Science and Faith: Episode 4- Miracles and Divine Action

Written by on 05/03/2021

Radio Maria England Science and Faith

Miracles and Divine Action

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In episode four of our Science and Faith series, we discussed miracles: what they are, how they work, and whether it is reasonable to believe in Divine Action. To tackle these questions we invited three guests: Dr Alessandro de Franciscis – President of The Bureau of Medical Observations at Lourdes, Fr Michael Dodds – a Dominican friar and former Academic Dean at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and Prof Daniel Bonevac – Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.

Generally, when people think about miracles they may recall some stories from the Bible. For example, the Resurrection, or the miracle when Jesus healed the paralytic in Capernaum. Hence, the first part of our conversation focused around our experts’ best-loved miracles and their significance.

We learnt that the Catholic Church has a strict procedure to investigate and verify miracles. Dr de Franciscis explained how that unravels for healing cases at Lourdes. It was fascinating to hear that there were no medical relapses with regards to all the cases declared as ‘miracles’ in Lourdes.

We also asked our panel of experts about the nature of miracles. In particular, if the belief that the physical world is governed by laws of nature makes it impossible to believe in miracles. One of the highlights of this segment was the discussion around what it means to think of miracles in terms of supernatural agency and how this is different from the way God acts in keeping natural things in existence. 

Has science made miracles unbelievable?

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Dr Alessandro de Franciscis: Dr de Franciscis earned his Medical Doctorate, summa cum laude, specialising in Paediatrics in 1984 from the University of Naples. He subsequently moved to Boston Massachusetts (USA), where he earned a Masters in Epidemiology at Harvard University (School of Public Health). More recently, he obtained two further university degrees, in Bioethics and in Sacred Theology.  In 2009 Dr de Franciscis was appointed President of both The Office of Medical Observations and the International Medical Association of Lourdes. As a Christian, Dr de Franciscis has been actively engaged in many charity organizations for the service to the poor, and of sick and disabled pilgrims to Lourdes. He has also authored several papers on topics of medical science and theology.    


Prof Daniel Bonevac: Professor of Philosophy and Human Dimensions of Organizations at The University of Texas at Austin. His book, Reduction in the Abstract Sciences, received the Johnsonian Prize from The Journal of Philosophy. The author of five books and editor or co-editor of four others, Professor Bonevac has published more than sixty articles in scholarly journals, including the Philosophical Review, Mind, The Journal of Philosophy, Nous, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Religion. His articleThe Argument from Miracles’ defends the rationality of belief in miracles and in Christianity on the basis of miracles. He served as Chair of the Department of Philosophy for ten years. A fourth-generation Presbyterian elder, he has given keynote addresses to meetings of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the Baptist Association of Philosophy Teachers. He is currently working on arguments in Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.


Fr Michael Dodds: Michael J. Dodds OP, is Professor of Philosophy and Theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, he went to high school and college in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Dominicans in 1970 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977. As a Dominican student, he earned Master of Arts degrees in Philosophy and Theology as well as a Master of Divinity degree. In 1985, he received his Doctorate in Theology (STD) summa cum laude from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He was awarded the honorary degree of Master of Sacred Theology (STM) by the Dominican Order in 2016. He has served as Academic Dean of the Dominican School and as Student Master, Regent of Studies, and Vicar Provincial of the Western Dominican Province. His publications include The Unchanging God of Love: Thomas Aquinas and Contemporary Theology on Divine Immutability; Unlocking Divine Action: Contemporary Science and Thomas Aquinas; and The One Creator God in Thomas Aquinas and Contemporary Theology.


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