Thursday, March 24, 2011

God hates rice, green veges, milk and fish too

And yet there are still people willing to claim that any natural disaster is a visitation of divine wrath.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's a Miracle!

"Air crash miracle"

If there is one headline guaranteed to piss me off it usually has the word 'miracle' in it.

This genuflection to some unseen and inscrutable personal guardian most often seems to appear when one person survives against improbable odds or is the sole survivor when all others in the same circumstance die.

These days air crashes seem to be the most likely place for miraculous headlines to occur - even when the events are so much more mundane.

As an example lets lake the NZ Herald story about a young helicopter pilot rescued from the sea - described by the paper online as an "Air Crash Miracle".

Their opening paragraph describes the real events well enough - helicopter plunges into the sea and quick witted observers send rescuers to the right place to retrieve him.

At one level I understand the hyperbole of the headline - it attracts attention, but the word miracle is closely associated with faith in a deity or other spiritual powers said to influence events in your favour. It generally is applied loosely and in circumstances where a perfectly rational explanation that gives credit where it is due would serve far better.

It occurred notably during the rescue of the Chilean miners and I am sure some of the engineers that worked for months on the solution to retrieve the miners must have been pretty pissed off when all their hard work got credited to miraculous intervention by god.

There is something wonderful about people striving for months to create the circumstances where people they have not even met can be rescued - other humans helping humans. But there is nothing miraculous in that.

Wonderful? Yes!

Miraculous - no.

Worse are the air crash survivor stories where the single baby or other person survives when all others on the plane are smashed to bloody pulp, burned alive, left crushed and bleeding on an icy mountainside or some other terrible wreckage of humanity. The one survivor is though to be blessed, touched by god, the recipient of a miraculous gift.

They are the survivor - the one who happened to be in the right place at the right instant - that tiny window of probability in a disaster where the bounce was just right for that piece of fuselage to hold together long enough to shield them from the initial impact then tear away at just the right time for them to be flung free of what is about to become an inferno of human misery.

Lucky? no - if they were truly lucky they would not have been on that flight, not have lost their parents and siblings, not have the memory of the terrible event forever seared into their mind.

A miracle? no - and for all the same reasons. A miracle would be genuinely miraculous, not freakishly fortuitous. A miracle would be the plane suddenly easing to earth as the engines fail, floating down on a cushion of feather angel's wings rather than impacting as physics demands in blazing horror.

A miracle is not someone sick suddenly getting better - especially when medical staff have spent long hours working to save them.

A miracle would be flood waters flowing inexplicably around a house full of children - walls of water rising as if held back by glass sheets, yet in the recent Queensland floods there was plenty of opportunity for this to happen - and it did not.

We saw death, but we also saw people helping other people - and that is what we have and what we are.

We don't have some mystical force to help us, but we do have each other, and that should be enough.