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phil test 3

Terms in this set (40)

III. CRITICAL POINTS re. The Argument from Miracles:

POINT 1. If a miracle is defined as "an event produced by God", then to rely on evidence that miracles have occurred to prove that God exists is question-begging.

Reply: For the purposes of the argument, a "miracle" is defined as an event that is not comprehensible from the standpoint of our best current science.

POINT 2. In some cases, reports of miracles come from people whom we have reason to believe exaggerate the powers of their leaders, tell "tall tales" about the exploits of their leaders, etc. For example, we may have reason to believe that the testimonial evidence we rely on comes from people who exaggerated the powers of Jesus in order to cause fear in the political leaders of the time, or to win converts from people who are impressed by such tall tales. In fact that was a common occurrence in the time of Jesus.

Reply: We may have reports of miracles from people who had no ulterior motives, and who most likely sincerely reported what they believed they observed. For the sake of argument, let's grant that this is true.

POINT 3: Many alleged miracles have been reported by people 2000 years ago and earlier who have very little understanding of the natural causes of things. And events they regarded as "incomprehensible" and attributed to the action of God in the world are from a more sophisticated perspective understandable in terms of natural causes. People explained many natural occurrences in terms of activity of gods: lightning, weather, disease were explained in terms of the direct intervention of God in nature. We now know that the natural causes of such phenomena. Think of events as seen from the perspective of "Prescientific Minds" as compared to as seen from a current "Scientific perspective.")

What they are apt to call a miracle (e.g. a voice coming from a box, an image appearing on a screen) would from our point of view would be perfectly intelligible as having natural causes.) An example of this is in the movie "The Gods must be Crazy" with which some of you may be familiar.

Reply: What is said above is true, but it doesn't account for the hard cases.

POINT 4: The Hardest Cases:

Take the occurrence of events that are inexplicable in terms of natural causes from the point of view of a pre-scientific mind, but also from the standpoint of our current scientific perspective: e.g. resurrection.


The "God Hypothesis" is one of several competing explanations:

1. The God Hypothesis,
2. The very powerful and meddling alien hypothesis; or
3. The hypothesis that what is reported has natural causes that are not yet understood by science;


5. It is not uncommon in the history of science for observations to conflict with the best scientific understanding at the time. Eg. It was once incomprehensible how light could bend in the vicinity of massive objects, but it was observed to happen. Observations like these prompted improvements in scientific theories. They did not support the thesis that the events in question have no natural cause and so must be explained by supernatural intervention in the world.

6. Are the Hypotheses that "Unexplained Events" are due to a Supernatural Cause, or alternatively a Natural, not-yet-understood cause on an equal footing, i.e., equally likely to be true? The answer seems to be 'no'. the history of science is a history of turning the inexplicable into the explicable: what was inexplicable, or explained by supernatural causes, came to be explained in terms of natural causes.