“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”
These words from Exodus describe one of the most famous miracles in the Bible. Never before and never since, in any sea or ocean on earth, have winds created a passageway through which people could walk. In scientific terms, such an event would require a sustained and highly directed column of wind blowing at hurricane force, a phenomenon that could be created only on a small scale in a human-made wind tunnel of the twentieth century. But the parting of the Red Sea occurred three thousand years ago. It was ordered up by Moses and delivered by God. It was a “miracle,” at odds with the behavior of nature, beyond nature, a “supernatural” event, inexplicable except by recourse to divine intervention.
A recent Harris poll found that 74 percent of Americans surveyed believe in God, and 72 percent believe in miracles. Miracles are usually associated with the actions of gods or other divine beings, and they occur not only in Judaism and Christianity but in all of the major religions of the world. In Islam, Muhammad split the moon. In Hinduism, when Saint Jnanadeva was told that he was not qualified to recite the Vedas, he placed his hand on a water buffalo, which proceeded to chant Vedic verses. Most Buddhists believe that all living creatures experience a cycle of deaths and rebirths, appearing in new bodies and passing through various nonphysical realms on the way.
—Read the rest of Alan Lightman’s essay on Guernica