Bob Prokop: Early on in George MacDonald's fairy story Phantastes, we come upon the following scene. The book's main character (Anodos) is suddenly confronted by a magical creature, who then speaks to him. Allow me to quote the passage in full:
"Anodos, you never saw such a little creature before, did you?"
"No," said I, "and indeed I hardly believe I do now."
"Ah, that is always the way with you men; you believe nothing the first time; and it is foolish enough to let mere repetition convince you of what you consider in itself unbelievable."
That little three line exchange is one of the most profound statements I have ever read about how many people approach the miraculous. Just think about it. Were a person to come across a single lifeform in an otherwise lifeless universe - heck, were he to find a single strand of DNA, he would either refuse to believe it existed, or proclaim it a miracle. But here we are in the real world, surrounded by trillions and trillions of incomprehensibly complex lifeforms, and all too many many people dismiss it all as just “the way things are", or even the product of blind, purposeless chance.
The same thing goes for the Resurrection. Its very singularity is a stumbling block to many skeptics, but the same people will not be bothered for a second by the fact that there are billions of people alive all around them right now. Why should coming to life a second time be any more unbelievable than the first time? (The usual objection is we don’t see it happening every day.) So is it "mere repetition", in MacDonald's words, that makes the starkly incredible fact of one's own existence so casually accepted?
I believe that MacDonald has hit upon an unexamined (and therefore unchallenged) assumption underlying skeptical thinking. Let me call it The Singularity Problem. (A problem, that is, for the skeptic.) Basically, the issue can be stated quite simply. A main objection to miraculous events raised by skeptics is that they are not common, or even sui generis. Thus, we frequently hear people objecting to Christ’s Virgin Birth because we don’t see such births happening around us as a norm. But why should we? The singularity of the event is definitionally mandated by its miraculous nature. Until we somehow rule out the possibility of one-of-a-kind events on grounds stronger than ruling them out on principle (which, after all, amounts to a "because I said so" argument), we cannot object to their existence on those grounds alone.
I say this underlying assumption needs to be examined and defended, not simply accepted a priori. Otherwise, the skeptic must somehow make the case that we are not quite literally surrounded by countless miracles all the time.
Any inductive inference is an induction from the observed to the unobserved, and proceeds by similarity. So a dissimilarity to what we have experienced in the past is a stumbling-block to belief. But if you make it too big of a stumbling block, you will end up thinking that the lunar landing that Bob and I are both old enough and privileged enough to have seen and heard on televison (one small step....), was really the result of machinations in Area 51.