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The Latest Virgin News PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Reader Marshall Pierce in Milwaukee alerts us:

Once, statues in churches cried REAL tears and bled real blood. But, this tops that! This is THE MOST insane I have ever heard. You will NOT believe this one!

Umm, Marshall, I'll believe that the woo-woos will say or print anything, particularly the church! Never challenge me on this! But you can try...

On the Catholic TV network last night, EWTN, they had this HUGE painting of their goddess the Virgin Mary. The "Lady of Guadeloupe" in Mexico. In the painting Mary is depicted as being pregnant. Well, when they take this painting to churches they also bring a stethoscope and people can listen to the painting to hear the baby Jesus' heart beating in that womb. And, you can also hear the virgin's heart beating as well. Some hear BOTH heartbeats!

Okay, Marshall, that comes close, but I've been to see the Lady of Guadalupe in person, and I've heard a dozen miracle stories told about it, so I'm impervious to this one. Sorry. But there's more? Try me...

Also, an ophthalmologist looked at the eye of the painting and the eye was ALIVE and moving and looking right at him. He just FAINTED! This REALLY tops it!

Umm, you mean, they claim this, right? The difference between claims and facts can be quite substantial, in my experience...

Do they just have to keep inventing more and more myths on a daily basis? Is their god SO dead they need this?

Umm, yes. Next question...?

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written by Willy K, December 12, 2008
Didn't Michael Shermer say something like "The person with the craziest story... wins?"

He was talking about 911 conspiracy nut jobs, but it applies to religious woo as well.

I hope the religious freakos keep coming up with more of this insane over-the-top nonsense. It will help the ignorant, but intelligent, people eventually realize just what a scam all religions are. The more money and power involved in the religion, the bigger the scam!
All praise our heavenly father... PT Barnum. smilies/tongue.gif

Willy K
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written by Skeptigirl, December 12, 2008
psst...Someone tell them the million dollar challenge hasn't ended yet if they really believe in their miracle.
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written by BillyJoe, December 12, 2008
Hey, he is an Opthalmologist!
That's gotta mean something.

(Note to Randi: I'm being sarcastic smilies/cool.gif)
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written by yarro, December 13, 2008
The relicapped -or should I say more PC "the rationally impaired"- probably hear pile drivers building the foundation of yet another cathedral of the nonsense. As for the ophthalmologist, he's obviously been hit on the head by one of the piles.
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written by bcoppola, December 13, 2008
Just speculating: Don't religious fervor and "miracles" increase in quantity and "quality" (quotes intentional) in times of increased stress? Mexico, already a pretty shaky place in the best of times, is in the throes of a very violent three way drug war (gang vs. gang vs. the corrupt gov't), and suffering the economic fallout from our own recession woes.

As others have noted here from time to time, in our First World economic heebie jeebies the "for entertainment" psychics like the fine establishment just a couple of miles from me seem to be doing a bang-up business. And the church parking lots are full.

Heck, when my tenuous contract gig is up... smilies/shocked.gif
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written by Celsus, December 13, 2008
I’m waiting for the paining to give birth! Then we’ll have something to discuss. All this other stuff is subjective, like hearing the ocean in a seashell.
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written by MJG, December 13, 2008
Perhaps the painting will give birth to a litter of conveniently wallet sized icons of paper baby Jesus! Ava liable now for the low, low price of $19.95! Own your own genuine miracle now, satisfaction guaranteed! (gullibility not included)
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written by Starthinker, December 13, 2008
written by Skeptigirl, December 12, 2008

"psst...Someone tell them the million dollar challenge hasn't ended yet if they really believe in their miracle."

They'll just claim that only the believers can hear it and the non believers can't.
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written by BillyJoe, December 13, 2008
...like hearing the ocean in a seashell

Well, there is at least part of the ocean in a seashell, but I don't think it actually talks to you. And it drains out when you pull it out of the water.

(I think there is a lesson in there, but I can't quite think what it is.)
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written by BillyJoe, December 13, 2008
I’m waiting for the paining to give birth!

I thought that was quite clever till I realised you meant "painting". Oh well...
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written by BillyJoe, December 13, 2008
Perhaps the painting will give birth to a litter of conveniently wallet sized icons of paper baby Jesus!

Hey, that is good smilies/smiley.gif

But I think we should demand it.
No baby jesus in nine months and we call them on it.
Headlines: "MARY HAS A PHANTOM PREGNANCY!"
subtitle: "JESUS IS A DELUSION!"

BJ
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written by dr pepper, December 13, 2008
Is this the actual miraculous painting? The one that is supposedly not a painting, but the coat of the peasant that Mary spoke to and on which her image just appeared? I would have thought that it was too fragile to go on tour.
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awards
written by urp, December 13, 2008
You forgot my "Modality Award".
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Practical Accoustics 001
written by jj, December 13, 2008
I wonder if any of those people have ever tried putting a stethoscope on any building with lots of people in it, I mean just on the main structure.

Fact #1: Stone carries vibrations for miles. Literally. In the extreme, we call those vibrations earthquakes. In buildings you can bang on a wall at one end, and easily hear the results in a stethoscope at the other end through a stone or brick wall, BEFORE the actual sound arrives via air, in at least some cases. The speed of sound in stone is not slow, it's fast, fast, fast. Mortar joints provide some of the oddest dispersions one can imagine, and so what went in may sound nothing like what comes out.

Now, I tend to discount the kind of observation in the OP rather completely on the basis that it's unverified human perception, but we know we'll never convince people that perception can be wrong, never mind centuries of proof otherwise, starting in places like churches, where the priests learned to woo the peasants with simple tricks.
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written by Starthinker, December 13, 2008
If I've heard this news before, does that make the headline false?
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 13, 2008
While alternative theories as to what folks are really hearing are appreciated, they simply aren't necessary. In Wooville, all that is required to hear a heartbeat is the expectation you'll hear a heartbeat.
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written by nelson650, December 13, 2008
The real miracle is how the blood of Jesus turns into food coloring upon close examination by non-believers!
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for a church that says that belief in relics & post-Jesus miracles is optional...
written by Trish, December 13, 2008
They sure do a lot to support those who flog such tidbits.

As for hearing heartbeats, I'm sure people do hear heartbeats, iin the form of their own blood rushing thru blood vessels in their ears (the same way we hear "the ocean" in sea shells)
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written by BillyJoe, December 13, 2008
I'm sure people do hear heartbeats, iin the form of their own blood rushing thru blood vessels in their ears

We're on the same wavelength. smilies/smiley.gif
But I'm ahead of you. smilies/grin.gif
I tried it with my sister-in-laws stethoscope after running up and down a couple of times.
It didn't work. smilies/sad.gif
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To Cuddy Joe
written by jj, December 13, 2008
Oh, I'm well aware of that. While I can't speak to BillyJoe's experience with a stethoscope, you certainly can hear your own heartbeat and blood flowing in your blood vessels in a very quiet room. I've been there. It's quite unusual. Is the church that quiet? It is possible. smilies/smiley.gif

But in any case, you don't have to convince me of the power of suggestion in any kind of 'eyewitness" (i.e. eye, ear, nose, throat, feel, smell, taste ... smilies/smiley.gif ) perception.

Rule #1. Human perception is usually wrong.
Rule #2. See Rule #1 (in memory of Month Python)
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written by BillyJoe, December 13, 2008
Cuddy Joe,

While I can't speak to BillyJoe's experience with a stethoscope, you certainly can hear your own heartbeat and blood flowing in your blood vessels in a very quiet room.

The pulsing would have to be present only when you apply the stethoscope, otherwise the illusion wouldn't work.

It could then be resolved by asking the person to count out the beats while you took their own pulse

BJ
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 14, 2008
Um, JJ wrote that not me.

Still, you can offer all the explanations you want and Woosters will still believe they're hearing the Virgin Mary's heartbeat. Some will just smear divinity on themselves by believing that Mary's heart and their own are beating simultaneously.

My brother's adult son claimed to have seen a 'real' UFO. I pointed out to him that Venus was prominent in the sky at the same time and location as his sighting and matched his sighting in terms of description. He said, "so?" I explained that if was seeing a 'real' UFO he should have seen two strong lights in the sky - his UFO and Venus. He replied, "They must have overlapped and appeared as one light..."

My point is that some woo runs so deep and obfuscates basic reason so completely that no amount of common sense will overrule it. They just readjust their 'facts' to accomodate.
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written by BillyJoe, December 14, 2008
Oops, yeah, he was writing to you, I was mislead by that big heading to his post.

I agree. You are not going to convince the faithful. But there are those who are undecided who may be pursuaded by something like this unless reasonable rational explanations are given. They may also jump over into the believers camp if UNreasonable explanations are given - like their own heart beating in the stethoscope.

And another problem is that you put the earpieces in your ear before you apply the diaphragm to the painting, with a delay of about half a minute or so, so they would hear the baby Jesus' heart beating a little too soon.

Yeah, so I think logical rational reasonable scientifiic explanations are still important.

We also need more data before we can offer hypotheses here. What exactly did they hear? What exactly did they do in order to hear it? When did they hear it? What diiferences are there in the reports of various listeners?

BJ
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written by One Skunk Todd, December 15, 2008
I wonder what are the acoustic properties of a large piece of canvas stretched tight over a wooden frame. Will it amplify faint sounds generated in other areas? Could it transfer non-audible noise into the diaphragm of the stethoscope?
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UPDATED: MIRACLE RULES FOR 2009
written by mjr, December 15, 2008
Dear woo-woos,

It is now the early 21st century; we've needed to revise and update the standards of what constitutes a "miracle." This, unfortunately, is due to advances in desktop 3D processing, digital photomanipulation, miniaturization of electronics, and greater sophistication in stage-management. We join you in your sincere wish to make your miracles as unbelievably awesome as possible. It is for that reason that we offer the following guidelines:
- If your miracle is an image, it has to be of higher quality than a typical 14 year-old can produce with Bryce or Maya or any desktop 3D renderer. When you produce your miracle, show it to a couple of kids and if one of them tells you "the graphics in Final Fantasy VII totally bag that" - you need to go back to the drawing board.
- If your miracle is something that Penn and Teller could do better, please don't bother. Making the blind see? Penn and Teller can saw a woman in half and restore her - alive and in one piece. Consider making a submarine vanish, or moving one of the pyramids at Gizeh to be an entry-level miracle.
- If your miracle weeps blood or oil or other precious bodily fluids, please make sure that its DNA is not from a chicken. Go on the web, buy some syringes, and get some real human blood if there's any in your veins.
- If your miracle involves an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary appearing someplace unexpected, please make sure it's cooler than the 250-mile high smiley face that was discovered on the moon. Toast and wood grain divine appearances are passe; we recommend galactic objects as advanced miracle substrate.

Thank you,
The Internet Committee on Miracles
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Hersteria or hissteria?
written by Ian Mason, December 15, 2008
Were the ancient Greeks right? The womb as the source of hysteria? smilies/tongue.gif
Joking aside, is this an expression of suppressed (female) rage at the patriarchal Catholic church? A distorted outpouring of a genuine grievance? Let's not be unkind, folks. This could be an example of real people suffering real pain and without a rational outlet.
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written by Alan3354, December 15, 2008
What's the pope's official position on this?
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written by Trish, December 15, 2008
Alan, The Catholic Church's position regarding relics, miracles, Mary sitings, &/or images of New Testament characters on foodstuffs [or underpasses] is that it is ok, but not required, for Catholics to believe that these are manifestations from God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or Mary.
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Um, actually, Billy Joe
written by jj, December 16, 2008
The Stethoscope idea is not bogus. In fact, when you move a stethoscope around, you can block and unblock the ear canal, and that can make it quite easy to hear your heartbeat (the blood vessels in the ear canal cause pressure changes that couple very effectively to your eardrum). (No, I'm not making this up, either.)

So, referring to the "your own heartbeat" as "unreasonable" is simply propagating more bad science, I'm sorry to say.

Stethoscopes are quite hard to use, actually, and the earpieces have to fit the listener. If they don't you can block the ear canal, get too loose a seal, or a lot of other malfuctions, that is, in addition to building transfer, pickup from the painting itself, and that's all leaving out any kind of intentional skulduggery.
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Miracles
written by Christine, December 16, 2008
The Catholic Church's position may be that belief in woo woo is not required but it does nothing to quash any new "miracles". And the plain, sad, sordid truth is that it would mean the loss of a LOT of money to the local and worldwide church. Mexico is a country in a lot of trouble financially and educationally. Poor people try to find hope in their (Catholic) religion but the Church is instrumental in playing them for everything it can get. Read Randi's account of what he found when he visited Guadeloupe. It will break your heart and make you want to strangle someone at the same time! This whole thing is built upon a myth anyway, there is no proof that the man to whom the "Virgin" appeared was even real! The whole thing is another way the Catholic Church keeps its believers under control.

Some of us, by the luck of living in an educated and free society have managed to break free of those shackles, but the poor and uneducated in many parts of the world are very much under its controls or those of other, even more evil, "religions".
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written by BillyJoe, December 16, 2008
jj,

The Stethoscope idea is not bogus. In fact, when you move a stethoscope around, you can block and unblock the ear canal, and that can make it quite easy to hear your heartbeat (the blood vessels in the ear canal cause pressure changes that couple very effectively to your eardrum). (No, I'm not making this up, either.)

Obviously, my sister-in-law showed me how to use the stethoscope correctly. smilies/wink.gif

So, referring to the "your own heartbeat" as "unreasonable" is simply propagating more bad science, I'm sorry to say.

It's an unreasonable explanation for two reasons. If we put aside your above destruction of my first argument (which I do not yet accept untill I try out a few more experiments - like using the stehoscope incorrectly!), there is still my second argument that the user will hear the heart beats BEFORE applying the diaphragm to the painting.

Stethoscopes are quite hard to use, actually, and the earpieces have to fit the listener. If they don't you can block the ear canal, get too loose a seal, or a lot of other malfuctions,

Either I was lucky or my sister-in-law is an excellent teacher, or you are overstating your case. smilies/cool.gif

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by Trish, December 17, 2008
Christine, Of course the Catholic Church doesn't quash miracle-peddling - there's waaay tooooo much $$$ involved. I think the you-can-but-don't-have-to-believe policy is designed to try to keep in the fold people who have enough brain cells on-line to find the idea that crumbling bones of questionable provenance, liquids dripping on churchy art and reports of "visitations" to be as childish as they sound. But nobody ever accused the Catholic Church of rejecting an opportunity to reap some of the money that miracles, relics & pilgrimages generate.

Basically, the Catholic church wants to have its miraculous relic cake & all the visitor revenue it generates, and eat it, too.
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written by David C., December 25, 2008
I'm waaaay behind the swift blog so I hope someone actually reads this smilies/grin.gif

Anyway, those news mentioned are not that new. Growing up as a catholic in Mexico you have to believe all those insane stories about the so called aparicion, because you know it is not a painting (so they say) .
What many of those belivers (I was one) doesn't know is that in 1833 the Bishop from Mexico asked (ordered) a historian named Joaquin Garcia Icazabaleta to make a study of such aparicions and the miracle of the virgin Mary. His findings are very interesting and are documented in his book "Juan Diego y las Apariciones del Tepeyac". Just to point out a few interesting facts he mentions:
- there is no writen documentation about the events by the bishop that is mentioned in the original story.
- the name "Guadalupe" is arab in origin and is also the name of a region in Spain.
- on the same hill where the miracles happened the aztecs worshiped a female goddess named Tonantzin.

Well these events are obviously ignored by the catholic church but then again they are deep in s**t to admit they made it all up.
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