Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's a Miracle

Earlier this month 12-year-old Dale Ostrander was swimming in the cold Pacific Ocean; pulled from the shore by a dangerous undertow, he nearly lost his life by drowning. The boy, visiting the beach with his local church camp, was finally pulled from the frigid water after a second earlier unsuccessful rescue attempt, given aggressive life saving first aid, then rushed to the emergency room.

The three major national media networks reported the story but with a decidedly different publicity spin - focusing on the AP photos of Dale's distraught friends praying for him on the beach, the term “miracle” was repeated over and over by the news anchors. The overtly clear implication: the boy was alive through the result of "divine intervention" – it was a Miracle.

It was estimated that Dale Ostrander was under water for as long as 20 minutes. However there have been recorded incidents of people being revived after being submerged in freezing water for a much as an hour. The Pacific is cold, about 56ยบ F in this area of the coast.
Dr. Mark Morocco, an emergency room doctor at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles: “Your chances of surviving are better if you’re young… when people are plunged into cold water. The heart rate slows down and blood is diverted to the brain and other core organs. This so-called diving reflex is more pronounced in children, allowing them to better survive in frigid water.”

“Swift treatment helped." Morocco credited the rescuers for continuing resuscitation efforts even though Ostrander had no pulse and appeared dead.
Dale was received CPR from rescuers immediately upon being pulled from the water. Emergency Medical Technicians then on the scene continued to ventilate him until he arrived at the local hospital. There he was placed on a respirator until he was taken by Life Flight to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, part of the Oregon Health Sciences University Medical Center.

The doctors at Doernbecher were unsure if Dale would continue to be able to breathe on his own. Having been on a breathing tube myself, I know there is only one definitive way to find out if a patient can breathe for them self – remove the breathing tube. Fortunately young Dale began breathing on his own.

Weeks later when Dale was released from the hospital the story was updated by the national media. Though Dale will continue to need physical therapy to full recover, the Media continued promoting the “miracle” story, repeating how Dale’s fellow church members knelt on the beach praying for him during his moment of peril.

I pose this question about claims of divine miracles: what most likely was the significant factor that saved young Dale Ostrander from death ...

This...

Or This?

Photo credits: AP News
Watch the "miraculous" ABC News Coverage of this story.

26 comments:

DJan said...

Any time I see "miracle" in your post title, I figure you have got to take your tongue out of your cheek. I read this story, too, and it was evident that "miraculous" was the Spin of the Day.

Paul said...

Well Robert the happy medium is both in my opinion, but you will obviously disagree. To you miracles don't exist, because your limited reason cannot prove them. God bless the child !

crnelius said...

I realized the absurdity of religion at a very early age. I am always fascinated that believers think god performed a miracle when saving someone from a situation, but never ask why god allowed them to be in the situation to begin with. (i.e. - why would god have allowed the undertow?) I have heard it said over and over that religion gives people comfort and does no harm. Yet, I would argue it does a great deal of harm by distorting the reality of so many. Has been the root cause of conflicts for all of recorded history, and through collective belief allows non believers to be overly persecuted for not being "in the club". (BTW, Great Post Robert, as Always.)

Cognitive Dissenter said...

Of course this story made our local news because (if I recall correctly) the family is Mormon. We see what we want to see I suppose. If this young boy had drowned it would have been "God's will."

God has it pretty good. No matter what he does or how horrific the outcome it's always faith-promoting.

billy pilgrim said...

wouldn't he have risen on his own and walked on water if it was a true miracle?

Robert the Skeptic said...

DJan "Spin" it was, but then the Mainstream Media has long since lost their journalistic integrity.

Paul Indeed my reasoning ability apparently is sorely limited; I can't, for example, figure out why god can't reattach a severed limb, or even the tip of a finger? Or why god doesn't revive someone drowned for a week, or even a day? Clearly god's powers are severely limited, his "miracles" only seem to manifest themselves AFTER humans have put in the heroic efforts to save.

Crnelius Ah but you see, it is impossible for us mere mortals to know the mind of god and his/her infinite wisdom. Seriously, I agree that giving false hope is harmful, even cruel.

Dissenter I just read in the FFRF publication about the glowing testimonials of all the people in Alabama whose homes were destroyed by the spate of tornadoes this year. All praise for the lord because, in devastating their homes, he spared their lives (well, most of them anyway). So yes you are correct, god wins regardless of the outcome. It's a sweet gig.

Billy God stopped doing those "defying the laws of physics" type miracles a couple of thousand years ago. I think he's getting old and can't do that kind of heavy lifting any more.

Mandy_Fish said...

He was lucky to have those miracle workers at the ready. Glad his life was saved by those very skilled humans.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Dissenter is right on. The worst part is when those who question the validity of the "miracle" are so summarily chastised as being horrible people. If it was just God's will that a child drowned, then why would you try to save that child? Apparently that's why all those folks just kneeled on the beach rather than trying to help.
Bah!

Kay Dennison said...

I don't question miracles -- that I'm sitting here typing this (and got out of bed under my own power, according to the experts, is one. I say that I was just too damned stubborn to quit.

Unexplainable phenomena is quite common and I don't question it.

Charlie said...

What bothers me is the media playing straight into the hands of the nutso Tea Party by "confirming" that miracles are real.

Lettuce pick up our guns and bibles and establish our own American theocracy, the very same democracy we won for the Iraqis.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Mandy My point precisely. That SAME WEEK as the "miracle" in Oregon two people drowned, one in the clackamas river and the other in a small remote lake. Apparently there was no one nearby to pray for them.

BackRow That is one of the main gripes I have with the "god has a plan" position - by praying, aren't you asking god to "change" his plan? Isn't questioning god's ways the epitome of blasphemy?

Kay Just because something is "unexplained" doesn't mean it is valid to attribute it to god. There were times in human history where the change of seasons, thunderstorms, infections and disease, even the rising of the sun were all unexplainable. What about the ultimate unexplainable, the source of our Universe? In recent decades explanations for even this are becoming confirmed.

Charlie Welcome back, my friend! I have lost almost all my respect for the Mainstream Media, even NPR seems to fall prey to following rumor and innuendo. Fortunately the figures show that the days of the powerful evangelicals is waning; increasing numbers of young people are turning away from dogma that does not resonate with their sensibilities. An encouraging sign.

Nance said...

Why does the miracle always happen on the after-end of an event? Why isn't the event itself recognized as a miracle? Don't they both qualify as unexpected "acts of God"?

Googling, googling. I get:

"1. A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine.
2. A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment."

Ah. Definition #1 rules out the possibility of an objectively defined miracle. It figures.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Nance I guess the dictionary is the definitive proof of divine intervention. Though at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, the suffering kids there could do with a bit more divine intervention. I cannot imagine that parents or others are not praying their hearts out for that very thing. It is so sad.

Paul said...

God does things His way...:-)

Wow, that was awkward said...

I think it is good to believe passionately in something, no matter what it is (exceptions would be those that use their beliefs to cause harm to others).

I think a truly real miracle is childbirth. Of course there is science to explain it, but after watching my little boys pop out of their mom, I can't think of a better word to describe it.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul The term for that is "Apologetics"; making excuses for god.

On the other hand, my observation is that the positive and negatives results from exposure to human tragedies such as floods, hurricanes, plane crashes, shootings, accidents, cancer and illness... all pretty much fall within statistically predictable numbers. In fact, the steady advance of medical and other technology has historically increased human life expectancy. In other words, things appear to play out pretty much as one would expect were there no god.

Awkward I would agree with you on both counts. We can explain a glowing red sunset but we need no explanation to experience appreciation and enjoy from it.

Jayne said...

Wow-those are some powerful photographs. Though this may have not been divine intervention, we can thank God for those people who rescue lives on a daily basis, and those who quickly respond to a friend in trouble.
And the praying does seem rather counterproductive if what you ought to be doing is actually saving the victim. Ordinarily, though, a prayer won't hurt. ;)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Jayne Reminds me of the old WWII song: "Praise the lord and pass the ammunition".

Paul said...

I'll take God over Richard Dawkins any day. I was a fireman for many years and I witnessed the actual death of several people firsthand and they either called out to their Mother or God in most cases as they expired. Explain that with reason Robert...

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul Easily explainable, Paul, the athiests were the ones calling out to their mother rather than god.

But flip answer aside, it is likely that at the moments of their deaths, ancient Greeks called out to Zeus, ancient Egyptions called out to Anubis, Hindus to Yama... But what people want to really really really believe, even at the tragic moment of their death, does not make their belief true.

Consider, Paul, that you are an Atheist like me with respect to all these gods, I simply believe in one less god than you do.

secret agent woman said...

This kind of think makes me crazy. He was noticed by another kid, saved by rescuers, treated by medical professionals. There was no miracle, only a bunch of kids on their knees who couldn't think of anything helpful to do.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent As usual, you have succinctly described situation.

Paul said...

One God is all I need Robert...:-)

Robert the Skeptic said...

Paul I am sad for you that you need one.

KleinsteMotte said...

Not sure why the religious folk are so sure that a force can be summoned at will.Perhaps the lad himself has a strong will to survive? That is a force one could deem more likely. While people derive a sense of inner peace in their choice of faith that is their personal business. It is sad when the media jumps in and tries to capitalize on miracles.

Robert the Skeptic said...

KleinsteMotte I agree, why would a news media, which supposedly is there to report "facts" throw in mysticism as part of their reporting?