Religion and insanity, part 2 . . .

31 05 2008

Ninemsn reports:

The Vatican has launched a judicial inquiry into the case of an Australian woman who claims to have been cured of inoperable lung cancer in 1993 through the intercession of saint-in-waiting Mary MacKillop.

Two doctors will examine the case for evidence of a second miracle needed for sainthood.

The first miracle, which led to the beatification of Mary MacKillop, was the cure of another woman of leukaemia in 1961.

[. . .]

The case before the Vatican is of an unidentified Australian woman who was given weeks to live in 1993 when her lung cancer proved untreatable.

The woman carried a picture of the Blessed Mary with a piece of the nun’s habit attached to it, pinned to her clothes, day and night.

The Josephite nuns say doctors could find no scientific explanation for her recovery.

Spot the logical fallacy.

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9 responses

31 05 2008
Bruce

Spot the logical fallacy.

Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise – “The Josephite nuns say doctors could find no scientific explanation for her recovery.

31 05 2008
AV

Another one is post hoc ergo propter hoc: lung cancer victim carries piece of Mary Mackillop’s habit, lung cancer victim recovers from lung cancer, therefore, the intercession of Mary Mackillop cured said lung cancer victim of lung cancer.

2 06 2008
GodKillzYou

The Josephite nuns say doctors could find no scientific explanation for her recovery.

I could be wrong, but it sounds more like an argument from ignorance. The scientists they had on the case couldn’t find a scientific explanation, so therefore there isn’t one.

2 06 2008
Bruce

Yes, but that’s the ignorance of the scientists, not the one making the claim. Argument from ignorance is when the person making the argument predicates their claim (usually a counter claim) on their own ignorance, not that of another. 😉

2 06 2008
AV

Re: Argument from ignorance . . . I still think this is a valid call. The explanandum is the woman’s recovery from “untreatable” lung cancer; doctors could not provide an explanans; therefore, the supernatural explanans wins by default. (So the nuns would claim.) The assumption I am making, and it may be an extremely charitable one, is that if a medical explanation is provided, the nuns (and the Vatican) would accept it; otherwise, what would be the point of appealing to medical expertise (other than to play the ratiosimilitude card–but then I’m being charitable, remember?) in the first place? Therefore, the ignorance of the doctors is the ignorance of the nuns who are appealing to the expertise of the doctors.

2 06 2008
AV

Re: Argument from ignorance . . . I still think this is a valid call.

I mean . . . it’s a valid criticism of the nun’s claim.

2 06 2008
Bruce

Yeah, but I’m not being charitable. 😉

2 06 2008
Bruce

Oh, and ratiosimilitude; I love the neologism and somehow I’ve overlooked it. It’s a word I’ve needed to articulate the criticism of the same repeated pattern I’ve seen myself (e.g. see Mallot’s ravings – equal part ratiosimilitude “argument” and chauvinist posture).

2 06 2008
GodKillzYou

Might even be an appeal to authority? They didn’t keep looking, or asking for a second, third or fourth opinion when no explanation was found.

Cherry-picking evidence, or lack thereof? Let’s see if we can find doctors who can’t explain this…

Seems like it could be a few different types of logical fallacies depending on your interpretation of what they’re saying.

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