Top positive review
100 Years after the Miracle which the Author Excludes with no Good Explanation
on 14 May 2017
Andrew Wilson is convinced he used to be a fundamentalist but is no more (as he claims e.g. on the page 29) – but, unfortunately, this is not completely true - and I will prove it! His definition of fundamentalism is, simply (though not in exact words): a belief that is not based on strong reasons and evidence, but only on authorities. He says: 'Fundamentalism ... happens when people refuse to question what they believe, based on evidence... I lived like that for years‘. (p.20)
And what is a safe way to decide what you should believe in, while avoiding the trap of fundamentalism? In the chapter ‘A Hercule Poirot Thing‘, Mr. Wilson explains: 'One, we identify what the evidence is; two, we establish the possible explanations; and three, we see which one explains the evidence more completely, simply and coherently than the others.' (p.47) 'Antony Flew – he had committed himself to following the evidence wherever it leads...' (p.57) But had Andrew Wilson, too?
In the chapter ‘White Rain‘, he laughs at improbable stories – like the Hindu milk-drinking god, and the Catholic pilgrims in Portugal in 1917 who claimed that the sun rushed dramatically towards the earth as part of an appearance of the Virgin Mary. (p.78) Additionally, on page 89 he uses the Portugal Fátima apparitions as an example of events that are certainly, undoubtedly, a total bullshit ('...the sun is free to rush towards Portugal (miracle!), and all the while nobody else on earth notices (another miracle!)'), while totally ignoring the fact that these things were witnessed on 13th October 1917 by 70,000 people.
Let the author speak on the issue of the right way of dealing with strange, inexplicable events: 'We look at the evidence; we consider what alternative explanations there are; and we choose which one fits the data more simply, and more coherently, than the others. Personally, I find it easier to believe that a handful of Roman catholic pilgrims got a bit over-excited while staring at the sun (which can’t be good for you), than the Earth leapt out of its orbit and flew across the solar system without it being noticed by anyone outside of Portugal. On the other hand, when faced with several independent witnesses of something, and normally sceptical sources (the BBC and the Mail, for instance) reporting it as a fact, and no other credible explanation presenting itself, then I might conclude that a supernatural event was the best way of explaining an empty wheelchair.' (p.90) Mind you, Fátima visitors weren’t staring at the sun on that day from below their umbrellas, as the weather was awful, and the sky cleared only when a miraculous sign, announced in advance by three children who communicated with Mary, was to begin. And even if the situation had really been that people were staring at the sun for a long time, how likely is it that they all got precisely the same illusion of 'dancing sun' (and other colourful effects in the sky that Wilson does not mention) at the same time, for about 10 minutes? Secondly, is this really an unbiased evaluation of reported and documented events when the author calls 70,000 witnesses 'a handful of‘ pilgrims? On page 27, Wilson states: 'Ancients knew very well ... that evidence needed to come in the form of public events, not private experiences '. I wonder how many witnesses he would need to be willing to apply the same rules of judgement that he promotes throughout his whole book also to events that do not fit his Protestant belief... On the very same page where he denounces Fátima miracles together with the episode of a Hindu milk-drinking statue ( - an incomparable case, as this was very soon explained and not considered a supernatural phenomenon any more), he also declares: '...you have to be careful when saying that something never happens, particularly when it’s something that lots of other people claim has happened to them.' (p.78) You can check for yourself how Wikipedia treats both stories -Fátima 1917 and New Délhi 1995. There are also other supportive elements in the Fátima events – like the prophecy of communism spreading from Russia to the world and the World War II – but it would perhaps be inconvenient for A. Wilson to take them into consideration.
Furthermore, according to him, 'the Pope’s view ... might run: God definitely exists – (then) ‚miracles‘ certainly happen – (then) there’s no particular need to investigate them (p.80). But that is just completely false: the Pope or Catholic Church does not take for granted anything that is reported as an apparition or a miracle; in fact, a process of long and thorough investigation is due to take place before the event is officially considered miraculous. E.g. Virgin Mary’s apparitions in Medjugorie started in 1981, having meanwhile turned the place into a crowded pilgrimage site, but the Church still does not seem to verify the events as miracles any time soon – for 36 years the official statement has been that nothing of the kind is confirmed to happen there. So, I don’t know from where Mr. Wilson got the idea that the Pope’s view is that 'there’s no particular need to investigate miracles'. On page 81, he says: 'We just need to investigate them like we’d investigate anything else, comparing different explanations – and if a supernatural events fits the evidence better than the alternatives, then so be it.' That is exactly what Catholic church does, but, ironically, Andrew Wilson does not.
Maybe I need to explain, why I gave the book four stars despite my criticism. It’s because I really think it is otherwise a useful, well-written book, and I liked it that much that I bought three copies, giving two of them to my sceptical friends without worry that they might feel bothered and annoyed by an irrational Christian propaganda. However, the way how the author dealt with the Fátima events, the centenary of the first one being just today as I am writing this, is in complete opposite to his very own principles he invites readers to adopt.