Monday, March 17, 2014

I Believe in Miracles. So where ya from?

A common objection to the possibility of miracles is the following:

“If we consider miracles as a possible explanation, then doing science will become impossible, because it’s always possible that God might be miraculously interfering with the results of the experiments.”

One commenter named "tildeb" (with whom I discussed abortion here) has recently, along these lines, accused Christians of "denying science" by believing in the Resurrection.

Consider two potential miracles:

1. You leave a cake with blue icing on the table. You go out of the room. You come back in and see your four-year-old child with crumbs and blue smudges around their mouth. The child says “An angel told me that God has miraculously destroyed the cake.”

2. A man claims that God will miraculously levitate the Sydney Opera House 100 metres into the sky in one month’s time. 10,000 eyewitnesses report that the Opera House did indeed levitate.

Now, some might say that we could never ultimately be epistemically justified in postulating a miracle in either situation. But I think most people would recognise that, in the 1st situation, it certainly is less likely that a miracle has occurred. Why? Because of our background knowledge. If somebody said “I’ve only set my oven to 200 degrees Celsius, but my thermometer says that it’s 210 degrees inside the oven. It must be a miracle!” I think I would rightly reject that explanation, not because it is miraculous, but because it is contrived. Even if we allow for the possibility of miracles, we are still able to examine each case on its own merits.

Thus, a person can indeed consistently affirm the results of modern science concerning cell biology, the carbon cycle, etc. without necessarily excluding miracles from their possible pool of explanations.

Unless he's been convinced by this post, I'd like to cordially invite tildeb to show (in the comments section of this post) what he thinks the implicit contradiction(s) between these two propositions are:

1. We have very good reasons, drawn from modern medical science, to believe that a human body cannot return to life via the processes which normally operate in our world.

2. Jesus rose from the dead, by a miraculous act of God.

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