Monday, November 27, 2017

Chesterton on arguments against miracles

The historic case against miracles is also rather simple. It consists of calling miracles impossible, then saying that no one but a fool believes impossibilities: then declaring that there is no wise evidence on behalf of the miraculous. The whole trick is done by means of leaning alternately on the philosophical and historical objection. If we say miracles are theoretically possible, they say, “Yes, but there is no evidence for them.” When we take all the records of the human race and say, “Here is your evidence,” they say, “But these people were superstitious, they believed in impossible things."
--G.K. Chesterton
This is essentially the same argument that C.S. Lewis later urged against Hume in MIRACLES to the effect that Hume's famous argument is circular.-Linville

And I thought there were new ways of arguing against miracles.-VR

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yep, it's one of those arguments that boils down to, "I don't like it, therefore Q.E.D."
If you accept the supernatural, then of course miracles are possible. And if instead you insist on materialism, well, an all-material world could always be the equivalent of a computer-simulation, in which case it's impossible to rule out beings who created our "world" and have complete control over it. (Such a being would be God, but it would be a god — even more powerful than any pagan gods.)
And if miracles are possible, you can't even argue that historically, there happen not to have been any, because miracles could be happening all the time and you just don't notice them. (Maybe our simulators save power by rendering only the parts of the universe that somebody is looking at at given point!)

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

"If you accept the supernatural, then of course miracles are possible...."

That only happens to those who believe that miracles can only be defined as supernatural or unnatural.

"...And if instead you insist on materialism, well, an all-material world could always be the equivalent of a computer-simulation, in which case it's impossible to rule out beings who created our "world" and have complete control over it. (Such a being would be God, but it would be a god — even more powerful than any pagan gods.)"

A god is not god because he has power, that is insufficient to praise.

Starhopper said...

If I were for some (incomprehensible) reason to stop believing in God, that would not mean I believed in less miracles, but rather in more. Quite literally everything would become a miracle. Life would be a miracle. Existence itself would be one.

It makes far more sense to believe in a Creator God than it does to assert that DNA molecules "just happened", or that the insanely complex human body (not to mention the brain) is the product of undirected, purposeless natural processes.

Next to the truly miraculous that surrounds us every moment of every day, accounts of the healing of a blind man or a paralytic are small beer indeed.

Anonymous said...

Star hopper: Existence itself would be one.

Indeed!


Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger: That only happens to those who believe that miracles can only be defined as supernatural or unnatural.

Er, no…

A god is not god because he has power, that is insufficient to praise.

So what?

Sam Harper said...

I think the strongest argument against miracles is the interaction problem. That's assuming you define a miracle the way C.S. Lewis did--an event in the natural world whose cause is not part of the natural world. Hume's argument didn't even amount to an argument against miracles, just an argument against rational belief in miracles.

Miguel said...

I don't think there could be any serious "interaction problem" in miracles even if we take C. S. Lewis's definition, because if God exists then He created the universe and/or constantly keeps it in existence, so an "interaction" issue in miracles would be pretty trivial. Moreover, PSR implies God. But if we reject PSR, not only will we be doing something stupid, any "interaction problem" ceases to be a problem inasmuch as it could be held as a brute fact. So it's a dead end for the naturalist.

He could, however, accept PSR and necessitarianism. But that would imply panentheism or pantheism (along with a host of other issues), which would not be acceptable to the atheistic naturalist, and would also require a strong deterministic PSR.

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

Mr. Green said...
"Er, no…"

- If someone formulates an argument that go supernatural == impossible, and says that miracles are supernatural, then that someone does not believe in miracles because how "miraculous" they are, but because that someone has labeled them as impossible a priori. The same argument for "-insert anything- is nonsense" and then proceeds immediately to define what he/she labeled as nonsense, which is logically impossible in his/her own reasoning, nonsense is nonsense and can not be defined under any form of rationalisation once labeled nonsense (like many common anti-theist arguments usually initiate).

"So what?"

- Nobody believes in any god just because it is said to have some power. Nobody believes in any god only because "miracles", only those who see a personal utility to the power of god do it.
- People who want to see a show of power have no faith whatsoever, so they cannot believe or trust any concept of god.

Hugo Pelland said...

It's simpler than that. Miracles are claims and/or explanations for otherwise inexplicable events. They are simply not to be believe until we have good reasons to, but these reasons never come, and there is always a better alternative, which may or may not be correct until proven to be.

Books and people talking about miracles is an incredibly poor way to justify them, or justify anything actually. Yet, that's the only way miracles are talked about. It's always just some person, or a group, claiming that something special happened, and labelling that event as a miracle. Or worse, as there's also a lot of flat out fraud, by manipulators who can always find an audience who believe them.

In other words, it's not about miracles VS no-miracles; it's only about claims, on their own, and the reasons we have to believe them.

Or, for a funny graphical representation:
http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/frequency-of-miracles.png

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

Hugo Pelland:
"It's simpler than that. Miracles are claims and/or explanations for otherwise inexplicable events...."

- Exept when people lavel their good luck and some event against most odds as a miracle, then is not that simpler. A miracle is the event itself, not claims about the event.

"They are simply not to be believe until we have good reasons to, but these reasons never come, and there is always a better alternative, which may or may not be correct until proven to be...."

- Anybody should have reasons to label something as a miracle, and by you definition of what a miracle is: "Miracles are claims and/or explanations for otherwise inexplicable events." No alternative can exist under that thought, unless you accept the explanation for the INEXPLICABLE event, that means that cannot be proven or rationalized as something other than as a miracle, fate or luck.
- A miracle is about something good THAT happen against any known probability NOT HOW happen against the known probability. Or a explanations don't rule out the miracle claim only explain how happenned only prove that the even happen.
- Maybe your problem is that you concept of miracles is the same that imposibilities, that rule out any rationalization of that it's a miracle, for you it's something that simple does not happen or can't happen under any probability. A thinking that only exist under total certainty.

AGAIN HAPPEN: "- If someone formulates an argument that go supernatural == impossible, and says that miracles are supernatural, then that someone does not believe in miracles because how "miraculous" they are, but because that someone has labeled them as impossible a priori."

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Hugo Pelland said...

Miguel,

Of course someone who believes in supernatural miracles will claim that a certain event they perceive as miraculous was indeed a miracle. (That's indeed the kind of miracles I am asking about btw, not sure what you meant by non-supernatural miracles; that's just natural events...) They are just using the concept they already think refers to something real, supernatural miracles, to label events that may or may not be miraculous. My point is that there is no example presented to actually justify that belief in supernatural miracles in the first place.

Let me put it this way: I am not saying miracles don't happen. I am saying I don't know what believers are talking about when they refer to miracles, as the examples are vast and broad, yet never truly miraculous in a supernatural sense. Hence, I don't see why I should believe them. Their explanations are non-explanations, they are just firmly held beliefs.

Perhaps that's wrong, and I could be convinced, but how?

Starhopper gave an example that was telling: where does life come from? I don't know if you agree here, but we know how living things came to be and there's nothing miraculous about it, in the supernatural sense, though it's freaking amazing, complex, fascinating and a "miracle" we got to learn about it! But it's just an expression I am using here, to make a point, as we are rightfully justified to be amazed, to be in awe, but it's the understanding of our natural world that paints that beautiful picture, not the belief that a god, perhaps, intervene, somewhere, somehow, for some reason...

Stardusty Psyche said...

OP they say, “But these people were superstitious, they believed in impossible things."

--People are superstitious, obviously. People hallucinate, usually while asleep, but sometimes in that twilight between sleep and waking, sometimes in the middle of the day.

People falsely correlate that they prayed for X, X happened, therefor prayer made X happen, its a miracle.

People perpetrate illusions, just go to any magic show, its miracle after miracle.

People lie for power, money, and sex, like Mohammad, Smith, and Koresh, for example.

People make up all kinds of stories and put them in print, just pick up the paper at the checkout stand, this has been going on for thousands of years.

Belief in miracles is for the gullible.

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

Hugo Pelland:
"... Let me put it this way: I am not saying miracles don't happen. I am saying I don't know what believers are talking about when they refer to miracles, ..."
- You are exposing yourself, while you speak about others people. Like i write before: - Maybe your problem is that you concept of miracles is the same that imposibilities, that rule out any rationalization of that it's a miracle..."

"... as the examples are vast and broad, yet never truly miraculous in a supernatural sense."
- For you it means "imposible", you can not define anything with what you believe are impossibilities and with that all rationalization disappears.

"Perhaps that's wrong, and I could be convinced, but how?"
- You will never understand the How?, you cannot be convinced. You can not formulate more than fantasies about the impossible, you can not be skeptical about something that is defined as impossible a priori by yourself.

"... Starhopper gave an example that was telling: where does life come from?..."
- An under your meaning anything ralated to "life" it is impossible for you to understand it as a miracle.

"...I don't know if you agree here, but we know how living things came to be and there's nothing miraculous about it,..."
- We don't know how living things came to be, we have theories (plural). Like the theory of evolution, that only say things about changes in organisms over time, that theory does not speak of origins of life.
- "know how living things came to be" is not miraculous for you, and that is the point.

"... in the supernatural sense, though it's freaking amazing, complex, fascinating and a "miracle" we got to learn about it! But it's just an expression I am using here, to make a point, as we are rightfully justified to be amazed, to be in awe, but it's the understanding of our natural world that paints that beautiful picture, not the belief that a god, perhaps, intervene, somewhere, somehow, for some reason..."
- Again: You can not define the supernatural sense, because it is impossible for you a priori. Like you say "But it's just an expression I am using here" a expression meaningless/nonsense for you.
- "but it's the understanding of our natural world that paints that beautiful picture," if for you supernatural == imposible then ALL is natural only a priori even anythings unknown.
- "... not the belief that a god, perhaps, intervene, somewhere, somehow, for some reason..." This has nothing to do with any concept of any god, do you really think that any miracle is always tied to the concept of god. Maybe it is for you. Then for you any god "perhaps, intervene, somewhere, somehow, for some reason" don't pass as your thoughts.
- The Anti-theist do this all the time any opposition to them only comes from a theist position and for that they have things like Atheism+/- WHATEVER.
- Maybe you use a naturalist philosophy as a dogma (base/land to build for you world view) about the reality because you want to fill the gaps or want to avoid gaps in your own thoughts, not because is "probably something is not real" but because you fixed that way in your mind.

* Recommendation: The best approach for me is forbiden you of becoming a beliver in anything that you label supernatural because one: you simply can't and two: you will only damage other believers world views.
AGAIN: Hugo Pelland: "Let me put it this way: I am not saying miracles don't happen."
- You actually believe that: miracles never happen, are not happening and never will happen. That are you beliefs and throughts. You will never say what will count as a miracle because that is imposible for you.
- You do not leave yourself another option, then you don't have options.

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

Stardusty Psyche:
"--People are superstitious, obviously. People hallucinate, usually while asleep, but sometimes in that twilight between sleep and waking, sometimes in the middle of the day.
People falsely correlate that they prayed for X, X happened, therefor prayer made X happen, its a miracle."

- Stardusty Psyche, you are one of the people.

"People perpetrate illusions, just go to any magic show, its miracle after miracle."

- So people have no problem with the idea of "magic" or "doing magic". A magic show is a show. Maybe you want a show of power.

"People lie for power, money, and sex, like Mohammad, Smith, and Koresh, for example."

- Including the atheists for social justice. But rally you simply don't trust people.

"People make up all kinds of stories and put them in print, just pick up the paper at the checkout stand, this has been going on for thousands of years."

- For utility.

"Belief in miracles is for the gullible."

- Belief about other people throughts like "Belief in miracles is for the gullible." are for the closed minds.

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

Stardusty Psyche:
"People lie for power, money, and sex, like Mohammad, Smith, and Koresh, for example."

- Why you leave Jesus out of this group? Will you lie for power, money and sex? Are you willing to do some damage to the "gullible" people?

Stardusty Psyche said...

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said.. December 02, 2017 10:58 AM.

Stardusty Psyche:
"People lie for power, money, and sex, like Mohammad, Smith, and Koresh, for example."

" - Why you leave Jesus out of this group?"
--According to the stories in the bible Jesus gained no power beyond a small band of followers for a short time, gained no money or possessions, and did not have sex with anybody, much less large numbers of slaves, child brides, and borrowed wives.

" Will you lie for power, money and sex?"
--No, and I don't need to or want to.

" Are you willing to do some damage to the "gullible" people?"
--No, I am not a scam artist or delusional like the miracle workers are.

Maybe you believe in riding a winged horse to heaven, or rising from the dead, or golden plates translated with seer stones, or the fakery of the Indian god men, or Jesus in your toast, weeping statues, megabuck faith healers and on and on and on.

If so, I don't want anything bad to happen to you, just the opposite, I hope one day you come to your senses so that you are no longer vulnerable to such scams and nonsense.

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

Stardusty Psyche:
"" Will you lie for power, money and sex?"
--No, and I don't need to or want to."

- I don't believe you, you see "i lack belief in your claims", especially if something is convenient for you as it is for Mohammad, Smith, and Koresh, for example.

""Are you willing to do some damage to the "gullible" people?"
--No, I am not a scam artist or delusional like the miracle workers are."

- But you can be anything else like a soldier, a politician or a teacher right?
- How can miracle workers be "delucional" if for then as you say there is no "miracle"? "People perpetrate illusions, just go to any magic show, its miracle after miracle."

"Maybe you believe in riding a winged horse to heaven, or rising from the dead, or golden plates translated with seer stones, or the fakery of the Indian god men, or Jesus in your toast, weeping statues, megabuck faith healers and on and on and on."

- What happen to this opinion if i don't believe in any of that? what those things have to do with what a miracle is?

"If so, I don't want anything bad to happen to you, just the opposite, I hope one day you come to your senses so that you are no longer vulnerable to such scams and nonsense."

- I don't care for you pity, you can not give pity to anyone who does not deserve it and you don't have any to give, If you are not willing to keep your own principles up, then you have no honor and your principles are meaningless and as much of a scam as anything you don't like.
- What are you true actions here: a show of moral policy of your own pity for others and nothing else, so you an only hope for others (the same as pray in this case, but you don't pray), you can not hope for who you do not trust and you are not willing to do nothing for them beyond saying: "bla,bla,bla,bla... hope that you fix the problems that i see in you".

- This is a good moment to reflect that for example a famous religious group does not like the idea of preforming magic and the reason for that, so preforming magic do not count for them as a miracle.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said.. December 02, 2017 4:46 PM.

" you are not willing to do nothing for them beyond saying: "bla,bla,bla,bla... hope that you fix the problems that i see in you"."
--What would you like me to do for you other than write words?

" - This is a good moment to reflect that for example a famous religious group does not like the idea of preforming magic and the reason for that, so preforming magic do not count for them as a miracle."
--Belief in miracles is belief in magic, poof, alacazam.

That's what your god did, right? He spoke the magic words and poof, we got a universe. From time to time he does some more poofery if you beg him just right.

Miguel Angel Cedeño Llauger said...

Stardusty Psyche:

"--What would you like me to do for you other than write words?"

- Nothing you are incapable of doing anything else, and don't want to any way: "..., I hope one day you come to your senses so that you are no longer vulnerable to such scams and nonsense.

"--Belief in miracles is belief in magic, poof, alacazam."

- Miracles are magic for you, not for me. I don't believe in magic.

"That's what your god did, right? He spoke the magic words and poof, we got a universe. From time to time he does some more poofery if you beg him just right."

- My god? what god i own? spoke? what words? universe? what universe? are you claim that i can control the will of a god from time to time, like a wishmaker? what is a god?
- And what you believe, a universe that go: poof, exist without reference or comparison and somehow magicaly you receive a meaningless uoıʇɐdıɔıʇɹɐd ɟo ʎɥdoɹʇ because you tell others about you self identification.
- You see i lack the belief/trust in your words about yourself.
- Note: you could at least ask if i am religious or part of a religious group before talking about ""my god"".