Saturday, October 01, 2016

God heals amputees!

Don't take my word for it. According to apostate atheist Hector Avalos, in "Can Science Prove that Prayer Works?" Free Inquiry 17 (1997):

Even if we saw an extraordinary healing occur (e.g., a severed leg grow back instantaneously), we would not be able to prove scientifically that it was a supernatural occurrence. 
For most of my young and adolescent life, I was a faith healer in a Pentecostal tradition. I witnessed what I then thought were resurrections, spontaneous growth of short limbs, cures from cancer, and many other types of diseases. 

So he's conceding that he saw the instantaneous regeneration of amputated limbs. (Notice that he uses "spontaneous" as a synonym for "instantaneously".) By his own admission, that's from firsthand observation. 

He doesn't deny what he saw. "Who should I believe–me or my dying eyes!" Instead, he says that's still not scientific proof that it was a supernatural occurrence. 

Now, Avalos is such a fanatical atheist that he might backpedal on his original, damaging admission. Again, though, how could he be mistaken? How could he see an amputated limb merely appear to instantaneously grow right before his eyes? 

Notice that he's not talking about tricks by other faith-healers, but his own direct observation.  


  1. Avalos' mention of "spontaneous growth of short limbs" might not be amputated limbs. He might be referring lengthening of limbs. Some cases of which are clearly fake. Here's a link to a video where Derren Brown exposes a fake leg lengthening technique used by con artist "faith healers":

    Though, I do believe such miracles happen, some are just fake.

    Avalos' testimony reminds me of Dan Barker's repeated testimony of how he saw apparent miracles in various Kathryn Kuhlman events. Or of Barker's story where he and some of his Christian ministers had to perform a song and one of them lost his voice. Barker goes on to say that in from of the group he prayed for the person and his voice returned. Barker then goes on to explain it away using psychology. Maybe it was a case of a psychosomatic illness, or maybe God actually healed the person. What's clear is that Barker reinterprets his past experiences.

    1. i) Except that he seems to use "spontaneous growth of short limbs" and "a severed leg grow back instantaneously" interchangeably.

      ii) Be that as it may, in context, he seems to describe healings that he personally performed. Not as a member of the audience, but in his own capacity as a faith-healer. He's not accusing himself of parlor tricks. Indeed, he's assured us, both in this article and elsewhere, that he was sincere. A convinced faith-healer.

      iii) Or even if he was part of a team, he'd be on the same stage as other faith-healers. How could it be faked unless he was in collusion?

      iv) In addition, he says: "Every single case of a supposedly answered prayer that I witnessed can be explained by one or more of the following factors: (1) false assumptions, (2) erroneous information, and (3) wishful thinking."

      But he doesn't include fraud.

      v) I don't deny fake healings. But he doesn't use that explanation in his own case (perhaps because would either be self-incriminating or make himself look like a total dupe). Rather, he shifts the blame to the credulous audience.

    2. It's clear he claims to be the "performer" in some of them, but it's not clear to me that he's claiming to be the "performer" in all of the types he mentions. His statement of being a "witness" to what he thought "were resurrections, spontaneous growth of short limbs, cures from cancer, and many other types of diseases" is consistent with someone else being the "performer" in some cases.

    3. Avalos has created a dilemma of himself. One the one hand, his street cred as a debunker is based on his past career as an honest faith-healer. On the other hand, he now denies that he really healed anyone.

      So he's walking a fine line. He denies that he was a charlatan, and he denies that he ever had the power to heal. That limits his remaining explanatory options. He won't say he sucked people, and he won't say he was suckered. At worst, it was an innocent mistake.

      That, however, makes it harder for him to finesse the claim that he witnessed apparent resurrections and limb lengthening. If he wasn't faking it, what did he see?

      He always frames this in the context of his individual experience as a faith-healer. A direct transaction between himself and those who sought him out for healing.

      As a fallback, he might possibly say he was part of healing services where other faith-healers were on the stage. But if he was right beside them, how was he taken in?

  2. He's making a good case for one of the epistemological limitations of the scientific method. He's left with only this limitation as a reason for positive disbelief. That means that positive disbelief isn't scientifically provable. The inability to know isn't a good reason for the certitude of not believing.

    I suppose his argument would be that it also undercuts our positive theistic belief. However, the argument misses the fact that we recognize revelation to be a valid epistemology if there is a supernatural Creator.