Mass Media Bunk is a commentary on articles in the mass media that provide false, misleading, or deceptive information regarding scientific matters or alleged paranormal or supernatural events.
'tis the season of miracles!
December 26, 2006. This time of year we readers of newspapers and magazines are subjected to faith-based fluff pieces about miracles and God's loving nature that must cheer the hearts of the faithful as much as they annoy those of us who would like to see a little more critical thinking in this as in every season. Two stories appeared this week in my local paper, the Sacramento Bee, that illustrate this annual lapse into wishful thinking. One begins innocently enough:
I have no problem with stories about talented young musicians who play music at church. But I do have a problem with people who think God loves them more than other people. Their talent is a gift from God, they say, which implies that the poor kid born with a finger that keeps growing like a tumor, who couldn't play a musical instrument if he were Mozart himself, was chosen by God for that particular bit of misery.
Here is the second paragraph of the article about Malik Little by Laurel Rosenhall:
If God did all that for Malik, then God burned down the houses of at least eleven of his neighbors' families this week to celebrate another part of His Nature. Maybe some day Mr. Little will stop using his impressive intellect to delude himself into thinking that he was put here by God to demonstrate his musical abilities. To be consistent in his thinking, he is going to have to give God credit for all the miserable physical and mental afflictions He imposes on so many of His children. The kid born with two heads is probably not celebrating "God's giving nature," unless he's been brainwashed into believing that surviving being born with two heads proves God put him here for a purpose.
The other story was about a "miraculous" recovery from an accident.* Now, I enjoy a story about someone who is declared to be at death's door by some medical divinity and then surprises everybody by regaining consciousness. But why do writers and family members call it a "miracle" instead of noting that M.D.s are often wrong? I understand why the doctors are ready to call it a miracle. It prevents them from looking foolish. In this case, the doctors recommended that life-support be removed from a young man because their machines told them that there was "little sign of brain activity." But his mother wouldn't give them permission to take her son off a respirator. A month later, the young man is home, rehabilitating. By calling it a miracle, the doctors don't have to admit that they were wrong-dead wrong! They can rejoice with everyone else in the "miracle."
Bee writer Ed Fletcher could have written a story about medical uncertainty or "mother's intuition." But he chose to write about a "miracle." Was he trying to give us a "Christmas story"? The story was published on December 26th and was titled "The best gift ever." I might have called it: Brave mother saves son by defying doctors who wanted to let him die.