The Belief in Miracles can be explained by Random Positive Reinforcement

Think about this, everyone: If there are hundreds of millions of miracles occurring in the Third World (Asia, Africa, and Latin America) due to prayers to Jesus, as Christian scholar Craig Keener says in his book “Miracles”, why is it that the morbidity, mortality, and longevity rates among Christians in these continents are not significantly any better than for persons of other religions or no religion? No religion on earth has the global distribution of Christianity, and no other religion on earth claims the quantities of healings in so many continents that Christians claim. So even if miracles do happen in other religions (due to the benevolence of the Christian God or Satan), the vast number of miracles that Keener claims occur among Christians should dramatically impact the morbidity, mortality, and longevity statistics of Christians in these regions.

However, no such statistical difference exists!

Does this mean that ALL the miracle claims in Keener’s book are false? No. But it does mean that MOST are false. And if most are false, the small number of possible miracles that remain could be easily explained by random chance; the coincidence of a spontaneous, natural recovery occurring in close proximity to one of the millions or billions of Christian prayers offered up every day for healing.

It is all very well explained by the principle of Random (Intermittent) Positive Reinforcement.

In behaviorism, Intermittent Reinforcement is a conditioning schedule in which a reward or punishment (reinforcement) is not administered every time the desired response is performed. This differs from continuous reinforcement which is when the organism receives the reinforcement every time the desired response is performed. For example, on a continuous reinforcement schedule a mouse who pulls a lever would receive food (reinforcement) every single time it pulled the lever. On an intermittent reinforcement schedule the mouse would only receive food every few times (it is typically random and unpredictable). There is an increased likelihood the desired behavior will continue with intermittent reinforcement conditioning and the behavior lasts longer than continuous reinforcement. Gambling is an example of intermittent reinforcement. You don’t win every time or win the same amount when using a slot machine- this wouldn’t be exciting or fun. The reinforcement is intermittent and causes a positive and euphoric response in the brain that in some circumstances can lead to gambling addiction.

Gary:  or praying-for-a-miracle addiction!

Source:  here

Gary:  Even Christians admit that miracle healings do not occur every time that they pray to Jesus for a healing. In fact, most Christians will admit that most of the time that Christians pray for a miracle healing, no miracle happens. Therefore, if the billion Christians on earth are praying every day for healings and miracles, some of those billions or even just millions of prayers are going to be prayed in close proximity to random, spontaneous health recoveries. Based on the above research, “organisms” who receive intermittent/random reinforcement are much more likely to increase the likelihood of the behavior (praying for miracles) and the condition (faith in the miracle powers of prayer to Jesus) will last longer. In addition, the random, unexpected nature of these occasional “positive reinforcements” (apparent answered prayers) will give the “organism” a positive and euphoric response in the brain, which could possibly lead to exaggerations and confusion over the details of the perceived “miraculous” event.


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