While in the area for a conference anyway, a group of scientists decide to drop by the Creation Museum for a tour. The same folk that run the “Answers In Genesis” web site have the same answer to every question: God did it.
When you can make up answers then it’s pretty easy, right? If I substituted “The Flying Spaghetti Monster” for “God” the creation museum folk would be offended, but they could not offer a plausible explanation as to why I can’t use that term instead of theirs. It’s all “faith” after all… also known as superstition.
Paleontologists brought to tears, laughter by Creation Museum
While visiting this post, I wanted to address a sincere but ignorant commenter:
“I have personally witnessed irrefutable miracle healings (i.e. stunted limb growing out to full length spontaneously in a matter of seconds,) in respone to prayer in the name of Jesus. I would guess there were close to 40 witnesses to this miracle healing, many of whom, including myself, were standing only 2 or 3 feet away from the man who was healed; some of whom I still know by first and/or last name.”
The short-leg illusion is one of the oldest tricks of faith healers. I’m surprised people still fall for it today since it is so well known but I will briefly address it here.
FAITH HEALING: LEG LENGTHENING ‘MIRACLES”
The set-up for the trick: The subject/victim/mark is told to sit in a chair and then lift their legs straight toward the “healer” … lo and behold, one leg is shorter! That must be the source of all of their problems! The “healer” then does his/her incantation, grabs the legs and tugs.. and miraculously, the “short” leg “grows out” to match the “normal” one! Proof of God! Give money!
More experienced “healers” may simply command the leg to grow, usually followed by some other exclamation, like “LOOK, IT’S GROWING!” And suddenly a “miracle” happens…
Here is the simple basis for why this short-leg growth trick always works as it does; people don’t sit perfectly straight when they sit down. They usually lean slightly toward one ass cheek or another and in fact it is hard to sit perfectly straight and balanced even when ordered to do so. Uneven weight distribution causes ones pelvis to tilt slightly, which of course also affects how long your legs APPEAR to be relative to each other. If you don’t understand this, you should probably read a first year anatomy book before proceeding.
So when the mark/victim/subject holds his/her legs out straight, the pelvis angle will make it appear that one leg is shorter than another. When the “healer” tugs on the legs it causes the victim to shift his/her weight and sit straighter, changing the angle of the pelvis, so the short leg “grows.”
In the command (no touch) method of this trick, there is some loud declaration of a miracle happening right now! This is screeched so that the victim/subject/mark will lean forward to see if his her leg is actually growing – it is the leaning forward that causes the victim/mark’s weight to shift so the miraculous “growth” can occur.
In the unlikely event that the victim/mark accidentally manages to sit completely flat in the beginning so that both legs are viewed as the same length, the Christian miracle worker always has a backup plan: The faith healer simply pulls slightly on one shoe as he/she lifts the legs up, pulling one heel out and making one leg appear longer temporarily than the other. The Man/Woman of God then slides the shoe back into place again as he/she prays, making the legs suddenly appear the same length. This takes a little practice at sleight of hand work so that nobody sees what you are doing, but it’s still pretty easy.
A certain amount of showmanship is required to make this trick work well: You have to get everyone watching to believe that one leg is shorter FIRST, then you have to make enough noise and motion with your hands as the “miracle” happens so that nobody sees what you are really doing.
This is an observational trick easily confirmed by YOU: The reader can get together with his/her friends and try it. But please don’t be unethical – don’t be a liar – like these Christian “healers” and claim it is a miracle of God. It’s just a trick and a pretty cheesy one at that.
As a former ardent religious zealot, I was present and personally witnessed this trick being performed on a number of occasions. Some of these events were performed by famous evangelists including the healing duo popular in the 80’s, “The Hunters” – Charles and Frances.
This particular piece of cheesy stage magic is covered in the book “The Faith Healers” by James Randi (pages 128-130, complete with pictures). As bad as it is, however, it appears that tens of thousands of people are still fooled.
The faith healers, of course, have to learn how to do the trick before they can perform it. Not that this is hard – I mean, I just taught you how to do it in three paragraphs! But that also means that they KNOW it is a trick and they KNOW they are fooling the believers into thinking they have power from God.
I realize that some people would say f’ em for being that gullible, but I don’t think that you should take advantage of people just because they really want to believe in something.
You should ask yourself – If these faith healers have real power, why can’t they make an amputated leg grow back, hmm? Why is it that a “true miracle” can only be performed by stage magic methods? Believers dare not ask themselves this question, I guess.
Unfortunately, this reliance on stage magic strongly suggests that Christianity itself is false, because the proponents must resort to to the use of tricks to prove the validity of their faith. If what they claim to believe had any truth to it whatsoever, stage magic would not be required.
As a side note; although most people’s legs aren’t exactly the same length, pelvic tilt compensates for any differences in 99 percent of the cases. For people who have a difference that is really a medical problem, faith healers can’t do a thing.
How can we be sure? All you have to do is see the daily “Jesus on toast” stories that inundate the TV and print news to realize that if there were even one genuine miracle – EVER – it would get 24 hour news coverage. The fact that Christians have to lean on the “I saw someone tug on a leg once and it got longer” stories strongly suggests that they have nothing real to offer.
Additional discussions of the Scientists at the Creation Museum story: Paleontology and Creationism Meet but Don’t Mesh – NYTimes.com and Daily Kos: Scientists Visit the Creation Museum