Norris Chumley calls 11-year-old Nadia Bloom’s rescue a miracle—but was it?

At the Huffington Post today, Norris Chumley says this of the Florida rescue of 11-year-old Nadia Bloom:

If a miracle, by definition, is something of wonder that cannot be explained (as in the Old French and Latin miraculum or “object of wonder”), then Nadia’s rescue and survival is certainly miraculous. . . . Sometimes you just cannot explain it any other way. I cringe when I write that, but I’m a believer in God’s miracles.

A wonder that cannot be explained in any other way? 


Below are the alleged facts as Norris Chumley recounts them—and, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that his version of the story is reliable. See if, nevertheless, you can still come up with a plausible and nonmiraculous explanation for what happened:

The girl who is challenged with a mild case of autism, went walking in Florida’s Lake Jesup forests, a dense alligator-filled swamp land not far from her house, and became lost for four days. According to her father, Jeff Bloom (not the actor by the same name) Nadia got off her bike to take some pictures in the woods and quickly lost her way. Local police had classified her disappearance an amber alert. Her dad’s first words to Nadia were, “Just thank God when you get home, and just give him the praise for this. Thank him for this. You know, it’s just amazing…Things don’t always turn out this way. We are so blessed.” (From WESH-TV)

Rescue teams searched for days on foot, by helicopter, and with search dogs, but James King, a volunteer and member of Nadia’s church, began to pray while searching. On ABC’s Good Morning America, King said, “I prayed and prayed, and God showed me the way. The hardest part of it was getting out of my own way; putting my own thoughts aside and listening to God.” Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, King confessed to Meredith Vieira that his wife, Diane King, gave him advice the night before joining the search, “James, when we lose something we pray in the spirit and we always find it.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported her mother, Tanya Bloom, said at a press-conference, “I just wanted her back, and I’m glad God used him [King].”

Coming up with a nonmiraculous accounting of this story isn’t hard at all, is it?

For example, how about luck? 

And notice that Norris Chumley’s whole “this was a miracle” spiel rests on a correlation-causation error (post hoc ergo propter hoc) : he wants the reader to assume—prematurely, and absent any evidence—that the prayers that preceded Nadia Bloom’s rescue caused  her rescue. In fact, the two events—prayer and rescue—may only be in a correlated, not causal, relationship to one another. Absent additional evidence, nothing especially wonderous or beyond explanation is going on here at all.

If we care about truth and careful reasoning, then faulty logic—whether offered in secular affairs or within somebody’s affirmation of faith—does not deserve our acquiescent respect, but critique.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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