You’ve heard it before – the face of Jesus shows up in someone’s toast, or a single person survives a disaster, and people are thanking God and calling things ‘miracles’. But the truth is, many – if not all – miracles, from the Turin Shroud to healing springs, can be explained with science.

Say for instance that you were out walking in the mountains somewhere, it doesn’t really matter where exactly, and the sky starts shining like a gigantic mass of rainbows. Some would call this a sign, or a miracle. But what actually happened is you witnessed a ‘fire rainbow’, it is an extremely rare and somewhat badly named natural phenomenon where the sun reflects off of cirrus clouds in the atmosphere. You need to be standing in a specific place with the sun at a 45 degree angle behind you, on a day with a handful of cirrus clouds in specific places in-front of you, and a specific pattern of air currents, to witness this phenomenon.

Do you see how easily natural events such as fire rainbows, volcanic lightning, blood moons, lunar eclipses and other natural events can be mistaken for having a divine cause?

Next up we have miracles such as Jesus’ face appearing on various objects. The Turin shroud is pretty much classified as a hoax – it has been reproduced by drawing a face on a cloth and then baking it. And as for faces showing up on toast, cliffs, even Mars, there is an explanation. We are good at recognizing faces even if we are just given a handful of shaded lines, it is part of our genetics. And even if these things do resemble faces, who says that it is Jesus? To me they look like they could pass as anyone’s face.

Speaking of hoaxes, many ‘healing waters’ and the ‘incorruptible saints’ are hoaxes too. Every year thousands flock to various ‘holy springs’ to be healed, but we only get a small handful of cases of people being healed by them, and even then it was of curable conditions. The healing waters can be put down as probability and conformation bias, and the saints have clearly been tampered with, chemicals can preserve bodies and we have other examples of preservation. Under certain conditions fat can transform into a soap-like substance and we have found Buddhist monks that have undergone meditation and been preserved. There is no more evidence for God in these cases than there was for Jesus’ face on toast.

The truth about miracles is that 99.9% of the time they can be explained as probability, nature, or hoaxes. And so far I have failed to find any genuine miracles that could only have a supernatural cause.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


2 thoughts on ““Miracles”

  1. On a related note Littlewood’s law says that miracles (unlikely events) are commonplace. If you live long enough you are bound to encounter one, (even once a month) because tens of thousands of things can happen within a month.


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