Here's to Brilliant, No Questions Asked Journalism! Applause to CBS and their show _48Hour

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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's, five's ten's..." (Only one minute was given to these skeptics). 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 boosters. 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