Joined: Dec. 2007
In all the excitement last week, we missed a really great vjtorley posting. In No evidence, you say? A reply to Eric MacDonald., he goes after Eric MacDonald, a former clergyman, for calling Dr. John Polkinghorne a liar. Doc Polkinghorne's lie? He thinks Polkinghorne should know better than to say that prayer might work.
And he has "evidence" to call forth on the efficiency of prayer. First he remarks on how little prayer has been studying, without ever seeming to wonder why it's not studied. If prayer really worked, wouldn't you expect all sorts of churches to be sponsoring all sorts of research on it and bombarding us with the results? Yet they don't, so maybe it's because ... better not go there.
Then he goes after the 2006 Benson study - the one that found prayer to be almost totally ineffective. But wait! Looky here: "... patients who received intercessory prayer demonstrated significant improvement compared to those who received standard treatment devoid of prayer in 7 of the 17 studies." Of course if prayer had no effect at all, you'd expect half of the patients to get a little better and half to get a little worse - and 7 is less than half of 17. Hmmm...
After some more words on prayer studies, he gets to the real evidence: "One person who had quite a lot to say on the power of prayer was C. S. Lewis..." who was actually "... highly doubtful of the worth of intercessory prayer studies, but who had personal experiences which led him to affirm that prayer actually works."
One of those experiences: He woke up, intending to get a haircut before going into London, then the London appointment was called off, but he bravely decided to get the haircut anyway. "... there began the most unaccountable little nagging in my mind, almost like a voice saying, 'Get it cut all the same. Go and get it cut.'” And sure enough, when he got to the barber shop, the barber, who he had helped before, had problems again, needed to talk to him and had been praying for him to come! The power of prayer.
Having settled the prayer issue, vj raises another point: "Eric MacDonald also asserts in his review that “there isn’t a shred of evidence to show that religion is true. I have to say he’s flat wrong on this point. If MacDonald wants evidence, I can show him some: the evidence from miracles."
And here's where things get good. "Eric MacDonald will want to see good evidence of miracles, so I’ll confine myself to one case: the 17th century Italian saint, Joseph of Cupertino, who was seen levitating well above the ground and even flying for some distance through the air, on literally thousands of occasions, by believers and skeptics alike. The saint was the phenomenon of the 17th century. Those who are curious might like to have a look at his biography by D. Bernini (Vita Del Giuseppe da Copertino, 1752, Roma: Ludovico Tinassi and Girolamo Mainardi)."
This is a case that apparently scares the dickens out of atheists: "The philosopher David Hume, who was notoriously skeptical of miracle claims, never even mentions St. Joseph of Cupertino in his writings. Funny, that."
Hmm, the patron saint of Apple owners? Let's see what Wikipedia says about St. Joe:
"He was said to have been remarkably unclever, but prone to miraculous levitation and intense ecstatic visions that left him gaping. In turn, he is recognized as the patron saint of air travelers, aviators, astronauts, people with a mental handicap, test takers, and poor students."
"As a child, Joseph was remarkably slow-witted."
"He was given the pejorative nickname "the Gaper," due to his habit of staring blankly into space. He was also said to have had a violent temper."
"When he was 17, Joseph attempted to join the Friars Minor Conventuals, but his lack of education prevented him from gaining admittance. He was soon after admitted as a Capuchin, but dimissed from the Order shortly thereafter, when his constant fits of ecstasy proved him unsuitable. Eventually, in his early twenties, he was admitted into a Conventual Franciscan friary near Copertino. At first he was assigned to care for the friary mule."
"On October 4, 1630, the town of Cupertino held a procession on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. Joseph was assisting in the procession when he suddenly soared into the sky, where he remained hovering over the crowd. When he descended and realized what had happened, he became so embarrassed that he fled to his mother's house and hid. This was the first of many flights, which soon earned him the nickname "The Flying Saint"."
After reports of numerous flights, he was questioned by the inquisition and released. He was then sent to the Sacro Convento in Assisi. Strangely, they wouldn't let him out much. Pope Innocent X sent him to a friary with strict orders to avoid writing letters, but he kept attracting people, so he was moved to Fossombrone.
"The ordeal finally ended when Pope Innocent X died, and the Conventual friars asked the newly elected Pope Alexander VII to release Joseph from his exile and return him to Assisi. Alexander declined, and instead released Joseph to the friary in Osimo, where the Pope's nephew was the local bishop. There, Joseph was ordered to live in seclusion and not speak to anyone except the Bishop, the Vicar General of the Order, his fellow friars, and, in case of a health crisis, a doctor."
Strangely, it never seems to occur to vj to ask why the church kept him in seclusion. After all, he could fly! You'd think that if somebody could hover in air, just about any church would be proud to show him off. What better way to convert the heathens? I know if I saw someone floating in air, I'd start to question my beliefs pronto. Yet they kept him hidden away.
Most people wouldn't even care if he was an idiot. Just show someone levitating and people are going to believe!
Yet, here we are 300+ years later with nothing to memorialize St. Joe's miracles but some collections of hearsay told by various religious officials. If there are any secular tales of St. Joe of Cupertino, vjtorley and the editors of Wikipedia apparently can't find them. Too bad, I was all ready to believe.
F/N According to the Catholic Encylopedia, he was also born in a manger.
Like every other academic field, philosophy of religion has its share of hacks and mediocrities. Edward Feser