Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The opening paragraph of my essay on miracles

Tom Gilson's comment on Sam Harris reminded me of the first paragraph of my paper on miracles.

Bertrand Russell was reportedly once asked what he would say to God if he were to find himself confronted by the Almighty about why he had not believed in God's existence. He said that he would tell God "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence!" But perhaps, if God failed to give Russell enough evidence, it was not God's fault. We are inclined to suppose that God could satisfy Russell by performing a spectacular miracle for Russell's benefit. But if the reasoning in David Hume's epistemological argument against belief in miracles is correct, then no matter how hard God tries, God cannot give Russell an evidentially justified belief in Himself by performing miracles. According to Hume, no matter what miracles God performs, it is always more reasonable to believe that the event in question has a natural cause and is not miraculous. Hence, if Russell needs a miracle to believe reasonably in God, then Russell is out of luck. Russell cannot complain about God's failure to provide evidence, since none would be sufficient. But God cannot complain about Russell's failure to believe.

1 comment:

jb said...

I seem to recall somewhere in C.S. Lewis's "God in the Dock" where he says that there are people who are so stubborn in their refusal to believe in the supernatural that upon death will go to hell and, while there, will still insist that hell doesn't exist and that they are just hallucinating.

I'll look for the reference if I have time when I get home tonight.