The Miraculous Hoax
(?) August 2nd, 1999

FOX is known for its exceedingly unscientific "examinations" of various paranormal issues.  They were the network that perpetuated the Alien Autopsy hoax a few years ago, for instance. 

Their most recent "investigation" aired on Thursday, July 29th.  It was two hours of supposedly God-induced miracles followed by brief scientific analysis from experts in their prospective fields.  .  The presentation of the individual cases is typically FOXified...with shakey-cams, strobe lights, creepy music and hyperdramatic voice-overs.  The scientific segments were also FOX-typical; brief and inconclusive.

First of all, there are fundamental problems with the premise.  At one point, the female reporter asks the question: "Can science detect an act of God." This question is inherently flawed and skewed toward the positive answer.  They do not ask the question scientifically:  "Is this event we're observing detectable and measurable, and if it is, can it be explained with the lexicon of science?"  This would be much more conducive to the exploration at hand.

The Prophet Segment

A doctor in Mexico claims that he can detect the Delta State brain waves in prophets while they "prophesize."  They are usually only generated by the brain during deep sleep or while in a coma.

Mexico City is the location of the test of one of the prophets in question, a woman through whom Jesus supposedly talks.  The doctor who does the test sits in a room full of electronic monitoring equipment, while the woman undergoing the test sits in a room isolated from all the monitoring readouts and the scientist. 

The scientist is "Mexico's most respected neurologist," not aware of test, but didn't he get suspicious of the priest in the waiting room.  Also, isn't the title of "most respected neurologist in Mexico" a bit ambiguous?  While we don't follow the neurology field very closely, we have to wonder about the number of world-respected neurologists in Mexico.

Just because this woman generates suspiciously odd brain waves is no indication of having a communication with God.

The Neurologist conjectures that the brain waves could be the result of epilepsy or a brain tumor. 

When the Delta Waves start darting across the neurologist's screen, the prophet in the chair says "Our Lord is Present."  "Standing here," she says, gesturing to the room.

The reporters state, over and over again, that the prophet is in a sealed room...could not hear what was going on in the scientist's  room.  This is important because, as the reporter puts it, "they appear to have a conversation." 

The doctor says that the brain waves "could be epilepsy."  She supposedly gets another vision "I have nothing wrong...nothing wrong."  He says "what do you mean?"  She says "they know it..they know this."  She is supposedly talking to him on instructions from Jesus.

She says "do you think I'm epileptic?"

He says, essentially, "Yes."

She says, "I am not epileptic." 

He is incredibly amazed, and acts as though he truly believes that Jesus has just held a conversation with him.

Admittedly, it is odd that the scientist was able to seemingly hold a conversation with a woman who couldn't possibly hear him.  The question about epilepsy is a loaded question, especially if she has had medical examinations of her prophesizing in the past, or she might actually have epilepsy.  And then, if one looks at the other questions and answers, was not a conversation at all, but could easily sound like one.  Read it, you know what we mean.

He reveals his bias when he claims that when she answered him, he felt a strange sensation in his body.  He than goes
to have his picture taken with her.

The next scientific investigation of this woman is...a Catholic priest! Where's the unbiased scientist?

Where's the science?  There is decidedly little.  The one scientific test was done in a heavly catholic country.  Very simply, they have no desire to use science at all.  They have no scientific interests, they simply wish to perpetuate pseudoscientific thinking.  It is simply yet another example of pseudoscience taking the place of real science and passing the flimsy tests that knee-jerk supernaturalists put in front of it.

It then becomes apparent that the doctor who does the investigation above (the neurological one) just happens to be a Catholic "investigator" who claims that most of the cases he sees are real.  He also has some snazzy sideburns.  He claims that some of the supernaturall-endowed were authentic for a while, but as soon as they wanted money and copyrights, it ended.  What he means to say is that they could perpetrate their hoax until they actually became successful and came under scrutiny from people who didn't believe that what they were doing was possible. 

The Bleeding Head

The program then goes to the testing of a statue of Jesus' head that bleeds, owned by a very pious woman who bought it at a flea market or something.  They uses a CAT scan on it, which reveals no signs of tampering.  Since the investigators are obviously untrustworthy, (this is FOX, remember) science demands the actual results.  They may not prove that it was tampered with, but it could very well allude to it or indicate it. 

The reporters actually witnessed the statue bleeding, and took some back to the states for investigation.  They found it was human blood -- originated from a female! 

The most obvious scientific explanation is that the woman was somehow rigging the thing with her own blood, which is not impossible.  The one result that is obviously evidence of a hoax is quickly buried by some ridiculous explanation about the "blood of the mother." 

The Book-Pressed Petals

Somehow, a rose petal in a book turns into the image of the Virgin Mary, or the image of Jesus.  The images that are produced by this method look as though they had been pressed into the rose petal hold the petal up to the light, and the thin outline of the picture brightens in contrast to the pink around it. 

The woman who "finds" these pressed rose petals also has a picture of Mary that weeps oil...this is such a commonly-hoaxed item that scientific inquiry is pointless.  Which is good, because FOX makes no attempt at doing so.

The reporter on-scene, live with the woman tries it herself.  She says that they'll "keep an eye on the rose petals, to see if they change." They never go back to it.

The first scientist they go to is an art specialist from the University of California.  He is also a self-described believer, hoping that the petals would prove to be supernatural.  This shows a bias, of course, but the results of his test do not.

He deduced the following, based on the sample he was given:

  • no paint on it...area is much thinner (pressed into petal)
  • used a raking light across it
  • shows a finger print over the area with the image...indicating that a finger was pressed down onto the rose petal, as though to press the image into the flower.

The art historian recreates the exact same results as the "miracle" himself, and is generally confident that the petals were a hoax. 

They next go to a botanist, who immediately reminds the audience that the rose petals are not that delicate...they're actually pretty resilient.  He, also, was capable of reproducing the exact same results, using the exact same techniques as the art historian, above. 

The Bleeding Hands

Stigmata are the next investigation.  Specifically, about a woman who has them.  It's already been shown in extensive studies that those with stigmata can be induced to bleed through their skin through hypnosis.  The general scientific consensus is that stigmata is the result of self-hypnosis, willing the body to bleed through the skin in certain patterns and areas.  It is perfectly logical and not supernatural in the least. 

The woman in question has great pains and anxieties the day before the stigmata...which is quite indicative of psychosomatic self-inducement. 

During the session of stigmata, she exhibits all the qualities.  For one, she bleeds through the backs of her hands, which is not consistent with Roman crucifixion (which involved spikes through wrists).  She writhes around in pain on her bed during the stigmata, which is also consistent. 

The next day, after the bleeding session, she is almost completely healed...which is also consistent with stigmata from the past. 

This concludes the program, for us.  The rest of it (probably 30 minutes worth) involved more cataclysmic millennial madness that has been done to death by programs like it. 

The ultimate insult, however, in this show of insults is when one of the reporters calls the other reporter a "skeptical journalist."  This is the same guy who refused to admit that these people were capable of smashing medallions into rose petals, and was amazed by a relatively non-amazing physical phenomenon.  Very simply, if that's how we're defining the term "skeptic," I'd like to resign my position immediately. 



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