That menacing scale in your house — you step on it in desperate hopes your recent gorge of fast foods hasn’t worked it’s evil ways. Hopefully there was a little gustatory miracle. Whatever your scale reads, you’ve just encountered two of life’s least understood phenomena: evil and miracles.
The problem of evil has haunted us from the very beginning. It’s preoccupied every major religion along with history’s most prolific writers from Shakespeare to Dostoevsky to Stephen King. The ancient Greek tragedies literally gave evil a face. Whether we see it in theological, philosophical or psychological terms, evil remains an issue that runs a lot deeper than just booing the other team.
Right now we see it manifested in organized terrorism to genocidal wars to the won’t-go-away threat of atomic annihilation. While some of us say evil is something found in the deeds of evil-doers, others insist evil is a spiritual force that in some way walks the earth.
As for miracles, well we’re calling events miracles every day. The miracle, against all odds, of a cure, a victory, an intervention. Probably the biggest all-time miracle worker has been the Virgin Mary who has been active in apparitions from Joan of Arc to Lourdes to Our Lady of Guadalupe. The stand-off between science and faith in these affairs is well known, and chances of converting either side would take, well, a miracle.
The next time you ease onto your scale, you don’t have to believe in either evil or in miracles. However, you do have to ask yourself: Are some things in life measured in ways that have nothing to do with the science of weights, sights, sounds and test tubes? These measurements all have to do with the sensory, but what about what’s not sensory? Recently there have risen serious studies of what has been called the extra-sensory (ESP). Now here’s what’s funny. These studies consider themselves scientific. Which makes them like the science of the unscientific.
I don’t know if you react like I do to the science of your morning scale as something either terribly evil or this time something surprisingly miraculous. But I do know this. I’d love to see the reactions over dinner between a successful neurobiologist and a successful shaman. And then watch who afterwards would vindicated enough to pick up the check.
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