The Problem with Miracles

The problem I have with miracles is that they are, essentially, unknowable. I do not think that - if they exist - that they provide reasonable evidence for supernatural claim X and the reason for this is because we cannot know any of the causal factors involved with any degree of certainty.

To clarify, I will present an example.

For the sake of discussion, let’s suppose that Jesus rose from the dead after three days. Let’s suppose that science has determined with as close to absolute certainty as possible that Jesus was a living human, died, and three days later came back from the dead. Let’s further suppose that his body healed during the resurrection and there is no natural explanation for this*.

*At this point I realize that this cannot be proved or scientifically demonstrated - but for the purpose of this discussion, let’s just presuppose it - this resurrection was not a natural phenomenon.

Okay, so this is, for all intensive purposes, this was a miraculous event.

Here’s where my problem comes in. All this shows - if true - is that a miraculous event occurred and that it involved a person named Jesus.

It does not show:

  1. God exists
  2. Jesus had any input into the resurrection.

It could be that Ahriman (sp?) had been supernaturally watching Jesus and decided to fool the followers of Ahura Mazda by tricking them into believing the claims of Jesus. The best way to do this would be to make it seem as though Jesus had supernatural powers (or that he was god).

It could be that the grave where Jesus was buried had some sort of magical powers of restoration and that by laying a body there it would be restored after a period of 3 days.

Shoot, we could even suppose that Jesus had some input into the matter - but that he was not god. We could suppose that he was a powerful wizard and cloaked himself in a glamor or something.

My overall point is that the miracle does not establish anything and in fact only causes more problems.


We have friends who are religious nuts. They drove from Ann Arbor down south to see a wall of a church where the face of Mary was supposed to be showing itself. They believe they saw a miracle.

The point of science is to explain how the world works with hypothesis, experiment, result.

Things like “Does God exist?” or “was this a miracle?” are not repeatable, testable events in the real world. If you throw yourself from the top of a building and God saves you - unless you can demonstrate that it will happen every time, it’s not something science cares about.

Jesus risen from the dead- unless you run the battery of forensic tests and say “yep, he’s Toast” and then again when he’s alive, how do you know he was just passed out in shock? (IIRC He was a little ticked at Thomas for wanting to run tests…)

This is the problem with most “miracles”. Cancer can go into remission with or without prayer, for no apparent reason. People who will “never walk again” do, from time to time. Most “miracles” either could happen normally (just luck, or a true miracle?) or without repeat performance and good testing, there’s no way to tell what really happened.

Unexplainable does not = miracle.

I guess it takes a diety to have/believe in miracles, the rest of us just say “Was that weird or What”?

In the Jesus case, the interesting thing would be not that he came back but that he predicted he would come back. Ditto with his other supposed miracles - he didn’t just “miraculously” find a stash of wine, he said he was going to change water into wine and did. So this would be pretty telling evidence of supernatural powers. But I do agree that it doesn’t tell us whether God was involved. The devil can do magic too, after all.

“Miracles” people stumble across are different, in that unlikely events inevitably occur in a large number of trials. Or, as a great man once wrote “Million to one shots happen nine times out of ten.”

  1. He predicted he would be back in his follower’s lifetimes.
  2. Both the reporting of his “predictions” and of their supposed fulfillment occured after the fact(if they happened at all). This method has been used by fake psychics for hundreds of years, Jeanne Dixon for example-she would take events such as Kennedy’s assassination and assert that she had publicly predicted that the event would happen, when there was nothing actually written down anywhere that dated before the event itself.

I think this is essentially true, and I don’t really expect to see anyone here arguing otherwise. Leaving aside the very real problems involved in establishing that something is a miracle, the best you could say for sure about a genuine, verifiable miracle is that it proves that miracles are possible and, hence, you can’t discount Supernatural Claim X just because it’s supernatural.

Well, duh. Of course it is just a story, but the premise of the OP was that somehow the resurrection was scientifically verified. The return in you point 1 was totally different from the resurrection. I think even the fundiest of fundies wouldn’t claim something that happened yet is a miracle.

The problem I have with all supernatural fiction, whether they be comedies like “Ghostbusters” or pablum like “Touched by an Angel” is that they don’t consider the massive revolution in science that would be required if ghosts were proven to exist. At least “Men in Black” showed them going to great lengths to hid the presence of aliens from the population. The Bible is guilty of this also, since the resurrection was supposedly accompanied by earthquakes, the walking dead, and all sorts of other goodies that no one seemed to have noticed.

Yes, I realize this - but I tried to formulate the basic question with the assumption that event X was a genuine miracle.

I don’t think a deity is required for miracles. It doesn’t seem like a logical necessity at least.

Let’s suppose Jesus did come back in the follower’s life time and these predictions all occurred prior to the resurrection.

How would we know:

  1. That Jesus was God.
  2. That the miracles actually came from Jesus.
  3. That Jesus wasn’t just some elaborate magician.

My point in this thread is that even assuming miracles happen, you can’t really go any further then that. Their still needs to be a link to demonstrate that the person the miracle happened to is somehow able to perform the miracle AND/OR there needs to be a link to the proposition that “god exists because miracle X proves it”.

This is exactly what my stumbling block is.

All a miracle could show is that the supernatural happened.

Sometimes, dead is bettah.

A fundamental problem with miracles, I think, is eloquenltly alluded to by this:

As soon as a miracle is actually observed it enters the realm of science and becomes boring in many people’s eyes. ESP, if it actually existed, would likely cease to be exciting if it became assigned reading in science class - not to mention if one were faced with the drudgery of carrying out actual scientific studies.

Why is this? What need is filled by hoping for truth that “science can’t explain - it’s better than science”?
(and to give credit where credit is due, yes I am aware of Lee Siegal’s quote only from Daniel Dennett)

But strong evidence for miracles or the supernatural wouldn’t fit neatly onto science as it is now understood. We’d expect most of the basic premises would be turned on their heads. What would a precog say about time’s arrow or causality. Does telepathy operate at ftl speeds? If there are ghosts, what does this say about neuroscience, and would we all have to apologize to lekatt? :smiley:
It all would be very exciting indeed.

If I posted an ad for a course:

“Learn the arcane craft which lets you know the thoughts of someone even if they are on the other side of the world!”

I’ll bet that more than a few attendees would be disappointed if I say, “Okay class: the telephone. Here’s how it works.”

Before the science behind the telephone was understood, communicating over vasts distances would be considered miraculous. Same knowing where my bone is broken without cutting my skin, or any number of the wonders of science.

Why are they no longer wonderous/miraculous once we rationally understand it? Why is it awesome when Jesus heals the blind man, but not when a cataract surgeon does it?

Talking to someone on the telephone lets you know their thoughts? You obviously have never listened to my daughter speak on the phone.

But seeing a telephone, or, even better, an MP3 player, would sure shake up the science of 300 years ago, wouldn’t it?

She must not have enough faith. :cool:

For all intents and purposes.

I was healed one night of a outbreak of the MRSA staph infection through "fervent effectual prayer"believe it or not. It was as if I shook hands with GOD.Now my faith is unshakable. :cool:

Why doesn’t God ever heal amputees?