Sunday, May 5, 2013

Divine Forensics

Some months ago, there was news about an alleged miracle which happened in the town of Nasugbu, Batangas. According to reports, the statue of Mary of Mediatrix was seen shedding tears of blood. This prompted Dr. Erwin Erfe of Public Attorney’s Office to investigate the matter. Unfortunately, the family who owned the statue refused for it to be examined.

Dr. Erfe is a forensic expert in the best sense of the word. His job description is as follows:

Dr. Erwin Erfe is a Certified Forensic Physician of the American College of Forensic Examiners (ACFEI) and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Medicine (ABFM) and the American Board of Forensic Examiners. He specializes in Forensic Medicine, Forensic Osteology, Bloodstain Pattern Analysis and Crime Scene Reconstruction. He currently consults with with government agencies, lawyers and law firms on forensics, evidence and medical malpractice.

Why bring his credentials to this article, you might ask? I am just curious with the process of investigation for the aforementioned phenomenon. For the report above, he will have to prove if the miracle is a false claim or genuine in nature. Proving that it is a hoax is a simple task; simply get a blood sample, check if it is true human blood, check if it is not blood from any person from the town, etc... A simple positive result will invalidate the claim.

I'm more concerned with the other possibility. How do you really prove that it is indeed a miracle? If the blood sample returns negative match with any person in town, it will not have proven anything. If the sample returns a very different cell structure, it will just mean that it is not a blood structure as we know it. So how then do we prove it? It should match Mama Mary's blood. Right.

The Catholic Church actually has a proper scientific commission to investigate such matters; proving or disproving miracles, that is. The  so-called miracle commission employs many experts; scientists, physicians not necessarily Catholic to investigate. This is part of the routine process to canonize someone to sainthood. (A miracle is one of the qualifications to be canonized as a saint).


'Miracles' such as healing of the sick are vigorously and meticulously studied by the commission  They look for facts, evidences or scientific explanations for the phenomenon using the scientific method. If the commission can't find any sufficient scientific explanation, they forward the matter to the theologians, meaning the experts have no explanation for the matter and thus might be due to divine intervention.

Which I don't have any problem with, whatsoever. Religion is anyway based on faith on something unexplainable by science and science as we know it can't explain everything-- or at least we humans still don't have a scientific explanation to everything yet. I'm sure there's a lot of debate on these topics elsewhere.

The thing is,  what if the Vatican declare that the phenomenon is not divine in nature, (i.e. they can't, with their best methods, conclude what caused the 'miracle' to happen) what does it make of the phenomenon?

Well, we can say that it is probably caused by some unfathomably advanced technology (maybe by aliens or by future people whatever). And as St. Arthur Clarke puts it, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

To sum up, in proving a phenomenon, it may be a scientific breakthrough. Or it could be a miracle. Or it could be magic.

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