The Milk Miracle



I took place in a debate of sorts recently at an Oregon newspaper’s website. It started, as many of these things do, with someone making some remark about how atheists ignore clear evidence and that the liberal media bias suppresses spectacular evidence of a god. I routinely challenge these claims (Hey . . . you have to do SOMEthing to entertain yourself!) This debate took a little bit of a different turn for me though.

My ‘opponent’ in this debate (I will call him Mark) made frequent accusations of non-theists being bigots (not that unusual) but then he pulled out the Milk Miracle as his trump card (more detail on that in a bit) and claimed, emphatically, that a clear, multi-national, well documented (on video no less) miracle is being suppressed by and dismissed by the liberal media and elite. None of this too uncommon for the well indoctrinated, but he was quite emphatic and gave me a web site with the challenge “explain this!”

The web site he provided was http://www.milkmiracle.com/. This is an assemblage of TV clips of a 1995 incident where statues of Hindu gods were drinking milk by the spoonful.
This was a real incident and I vaguely remember hearing a bit of it when it occurred. Word spread of the miraculous events across the country and around the world. Milk supplies depleted from many stores as people flocked to local temples to see if the Hindu gods were lactose intolerant. The media was all over it and there was much video footage of the faithful putting spoonfuls of white liquid to noses or mouths of their religious statues and the praises of god were heard as the spoon was drained to empty.

Of course skeptical groups came out describing a combination of effects (absorption through capillary action and surface tension and the like). I am an engineer and I had no problem formulating any number of natural explanations for this, so I quickly dismissed it.

Mark, however, was emphatic and restated his challenge. So I began to do some actual research. One of my first steps was to google ‘debunk milk miracle’. This pulled up surprisingly little information. It was clearly a real incident. It was well documented. If true (as described) it would be a pretty stunning event so I would expect that there would be a good deal of rational debunking going on, but I could find virtually none.

At this point in my research I am starting to contemplate why there might be this dearth of information to refute the miracle. Was it so ludicrous that nobody even bothered? I even contemplated whether there might actually be media suppression. I continued my research. I found testimony from a witness in Bombay who ran across the street from his school to the local temple to watch the crowds. What he saw stunned him. He saw believers put spoonful after spoonful of milk up to the statue and watched the spoons drain of their contents. He also saw the milk collect in a trough below the statue were it was collected and he saw priests take the milk away by the bucketful. And yet he still heard the praises of god and the miracle of the milk!!

OK. One internet post does not a position make, so I mentally set the eyewitness account aside and returned to the videos. Going to YouTube, I found a fair amount of Milk Miracle video, but most of it was the footage from MilkMiracle.com. I sat down to take a critical look but, given the universally poor video quality, I didn’t expect to see anything. What I did see astounded me. One of the first scenes clearly showed milk running down the chin of the statue! Keep in mind that this was the video being used as PROOF of the miraculous event . . . AND THE MILK WAS RUNNING DOWN THE CHIN! I saw the same thing happen a couple more times throughout the video. It was rather apparent on the painted (non-white) statues. Many of the religious icons are a shiny, white plaster which, of course, would have made a miniscule stream of milk almost invisible to even an eyewitness. I then went to the kitchen and grabbed a white porcelain coffee cup and was able to ‘feed’ it a spoonful of milk AT LEAST as convincingly as the videos showed.

Sitting here now, I actually feel a little silly that I put this much time into this purported miracle, but the effort got me thinking. I have an ever-increasing awe of the human brain and its manifestation of ‘mind’. We are just at the tip of the iceberg in our understanding of how the whole mess works. It is fascinating to see how we learn; how we think; how we interpret . . . and how we bias. I look at the Milk Miracle and contemplate how the mind can ignore unambiguous visual evidence if it does not reinforce a person’s worldview. We are not talking about abstract debatable theories that are being ignored; we are talking about milk running down the face of a statue. Of course there are other psychosocial factors here like group-think or not wanting to be the one who DOESN’T see the miracle. I am sure that social psychologists have names for all these things.

What it comes down to for me is an angry atheist moment. That’s right, I am angry. I am angry that a supernatural belief system can so impair [what could otherwise be] a sound mind. I am angry that said belief systems are so culturally protected from criticism. I am angry that such belief systems are so heavily represented in our government and our supreme court. I am angry that an individual is LESS trusted if they lack a belief in the supernatural. I know that your pants are in a bunch right now. I know that it is a select, indoctrinated, desperate minority of the faithful that are so impaired. Still; it is the demonstration that these inculcated beliefs have the ability to destroy the mind. It you believers wish to keep these belief systems in general circulation, you had better damned well prove that they are true.

27 comments:

mark said...

ok mike, first things first

if we are going to have an honest debate, i want you to take back or refine further the comment you made at the start of this post:

My ‘opponent’ in this debate (I will call him Mark) made frequent accusations of non-theists being bigots

This is simply not the case, and you know it. I said repeatedly in my posts at that thread, that I have no problem with 'non-theists'. What I do have a problem with, are people who disparage religion and 'believers' in the manner that the author of the post in question did.

If we are going to continue this conversation, I will have to insist that you review my posts, and confirm what I have just said. Otherwise I will be forced to conclude that you are not playing by the rules of 'objective' inquiry, and are resorting to rhetoric, and therefore are NOT worth discussing any matter with further, as since you aren't at least willing to play by the rules on this point, then surely you won't be on all other matters.

To reiterate a point I must have made at least two or three times.

1 of 2 - I have no problem with atheists, non-theists, or anyone else. So long as they are honest in their methods, I can respect them and would encourage them, in the name of truth, to produce whatever findings may refute or weaken the claims put forth by 'believers' like myself.

2 of 2. As for self-proclaimed non theists who think they can diss believers by calling them unscientific, superstitious and so on TO THE EXTENT that they blow off all information that doesn't suit your views, i would submit that this does demonstrate bigotry.

so there you go, mike. and i will be looking for your confirmation of what i have written - because i do want to know if you are as intellectually honest as you would like your readers to believe. otherwise, expect no further commentary.

.... that being said, you are correct when i present the 'milk miracle' as one of my own 'key' pieces of evidence regarding the notion that there is some kind of creative agent working behind the scenes in our lives.

there are others, and i had only mentioned the fatima incident to this point. however, the reason why i only 'threw' those two out is because they do, in fact, represent two things that must be brought to light regarding the core matter being discussed here.

1. the events may, or may not, represent a repudiation to the atheistic assumption that there is no creative force [and that everything around us is, basically, just one big accident, a random occurrence].
2. all proofs or rebuttals aside, what these two incidents display in very bald terms, is the ambivalence of scientists, when it comes to seriously explaining or attempting to explain evidence of a highly compelling nature that threatens to usurp or in some fundamental way to challenge the naturalists world view.

on that note, mike, i would say, "well done".

After displaying all of the trademark attitudes alluded to in point two, which included blatant ridicule in your case, you finally found the kahunas to take a closer look at what must be one of the most extraordinary 'non ordinary' events to occur in our time. of course, this was because i pushed your buttons, and called you and everyone else out who displayed 'point 2' attitudes.

by capturing the 'spilled' milk that you have here, and posting it, you have made a valid contribution to this debate.

however, i think you jump to conclusions waay too fast when you go from seeing the videos to concluding, without further contemplation, the following:

"I am angry that an individual is LESS trusted if they lack a belief in the supernatural. I know that your pants are in a bunch right now. I know that it is a select, indoctrinated, desperate minority of the faithful that are so impaired."

so, rather than go any further into investigation, you describe your opponent as "indocrinated, desperate and impaired"

I should say at this point that I don't go around playing the 'milk miracle' card. Therefore, you ought not to count me as a person who considers himself an authority on the eventS - there were two.

Mike, here are a few cursory observations about the shortcomings regarding your own interpretation of events so far.

One. You leave out the fact that some of the most esteemed skeptics have acknowledged that the 'milk miracle' occurred.
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Two. In seeking to explain away the evidence, these same skeptics have said that statues drink milk. Specifically they were referring to the propensity of certain materials to absorb back some liquids, as in a water drop in a tea kettle.

Two B - *THE* POINT IS THIS: these skeptics are disputing your position, which can be easily summarized as follows.

a. I saw a video or two of statue that clearly showed milk rolling down a chin.
b. Therefore, all other instances of this phenomenon must be exactly the same as my random sample. [see where we're going with this, mike? i met two guys from tokyo named tomu, therefore all guys named tomu are from tokyo. doesn't quite work, does it?]
c. All people [including paradoxically the skeptics on my, mike's, side] who believe they saw the statue 'drink' milk, were therefore literally blinded at that very moment, [presumably because they are 'desperate, impaired' individuals.]
d. Point c will have to account for literally millions of people who take the position that they personally saw the statues 'drink' milk.
e. the only other argument brought forth by the skeptics who have considered this phenomenon is that there was some sort of mass hallucination.
according to that position, which appears to be yours, mike, then the deluded would have to include your own skeptics, as well as the mass media who, contrary to your statement at the start of this post, looked very closely at the phenomenon.

Three. You would have to be a very blind, deluded individual to conclude that the photos you present do NOT show dripping milk. The fact that I acknowledge this, ought to demonstrate a satisfactory degree of discernment not only on my part, but much more importantly, it ought to infer a general willingness on the part of those who claim to have directly observed the phenomenon that there was something 'other than' dripping milk occurring in what must be at least a large portion of these cases.
to put it another way, mike, i really don't think that millions of people are all going to say, including skeptics, that statues drank milk on two occasions if, right before their very eyes, all they say was milk pouring from a spoon down the side of a statue.
as a courtesy i will grant that this is possible, but the very suggestion seems so remote that it almost sounds absurd.

i will wholeheartedly admit that the video clippings you have shown make a solid piece of evidence for the skeptics, but it shouldn't be presented without mentioning these further limitations.

a. it's really inconclusive from the video that ALL of the milk was spilled.
b. the reason why 'a' ought to be mentioned is because we still have to reconcile the point that nobody is debating that the statues drank [at least some] milk.
c. it is entirely plausible, therefore, that the clip you are presenting may actually demonstrate both drinking and spilling. this is the only way i can make any sense of why a 'believer' would want to post it as evidence.

Four. Since what you are really playing up is the mass hallucination article, I would welcome you to give me one other remotely comparable incident where 'mass hallucination' occurred, under such presumably controlled condition.

"I actually feel a little silly that I put this much time into this purported miracle, but the effort got me thinking. I have an ever-increasing awe of the human brain and its manifestation of ‘mind’. We are just at the tip of the iceberg in our understanding of how the whole mess works. It is fascinating to see how we learn; how we think; how we interpret . . . and how we bias"

Perhaps the great hallucination of Boston in 1986 would conform nicely to your needs here, Mike. It was Game 6 of the World Series and the Boston Fans had gone decades and decades without winning a World Series. Everybody knows that Beantown is all about baseball, so when the Bosox were up in Game 6, going into the 9th, circumstances could have hardly been more ripe than they were for a massive hallucination like the one you assert must have happened to many, many more millions in relation to the milk miracle.
Who'll ever forget the Bill Buckner fiasco, and how things really ended.
Well, according to the tenets of that well reasoned school of skepticism, mass hallucination, the correct answer is, the Boston fans.
You see Mike, they wanted to win the World Series so badly, that they literally reinvented a different outcome. Forty thousand fans witnessed Bill Buckner catch that ball and step on the bag. Apparently 37 percent of viewers in Massachusetts 'saw' the same thing. When the parade was held a few days later - even though none of the players were there - the Boston fans came out in droves, people hung from skyscrapers throwing ticker tape. Boy, were these 'desperate' people ever angry when they later found out that the Mets had won. But score a point for the theory regarding 'mass hallucination'.
An absurd analogy, I'll admit Mike. But really it is appropriate when you consider the premise that you are trying to sell your audience. Masses of people are no less likely to conclude that Bill Buckner closed the deal than they are to believe that statues drink milk - unless they see it with their eyes.
Generally, when it comes to 'miracles' or supernatural occurrences, the one objection with which 'non believers' like yourself have to contend is what i call the 'agency' argument. A miracle is attributed to a particular theistic deity, and generally that event is far in the past. Because they object to the 'agent' who is getting the credit for the event, they drop the matter altogether - generally so that they can conclude that 'supernatural' events are nothing more than inventions of desperate minds.

Six - So, the mass hallucination premise is really just conjecture, used to explain away certain past events for convenience's sake.
Unless it is shown to occur in the present, it is a useless, childish argument that has no bearing on this discussion.
So, Mike, why don't you give me a clear example of a mass hallucination, so at least we can see some substance, demonstrable in todays terms, to support this 'desperate' idea.



In conclusion, I would have to say that your post is most welcome. And I say welcome because I am after the truth, not trying to defend a position here. It may turn out that you are correct, but for now your sample is just waay to small, and your generalizations grossly oversized - which says nothing of your condescending attitude towards your 'opponents'.

the problem for you and yours is this: if you can't reasonable present a case of mass hallucination, then you lose a giant pillar when it comes to explaining some of the 'miracle' stories that have become pillars of spiritual or religious thought for various 'believing' communities worldwide.
if you can't present any evidence of a mass hallucination, then it really has no place as a theory to explain away the milk miracle, which many people claim to have directly witnessed. [btw, i have spoken to or written to several individuals who not only claim to have witnessed the event firsthand, but who have said that they personally saw the statues drink several ounces of milk. one would think that they would have noticed if all or most of it spilled down the sides of the statues.]
what 'you' are left with, unless you can back up the mass hallucination argument, is the 'statues drink milk' explanations offered by those in your very own camp of skeptics. they don't dispute what people saw, unlike you. but statues don't drink milk, do they. at least not to the extent where they absorb several ounces of the stuff. so, in order for this to be deemed viable, the onus is on the scientific community, and not the believers, to show how this is so.

finally, if you cannot demonstrate viably how mass hallucinations occur, and, how statues drink milk, then you leave the door wide open for those who believe that a miracle did occur, or some supernatural event organized by a being that may be shiva, or presenting 'itself' as such.
the funny thing about that is how it brings the past into the present, for it tends to validate similar claims made in our ancient holy books, where thousands were supposedly witness to events of a highly anomalous or supernatural or divine nature.

mark said...

here are a few quotes i dug up on the net from apparent eye witnesses. all of them seem to dispute the cornerstone of your rebuttal here, mike... that is, that they were so desperate that they didn't even notice, or think to look for, signs of spilled milk.

Even the cynical professed amazement. "It's unbelievable. My friends told me about it and I just thought it was rubbish," said a Delhi business woman, Mabati Kasori. "But then I did it myself. I swear that the spoon was drained." Parmeesh Soti, a company executive, was convinced it was a miracle. "It cannot be a hoax. Where would all that milk go to? It just disappeared in front of my eyes."

Suzanne Goldenberg, a Delhi-based journalist, reported that: "Inside the darkened shrine, people held stainless steel cups and clay pots to the central figure of the five-headed Shiva, the destroyer of evil, and his snake companion, and watched the milk levels ebb. Although some devotees force-fed the idol enthusiastically, the floor was fairly dry."

Girish Desai, a bank worker from Edgware said: "I had heard reports but didn't believe it. But I experienced it myself. I held a spoonful of milk to the lips of one of the idols . . .and the statue started sipping it. The milk disappeared as I watched it."

Rikee Verma, a journalist from The Times of London wrote: "Being a religious person, I first went to the upstairs bedroom . . . and placed a spoonful of milk against a photograph of Ganesh and was astonished to find within seconds that the spoon was half empty. I checked to make sure that the glass frame of the photograph was not wet. It was dry. I could not believe what I was seeing."

Mr Ravindra Mahadeo Rahate, an employee of the Bank of India. "Suddenly I realised that the milk I had offered was disappearing slowly." Surprised by this development, Mr Rahate offered the deity some more milk. "That too disappeared," he claimed.

Rukmini Patil, an elderly woman from Girgaum, who offered milk to the Ganesh idol in her home, said, "When I placed a spoonful of milk below the trunk of our glass idol, which we have had for years, the milk just vanished."

"Chief minister Manohar Joshi and his deputy Gopinath Munde responded differently to the "miracle" at their house, Mr Munde dismissed reports of the phenomenon received from different parts of the state.
Mr Joshi said when he received reports of the "miracle", he and his wife offered milk to the Ganesh idol in their house and found the offering being accepted by deity. The chief minister said he did not believe in superstitions, but added that he had personally experienced the miracle. "

A Delhi University science professor, A.M. Gangadharan Nair, said he offered milk to a Ganesh idol in central Delhi very carefully. He claimed that the offering disappeared. "I checked whether the idol was new or whether there was any vacuum device attached to it, but there was none. How can we rationally explain this phenomenon?" he asked.

mark said...

here's a link that seems to elaborate on your observations, mike

http://www.indolink.com/NRINews/miraclUS.html

Worshippers and believers have an unshaken belief and claim this occurrence as a "miracle." Realists however point out that the milk is merely oozing down from the belly to the knees, leading to a drain. Milk is white they say, marble idols are white, the base is white and therefore camouflaged. Rationalists theorize it was a process of capillary action or absorption. According to Lawford Anderson, a Professor of Geology at the University of Southern California, milk could be soaked onto a stone if it is porous.

"Sri Ganapati's idol," repudiated Lakhanpal, "is polished marble (sungmurmur) therefore this matter is solid and non-porous and it does not have the property to absorb liquid and there is no capillary action taking place. This is not an isolated incident, it is miraculous and is happening purely by the divine grace of God."

"A small number of units of a whole teaspoonful of milk do spill forming a very thin streak eventually draining itself out, but", adds Lakhanpal, "people are so excited, sometimes they overfill the spoon, causing little spilling of milk because they are a bit overwrought at the prospect of feeding one of the most powerful Hindu gods."

mark said...

finally, from a fellow engineer...

I am an engineer of long standing. The theory that capillary action caused the suction of hundreds of pints of milk by Deities of stone and metal as small as twelve by six inches is not possible. Most of the Deities are carved out of solid stone or cast of metal. Lord Ganesha's trunk takes a bend and makes a twist at the tip. Its tip only has a small hole, the rest is solid mass. This tip is not capable of holding even one spoonful of milk. In some of the murtis, the trunk falls straight and the tip does not have a hole. It sucked hundred of pints of milk in a few hours. No milk was seen flowing out of the body, and no mist was formed around the murtis. What shall we call it, other than Godly miracle?

Col. Bhardwaj (at left, with his wife, Hinduism Today correspondent Prabha) is a retired army officer with a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering as well as postgraduate diplomas in automotive engineering, armament and industrial management.

FVThinker said...

Mark,
You give me much to respond to and I wish to do so in an unhurried and concientious manner. Please check back to this thread.

FVThinker said...

I am hesitant to spend a great deal of time refuting your current comments because I have already dismissed you as someone in that highly impaired group that I defined earlier. I do not take that statement lightly. I have never before been moved to make such a personal statement toward another individual (at least in this sort of context). Though I am sure your interpretation will be dismissive or angry; understand that my motivation, ultimately, is to help.

This entire dialogue began with a message thread at the Oregon Daily Emerald. Readers of this blog can view that message thread at http://tinyurl.com/2s2cnn to read both of our comments. They can make their own judgment on your use of the term ‘bigot’. In my opinion, the author of the original article ridiculed any group of people that accepts information on too little evidence. Sorry, but I am right there with him. We should not accept anything on insufficient evidence; particularly if those things affect public policy and society.

Interestingly, I don’t think you disagree with that premise either, but your ‘evidence’ is horribly feeble. What is striking about your arguments is that you appear to be completely oblivious as to how they fail . . . sometimes spectacularly so. I will not spend the time to respond to every one of your challenges, if for no other reason, I am confident that they would be lost on you. That being said; if any other reader of this message thread would like for me to categorically address each of your challenges, I shall do so in a more comprehensive way. What I will do here is briefly touch on some of the items that were brought up.

1) Fatima - The girl: The Catholic church has basically dismissed the young girl at the center of this as being ‘predisposed’ to visions/hallucinations. (this from Vatican statements).
2) Fatima – The Dancing Sun: The Dancing Sun thing is easily explainable. If you stare at the Sun (not something I recommend) or a bright light bulb you burn and image into your retina (permanently if you stare to long) through an effect called persistence. Those light receptors in the eye deaden on prolonged exposure so, in this case, the sun would be perceived as darkening to a gray disk. Involuntary movements of the eye would then make that disk ‘dance’ in the sky. Besides, this ‘dancing sun’ was documented nowhere else. Unless they have a different Sun over Fatima that you and I see, the Sun did not dance in the sky.
3) Milk Miracle – You cite and an engineer that said that it could not be capillary action absorbing the milk. Prior to viewing the videos, I too had capillary action on my list of possible explanations (among other things). After viewing the videos, I agree that capillary action probably played an insignificant role in this event. In my own experiment, I easily demonstrated for myself that it was surface tension of that siphoned the milk from the spoons down the side of the object. On a shiny white object, the effect is virtually invisible even to the eye witness. Add to that the religious fervor of the moment and the mind can overlook a great deal (like milk collecting at the bottom).

Let us move on to your untenable positions and claims. You cite two ‘denominational’ miracles. a) The specifically monotheistic, Christian, catholic Fatima incident and b) the specifically polytheistic, hindu Milk Miracle. If taken as real, divine miracles they would be mutually exclusive. In the Fatima incident, the Virgin Mary tells the girls to have the boy say his rosary so that he can see her. Milk was ‘consumed’ exclusively by Hindu icons (did anybody feed milk to any Virgin Mary or Jesus statues?) I am surprised that you cannot see that, from a divine perspective, they would have to be mutually exclusive. If you believe Fatima, then the milk thing would have to be some other phenomena. Of course the converse would also be true. I do not deny that either event occurred. I do not deny that many people believed they were witness to miracles. One has to understand, though, that there are natural explanations to these things. Some is basic physiology (images burning into retinas). Some is more complex psychology (group-think, mass hysteria) which has been well documented. There is no denying that religious fervor is well suited to affect the human mind (maybe uniquely so). Stare into the Sun for a while and you are not going to see ANYTHING very clearly.

Let us go on to your reframing of the Milk Miracle. After reading my essay on the spilled milk, you seem to have reframed your position. Instead of claiming the unambiguous miracle that you originally did, you (effectively) reframed it to say “but you cannot prove that ALL the milk spilled”. That is intellectually indefensible. I even have a hard time DESCRIBING how untenable that change of position is! Of course I cannot prove that all the milk was spilled just as you cannot prove that some of it was slurped up by the elephant god.

I could go on, but I will finish with a note of hope for you. While I know that you are well intentioned and seem to derive a great deal of comfort from your beliefs, you seem to have very much compartmentalized faith and reason more than most I have run into. My sense is that you are desperate to reconcile the supernatural with our world. If you can recognize just how far you have had to compromise your arguments to allow things to work in your head, you might very well be able to have an epiphany of clear thought. I speak from experience.

You may have a great personal investment in your worldview and you may be surrounded by others of like outlook. It may seem frightening to let go of that, but it is not. I would like for there to be a pair of spectacles that would allow the wearer to see the world outside the influence of supernatural thinking. The fears promoted by the [successful] churches such as despair, hopelessness, amorality simply don’t manifest themselves. These are self-serving stories promoted for the benefit of the religious organization. Similarly, the world is no less wondrous. In fact, most former theists that I know find the world MORE wondrous.

Best wishes to you

Anonymous said...

I have to second the inexplicable fact that although this miracle was observed by millions not one seems to have managed to capture credible and reliable evidence that it took place other than a handful of low quality videos that are inconclusive.

It seems that not only was milk imbibed but also local liquors and water and most any liquid.

A more ocnlcusive test would have been to use coloured milk that would be obvious if it was just dribbling or just wigh the statue before nad after and make sure not to spill the liquid

There is precedent for the mass hysteria
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5266092.stm
Plenty of infections thanks to people swimming in one of the most polluted rivers in India after it took on some miraculous properties

para ji said...

isn't it amazing how emotional people get when talking about 'science'?
I would suggest the following for anyone wishing to debate scientifically:
1. never use the words "I" or "you"
2. address weaknesses in arguments, never ever assign attributes to people
3. don't talk about science, either someone knows what it is, and their arguments will show it, or they don't and addressing their arguments will just waste everyone's time

That said... there is 1. plenty of hard evidence for the 'miracle' (videos, millions of eyewitness accounts), 2. weak counterfactual arguments (capillary action doesn't explain why metal statues absorbed the milk, nor why the stone statues only displayed this on one day)
A scientist, unbiased, would be forced to re-examine the standard worldview.
Western scientists love to call animism 'primitive', despite the fact that the majority of the world's population sees through this view...

FVThinker said...

Let's not forget that this was initially a recounting of a debate between individuals. 'I's and 'you's may not have been inappropriate...but point taken.

I fed milk to a cup in my kitchen at least as effectively as any 'evidence' put forth by Milk Miracle-ists. I agree that capillary action would be an insignificant factor here. Even if it were, each statue would reach a saturation point that would negate the capillary effect.

Surface tension and adhesion, however, readily facilitates a siphoning effect...especially on an object wet from previous 'feedings'. Even on a non-white statue(and many are white plaster); a very thin film of milk is so translucent as to be near transparent.

There is plenty of 'hard evidence' that an 'event' occurred and millions of Hindus drained milk supplies to purportedly feed their various deities. There is zero evidence that these deities actually consumed the milk.

Science is biased toward truth and facts. There is no bias against such things. Indeed, a scientist that properly documented such an event and found it to be true in controlled conditions would be showered with praise and awards.

para ji said...

the idea that the milk was syphoned out from forces of adhesion and then spilled down the front of the statues in such a thin film that no one noticed doesn't stand to reason:
1. millions of people witnessed this, millions. the "hysteria" caused many skeptics to come witness it as well, and it stands to reason that these skeptics would have been looking for a pool of milk forming at the feet of these statues. No one reported seeing this. Several thousand eyewitness reports also included observing milk simply vanishing from the spoon without making physical contact with the idol and many of the idols were not standing on any kind of drain where milk could run off
2. if this simple explanation is really sufficient, then why hasn't the miracle repeated every day since? it was only that one day, and then again ten years later.

There is no physical explanation that can account for the variability of all the idol's material composition (stone, brass, etc.) and rarity of the occasion (once in ten years).

Here's a relevant quote: "Skepticism is a strategy employed by those seeking to escape all forms of mental control... but is a barrier particularly to those aspects of reality whose access requires submission of the ego."

You can hold tight to your skepticism, but you're going to miss out on a lot. It's not my gain if I convince you, just your loss. peace

FVThinker said...

But it CAN happen every day and it has happened every time I try it. All behold the miracle of the coffee mug!!!

And there WERE witnesses that said milk was being carried out by the bucketful.

Finally, I would consider it a far greater loss to walk away from the ability to think critically.

para ji said...

then try to think critically about the number 1,000,000

your overly simple explanation is plainly too obvious and it's impossible that you're thinking critically if you really believe that explanation is sufficient to explain millions of witness reports

unless you believe that somehow the millions of people who witnessed this all have the IQ of a shoe and you're their illumined rescuer

no, it's not required that you walk away from your intelligence, just from your attachment to your worldview which can't accept the possibility of something like this. To someone who understands that all reality is consciousness only -- mind and matter alike -- this phenomenon is no miracle and violates no natural laws, it's just a wonderful thing.

But this attachment to insisting that the only intelligence in the universe is our own is a disease that has long plagued the western scientific community. That objects don't exist unless observed was actually experimentally verified over 30 years ago (Belle's Inequality), but any physicist who dares to make the logical connection that therefore mind and matter must be connected is exiled from the mainstream community.

Well, there is an uprising of enlightened thought, check out "The Intention Experiment". It won't answer for you how this "miracle" happened, but it documents 30 years of alternative scientific experiments documenting the mind/matter connection.

I hope you do, you'll find an amazing new world of possibilities.

peace

FVThinker said...

Mass hysteria is 'quite' common. By 'quite', I do not mean that society is awash such events, but it has been recognized and documented often enough that it is recognized by social psychologists.

I won't go into great detail here, but Google the terms "mass hysteria examples".

Few mindsets are as great a crucible for this kind of behavior than religion. Looking at the 'Milk Event', we see clearly in the photos (two frames of a popular video) I included, that milk was running down the face of the statue...which was presented as 'proof' to SUPPORT the miracle! If nothing else, this alone demonstrates that an individual that wants to believe something can look past stark and incontrovertible evidence if it conflicts with what they believe. This, of course, is the whole premise of the fable The Emperor's New Clothes

Indeed, the 1,000,000 number works in favor of CREATING such events...and IQ has little bearing in these events. The Bandwagon Effect is a powerful influence on perceptions. If the people around you seem to see something, you are inclined to see the same thing. In the case of purported religious phenomena, there is GREAT pressure to see the same thing as you peers. "What?!?! You don't see the Virgin Mary?!?! What is wrong with you? God mustn't like you? KILL THE INFIDEL!" Religions are based on geographic happenstance. If you are born in Saudi Arabia, you will most likely be Muslim. India?...Hindu. U.S.?...Christian. People adopt the views of those around them.

Skeptics such as myself do not "insist that the only intelligence in the universe is our own". Rather we find no compelling evidence for such events to be 'miraculous' and the naturalistic explanations for such events are infinitely more plausible.

FVThinker said...

LOL!! I just went back to www.milkmiracle.com and watched the video again. If you watch the "high resolution" video, you will see a at the "07:05" time marker some gold-faced statue 'drinking'. You will also see the milk drip off the statue at the bottom of the frame!!! It is almost obscured by their milkmiracle.com watermark, but you can't miss it.

Just more evidence that if you WANT to believe, you look at the spoon. But if you want to know what is really going on, you look everywhere else!!

How sad.

para ji said...

"an individual that wants to believe something can look past stark and incontrovertible evidence if it conflicts with what they believe."

indeed...

two videos vs. millions of testimonials

wow

hope you enjoy your safe little world

peace

FVThinker said...

...and you in yours. Bring some evidence and maybe I will join you over there. :-)

para ji said...

Evidence.. indeed

The thing about a worldview where observer and observed are the same is that it implies that our subjective desires fundamentally influence our objective world, including the results of our scientific inquiries. You can read "the intention experiment" for a collection of several independently verified experiments that confirm that our minds and our *expectations* do, in fact, alter physical reality.
According to this worldview then, you will never find irrefutable evidence of the supernatural because if you did 1. it wouldn't be supernatural (the wave nature of light is a great example, what once was mystical turned into accepted), but more importantly 2. the desire to remain skeptical ensures that such evidence will never become available.
This is the dilemma:
either observer and observed are separate, and the standard western worldview awaits disproof from some such miracle
or
observer/observed are the same and the skeptics create the reality they wish to observe, preventing such miracles from being documented.
There is a saint in India who performs miracles, like staying in an airtight chamber for months at a time without breathing, and when asked why he wouldn't agree to repeat the miracle in a lab, he said, "aetheists have their religion too".
There was another saint who agreed to be observed under a strictly controlled environment for six weeks straight and didn't drink any water or eat any food. He just took a small thimble full of water, rinsed his mouth, and then spit it back out and it was measured before and after. His weight diminished by only a couple of ounces. Unfortunately, I can't find the link, but surely you've heard of Theresa Neumann? The examples are very plentiful, and, if not convincing, should be at least compelling enough to question whether this worldview is in fact reality. And if you're so compelled to genuinely and openly question this, then the real experiment that you need to perform in order to confirm/refute it is this:
ask God to reveal himself to you
If nothing happens, no problem, you can go back to laughing at primitive majority of the world. But the experiment has to be sincere, afterall if God exists, he knows everything and knows what your heart is saying and knows the best way and best time to reveal himself. So if you're not sincere, the experiment is void, but be warned: there's a lot of power in this experiment if done with sincerity and true openness.

FVThinker said...

Understand that I used to not care what anyone believed...until 9/11...and George W. Bush. I grew up a believing Christian. I came to realize how certainty in the unknowable and unsupported supernatural belief systems can and will always be perverted.

I do not care what anyone believes and as long as it does not victimize others through subjugation, demonization, public policy or violence.

I am profoundly underwhelmed by reports of medical miracles where (for instance) sight is restored or advanced diseases remit. These things can and do happen through natural process all the time. Show me a a well documented case where a missing limb that was restored...then we are talking. Show me statistical evidence that prayer can actually affect the outcome of events.

I do not deny that holding beliefs such as yours can be comforting and helpful to you. I would not wish to deny any one those pleasures. But to embrace it has to potential to hide a person from genuine, verifiable knowledge.

I hold this truth to be self evident: Decisions are ALWAYS best made with with evidence as opposed to mythology.

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." -- Mark Twain

para ji said...

There are literally hundreds of studies now that have verified an overwhelming statistical correlation between prayer and health. These have had such a profound impact on the medical profession recently that doctors are finally starting to tell their patients to do things like pray and visualize the healing. I'm not kidding, look it up.

I'm not after getting you to subscribe to any religion. That's not my point. My point is that the 6th sense is a very real sense, that of the mind/our internal world. It's how the ancient Mayans acquired knowledge of the stars' position to a degree of accuracy we've only recently conquered with the Hubble Telescope-- only the Mayans didn't even have the wheel! In meditation, anyone can perceive this for themselves-- unless the ego keeps the mind too noisy to enter meditation. That's the problem with Western scientists, they're always so full of themselves and think they've got it all figured out that they miss the most profound source of data of all-- our minds. They say 'prove it', and we say, 'you have to go there to experience it', they say, 'we can't go there because we don't believe it's possible', and then we give up because you'll never discover the only source of true objective and complete knowledge unless you are able to quiet the mind but this requires incredible focus and is impossible if skepticism creates agitation in the mind, e.g. the thought "this is a waste of my time" etc.
The science of the internal world is an inexpressibly more vast world than the limited world of what the 5 senses can perceive. If you got an island and have a fruit, and come back and tell me about it, I say, "you're lying, show me proof, that fruit is just mythology". You say, "no it's not, go to the island yourself and see, it's not myth but fact as real as your hand." So what do you do when I reply, "no, prove it first, then I'll go"?
This is how skepticism is like a gold prison. You can yell the battle cries of intellectualism, defend any position through rationalism while bragging about the pristine beauty of your cage, but it's still a cage and while those who are tuned in are probing the deeper questions of reality, you're stuck in a static worldview that's, frankly, boring and uninspiring-- intentionally so to boot. Truth, real truth, is exciting and awe-inspiring. Real truth gives limitless bliss. Only the deepest truth of the all-pervasive sentience of the universe can explain everything.
Therese Neumann, look her up! There are hundreds of these examples, surely a great deal are charlattans, but what if there are some real ones? Don't you want to taste freedom from this limited physical world? Isn't that your birthright and final destiny?

FVThinker said...

I know full well that prayer has been correlated with health benefits....be they Hindu, Muslim, Christian or non-theistic equivalents of Buddhist or plain old meditation. It is immaterial what the effect is; I concern myself with the cause...and there is no reason to believe that there is any supernatural involvement. Reduced stress improves health / meditation reduces stress. Furthermore; it has be quite rigorously shown that intercessory prayer has no effect on the outcome of events (as claimed by theistic religions). [Google "Study of the Theraputic Effects of Intercessory Prayer"] In areas of cause/effect, I concern myself with cause, where most (yourself included) concern themselves with effect.

Further; I don't deny 'transcendent' experience...I have had them myself. You seem to recognize that the mind (which is wholly manifested in the brain) is an incredible and awesome thing...and I agree. I have studied brain science and recognize that (and have evidence for) all our experience is merely a product of the electro-chemical soup in our heads. You might take a look at my book review here at http://fvthinker.blogspot.com/2008/03/book-review-on-being-certain-believing.html on pretty conclusive evidence that things that we 'Know' do not have to correlate to what actually 'Is'.

My motives here are merely to demonstrate that, just because you sense something, doesn't mean it corresponds with reality. While some assume their experiences are real and stop; I look for the cause. Some see a correlation between prayer and health and assume that their is a benevolent actor involved when, in reality, praying to a jug of milk has identical results.

Some want to believe what is affirming or pleasant. I want to believe that which is demonstrably true.

para ji said...

I have no idea what research you're looking at, because EVERY study I have seen that was well-controlled in a scientific manner showed a POSITIVE correlation for health and intecessory/distance prayer. This is the first link that came up when I did what you suggested and googled it: http://www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,193084,00.html
You're also very wrong, by the way, that the mind is entirely located in the brain. The brain is nerve matter, and recent studies have finally discovered that long-term memory is stored wherever in the nervous system it is experienced. This means if you experience nervousness in your stomach during a test, for example, that the memory of that test and the feeling of nervousness has to be recalled from the stomach. The 'mind' is truly everywhere in the body.
But you've also managed somehow to entirely miss my point. I have a degree in neuroscience, and I know the whole fatalistic view of all consciousness being nothing more than the result of our 'chemical soup', and it's incredibly short-sighted and narrow. Here's the simplest disproof of that: why would a chemical soup have any evolutionary need for self-awareness? If what you say is true, why are we having this very argument when there's no evolutionary need for it? The fact that you're able to question that view is proof that it's incomplete. But it doesn't just stop there. Not only is neuroscience incomplete in this way, but so is physics (Heisenburg uncertainty) and here's the clincher: EVEN MATH is doomed to incompletion (Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem). I have degrees in both of these subjects as well if you need any of this explained, but no matter where the world's best theorists have turned, they all discover that they are DOOMED TO INCOMPLETENESS of their theories. Why? Because there is more to this consciousness than the intellect. The transcendental experiences you claim to have had are not mere chemical byproducts of our brains. ALL matter is imbued with consciousness, and it is our birthright to discover that.
Unless you have questions, this is all I'm going to share because I have thoroughly addressed this now from all sides, and if you still refuse to perform the subjective experimentation required for us to be discussing the issue from the same knowledge base, then I have no interest in hearing more theoretic rhetoric. I've heard all the stories and yarns people spin in order to justify their fear of moving beyond their skepticism/golden cage of the intellect. When you discover the vastness of the mind, when you GO there and get a taste of true reality and not just an intellectual story of what reality is, then we have something to discuss. Until then, you're still telling me that the fruit I've tasted with my own mouth is myth and that you're not willing to go where the fruit is because it doesn't exist. I'm not talking about violation of natural laws, I'm talking about a true understanding of this reality we experience that easily accounts for what we presently call 'supernatural' and more.

FVThinker said...

This is the first link that came up when I did what you suggested and googled it:http://www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,193084,00.html
Did you read that article that you site? Targ has dubious credibility and, even if it were properly conducted, a control population of as small as she used was far too small to get useful results. Subsequent studies with much larger populations and multiple control groups have pretty conclusively dismissed such effects. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567. The fact is the larger and more rigorous the studies got, the clearer and clearer it became that intercessory prayer doesn’t to squat. …and personal prayer does no better than a placebo.

You're also very wrong, by the way, that the mind is entirely located in the brain.

I am not familiar with the ‘distributed mind’ that you posit…but I will do a little research at my convenience as it could be interesting. For this conversation, though, it matters not at all and does not diminish my point in the slightest. There is no evidence that our minds and our sensations and our perceptions are anything more than a function of the electrochemical soup in our body
.

I have a degree in neuroscience, and I know the whole fatalistic view of all consciousness being nothing more than the result of our 'chemical soup', and it's incredibly short-sighted and narrow. Here's the simplest disproof of that: why would a chemical soup have any evolutionary need for self-awareness?
For starters, I find nothing ‘fatalistic’ in my understanding of things. Also; one must be careful to properly characterize evolution and choose language carefully. In natural selection, there is no ‘need’ for any particular trait. There is not some sort of ‘recognition’ of a survival loophole that is actively mutated into our DNA. It is better to characterize the characteristics of any species as either advantageous’ or ‘not detrimental’ to survival. Furthermore, I don’t contend that self-awareness DOES impart a survival advantage. Self-awareness might simply be an ancillary characteristic that came along with some other advantageous evolutionary trait. Maybe our dramatically larger brains had the capacity to contemplate our relation to the space around us and to contemplate the bison that might be behind the hill and visualize how to approach the hoped-for dinner without physically seeing it. It would seem a trivial variation to turn around with that ‘mind’s eye’ and see yourself in that space. Does that offer a survival advantage? I don’t know. I know that it makes public speaking difficult for some. Humans have the characteristics of a urethra that runs through the prostate and a blind-spot in our field of vision. The prostate thing doesn’t rear its head until we are past our reproducing years. The blind spot, while a flaw, still makes our eye a tremendous asset. (Other species have evolved much better eyes than us). So just because a characteristic exists, does not make it advantageous.

As far as neurology being incomplete….I absolutely agree! It is absolutely awesome the field of discovery that is opening up before us. As we develop the technologies (i.e. functional MRIs) to peer deeper and more precisely into the brain we are poised to make discoveries about the human animal that could be more profound than…well…possibly anything in history.

Because there is more to this consciousness than the intellect. The transcendental experiences you claim to have had are not mere chemical byproducts of our brains. ALL matter is imbued with consciousness,

Just show me proof!! I would be happy to follow the evidence if it led there. If science could rigorously confirm the things you contend; they would be showered with praise and awards. Science is not protecting turf. Science has looked and has yet to come up with anything.

Keep in mind, though, that my only position and purpose for participating in these discussions is to counter theistic belief systems that foment intolerance. I do want to know what actually is. It is no longer enough to council the extremists to move toward moderation. That is like balancing bowling balls. I have a very high standard for evidence and both religion and ESP crumble under strict scrutiny. If my presenting evidence that discredits evidence-devoid belief systems also discredits psychics and spiritualists…oh well!! It’s not any real loss.

Peace to you.

para ji said...

The prayer studies exhibit the exact same qualities as every ESP study-- strong correlation in the beginning, then it decreases the more it's studied. Why do you think that is? It's not because the original experiments were done loosely, this happens with EVERY SINGLE ESP experiment! It's because when skeptics come in, the scientists who decide to test it are projecting their wills onto the experiment and invalidating the results!!
My point all along here is that the philosophical underpinnings for the methods of western science always *assume that observer and observed are different.* There is NO justification for this assumption as it is an assumption that must be made before one looks at the world. Hence, the burden of proof lies on western science, not the other way around. I already pointed out that if you don't assume this, then you get a worldview where subjective intention physically alters observed reality (and again, please do check out "the intention experiment", hundreds of documented studies, including one done at MIT where it was shown that a computer generating random numbers was more likely to output a certain number if someone stood near the computer and thought of the number). This assumption about whether observer/observed are different is an apriori assumption, so it's not rigorous to assume it first and then to say "see, everything makes sense when we assume it except for ESP, etc. which can't be proven". By assuming observer/observed are different, you are eliminating the possibility of observations counter to this. Your skepticism is validating itself!
But if you ask what happens if observer/observed are the same, you get a different worldview-- one that still explains the material universe, but one that allows for understanding "paranormal" phenomena and why these are never going to be discovered by western science.
(This is reflected in the history of science as well-- Aristotle was concerned with the material essences of things, but Plato, his teacher, was concerned with the ideal substances from which all material things were created. Socrates, the grandfather of all, was the wisest as he never laid claim to any knowledge. :) )
Again, the burden of proof lies on western science-- either prove that the universe is insentient, or disprove it by assuming that it is sentient and arriving at a contradiction. Western Science has just assumed always that it's insentient, and without basis. Again, this question absolutely must be answered before experimentation with the world, because it's an apriori assumption that determines everything about the way we experiment and theorize about our world.
Intelligence is an intrinsic attribute of the universe, it's not a quality unique to humans as much as western scientists love to think.
Is any of this registering? Do you see that I'm trying to get at the original cause of the split?

FVThinker said...

I get where you are trying to go, but it seems that you are painting things such you don't have to defend them and demand that the other party must disprove a negative...which is impossible...and therefore an invalid argument.

What I know of 'psychics' are hucksters that take advantage of other's credulity, so I hold them in low esteem. I concern myself with those truth claims that can be demonstrated rigorously and repeatedly. Believe what you want, but, to carry weight with me, you need to bring something more than 'belief'.

Link me to a few of the studies (like the computer) for me to review.

para ji said...

no you don't get it. it is rigorous and philosophically sound, you're missing it because, like most caught in the western paradigm, you're not seeing the fundamental assumptions you make. if you understood that, you would realize that you do carry the burden of proof.
If one experimental variable is the experimenters' expectations, then of course the results are not going to be reproducible so long as that variable is not considered.
not sure where the psychic reference is coming from?
Google: the intention experiment

FVThinker said...

Proper study design requires that expectations and biases are eliminated. 'Double-blind' experiments are the best example of this. For drug tests, neither the dispenser nor the recipient know (they are 'blind') whether they are getting a drug or a placebo. If expectations are not isolated out, then the experiment is worth nothing.

Btw: I have a miniature unicorn in my desk that is only visible to me. Prove that I don't.

I will look up The Intention Experiment.

para ji said...

But if you look up the history of ESP research, you will find a consistent phenomenon that every single case of statistical ESP that shows up DECREASES the more it is tested. In a world where observer/observed are the same, a double-blind experiment is impossible, because objects react to our intentions.
It's not just esoteric experiments either that one can find evidence of this. In the hardest of all sciences, physics, there are quantum particles whose physical energy states depend on the expectations of the observer. The famous Belle's Inequality proved that local realism is not true-- that objects DEPEND on observation for existence. Ask a quantum physicist the old zen koan about a tree falling in the forest, and for the past 30 years they've been forced to answer "we don't assume the tree exists until it's observed". Despite this glaring hard physical evidence for the connection between matter and mind, western science is still in hard denial.
This is why: fear. We're comfortable with the world being static and explainable, and we're very uncomfortable with the smallest suggestion that our explanations actually affect this reality. Ancient cultures have long known this, and what we call superstition, they understand is subjective science.
If just you told me that there's a unicorn on your desk, you're right it would be silly. But if millions of people spanning throughout every section of human history have said so, I'd be a fool not to go see for myself.