Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Suggestion, Cognitive Dissonance, and a Trip to Lourdes

Professor Hale offered this comment in the ghost thread:

"I think you have to be suggestible in nature to see such things. Kind of like why only Catholics see Mary, only UFO nuts see them, and only Pentacostals see and cast out demons everywhere."

I'm not one to let an opportunity like this pass. So I have a question for you. Have you ever heard the name Emile Zola? Its no shame that you probably haven't. Indeed its a credit to mankind that his name has largely been forgotten.

Now... why bring him up here?

See... Emile was a famous novelist in the 1890s... and he was a world class prick. He was a thorough prick though. He had a reputation for meticulous research and he was revered among the elites of the day... but again... he was a prick. He was the kind of prick that would ask a christian how someone could believe in God in an age of telegraphs and steam engines.

Emile had a lot in common with Richard Dawkins. But come... let's hear more of his story.

Now ol' Emile had a particular hatred for Lourdes and the claims of miracles that happened there. So much so that he famously announced that he was going to write a scathing novel debunking them... and in 1896... he traveled there to research his project.

I'm not at all certain if you know about what happened at Lourdes but to make a long story short... its a place of Christian Pilgrimage where folks came to pray and repent. There also were frequent healings in the baths there.

So on his way to Lourdes Emile met a girl with a trifecta of afflictions. She had tuberculosis in both lungs... Lupus... and leg ulcerations. Her name was Marie Lemarchande. Zola became quite close to her and also befriended some local medical doctors when they arrived at Lourdes. In fact... when Marie went into the baths one of the doctors, Dr Bossiarree, who was president of the medical bureau, was standing next to him.

Imagine their surprise when Marie came out of the baths completely healed. Bossiarree was amazed. He said, "Behold Monsieur Zola! The case of your dreams!" But Zola turned away. He refused to look at her... and claimed she was still ugly to him.

As if it was not enough... God forced Zola to witness at least one more healing in Lourdes...

And yet when his novel came out... he claimed neither healing actually happened. In his novel "Lourdes" he claimed that the healings were just the result of suggestion and an atmosphere of hysteria... and that neither had lasting effects. He wrote that, in spite of the fact that he remained in close contact with Marie for 16 years after the trip and knew she was permanently healed.

Bossiarree confronted Emile Zola about the false claims... and his reply was... "Its my art. I can say what I want to say."

He had come to Lourdes claiming to only want to see a cut finger dipped in the water and healed. While there he'd seen at least two bona fide miracles that were documented by medical professionals. Yet still... he refused to see... and knowingly lied in his novel.

And that Professor Hale... is all I have to say about Suggestion.