Are miracles improbable natural events?

Deutsche Version: Sind Wunder unwahrscheinliche Naturereignisse?

Stefan Hartmann is one of the most prominent scholars who deal with the philosophy of probability.

In an interview for the university of Munich, he went into a well-known faith story of the Old Testament in order to illustrate some concepts in a provoking way.

*****

 Interviewer: let us start at the very beginning in the Old Testament. In the Book of Genesis, God reveals to hundred-years old Abraham that he’d become father. Why shall Abraham believe this?

 
Hartmann: if we get a new information and wonder how we should integrate it into our belief system, we start out analysing it according to different criteria.
Three of them are especially important: the initial plausibility of the new information, the coherence of the new information and the reliability of the information source.
These factors often point towards the same direction, but sometimes there are tensions. Like in this example.
We have to do with a highly reliable source, namely God who always says the Truth.
However, the information itself is very implausible, hundred-years old people don’t get children. And it is incoherent: becoming a father at the age of hundred doesn’t match our belief system.
Now we have to weigh out all these considerations and come to a decision about whether or not we should take this information in to our belief system. When God speaks, we are left with no choice but to do that. But if anyone else were to come up with this information, we’d presumably not do it, because the missing coherence and the lacking plausibility would be overwhelming.
The problem for epistemology consists of how to weigh out these three factors against each other.

*****

It must be clearly emphasised that neither the interviewer nor Hartmann believe in the historicity of this story between God and Abraham. It is only used as an illustration for epistemological (i.e. knowledge-related) problems.

As a progressive Christian, I consider that this written tradition has shown up rather late so that its historical foundations are uncertain.

Still, from the standpoint of the philosophy of religion it represents a vital text and lies at the very core of the “leap of faith” of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

For that reason, I want to go into Hartmann’s interpretation for I believe that it illustrates a widespread misunderstanding among modern intellectuals.

I am concerned with the following sentence I underscored:

However, the information itself is very implausible, hundred-years old people don’t get children. And it is incoherent: becoming a father at the age of hundred doesn’t match our belief system.

According to Hartmann’s explanation, it looks like as if the Lord had told to Abraham: “Soon you’ll get a kid in a wholly natural way.”

And in that case I can figure out why there would be a logical conflict.

But this isn’t what we find in the original narrative:

Background knowledge: hundred years old people don’t get children in a natural way.

New information:a mighty supernatural being promised to Abraham that he would become father through a miracle.

Put that way, there is no longer any obvious logical tension.

The “father of faith” can only conclude out of his prior experience (and that of countless other people) that such an event would be extremely unlikely under purely natural circumstances.

This doesn’t say anything about God’s abilities to bring about the promised son in another way.

Interestingly enough, one could say the same thing about advanced aliens who would make the same assertion.

The utter natural implausibility of such a birth is absolutely no argument against the possibility that superior creatures might be able to perform it.

Did ancient people believe in miracles because they didn’t understand well natural processes?

A closely related misconception consists of thinking that religious people from the past believed in miracles because their knowledge of the laws of Nature was extremely limited.

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, it is misleading to say that the first Christians believed in the virgin birth of Jesus because they didn’t know how pregnancy works.

On the contrary, they were very well aware of these states of affairs and viewed this event as God’s intervention for that very reason.

Saint Joseph would not have come to the thought of repudiating his fiancée if he hadn’t known that a pregnancy without prior sexual intercourses goes against the laws of nature.

Although professor Hartmann is doubtlessly an extremely intelligent person, I think he missed the main point.

Are we open to the existence of a God whose actions do not always correspond to the regular patterns of nature? And whose preferences might not always been understood by human reason?

 

But as progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser argued, I think that the true epistemological and moral conflict only begins when God demands Abraham many years later to sacrifice his son, which overthrows very deep moral intuitions.

Like the earlier German philosopher Immanual Kant, Rauser strongly doubts that such a command is compatible with God’s perfection.

19 thoughts on “Are miracles improbable natural events?

  1. Hartmann lays out three important aspects of considering the truth value of claims: the initial plausibility of the new information, the coherence of the new information(,) and the reliability of the information source.

    There’s another major – and I consider key – consideration: how do we know any of these? Against what is plausibility measured or compared? Against what is coherence measured and compared? Against what is the reliability of the source measured and compared.

    If we substitute let’s say Abraham’s God as the source of the claim, then how do we know if this source itself is reliable? When we insert trust and confidence by fiat, we’ve already skewered our considerations to align with our beliefs… and we know our beliefs can be and often are factually wrong. This is what Hartmann does in the example given: he allocates trust and confidence that the source really IS this God. On what grounds independent of his belief?

    None. And that leaves us with only the natural world for plausibility and coherence… both of which arbitrate the claim to be highly unlikely.

    Now we arrive at the crux of the epistemology necessary for miracles: belief alone and elevated a priori to be of greater truth value by fiat contrary to and incompatible with the natural world. Plausibility and coherence play no role whatsoever but are excluded entirely. And that’s what’s wrong with using faith to bolster faith: it’s intentional and necessary exclusion of reality. Placing trust and confidence and hope in faith by faith while excluding reality from arbitrating claims made about it is a guaranteed way to fool one’s self.

    • What, precisely, are you excluding when you say that you rely on “only the natural world”? I’m reminded of the distinct possibility that we could exist in a simulation, and it seems to me that it is not at all unreasonable that we could come to communicate with a programmer of that simulation and that we are communicating with the programmer of that simulation. Do you disagree?

      More and more, I am getting the impression that a vast number of atheists really mean ‘irrationality’ when they hear the words ‘God’, ‘faith’, and ‘supernatural’. This would come directly from Hume’s conception of miracles as being violations of the laws of nature, even though they only ever need to be violations of current scientific laws. Perhaps it also comes from the idea that miracles have great epistemological weight, which is flatly contradicted by Mt 24:23–25, although I think there are philosophical arguments to be made as well. Sheer power ≠ trustworthiness.

      • You’re coming at this backwards, Lab. It’s not a question of me excluding anything but a question of what informs claims made about reality. I keep reiterating that reality is the necessary component for informing claims made about it. Theists keep insisting that their faith-based beliefs are sufficient and are, in fact, up to the task. Even if that method resulted in knowledge about reality (which it doesn’t or we would have evidence from reality for its efficacy and applicability… neither of which is producible), theists still lack any means to <I.demonstrate the causal effect they claim from agencies they insist exist independent of their faith-based beliefs.

        So let’s apply what I’m saying to your example about living in a simulation. Because ALL we have to go by would be from the simulation itself, we would have no means to determine it WAS a simulation. For all intents and purposes, as far as we could determine the simulation would be identical in all testable ways to reality. Contrary to the method I advocate – allowing reality to determine what’s true about it – you have to first assume a simulation is somehow knowable to be a simulation to be able to to suggest that your method – allowing faith-based beliefs to determine what’s true about reality – has some equivalent merit. See what you’ve done? You’ve gone right back to imposing your beliefs about reality on reality while disallowing reality the right to arbitrate claims made about it in order to support your analogy (that somehow faith-based beliefs offer us avenues to knowledge that are unavailable if we respect reality’s role to arbitrate claims made about it. To back this claim of equivalency up, you don’t produce independent evidence from reality that should be available as the recipient of the causal claims made about the faith-based beliefs and therefore accessible to us for study. Why this absence of evidence?

        Well, I think the best answer to that question lies in the brute fact that the explanation about gods or a god is simply wrong. I think there is no such beastie(s) and that causal effects claimed to represent it (them) are inappropriately attributed. To test this, we should find linking mechanisms in reality that reasonably explain some cause to some effect. And so far the natural world (simulation or not) reliably and predictably produces this evidence. To put this compelling evidence aside in favour of believing in miracles I think is step away from following the evidence and learning more and more about the real world and how it operates. I think rejecting this method in the case of gods or a god is actually a move towards sanctifying perpetual ignorance about these claims that serve not what’s true but only what is believed to be true. This approach in the case of causal claims about divine intervenors (so to speak) operating independent of the reality we supposed share is a mind closer. That is not the path to knowledge about reality but a move away from undertaking this knowledge-producing process. We see exactly this, for example, in the strength and staying power of belief in various forms of Oogity Boogity! causing various kinds of creationism by the mechanism of POOF!ism. That’s as far away from being a useful explanatory model as one can possibly get, yet this is exactly the version produced by faith-based beliefs.

        • You’re coming at this backwards, Lab. It’s not a question of me excluding anything but a question of what informs claims made about reality.

          Well, if this is me coming at it backwards, then you’re calling Karl Popper’s whole conception of falsifiability ‘backwards’ as well. Until you support your claim with anything like a sufficient argument, I’m inclined to think that actually it’s you who is backwards on this matter. Karl Popper was very convincing in arguing that to know what a claim about reality means is to know what it denies. Or one could go by the old philosophical observation that if the entire world were red, you wouldn’t know it.

          I keep reiterating that reality is the necessary component for informing claims made about it.

          Your use of ‘informs’ is a bit ambiguous. Suppose that we managed to time-travel back to 1850 with instructions for making negative index metamaterials. How, precisely, would people back then see reality informing those instructions? It would be easy enough to communicate to them what such materials can do, but they would lack a terrific amount of the technology to construct such materials. Indeed, they would have to do something very much like having faith in the time-travelers that such a material could be made, and that perhaps many intermediate steps would be required to research and build the technology required to actually build the metamaterials.

          I am increasingly coming to believe that the Bible is better compared to such instructions, than to truth-claims about how reality currently is. For example, the NT describes a pretty awesome way of living around other humans. I almost lost my faith because I just didn’t see anything like it until I went to college. Fortunately, there I found a college Christian fellowship which actually believed some of the ‘construction rules’—like relational sin—and acted on them. By doing so, they brought into existence a state of reality that I had not seen reified before. They had constructed negative index metamaterials when I had despaired that such a material was probably just possible—for all I knew, it was only a pipe dream.

          Even if that method resulted in knowledge about reality (which it doesn’t […]

          Not only do I argue differently above (I had never seen the relational sin stuff anywhere else), but I also did with respect to the Milgram experiment and the OT. Although, that instance is a bit iffy, because I don’t know of anyone who actually did apply Deut 5 and 1 Sam 8 to thinking about the reports from Germany that Enlightened Man was mass-murdering defenseless people by the millions. However, I do have hope that future death and destruction might be avoidable by more accurately guessing prescientific† truths about human nature by taking the Bible seriously. If I succeed, that would seem to be a direct falsification of your claim, here.

          Or have I erred? You might argue that the most the Bible can do is generate plausible beliefs which then need to be adjudicated against reality; I would readily assent to that and even cite biblical support: “but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

          † We still rely on many prescientific beliefs, today. As quickly as we can, we want to subject them to test, but there’s only so much we can do per unit time. As far as I can tell, most people believe much of what they do about human nature based on ¬science.

          Contrary to the method I advocate – allowing reality to determine what’s true about it – you have to first assume a simulation is somehow knowable to be a simulation to be able to to suggest that your method – allowing faith-based beliefs to determine what’s true about reality – has some equivalent merit. See what you’ve done?

          The idea that you don’t have to assume anything a priori is hilariously wrong, so I hope you’re not advocating that. But you certainly are arguing that more than some amount of assuming is wrong, and that (i) you haven’t transgressed this line, while (ii) theists have transgressed this line. I want to see you rigorously defend the line, especially in light of stuff like Neurath’s boat and the more general truth that all of reality is interpreted. Hell, Hume said you cannot even have any concept of causation which comes directly through the senses. Do you disagree with this? If you don’t, that means you cannot hold to anything more than Regularity Theory. Perhaps you already stated a position on this; if so my apologies, and I request you re-state your position. Do you think there is any sort of causation besides the Regularity Theory? If so, I claim you smuggled in something from outside ‘reality’, and yet are criticizing me for doing precisely that!

          • Karl Popper was very convincing in arguing that to know what a claim about reality means is to know what it denies.

            What a handy way of restating Popper’s use of falsifiability: what reality means is predicated on knowing what it denies.

            I’m still laughing at that faithesit torsion.

            Sorry, lab. Falsifiability has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with meaning. It refers directly to the very scientific notion that a claim requires the inherent possibility to prove it to be false… otherwise it’s just like religious claims… taken on faith with no allowance to be shown by reality’s arbitration of the claim to be invalid!

            And yes, you continue to come at every issue I raise with Popper’s requirement absent in your own approach. That’s why you require the rabbit’s warren of convoluted links and tangential diversions.

            All I’m really saying is that until religious claims ABOUT REALITY allow reality to arbitrate them rather than faith-based beliefs, no understanding of ‘miracles’ or anything else related to how reality operates can be produced. Blunt, I know, but even the best scientists who are religious don’t even try to mix their religious ideas into affecting their scientific work. They allow reality to play it’s proper role. Why they don’t extend this same principle to inform the knowledge value from their Sunday services is a rather interesting phenomena, no?

          • Falsifiability has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with meaning.

            I guess we simply disagree. That the entire universe is red has no meaning to me; I can only start making sense of that if some of the universe isn’t red. More abstractly, for the statement “A is X” to mean anything to me, I have to be able to imagine what it would be for “A is ¬X” to be true, instead. It’s like doing gene knockouts on multipart concepts. You try and build the concept without the part and see how it breaks (if it breaks); this helps you see what that part actually contributes.

            All I’m really saying is that until religious claims ABOUT REALITY allow reality to arbitrate them rather than faith-based beliefs, no understanding of ‘miracles’ or anything else related to how reality operates can be produced.

            I think I might largely agree with this; I personally reject your “faith as epistemology” notion, but I recognize that it seems to awfully well-approximate a wide swath of Christian thinking. The NT has several bits which seem clearly testable against REALITY; a selection is Mt 7:15–23, 1 Thess 5:21, and Gal 6:3–4.

            Blunt, I know, but even the best scientists who are religious don’t even try to mix their religious ideas into affecting their scientific work.

            I do understand that this is part of your deeply cherished mythology about how science must operate. As I recall, you get touchy if it’s even questioned. It’s also a lot easier to hold this if you disparage the human sciences, for monotheism tends to care very little for physics and very much for humans.

        • To test this, we should find linking mechanisms in reality that reasonably explain some cause to some effect.

          On this reasoning, you can never know that an infinite being exists. After all, a finite being can only ever observe a finite amount of effects, which can surely always be said, via Ockham’s razor, to have come from a finite amount of causes. (Right?) There is no ‘jump to infinity’ that would let one reason from finite effects to an infinite Cause.

          Good job on making God epistemologically unknowable. Except, I think your epistemology sucks on precisely this basis. It makes you unable to know certain things and people, which seems like precisely the thing that a good epistemology ought to make possible! The only way I can see you defending your chosen epistemology (or perhaps: class of epistemologies) is to argue that any epistemology which would allow one to conclude that an infinite being exists would somehow be ‘dangerous’ or ‘bad’: perhaps they would also result in one coming up with so many false beliefs such that one would be much worse at exploring reality, than someone who uses an epistemology like yours.

          To put this compelling evidence aside in favour of believing in miracles I think is step away from following the evidence and learning more and more about the real world and how it operates.

          Ahh, this trope. It happens to be unfalsifiable: any theist (or polytheist) who believes in miracles and is a scientist must certainly, according to you, bracket such beliefs so that they do not causally impact that person’s mental faculties while engaging in the enterprise of trying to better understand reality. Until you can construct a falsifiable version of this, I’m really quite uninterested in it. When something like this is unfalsifiable, it’s really a just-so story, or perhaps mythology.

          We see exactly this, for example, in the strength and staying power of belief in various forms of Oogity Boogity! causing various kinds of creationism by the mechanism of POOF!ism.

          You’ve made two errors:

               (1) all/most miracle-believing theists do such bad things
               (2) few/no miracle-denying scientists do such bad things

          Nothing you’ve ever said has convinced me that you can demonstrate (1); the best you can do is the unfalsifiable just-so story I outlined above. I myself have posted a refutation of (2) by citing a sociologist, who is in precisely the right scientific profession to be most qualified to make such a statement:

              Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (A Far Glory, 30)

  2. On this reasoning, you can never know that an infinite being exists.

    You forgot on trivial detail here: neither can you.

    You really must give up the notion that a sociologist is, by definition, a scientist who best represents the scientific method. This is laughably absurd… even by many sociologists who have a good sense of humor. What scientific results sociology uses as an area of academic interest is almost always borrowed from psychology (and to lesser extent anthropology) and rarely created within the domain of sociology itself. Sociologists are mainly known for making up terms. The really good ones make a profession out of it.

    Your continued and tedious use of the A Far Glory quotation is as irrelevant here as it has been in all those other comments. Yes, intelligent people believe silly things. Yes, many fine scientists believe silly things. I’ve never tried to argue differently. In fact, I have written many times that this willingness to believe silly things is actually quite human… but that doesn’t mean its worthy of sanctity and faux-respect. Newton spent the majority of his life involved with believing in various kinds of woo. So what? That waste of time and effort doesn’t in any way mitigate the guy’s valuable contribution in creating calculus and codifying forces and work in optics and cosmology. You continually misrepresent me suggesting that everyone must be all science or all foolishness.

    Here’s what I actually keep saying (to no effect on you, of course, because you already know for certain based on what you believe I mean): We allow ourselves to become foolish when we stop allowing reality to arbitrate claims made about it and turn, instead, to lending trust and confidence and hope to our faith-based beliefs about it. This turning produces no knowledge. Ever. If knowledge about reality is the goal – and explanatory claims made about reality indicate that this IS the goal – then faith-based belief is unquestionably a failed methodology because it has yet to produce any.

    • You forgot on trivial detail here: neither can you.

      Yes, if I use your epistemology, this is true. Furthermore, we can play with the word ‘know’. Scientists regularly do good science on suspicions and gut feelings and other assorted ‘prescientific beliefs’; one’s conception of God could easily fall into this category, with science characterizing the aspects of God (or at least, how he makes his art) which we can describe really well. As you get to know a person more and more, some aspects of him/her can become so repeatable that one can virtually do science on them. But there are always new aspects which are much more mysterious, where you can’t do science [yet].

      You really must give up the notion that a sociologist is, by definition, a scientist who best represents the scientific method. This is laughably absurd…

      It’s funny, because you definitely want to make the kinds of claims that sociologists gather data for, develop theories around, test those theories, etc. And yet, you don’t rely on sociologists for such claims. And yet, you’re confident about such claims. Very odd. Who’s missing falsification, again?

      Anyhow, there is a good reason for you to be suspicious of sociology; two good reads on why are Donald E. Polkinghorne’s Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (3-page Google Books preface) and Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look. See, those in the human sciences, especially the theoretical sides, used to think that you could study humans like you study atoms: ‘objectively’. It took them a while to realize how utterly stupid this was. During the time they were doing this stupid thing, they weren’t very good at what they did. And so, they got a bad rap for a while.

      Your continued and tedious use of the A Far Glory quotation is as irrelevant here as it has been in all those other comments.

      I’ll keep using it as long as you think scientists are good at not believing really stupid shit about human nature. I really don’t care if physics has done awesome things; the human sciences are incredibly important for setting social policy and foreign policy, and impact the lives of every human on this planet inordinately. And yet, those sciences are very messy, and have nothing of the pristine nature that physics does. Guess what: religion deals with this messy domain, not the clean domain. Hmmm, why doesn’t it look like physics…

      You continually misrepresent me suggesting that everyone must be all science or all foolishness.

      Speaking of misrepresenting…

      Here’s what I actually keep saying (to no effect on you, of course, because you already know for certain based on what you believe I mean): We allow ourselves to become foolish when we stop allowing reality to arbitrate claims made about it and turn, instead, to lending trust and confidence and hope to our faith-based beliefs about it.

      It’s curious that you say this, because not infrequently, I see claims by you which don’t actually seem arbitrated by reality. I could easily use my belief that Deut 5 and 1 Sam 8 is truth-like to give me a better prior about human nature than those who made the predictions at Milgram experiment § Results. This lets religion impact my prescientific beliefs, which I then do want to go ahead and test against reality. And yet, religion would be playing a role in science, here. Oops?

  3. I enjoyed reading this article. If you look at the definition of miracle in a dictionary you will often see 2 different definitions. Something like

    1)a woderous or supernatural event (or suspension of natural law) brought about by God.

    2) A highly improbable event.

    These are 2 different concepts but they are often conflated. I think generally Christians understand miracle in the first sense.

    Its not improbable if it happened. And indeed from a Catholic perspective miracles happen everyday at mass with transubstantiation.

    I discuss how the I believe Bart Ehrman conflates the definition of miracle in this blog.

    http://trueandreasonable.co/2014/05/29/ehrman-and-the-historicity-of-miracles/

    I would be interested in your thoughts.

  4. Miracles are by definition outside of what moderns call ‘the laws of nature’, which are not the definite and ultimate laws of nature at all, but regularities observed in the material realm, nothing more or less… Locating them inside of those laws of nature is indeed an error of category…

    • …but they are claimed to have causal effect ON reality. To cross this nature/supernature boundary means there must be something exempt from these regularities. If this is the case – and this is the point so many miracle believers fail to account for – there is no means available to us for us to know anything about it. That’s why any claim about miracles – any cause, any effect, any linking mechanism to attach those two claims – are simply empty conjectures. But does this stop – nay, even slow down for a moment – anyone from making exactly those kinds of claims?

      • So what effect would ‘there is no means available to us for us to know anything about it’ have on anything? Will it keeps things that are in that category from existing because we can’t know about them? Or from having any effect on reality just because we don’t understand it?
        Where does the weird dogma come from that things can only exist if we can describe and understand them? Sounds like very naive wishful thinking and a completely wrong application of Wittgensteins “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence” but also a weird form of hubris that thinks that human reason is the source of everything…

        • The mistake is to assume that we can know anything about what we have no means of knowing anything about.

          As for ‘those things in that (unknowable) category’, be honest: the assumption is that there are things in that category. To then assign real world effects to these ‘things’ that are unknowable is more of the same: it is at best wishful thinking on your part.

          To point this obvious reasoning mistake believers in miracles use to justify their wishful thinking is not hubris but a rather reasonable and accurate criticism of those who state their wishful thinking and mistake it for knowledge and insight. The mistake believers in miracles keep making really does have real world consequences that at best justifies ignorance and at worst cause real harm to real people in real life.

      • …but they are claimed to have causal effect ON reality. To cross this nature/supernature boundary means there must be something exempt from these regularities. If this is the case – and this is the point so many miracle believers fail to account for – there is no means available to us for us to know anything about it.

        @tildeb, do you agree with this bit from Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery:

        Every experimental physicist knows those surprising and inexplicable apparent ‘effects’ which in his laboratory can perhaps even be reproduced for some time, but which finally disappear without trace. Of course, no physicist would say that in such a case that he had made a scientific discovery (though he might try to rearrange his experiments so as to make the effect reproducible). Indeed the scientifically significant physical effect may be defined as that which can be regularly reproduced by anyone who carries out the appropriate experiment in the way prescribed. No serious physicist would offer for publication, as a scientific discovery, any such ‘occult effect’, as I propose to call it – one for whose reproduction he could give no instructions. The ‘discovery’ would be only too soon rejected as chimerical, simply because attempts to test it would lead to negative results. (It follows that any controversy over the question whether events which are in principle unrepeatable and unique ever do occur cannot be decided by science: it would be a metaphysical controversy.) (23-24)

        ? Actually, you seemed to strengthen what Popper has said, from:

             (1) cannot be decided by science
        to
             (2) cannot be known

        Do you agree, or disagree?

        • I stand by what I wrote.

          If we have no means to know about something, then claims of knowledge about that something are empty of knowledge value. Most of us understand this point to be self-evident.

          Popper here is talking about an inexplicable event and the problems recapturing it. That’s fine. It would be irresponsible for any scientist to simply turn to metaphysics to supply an explanation with no means to test it.

          But pretending to know the cause by this transitory effect and allocating a supernatural/metaphysical explanation for it explains nothing. It’s equivalent to just making stuff up and being satisfied with that false equivalency of an ‘explanation’.

          If one wishes to know something about an inexplicable event, then one must do the necessary work to figure it out and apply various modeling of hypotheses to get to the bottom of it rather replace this effort with an exercise of fanciful imagination that alone creates ghosts, demons, and ‘miracles.’ When we look to the history of discovery, the supernatural produces none. In very stark contrast , the natural world sans supernatural agencies seems to work out just fine after all the necessary work is done to come up with an explanatory model that fits with Popper’s point of falsifiability… falsified – let us strongly remind ourselves – not by the fanciful imagination of supernatural agencies and metaphysical assertions but by demonstration of causal effect and the always-natural variable necessary to link the two.

          • If we have no means to know about something, then claims of knowledge about that something are empty of knowledge value. Most of us understand this point to be self-evident.

            Tautologies usually are like that. However, one can always ask whether lacking scientific means to “know about something” means that you have “no means to know about something”.

            But pretending to know the cause by this transitory effect and allocating a supernatural/metaphysical explanation for it explains nothing. It’s equivalent to just making stuff up and being satisfied with that false equivalency of an ‘explanation’.

            On this basis, it seems that we should declare some if not all claims of the form “I chose X” to be “allocating a supernatural/​metaphysical explanation” which “explains nothing”. After all, some if not all of my choices are quite unrepeatable. (Some are repeatable to within some error, which may be sufficiently small for the purpose at hand.)

            When we look to the history of discovery, the supernatural produces none.

            What would it look like for “the supernatural” to produce a discovery? Suppose I claim that my religious beliefs spurred me to do some experiment; would those beliefs then be engaged in “producing”?

    • I am not sure what you mean by “locating miracles inside those laws of nature”

      People could see miracles with their eyes. What they see is something that does not follow a law of nature.

      I do think there are laws of nature ie, ways in which the natural world works. But even if I agree with you and just say there are only “regularities” it doesn’t change that we would see the miracle right? I mean the miracle would appear as an irregularity wouldn’t it?

  5. Magicians appear to preform miracles, and you would believe they have some magic ability without knowing how their tricks work. I suspect a lack of understanding is the root of all that are claimed to be miracles.

    If there is some super powerful god-like manipulator making miracles happen, you’d think they would demonstrate it clearly (if they care about us) rather than toy with subtlety and keep us guessing.

    Also, there is a lot we don’t yet understand. We should be careful not to claim things as supernatural miracles as such a view could stand in the way of us understanding why unusual things actually do happen.

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