Here's to Brilliant, No Questions Asked Journalism! Applause to CBS and their show _48Hour
Here's to Brilliant, No Questions Asked Journalism! Applause to
CBS and their show _48Hours_ for that daring expose' on the healing
'miracles' at Lourdes, France. For a bonus, we were also treated to
various tearful religious icons.
The sad story of of a little girl, with a tumor on the shoulder
blade, opened the fine segment "Journy of Hope". The little girl, led
into the false hope of a miracle by her zealous parents said, "Some
people get cured, but they have to believe in it." This statement, to
set up personal blame (God would not be responsible), in case no healing
occurs. To futher strengthen her resolve she said, "It's (tumor) going
to go away and that makes me believe in it more."
The parents then drug the poor girl on her Journey of Hope to
France; but we would have to let suspense build a while before we found
out whether she received her healing. First the reporter had to tell
us just how real these miracle were. Her first words on the subject
were, "Even the toughest skeptics will admit..." She then went on to
quote these "toughest skeptics"; the Catholic Church.
Of the many thousands who claim miracles at Lourdes, the Church
only recognizes sixty-five as actually taking place. What criteria are
necessary for such a recognition? Along with some shaky medical
evidence, the person's "faith" must be apparent before a miracle will be
awarded the official stamp of approval. Therefore, the chief
evidence is anecdotal; relying on the individual's more than biased
memory of the event.
We then shifted to Ohio, to witness the miracle of the "dancing
Sun". Some pious souls, after staring directly into the sun for
several minutes, actually saw strange lights! Imagine that. (Although,
they were also looking through the leaves of the tree, and some light
may have been diffracted into pretty colors). The only skeptics of this
event were neighboors (to the church where the sun and crying painting
miracles took place) Veronica and Chris Brown. Mr. Brown
described the preist as being interdenominational, "He accepts all
denominations...one's, five's ten's..." (Only one minute was given to
James Randi, in his wonderful book _Faith Healers_ (Prometheus
Books, 1989), tells us of another CBS news team, 60 Minutes, and thier
trip to Lourdes: "The CBS cameramen were blocked and pushed by the
entrpreneurs and prevented from filiming the garish displays of holy
water, religious statues, gimcracks, and cheaply printed booklets that
are peddled at the holy site." (p. 21). He also tells us that there are
over 400 hotels available for the pilgrims. Dan Rather, at the close of
the _4Hours_ broadcast, said that this year 500 hotel rooms would be
added. Many, no doubt, from the increased business this broadcast would
bring. Over the years CBS has flip-flopped: from skeptics to ratings
Some anecdotes from Lourdes: One poor man, "It's a shot. And you
take any shot possible." "Most people that came died...(but) they all
died happily". One man who bulit a castle from match sticks did a Uri
Geller with an old wrist watch he installed as the "clock tower". The
thing began to tick after he put it in the tower! "I can't explain it,"
said the man. The 'journalist' oohhhed. Anything unusal, apparenlty,
is explained as a miracle here.
Scientist and amateur magician Shawn Carlson, from Lawrence
Berkely duplicated some crying statues and paintings. He explained
anyone could do it; but wouldn't explain how, citing the magician's
creed. I'm all for magicians keeping their secrets: in most cases.
Here, it would have been more illuminating if he would have shown the
trick so anyone could spot it. This way, viewers from the parishes who
have crying Madonas could look for the secret gimmicks instead of
searching for the trick in vain, throw up their hands and say "It must
be a miracle: I can't find the trick!" He did say that people should
"spend the money on science, but pray at home for the miracle." An
amazing five minutes was given to Dr. Carlson.
However, no time was given to any skeptical medical professional.
With apologies to Dr. Carlson who did mention some things on the body's
ability to heal itself, no one is going to believe him over the
uncritical physicians they paraded in front of the camera. James
Randi's book is an excellent source for this, and he mentions others, so
I suggest you look these up.
Almost as an aside, as the show is winding up, we hear the ending
of the little girl's (with the tumour) story. And this, not from her
parents, but from Dan Rather: she did not get healed. Unfortunately,
for the tv ratings.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank