Saturday, 8 October 2011

Faith healing

Sometimes people comment on strands that are not altogether related to the topic of the comment.  (The previous post was spawned by such an event.)  Nonetheless, these comments  are often interesting enough to be worthy of  further attention.  It is my general policy to air these subjects again in a separate post, and I always appreciate the opportunity of interaction.  One such tale of apparent Faith Healing arose in the comments on my post about Harvest Festival Fun a few days ago.

Reinhard Bonnke - a remarkable healer?
It was about the amazing tale about Jean Neil, who was healed miraculously by a faith healer, Reinhard Bonnke, after suffering terrible ill-health for many years.

Read it here

That's a truly remarkable story. It is so utterly remarkable that it is difficult to believe it, and I must say that I my gut instinct was to distrust it.  Forbsy said that her best friend witnessed the event, but that's not quite what I would count as evidence. Carl Sagan famously claimed that he tried not to think with his guts, so I decided to follow up with a little investigation.  You know how stage magicians can perform amazing tricks that totally bamboozle their audiences? Some similar people earn a living as psychics or similar professions, including perhaps faith-healing. I'm sure you are aware of the possibility that people even lie sometimes.

The briefest Google search shows that the name Reinhard Bonnke is not altogether unbesmirched.  This link describes a slightly different version of the same story which was thoroughly investigated by another christian surgeon.  It appears to me to suggest the opposite version of the story of Jean Neil's remarkable healing.  Another amazing event claimed by Bonnke is the resurrection of a Nigerian pastor.  You can read a version of that (alleged) fraud here.

Internet 'link mining' is not evidence of course.

Given the somewhat anecdotal style of the evidence (both ways), not to mention the sheer quantity of remarkable features claimed, and given that this lady might have recovered from at least some of her ailments I still don't feel compelled to believe in a loving god who, after all, put her through all that pain for years and years before curing her miraculously.

I have to ask myself what is the most likely explanation of this story and I answer myself that I'm not convinced that it is altogether true. I think it could be a perfectly valid testimony of what someone believes to be true.  But . . . it is not 'evidence' in any sense that medical science would recognise, and I am not convinced on the basis of the current testimony that it is true.

Memory is not fixed and firm. Memories are modified every time you recall them, on the basis of your learning in the intervening period.  This leads to the gradual 'improvement' of stories.  I can't say for certain that this is what has happened in this case or in any of the many other cases that people have presented, but it is a mechanism that has to be considered when reading such remarkable tales.

Sorry Forbsy.  Claims have to be investigated, at least as far as a Google search.

Your comments are welcome.

2011-10-08 -- Adding a link to a relevant file that was rather hard to find, this document, Diakrisis Australia, December 1999, from a christian organisation called TA Ministries in Australia appears to contain the report from the surgeon who investigated the case of Jean Neil.  Naturally I make no personal claim to know about the details and wish her well - preferably well without god.


Anonymous said...

I will come back to the testimony of Jean Neil, as I have a question that I need to ask you first which I have emailed you with.

However, I also saw the video of the pastor who was raised from the dead. It is an interesting video. It happened some years ago now as I remember.

However, I also have a friend, who told me the following.

When her son was 18mths old, she, her hubby and her son went out for a drive. She was going to put her son in the back seat, but instead at the last minute put him in the front(obviously with appropriate child/baby seat).

Her husband was driving, when suddenly a large lorry lost control and rammed them from the back, and crushed the back of the car so that my friend was crushed and unable to move.

Her husband managed to get out of the car and managed to rescue their little boy, and then tried to get my friend out. he felt for a pulse and couldn't find one. he couldn't move her, she was crushed and stuck and unconscious, and because he couldn't find a pulse for 20 minutes he presumed dead.
he gave up trying to get her out of the car and prayed desperately for help, and for there to be hope for her life. Finally help came in the form of the emergency services and paramedics etc, who also couldn't find a pulse. Then they tried again and suddenly, they found a pulse.

They eventually managed to get her out and to hospital.

She told me that she had no 'life after death' experience, but that she had felt a strong pair of arms around her as the crash happened and that she knew she was being protected. Then she remembers nothing until she came around in hospital.

The doctor told her it was a 'miracle' that she was alive for two reasons, 1) that she had no pulse for over 20mins and 2) that where she had been crushed there was a line(a mark) down the whole of her face and body which should have also blinded her, but for some inexplicable reason, had not touched her eyes.
From the time that she left hospital, she made the decision to serve the Lord for the rest of her life, and not waste it, and she has helped many many orphans in different parts of the world and continues to do so to this day.

Whether she had died or not and was brought back to life, it is clear there was not the best odds for her to revover and breathe again...but she did.

krissthesexyatheist said...

Oh the (bad) 'ol personal testimony. It's soooo 'reliable'. Like when there is a traffic accident and someone says, "they just came outta nowhere." Really, people and things can come from 'nowhere.' was it the Richard Dawkins documentary where they went to Lourdes and ask'd about how many peeps were "healed". dude said something like, 3 (or so), but a million gazillion peeps had been thru there drinking or bathing in the "holy", bacteria filled water. Truly "miraculous"


Plasma Engineer said...

I have added a link to the report about Jean Neil. It took a while to find it, but it seems fairly thorough and I have not found a rebuttal of its claims anywhere so far. If you do find one, please feel free to post a link here.

@Forbsy By all means contact her if you like. I truly wish her well. For me I have to admit that another personal testimony would be unlikely to change my view though.

Personal testimonies are not evidence of fact but only of what people believe to be fact.

Pruthvi said...

Faith healing is fake. There are instances where people got a pulse after 3 hours of no pulse.