Saturday, September 22, 2012

Misused and Abused: Miracle

The term miracle has a distinctly religious origin and use yet over the years its common usage has been altered. It seems that people generally still want it to mean something extraordinary and special. Its overuse takes away from its apparent intent. I do not believe in miracles at all but it is even more ridiculous of an idea now that it is so commonly applied.

According to Chambers 21st Century Dictionary:
"miracle" noun
1. an act or event that breaks the laws of nature, and is therefore thought to be caused by the intervention of God or another supernatural force.
2. colloquial a fortunate happening; an amazing event It’s a miracle you called round when you did.
3. colloquial an amazing example or achievement of something a miracle of modern technology. Also as adj miracle drug.
Derivative: work miracles to have an amazingly positive effect She’s worked miracles on him - he hardly drinks at all now.   [12c: French, from Latin miraculum, from mirari to be amazed at.]"

The first is what most people seem to want to imply but the second and third uses are what they usually mean. Even if it is the second or third use of the term that applies it is still more often than not misused and abused. Roughly 80% of the American population believes in Miracles. Many of those participating in the Pew research report not only believing in Miracles but insist they have experienced one either directly or through the story of a family member or close friend. The problem is that when you get the details they end up not being miracles, at least not in the first sense of the term. People will talk about 1 in a million type circumstances not bothering to realize that since our population is now over 7 billion that that is not such an impressive number anymore. People frequently talk about miraculous rescues and recoveries without giving nearly enough credit to the human activity involved or the likelihood of other non-divine circumstances playing a role. It should also be noted that these types of events happen so often to so many that by definition they are not really miracles.

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