Bo Bennett, PhD
- The problem with this whole line of argument is the word “miracle.”
- The word is consistently conflated with a statistically impossible event, or an event that cannot be explained by natural laws, when in fact, the theological definition requires an interaction from a god or gods. Statistically impossible events (which are actually possible) happen all the time given the number of possible events, as do events that cannot be explained by natural laws (although much less common).
- To establish a miracle, one would need to provide convincing evidence that a god or gods were behind the event. The main fallacy here is ad hoc or after the fact reasoning. When someone claims a miracle, they are crediting their own god for the event by creating a narrative (i.e., my god wants this because…). People who presuppose a God who interferes in our lives see miracles everywhere, no matter how mundane (Jesus just apparently helped my brother list a house this weekend).
- To the skeptic, virtually no evidence can be strong enough for him or her to accept a miracle without the establishment of the existence of the god who is credited for the event. It all comes back to very low standards of evidence that believers are willing to accept when it is evidence for their god. We know this is a problem and poor reasoning because they are inconsistent in their reasoning… they don’t accept the same level of evidence when claims are made about gods they don’t believe in. They demand much better evidence, and they should.
Those who report miracles typically are not trained observers. Often they have a great desire to believe in miracles or something to gain by getting others to believe in them. In either case, their testimony is not to be trusted. But suppose that a number of people with unquestioned good sense, education and learning did report a miraculous event. Even then, we would not be justified in believing that a miracle had occurred, because the evidence for a miracle can never outweigh the evidence for the natural law it supposedly violates.
Bo Bennett, PhD
What the philosopher is saying is that since we humans have a long history of attributing events we do not understand to divine causation, and yet time after time in history, those attributions to divine causation have proven false and a natural cause has been discovered, instead of jumping to the assumption that rare, unusual health recoveries (medical cures) are acts of divine causation, we should withhold judgment until better evidence comes along, which prior probability indicates, will most likely point to a natural, not divine, cause for these events.
In regard to Hume, this philosopher in another section of his website, states that he believes that Hume erred in stating that miracles are impossible. Miracles are not impossible, just very improbable. The evidence for a natural-law-defying miracle is so much weaker than the evidence for the inviolability of the natural law it supposedly violates. I believe that many conservative Christians try to get around this fact by presupposing the existence of a miracle-producing god. But this is begging the question. You first must prove the reality of miracles before you can prove the existence of a miracle producing God. You can’t use unproven miracles to prove the existence of a miracle-producing god. And just because there is evidence for a Creator God or gods, is not necessarily evidence that that God or gods interferes with the established laws of nature to perform miracles.
Some Christian apologists assert that modern miracles cannot be proven using the standards of science and medicine. And I agree. But what are Christians left with? They are left arguing for the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.
It is true that eyewitness testimony has been the bedrock of the western criminal justice system for centuries. But should a system which has been proven by modern DNA studies to be so unreliable be used to establish our view of reality itself?? I would say, and I would bet the overwhelming majority of scientists would say—absolutely not.