BBC: 62% of UK adults (and nearly 75% of young Brits) think miracles are possible

The other day I posted a list of the percentage of all Americans who believe various supernatural truth claims of Abrahamic religions. The proportion of Yanks who accept things like a personal God, miracles, heaven and hell, angels, the resurrection of Jesus, and so on, ranges between 54% and 72%. Brits, famously more secular than Americans, usually rank lower (i.e., more rationally) on these polls, but a new study commissioned by the BBC suggests that Brits are more credulous than I thought. Click on the screenshot to see the short article:

The survey was taken by telephone of 2002 British adults in August, and here’s their summary of the results (direct quote):

  • 62% of British adults believe some form of miracle is possible today
  • Nearly three-quarters aged 18-24 say they believe some form of miracle is possible today, more than any other age group
  • 43% say they have prayed for a miracle
  • 37% of British adults who attend a religious service at least monthly say they believe the miracles of Jesus happened word for word as described in the Bible
  • Half of this group say they have prayed for a miracle which was answered in the way they had hoped
  • But 37% of Christians have never prayed for a miracle

I’ll add these data in the article:

  • 59% of those who identify as Christian have prayed for a miracle
  • Half of those who have prayed (29% total) said their prayer was answered “in the way they hoped.” (That is, God said “Yes” instead of “No,” which could also count as an answer from above.)

The higher proportion of miracle-believers among young folk than adults suggests either that Britain is becoming more religious, which goes against all the data, or that the striplings haven’t yet come to their senses. As for the 43% of British adults who have prayed for a miracle, well, that’s just bizarre.

The article goes on to quote some believers who experienced or accept miracles, but then we hear of an accommodationist Sophisticated Theologian™ who thinks miracles are just metaphors:

Monsignor Peter Fleetwood, a Catholic hospital chaplain in Liverpool, says families will ask him to pray for a miracle to bring someone back from the brink of death.

He believes in those cases a miracle would be a terrible thing because it would be prolonging a life that is already at its natural end.

He also thinks you can be a Christian and interpret the miracles of Jesus in a different light.

He uses the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 – where Jesus fed a crowd with five loaves and two fish, as an example of how spontaneous generosity can cause a sense of wonder.

“One explanation may be that he inspired people to share what they had with them in their baskets,” he explains.

“So rather than magically producing food, it’s making food appear in another way. There are all sorts of ways it can be seen and still be wonderful.”

Well, Monsignor Fleetwood is reading his Bible VERY metaphorically, for here, from the King James Version, is Matthew 14:13-21 (my emphasis):

13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18 He said, Bring them hither to me.

19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

That isn’t an outburst of generosity! The people didn’t HAVE food with them. They were hungry, and Jesus, after praying to God, miraculously turned two fishes and five loaves into enough noms to feed 5,000 people!

If the good Monsignor thinks that’s just a metaphor, then why couldn’t the entire Bible, including the Resurrection of Christ, be a metaphor, too? (I could argue that the Resurrection was just a metaphor for the spread of Christianity after its founding figure had been killed.) I love to watch these religionists pick cherries from the Bible.

110 Comments

  1. Erwin
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    This explains Brexit!

    • BJ
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Brexit isn’t explained by people believing in miracles, but on having a difference of opinion on policies and priorities.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Rotherham explains Brexit.

      • David Coxill
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        How is leaving the EU going to stop Pakistani muslim grooming gangs ?

        • BJ
          Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          Many who voted for Brexit hope that it will reduce immigration.

          • Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            It’s bound to reduce a lot of things.

            • Posted October 2, 2018 at 3:57 am | Permalink

              Because nobody will want to come here after the economy tanks.

              • Posted October 27, 2018 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

                In 2015, when many thousands of migrants were passing through my country on their way to more affluent countries, I thought that austerity has its benefits.

          • David Coxill
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

            I thought it was about taking back control and £350 million a day for the NHS ?

            • BJ
              Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

              That was an obvious lie and we all know it. Still, it’s about many things, and I think you and others of your intelligence know that. I disagree with Brexit, but I understand that most of the people who voted for is have fundamental disagreements with me on what should be priorities, what policies the government should have, whether or not the country should be forced to follow even the most mild dictates of an outside force, etc. Some others simply give more weight to what they perceive as the costs of being in the Union and less weight to the benefits.

              It’s a mistake to assume your entire outgroup is simply stupider than your ingroup, and to assume that they don’t understand what they’re doing or why. Of course, there are some people who are like that, but that’s true of all sides in any political debate.

              • David Coxill
                Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

                Wot exactly is my intelligence ?
                I voted to remain .About that obvious lie ,most people who voted leave believed it .

              • BJ
                Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

                I made no reference to your intelligence.

                Most people who vote for anything (including Remain) believe the lies people tell them about their preferred vote.

              • BJ
                Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, I meant to say I made no reference to you having poor intelligence. I meant that an intelligent person like you knows, or should know, that Brexit was about many things, and not just one thing that portrays your outgroup as being a bunch of idiots who don’t possess the intelligence of your own side.

              • Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

                Brexiters may not be all stupider than remainers–but it’s quite hard to see what “Brexit means Brexit” itself actually means. There are least four different meanings I can discern and they are mutually inconsistent:
                1) “Canada plus” Brexit–leaving the UK with the trade deals of the WTO. Favoured by disaster capitalists like BoJo and Rees-Mogg. They are happy to see the country fail and profit from this. Rees Mogg’s father wrote a book called “Blood in the Streets” about profitting from disasters like this. I’m serious–go and look on Amazon.
                2) Checkers Brexit. Favoured by Theresa May and literally no-one else. Including, alas, the EU themselves. When you wish upon a star..and all that.
                3) Norway plus. Favoured by Michael Gove and a few of the less rabidly insane ones who don’t actually want foreigners shot on sight. Requires free movement–which angers the more frothy-mouthed types, who wont go away.
                4) No-deal Brexit. Favored by complete imbeciles like MP Nadine Dorries who can’t even do simple sums or read at an adult level. The possiblity of this is why we are having to stockpile essential medical supplies like insulin so that not too many people die if it happens(and if anyone says “project fear” at this point I will laugh in their ignorant face).
                Now, if someone wants to tell me which of these is the “Will of the People” then I’ll be first in line waving banners in support.

            • BJ
              Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

              I read that “control” as “taking back control of the NHS.” I meant 350 millions pounds a day was a lie, but not the control.

          • Posted October 2, 2018 at 3:55 am | Permalink

            Are you claiming that “many” Brexiteers think Pakistan is in the EU?

          • Posted October 27, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            As far as I know, most British Muslims originally immigrated there using Commonwealth procedures rather than EU procedures.

        • Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          It might stop the entry of new members of those gangs.

          What do you think Brexit was about?

          • David Coxill
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

            Well Pakistani Muslims can come to the UK whether we are in the EU or not .

            • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

              Okay, but I do want to hear your thoughts on what led to Brexit.

              • Posted October 2, 2018 at 2:12 am | Permalink

                Apart from an assertion that ‘Rotherham explains Brexit’ you haven’t explained your thoughts on what led to Brexit. Perhaps you should explain a bit more?

                First – in your view does Rotherham explain Brexit or does it justify it?

                If you think either of these things can you explain why, given that, as David Coxill pointed out, Brexit has no bearing on the behaviour of Pakistani gangs already present in this country or on the future entry of Pakistani citizens into this country?

                Are you saying that Rotherham gave rise to a general feeling of xenophobia that led many people to reject all things foreign including the EU and overrode any other arguments for or against?

              • David Coxill
                Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:36 am | Permalink

                Well ,a lot of things ,English dislike of Johnny foreigner .
                Twenty years of UKIP .
                The daily hate and the stun ,well their owners .Lots of things.

    • Adam L
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Exactly what I thought!

      And with the cretins running the country now everyone is hoping for a miracle

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 3:39 am | Permalink

      I’m praying for a miracle on Brexit: i.e. that it won’t happen.

      This is why I’d take the survey with a pinch of salt. “Pray for a miracle” is a fairly common idiom in British English. Hundreds of thousands of Manchester United fans pray for a miracle every week i.e. that their football team’s results will start to reflect its cost. Praying for a miracle often just means desperately hoping for a positive outcome.

      I’d like to know the wording of the questions and whether “miracle” was defined properly and “pray”.

  2. Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Survey outcomes depend a lot on how the questions are asked. The wording that bumped up the “miracles are possible” to 62% is this:

    Q: “Do you believe that miracles are possible today, or not?”

    A: (one of four options): “Yes, I believe that miraculous things can happen, but that they are not necessarily related to God”.

    That was the answer opted for by 38% (34% went for “No, I do not believe in miracles in any form”).

    Now that “miraculous things can happen” wording is vague, and can be interpreted in a non-supernatural way. E.g. the OED gives a definition of “miraculous” as: “Remarkable and bringing very welcome consequences.”

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Link to survey results

      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        Coel, that is very interesting wording. I use the word “miracle” but it isn’t used to give credit to anything supernatural. But someone I once had a discussion with did believe that miracles were “divine/supernatural.”

    • JohnE
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Agreed. In my experience, people use the term “miracle” exactly as you defined it. Thus, many who participated in the survey may well have interpreted “miracle” in that same way — not intending the term to in any way suggest supernatural (god, magic or whatever) intervention.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      I think that’s the distinction Samuel Jackson drew for John Travolta in Pulp Fiction between a freak occurrence and an according-to-Hoyle miracle:

    • darrelle
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I suspected just this type of issue when I first read Jerry’s article.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      So the headline writers are glossing over the key facts. Now there’s a shock.

    • Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:05 am | Permalink

      Aha. I see I should have read down this far before posting my hypothesis in response to the first post.

      I’ll just add:

      37% of British adults who attend a religious service at least monthly say they believe the miracles of Jesus happened word for word as described in the Bible

      This is a meaningless number unless you know who attends church on at least a monthly basis. I think it’s fairly uncontroversial to assume that they would mostly be Christians – in which case it is saying that only 37% of church going Christians believe the tenets of their faith as set out in their own holy book.

  3. BJ
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I’ve always thought about insane coincidences in a way I still haven’t seen expressed by anyone else, though I’m sure it has been expressed more eloquently by many smarter people (and, if anyone has a link to that, I would like to see it).

    Events often happen in the world that are so improbable that they seem impossible without some kind of cosmic force at work. I remember reading a story many years ago about a driver who hit and killed a pedestrian, and then hit and killed that pedestrian’s child twenty years later on the same street, and neither of those pedestrians lived on that street. Or take the stories at the beginning of the film Magnolia (which aren’t true, but similar things happen all the time).

    There’s an easy explanation for all such events: there are about 7.5 billion people in the world, each experiencing an incalculable number of moments and events over a day, a year, a lifetime. With an infinite number of moments and interactions, everything within the realm of possibility not only can happen, but is inevitable. It is a certainty that the most unlikely, unbelievable, and impossible of occurrences will occur at some point.

    Hell, there must be a named theory for this, or a concept in physics. Anyone know what it is?

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Humans have an over-active pattern-recognition detector.

      That’s coupled with the fact that it is calibrated for events likelihoods within communities of a few hundred people, as would have been typical for much of our evolutionary heritage.

      Thus our “gut feeling” is not good at likelihoods pertaining to nations of millions (something that the lottery exploits).

      • BJ
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        Of course. And that can be placed under the subheading of “Most Humans are Stupid.” It’s not elitist to recognize that most people can’t think these things through, through no fault of their own.

        • Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          Most people are wrong about most things most of the time.

          • BJ
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            Except for me. I’m the one person in the world who is always right 🙂

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      “Or take the stories at the beginning of the film Magnolia …”

      A film that also featured the miracle of the raining of the frogs. 🙂

      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        I saw that in the theatre. I thought I was watching the best movie since Vertigo, and then suddenly …

        Never have I seen a movie self destruct so totally.

      • BJ
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        That’s actually not a miracle, but an event that takes place on occassion. When a waterspout (a tornado that occurs over a body of water) occurs, it can suck amphibious creatures into its whirlwind and bring them onshore, dropping them as the whirlwind dissipates. This same event is also shown in season one of FX’s Fargo , when it rains fish onto the car of Oliver Platt’s character as he drives down a snowy road.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          OK, maybe it’s not an according-to-Hoyle miracle, but it’s still a freak occurrence, as Jules Winnfield from Inglewood would put it. 🙂

          • BJ
            Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

            But Jules believed it was “divine intervention”! That God came down and deflected those bullets. That’s why he’s “trying real hard to be the Shepherd.”

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

              Wonder if Ringo & Honey-Bunny voted in the poll discussed in the OP on a trip back in Blighty?

              • BJ
                Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

                Interesting question. I never really thought about how (if at all) their lives may have been changed by that incident.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      “Hell, there must be a named theory for this, or a concept in physics. Anyone know what it is?”

      It is probably more of a concept in psychology than a concept in physics that you are after. As you say the huge number of interactions that take place means that chances are an improbable event will happen somewhere, sometime but we ignore all the (in the case of your example) countless road traffic accidents that did not involve relatives of previous accidents and seize on the one case where there were impressive links to an earlier accident. We are very easily impressed by coincidence.

      This has an important influence on belief in the power of prayer (or in quack remedies). People pray for things to happen (or not happen) and they are struck by the occasions when the desired result occurs and tell everyone about it but they quickly forget the many occasions when the prayer is not ‘answered’ and never recount such instances to friends or relatives. That bias in both memory and reporting leads people into believing things there is actually no evidence for.

    • Liz
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence by Joseph Mazur

      “A mathematical guide to understanding why life can seem to be one big coincidence-and why the odds of just about everything are better than we would think.

      What are the chances? This is the question we ask ourselves when we encounter the strangest and most seemingly impossible coincidences, like the woman who won the lottery four times or the fact that Lincoln’s dreams foreshadowed his own assassination. But, when we look at coincidences mathematically, the odds are a lot better than any of us would have thought.

      In Fluke, mathematician Joseph Mazur takes a second look at the seemingly improbable, sharing with us an entertaining guide to the most surprising moments in our lives. He takes us on a tour of the mathematical concepts of probability, such as the law of large numbers and the birthday paradox, and combines these concepts with lively anecdotes of flukes from around the world.”

      • BJ
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for this! Have you read it? It sounds like it’s worth picking up.

        • Richard Bond
          Posted October 2, 2018 at 5:23 am | Permalink

          In statistics, Bonferroni’s principle deals with this issue. Named after the Italian mathematician Carlo Emilio Bonferroni.

        • Liz
          Posted October 2, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          I haven’t read it. I came across it on social media a couple of years ago and remembered it when reading your comment. I’d like to read it at some point.

  4. Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I’ve discussed this with someone who believed that if there is a one in a million chance of something happening, then that may or may not qualify as a miracle. But when I asked about a one in a billion chance of something happening, then he stated that would be more of a miracle. And he didn’t even see how ludicrous that was. I dropped it at that point…ugh.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      Might point out to him that, eventually, someone always wins the Powerball lotto, and the chances of a winning ticket there are 1 in 292,201,338.

      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I used to carry around dice to (amongst many other things) illustrate how easy it is easy to create improbable events. 1 in 10 to the 20th is pretty easy, for example: 20 rolls of a 10 sided die is in most people’s attention span.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Never eat at a place called Mom’s, never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own, and never roll craps with a man who carries a 10-sided die, is my motto, Keith.

          (With apologies to Nelson Algren.)

  5. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I’d comment that it’s entirely possible to pray for a miracle on the possibility that it might just work, without really expecting it to.

    After all, if you don’t really believe any of it, but circumstances are sufficiently dire and there are no other practical courses of action, even if you think there’s only one chance in a hundred that there might be something to it, then you logically should pray since there’s a small chance it may help and if nothing happens you’re no worse off.

    I’d say terminology plays a large part too. ‘Miracle’ is widely misused to mean just a lucky event – ‘I ran out of gas on a deserted road but by a miracle a chap came along and he had a can of gas on him’. And ‘Pray for a miracle’ is often just a synonym for ‘desperately wishing for a fortunate chance to occur’.

    So without much more detail of the questions, I don’t think ‘pray’ and ‘miracle’ necessarily have the religious connotation and quite possibly any ‘prayers’ weren’t even to any recognisable ‘god’. Especially since most people don’t observe the same rigour in their definition of terms as, I think, is customary on this site.

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      I see, in the time that I was typing this, that Coel already provided partial confirmation of what I was rabbiting on about. It’s a miracle!

      cr

    • BJ
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Yes, I agree with what Coel said, and with everything you’ve added here. One needs to be extremely careful with these media polls. They’re often like this, with the (often intentionally) vague terminology, multiple interpretations for answers, priming, etc.

      And I think most people — even those who don’t believe in a god — have “prayed” for a miracle at some point. Just thinking to oneself at a moment of crisis or panic, “please universe/god/whatever, I need a miracle, don’t let this happen” technically meets the standard.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        I will admit that I have – on rare occasions – done that last thing. Usually, as an atheist and out of a sort of internal embarrassment, I constrain myself to avoid actually putting the wish into words 😉

        Even though I know, intellectually, that it’s futile.

        cr

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Infiniteimprobabilit’s side bet on Pascal’s Wager?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        You could certainly put it that way 😉

        cr

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      I agree that the terminology used was imprecise and could have been interpreted in different ways but I can’t help thinking that in the context of the survey you would have to be rather dim to think that ‘miracle’ was being used in the sense of ‘just a surprising event’ as opposed to an event involving some kind of supernatural intervention.

      It is strange that the percentage of respondents who think that miracles are possible today is actually higher than the percentage who have ever prayed for a miracle. I would have expected it to the the other way round not least because the group of people who have ever prayed for a miracle presumably includes some who now no longer believe in miracles but who once did whereas the other group by definition includes all the people who currently believe in miracles to some degree.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        Errm, ‘miracle’ has been used in a non-supernatural sense for decades – centuries in fact. Think of all the ads for ‘Miracle polish’ etc from Victorian times right through to now.

        Headlines like ‘Father finds lost daughter after 40 years – “It’s a miracle” he says.’
        Or ‘Miracle mum gives birth to seven’. Or ‘Miracle on the Hudson’. These days it’s roughly equivalent to ‘awesome’ 😦

        I suspect that if, in that survey, they had very carefully defined ‘miracle’ as ‘a supernatural and physically impossible act performed directly by the divine power of a god’ (or any other suitably specific definition) the percentage would have dropped sharply.

        cr

        • Posted October 2, 2018 at 2:35 am | Permalink

          Errm, I’m fully aware that miracle has been used in the non supernatural sense for decades as in “it’ll be a miracle if Newcastle wins the league this year”.

          My point was that if a person was being asked a load of questions about their religious observance and if they believe that the stories of Jesus’ miracles were literally true then it would be perverse to understand a question about whether or not miracles can happen nowadays to simply mean ‘can unlikely events occur?’. In the context of the quiz it is surely obvious that the word is being used in its supernatural sense. You may well be correct that some respondents simply took it to mean something improbable but if so I would suggest they were being rather dim.

          Sadly, I think that rather a high proportion of the population here in the UK continues to believe in the supernatural. Belief in traditional religions, especially Anglican Christianity, may have waned tremendously but these beliefs have often been replaced by belief in all sorts of ‘New Age’ fruit-loopery.

      • Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:19 am | Permalink

        I would argue that even (or perhaps especially) committed Christians will think of a miracle as any unlikely but beneficial event.

        For example, thinking back to the Thai boys football team that got trapped in a cave system. I bet a lot of Christians prayed for a miracle to happen there and when the boys were all eventually rescued, even though it was actually done by a lot of brave and highly skilled people without any supernatural occurrences, they would have regarded the outcome (ignoring the one man who died as they would) as confirmation that God does miracles and prayer works.

        • Posted October 2, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

          The Thai cave rescue is a good example. My guess is most Christians believe that the boys would not have been saved without the hard work of the rescuers. To think otherwise would be too crazy. On the other hand, they probably also think the prayer helped also. Perhaps prayer is just what you do when there’s no opportunity to help directly — to assuage the guilt of doing nothing. It’s a strange belief system!

  6. Paul Britton
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I think that as it was a telephone survey, it is highly likely that the population sample consisted only of people ho didn’t immediately cut the call off, or maybe people (like me) ho if bored, will give outlandish answers in order to skew results 🙂

    • Adam L
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Exactly this. And also the type of person who still has a landline these days. I did a quick text round my football team and only 3 out of 20 have a landline phone anymore

  7. mrclaw69
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Was going to post about the slippery nature of questions asked, but Coel got in there first. That said, I’m still embarrassed for my country people…

    • mrclaw69
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      …also that the nature of the survey might be self-selecting.

      Asking “Would you like to undertake a telephone survey about miracles…?” would likely elicit a disconnect tone from a lot of British people.

      • BJ
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Yup, that’s yet another big problem with this poll and those like it: this sample is almost certainly irreparably biased.

        • Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:05 am | Permalink

          Hmmm. I’m not sure about this. Are we assuming that believers are more likely to agree to participate than non-believers or the other way round? Or to put it another way are atheists more or less likely than believers to want the data to represent their numbers accurately?

          • BJ
            Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

            Could be either one, or neither, or both. It could be that housewives are more likely to participate, and are more likely to “believe in miracles.” It could be that unemployed people are more likely to participate, etc. Any time you have a partially self-selecting sample, it biases the results to an unknown extent.

  8. Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I have a friend in the UK who calls herself an atheist, yet talks about meeting her mother in Heaven some day. (I guess it’s an automat kind of heaven.)

    Areligious /= non-mystical.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’ve met self-described “atheists” who apparently think “religion” means “pushing your views on others” and “God” means “an authority who tells people what to do.”

  9. Sastra
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    In addition to the religious/secular ambiguity surrounding the word “miracle,” it’s possible that the Brits, like the Americans, are inundated with the idea that “believing in miracles” is directly associated with being an optimistic, persevering, indomitable person. If you don’t believe in miracles, then you’re the sort which gives up when the going gets rough.

    If that’s the case, it could be screwing up the data.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    “He uses the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 – where Jesus fed a crowd with five loaves and two fish, as an example of how spontaneous generosity can cause a sense of wonder.”

    So the Miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was just “crowdsourcing” avant la lettre?

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      There’s a scene in _Agora_ where someone comes to the Christians and asks to see a miracle and is shown the soup kitchen and the hopeful downtrodden getting their pittance. (I haven’t seen the movie, but I did catch the clip somewhere.)

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Monsignor Fleetwood — liked him better back when he was playin’ drums in a band with John McVie.

  12. JohnE
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Of course, if you think about it, much of what happens is a miracle in the sense that the chances of it happening were extremely remote. It’s a miracle that: (1) out of all the people on the planet it was this particular group of individuals who chose to comment here so far, and (2) those individuals used the particular words they chose for their comments. The odds against that happening are fantastical!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Ah, now you’re confusing probability-before-the-event with probability after it’s happened. (I’m sure you’re aware of that).

      Look up ‘Monty Hall problem’ for a great example of how the two get confused.

      😉

      cr

      • JohnE
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure I see the relevance of the Monty Hall problem (with which I am familiar). If a month ago a statistician had calculated the odds that you and I would be having this conversation today, using these words, he would have concluded that those odds were astronomical. For that reason, using the predicted probability of an event to prove that it must have been a miracle is a fallacious argument. Consider that the probability of all four bridge players holding the particular hands they are dealt is 1:53,644,737,765,488,792,839,237,440,000 (53.6 nonillion to 1). Yet all of us recognize that it would be absurd to deal a hand of bridge and then have the four players leap to their feet and exclaim, “Wow, the odds against all of us getting these exact cards are 53.6 nonillion to 1, therefore we couldn’t possibly have been dealt these hands by chance! This is clearly evidence of supernatural intervention!”

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted October 2, 2018 at 2:06 am | Permalink

          I absolutely agree with your point about probabilities. Also, as each card is dealt the odds shorten. My favourite illustration would be that of tossing ten heads in a row. Odds against: 1024 to 1. Now suppose you’ve just tossed nine heads, odds of tossing the tenth head: 50-50. (Because you’ve just ‘overcome’ odds of 512 to 1 to get there).

          In the Monty Hall problem the odds change similarly, by ‘choosing’ a door you (2/3 the time) narrow down Monty’s choices. But I’m sorry, it was an extremely bad example to use, it doesn’t illustrate the point very well and is notoriously confusing to many. I should have thought more carefully before bringing it up.

          cr

  13. Christopher
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Miracle on Ice, US win vs Soviet Union, men’s hockey, 1980. The Miracle on I-70, Kc Royals win vs St. Louis Cardinals, 1985 World Series, and although not called one, Chicago Cubs win over Cleveland, 2016 World Series after 108 years. That’s as close to believing in miracles as I’ll get (and not until the last pitch did I believe the Cubbies were actually going to do it).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Had to bring up the 2016 Series, dincha? Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch … 🙂

      • XCellKen
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Wait til you see what The Astros do to your beloved Indians in a few days

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          A Lorain boy like you, rootin’ agin the Tribe?

          For shame! 🙂

          My brother moved to Chicago and became of Cubs fan. My sister & I had to disown him for the duration of 2016 Series.

  14. Serendipitydawg
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    The part I liked was:

    However, when it comes to the miracles of Jesus, nearly half say they do not believe he did miraculous things.

    I must admit that I wondered whether this was among the believers, because that would raise some interesting questions.

  15. Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    The Catholic church has always emphasized the symbolism of the loaves & fishes miracles. But no surprise they get it wrong.

    Note there are two such miracles in Mark:
    In Mark 6, 5 loaves + 2 fish feed 5,000, with 12 baskets of leftovers;
    In Mark 8, 7 loaves + 2 fishes, feed 4,000, with 7 baskets of leftovers.

    Jesus makes clear this is a riddle, one the dullard disciples fail to solve:

    6:52

    for they understood not concerning the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

    8:18-21

    Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among the four thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces took ye up? And they say unto him, Seven. And he said unto them, Do ye not yet understand?

    At 8:15, Jesus has just warned them to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Space here prevents going into all the competing specific interpretations, but the consensus is that the loaves & fish in first miracle refers to the old mosaic teachings, those in the second to the new christian gospel. The twelve baskets represent the twelve tribes of Israel, the seven, the 7[0] nations of the world.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Were the mosaic teachings depicted with little pieces of coloured stone set in tile grout? 😉

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    The core of David Hume’s comment on miracles boils down to asking:

    If miracles are possible, then are they probable, and are specific miracle reports probable, and are there any you should bet your life on??

    From David Hume:
    “Probability is founded on the presumption of a resemblance between those objects of which we have had experience and those of which we have had none; and therefore it is impossible that this presumption can arise from probability.”–
    HUME, Treatise of Human Nature, I, iii, vi.
    (To be fair, a fairly thoughtful reply to this was given by C.S. Lewis)

    What Hume argued philosophically, Ralph Waldo Emerson argued aesthetically,
    “The word miracle, as pronounced by the Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is Monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain.”

  17. David Coxill
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    One Foot in the Grave1990

    Margaret Meldrew:
    Well? Any joy?

    Victor Meldrew:
    I think it’s safe to say I’ve had a very good day, all told. In the morning, I turned some water into wine, and then I healed a few lepers, and after lunch, I popped over and parted the waters of the Red Sea.

    Margaret Meldrew:
    Did the man come about the roof?

    Victor Meldrew:
    No, but you can’t expect miracles.

  18. Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I don’t find it odd that many adult Brits have prayed for a miracle. When sufficiently desperate, I’ve prayed to a god I don’t believe in for a miracle I didn’t expect to get. Didn’t get it, either.

    Except occasionally when praying for a downtown parking space.

    • David Coxill
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      When i had shingles 2 years ago i also prayed to a god i didn’t believe in .

  19. Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    hallelujah!

    The world is full of fools… I know, I am one.

  20. Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Question that should have been on the survey:

    Do you consider Fulham winning their next game a miracle?

  21. Jon Gallant
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    A small miracle comparable to that of the loaves and fishes occurred repeatedly in my own experience. My Down Syndrome son Aaron used to spend weekends with me, and Sunday nights I took him back to his Jewish Family Service group home, which kept kosher. We always picked up a sandwich on the way for him to keep in the group home’s refrigerator overnight, and then take with him to his job at a sheltered workshop Monday morning. His favorite sandwich was ham and cheese, but we always put a label on the sandwich which read “tuna fish”. I think of this transformation as the miracle of the loaves and tuna fishes.

  22. Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Could the credulity of the young be explained by all the fiction novels, fairy tales, morality tales, miraculous stories, and sensational news that are taught to young adults in an effort to make kids interested enough to learn to read?

  23. Jonathan Dore
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Whoever commissioned this survey and set the questions was intentionally aiming for a high percentage, since they purposely invited people to identify as “miraculous” ordinary (if unusual) events that might, as explicitly stated, “not necessarily be related to God”. That just plays into the loose, everyday use of the word “miraculous” to describe everything from an impressive goal in football to a speedy recovery from a broken leg. Cheap, shoddy “research”.

  24. eric
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Philsophical nitpick; it’s a poorly worded question. Even I think miracles are possible. Tomorrow someone at my work could flap their arms and fly out the window. I just don’t think it’s likely.

    I provisionally accept the current laws of physics hold until future evidence comes along that undermines that conclusion. 🙂

    • Posted October 3, 2018 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      “Possible” is polysemous and strictly speaking has different domains, IMO.

      In the scientific context, what are possible are events and states; these are subject to laws, so it does appear that your coworkers are dealing with that sort of impossibility.

      It could be, however, that logical impossibility is meant. Strictly, this only applies to statements/propositions/sentences. So there, yes, possible does apply. (If we parse what you said charitably.)

  25. Diane G
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    sub (-stantiation)

  26. John Ottaway
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Here is a link to the company that did the survey, their methodology and ALL of the findings… http://www.comresglobal.com/polls/bbc-english-regions-miracles-poll/

    The main problem is that no definition of “miracle” is given, then after that there are different grades of yes, for instance “Yes – I believe that miraculous things happen happen, but that they are not necessarily related to God” accounted for 38% of those polled, which is more than half of the 62% that believe in miracles

    Likewise more than half of the people that prayed for miracles, say they saw no difference, only 20% think their prayers were answered

    As for “37% of British adults who attend a religious service at least monthly”, well if we take that as the 59.5% of the UK population that identify as Christian, then 37% of them is only 22.015% of the population. Still too high, but certainly not what is being insinuated in the article or post

  27. Posted October 2, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I still find anything related to hoping for miracles as magical thinking, and a dangerous delusion. Yeah, I loved those stories too when I was a kid, but Britain needs to finish growing up.

    It appears that you’re hoping that 38% are consciously defining miracles as positive unlikely occurrences (i.e chance meetings) that don’t require any supernatural explanation. Somehow I doubt they’re enlightened enough to enjoy the unusual without attributing the cause to a metaphysical equivalent to God such as cosmic karma. Talk to western Europeans and you’ll be amazed at how many “agnostic atheists,” have barely embraced skepticism outside of a narrow domain, and still hold onto equivalent forms of magical thinking. People who think plants are sentient and talking to them helps them grow, or who believe in UFOs, or have embraced some kind of postmodern Jungianism, pantheism, or new-age woo. Killing religion is merely phase one in the war on bad ideas.

  28. Posted November 13, 2018 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Yes, miracles are for today. The same Miracles that happened in the book of Acts Chapter 3 in the Holy Bible are literally happening now. It all hinges on one thing: faith in Jesus Christ. If you don’t have real faith in Jesus Christ, and it is the gas running this engine, then you can’t expect to see results.

    • Posted November 13, 2018 at 2:28 am | Permalink

      Two questions for you before you might be allowed to post again.

      1. What is your evidence that the Christian God and Jesus existed? Please cite evidence outside the Bible.
      2. Why are you so sure that Christianity is the right religion and others, like Islam and Hinduism, aren’t? They think YOU have the wrong religion!

      You must answer these questions, and if your answers are convincing, then you will be allowed to post further.

  29. Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    So belief in magic is evolutionarily selected for? 😉

  30. JezGrove
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Luck in humans was selected for by the Pierson’s puppeteers in Larry Niven’s “Ringworld”, which I guess is similar?

  31. Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    And so, evolution is never wrong.

  32. Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    …& the miracle of the loaves & fishes is pure folktale – like the bottomless bag that Rhiannon gave Pwyll & Gwal filled with food in the Mabinogion.


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