Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Problem of Miracles

CDK007, the master of making science videos on youtube, has just released a new video: This one concerning miracles. In short, I agree with CDK on some things but not on others. For example, I agree that natural explanations should be strongly preferred to supernatural ones. But I do not agree that there could never possibly be any evidence for a miracle (or the supernatural). For example, let's say that around the year 30 AD, Greek letters suddenly appeared on the moon, spelling the phrase "Jesus lives". Such a thing would be impossible for the ancients to achieve, since we cannot do it today and also because all the evidence indicates that the technology the ancients had was not nearly sophisticated enough to send anything to the moon, let alone carve letters into it.

Let's take another example: Let's say that 100 ancient manuscripts are found which list lots of very specific prophecies and when they will occur. All the manuscripts date to several hundred years before the prophecies occured, and all of the prophecies so far were verified as being fulfilled. In addition, the contents of the prophecy had been known for years before they occured, and it predicted things which would happen in our lifetime (so that every generation could verify a prophecy firsthand). In that case, who could resist accepting that something supernatural was at work?

[I have deleted the link to this video in response to Youtube's unfair and malicious treatment of atheists].

4 comments:

atimetorend said...

That is an important distinction you make, both for being able to think logically, and for being able to converse with those who do believe in miracles. The possibility of miracles existing does not need to be rejected in order to dispute particular events being signs of divine intervention.

Der Geis said...

I contend that the supernatural, by definition, cannot exist. If it has some sort of effect in the natural world, if it can be seen, felt, heard, then those effects are real and natural and can be measured, quantified and ultimately understood. To call something a miracle simply because we don't happen to know what happened does reality a great disservice.

AIGBusted said...

Hi Der Geis,

I disagree. This blog post presents a good argument for how one can define and test the supernatural:
http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html

Der Geis said...

"In defining the words "natural" and "supernatural" as I do, I differ from the legal and science community"

The authors explanation relies on changing the definition of what is natural and what is supernatural to conform to what people commonly think the word means or what he thinks it should mean so as to better fit his explanation. Sorry, I just don't think that flies. It sounds too much like the common creationist attempt to redefine evolution as "just a theory."