Can Science Explain the Jesus Miracle? Persinger Responds to Critics

Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Can Science Explain the Jesus Miracle? Persinger Responds to Critics


Science, the Resurrection, and the Ludicrous Leap

I don't know that I have laughed out loud before now at an article in what I consider to be a magazine that advocates critical thinking and reason. This is my response to Michael Persinger's "Science and the Resurrection" in Vol. 9, No. 4. I find his "hypothesis" to be ridiculous. Persinger wants his readers to make a leap that requires more faith than the Apostles needed. His idea that inducing epilepsy in rats is the equivalent to a person being crucified in ancient Rome and being mistaken for dead is laughable. Here are some questions for Persinger to consider:

1. Before inducing the seizures in the rats, were the rats flogged with a whip until they went into hypovolemic shock, thereby inducing the kidneys to stop producing urine and the heart to race to keep up with the loss of blood?

2. Were the rats then forced to carry a large object, the equivalent of about a hundred pounds, up a hill, all the while losing more blood, while at the same time being punched in the face by onlookers?

3. Were the rats then placed on a crossbeam, secured by nails through the median nerve, then lifted up onto a vertical beam in such a way as to stretch their bodies pulling their arms from their sockets, leaving so much pressure on the chest to as cause cardiac arrest after several hours?

4. Were the rats then left to endure a crucifixion for six hours, which was then ended with a spear in the side?

5. Were the rats then buried under burial cloths that would be the equivalent of about 75 pounds with the wrappings and spices used to preserve the body, and left in a tomb for three days?

Persinger states that "The most compelling hypothesis derived from our empirical data is that temporal lobe epileptics ... might display death-like effects. The biblical description of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus would be consistent with our model and our experimental observations." Consistent, really? The problem with Persinger's hypothesis is that he left out about 95% of the biblical description, and of what researchers know today about crucifixion in ancient Rome. I know that the readers of Skeptic are open to alternative views and new theories, but this one is ridiculous.

--Tobin Crenshaw, TobinCrScott@aol.cm

Persinger's Passover Plat

I was fascinated by Michael Persinger's explanation of the resurrection. Hugh Schonfield, in his 1966 book The Passover Plot, suggested that Jesus used drugs to feign his death and stage his rising on the third day. However, while Schonfield's conspiracy theory is certainly more parsimonious than any theological explanation, I believe that Persinger's version requires fewer assumptions and is a better fit to the data.

--Jeremy Genovese, Beachwood, Oh, jgenovese@adelphia.net

Persinger's Swoon Theory

Michael Persinger's article on the resurrection is interesting but unconvincing. Of course, to anyone who rejects the existence of God or the occurrence of miracles, any natural explanation, no matter how far-fetched, will be preferable to the explanation that Jesus was raised from the dead by God.

Persinger's hypothesis is that Jesus was a "temporal lobe" epileptic who was given "reserpine or a related drug" while he was "physically constrained by crucifixion" resulting in "severe hypothermia" that made Jesus appear to be dead (p.78). After about 48 hours "Jesus became euthermic and recovered from coma" and was subsequently seen by some of his disciples, although he would have "sustained significant brain damage" and would not have been able to recognize his disciples (p.79). Sightings of the dazed and bewildered Jesus by his followers led to the mistaken belief that he had risen from the dead.

It is unclear if Persinger would claim anything more than that his hypothesis is physically possible, since he meekly states that "there may be another explanation" besides that God raised Jesus (p. …

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