Friday, February 04, 2011

Dostoyevsky on Miracles

From The Brothers Karamazov :

In my opinion miracles will never confound a naturalist. It is not miracles that bring a naturalist to faith. A true naturalist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles. And if a miracle stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him. In the naturalist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith. Once the naturalist comes to believe, then precisely because of his naturalism, he must also allow for miracles.

HT: Bob Prokop


Anonymous said...

Didn't PZ Myers recently say explicitly that no evidence was possible that could ever convince him of the existence of God, or even make him think said existence was likely? In fact, I'm almost certain he said that if he was faced with a miracle, he would just assume he had gone mad.

Anonymous said...

Really? that strikes me as psychologically implausible. If, for example, I were to see a rotted corpse in a casket become a youthful 20 year old before my eyes, I'd chalk that up to a miracle. I imagine the theist won't (allow themselves) to believe that, though...

I think something Dostoyevski said here is true of Christians: if a non-theist were to say that they're open to miracles, they'd believe they were hallucinating what they hear before they believed it.

Dustin Crummett said...

In fairness, second anon, I imagine the truth varies from person to person, but it isn't uncommon to hear naturalists say more or less the same thing. From J.J.C. Smart:

The point is not that these explanations are indeed the correct ones: it is that someone who
has naturalistic preconceptions will always in fact find some naturalistic explanation more plausible than a supernatural one. The words ‘in fact’ in the previous sentence are important. I am talking about the world as I believe it is. Suppose that I woke up in the night and saw the stars arranged in shapes that spelt out the Apostles’ Creed. I would know that astronomically it is impossible that stars should have so changed their positions. I don’t know what I would think. Perhaps I would think that I was dreaming or that I had gone mad. What if everyone else seemed to me to be telling me that the same thing had happened? Then I might not only think that I had gone mad – I would probably go mad.

Mr Veale said...

I think that Anonymous is, quite transparently, one person attempting to sabotage your discussions Vic.

It's a bit juvenile; and whoever it is probably needs to get out a little more.


D3U7ujaw said...

Dustin Crummett,

it is that someone who
has naturalistic preconceptions will always in fact find some naturalistic explanation more plausible than a supernatural one.

"Preconception" has a feel of permanence and irrationality to it (notwithstanding the source). In light of recent interest in Bayesian reasoning, I think it's better to refer instead to people's antecedent probabilities based on their experience. Probabilities are rational, given experience, and can change, given experience. As a naturalist, I believe it is very fruitful to discuss the validity and objectivity of priors as a means of finding common ground or even of changing those priors.

Steven Carr said...

Christians do spend a lot of time in this world they have created where miracles happen and sceptics do not believe them.

Produce a Jesus who flies into the sky, as in Acts, and then we can talk.

Or even a minor miracle, like a talking donkey.

Anonymous said...

If the stars rearranged to spell out the Apostles' Creed I would declare it a miracle and become a believer.

Unfortunately for Christians, nothing like that has ever happened. Not even close.

Like Carr said, when it happens, then we can talk.