To quote the ABC News article from a few days ago:
"Knies's doctors say that in rare instances, a patient can break the 'biological rules.' But most often in those cases, the initial pathology of the tumor was suspect.
"'In her case, the pathology was 'not controversial,' according to her surgeon, Dr. Robert Spetzler, director of the Barrow Neurological Institute at Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
"In his 35 years as a neurosurgeon in the United States, Spetzler said he has never seen such a triumph against a stage 4 glioblastoma.
"'It's one of the most malignant tumors there is,' he said. 'Invariably it will come back and pop up somewhere else in the brain and it's uniformly fatal.'
"'It's not unheard of that that a few survive -- it's a bell curve and there are outliers,' he said. 'But in her case, not only has she survived, but she is perfectly normal and there is absolutely no evidence of a tumor on her MRI scan.'
"Knies has a few of her own theories for why she is still alive today.
"'One, being God had a plan for me,' said Knies. 'I also had a great team of doctors and wonderful family and friends with a positive attitude.'
"'The mind is so much more powerful than anyone can imagine,' she said. 'People believe that when they get cancer, it will kill them. But I never once thought that.'"
When, as is so often the case, people *don't* recover from cancer, if there are religious believers around, one hears a lot of dancing around the question, in the form of the following:
1. God is not a magician, performing tricks at our request.
2. If the patient had had more faith, he might have lived.
3. God actually did heal the patient--by taking him to heaven.
4. Cancer and all other ills are the result of the Fall of Man. One day, in Heaven, all diseases will be merely a memory.
Or, as was the case when my little niece died of a brain tumor at age 4 some years ago, her Christian parents were anxiously consulting their pastor as to whether she had reached "the age of accountability" (meaning, could she have been "saved' and gone to Heaven, even though they had never actually heard her say she had "accepted Jesus in her heart").
Rather dismayingly to me, as an atheist, I have come to expect to hear, from some other atheists, thinking that is just as hackneyed and unoriginal, on the order of the following:
1. The doctors misdiagnosed her cancer to begin with. She never was as sick as they thought.
2. The tumor only appears to be gone. It will come back, and she will die.
3. People recover from cancer for all sorts of reasons.
4. You're probably a closet religious believer for even posting something like this in the first place.
In the present case, I would expect the religious person to say something like the following:
"You heard the doctor--she's not just cancer-free (and still fertile) but there's no evidence of a tumor, which he implies is unique. Only a supernatural healing could wipe the slate clean like that."
My answer as an atheist is
"That a flesh-and-blood tumor disappeared from a flesh-and-blood organism--a human body--is as much an argument that such events *are,* indeed possible in medicine, but by processes as yet unknown to scientists. To rule this impossible from the outset and place it 'across the line' in a 'spiritual world' by nature inaccessible to us is premature."
Finally, the whole thing reminds me of a question to which I posted an answer on Quora the other day. The question was "Will atheists start believing in God if God's existence is proven?" I wrote:
"Let's suppose that, contrary to atheists' belief, there really were a God, by which I mean:
"a) A being inherently above, beyond, and outside of the reality we know that consists of energy and matter, unmoved by that physical reality and yet able to pervade and affect it
"b) A being outside of time itself (which must follow from (a), since time is merely a physical dimension), such that linear time was, to this Being, like a thread running through the space inside a sphere
"c) A being possessed of the attributes of a mind, meaning that it had consciousness, intention, purpose, choice, etc.
"d) A being who was perfect in knowledge, wisdom, power, and the embodiment of whatever one took to be "the good"
"e) A being who, alone and unaided, and at its sole discretion, had brought into being the entire material universe that we know of
"Suppose such a being really existed. It is impossible for me to see how the existence of such a being could ever be *proven.*
"People who speak this way seem to have, at the back of their minds, the idea that if something is sufficiently amazing, 'well, then, if it's not done by human agency--it must be God!'
"Suppose you met someone who said, 'You only exist in three dimensions of space and one of time, but I actually exist in five dimensions,' and he did something remarkable that you were convinced 'couldn't possibly' have been done 'by a human.'
"But suppose someone else walked up and said 'Don't listen to him; I exist in 10 dimensions,' and he suddenly did something even more remarkable, just as unlikely to have been achieved by 'mere humans.'
"And then suppose someone else walked up and said 'Those two are in kindergarten compared to me; I exist in 250 dimensions,' and he also did something unspeakably amazing.
"No human could have any way of judging between the claims of the three speakers since we only perceive in three dimensions of space and one of time. And these cases only suppose that a human is trying to distinguish the claims of beings still, like himself, within the bounds of the universe of energy and matter that we know.
"But suppose someone walked up to us and said 'I am an archangel, momentarily embodied; forget all this 'dimension' stuff; I am from a spiritual world above and beyond all 'dimensions.' The most advanced and complex creature in your physical universe is as an insect compared to me, and yet I am as a small child compared to our Father, the Creator of All.'
"Again, how could any human, or any sentient being within physical reality have any means of judging the truth or falsity of such a claim? There is none, that I can see.
"I think people talk this way because they've never really thought clearly about the implications of what they are saying."
Applying this to Knies's case, suppose the three people claiming to exist in 5, 10, and 250 dimensions walk up to us and each claims credit for her remarkable recovery. Suppose a fourth person walks up and says "Their claims are fraudulent. I am from the future, where we have discovered time travel and where treating even the deadliest of cancers is child's play. I came back to do this pro bono and to alert 21st-century doctors to what will one day be possible."
And then suppose the person claiming to be an archangel walks up and says "No, something like this could not have come from within the world of energy and matter; it was the work of our Father, who alone is capable of effecting such a healing work."
What basis would we have of judging among the five?
That is why, as an atheist, I think it's best to stick with certain basic principles. One is that no matter how unlikely something may seem in the physical world, it is an unwarranted leap to decide, right now, that science will *never* be able to explain or duplicate it, no matter how much we might learn and that it must, consequently, be from a "spiritual" world "on the other side" whose principles we can only dimly grasp.
It's understandable that people might think that way, but still fanciful, for all that.