First, no miracle on record has a sufficient number of intelligent witnesses, of good moral character, who testify to a miraculous event that occurred in public and in a civilized part of the world.Second, human beings love bizarre and fantastic tales, and this irrationally inclines them to accept such tales as true.
First, no miracle on record has a sufficient number of intelligent witnesses, of good moral character, who testify to a miraculous event that occurred in public and in a civilized part of the world.Second, human beings love bizarre and fantastic tales, and this irrationally inclines them to accept such tales as true.It would be as if he argued this way: what Hume intended.
When Hume says that the laws of nature are established upon “a firm and unalterable experience,” is he claiming that the laws of nature are never violated?
If so, then his argument begs the question, assuming the very thing that needs to be proved.
According to Christian philosopher Bill Craig, “An examination of the chief competing schools of thought concerning the notion of a natural law…reveals that on each theory the concept of a violation of a natural law is incoherent and that miracles need not be so defined.” Thus, we might object that Hume’s definition of a miracle is simply incoherent.
But this is a debated point, so let’s instead turn our attention to a more pressing matter.
Craig explains the matter this way: “If two witnesses are each 99% reliable, then the odds of their both independently testifying falsely to some event are only . Hume argues that since miracles run contrary to man’s uniform experience of the laws of nature, no testimony can establish that a miracle has occurred unless “its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” Although Hume makes it sound as though establishing one miracle would require an even greater miracle, all his statement really amounts to, as John Earman rightly notes, is that no testimony is good enough to establish that a miracle has occurred unless it’s sufficient to make the occurrence of the miracle more probable than not. testimony is really ever sufficient to establish that a miracle has occurred. For it can be perfectly reasonable to accept a highly improbable event on the basis of human testimony. Suppose the evening news announces that the number picked in the lottery was 8253652. The problem, says Craig, is that Hume has not considered all of the relevant probabilities.
As Craig observes, “this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, one out of several million.” If we applied Hume’s principle to such a case, it would be irrational for us to believe that such a highly improbable event had actually occurred. For although it might be highly improbable that just this number should have been chosen out of all the possible numbers that been chosen.
For if an all-powerful God exists, then He is certainly capable of intervening in the natural world to bring about events which would never have occurred had nature been left to itself.
In other words, if God exists, then He can bring about miracles!
When it comes to assessing the testimony for a miracle, we cannot simply consider the likelihood of the event in light of our general knowledge of the world. Instead, we must also consider how likely it would be, if the miracle had highly improbable in light of our general knowledge of the world. But the problem with this becomes evident when one reflects upon the fact that, for the Christian, part of what’s included in our “general knowledge of the world” is the belief that God exists.
What’s more, as believers we have at our disposal a whole arsenal of arguments which, we contend, make it far more plausible than not that this belief is really true.