Friday, October 03, 2008

The miracle diary.

Stuff like this shouldn't bother me,...but it does. Basically, a diary kept by one of the crew members of the Space Shuttle Columbia was found two months after the crash in Palestine, Texas.

The diary survived extreme heat in the explosion, extreme atmospheric cold, and
then "was attacked by microorganisms and insects" in the field where it fell,
said museum curator Yigal Zalmona.
"It's almost a miracle that it survived —
it's incredible," Zalmona said. There is "no rational explanation" for
how it was recovered when most of the shuttle was not, he said.

Ok. I understand that this journal worked better than a fabled Timex ("takes a licking and keeps on ticking"), but that doesn't make it a miracle. It's no more miraculous that the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of mission manuals and hard copy paper reports that they found during the first year after the disaster. I liken this to the phenomena where you can have a tornado rip through a neighborhood and you come home to find a china figurine on the very shelf you left it on, totally untouched. It happens. It's cool. But, it's not a miracle. Miraculous would've been finding the crew members sitting in a Texas field alive and well the day of the disaster. Also, I'm no expert, but isn't paper pretty hearty? I mean, we've got paper that dates back thousands of years in some cases. Joe Citizen can buy special papers for scrapbooks and archival hobbies that stand up to the elements. And, I would imagine the ink was some "space aged" technology. You can buy scrapbook pens for $2 a pop that won't run or fade. Seems kind of silly to imagine NASA wouldn't have something similar or better. Why is this so "miraculous"? Saying there's "no rational explanation" seems pretty out there to me.
I've read a few articles discussing the nature of the shuttle's break up. Most of the discussions concur that the shuttle began breaking up after it went through the serious heat. Any journal would've been stowed in a bag or locker on an internal deck. Not on a luggage rack on top of the shuttle.

Yes. You can call me Captain Cynical.


Eva said...

I did not know atheists do not believe in miracles. My definition in my dictionary does not say it is a Christian term in every use.

Are you a fundamentalist atheist or which branch are you with?

Karen said...

*eyeroll at eva*

Judging from the picture, it's not even like the pages are that well intact anyway. I could see maybe if the entire book landed perfectly intact enough to read the day it was found like it was written just hours earlier, that might be a miracle.

Anonymous said...

Since miracles are, by definition, "a marvellous event manifesting a supernatural act of a divine agent", you will be hard pressed to find an atheist who believes in them. I don't believe there is a superatural or divine agent to perform the miracle. I made no claims to the curator's use of the term miracle as a religious concept. Your attempts to make it such is unwarranted. I question his characterization on the basis of science.

Your final statement illuminates your bias and your weak understanding of atheism.

Mark Hudson said...

Presumably, people are going to try to use this as some sort of "evidence" that everyone's else's god is false and only the OT god is the real one. Look, God is Great for he saves the poor pages of someone's diary.


Is it just me, or couldn't a better "god-given message", one more in keeping with all that Christian Love stuff, be extracted from the fact that an *Israeli* astronaut's diary winds up in *Palestine* (even if in Texas)?

This is a message from the LORD! Hey, Middle East, sort yerselves out!

paulh said...

This is an example of what I would call a Second Order Effect of Murphy's Law.

To elaborate:

Murphy's Law basically states: "If something can go wrong, it will."

The Second Order Effect comes into play because any and every specific instance where Murphy's Law is invoked is itself subject to the operation of Murphy's Law. Therefore one should not be surprised that when things do go wrong, they do not always go fully as wrong as they might have done.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I don't know about PM but I roll with the southside atheists.

Berlzebub said...

I remember, not long after the tragedy, someone noted that Ilan Ramon was one of the pilots who had flown on the mission to destroy the Iraqi nuclear power plant before it reached completion. Since he had done such a deed, they said their god was taking vengeance.

As far as the "miracle" of the non-charred diary, I can think of a much more rational explanation. The explosion occured 37 miles up. So, the air is much thinner. The explosion wouldn't have been the fireball we're used to seeing down her where the air is thicker. It would have had a load of concussive force, but the fireball would have been almost non-existant except where fuel and contained oxygen were able to mix.

As far as the writing, it took them a year to restore them. So, it's not like the diary survived intact. A few decades ago, the diary would have been lost. However, thanks to modern science techniques, they were able to restore it.

Last but not least, it was written in pencil and pen, and stayed outside for just over five years. How could the writing possibly survive? Well, it wouldn't be that hard. If the diary landed with the cover closed, then the text inside would be much better protected. It would even seem more likely the diary would land that way. While it was falling, it would want to take the form that allowed it to fall the smoothest. That would be with the binder down, which would close the book. It's a bit difficult to verify, because no one has ever dropped a book from 37 miles up, before. However, it's not a huge stretch of the imagination.

Without knowing all the details, calling it a miracle with "no rational explanation" is a ridiculous statement. Just off the top of my head I thought of an explanation for each "miracle", none requiring anything special to happen or any great odds against it occuring.

@ Eva:
Atheists don't believe in the existance of any deities. Therefore, we don't believe in the existance of Christian or any other religion's supposed miracles. "Miracle", like the word "spirituallity", has become so overused that it has lost any meaning. It was that way before I became a non-believer.

Since you appear to believe in miracles, Eva, I'd like to ask a question. You can answer if you want, or not.

Why do miracles not occur in this day and time? Sure, there are many claims of miracles, from every religious sect, but none that don't have a natural explanation. Instead of having a sea part to let the people through, we have a diary that miraculously survives an explosion. One defies all known laws of the natural world, the other is so mundane that it makes using the term "miracle" for it laughable.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Be careful Berlezebub, Eva might be from the Northside Theists, tough hood man, tough hood. Bust a bible upside yo head soon as look at ya.

Berlzebub said...

"Bust a bible upside yo head soon as look at ya."
Well, duh. People who cant' defend their reasoning with actual, you know... reason usually resort to violence.

I grew up dealing with the northside theists. I'd always ask them to visit before 10 a.m. so I could have breakfast.

(Hint: Start asking them about the contradictions. They have to jump back and forth in the book so much they loose their grip on it.)

fsmismyhero said...

Personally, I belong to the reformed branch of atheist. The fundamental atheists lost sight of the true meaning of atheism. Their extremist views are contrary to the doctrine of atheism and should not be considered atheists at all!

Eva, learn a bit about atheism before asking questions that aren't even applicable. In case you don't know, my comment is sarcasm and yes, I am mocking you.

unless...Poe? maybe? HOPEFULLY!

Rean House said...

I won't call you captain cynical but I will call you captain realist. I don't know whether it's sad that people think things like finding an unmarred diary are miracles or infuriating.

Summer Squirrel, FCD said...

Biblebelt Atheist here. Expert at the duck and weave. My mom thinks Palin is a miracle or gift from god, or something just as nonsensical.

This claims make my brain hurt....

Nomoxian said...

Iz reppin tha Kanada Klan. Don cho be thinken wez religoos cuz we stik 2getha, but dontcha git skared cuz wez PEACEful OUT!

As stupid as the above message is, it pales in comparison to what is heard from the pulpit every Sunday (or Friday if you're Muslim, or Saturday if you're Jewish)

Anonymous said...

West Coast Atheists, baby!!

Country Wife said...

Do you think 'miracle' could just be a figure of speech? I use it quite often and even say things like: "For heaven's sake, it's a miracle you didn't get yourself killed!" (normally in conversation with my daredevil hubby lol).

RedSonja said...

We're Midwest atheists here. Which means we try to fix everything with food, but don't say grace first.

Joe said...

West Coast Atheist member here as well. Bay Area representing!

Vampalicious said...

I use the word "whip" after I say "miracle".

*throws West Coast gang sign out*

WCA woot.

reddhedd said...

Southeast Suburban Atheist representing here... Yo boyz!...Where the governor prays for rain, the sheeple open umbrellas, and the Atheist Humor Squad turns on the sprinklers....

Eva, who said anything linking "christian" with "miracle"? My dictionary says:
"a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency."
Divine agency =god. No god, no miracle.

Most all theists believe in 'em, but I don't know any atheist who does....except as the punchline to a joke.
I'm thinking Poe, too, (people aren't THAT ignorant, are they?) but I'm having fun anyway.

Anonymous said...

Throws up gang sign "W"!

Marf said...

When unlikely good things happen to people, they often think it is a miracle (as in divine intervention,) and that seems to me to be a sort of tunnel vision, where they hone in on a single events and disregard the vast majority of expected and unfortunate things which happened. It is very egocentric at times, such as when survivors of a disaster think it is a miracle that they survived, disregarding the many who died, and also disregarding the fact that most disasters have some survivors. They were just statistically lucky.

And while most people are happy to embrace the idea of "miracle" when pleasant, unlikely things happen, few people embrace the logical counterpart to that - assuming that when bad, unlikely things happen, that is also Divine intervention, possibly to punish people.

It is fine to wonder about the world. It is fine to wonder if there is a Divine and whether they might intervene in our affairs. It is not fine to assume.

Terra said...

Which branch are you with? Ha ha...

West Siiiide, mofo!

Bwah ha ha ha. That's funny to me.

Phoebe Caulfield said...

I'm with you on how annoying this "miracle" crap is. Some girl I went to high school with was in an accident and was found alive, pinned in the car after two days. The ENTIRE newspaper article was all about what a "miracle" it was. Give me a break. The parents went crazy looking for her, and they drove up and down the road she should have taken over and over again. Then they ran into someone who lived nearby and had seen the car in passing the day before, and the person took them to the car. That's not a miracle. That's looking for something really hard and finding it. SO annoying.

Eva, like many Christians, can't pull her head out of her ass long enough to realize that "god" is not exclusive to Christianity. Of course.

Ian Adams said...

To be fair, Zalmona said "It's almost a miracle" (emphasis mine), so he wasn't saying it was a miracle, only that it was almost one. Although the "no rational explanation" line I agree sounds pretty out there. (Although it could have just been a mis-wording; maybe he meant it as "there's no rational explanation I can think of" or something similar.)

SamanthaNC said...

Are you aware that you've been identified as Penn Momy, by GDNNOP?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware until a few minutes ago that there's this accusation. I do know her. She's an extended family relative. Why?

Call To Actions . com said...

Miracles happen everyday. Like it or not.

If your ever interested in reading more you can search Facebook or visit

Berlzebub said...

Wow, A page full of anecdotal evidence. One even thanking God for traffic jams. I find that very convincing... NOT!!

Apparently people don't understand the definition of miracle. They take the mundane and assign a deity as the cause to make themselves feel special. Considering that God supposedly destroyed two cities, parted a sea, and stopped time for a day it's very disappointing that the "miracles" on the website you gave are easily explained without including a "supernatural act of a divine agent".