The miracle is manifold. Not only does a dead man rise from the grave, but this person also re-establishes humanity’s relationship with God. This is such a pivotal moment in the history of salvation that the Church remembers it every Sunday through the celebration of the Mass.
But in a world that demands empirical evidence, what does that mean for belief in miracles, especially as a scientist?
Scientists study the foundations of nature, the forces at work in our world and (more specifically to my field) the mechanisms of our minds.
As a scientist, I use the scientific method to learn and try to explain natural phenomena. As our ability to create more and more complex statistical models increases, we can try to explain more and more things.
Having engaged in research for several years as a graduate student, I am inclined to seek evidence for things that happen in our world and I look for sources to draw my own conclusions.
Naturally, I have a rather high standard for miracles. Thankfully, so does the Church.
The Vatican’s process for the canonization of a saint involves the declaration of two miracles, both of which must be meticulously scrutinized.
For example, in the investigation of the second miracle of St. Marguerite D’Youville, an unprecedented second remission in a case of leukemia, the Vatican had asked hematologist Jacalyn Duffin to give her professional opinion on the medical evidence in a blind reading.
Dr. Duffin, an atheist, had assumed that the patient was already dead when she was reading the files, only to later find out that the patient was — and still is! — alive.
The Vatican’s own medical committee had already overturned the miracle once, before the second reading confirmed that the miracle was indeed unexplained by current science. The conditions for a miracle are very stringent and the Church actively plays devil’s advocate in trying to find natural explanations for the events they meticulously examine.
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been all sorts of miracles beyond medical healings.
Science has been a great help in the verification of these unnatural phenomena. For me, it is this scientific rigour that lends credence to the miracles.
My own desire to learn and be a scientist comes from the awe and wonder I experience in discovering more about nature and what it means to be human. It is through understanding nature that I can come to appreciate miracles even more.
Through science I learn more about God and my relationship with Him, miracles and all.
(Chan, 24, is a second-year PhD student in psychology at University of Toronto.)