The Science Of Miracles by Joe Nickell (book review).

As a full-time professional paranormal investigator, Joe Nickell has been spending considerable time investigating all claims of miracles. This book, ‘The Science Of Miracles’, in 57 chapters is the accumulation of this work. As such, he applies scientific method to the claims and divides the fraud from the misinterpreted, as well as showing how people believe irrespective of any evidence. You’re not going to find someone who’s read other books and drawn their own conclusions here. Nickell goes to the various places himself so this is very much a definitive book on the subject.


Interestingly, Nickell points out that the Bible’s Daniel was one of the first investigators, showing that the priests who left food for Baal in a sealed room had a secret way in and they and their families scoffed the food. Considering some of their vessels contained flour, I presume that was only taken away because it would take a little while to make bread to eat later. It seems fraud and cons were going strong in biblical times and things haven’t changed since. If anything, it’s amazing that the Christian churches haven’t maintained this scepticism with their own miracles.

The first section of the book deals with the various statues that have tears of blood or milk, proving various causes from fraud, rust and cleaning. Although I’ve always suspected these causes, it’s amazing how people queue up and pay to see such things but faith doesn’t allow for rational thinking or a little knowledge of basic science.

The third section devoted to faith healing shows serious concerns for fraud across the world. If anything, it makes me wonder why the police haven’t investigated these people and literally thrown the book at them because it is open fraud of the gullible.

The same could be said of stigmatism and various ‘artefacts’ that aren’t the ages they claim to be. Should we be amazed at what people believe in or whether particular religions exploit them as well?

The analysis of Christ’s miracles or rather their metaphor tends to bring Jesus back to being a normal person. Nickell cross-matches the miracles across the four gospels and very few of them come up in all of them. You would have thought that these would have been too big an event in the apostles lives to brush off or forget.

I could go on but frankly, after reading the book, I’m still somewhat seething. It might have been a better title to call this book ‘The Religion Of Conning’ because that is really what it’s all about. If you wanted proof that the religiously inclined are seen as the gullible to be exploited then there are truly no lambs being looked after. I’m sure there must be some religions out there that don’t do that and although Nickell has been diplomatic enough not to name them, it doesn’t take a genius to realise who they are. Coming away from this book, if you were that way inclined, then I think you’ll be wondering why you bothered. Don’t expect miracles and just remember how insignificant we are in the universe.

GF Willmetts

December 2013

(pub: Prometheus Books. 450 page illustrated indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $18.00 (US), $19.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-61614-741-9. Ebook: ISBN: 978-1-61614-742-6)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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