Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
I’m always amazed what people will believe in order to avoid believing in God.
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 continually attempt to explain away the vision of the sun dancing in the sky at a foretold time.
You don't have to look far on the internet to find "scientific" explanations to explain away the miracle. They're typically hilarious because they typically assume that everyone there at Fatima was either a lunatic or crazy dumb.
Here are the reasons (some of them brand new and unintentionally hilarious) they’ve amassed so we should believe nothing at all special happened in Portugal that great day 99 years ago.
1. Stratospheric Dust. Steuart Campbell, writing for the 1989 edition of Journal of Meteorology, posited that a cloud of stratospheric dust altered the appearance of the sun making it abnormally 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.
So, one time in 1983 a bunch of people in China saw a weird sun. Now, the fact that this happened on schedule 99 years ago doesn’t ruffle this theory for them at all?
2. Jerusalem Syndrome. This is a new one but a goodie. First identified in the 1930s by an Israeli psychiatrist, Jerusalem Syndrome describes psychotic symptoms associated with the Holy Land and to all sorts of delusionary thinking. But it’s posited that one doesn’t have to actually be in Jerusalem to suffer from narcissistic grandiose delusions like the three visionaries did. Nope. I guess Jerusalem Syndrome can be gotten anywhere. So it's like the Stockholm syndrome but less kidnappy.
But what they're saying is that the children of Fatima suffered from Jerusalem Syndrome. In fact, guess who else they say suffered from this. Yup. Adolf Hitler. Yeah, they’re comparing Hitler to Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco.
Now, of course, if the three children suffered from even the worst case of Jerusalem Syndrome ever that doesn’t really explain how 70,000 people caught the syndrome that day (and quickly recovered too.) Man, that’s one contagious syndrome. You’d have thought we’d have heard of it before now.
3. ESP! (Always my favorite) Author Lisa Schwebel claims that the event was a supernatural (but definitely non-miraculous) case of ESP. 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.
Really? That’ll definitely help with the electric bills at churches. Just keep believing folks and all of a sudden like we’ll get some mysterious lights. It's like those internet ads that say "This one weird trick will cut your electricity bill in half." It'd be a weird trick, alright.
4. Mock-Sun or Sun-Dog. 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 is at the wrong azimuth and elevation to have been the sun. (Yeah, I like saying "azimuth" too.) He suggests the cause may have been a sundog. Sometimes referred to as a “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 moved their eyes back and forth and thought the sun was dancing? All 70,000 people stared directly into the bright sun and their eyes darted to and fro and they all thought the sun was dancing? All of them? How dumb do they think the people of Portugal are that none of their parents ever told them not to stare into the sun?
5. The Mass hallucination theory. Come on. You knew it was coming. One author claims that the crowd may have been expecting to see signs in the sun so they saw what they wanted to see. (Yeah because that happens all the time.) But McClure’s account fails to explain reports of people miles away, who were not even thinking of the event at the time, or the sudden drying of people’s rain-soaked clothes. Hey, maybe they all wanted to be dry and therefore hallucinated they were dry.
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 more real than the Church’s explanation? These are the rationalists?
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 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. And you thought peer pressure was all just about high schoolers making other high schoolers do stupid things. But in this case, three little children peer pressured thousands of adults into believing they saw the sun dance. 70,000 people. My five kids can't peer pressure their two parents into later bedtimes but these three children peer pressured thousands into seeing a miracle? That’s pretty strong peer pressure especially for the people who saw it 20 miles away. Long distance peer pressure. Impressive.
9. Evolution. This is sadly from Institute of Physics at the Catholic Univeristy of Louvain. Evolution has provided us with the infamous “zoom and loom effect”. It tends to appear when people see an object at an unknown distance. The brain will then consider the possibility that it could come closer so the brain performs an illusory mental zoom, where the apparent size of the object progressively increases. This supposedly results from evolution making humans fear being eaten by an approaching thing with big teeth. So your brain zooms it in to scare the heck out of you.
But when you realize that you’re not in danger your brain sends it back further away. Thus the dancing sun. Amazing. 70,000 people thought the Sun was a predator coming to eat them and when they realized the Sun had no teeth they “zoomed and loomed” it back to where it belonged.
Had none of these people ever seen the sun before? Were they marathon spelunkers just surfacing after years underground? Come on.
10. Religious people are really stupid. This is one from a site called Miracle Skeptic that is so indicative of today’s atheist movement in that it assumes that religious people are all incredibly stupid.
The role of suggestion and emotionalism and imagination in the miracle cannot be underestimated. Lucia was able to trigger many of the people in their highly charged emotional state to imagine seeing the sun spin.
The people thought their clothes dried miraculously. They must not have realised that they had not been wet or not noticed that they had dried out which shows what kind of mental state many of them were in.
They didn’t know they weren’t wet? Did Lucy recruit the 70,000 stupidest people in the entire world to come to Fatima? They didn’t know they weren’t wet and they were prone to believing their imaginings about the sun dancing? If you believe this, the miracle here wouldn't be the Dancing Sun but that 70,000 of the stupidest people on the planet all gathered in one place at the same time. Now, that would be a miracle.
So after listening to these level-headed scientists my faith isn’t really shaken too bad. How about yours?