16. For Skeptics
Michael Shermer writes a regular feature in Scientific American magazine called "Skeptic." Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, a journal that challenges all non-scientifically proven phenomenon. The August 2004 issue of Scientific American posts an article titled "Miracle on Probability Street," where Shermer describes "Littlewood's Law of Miracles." John Littlewood was a University of Cambridge mathematician who said : "In the course of any normal person's life, miracles happen at a rate of roughly one per month". Physicist Freeman Dyson expounded on this to describe how, when awake, we perceive things happening at a rate of about one event per second. So, in the course of one month, we are exposed to about one million events. These events are not normally considered miracles except in the rare case of one out of every million. Therefore, we should expect about one miracle to happen, on average, every month.
Shermer describes the typical miracle scenario to be a dream or thought about the death of a relative followed by a phone call describing the death of that individual. Herein lies part of the weakness of Shermer's argument. How do you define a miracle? A simple thought or dream that corresponds to an actual event could hardly be called a miracle. Now suppose that you have a dream about a potentially dangerous situation that can be avoided, like swerving a certain way to miss a drunken driver. The next day, you encounter the driver of your dream and are successful in swerving to avoid him. This is more of a miracle than a simple correspondence of events because it is meaningful. Now compound this with a number of events that sequentially leads to a specific meaningful result. The odds against such a chain of events becomes exponential.
Miraculous events are common place for some people. Some of these events are extremely complex in meaningful ways, involving chains of events and individuals that may span many years. But these kinds of experiences are typically not experienced by skeptics, who assume the events are only misperceptions that can be explained by random probability. The skeptic will argue that external, independently verifiable scientific evidence is the only thing valid. That attitude makes some huge assumptions in the face of a science that is constantly being challenged and re-written. Even the most scientifically studied and verified religious relic of all, the shroud of Turin, is treated as invalid as anything else.
In the book, The Mind of God, the spiritual realm is described as one that can be approached in a way similar to the scientific method-with one important difference. The experiment is internal (dealing mostly with your conscious understanding rather than external events), and it is specific to the individual. This is by design and makes perfect sense when one considers the following.
John Wheeler was a colleague of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, and mentor to many of today's leading physicists. In 2002, at the age of 91, Wheeler said that he only had time to work on one last idea: How human consciousness shapes reality. He believes that reality exists not because of physical particles but rather because of conscious observation: "Information may not be just what we learn about the world. It may be what makes the world." He describes the universe as a type of enormous feedback loop where we contribute to the on-going creation to some extent. (Discover Magazine, June 2002, p. 44)
If a Deity exists, it is obvious that there is a separation between it and humankind. Some cultures describe this separation between God and man as a "veil" or curtain that must be breeched. The veil is described as a barrier that was intentionally placed to illicit certain aspects of our consciousness-the ultimate creator of reality. The spiritual experiment thus must begin with the following hypothesis. A Deity of superior intelligence exists and is willing to communicate to me in a way I can recognize and understand. A person may then proceed in an attempt to establish that communication. Those who endure in the "experiment" (or act of "faith") can eventually, through their diligence, eliminate or pass through the veil of separation between God and humankind. This is the state some of the ancients had attained, which is why they record the occurrence of things that sound fantastic to us.
Why do we not hear of such experiences today? Firstly, there are few that make the initial hypothesis, experimentation, and necessary exercise of patience. Secondly, when experiences with God are shared, they are often trivialized or considered to be stories of crackpots. Thirdly, significant things in the spiritual realm are not often discussed openly. Why is that? Jesus told his followers: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you." (Matt. 7:7) Translated into modern terms: Do not expound your most significant spiritual experiences to the skeptic. It will do nothing to strengthen their belief and will only expose you to ridicule. Each individual must earn the reward of their own diligence, which will create their reality. The skeptic demands results for an experiment they refuse to perform, therefore they exist outside the reality of the Deity.
One final note specific to miracles and the book, The Mind of God. The experiences described therein by no means represent the sum total of my spiritual journey. In fact, they only represent a small fraction of it. I have had hundreds of experiences as dramatic or more so, than those described in the book. They have been much more than simple corresponding coincidences. They have been very specific, complex, overlapping, continuous and meaningful. Incalculable by statistical analysis.
FLASH UPDATE: A Skeptic is Shaken.
In the October 2014 issue of Scientific American there is an article by Michael Shermer titled, “Infrequencies” with the subtitle- “I just witnessed an event so mysterious that it shook my skepticism.”
As previously mentioned, Michael is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine. He wrote; “Often I am asked if I have ever encountered something that I could not explain. What my interlocutors have in mind are not bewildering enigmas such as consciousness or U.S. foreign policy but anomalous and mystifying events that suggest the existence of the paranormal or supernatural. My answer is: yes, now I have.”
He then described an event that occurred on June 25, 2014. On that day, he married Jennifer, a lady from Germany. She had been raised by her mother but had a close relationship with her Grandfather who died when she was 16. Before the wedding, boxes of belongings were shipped from Germany to his home. Included in that shipment was an old radio previously owned by Jennifer’s grandfather. Michael put new batteries in the radio and made some effort but was unable to get it to work. They placed it in a desk drawer of the bedroom.
Three months later, they exchanged their marriage vows at home. She was feeling lonely because her family could not be present and especially wished her grandfather were there. Just after exchanging vows, they could hear music playing from the back of the house. Initially unable to find the source of the music, they finally traced it to the bedroom desk where they were shocked to find that the broken radio was now playing a romantic melody. Jennifer felt that she was not alone, and that somehow her grandfather was present for the wedding. The radio stopped working the following day.
Michael describes the significance which can only come to one who has experienced such an event: “What does this mean? Had it happened to someone else I might suggest a chance electrical anomaly and the law of large numbers as an explanation- with billions of people having billions of experiences every day, there’s bound to be a handful of extremely unlikely events that stand out in their timing and meaning….I have to admit, it rocked me back on my heels and shook my skepticism to its core as well.” He finished the article with this observation: “…we should not shut the doors of perception when they may be opened to us to marvel in the mysterious.”1
Michael’s experience demonstrates in a vivid way the point previously mentioned in this post. What makes such events significant is their timing and the meaning they have to other associated things. It only becomes shockingly meaningful when it happens to you.