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Top Ten Scientific Explantions of Miracle of Sun at Fatima

The Miracle of the Dancing Sun at Fatima which was seen by 70,000 people on October 13th, 1917 has been written about often. But many people continually attempt to explain away the vision of the sun dancing in the sky at a foretold time.

Avelino de Almeida, wrote articles for O Século, Portugal's most widely-circulated and influential newspaper, which was pro-government and anti-clerical at the time. Almeida's previous articles had been to satirize the previously reported events at Fatima but here's what he wrote that day:

"Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bare-headed, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws — the sun 'danced' according to the typical expression of the people."
But secularists have amassed an enormous amount of explanations as to why we should not believe our own eyes. Here are the astounding reasons they've amassed so we should believe nothing at all special happened in Portugal that great day.

1. Stratospheric Dust. Steuart Campbell, writing for the 1989 edition of Journal of Meteorology, postulated that a cloud of stratospheric dust changed the appearance of the sun on 13 October, making it easy to look at, and causing it to appear yellow, blue, and violet and to spin. In support of his hypothesis, Mr. Campbell reports that a blue and reddened sun was reported in China as documented in 1983.

2. ESP! (Always my favorite) Author Lisa Schwebel claims that the event was a supernatural (but non-miraculous) extra-sensory phenomenon. Schwebel notes that the solar phenomenon reported at Fátima is not unique - there have been several reported cases of high pitched religious gatherings culminating in the sudden and mysterious appearance of lights in the sky.

3. Mock-Sun. Didn't even know this existed but it's worth a listen. Joe Nickell, a skeptic and investigator of paranormal phenomena, claims that the position of the phenomenon, as described by the various witnesses, is at the wrong azimuth and elevation to have been the sun. He suggests the cause may have been a sundog. Sometimes referred to as a parhelion or "mock sun", a sundog is an atmospheric optical phenomenon associated with the reflection/refraction of sunlight by the numerous small ice crystals that make up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. A sundog is, however, a stationary phenomenon, and would not explain the reported appearance of the "dancing sun". So Nickell further suggests an explanation for this phenomena may lie in temporary retinal distortion, caused by staring at the intense light and/or the effect of darting the eyes to and fro so as to avoid completely fixed gazing (thus combining image, afterimage and movement). So the people shook their heads and though a mock-sun was dancing. All 70,000? Prety ridiculous, huh?

4. Dust cloud! Paul Simons, in an article entitled "Weather Secrets of Miracle at Fatima", states that he believes it possible that some of the optical effects at Fatima may have been caused by a cloud of dust from the Sahara.

5. Ye ol mass hallucination theory. Author Kevin McClure claims that the crowd at Cova da Iria may have been expecting to see signs in the sun, as similar phenomena had been reported in the weeks leading up to the miracle. On this basis he believes that the crowd saw what it wanted to see. (Yeah because that happens all the time.) But McClure's account fails to explain similar reports of people miles away, who by their own testimony were not even thinking of the event at the time, or the sudden drying of people's sodden, rain-soaked clothes.

6. UFO! It has been argued that the Fatima phenomenon was an alien craft. Of course, either that craft happened to come on the day that the three little children said a miracle would occur. Or the apparitions were all the works of little green men. This all sounds a lot more real than the Church's explanation.

7. Solar Storm. A gigantic coronal mass ejection (CME) occurred. Every eleven years our sun goes through a period of solar storms and these storms have been with us for
centuries of recorded history. Solar flares emit high-speed particles that
cause the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. Well that explains it all right there. Because we all know the Northern Lights look exactly like the Sun dancing. Or not.

8. Peer pressure. Among a uniform people sharing a particular religious belief, it is very easy for individuals to feel social pressure to conform to whatever is seen as a part of "how things should be", for "true believers". 70,000 people. That's pretty strong peer pressure especially for the people who saw it 20 miles away.

9. Not everyone saw it. Astronomers noticed no dancing in the sky from all over the world. The dancing sun was a regional event thus disproving it. A quick question would be the fact that it was a regional event should prove that something out of the ordinary happened. If it happened worldwide it would be written off as simply an astronomical event because the whole world saw it.

10. An Eclipse. These fellas don't mind contradicting themselves. This would be a very very regional eclipse. Wouldn't astronomers have noted the eclipse?

Bonus Reason:
11. Evolution. This is sadly from Institute of Physics, Catholic Univeristy of Louvain. Evolution has provided us with the infamous “zoom and loom effect”. It tends to appear when the brain is confronted with the two-dimensional retinal image of an object thatis situated at some unknown distance. The brain will then consider the possibility that it could come closer, by performing an illusory mental zoom, where the apparent size of the object isprogressively increased. This results from the fact that evolution preserved the tendency to take into account the possibility of a dangerous approach: a rapid evasive action could bebeneficial for survival. When the “idea” of an approach does not lead to any real danger, theperceived object returns to its normal place. Thus the dancing sun. Amazing. 70,000 people thought the Sun was a predator coming to eat them. When they realized the Sun had no teeth they "zoomed and loomed" it back to where it belonged. That might just be my favorite one.

So after listening to these level-headed scientists(?) explain away Fatima hasn't it convinced you to join the Richard Dawkins fan club? Me neither.

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39 comments:

Subvet said...

"For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't, no proof is possible."

Niall Mor said...

I believe Chesterton made a remark to the effect that once people cease to believe in God, it isn't that they believe in nothing. They'll believe in anything.

matthew archbold said...

When you remove God from your life he leaves a rather large God-shaped hole. And people frantically try to fill it.

Bill said...

Yes for those who believe no proof is necessary. That's the problem. But exactly how do solar phenomenon/hallucinations have anything to do with the truth of Catholic doctrine. I cuold just as easily say they prove the reality of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Anyway it would be a childish god who revealed himself in a sky light show. I think asinine would be the right word.

matthew archbold said...

All Hail the Flying Spaghetti Monster! Dude, just try to be a little considerate when you're here. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Private revelation should not be examined as "evidence" in a theological sense. Rather, it is an aid to the faith of those who experience.

However, insofar as this miracle may have happened as a revelation to a particular set of people, there is also no reason why it would have to have been observable to people on a larger scale.

Bill said...

What?

Registro de Eventos said...

see this link.
http://www.ovnis.atfreeweb.com/5b_fatima_apparitions_sun.htm

Anonymous said...

lol Richard Dawkins Fanclub! It's interesting to note that the only organisation (In the loose sense of the word) to officially support Fatima is the Catholic Church. But Atheism backs these explanations tooth and nail.... and they claim to be completely rational in doing so..... forgive my language, but WTF?

Anonymous said...

Rather than try to explain it, isn't it ok to just say "we have no explanation because of a lack of information"? The phenomenon, whatever it was, proves nothing. The fact that we don't have a satisfactory answer does not prove god. It simply means we don't have enough information to explain it. To simply chalk it up to god is rather lazy. Far-fetched explanations like ESP or UFOs are unlikely. But then again, so is the idea of god.

Rick said...

And this is not even a matter of belief i.e. no faith is required because it has been witnessed and reported objectively by the secular media.

Then again, the Lord did say that even if someone comes back from the dead, certain people will not believe. So, what else is new?

BTW, there's a whole school of thought explaining away the miracles in Scriptures e.g. the chosen people crossing the sea of Reeds during low tide.

Edmund said...

Coincidentally, I saw a sun-dog the other morning at sunrise. Weirdest thing, I could see the sun just coming over the mountains, but I could also see a bright orange ball about 15 degrees above the horizon.

Craig said...

A halo appeared over Moscow yesterday:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1219425/Pictured-The-luminous-halo-shaped-cloud-captured-hovering-Moscow.html?ITO=1490

FSM strikes again!

Matthew said...

I always find it amazing that as a Catholic, things like Fatima don't really faze me. Of course being a Catholic I can also say that things like evolution or, indeed, the sciences don't bother me either. I am free to accept or reject anything I wish (save for Catholic dogma, which make's logical sense if I wish to call myself a Catholic!).


If one accepts that God does indeed exist and is creator of the universe, one would accept that He has the natural right to do with it as He likes.

How unlike the atheist! Close minded to any possibility that even mentions God! How blinded to anything outside the realms of their "science"! Where once we as a culture would look at things like Theology and Philosophy as subjects to be studied and talked of seriously, these "Neo-Atheist's" (Who honestly aren't so much new as just louder then before) mock and put down these paths of learning!

We shouldn't be surprised. When all that is left to a person is absolute oblivion of anything of worth, it makes it far more easier to simply ignore what one doesn't want to see.

William said...

Yes, Bill, you COULD say the flying Spaghetti Monster was proving his existence as long as there was a crowd of 100,000 promised a miracle from him at the very same day, very same hour over on the next hill. Saying so would be incredibly childish, but you could say it.

The thing about modern miracles to me, frankly, is that they require a trust in the common man that atheists just don't seem capable of.

Ancient man clung to his mysterious god that he couldn't hope to understand, we cling to our teacups. I'm so proud.

Scott W. said...

I always find it amazing that as a Catholic, things like Fatima don't really faze me. Of course being a Catholic I can also say that things like evolution or, indeed, the sciences don't bother me either. I am free to accept or reject anything I wish (save for Catholic dogma, which make's logical sense if I wish to call myself a Catholic!).

There is a Chesterton quote about that that goes (something like) if I believe in an immortal soul, I don't have to think much about it, but if I don't believe it, I must not think about it. In other words I'm stuck in the same trap that the challange not to think about a purple elephant for the next five minutes. We see this played out in the scoffers' inability to have a conversation without spewing insults that betrays an obsession with the supposedly non-existent.

Matthew Siekierski said...

William, thanks for pointing out the thing many seem to miss.

Any random event doesn't work as evidence in support of God, but the dancing of the sun wasn't random. People didn't see the sun dance and say "it must have been God". The children at Fatima were told in advance, and that makes a huge difference. It's not applying the "God of the Gaps" after the fact, saying "we don't know what happened, so it must have been God". But that's how many atheists (and those who don't believe in miracles) treat it.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

Regarding author Lisa Schwebel's theory in #2 -- Woodstock doesn't count as a religious experience.

Anonymous said...

Bill - I agree with you. I don't see how a "dancing sun" furthers or validates Catholic dogma in any way. Rather than a sun "dancing", why not an image of Jesus Himself? Or God's hand coming down in blessing? Or a cross? For me it just doesn't add up. But if it brings anyone who believes in a dancing sun closer to God, then kudos.

Anonymous said...

In The God Delusion, Dawkins couldn't explain the Fatima vision(s) away (yes, I read the book). He sort of brushed over it.

Thanks for informing on the latest reasons.

gbm3

TH2 said...

By reading this post, one gets the impression that some natural factor could not have explained the event.

In fact, it very likely was a meteorological phenomenom. Such happenings have been recorded in the historical record (e.g "A Kaleidoscope Sun", Meteorological Magazine, vol. 58, no, 685, 1923, pp. 10-11). Moreover, the account of the stationary sun (Joshua 10: 10-13) can plausibly be explained by a meteorological phenomenum ("A Meteorological Anomaly in Palestine 33 Centuries Ago: How did the sun stop?", Theoertical and Applied Climatology, vol. 41, 1990, pp. 81-85).

But why cannot God use natural phenomena, however anomalous, to produce a miracle? This is entirely consistent with Catholic theology. To be sure, the recently deceased Fr. Stanley Jaki wrote a whole book on this matter - "God and the Sun at Fatima". I am surprised you did not refer to this intellectual giant of a priest, let alone his holiness.

The miracle should be viewed, not so much in the context of natural science, but in the fact that the dancing sun - an extremely rare occurrence - was perfectly predicted (via the Most Blessed Virgin) by the three shepperd children, who knew nothing of science, let alone geopolitical affairs.

By publishing this post you, unfortunately, have given more ammunition to secular atheists, making them think that Catholics are "against" science. True, the suite of scientific explanations you quote come from a gallery of buffoons with anti-Catholic motivations, but a clarification is in order since this is a very popular blog, with many Catholic readers, who have, in my view, been misinformed into thinking that God's creation of the universe is not rationally consistent. And this only works to sever the link between faith and reason, which HHB16 has been working so hard to show that there is no "contradiction" between the two.

matthew archbold said...

Feel free to do that on your blog.

TH2 said...

Ah, yes, fair and objective criticism nonchalantly scored off.

Matthew Siekierski said...

Any scientific explanation of how God caused the sun to dance is unimportant, other than for our education in how the world works. It has no bearing on the miracle.

If some kids came up to you and said there was going to be green snow tomorrow at 10am, and it then happened, would it matter if science could later figure what caused the green snow? Or is the more important aspect the fact that the children knew something that scientists of the time didn't even know about, much less predict?

TH2 said...

"Any scientific explanation of how God caused the sun to dance is unimportant..."

... which is what I effectively said...

"The miracle should be viewed, not so much in the context of natural science, but in the fact that the dancing sun - an extremely rare occurrence - was perfectly predicted (via the Most Blessed Virgin) by the three shepperd children"

However, I disagree with your word "unimportant"... again, this exludes the role of a material world (a free creation), which an omniscient and omnipotent God uses for His purposes. If not careful, attributing unimportance to the "the materiality" of the miracle, will tend to a negative view of matter... and if even less careful to (eventually) a anti-material gnostic/Manichean view of things.

Ryan said...

I absolutely agree with TH2 here. Those who believe in God really should have no fear of science since God created the universe which science studies. If Fatima was a local meteorological event it needn't change anything at all.

Atheists who use arguments like that (and I'd hardly call some of them scientific) do themselves and atheism and religion a great disservice by using very shortsighted philosophy. It suggests that one who acknowledge scientific truth cannot except any other truth and that one who acknowledges a truth which is not shown by science cannot accept science...what a terrible way to look at man's capacity for knowing!

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"...what a terrible way to look at man's capacity for knowing!"

Picture Manuel from Faulty Towers:

I know nothing!

(Remember the context?)

-gbm3

P. Button said...

Have to agree with TH2. Don't think you were very nice to him Matthew.

Matthew Siekierski said...

However, I disagree with your word "unimportant"... again, this exludes the role of a material world (a free creation), which an omniscient and omnipotent God uses for His purposes. If not careful, attributing unimportance to the "the materiality" of the miracle, will tend to a negative view of matter... and if even less careful to (eventually) a anti-material gnostic/Manichean view of things.

It doesn't exclude the role of the material world, it merely makes it secondary to the reality of the miracle.

The Holy Mother tells three children on three different days that she will provide a miracle on October 13th "so that all may believe". The miracle of the dancing sun occurs on October 13th, just as she said.

Without the words of the apparition, the event is just an event, interesting in a scientific aspect but not indicative of God's existence. But coupled with the promise of a miracle to be provided on that day, it's something more. The sun dancing was the promised miracle. What in the physical world caused it to dance doesn't change that.

I understand your warning about not being careful to avoid developing a negative view of the material world, but that seems to be much less prevalent than the use of physical science to dismiss the miraculous nature of the event.

If we can figure out what God made happen in this world to cause the sun to dance that day, cool. But figuring that out shouldn't make the miracle less miraculous. Scientists may be able to make some guesses about what could have happened that day, but it can't explain the apparition's repeated promise to provide the miracle.

What's more likely? That three young shepherds were told by the Holy Mother that a miracle would occur in three months, or that three young shepherds could predict three months in advance that a natural event would made the sun appear to dance?

If science could ever prove what happened that day (an impossibility, since it's impossible to scientifically test a past event), or if scientists come up with a "reasonable" explanation of the physical events that needed to occur for such a thing to be seen (much more likely), then the explanation will be used to attempt to reduce the miracle to "just" a natural event.

Anonymous said...

matthew archbold said...
Feel free to do that on your blog.


Whoah! Do you NOT want people here who have valid opinions which happen to challenge yours? Not cool.

matthew archbold said...

Did I delete the comment? No.

And I'm not all that interested in being cool.

TH2 said...

Anonymous/gbm3: No idea what you are talking about. Accordingly, whether you are an atheist troll or not, neither do I know. Come back and elaborate and I will respond, if the good host of this excellent blog permits...

Matthew S: Thanks for the detailed rejoinder. I quote you below as "M", me as "TH2"

M: "It doesn't exclude the role of the material world, it merely makes it secondary to the reality of the miracle."

TH2: Correct. Again, this is what I effectively said... "not so much in the context of...". But you used the word "unimportant", which has a different meaning (i.e. no relevance) than "secondary" (some relevance. (so you know, I am a distinction monger)

M: "The Holy Mother tells three children on three different days that she will provide a miracle on October 13th "so that all may believe". The miracle of the dancing sun occurs on October 13th, just as she said."

TH2: I agree absolutely. I did not negate or diminish this in my comments.

M: "Without the words of the apparition, the event is just an event, interesting in a scientific aspect but not indicative of God's existence."

TH2: When you say "not indicative of God's existence"... well, I have some disagreement there, but then we enter the wider arena of proof of God's existence and St. Thomas' 5 explanations thereof (Sum. Theol., i-ii, q.2, art. 3)... but perhaps this is not the proper venue to discuss.

M: "...But coupled with the promise of a miracle to be provided on that day, it's something more. The sun dancing was the promised miracle. What in the physical world caused it to dance doesn't change that."

TH2: Again. I agree. I said nothing in my comments to the contrary.

M:"I understand your warning about not being careful to avoid developing a negative view of the material world, but that seems to be much less prevalent than the use of physical science to dismiss the miraculous nature of the event."

TH2: This seems to be a simple disagreement over the degree of our worries. You think the threat is worse from outside atheistic scientists that dismiss the matter. I think this, too, is a main concern, but I don't underestimate the implications of errors "from within", so to speak. I see the latter as equally threatening if misunderstood.

M: "If we can figure out what God made happen in this world to cause the sun to dance that day, cool. But figuring that out shouldn't make the miracle less miraculous. Scientists may be able to make some guesses about what could have happened that day, but it can't explain the apparition's repeated promise to provide the miracle."

TH2: Again. I agree. No argument here.

M: "What's more likely? That three young shepherds were told by the Holy Mother that a miracle would occur in three months, or that three young shepherds could predict three months in advance that a natural event would made the sun appear to dance?"

TH2: I never made that distinction in my commentary, but if I came across that way, it was not my intention. But it seems, like me, you are a distinction monger as well. Good to know you, sir.

Ryan said...

TH2, gbm3 wasn't referencing you, but rather a comment I had made, which I suppose was referencing you. So needn't worry about him or her.

gbm3...I've never seen that television show, it was before my time. However wikipedia and youtube can alleviate such problems.

Having seen it, I thank you for the laughs from the skit...
miss-communication is a problem indeed.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an Atheist (I try to be an Orthodox Catholic, but cafeteria Republican). I debate Atheists all the time. The ref. is alluding to the fact that Atheists are told by other Atheists or themselves (in mind speak) that they know nothing (about anything or esp. God).

Mrs. Faulty told Manuel that he didn't know something that he actually did. He then went around with his "outrageous accent" (picture Holy Grail) telling everyone he knew nothing (I usually don't like the show too much (my wife does), but I like this scene; Also, Dawkins uses Faulty Towers references).

Just a small comment.

BTW, the show was before my time too, but it's been on PBS (MPT) here in MD.

Good day and God bless you and your loved ones.

gbm3

Matthew Siekierski said...

TH2, you said:
This seems to be a simple disagreement over the degree of our worries. You think the threat is worse from outside atheistic scientists that dismiss the matter. I think this, too, is a main concern, but I don't underestimate the implications of errors "from within", so to speak. I see the latter as equally threatening if misunderstood.

I agree. Our little back-and-forth seems to be more about the relative level of concern that should be held with regard to how we and others react to either posts like Matthew's or scientists' claims about what probably (might, could have, etc.) happened to make the sun dance. While you (validly) warn against using the miraculous nature of the event to ridicule science, I think that the greater concern is that science will be used to diminish the miraculous nature of the event.

Once science (or psychology) can be used to give some type of an explanation for an event (sun dancing, multiplication of the loaves and fishes, whatever), there is a great tendency to forget the miracle. And, in my mind, that tendency is much more common than the one to eschew scientific discoveries/explanations. Instead of a reaction of "Cool, so that could be how God did it" to a possible explanation of how He made the sun dance that day, people are more likely to say "oh, so it wasn't a miracle". And that's my main concern.

BTW, I apologize if I seemed to accuse you of doubting the miracle. It was not my intent. I was merely on a roll ranting about how many people seem to think that science says more than it does, and because one part of a miracle can be possibly explained by science (as in this case) they ignore the rest of what makes it a miracle.

The following doesn't apply to you, but to many of those who argue against miracles such as this one...

Looking into how God may have caused the sun to dance using the natural world: good.
Claiming physical science's explanation of how the sun could appear to dance somehow makes it a non-miracle: bad.

TH2 said...

Ryan - thanks for the clarification and indicating it was a miscommunication.

Anon/gbm3 - Thanks for coming back and clarifying. I will take at look at the FT skit.

Matthew S - "I apologize if I seemed to accuse you of doubting the miracle..." No worries at all, sir. In fact, I like a spirited, hard-nosed debate... which I think is a good thing. This doesn't apply to this exchange here, but I also enjoy snarky exchanges, whizbanger one-liners, etc. - that I dish out myself, and those that come back at me. Some seem to think this is uncharitable. I would beg to differ.

Sue said...

Total and absolute fun to read, from top to bottom. Thanks to everyone involved:-).

Anonymous said...

Explain away Fatima all you want, atheists. Then, you have to go on to explain away quite a few other "Catholic" miracles...Luciano, the incorruptibles, etc., etc. Don't bother. If you can believe that life evolved from chance and coincidence, of course all these miracles are materialistically explainable. Maybe some monkeys were playing with dice in alternate universes that coincided accidentally with ours. THAT'S a lot more palatable than a Catholic view of God.

I have noted that that the actual eyewitnesses of the events at Fatima have a writing ability that shames the "erudite" writers at blogs like Dawkins'. Maybe his studenst should take a language arts lessons from the witnesses if they can't stomach any theology or faith lessons...

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