Top Ten Scientific Explanations for 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. I truly do enjoy reading about all the "scientific" explanations for the "anomaly of Fatima." The way that science has bent itself into a pretzel to explain away the vision of the sun dancing in the sky at a foretold time is always fun.

So, last year, I got together my top ten "scientific explanations" for Fatima that I was able to find on the internet.

First I'll start with a little history history: A writer named Avelino de Almeida who wrote articles for O Século, (a big newspaper in Portugal at the time). The papper took a strong anti-religious stance. Goodness, even then, the media wasn't a big fan of religion, huh? In fact, all of Almeida's previous articles had mocked the previously reported events at Fatima but here's what he wrote that day 81 years ago:
"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 despite the fact that one of their own reported this, 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.

10. Stratospheric Dust. Steuart Campbell, writing for the 1989 edition of Journal of Meteorology, theorizes that a cloud of stratospheric dust altered the appearance of the sun on 13 October, making it easier 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.

9. Not everyone saw it so nothing happened. Oddly, this is the exact opposite of their argument that people in China saw it so it didn't happen. Astronomers, they say, 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.

8. ESP! (Always my favorite) Author Lisa Schwebel claims that the event was a supernatural form of extra-sensory phenomenon. God? no way! ESP? Yup! Schwebel has said that throughout the history of man there have been several reported cases of religious gatherings culminating in the sudden and mysterious appearance of lights in the sky so therefore it's ESP. The logic evades me a little but I guess if you're a believer in The Exorcist Part II, then it's as believable as Richard Burton as a priest.

7. Mock-Sun. Didn't even know this one existed but it's worth a listen. Joe Nickell, a self described skeptic and paranormal investigator, according to Wikipedia,
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, in effect, 70,000 people all shook their heads and thought a mock-sun was dancing. All 70,000? Prety ridiculous, huh?

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

5. The old mass hallucination theory. Author Kevin McClure is one of many on this claim which goes something like this: The crowd at Cova da Iria was expecting to see signs in the sun so they did. Yeah because that happens all the time. But McClure doesn't factor in that people several miles away who weren't thinking about the event also saw it.

4. UFO! The old alien craft pretending to be a sign from God trick. Happens all the time, didn't you know. Of course, the spaceship just happened to come on the day that the three children said a miracle would occur. Or perhaps the apparitions were all the works of little green men. This all sounds a lot more real than the Church's explanation.

3. Solar Storm. A gigantic coronal mass ejection (CME) occurred. Better known as the Northern Lights in Portugal. You see, 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.

2. Peer pressure. There was significant social pressure to see a miracle so everyone fooled themselves into believing they did. 70,000 people? That's some pretty strong peer pressure especially for the people who saw it 20 miles away.

1. 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:
-1. Evolution. This is sadly from Institute of Physics, Catholic University of Louvain. Evolution has provided us with the infamous “zoom and loom effect”. It occurs when you see an image at some unknown distance. Your brain considers the possibility that it might come closer so without your knowledge your brain performs "an illusory mental zoom, where the apparent size of the object is progressively increased." Here's why this occurs, says scientists: Evolution forces us to be constantly worried that something dangerous is coming to eat us so we might need to skedaddle right quick so the brain zooms it in to scare us into skedaddling. When the “idea” of an approach does not lead to any real danger, the perceived object returns to its normal place. Thus the dancing sun. Amazing. 70,000 people thought the Sun was 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.


  1. Ya know, "We don't believe the miraculous account, but we can't offer a solid alternative natural explanation for it." is a perfectly respectable answer. That is, if you don't have an axe to grind.

  2. As someone who does not believe in Fatima, I can say it is quite possible that the crowds there all experienced a miracle. Such a miracle to me doesn't validate Fatima, but rather the faith of those who needed to see a miracle to believe. to me about Guadalupe, Gibilmanna, Lourdes, Zeitun etc, then we can REALLY talk apparitions : )

  3. "As someone who does not believe in Fatima, I can say it is quite possible that the crowds there all experienced a miracle. Such a miracle to me doesn't validate Fatima, but rather the faith of those who needed to see a miracle to believe."

    Dear D--s, I hate to use the formal salutation of donat, you have just written one of the best examples of a sentence that makes absolutely no sense. Read what you wrote and see if you can comprehend your own statement. In other words such a miracle that you agree is a miracle is only a miracle in the minds of those mostly peasants who witnessed the miracle that you are now not sure was a miracle on the order of Guadalupe or Lourdes. Breathless thought process.

    Maybe words would come easier and make more sense if you chose a non-Latin name like "Bob"?

  4. Johnny, here's a little lesson for you: just because your brain can't comprehend something, doesn't make it any less valid or true. So, even though concepts such as transubstantiation, nuclear fission, or hygene might escape you, you would do well to pose your comments in a less choleric tone, lest your own ignorance be highlighted, rather than that of the post that "makes absolutely no sense" [to you].

    If an atheist scientist looks at a baby, he/she sees a complex carbon-based organism. When a Christian sees a baby, he/she sees a miracle. If there is a scientific explanation for the "sun dance" at Fatima, this does not dismiss it as a miracle, since the crowds either needed or were allowed to see a miracle because of their faith. But in my view, a miracle of the sun dancing does not validate the apparition of Fatima. If this miracle brought the crowds closer to God, then it did the trick. If it made people follow the message of an "apparition" whose message both divides and radicalizes people away from the gospel and towards some shadow cult which sees every event as some sort of treachery and/or conspiracy within the church, then I'd say the message of the miracle was lost.

    At this point I don't expect you to understand this, anymore than I expect you to understand why it's rude to belch in public. So, just settle in with your six-pack and enjoy the evening.

  5. One of the most profound moments of my life occurred when I was teaching a First Communion class for older children and their parents. One of the parents, whose son wasn't quite ready for FHC at age 7, told us all about her grandmother, who witnessed the miracle at Fatima. She (the grandmother) traveled from western Spain into Portugal to see the holy place for herself because she had heard about the apparitions. She was rewarded with a miracle.

    While teaching this class, I found my own miracle. Maria talked of her grandmother's experience. Soon Peggy, another mom, was asking to be received into the Church after a long time away. A short time later she contributed 300 homemade yeast rolls to our base chapel's dinner for single airmen and sailors. About a year after that, Louise's Baptist husband started coming to Mass, amazing all of us who'd known about Louise's struggles to bring up four children in the Catholic faith by herself.

    ESP? Dust? Mock-Sun? I think not. Miracles exist.

  6. I read Our Lady of Fatima and found the whole thing disturbingly weird. Something strange happened, and I agree with you that the "explanations" are forced and somewhat laughable, but at the same time the whole thing sounds wrong to me.

    Why children? And some of the messages were just plain weird. And the "secrets" are less than impressive.

    I think this is a case where the best answer -- from a believer or an unbeliever -- is, "I don't know. Weird things happen."

  7. It always amazes - and amuses - me that people who find the idea of belief in God outrageous will none the less embrace the idea of a UFO as sensible and highly scientific.

  8. "this does not dismiss it as a miracle, since the crowds either needed or were allowed to see a miracle because of their faith."

    Deusdonat, what you seem to be overlooking is that those who had no faith, no belief in the apparition, let alone in God, were able to see the miracle too. One could argue they had no faith, at least no faith in God, yet they saw as well.

    You seem to doubt the authenticity of the apparition based on how some people chose to respond to it. As you say "If it made people follow the message of an "apparition" whose message both divides and radicalizes people away from the gospel and towards some shadow cult which sees every event as some sort of treachery and/or conspiracy within the church, then I'd say the message of the miracle was lost."

    Yes I would agree that the message of the miracle was lost on these but can't we say the same about Christ's message to the world? When he revealed the mystery of Himself to the crowds in John chapter 6, many couldn't accept it and so there was a great division and many no longer followed Him. We can say that our Protestant friends have misunderstood Our Lord's meaning and yet they call us radical and a cult who presume to eat Our Lord's Flesh and drink His Blood.

    I offer these observations only for your consideration in the full acknowledgement that you are free to accept or not accept the message of Fatima and still live in the fullness of the life of the Church. We are not obliged to believe it.

  9. Yes miracles exist, but I don't think that anyone can rightly deduce that positing material explanations for apparitions, Marian or otherwise, is an attempt at asserting materialist dogma. I'll be the first one to call out scientism where it exists.

    Simply, natural explanations and supernatural explanations are not mutually exclusive. God, or any spirit, can use very ordinary means to pull of the extraordinary.

    Part of a miracle is in how a person or a people will perceive and interpret the event. The inexplicable must be explained, and it is usually done so within an already known context. This however needn't have the effect of explaining away the event.

    In regards to UFOs, what too many people fail to recognize is that the u stands for unidentified. That's all we know about these phenomena. In the strictest sense, the Fatima event meets this criteria.

    To make the assumption that the u represents extra-terrestrial physical entities as opposed to let's say ultra-terrestrial spiritual entities is a non sequitur.

    As for myself, by default I tend to be rather circumspect regarding any type of apparition. I don't doubt their reality, but I'm not quick to accept that their reality validates any particular narrative.

    I find Fatima in particular unsettling, and Garabandal is downright creepy.

  10. Chesterton, as usual, hits it:

    "It is strange how you people worship words and are satisfied with words. What difference does it make to a thing that you now call it telepathy, as you once called it tomfoolery? If a man climbs into the sky on a mango-tree, how is it altered by saying it is only levitation, instead of saying it is only lies. If a medieval witch waved a wand and turned me into a blue baboon, you would say it was only atavism.”
    -- The Flying Fish

  11. Why do you wonder at this, O man?

    "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars." Jesus Christ (Luke 21:25)

  12. Ok, they have too many "scientific" explanations, but they cannot say why it happend exactly at the hour predicted by Our Lady.

  13. What do you say in response to your first explanation, the Journal of Meteorology article? And do you know anyway to read that article?

  14. The fact that it happened at an appointed time would seem to make the meteology explanation a little far-fetched.
    As far as the article goes I could look it up. I'll let you know.

  15. It never ceases to amaze me how spritualists dismiss aliens as being so unbelievable when they believe in magic. Aliens(extraterrestrial), whether they exist or not are defined as beings from another world. And they arrive here through technology.

  16. Everyone needs to really focus on the fact that individuals a dozen or more miles away from the epicenter of the event saw it also. I have searched the skeptical literature and the only "explanation" that atheists can offer is that nothing happened to the physical sun. We agree with that, don't we? The miracle was local and was given "so that all may believe." The miracle was not the sun but Mary herself.


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