Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Own Personal Miracle

A major issue that divides believers and those who don't is the issue of miracles. Bernardo has mentioned somewhere here that a miracle to him would be seeing a severed limb miraculously regrow before his eyes. The amazing Randi has offered $1,000,000 to anyone who can prove that a miracle happened (subject to a fair number of restrictions.) What is a miracle? The definition is a bit elusive. Following is a glimpse at something that may not rise to Bernardo's, Randi's, or even the Catholic Church standards, but it strays way outside the bounds of the likely or the expected.

I have an undergrad degree in psych with a specialization in human sexual response. In fact, I almost wrote a book with my professor to debunk "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex." But instead it was off to law school, then into business. I stayed up on sexuality issues, but only as a hobby. : )

23 years later I'm having a little tiff with my wife. I pray for God to show me how to resolve the dispute. Out of the absolute blue, I feel an urging to write a book on teen sexuality. My sense it that this is a directive from God. It is Sept 1992. I have written 3 bicycle industry books, and just finished my first national book on business. It is counterproductive to the writing side of my career to do this book. More business books would be smarter. And importantly, I have had no inclination, thought, or intention to write a book on this subject before that moment.
My credentials were not really substantial enough to expect anyone to publish such a book.

Part of the prayer suggests an urgency to have this book to market by the next Summer. This means research, write, find a publisher, and go through the normal one year lag from completing the manuscript to the actual publication in less than 10 months.

I begin the research and writing while running by business, taking care of my family, and flogging the other books already on the market. The manuscript is almost complete in March, but Warner Books (my publisher) isn't interested. My agent isn't interested either.

I'm very close to self-publishing the book when I do a live and in-person interview on a local Christian talk radio show for my business book. The host would not normally have even talked about a business book, but did so because he wanted to help out with the future sex book. Most of these interviews are done by phone, and this one could have been, but it was only 40 minutes from my office, so I go.

After my interview, I go to my car and turn the radio to the show so I can hear the next guest. This guest spends the first five minutes of the show explaining that his publisher took his completed manuscript to market in 3 months. This information would have been totally useless and boring to anyone on the planet except me. It is hard to imagine one other person in that audience having any knowledge or interest in how long it takes a manuscript to get to market after it is in galleys.

I called the publisher that afternoon. The receptionist was out, so the phone was answered by none other than the editor-in-chief. We discussed the project. I overnighted a manuscript. The next day he overnighted a contract. This just doesn't happen - ever.

In September the book was published. Sales were very poor. However, I did over 200 radio interviews and three television interviews from that book. One of the TV events was with Geraldo on his old daytime show. I was the expert against bisexuality. That show was repeated 7 times, and likely seen by 15,000,000 or so people. Total number of people who probably heard my main premise about promiscuity through TV, radio, seminars, and reviews - Over 20,000,000.

Just a whole bunch of crazy coincidences? A fluke? Or God intended?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

So starving and diseased children around the world are dying every day, but you got a book deal, which must be a miracle.

:-/

Sorry, I don't see how getting a book deal, however unlikely, is any kind of a "miracle".

To be honest, the entire story doesn't actually sound all that unbelievable... I've certainly had friends who have had even crazier coincidences happen to them in their careers.

Lastly, Geraldo brought you on as "the expert against bisexuality"?

1. What does that even mean?
2. How did you become an expert against bisexuality?

bernardo said...

I agree that this "miracle" was unlikely and fortuitous, and I'm very happy for you that you got to write your book and get your message out (even though I disagree with it)... and I can see how, from your personal point of view, the many positive consequences of this unlikely series of events make them really stand out in your life as something exceptionally great, something good that does not normally happen, and thus God bending the rules in your favor (and, as you see it, for the benefit of people who are exposed to your ideas). However, your "miracle" was not as unlikely as some other stories I have heard, and not as fortuitous to humanity in general as many other unlikely things have been, or could be.

However, I think Anon's questions 1 and 2 above are kinda silly. Once you have enough experience and have done enough research on a topic - say, sexuality - you can then be one of the people who most acutely understands the supposed harm of one of the things covered by this topic - say, bisexuality. You then become an "expert against" it in the same way as, say, Richard Dawkins is an "expert against" religion, or as many other people who do talks and interviews and lobbying and writing so as to expose the dangers of some not-uncommon practice, and who help to cause (generally) positive change.

Randy Kirk said...

Anon (which one?)

Did your friends series of coincidences start with God commanding them to do something against interest?

This was not a career decision. It was ministry.

Don't look at the individual situations, but the whole thing. And P.S. it is verifiable.

Hey Skipper said...

Several years ago, there was a story about a guy who walked out of a grocery store, got into his car, and when he got home, discovered all the stuff in the trunk belonged to someone else.

Precisely the same thing happened to someone else that very same day, in that very same parking lot, in another car.

Miracle, or coincidence?

(NB: there are not an infinite number of different keys for car locks, nor are there infinite colors, or car models, or years)

I happen to owe my current job (hit my profile if you care) to the extremely low likelihood of moving directly across the street from a person who has that job, an essential pre-requisite, since the company only accepts internal referrals.

The job is one of the rarer occupations in the US, probably even more rare than book author.

Miracle, or coincidence?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to sign my name to the first anon post here. It's Kit.

Anyways, I have heard crazier stories about people who said they were commanded by their god to do such-and-such and it happened and therefore, miracle.

Again, I have to wonder, a book deal commanded by God that did ok (I doubt the sales were anywhere close to best-seller numbers) is any kind of miracle. Why is it that we never see miracles that actually do good?

Like I said, there are starving and diseased children dying all over the world, every day. I'm supposed to believe that the all-powerful diety of the universe thinks it's more important that you get a book deal and an appearance on Geraldo (I question the numbers you gave about how many people watched it) than do something about the children?

If that's a god that actually exists, I don't see him worthy of worship.

To me, a miracle is something that occurs that is not only 1) objectively verifiable and 2) impossible by the rules of the universe as we know them.

Lastly, even though Bernardo views my questions as silly, I still don't understand how and why you, Randy, were chosen as an "expert against bisexuality".

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

Kit,

Ok. It is impossible by the rules of the naturalistic universe for God to speak to me, or command me through my senses to do anything. Sure, it could have just been an idea a-borning as a result of my being a creative person, having an interest in the subject, etc. However, I told my wife an others of the experience the very next morning, and proceeded to act on it. I have lots of ideas that I never act on. This one "seemed" to me to be God breathed.

Now that the project was in play, the thing God would want would be lots of folks to hear the message he left with me that night "Sex can kill." If the book had been moderately successful, it might have been read by 20,000 folks. If my publicist had done a ok job, I might have done 10 interviews on the radio. To get a tv booking from a top daytime show is pretty amazing given that I was totally unknown.

The numbers are probably low for Geraldo. It was shown 7 times that I know of. It could easily have been more like 40,000,000. 6,000,000 watching each show would not be surprising.

The 200 plus radio interviews were likely heard by between 2000 and 500,000 for some of the national shows.

Geraldo had a panel of three young adults who were in favor of young folks being bisexual. There was a growing fad at the time. I was there to speak against the spread of such a fad, and point out the negative consequences of such activity.

Anonymous said...

So, you seriously believe that your book deal was a miracle? That it could not have happened without the help of the creator of the universe?

Was being brought onto the Geraldo show a miracle also? Or part of the same miracle?

I would absolutely love to see this show, since I'm fascinated by the idea of a "bisexuality fad" and the "negative consequences of such activity".

I'm wondering if this "activity" was actually bisexuality (I doubt it) or promiscuity (I bet on that). How exactly were these young adults "in favor of young folks being bisexual", or do you simply mean "in favor of people being themselves, and not hating themselves for having a different sexuality than the norm." (And, by saying this, I might have to say to you again the whole "consenting adults" thing... consenting adults, Randy)

I find this entire worldview to be completely fascinating.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Lastly, Randy, I'm curious:

Do you see anything wrong with the creator of the universe getting you a book deal while allowing genocide, disease, and starvation to kill off millions of small children every year?

At the very least, do you see why it's possible that a nontheist would see something abundantly horrifying about this?

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

I don't say that it couldn't happen. Only that it is wildly improbably. I consider the "miracle" to be the entire story with God's "intent" being served by a servent of little stature, but just a willing heart.

I have the video someplace. I should really make it into a UTube deal.

The kids were really not expressing who they were. They were expressing fad behavior. You and I both know the difference. I'm on record elsewhere recognizing that folks can have predispositions, etc.

Almost my entire comment was directed at promiscuous activity, and those kinds of negative consequence. But bisexuality is almost promiscuous by definition. You need three players minimum to act out your inclination.

Randy Kirk said...

Kit:

The question of evil by another door. I believe that there is evil in the world for good reason. I believe there are those who fight against evil or fight to counter evil or fight to cure the effects of evil for good reasons. I believe that the concept of evil may not even be possible without some kind of objective standard, which is an whole other issue.

PS. So, you didn't answer me regarding a guest post.

bernardo said...

"...bisexuality is almost promiscuous by definition. You need three players minimum to act out your inclination."

Not all at the same time, and not both within a short amount of time. Saying that bisexuality is promiscuous by definition is not very different from saying that sexuality is promiscuous by definition. Which it's not. You can be bisexual and have sex rarely and only with people who are extremely special to you - like most people today. But of course, I agree that sexual behavior is something very special, and variations on it should not become teenage fads.

But bringing the discussion back to miracles... We talk about "universe with miracles in it" versus "naturalistic universe" as though they are opposite things, two categories with a clear line dividing them. I certainly do. But if you think about it, it's possible to have both, in a way. Assuming that a god created a naturalistic universe (i.e. deism), this creator might have set up some rules that are as deterministic and unchanging as any other, but that are more subtle and more powerful.

People may have a good grasp of basic physics and thermodynamics and not understand entropy well enough to see that it places impenetrable limits on how efficient an engine is. Entropy is both more subtle than things like pressure and temperature, and also extremely powerful. In a similar way, maybe we know the "basic mechanics" of the universe without seeing that they are connected and limited by a powerful but subtle entropy-like set of rules, which might only come into play once intelligence is around. I guess that's kinda like the idea of karma.

Another possibility is that miracles happen as a consequence of the basic motions of particles, as the incredibly unlikely event of many vibrating particles in a "beat" i.e. whose random microscopic motions for one moment are synchronized well enough to trigger macroscopic change, which can in turn trigger bigger things. This is especially imaginable in the human brain, where whole thoughts and feelings take shape based on the movements of extremely tiny amounts of ions.

I'm really just playing devil's advocate here. I don't think there are miracles. I'm just pointing out that, if we want to be thorough about it, miracles don't necessarily mean that God is breaking natural law. They could mean a kind of natural law we haven't modeled yet, or they could mean extremely unlikely events happening within the natural rules we already know about.

bernardo said...

Actually, the "devil's advocate" was the one who argued against the occurrence of a miracle, when such a claim was investigated by the church in the process of making someone a saint. So I guess in this case, the term means the opposite of what it originally did. I was trying to present the idea of miracles in a way that could be accepted by someone who (like me) believes that the universe is naturalistic, rather than presenting a naturalistic explanation to a claim of God breaking the rules.

Anonymous said...

"PS. So, you didn't answer me regarding a guest post."

Was this directed to me? If so, I didn't see your request, sorry.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Ok, I just found your request, and responded to it in that thread ("Path to Personal Perception of Truth").

Kit

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo,

Your theory on miracles allows for things we don't know yet. One thing we might not know yet is that there is a totally different spritual dimmension that has a science about which we know nothing. In fact, it just occurred to me that what is miraculous to us is not so to God. So we can have a God breathed, but naturalistic universe, where everything happens according to rules and principles, but those rules are set up by God. The miracles are merely natural events that we can't explain.

I think I said a couple of things twice, but hopefully that made what is hard to grasp easier to grasp. Maybe one of you smarter guys can make what I said even clearer.

bernardo said...

That's one of the two options I was trying to propose.

Option one: We don't understand all the rules, and miracles happen along rules we don't understand yet. Option two: We pretty much understand all the rules, and miracles are just terribly unlikely events that happen within the rules we understand (but a Creator would know the universe well enough to set it up in such a way that these miracles happen when he wants them to).

There is also option three: the world is not naturalistic. And option four: There are no miracles.

I think 2 and 4 make the most sense, but 1 is believable. I am inclined to not believe in 3, for reasons previously discussed (I'd like the world to be naturalistic, and I have no good reason to believe it is not).

Randy Kirk said...

I think I can agree with you that miracles are not miracles to God.

The point of miracles is to point to God, and to humble man. Biblical stories constantly create circumstances where humans can't claim the result. Then they have to point to God.