though I don’t share you world view. Love you guys.

    1. Religion is useful the ways crutches are useful. Unfortunately, many people who don’t need the crutches rely on them.

      Good people who followed their own sense of correctness aren’t necessarily right. In fact, they usually are not.

      I appreciate your goodness, Kris. A lot.

      1. Kris Lethin says: Reply

        Aww thanks man.

  8. Kris Lethin says: Reply

    I believe in Miracle Whip… Its just nasty stuff. Best Foods Real Mayo is so much better.

  9. Why haven’t you written a book? LOL Serously, I have been reading your posts daily and thinking about your family constantly. I am concerned with the physical and emotional toll this is having on Kirstin and the rest of you, but also very much intrigued by the medical complexity of Kirstin’s plight. As a medical professional, I am being educated by this ordeal. Thank you for keeping us all updated and informed. Also thank you for your “miracle” post and you know I couldn’t agree more. If things happen according to “god’s will” then he is a sick, hateful, selfish piece of …. Anyway, I digress… Keep your head up and give Kirstin a kiss on the forehead from me. Love y’all.

    1. I have thoroughly enjoyed my medical education these past few weeks.

      Which book should I write first? :)

      As a person who knows enough about the shit life can dole out, your comment about god made me simultaneously laugh and feel a bit angry and sad.

  10. I have no words that can express how I feel about this post. You are one of the most remarkable people I have ever come across. Thoroughly impressed with your outlook and sincerity. I could not agree more with everything you said. Seriously…. you need to write a book. Education is key. My best to Kirsten and your families… You are all in my thoughts!

    1. Aw, shucks. Thank you, Heidi. :)

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