"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Miner Achievement

It is heart warming news that the 33 Chilean miners have all been rescued and I am genuinely pleased that what could have been a potentially tragic situation has been averted. It does annoy me, however, that the media reporting on the events of the rescue operation as well as many of those directly involved themselves have been using the word “miracle” to describe the rescue.

Can anyone tell me which bit of the rescue was actually “miraculous”? The hole that the miners eventually reached the surface through didn’t open up by itself, it was made by humans using engineering techniques and modern mining equipment backed, it would appear, by a government keen to be seen by the watching world as caring and capable. It may be surprising that so many people and politicians worked together with little care for the financial cost of the operation and it may be astonishing that what was thought would take months to achieve actually took only weeks but it most certainly wasn’t “miraculous”. Human determination and effort rescued the miners, not an act of divine intervention.

The hole didn’t appear by itself, the rescuers didn’t have wings or halos and the miners were brought to the surface in a metal cage not in the arms of the virgin Mary. So I ask again, which bit of the rescue was “miraculous”?

It’s the same whenever something like this happens; a baby is rescued from the ruins of a building almost a week after it was brought down by an earthquake; a plane crash lands on the sea but doesn’t sink straight away allowing all aboard to be rescued; someone recovers from cancer after being told they would die, etc etc.

Why is it that no-one ever seems to blame their god for causing these things to happen in the first place? How come he doesn’t rescue the baby’s mother and father? Why did he save this plane but not countless others? And why give someone cancer just to cure them later anyway?

The baby is saved because you can survive for almost a week without food and water and importantly people kept searching; the plane doesn’t sink because it is buoyant and the pilot had the experience and training to land it on the sea successfully; the patient is cured of cancer by dedicated health professionals and research into the disease. No miracles there and none to be found in Chile either.

If I am ever involved in a life threatening situation, I hope that there will be enough skilled people around to help me and that they don’t waste their time saying prayers. And if I get through it I’ll thank those real people not some imaginary divinity.

Suggested viewing: “Alive