The Miracle

Hume a philosopher has a simple syllogism agianst miracles:
(1) Laws of nature are exceptionally regular.
(2) A miracle is a violation of a law of nature.
(3) Miracles do not exist in nature.

This is a valid syllogism. But are the facts true?

Spinoza has a similar theory:

1. Miracles are violations of natural laws.
2. Natural laws are immutable.
3. It is impossible for immutable laws to be violated.
4. Therefore, miracles are impossible.

Kant also had things to say about miracles:
Kant’s argument can be summarized as follows:
1. Everything in our experience (the world to us) is determined by practical reason.
2. Practical reason operates according to universal laws.
3. Miracles occur either (1) daily, (2) seldom, or (3) never.
4. But what occurs daily is not a miracle since it occurs regularly according to natural laws.
5.And what occurs seldom is not determined by any law.
6. But all scientific knowledge must be determined by practical reason which operates on universal laws.
7. Therefore, it is rationally necessary for us to conclude that miracles never occur.

Flew’s argument against miracles can be summarized this way:

1. Miracles are by nature particular and unrepeatable.
2. Natural events are by nature general and repeatable.
3. Now, in practice, the evidence for the general and repeatable is always greater than that for the particular and unrepeatable.
4. Therefore, in practice, the evidence will always be greater against miracles than for them.

Alastair McKinnon’s argument can be summarized as follows:

1. A scientific law is a generalization based on observation.
2. Any exception to a scientific law invalidates that law as such and calls for a revision of it.
3. A miracle is an exception to a scientific law.
4. Therefore, a “miracle” would call for a revision of a law and the recognition of a broader law (which thereby explains the “miracle” as a natural event)

COMMON THREAD
Even in this admittedly unsuccessful anti-supernatural argument is hidden the premise of an apparently successful one, namely the evidence for the regular and repeatable is always greater than that for the irregular and singular. Science is based on uniform experience, not anomalies. Regularity is the basis of a scientific understanding. Therefore, science as such can never accept the miraculous. Thus the principle of regularity seems to be the common thread of the anti- supernatural arguments.

A Christian response:

1. The only cause repeatedly observed to be adequate to produce information is intelligence.
2. Now the information in the first single cell which emerged on earth would fill a whole volume of an encyclopedia.
3. But observation of regularities are the scientific basis for understanding singularities.
4. Hence, there is a scientific basis (in repeated observation) for believing that first life was caused by some intelligence beyond the natural world.
5. But since this kind of singularity produced by a supernatural intelligent being would be a miracle by definition, then we have a firm scientific basis for believing in miracles.

In short, repetition in the present does give us a firm scientific basis for believing in an intelligent intervention into the natural world. To borrow Hume’s term, we have “uniform experience” on which to base our belief in the miraculous origin of life. For we never observe an encyclopedia resulting from an explosion in a printing shop. We never observe a fan blowing on alphabet cereal produce a scientific research paper. No one would conclude Mount Rushmore resulted from wind or rain erosion. Why? Our uniform experience teaches us that the kind of information conveyed on Mount Rushmore never results from natural laws but only from intelligent intervention.

Since the rise of modern science anti-supernatural arguments have stressed the principle of uniformity. They have argued that:

1. Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events.
2. Miracles are not constantly repeated.
3. Therefore, there is no scientific way to understand miracles.

Two things should be noted about this argument. First, this form of the argument does not deny that unusual events like miracles may occur, any more than it denies a hole-in-one may occur. It simply says that scientific law is based on regularities. And until one can establish a constant conjunction between antecedent and consequent factors there is no scientific basis for assuming a causal connection between them.

Second, neither does this argument deny that there is any scientific way to analyze singularities, such as the origin of the universe, or the origin of life, or receiving one message from outer space. It simply says that observed regularities must be the basis for analyzing singularities. For example, if we observe over and over again that a certain kind of effect regularly results from a certain kind of cause then when we discover even a singular case of this kind of effect (whether from the past or present), we have a scientific basis for assuming it had the same kind of cause too. This same assumption is behind the naturalists’ search for a chemical basis for the origins of life and an evolutionary basis for the origin of species. In both cases repeatable observations in the present are used as a basis for understanding the singularity of origin in the past. Without this principle of uniformity there would be no way of getting at singularities in either the past or the present.

Certainly we must grant that this is a legitimate procedure to base all scientific understanding in the principle of regularity. However, the question is this: Does such a procedure eliminate a scientific understanding of miracles? In order to better understand our answer to this question let us reformulate the naturalist argument in the light of the two qualifications noted above.

1) Scientific understanding is always based on constant repetition of events.

la) This repetition need not be a repetition of the event we are analyzing but only of other similar events.

2) Miracles are not constantly repeated events.

3b) Therefore, miracles need not be eliminated from the realm of scientific understanding.

Once the argument is put in this form we can see that all one needs to do to establish a basis for singularities such as miracles is to find some constantly repeated process as a basis for understanding them. This we believe can be done by adding these premises:

4) Constant repetition informs us that wherever complex information is conveyed there was an intelligent cause.

5) There are some scientific singularities (such as the origin of first life) where complex information is conveyed.

6) Therefore, there is a scientific basis for positing an intelligent non-natural cause for the origin of first life.

In short:
There is a way things typically go and we do not normally expect any different but
within that “typical” behavior there is room for exceptions. There is an intelligent being, God, in charge who is deciding when these exceptions occur. And these exception are miracles.

An example:
I am a dark coffee man. You can ask my friend Tom, every morning I get dark coffee and he gets a Latte. ask Tom, he says, “Alex ALWAYS gets a dark coffee.”
One day I say, “Tom call me crazy, but I want to try something new.” I intelligently choose to get a Latte. Tom thinks this is a miracle. He says “Alex, you surprised me, you ALWAYS get a dark coffee but today you chose to get a latte, this is a miracle.”

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