Castles in the Air
"In a word, whoever uses common sense upon religious opinions, and will bestow on this inquiry the attention that is commonly given to most subjects, will easily perceive that Religion is a mere castle in the air." Baron D'Holbach,
The purpose of this article is to examine the possibility of miracles. I begin by assumingI have no evidence for or against their occurrence. I examine the question organically, that is, with freeform composition and without a planned structure or outline. A number of factorsmust be considered and it seems that the most comprehensive and thorough means of achieving an understanding is to approach the question with minimal presumption. What is a miracle? I have found that a number of authors cite eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher David Hume's definition, which is "
a transgression of a law of natureby a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.
Hume'sdefinition is considered authoritative by atheists and theists
, so I feel comfortable using it as well as a point of departure. In any case, those familiar with miracles from experienceobserving and adhering to common religious beliefs share an intuitive understanding of whatconstitutes a miracle and there is likely to be no question of the human capacity to recognizeone as such when it is thought to occur. What comprises a miracle? A quick analysis of Hume's definition reveals that it consistsof two halves. The first half is given as "a transgression of a law of nature." In other words, amiracle is any act that violates or, better stated, exceeds the limits of the natural universe asdescribed by its laws. Such an act constitutes a supernatural event and, in this definition, thatevent breaks and, essentially, nullifies a physical law. This point of nullification will be raisedlater.