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Routlidge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Miracles Does God at times miraculously intervene in earthly affairs?

That is, do some events occur because God has entered our space-time continuum and directly modified or circumvented the relevant natural laws? Few philosophers today deny that this is possible. But many question whether we could ever ustifiably maintain that such intervention has ta!en place. "ccordin# to some philosophers, it is not even necessary to #rant that the types of events believers label miracles $ for instance, healin#s or resurrections $ actually occur as reported. %ince the evidence supportin# the occurrence of such events is the personal testimony of a few, possibly biased, individuals, while the basis for doubt is the massive amount of ob ective research upon which the relevant laws are based, it is always ustifiable, accordin# to this view, to conclude that such reports are erroneous. &thers contend, however, that the presence of some forms of evidence $ for instance, independent confirmation from reputable sources $ could ma!e it most reasonable in some cases to ac!nowled#e that even the most une'pected of events had actually occurred. %ome philosophers also deny that we could ever ustifiably conclude that an event could not have been produced by natural causes alone. %ince we will never be in a position to identify all that nature can produce, they declare, it will always be most reasonable for the scientist facin# a currently une'plainable counterinstance to a natural law to continue to loo! for a natural e'planation. (any believers, however, are quite willin# to #rant that nature could in principle produce any event, since what they wish to maintain is only that nature does not do so in the case of miraculous interventions. Finally, while many philosophers ac!nowled#e that belief in direct divine intervention may at times be ustifiable for those who already believe that God e'ists, some also ar#ue that no sin#le event or series of events could ever compel all thou#htful individuals to ac!nowled#e the e'istence of a perfectly #ood supernatural causal a#ent, #iven all we e'perience $ for instance, the tremendous amount of horrific evil in our world. (any believers, thou#h, are also willin# to #rant this point. Definition The term )miracle* is sometimes used in ordinary discussions to refer

to the occurrence of any une'pected event $ from the sudden discovery of a lost possession to the unanticipated passin# of an e'am. +ithin philosophical circles, however, )miracle* is almost always discussed in its more restricted sense, as a desi#nation for an unusual event that is the result of direct divine circumvention or modification of the natural order. -hilosophers, as well as reli#ious believers, differ on the e'act nature of the conceptual relationship between miraculous divine interventions and the natural order. For those who understand miracles to be violations of natural laws, a miracle is not simply an event that nature did not alone produce. .t is an event that nature could not have produced on its own $ an event that will always be incompatible with the relevant natural laws /see 0aws, natural1. For e'ample, as proponents of the violation model understand it, to maintain that someone has miraculously been healed, it is not sufficient to maintain simply that God was directly involved. .t is also necessary to maintain that the state of affairs in question could not have occurred naturally /that no totally natural e'planation could be forthcomin#1. &ther philosophers, and many believers, however, deny that a miraculous divine intervention must be defined as an event for which no plausible natural e'planation is, or could be, available. .t is sufficient, they believe, to maintain that God was directly involved. For e'ample, to maintain that someone*s cancer has miraculously entered remission, it is not necessary to hold that nature alone could not have brou#ht it about /to maintain that it could not have happened naturally1. .t is sufficient to maintain that nature alone did not do so in this case. The possibility of miracles %ome philosophers /for e'ample, (c2innon 34561 have claimed that the concept of a miracle, if defined as a violation of a natural law, is incoherent. 7atural laws, they point out, are really only #enerali8ed descriptions of what does in fact happen. That is, these laws summari8e for us the actual course of events. "ccordin#ly, to claim that an occurrence is a violation of a natural law is to claim that the event in question is a suspension of the actual course of events and this is, of course, impossible. 9vents may well occur, they ac!nowled#e, that seem at present to be incompatible with how we believe thin#s normally happen. But a true counterinstance to what we now believe to be a natural law only shows the law to be inadequate. %ince natural laws, by definition, only summari8e what actually occurs, we must always be willin# in principle to e'pand our laws to accommodate any occurrence, no matter how unusual. +e can never

have both the e'ception and the rule. &thers, however, ta!e this line of reasonin# to be based on a confusion. To maintain that a natural law accurately describes the natural order, they point out, is to say only that it correctly identifies that which will occur under a specific set of natural conditions. But to maintain that an event is a miraculous counterinstance to a natural law is not to maintain that some event has occurred under the e'act set of natural conditions covered by this law and nothin# more. To say that water has miraculously turned into wine, for e'ample, is not to say that water has turned into wine only under the e'act set of natural conditions under which the relevant laws tell us this will not occur. .t is to maintain that an additional non-natural causal factor, namely direct divine activity, was also present in this case. "ccordin#ly, these philosophers contend, unless it is assumed that supernatural activity is impossible, it cannot be assumed that a miraculous counterinstance to a natural law $ a counterinstance produced in part by divine circumvention or modification of the natural order $ is conceptually impossible. That is, unless it is assumed that supernatural intervention is impossible, we can have both the e'ception and the rule. &f course, many individuals do in fact deny the e'istence of any type of supernatural bein#. "nd even some who affirm the e'istence of such a bein# $ for e'ample, process theists /see -rocess theism1 $ deny that this bein# can unilaterally intervene in earthly affairs in the sense necessary to produce miraculous events. :owever, few philosophers today maintain that the e'istence of a supernatural bein#, or the ability of such a bein# /if it e'ists1 to intervene, can be demonstrated to be impossible. That is, while most philosophers a#ree that the e'istence of a supernatural bein# who intervenes in earthly affairs can ustifiably be denied, most also a#ree that it is possible to maintain ustifiably that such a bein# does e'ist. ;onsequently, few deny that miracles, even if defined as violations of natural laws, could occur. %ince the time of David :ume /<=1, however, philosophers have continued to debate vi#orously a number of questions related to our ability to identify miraculous events. The credibility of personal testimony &ne such question is whether we need even ac!nowled#e that alle#ed counterinstances to well-confirmed natural laws actually occur. (ost philosophers a#ree that reports of repeatable counterinstances $ counterinstances that can in principle be produced by anyone under a specified set of natural conditions $ cannot ustifiably be dismissed. But there are a number of philosophers /most notably Flew 34531 who believe that if the events in question are nonrepeatable $ if they

cannot be reproduced under specifiable natural conditions $ the situation is quite different. .t is clearly possible, they ac!nowled#e, that nonrepeatable counterinstances to well-confirmed natural laws have occurred /or will occur1. They ac!nowled#e, for instance, that nonrepeatable counterinstances to our current laws describin# the properties of water or human tissue may have occurred /or mi#ht occur1. :owever, the evidence supportin# the adequacy of laws of this type, they point out, is very stron#. These laws not only can be, but are, tested and reconfirmed daily by people with no vested interest in the outcome. &n the other hand, they are quic! to add, reports of presently nonrepeatable counterinstances to such laws $ a claim, for instance, that water has turned into wine or that someone has been raised from the dead $ will be supported at best only by the personal testimony of a few people who may well have a vested interest in the outcome. ;onsequently, as lon# as alle#ed counterinstances remain nonrepeatable, we can never possess better reasons for believin# that the events in question have actually occurred as reported than for believin# that they have not. "nd therefore, followin# the :umean ma'im that the wise person proportions belief to the evidence, these philosophers conclude that it is always ustifiable to deny the accuracy of such reports. :owever, there are those /for instance, %winburne 34561 who believe that this conclusion is much too stron#. They ac!nowled#e that reports of seemin#ly nonrepeatable counterinstances to well-established laws must be approached with appropriate scepticism, since deception or misperception is always possible. But from their perspective it is unreasonable to assume that the evidence supportin# even the most hi#hly confirmed laws would always furnish a sufficient basis for dismissin# reports of counterinstances to them. First and foremost, they ar#ue that to ma!e this assumption fails to ta!e into account the prima facie reliability of our visual belief-formin# faculties. +e all rely on these faculties daily and, in #eneral, they serve us quite well. .n fact, the #eneral reliability of such faculties must be presupposed by those formulatin# our natural laws. Thus, in cases where we had no reason to doubt the reliability of these belief-formin# faculties $ for instance, if we were to observe a seemin# counterinstance ourselves or if it were directly observed by a friend whose character and ob ectivity were beyond question $ it is not clear, they maintain, that it would always be ustifiable to decide in favour of the natural laws in question, even if they were very well established. (oreover, these philosophers add, we mi#ht in some cases have

compellin# physical traces to consider. .n the case of an alle#ed healin# that runs counter to well-established laws, for instance, we mi#ht have more than personal testimony. +e mi#ht have ob ective data $ photo#raphs or videotapes or >-rays or medical records $ that would stand as stron# evidence for the occurrence of the event in question, evidence so convincin# that it would be unreasonable to re ect it. Thus they conclude that decisions concernin# the accuracy of reports of alle#ed counterinstances $ even if the events in question are nonrepeatable $ must be made on a case-by-case basis. Miracles as events unexplainable by natural causes 9ven if some occurrences can ustifiably be labelled counterinstances to our current laws, could we ever be in a position to maintain ustifiably that any such event is permanently une'plainable scientifically? That is, could we ever be in a position to maintain that an ac!nowled#ed counterinstance is a state of affairs that nature could never produce on its own? .n addressin# this question, it is important to clarify a potential ambi#uity that has been #lossed over so far in this entry. By definition, no specific state of affairs produced even in part by direct supernatural activity /by direct circumvention or modification of the natural cause?effect patterns1 could ever be #iven a totally natural e'planation. "ccordin#ly, if we were ever in a position to maintain ustifiably that some event was actually a direct act of God, we would automatically be in a position to maintain ustifiably that this specific occurrence was, itself, permanently une'plainable scientifically. "s currently understood by most philosophers, however, the primary purpose of natural science is not to determine what nature has in fact produced. The main ob ective of science, rather, is to determine what nature is capable of producin# $ what can occur under solely natural conditions. For instance, the primary purpose of natural science is not to determine whether natural factors alone actually did cause any specific person*s cancer to enter remission. The primary purpose of science is to determine whether natural factors alone could have done so. :ence, when philosophers as! whether we could ever be in a position to maintain ustifiably that an event is permanently une'plainable scientifically, they are not as!in# whether we could ever be in a position to maintain ustifiably that a specific state of affairs was not produced by nature alone. They are as!in#, rather, whether we could ever be in a position to maintain ustifiably that a specific event could not have been produced by nature alone.

.n considerin# this question, it should first be noted that no philosopher believes that we as human bein#s are in a position to state with absolute certainty what nature could or could not produce on its own. "ll ac!nowled#e that the scientific enterprise is continually discoverin# new, often startlin# and une'pected, information about the causal relationships that obtain in our universe. "nd all freely admit that the annals of science record numerous instances in which supposed counterinstances to natural laws were later demonstrated to be consistent with such laws or revisions of them. :owever, as some philosophers /such as %winburne 3456 and :olland 345@1 see it, some of our natural laws are so hi#hly confirmed that any modification we mi#ht su##est to accommodate counterinstances would be clumsy and so ad hoc that it would upset the whole structure of science. For e'ample, from their perspective, to attempt to modify our current laws relatin# to the properties of water to allow for the possibility that water could turn into wine naturally, or to attempt to modify our current laws relatin# to the properties of nonlivin# human tissue to allow for the possibility that a dead body could be resuscitated naturally, would ma!e these laws of little practical value. ;onsequently, if we were in a position to maintain ustifiably that a counterinstance to a law of this type had actually occurred, we would be required, for the sa!e of the scientific enterprise, to maintain that this event was permanently une'plainable by natural causes $ that this event could never have been produced by nature on its own. ;ritics /for instance, Basin#er and Basin#er 34A51 consider this line of reasonin# to contain a false dilemma. .f faced with an ac!nowled#ed counterinstance to a natural law, even one that was very hi#hly confirmed, we would not, they contend, be required at that moment either to modify the law to accommodate the occurrence or to affirm the adequacy of the law and declare the event permanently une'plainable by natural causes. Bather, since only naturally repeatable counterinstances falsify natural laws, the appropriate initial response to the occurrence of any seemin# counterinstance to any law, no matter how hi#hly confirmed, would be to ac!nowled#e both the law and the counterinstance while further research was underta!en. (oreover, these critics ar#ue that such research could never ma!e it most reasonable to conclude that somethin# beyond the ability of nature to produce had actually occurred. .f it were discovered that the seemin# counterinstance was naturally repeatable $ if it were found that the event in question could be produced with re#ularity under some set of purely natural conditions $ a revision of the relevant laws

would indeed be necessary. But then this event would no lon#er be naturally une'plainable. &n the other hand, if natural repeatability could not be achieved, the appropriate response, they contend, would still not be to maintain that this occurrence was permanently une'plainable. %ince nonrepeatable counterinstances do not present us with competin# hypotheses to the relevant law/s1, the appropriate response, rather, would be to label the counterinstance an anomaly while continuin# to accept the functional adequacy of the law/s1 in question. 9ven if this line of reasonin# is correct, however, nothin# of si#nificance follows for those who maintain only that a miracle is an event that would not have occurred at the e'act time and in the e'act manner it did if God had not somehow directly circumvented or modified the natural order in the specific case in question. &nly those who believe that a miracle must be a violation of a natural law $ who believe that a miracle must be an event that nature could not have produced $ are affected. Miracles as acts of God Be#ardless of the perceived relationship between miracles and nature, however, questions concernin# our ability /or inability1 to identify events as direct acts of God remain important. For many philosophers, the most si#nificant question of this sort continues to be whether there are ima#inable conditions under which all rational individuals would be forced to ac!nowled#e that God has directly intervened. "nd althou#h most philosophers believe the answer to be no, some /for e'ample, 0armer 34AA1 believe an affirmative response is required. They ac!nowled#e that with respect to many states of affairs which believers do in fact maintain have been brou#ht about by God $ for e'ample, many alle#ed cases of divine healin#s $ it is possible for a rational person to #rant that the event has occurred as reported and yet ustifiably deny that it was the result of direct divine intervention. But let us assume that someone who has been dead for twenty-four hours is raised from the dead when divine intervention is requested. &r let us assume that the missin# fin#ers of a leper instantaneously reappear followin# a prayer for healin#. .n such cases, they ar#ue, there would be very stron# evidence supportin# supernatural causation and no evidence supportin# purely natural causation. .n fact, the evidence would be so stron# that to continue to hold out indefinitely for a totally natural e'planation in such conte'ts would be un ustified in that this would simply demonstrate an unreasonable a priori naturalistic bias. .n response, critics /for e'ample, Basin#er and Basin#er 34A51 do not

deny that there mi#ht be conceivable cases which, if considered in isolation, would appear to ma!e divine intervention a very plausible causal hypothesis. :owever, to ac!nowled#e that God e'ists and has beneficially intervened in some specific case/s1, they point out, is also to ac!nowled#e that God*s e'istence is compatible with all we e'perience $ for e'ample, that it is compatible with the tremendous amount of horrific human pain and sufferin# that appears to fall disproportionately on the innocent and disadvanta#ed. "nd even if it is possible to claim ustifiably that God*s e'istence is compatible with all we e'perience, it cannot be ar#ued successfully that everyone must a#ree. Disbelief in God also remains a ustifiable response /see 9vil, problem of <51. ;onsequently, these critics conclude, the belief that there e'ists a solely natural cause for any specific occurrence always remains a ustifiable option, re#ardless of the e'tent to which it may appear that divine intervention was involved. For many philosophers, thou#h, the crucial question is not whether there are ima#inable conditions under which all rational individuals would be compelled to ac!nowled#e divine intervention but rather whether there are conditions under which those who already believe in God would be ustified in doin# so. 9ven if it is true that the occurrence of no sin#le event /or set of events1 can ustifiably compel belief in divine intervention, it is also true /so philosophers such as +ainwri#ht 34AA and "braham 34A@ contend1 that the occurrence of no event /or set of events1 $ for instance, no amount of evil $ can rule out ustified belief in God*s e'istence as a supernatural causal a#ent in our world. "nd #iven this fact, it is ar#ued, as lon# as believers themselves possess #ood theistic reasons for assumin# that God has directly intervened in a #iven case $ for instance, because the occurrence appears clearly to fit an accepted pattern of divine action $ they are ustified in ma!in# this assumption. .t must be added, however, that even if this is correct, an important inverse relationship between miracles and evil remains. For instance, to respond to evil by claimin# that God cannot both #rant humans si#nificant freedom and yet beneficially intervene on a consistent basis is, at the same time, to cite a reason why miracles should not be e'pected with frequency. "nd to respond to evil by claimin# that )God*s ways are above our ways* places the believer in a less secure position to say when and where miraculous intervention has occurred. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy "quinas /%umma ;ontra Gentiles, ...1 says Cthose thin#s are properly called miracles which are done by divine a#ency beyond the order commonly observed in nature /praeter ordinem communiter

observatum in rebus1.D " miracle, philosophically spea!in#, is never a mere coincidence no matter how e'traordinary or si#nificant. /.f you miss a plane and the plane crashes, that is not a miracle unless God intervened in the natural course of events causin# you to miss the fli#ht.1 " miracle is a supernaturally /divinely1 caused event - an event /ordinarily1 different from what would have occurred in the normal /CnaturalD1 course of events. .t is a divine overridin# of, or interference with, the natural order. "s such, it need not be e'traordinary, marvelous or si#nificant, and it must be somethin# other than a coincidence, no matter how remar!able E unless the CcoincidenceD itself is caused by divine intervention /i.e., not really a coincidence at all1. (iracles, however, are ordinarily understood to be not ust products of divine intervention in the natural order, but e'traordinary, marvelous and si#nificant as well. Thus, "quinas says a miracle is Cbeyond the order commonly observedFD and Dr. 9ric (ascall says that the word CmiracleD Csi#nifies in ;hristian theolo#y a stri!in# interposition of divine power by which the operations of the ordinary course of nature are overruled, suspended, or modifiedD /;hamberGs 9ncyclopaedia1. The locus classicus for modern and contemporary philosophical discussion of miracles is ;hapter > /C&f (iraclesD1 of David :umeGs 9nquiries ;oncernin# :uman Hnderstandin#, first published in 36IA. :e says C" miracle may accurately be defined, a trans#ression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity, or by the interposition of some invisible a#entD / 9nquiries, p. 33@n1. :is sli#htly different definition of a miracle as Ca violation of the laws of natureD appears to be central to his ar#ument a#ainst ustified belief in miracles. C" miracle is a violation of the laws of natureF and as a firm and unalterable e'perience has established these laws, the proof a#ainst a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any ar#ument from e'perience can possibly be ima#inedD /9nquiries, p. 33I1. Miracles and Laws of Nature :umeGs ar#ument a#ainst ustified belief in miracles, as well as much subsequent discussion, appears to depend heavily upon the premise that Ca miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.D :owever, the actual role such a premise plays in :umeGs ar#ument, and whether :ume meant to define a miracle as a violation of a law of nature, or merely to characterise a miracle as, in some epistemolo#ically relevant sense, CcontraryD to the ordinary course of nature is controversial. .t is clear, however, that on most commonsense, philosophical, or CscientificD accounts of what a law of nature is, technically spea!in# miracles are not violations of such laws but instead are positive instances of those laws. This is because laws of nature do not, and are

not meant to, account for or describe events with supernatural causes - but only those with natural causes. &nce some event is assumed to have a supernatural cause it is, by that very fact, outside the scope of laws of nature alto#ether and so cannot violate them. &nly if one disre#ards the possibility of supernatural causes can !nown e'ceptions to laws possibly be re#arded as violations of laws. :owever, in such a case there mi#ht be better reason to suppose that the e'ception simply shows that what was ta!en to be a law is not really a law, rather than that the e'ception is a violation of a #enuine law of nature. .f the e'planation . offer of :umeGs ar#ument a#ainst ustified belief in miracles is correct /see the section below C:umeGs "r#ument "#ainst Justified Belief .n (iraclesD1, then the premise that Ca miracle is a violation of a law of natureD plays no si#nificant role in his ar#ument. The premise is a #loss for the underlyin# supposition that one cannot have an CimpressionD of a supernatural event. Because no such impression can be had, any alle#edly miraculous event, simply because it is alle#edly miraculous, cannot e' hypothesis be ud#ed relevantly similar to any other event in e'perience. "nd any event that cannot be ud#ed relevantly similar to others in our collective e'perience, cannot ustifiably be believed to have occurred in accordance with :umeGs principles of a posteriori reasonin#. /7or, can one ustifiably believe that such an event will occur with any de#ree of probability whatsoever.1 Before e'aminin# :umeGs ar#ument it is worth e'aminin# in detail the view that a miracle is a violation of a law of nature E an issue that far too much has been written about. :ume is the pre-eminent proponent of the Cre#ularity theory of causation.D .n characteri8in# re#ularity theories of causation, Tom Beauchamp /346I, K51 says, The modern claim is that universality and not ob ective necessity is that which is central to the concept of cause and also that which is implicit in any use of causal terminolo#y. The philosophical problem of causation has thus lar#ely come to be interpreted in this re#ularity tradition as the problem of the proper analysis of causal laws. Be#ularity e'ponents analy8e laws as true, contin#ent, universal #enerali8ations which are omnispatially and omnitemporally unrestricted in scope. -urported necessary connections between the antecedent and consequent events described in the law are re#arded as #ratuitous. .n fact, BeauchampGs view of the Cmodern claimD is problematic and the problem concernin# a proper analysis of causal laws has not been resolved. But let us suppose that on :umeGs view the conditions Beauchamp cites are sufficient for a statement to be a law of nature.

That is, " statement 0 is a law of nature only if /i1 0 is contin#ent, /ii1 0 is #eneral, and /iii1 0 is true. Given these constraints, consider the followin# two questions. 3. .s there a law such that there mi#ht have been an event contrary to it? =. ;an there be a law 0 that is violated while a law? Given the above criteria for laws of nature, the answer to question = is Cno.D .f an event occurred that fell within the scope of the laws of nature /i.e. was covered by those laws1, but conflicted with the statement of the law, then either 0 would not be true, or else 0 would not be C#eneralD E and therefore not a law of nature. The statement that the event occurred would be lo#ically incompatible with the statement of the law of nature. %pecifically it would be incompatible with the law whose status as a ClawD is undermined because its truth or #enerality requirements are not met. .f the event occurred, and we could !now that it occurred and was CnaturalD /i.e. within the scope of the law1, then we could no lon#er accept 0 as a #enuine law. .f laws of nature were descriptive of the scope and substance of everythin# that could lo#ically happen, instead of their scope bein# limited to what can happen naturally /i.e., apart from supernatural interference1, then of course miracles would not be possible. But that which is Cphysically impossibleD E impossible within the constraints of the laws of nature E has a narrower scope than that which is lo#ically possible. "part from an ar#ument to the contrary one need not assume that the lo#ically and physically impossible are coe'tensive. To re#ard an event a natural is to re#ard it as fallin# within the scope of laws of nature, and anythin# that is covered by laws of nature cannot, e' hypothesis, violate them. %uppose an event assumed to be natural occurred, it really was natural and one could !now that it did violate some alle#ed law of nature E no mista!e was bein# made. Then this would show that the law it alle#edly violated was in need of revision and was therefore not a #enuine law at all. :owever, suppose the laws of nature are re#arded as non-universal or incomplete in the sense that while they cover natural events, they do not cover, and are not intended to cover, nonnatural events such as supernaturally caused events if there are or could be any. Then there is no contradiction in supposin# that a physically impossible event could occur. " physically impossible occurrence would not violate a law of nature because it would not be covered by /i.e., within the scope of1 such a law. %o while the answer to question = is Cno,D this does not rule out the possibility of supernatural interference with the natural E perhaps as Bobert Loun# /346=1 su##ests, as one causal condition amon# many necessary for an eventGs occurrence. +hat it does rule

out is understandin# this interference as a violation of the laws of nature in a technical sense. But this does not undermine the possibility of a miracle since the crucial element in the notion of a miracle E a Ca supernatural interference with the natural orderD E is not ruled out in showin# that a miracle cannot really /strictly1 be a violation of a law of nature. .f a miracle is not a violation of a law of nature, then how is it to be defined in relation to laws of nature? Muestion 3 above su##ests a solution. " miracle can be defined as an event contrary to, but not a violation of, a law of nature. .f CviolationD is not bein# used in a technical sense, then a miracle can still be described as a violation of a law of nature E where CviolationD would mean somethin# li!e Ccontrary to what could have happened had nature been the only force operative. D "n event may be contrary to a law of nature without thereby invalidatin# it if it is caused by nonnatural forces - or in epistemic terms, if its occurrence can only be correctly e'plained in terms of nonnatural forces. " positive answer to question 3 follows from the fact that laws of nature do not describe, nor are they intended to describe, the lo#ically possible. They only describe the physically possible. There is also a sense in which the positive answer to question 3 follows from the contin#ency of laws of nature. But his is not the sense that interests us. 9ven if the laws of nature were lo#ically necessary, there could be events contrary to those laws if it is assumed that the scope of those laws is limited. " violation of a law of nature by natural means is what one wants, normatively, to hold as a contradiction in terms E assumin# insistence on #enerality /i.e., nonlocal empirical terms1 in the statement of the law. &ne does not want to hold the occurrence of an event contrary to a law of nature due to nonnatural means as a contradiction in terms E at least not on the basis of an analysis of laws of nature. To hold this position, an analysis of laws would have to be combined with an ar#ument a#ainst the possibility of nonnaturally caused events. /This is more or less what occurs in :umeGs ar#ument. :umeGs empiricism and his theory of meanin# are the basis of at least an implicit ar#ument, employed by :ume, a#ainst the possibility of the supernatural in his discussion of miracles.1 To say that miracles are impossible because violations of laws of nature are impossible is to improperly assume either /31 that a miracle must involve a violation of a lawF or /=1 that nothin# contrary to a law of nature can occur because laws of nature circumscribe the lo#ically possible and not merely the physically possible. But apart from distinct ar#uments to the contrary neither assumption appears to be warranted E at least not prima facie warranted.

To say, Can event is physically impossible and a violation of laws of nature if a statement of its occurrence is lo#ically incompatible with a statement of the laws of nature,D and then to assume that laws of nature circumscribe that which is lo#ically, and not merely physically, impossible is to rule out the occurrence of the physically impossible on ill-conceived lo#ical #rounds. .t is to deal with the possibility of miracles in the most superficial of ways by definin# them out of e'istence usin# either an indefensible concept of a law of nature, or supposin# a suppressed ar#ument a#ainst the possibility of nonnatural interference. " law of nature cannot be violated by natural forces. .t can only be undermined as a #enuine law. This happens if somethin# natural occurs that the law was supposed to account but in fact could not. But neither can a law of nature be violated by a nonnatural force. 7or can it be undermined, assumin# we can distin#uish natural from nonnatural occurrences. " law of nature is, whatever else it may be, a true description of both the physically and lo#ically possible occurrences within its scope, in the actual world only if it is assumed that no nonnatural forces could e'ist or interfere. &therwise, a law describes only what can happen as a matter of physical possibility. .ts presupposed scope is limited to what can happen #iven only natural forces. .t allows for the possibility that the physically impossible remains lo#ically possible, assumin# the possibility of nonnatural forces capable of interaction in the actual world. Thus, nonnatural interventions are not, strictly spea!in#, violations of laws of nature. "n intervention is, however, physically impossible, because /or so lon# as1 that which is physically possible is defined in terms of the scope of laws of nature. "n interference that is outside the scope of the laws of nature does not violate any laws of nature by doin# that which is physically impossible E that is E in doin# that which is not possible #iven only natural forces. Be#ularity theorists sometimes say that causal statements entail implicit or e'plicit reference to causal laws /e.#. laws of nature1 and are instances of those laws. This appears to be false, or at least suspect, for a variety of different types of sin#ular causal statements, includin# those in which a sufficient condition of > causin# L is dependent upon some sub ective /nonphysical1 factor. CThe o!e . was told caused me to ...D would not ordinarily be thou#ht of as referrin#, either e'plicitly or implicitly, to a law of nature, or a #eneral causal law, unless one were a strict determinist or maintained a stron# form of a Ccoverin# law modelD as essential to all forms of e'planation. 9ven if there are some psychophysical laws, it is counterintuitive to ar#ue that the meanin# of causal statements, li!e the one above, implies a causal #enerali8ation. /%imilarly, even if there are coverin#-law models

that imply historical e'planation is #enerali8able, it does not seem to be part of the meanin# of historical e'planation in causal form that it be #enerali8able.1 9ven supposin# that the causal statement has counterfactual force /e.#. C.f . had not been told the o!e . would not have . . .D1, one would not intuitively ar#ue that this statement is an instance of a causal #enerali8ation by virtue of its meanin#. 0eavin# these controversial cases aside, a statement that a miracle occurred, usually E as in the case of many of the biblical miracles refers to God as causin# somethin# that is not the sort of occurrence that one would e'pect to be e'plainable in terms of laws of nature, if it could be e'plained at all. . am here supposin# supernatural e'planation to be a viable alternative and the one that mi#ht plausibly be chosen in a case li!e the Bed %ea partin# as depicted in the movie CThe Ten ;ommandmentsD /i.e., not simply a low tide1. .f causal statements did require reference to laws of nature, then this would appear to rule out the possibility of miracles since a miracle refers to a type of causal statement whose nature rules out reference to laws of nature ta!en as #enerali8ed cases of which they are instances. /John 0oc!e /36N51 denies that miracles are not instances of laws. They are not, however, instances of laws of nature accordin# to 0oc!e. :e thin!s that to say they are not instances of any laws whatsoever /e.#. not even of supernatural laws1 is to say that they are random occurrences, and he thin!s that this is absurd.1 (iracles are contrary to laws of nature, not CviolationsD of them and not instances of them. /"ctually, miracles are vacuous instances of true laws of nature as . e'plain below.1 7ote that it is not simply a miracleGs uniqueness that rules out such reference to laws of nature. .t cannot be uniqueness since even miracles that are supposed to be repeatable, such as raisin# one from the dead, cannot in principle refer to laws of nature for a complete e'planation of their occurrence. -resumably they must also refer to divine intervention. " miracleGs uniqueness presents only a preface difficulty for supposin# miracles to be supernaturally Ccaused.D .t is not difficult to show that causal terminolo#y is applicable to statements about miracles. " re#ularity theory should be understood as requirin# reference to laws of nature only when the causal statement is about natural events. (ore #enerally, a re#ularity theory requires reference to causal #enerali8ations, but not necessarily to #enerali8ations in terms of laws of nature. There is no reason to suppose that a miracleGs uniqueness, if it is unique, cannot or does not carry with it implicit reference to a causal #enerali8ation. The counterfactual force that is constitutive of the meanin# of some causal statements that specify necessary and sufficient material conditions for some event to occur may indicate the presence of an implicit #enerali8ation in the causal statement about a

miracle. Generally, if we say C> caused LD we mean, in part, that if > had not occurred, then L would not have occurred in the circumstances. But also implicit in the meanin# of this is that if > occurred a#ain, in relevantly similar circumstances, then L would also occur a#ain. To say that God caused > is to say that > would not have come about apart from GodGs activity and also that > would a#ain come about if God acted similarly in a relevantly similar situation. .f there is a supernature, then it is reasonable to suppose, as 0oc!e did, that there are Claws of supernatureD and that sin#ular causal statements concernin# the supernatural may be understood as implicitly assumin# the #enerali8ability of such sin#ular causal statements in terms of those laws. ;onsider the followin# ob ection to the characteri8ation of a miracle as bein# contrary to a law of nature and outside its scope. %uppose, as . have, that true laws of nature do not have the form, /31 +henever an event of type ; occurs, an event of type 9 occurs. "ssume instead that they are of the form, /=1 .f an event of type ; occurs, and there is no supernatural intervention, then an event of type 9 occurs. &r, schematically, /K1 /; O 71 9 7ow consider a case where an event of type ; occurs, there is supernatural intervention, and no event of type 9 occurs. From the truth table of the conditional function it follows that this case will be a positive instance of a true law, where such laws are of the form /; O 71 P 9. /C- P MD will be true if the first component is false or if the second component is true. .n the case under consideration, the first component will be false if C7D is false E this is, if there is supernatural intervention as hypothesi8ed.1 Thus, a miracle is not contrary to, or a violation of, a law of nature, and it is not outside the scope of such a law. (y response to this ob ection is as follows. . a#ree that the case considered above /i.e., a miraculous event occurs due to supernatural intervention1 is a positive instance of a true law of nature where such laws are schematically of the form /; O 71 P 9. (iracles do not violate true laws of nature because such laws contain the supposition, either e'plicit or implicit, that laws describe what will happen #iven the

presence of only natural forces. :owever, once there is supernatural interference, then no matter what follows ; /whether or not 9 occurs1, /; O 71 P 9 will be trivially true ust because 7 is false. /.t would be true even if ; is false.1 +hile it is true that a miraculous occurrence would be a positive instance of a true law, because true laws of the form /; O 71 P 9 are never false if 7 is false /7 is false if there is supernatural interference1, . want to call attention to the fact that while miracles do not violate true laws /i.e., they are positive instances of them1, they should not be thou#ht of as Cwithin the scope of the laws of nature.D This is because laws of nature are meant to account for, or describe, what occurs and what could possibly occur only apart from supernatural intervention. 0aws describe what is naturally or physically possible. Because a positive instance of a true law of nature will be trivially true in cases of 7, it will not e'plain why 9 does not occur even thou#h ; does occur. .t is the assertion of 7 that does the e'plainin#. +hether or not ; occurred, or 9 occurs, /; O 71 P 9 will be true when 7 is false. But if 7 is false /i.e., if there is supernatural interference1, then the law of nature will not be able to e'plain either 9 or 9 in terms of natural forces. Let this is what one normally e'pects a law of nature to do. By sayin# that cases of supernatural interference are outside the scope of laws of nature, one is thereby refusin# to consider cases of /; O 71 P 9, when 7 is false, to be si#nificant instantiations of laws of nature, even thou#h they are formally e'pressible in terms of laws of nature. +hile laws of nature can, and do, formally account for such cases, there is no e'planation of 9Gs nonoccurrence in terms of the natural forces that it is usually assumed to be the concern of laws of nature to describe. To thin! of miracles as positive instances of laws of nature is to triviali8e what is interestin# about them vi8. their relationship to laws of nature, where such laws are understood as describin# what will and can happen #iven the presence of only natural forces. %pea!in# of cases in which there is supernatural intervention as outside the scope of laws of nature is clearly truer to our concept of such laws as descriptive only of those thin#s that occur due to natural forces alone. That is their scope. Therefore, even thou#h miracles can formally be accounted for by laws of nature, materially spea!in# this inadequate. .t is inadequate because this Caccountin# forD is really done by the supposition of the supernatural interference and not with the miraculous event bein# a positive instance of the true law /i.e., because 7 results in /; O 71 P 9 bein# true1 as it would in cases where there was no supernatural intervention. Formally, even a

positive instance of a true law can be CcontraryD to a law of nature of which it is a positive instance. This will be the case in all instances of which an occurrence bein# a positive instance of a true law is due to supernatural intervention E that is, in all cases which ma!e /; O 71 P 9 trivially true in supposin# 7. This is formally unob ectionable but aw!ward. .n !eepin# with ordinary usa#e it is therefore preferable to consider such positive instances of true laws as outside the scope of laws of nature, and to consider only positive instances of laws to be within the scope of laws if /; O 71 P 9 is not true because of the falsity of 7. Hume's Ar ument A ainst !ustified "elief #n Miracles Bemar!ably, the discussion of :ume on miracles has not been confined to, or even principally concerned with, whether or not :ume was correct in his ar#ument a#ainst ustified belief in miracles E and?or the possibility of ustified belief in miracles. .nstead, philosophical discussion has focused on e'e#etical issues concernin# e'actly what :ume was ar#uin#. There is, for e'ample, still no #enerally accepted view on the fundamental points of whether his ar#ument /-art . of his essay1 a#ainst the ustified belief in miracles on the basis of testimony is /i1 meant as an a priori or a posteriori ar#umentF /ii1 if that ar#ument can be, or is meant to be, #enerali8ed to include first-hand e'perience of an alle#edly miraculous eventF or indeed, /iii1 if his ar#ument, whether re#arded as a priori or a posteriori, is meant to establish that one can never be ustified in believin# in a miracle on the basis of testimony. :ume does not appear to claim that miracles are impossible E only that ustified belief in a miracle on the basis of testimony /may be1 impossible. :is ar#ument is basically epistemolo#ical. There are, however, #rounds for supposin# that a miracle is not even possible on :umeGs account E at least not #iven his wider empiricist views. :umeGs position on miracles cannot be properly understood apart from his analysis of causation, a posteriori reasonin#, and indeed the most fundamental element of his empiricism E his analysis of CimpressionsD and CideasD /Boo! ., " Treatise of :uman 7ature, pp. 3-61. .n fact, :umeGs position on miracles has never been properly understood because its connection to his views on causation has never been adequately e'amined. There is considerable controversy over what :umeGs position actually was E let alone what his ar#ument for that position is. . offer one hi#hly abbreviated interpretation. /For a more complete account of this interpretation see 0evine, 34A4, 3-@=.1 The biblio#raphy contains citations to other interpretations completely at odds with this one and with each other.

To understand :ume on miracles the followin# question must be answered. +hy did :ume thin! that one could ustifiably believe that an e'traordinary event had occurred, under certain circumstances, but that one could never ustifiably believe a miracle had occurred? The proposed interpretation of :umeGs analysis of miracles in relation to his analysis of causation and his wider empiricism yields the only plausible answer to this question that . !now of. This interpretation also shows why it ma!es no substantial difference whether we interpret :umeGs ar#ument in -art . C&f (iraclesD a#ainst the possibility of ustified belief in testimony to the miraculous as an a priori ar#ument or an a posteriori ar#ument since the ar#uments essentially coalesce. :ume /9nquiries, p. 3=A1 #ives the followin# e'ample of an e'traordinary event that he thin!s could be rendered credible on the basis of testimony. ...suppose, all authors, in all lan#ua#es, a#ree, that from the first day of January 35NN, there was a total dar!ness over the whole earth for ei#ht days, suppose that the tradition of this e'traordinary event is still stron# and lively amon# the people, that all travelers, who return from forei#n countries, brin# us accounts of the same tradition, without the least variation or contradiction, it is evident, that our present philosophers, instead of doubtin# the fact, ou#ht to receive it as certain, and ou#ht to search for the causes whence it mi#ht be derived. The decay, corruption, and dissolution of nature, is an event rendered probable by so many analo#ies, that any phenomenon, which seems to have a tendency towards that catastrophe comes within the reach of human testimony, if that testimony be very e'tensive and uniform. .n this case not only is the testimony to the alle#ed event very e'tensive and uniform, but :ume also thin!s it necessary that our past e'perience does not render the event completely unli!ely. :e ar#ues that the ei#ht day dar!ness can be Crendered probable by so many analo#ies,D assumin# it is testified to e'tensively and uniformly. .n such a case :ume assumes that the event is natural and that Cwe ou#ht to search for the causes.D :ume compares this with another ima#inary case /9nquiries, p. 3=A1. ...suppose, that all historians who treat of 9n#land, should a#ree, that, on the first of January 35NN, Mueen 9li8abeth died...and that, after bein# interred a month, she a#ain appeared, resumed the throne, and #overned 9n#land for three years, . must confess that . should be surprised at the concurrence of so many odd circumstances, but should not have the least inclination to believe so miraculous event.

%ince both events are assumed to be equally well testified to, the reason that :ume thin!s the former can be ud#ed credible but not the latter is that in the former case the Cevent is rendered probable by so many analo#ies.D &ne can ob ect and say that this appears to be nothin# more than a sub ective ud#ement on the part of :ume. :is e'perience su##ests analo#ies for the former type of event but not the latter. The ei#ht day dar!ness Csufficiently resemblesD events that :ume has e'perienced, or believes in on the basis of e'perience, to warrant belief in the ei#ht day dar!ness #iven that the event is e'traordinarily well attested to. .n the latter case :ume can find no analo#ies to draw upon from e'perience. Given the similarity, in relevant respects, of most peoplesG e'perience /i.e., the e'perience of %cots at the time of :ume1, :ume thin!s that if people base their ud#ments on their e'perience /in accordance with the principles of a posteriori reasonin# /0evine 34A4, @-3=1 e'trapolated from his analysis of causation1 they will a#ree that the former /e'traordinary1 event can be ud#ed credible but not the /miraculous1 latter. :ume would a#ree that if an individualGs e'perience were very different from his own in relevant respects, than that individual could ustifiably believe many thin#s that he himself could not. %o despite :umeGs a priori ar#uments a#ainst ustified belief in miracles he ar#ues that under certain circumstances the CevidenceD may ustify belief in the occurrence of an e'traordinary event as lon# as we have e'perienced events analo#ous in type. :owever, an e'traordinary event is not necessarily a miraculous one. .n the case of e'traordinary events that are well attested to and for which we have suitable e'periential analo#ies, :ume thin!s that the most we are ustified in believin# is that the event did occur E not that the event is a miracle. +e are to Csearch for the QnaturalR causes whence it mi#ht be derived.D %uch cases may even require us to reassess, to some e'tent, our estimation of what nature is capable of doin# on her own, so to spea!. %ometimes statements of laws of nature must be reassessed and altered in li#ht of new e'perience. "lso, we must be careful not to e'tend our ud#ments as to what to believe or e'pect of nature to situations in which all of the relevant circumstances are not the same. This requires e'planation. :ume relates the case of the .ndian who refused to believe that water turned to ice. "ccordin# to :ume, the .ndian Creasoned ustlyD on the basis of his past e'perience. :e refused, at first, to believe that water turned to ice, despite the fact that it was well attested to, because the event not only had the .ndianGs constant and uniform e'perience to count a#ainst it, but also because the event Cbore so little analo#yD to that e'perience /9nquiries, pp. 33-3@1. The .ndian Creasoned ustlyD but he e'tended his ud#ments about the properties of water to cases

where all the circumstances were not the same /i.e., the relevant circumstance here bein# temperature1. .n certain situations in which we hear testimony to e'traordinary events we may be in situations similar to that of the .ndian. .ndeed, accordin# to :ume, if we ustifiably believe that an e'traordinary event did occur, then we should assume that we are in a situation ust li!e that of the .ndian. +e should assume this because, as . shall show, there are lo#ically compellin# reasons why the consistent :umean, in accordance with the principles of a posteriori reasonin# based on :umeGs analysis of causation and his empiricism, can do nothin# else. The e'traordinary event should be ud#ed CQnotR contrary to uniform e'perience of the course of nature in cases where all the circumstances are the sameD /9nquiries, p. 33In1. +hy should we ud#e our situation to be li!e that of the .ndianGs? "re there lo#ically compellin# reasons for doin# so? :ume does not e'plicitly say why, but it must be because our e'perience has shown us that situations li!e the .ndianGs do arise. &n the basis of e'perience, when we are ustified in believin# in the occurrence of an e'traordinary event, we should li!en ourselves to the .ndian. That is why, in a case li!e the ei#ht days of dar!ness, Cwe ou#ht to search for the QnaturalR causes whence it mi#ht be derived.D 9'perience demands it. .t seems then, that accordin# to :ume, when an e'traordinary event is e'traordinarily well attested to we have only two options. &ne is to accept the testimony and loo! for the eventGs natural causes. The other is to re ect the testimony on the #rounds that the event testified to bears no si#nificant analo#y to events we have e'perienced. :ume thin!s that testimony, no matter how reliable, can never establish the occurrence of a miraculous event, in accordance with the principles of a posteriori reasonin# E reasonin# that is a type of causal reasonin# accordin# to :ume. :e says /9nquiries, pp. 333-33=1, .t bein# a #eneral ma'im, that no ob ects have any discoverable connection to#ether, and that all the inferences, which we can draw from one to another, are founded merely on our e'perience of their constant and re#ular con unctionF it is evident that we ou#ht not to ma!e an e'ception to this ma'im in favor of human testimony.... This species of reasonin#, perhaps, one may deny to be founded on the relation of cause and effect. . shall not dispute about a word. Thus, :ume thin!s that if we ustifiably accept testimony to an e'traordinary event, then on the basis of past e'perience, we must li!en ourselves to the .ndian and search for natural causes of which we are unaware. This would be for us the equivalent of the .ndian movin# north to C(uscovy durin# the winterD /9nquiries, p. 33In1. /Thin! about the last astonishin# thin# you learned that nature could accomplish as

a matter of course and you have a basic part of :umeGs ar#ument.1 ;ontrary to :ume one mi#ht try to ar#ue as follows, .s it inconceivable that we e'perience events for which no e'planation li!e that suitable for the .ndian has been forthcomin#? .t may be true that in some situations a seemin#ly naturally ine'plicable event was later learned to have natural causes, but it is at least conceivable that there may be other ine'plicable events for which no natural causes can be found. .f e'perience can show that we are unable to find natural causes for certain events E thou#h these events are every bit as well attested to as other events only some of which we have discovered natural causes for E then why must we li!en ourselves to the .ndian in cases where we ustifiably believe in the occurrence of an e'traordinary event? +hy does e'perience demand that we either re ect belief in the eventGs occurrence or believe it but posit natural causes for the event? Justified belief does not entail belief in a natural cause. 9'perientially you have not shown that it does. (oreover, if we had independent reasons for thin!in# that no cause of some e'traordinary event could be found /e #., on the basis of prophecy1, then it is conceivable that we could be ustified in believin# that an e'traordinary event occurred without thereby li!enin# ourselves to the .ndian. The #rounds on which we mi#ht re ect the supposition of a natural cause could themselves be e'periential /e.#., a prophetGs trac! record1. .t does seem to be the case that we can always posit a natural e'planation for an e'traordinary event and base that supposition on e'perience. &n the other hand, we may re ect such a supposition, not only on the basis of a priori ar#uments of natural theolo#y, but also on the basis of e'perience. For e'ample, suppose that an e'traordinary event that had some reli#ious si#nificance was prophesied, testimony ustified belief in the eventGs occurrence, the prophet had been ri#ht about certain predictions made in the past, and no immediate natural e'planation for the event that had the least bit of plausibility was forthcomin#. The option of positin# a natural e'planation remains open, but e'perience does not necessarily demand that we avail ourselves of that option. :ume thin!s that the most that testimony can establish is that an e'traordinary event has occurred, not that a miracle has occurred. To support this one must establish the suppressed premise that we can have no #ood reasons on the basis of e'perience, for identifyin# an event as miraculous. Thou#h :ume employs this premise he does not support it, and the e'ample ust #iven su##ests a reason for believin# the premise to be invalid. :ume has not specified adequate criteria for determinin# when an event can be ud#ed suitably analo#ous to past e'perience as to

warrant belief when adequately testified to. /This is probably because he thou#ht no such criteria could be #iven E each e'traordinary case havin# to be considered on its own merits.1 9'perientially, there are no clear cut criteria enablin# us to determine, with any de#ree of assurance, that an ei#ht day dar!ness is analo#ous to past e'perience while a resurrection does not, in the least, bear any resemblance to aspects of our past e'perience that could ma!e it at least as li!ely an event to be believed in as the ei#ht day dar!ness. ;ould not a resurrection be found analo#ous to past e'perience in precisely the same way that an ei#ht day dar!ness could /i.e., e'perience of the Cdecay, corruption, and dissolution of natureD1? .n the absence of such criteria there is no lo#ically compellin# reason, and not even necessarily compellin# e'periential reasons, for assumin# that the e'traordinary event occurred /naturally1 but a resurrection did not occur /miraculously1. .f the dar!ness can be ustifiably believed in then so too can a resurrection. Furthermore, under the appropriate circumstances, not only could the resurrection be ud#ed miraculous and not merely e'traordinary, but so could the ei#ht day dar!ness. The thin# that would determine whether or not the event was to be ud#ed miraculous would be whether we had reason to believe that God or GodGs a#ents caused the event E better reasons than for thin!in# that the event was caused naturally. .t is conceivable that a ud#ment that God caused a particular event can be e'perientially warranted. "#ain, ima#ine a prophet who is !nown to predict future events accurately. The prophet has a trac! record of empirically verifiable prophecies concernin# events of a most e'traordinary nature. &r, ima#ine a case in which every time a Choly-personD pointed at someone that person lay down dead. "n e'planation of such #oin#s-on can be sou#ht in terms of natural /e.#., parapsychical1 causes and abilities. :owever, would e'perience necessitate the acceptance of this e'planation over the supernatural one? :ume has not shown that it would. :ume would re ect this ar#ument E and therein lies the entire tale of his ar#ument a#ainst ustified belief in miracles E whether on the basis of testimony or first-hand e'perience. :e would insist that his principles of reasonin# about empirical matters, and his philosophical empiricism /i.e., his theory of CimpressionsD and CideasD1 show that supernatural e'planation cannot be ustified e'perientially. .n the case of a prophet accurately predictin# events, or the Choly-personD pointin# their fin#er and people fallin# dead, :ume would say that e'perience ustifies us in believin# that the event prophesied will come to pass and that if the holy-person lifts their fin#er in our direction we are ustified in runnin# away E and foolish if we do not. But we are not ustified in believin# such events to be miracles. +e need to as! C+hat is it about e'perience, in the sense of

e'pectations about future events or ud#ments about past events, that could ustify the positin# of a supernatural cause?D For positin# such a cause is necessary if one is to ustifiably believe some event to be a miracle. :ume would say that positin# such a cause is speculative. .t can have no basis in e'perience. 9ven if some event really were a miracle, whether it be a resurrection, or Cthe raisin# of a feather, when the wind wants ever so little of a force requisite for that purposeD /9nquiries, p. 33@n1, we would not be ustified in believin# that it was anythin# more than an e'traordinary event. 9'traordinary events are at the limits of /our1 e'perience, the supernatural is beyond it. :ume /9nquiries, p. 3=41 says, Thou#h the Bein# to whom the miracle is ascribed, be "lmi#hty, it Qthe miracleR does not, upon that account, become a whit more probable, since it is impossible for us to !now the attributes or actions of such a Bein#, otherwise than from the e'perience of his productions, in the usual course of nature. This still reduces us to past observations, and obli#es us to compare the instances of the violation of truth in the testimony of men, with those of the violations of the laws of nature by miracles, in order to ud#e which of them is most li!ely and probable. For :ume, a Ccause,D insofar as it can be used as an item in reasonin# from e'perience, can only be somethin# that we can have an CimpressionD of. The cause of a miracle would have to be identified as somethin# we could perceive, even if we were to posit some metaphysical CpowerD of this cause and attribute it speculatively to God. The CcauseD of 0a8arusGs comin# forth from the #rave would have to be identified with ;hristGs bec!onin# E either his voice or some physical #esture E both of which we have CimpressionsD of and both of which are events Cin the usual course of nature.D .f a resurrection were well enou#h attested to that it warranted belief, then that event could still only be assi#ned status as an e'traordinary event with a natural e'planation. :ume is thus constrained by his empiricism. :e is constrained in such a way that had he been at the shore of the Bed %ea with (oses when they were bein# chased /as in the movie version1F and had (oses raised his staff and the Bed %ea split up the middle /i.e., no low tide but ra#in# waters on both sides1F and had the Bed %ea crashed to a close the moment the last .sraelite was safe E !illin# those in pursuitF and had :ume himself lac!ed #rounds for assumin# he was hallucinatin# or perceivin# events in any way other than as they were actually happenin# E :ume would still be constrained by his principles to deny that what he was witnessin# was a miracle. This e'ample suffices to show the unacceptability of :umeGs ar#ument. .ndeed, assumin# :ume would have a#reed that had he been there with (oses, and had events transpired in a manner suitably

similar to the way they are depicted in the film, he would have /readily1 a#reed that he was ustified in believin# that a miracle occurredF then his ar#ument a#ainst ustified belief in miracles can be used as a reductio ad absurdum. Flew /3456, KI41 is mista!en in his claim that Cit be neither arbitrary nor irrational to insist on a definition of a )law of nature* such that the idea of a miracle as an e'ception to a law of nature is ruled out as self-contradictory.D " resurrection could only be well enou#h attested to to be ustifiably believed if it could be ud#ed as somehow analo#ous with somethin# in our past e'perience. .f it is, then it must be considered a natural event because, for :ume, anythin# analo#ous to our e'perience is at least analo#ous in the sense of su##estin# that it too has a natural cause. +e e'perience only that which occurs in nature and ud#ments based on that e'perience will not warrant positin# causes outside of that e'perience. %uppose that some event actually was supernaturally caused. /0et us suppose :ume reco#ni8es this as a lo#ical possibility in his essay, thou#h . do not thin! it is #iven his analysis of causation and his empiricism.1 :ume would say that we could not, on the basis of e'perience, attribute a supernatural cause to the event because we e'perience only natural causes /i.e., events occurrin# in the usual course of nature1. .f an event were supernaturally caused we could le#itimately say that we Ce'periencedD some supernatural event, but the sense of e'perience used here would be an equivocation on :umeGs usa#e This Ccause,D bein# transcendent, and not discernible by means of Csense impressions,D Cinternal impressions,D or Cimpressions of refle'ionD could not be an item of e'perience at all as :ume sees it. Thus, because :ume thin!s that every cause must be re#arded as natural, he is committed to the view that one could ustifiably believe that an e'traordinary event had occurred, but never a miracle. :umeGs a priori ar#ument a#ainst ustified belief in miracles actually coalesces with his a posteriori ar#ument a#ainst such ustified belief. &n a posteriori #rounds we could never ustifiably believe testimony to the miraculous because we could never ud#e the occurrence of such an event to be similar, in relevant respects, to anythin# we have e'perienced. :owever, that a miraculous occurrence could never be ud#ed relevantly similar to anythin# in e'perience /i.e., that there must be Ca firm and unalterable e'perienceD countin# a#ainst belief in it1 is somethin# that we can !now a priori, since a priori we can !now that we cannot have an C impressionD of a supernatural cause. .t follows from this that on a priori #rounds we can also rule out the possibility of ustified belief in testimony to the miraculous. .t follows from what has been said that unless one accepts :umeGs analysis of a posteriori reasonin# as a type of causal reasonin#, and

also accepts his analysis of causation, which ultimately rests on his theory of impressions and ideas E a theory that even staunch empiricists should re ect as simplistic E then there is no reason to accept his ar#ument a#ainst the possibility of ustified belief in miracles. &f course, nothin# in this critique of :umeGs ar#ument should be ta!en to su##est, in any way, that miracles have ever occurred, or that we are ustified in believin# that any have occurred. But it would be most surprisin# if some people at some time and in certain circumstances have not been, and will not a#ain be, ustified in believin# in the occurrence of a miracle. :owever, nothin# . have said su##ests that that the evidence available for the occurrence of any alle#ed miracle warrants ustified belief in miracles for most people - includin# those who really do believe in them. "ayesian Analyses of Hume's Ar ument $oncernin Miracles There are various versions of BayesGs theorem. For e'ample, John 9arman /344K,KN6nI1 employs the followin#, -r/:?9O21 S -r/:?21 T -r/9?:O21 -r/9?21 CThe reader is invited to thin! of : as a hypothesis at issueF 2 as the bac!#round !nowled#eF and 9 as the additional evidence. -r/:?9O21 is called the posterior probability of :. -r/:?21 and -r/9?:O21 are respectively called the prior probability of : and the /posterior1 li!elihood of 9.D Bayesian analyses are prominent amon# the several recent and alle#edly novel interpretations of :umeGs ar#ument a#ainst the ustified belief in miracles. :owever, since there is no consensus on ust what :umeGs ar#ument is, or e'actly what he is tryin# to establish, it is impossible that any Bayesian analysis, let alone a CBayesian proofD of that ar#ument, or a recastin# of the ar#ument in terms of some version of BayesGs theorem, will not be# crucial issues of interpretation. .n so doin#, such analyses, in and of themselves, will also be# fundamental epistemolo#ical issues concernin#, for e'ample, evidence. Furthermore, it is difficult to see how recastin# :umeGs ar#ument in a Bayesian form can clarify the structure or substance of the ar#ument without presupposin# what the ar#ument is. &n the interpretation of :umeGs ar#ument #iven above, a Bayesian analysis sheds no li#ht whatsoever on the structure or substance of the

ar#ument, and can do nothin# by way of either supportin# or refutin# the ar#ument. .ndeed, any Bayesian analysis of the question of ustified belief in miracles must be otiose until the difficult and essential questions concernin# CevidenceD in relation to an alle#edly miraculous occurrence are resolved E at which point any Bayesian analysis will add little e'cept the technical comple'ity of a formal apparatus that may or may not CclarifyD the structure of :umeGs ar#ument. The balancin# of probabilities is of no use until it is decided what #oes into the balance E that is, what constitutes the evidence that is to be sub ect to the balancin# of probabilities. The point is thisF apart from independent philosophical ar#uments E ar#uments that would in effect undermine the relevance of a Bayesian analysis to the question of the credibility of reports of the miraculous E no such analysis can, in principle, prove that no testimony can /or cannot1 establish the credibility of a miracle. %o-called Bayesian analyses of :umeGs ar#ument are not analyses of :umeGs ar#ument at all E but superfluous representations of it. Are Miracles %eli iously &i nificant' %ome contemporary theolo#ians have claimed that the issue of miracles has been lar#ely misunderstood and co-opted by philosophers and critics of reli#ion for their own purposes E specifically in order to deny that certain central events the Bible alle#es to have occur did occur. Thus, David %trauss /3AK@1 claims that reports of miracles can be re ected Cas simply impossible and irreconcilable with the !nown and universal laws which #overn the course of events.D Theolo#ians sometimes claim, for e'ample, that there is no word for Cmiracle,D in the &ld or 7ew Testament. +hat are described there as Cprodi#iesD or CwondersD or Ceffects of powers,D are interpreted by philosophers, but not by the Biblical writers, as Cmiracles.D "ntony Flew /3456,KI61 says that accordin# to %pino8a, as well as some contemporary theolo#ians, Cconventional interpreters of the Bible read far more miracles into it than it contains, because they constantly read poetic :ebrew idioms literally.D This may be true but it is also inconsequential. 7o matter how events such as a partin# of the sea or a resurrection are described, whether as CwondersD or as Cmiracles,D it is clear that they were understood in Biblical times, as well as in contemporary times, to be in some remar!able sense Ccontrary to the normal course of nature.D -eople livin# at the time of (oses or ;hrist !new ust as well as we do that seas do not CnormallyD part and that people are not, in the normal course of nature, resurrected. +hat is required for a notion of the miraculous is not some sophisticated notion of what a law of nature is, but ust a stron# sense of what constitutes the normal,

natural course of events. "nd this is somethin# the ancients had ust as much as those livin# in a scientific a#e have. (any people re#ard the philosophical dimension, the epistemolo#ical one in particular, of the issue of miracles as insi#nificant. .ndeed, philosophy of reli#ion, or at least natural theolo#y and the analytic philosophy of reli#ion is re#arded as inconsequential by believers as well as some involved in the academic study of reli#ion. 7evertheless, . thin! that the philosopherGs concerns are more closely allied with those of reli#ious people than, for e'ample, are those of the social scientist. This does not ma!e them more important - ust more closely allied. The philosopher is interested in the truth about reli#ious truth-claims and /thou#h many would disa#ree on philosophical #rounds1 can pursue that interest more or less independent of do#ma, tradition, and what socio-scientific study tells us about the various functions of reli#ion. -hilosophical issues in reli#ion are fundamental in a way that other areas of investi#ation are not. " system of beliefs may serve a variety of functions, personally and socially, but for the reli#ious person these are consequences of the system of beliefs itself. They believe their systems of belief, their reli#ion, to be more or less coherent and true. .t ma!es a #reat difference to most believers who are traditional theists whether or not miracles could occur, and whether one could ustifiably believe they did occur. &ne does not have to be a fundamentalist ;hristian, for e'ample, to believe with -aul that the ;hristian faith is, in an important sense, a vain pursuit if the central miracles associated with ;hristianity did not occur. .ndeed, one can assume that David :ume, Bertrand Bussell and Bichard %winburne would concur. The same point can of course be made,mutatis mutandis, for .slam and Judaism or any tradition fundamentally connected to miraculous claims. "part from belief in miracles, one is left with a system of beliefs that has had and will continue to have enormous si#nificance E #ood and bad E for peopleGs lives. :owever, for the ma ority of persons for whom these beliefs have that si#nificance, reli#ion could no lon#er function in the way it does if they became convinced of the falsity of their beliefs. That seems to be verifiable. There is a sense, albeit perhaps not a very important one, in which one is involved in pretense if one practices a system of beliefs whose central tenets one denies. +hat one is practicin# may be similar in si#nificant respects to the reli#ious tradition in question, but one will not be practicin# that reli#ion, nor will one properly be re#arded as a believer. :avin# said that, it should also be said that the issue of miracles is re#arded as overly important by contemporary analytic philosophers of

reli#ion. %ome 34th and =Nth century philosophical theolo#ians, as well as those in various disciplines within the academic study of reli#ion, includin# the philosophy of reli#ion, no lon#er re#ard the issue of miracles as central or crucial, either to various reli#ious traditions, to the reli#ious life per se, and definitely not to the more fundamental questions of God and meanin# in the traditional domain of philosophical theolo#y. -hilosophers of reli#ion, even if sophisticated in terms of their analyses, naively attribute an importance to the issue that may not be alto#ether warranted. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy The term CmiracleD is used very broadly in ordinary lan#ua#e. " quic! review of news stories may turn up reports such as that of a C;hristmas (iracle,D by which the Te'as #ulf coast came to be blan!eted with snow by a rare storm. +e spea! of miracle dru#s, or of miracle babies, and some household products purport to be miraculous as well. -hilosophical discussion of the miraculous, however, is confined to the use to which reli#ion$and in particular, theistic reli#ion$ puts that conception. These philosophical discussions center around two overlappin# issues. The first of these issues is a conceptual one, +hat is a miracle? ;ontroversy over the conception of a miracle focuses primarily on whether a miracle must be, in some sense, contrary to natural law. (ust it, in particular, be a violation of natural law? %upposin# that it must be, a second question arises, namely, whether the conception of such a violation is a coherent one. -hilosophers have also been concerned about what sort of observable criteria would allow us to identify an event as a miracle, particularly insofar as that means identifyin# it as a violation of natural law. :ow, for e'ample, can we tell the difference between a case in which an event is a #enuine violation$assumin# that some sense can be made of this notion$and one that conforms to some natural law that is un!nown to us? "nd #iven the occurrence of a #enuine violation, how are we to determine whether it is due to divine a#ency, or whether it is nothin# more than a spontaneous lapse in the natural order? The second main issue is epistemolo#ical, &nce we settle on what a miracle is, can we ever have #ood reason to believe that one has ta!en place? This question is #enerally connected with the problem of whether testimony, such as that provided by scriptural sources, can ever #ive us adequate reason to believe that a miracle has occurred. () The Definition of *Miracle+

.n s!etchin# out a brief philosophical discussion of miracles, it would be desirable to be#in with a definition of CmiracleFD unfortunately, part of the controversy in re#ard to miracles is over ust what is involved in a proper conception of the miraculous. "s a rou#h be#innin#, however, we mi#ht observe that the term is from the 0atinmiraculum, which is derived from mirari, to wonderF thus the most #eneral characteri8ation of a miracle is as an event that provo!es wonder. "s such, it must be in some way e'traordinary, unusual, or contrary to our e'pectations. Disa#reement arises, however, as to what ma!es a miracle somethin# worth wonderin# about. .n what sense must a miracle be e'traordinary? &ne of the earliest accounts is #iven by %t. "u#ustine, who held /;ity of God, >>..A.=1 that a miracle is not contrary to nature, but only to our !nowled#e of natureF miracles are made possible by hidden potentialities in nature that are placed there by God. .n %umma ;ontra Gentiles...,3N3, %t. Thomas "quinas, e'pandin# upon "u#ustine*s conception, said that a miracle must #o beyond the order usually observed in nature, thou#h he insisted that a miracle is not contrary to nature in any absolute sense, since it is in the nature of all created thin#s to be responsive to God*s will. .n his 9nquiry ;oncernin# :uman Hnderstandin#, David :ume offered two definitions of CmiracleFD first, as a violation of natural law /9nquiries p. 33I1F shortly afterward he offers a more comple' definition when he says that a miracle is Ca trans#ression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible a#entD /9nquiries, p. 33@n1. This second definition offers two important criteria that an event must satisfy in order to qualify as a miracle, .t must be a violation of natural law, but this by itself is not enou#hF a miracle must also be an e'pression of the divine will. This means that a miracle must e'press divine a#encyF if we have no reason to thin! that an event is somethin# done by God, we will have no reason to call it a miracle. (ore recently, the idea that a miracle must be defined in terms of natural law has come under attac!. B.F. :olland /345@1 has ar#ued that a miracle may be consistent with natural law, since a reli#iously si#nificant coincidence may qualify as miraculous, even thou#h we fully understand the causes that brou#ht it about. "ccounts of the miraculous that distance themselves from the requirement that a miracle be in some way contrary to the order of nature, in favor of a focus on their si#nificance to human life, mi#ht be said to emphasi8e their nature as si#nsF indeed the term semeion, Csi#n,D is one of the terms used in the 7ew Testament to describe miraculous events. ,) Miracles and -orldview

The outcome of any discussion of miracles seems to depend #reatly on our worldview. The usual theistic view of the world is one that presumes the e'istence of an omnipotent God who, while transcendin# nature, is nevertheless able to act, or to e'press his will, within the natural world. ;learly belief in miracles is already plausible if our enquiry may presume this view of thin#s. The usual way of ma!in# this out mi#ht be described as supernaturalistic. Those who would defend supernaturalism sometimes do this throu#h a commitment to an ontolo#y of entities that e'ist in some sense outside of nature, where by CnatureD is meant the totality of thin#s that can be !nown by means of observation and e'periment, or more #enerally, throu#h the methods proper to the natural sciences. Defenses of supernaturalism may also ta!e a methodolo#ical turn by insistin# that the natural sciences are incapable of revealin# the totality of all that there is. +hile supernaturalists typically hold that God reveals his nature in part throu#h observable phenomena /as for e'ample in miracles, or more #enerally, in the order of nature1, as we shall understand it here, methodolo#ical supernaturalism is committed as well to the view that our !nowled#e of God must be supplemented by revelation. Bevelatory sources for our !nowled#e of God mi#ht, for e'ample, include some form of a priori !nowled#e, supersensory reli#ious e'perience, or a direct communication by God of information that would not otherwise be available to us. 2nowled#e of God that is passed down in scripture, such as the Bible or the Mur*an, is #enerally conceived by theists to have a revelatory character. %upernaturalistic accounts of the miraculous very commonly ma!e reference to supernatural causes, which are thou#ht to play a useful role in the construction of supernatural e'planations. :owever, as we will see in sections 3N and 33, belief in miracles does not obviously commit one to belief in supernatural causes or the efficacy of supernatural e'planations. .n contrast to supernaturalism, ontolo#ical naturalism denies the e'istence of anythin# beyond natureF methodolo#ical naturalism holds that observation and e'periment$ or #enerally spea!in#, the methods of the empirical sciences$ are sufficient to provide us with all of the !nowled#e that it is possible for us to have. 7aturalism is sometimes further characteri8ed as holdin# that nature is uniform, which is to say that all events in nature conform to #enerali8ations /e.#. laws1 which can be verified by means of observation. 7aturalists do commonly hold this view$ confidence in the uniformity of nature is an important part of the scientific enterprise$ but strictly spea!in# this represents an

additional metaphysical commitment re#ardin# the nature of the universe and its susceptibility to human understandin#. .f nature turns out not to be fully lawli!e, this would not require the re ection of naturalism. " failure of uniformity, or what a believer in miracles mi#ht refer to as a violation of natural law, would imply only that there are limits to our ability to understand and predict natural phenomena. :owever, the naturalist is committed to denyin# the le#itimacy of any attempt to e'plain a natural phenomenon by appeal to the supernatural. 7aturalism denies the e'istence of supernatural entities and denies as well the claim that revelation is capable of providin# us with #enuine !nowled#e. +here the supernaturalistic worldview is quite open to the possibility of miracles, naturalism is much less sympathetic, and one mi#ht ar#ue that the tenets of naturalism rule out the possibility of miracles alto#etherF see 0ewis /34I6,;h. 31, (artin /344=,34=1 and Davis /3444,3K31. (uch, of course, depends on how we conceive of miracles, and on what we ta!e their si#nificance to be. &ne concern we mi#ht have with the miraculous would be an apolo#etic one. By Capolo#eticD here is meant a defense of the rationality of belief in God. :istorically, apolo#ists have pointed to the occurrence of miracles as evidence for theism, which is to say that they have held that scriptural reports of miracles, such as those #iven in the Bible, provide #rounds for belief in God. +hile this ar#ument is not as popular now as it was in the 3Ath century, the modern conception of the miraculous has been stron#ly influenced by this apolo#etic interest. %uch an interest puts important constraints on an account of miracles. .f we wish to point to a miracle as supportin# belief in a supernatural deity, obviously we cannot be#in by assumin# the supernaturalistic worldviewF this would be# the question. .f we are tryin# to persuade a s!eptic of God*s e'istence, we are tryin# to demonstrate to him that there is somethin# beyond or transcendin# nature, and he will demand to be persuaded on his own termsF we must ma!e use of no assumptions beyond those that are already ac!nowled#ed by the naturalistic worldview. Because the history of modern thou#ht re#ardin# miracles has been stron#ly influenced by apolo#etic interests, the emphasis of this entry will be on the apolo#etic conception of the miraculous$ that is, on the concept of miracle as it has been invo!ed by those who would point to the reports of miracles in scripture as establishin# the e'istence of a supernatural God. .t is important to bear in mind, however, that any difficulty associated with this apolo#etic appeal to miracles does not automatically militate a#ainst the reasonableness of belief in miracles #enerally. " successful criticism of the apolo#etic appeal will show at most that a warranted belief in miracles depends on our havin# independent reasons for re ectin# naturalismF a#ain, see 0ewis

/34I6,331. .) The $redibility of -itnesses " ma or concern with the rationality of belief in miracles is with whether we can be ustified in believin# that a miracle has occurred on the basis of testimony. To determine whether the report of a miracle is credible, we need to consider the reliability of the source. %uppose sub ect % reports some state of affairs /or event1 9. "re %*s reports #enerally true? ;learly if she is !nown to lie, or to utter falsehoods as o!es, we should be reluctant to believe her. "lso, if she has any special interest in #ettin# us to believe that 9 has occurred$ if, for e'ample, she stands to benefit financially$ this would #ive us reason for s!epticism. .t is also possible that % may be reportin# a falsehood without intendin# to do soF she may sincerely believe that 9 occurred even thou#h it did not, or her report may be sub ect to unconscious e'a##eration or distortion. "side from the possibility that she may be influenced by some tan#ible self-interest, such as a financial one, her report may also be influenced by emotional factors$ by her fears, perhaps, or by wishful thin!in#. +e should also consider whether other reliable and independent witnesses are available to corroborate her report. +e must also as! whether % is herself a witness to 9, or is passin# on information that was reported to her. .f she witnessed the event personally, we may as! a number of questions about her observational powers and the physical circumstances of her observation. There are quite a few thin#s that can #o wron# hereF for e'ample, % may sincerely report an event as she believed it to occur, but in fact her report is based on a misperception. Thus she may report havin# seen a man wal! across the surface of a la!eF this may be her understandin# of what happened, when in fact he was wal!in# alon#side the la!e or on a sand bar. .f it was dar!, and the weather was bad, this would have made it difficult for % to have a #ood view of what was happenin#. "nd of course we should not ne#lect the influence of %*s own attitudes on how she interprets what she seesF if she is already inclined to thin! of the man she reports as wal!in# on water as bein# someone who is capable of performin# such an e'traordinary feat, this may color how she understands what she has seen. By the same to!en, if we are already inclined to a#ree with her about this person*s remar!able abilities, we will be all the more li!ely to believe her report. .f % is merely passin# on the testimony of someone else to the occurrence of 9, we may question whether she has properly understood what she was told. %he may not be repeatin# the testimony e'actly as it was #iven to her. "nd here, too, her own biases

may color her understandin# of the report. The possibility of distortions enterin# into testimony #rows with each re-tellin# of the story. .t will be fruitful to consider these elements in evaluatin# the stren#th of scriptural testimony to the miracles ascribed to Jesus. The reports of these miracles come from the four #ospel accounts, which may not have been written by those who are supposed to have personally witnessed Jesus* miracles. %ome of these accounts seem to have borrowed from the others, or to have been influenced by a common sourceF even if this were not the case, they still cannot be claimed to be independent. "ssumin# they ori#inate with the firsthand testimony of the apostles (ar!, (atthew, 0u!e and John, these men were closely associated and had time to discuss amon# themselves what they had seen before their reports were recorded for posterity. They were all members of the same reli#ious community, and shared a common perspective as well as common interests. Hnfortunately, there are no independent reports from uninterested witnessesF while the #ospel accounts tell us that there were miracles that too! place in front of hostile witnesses, this will not help us when it is the accuracy of these very #ospel reports that is at issue. /0ater ac!nowled#ements of Jesus* miracles by hostile parties is, the s!eptic will ar#ue, evidence only for the #ullibility of these writers.1 .t is sometimes su##ested that these men undertoo! #rave ris! by reportin# what they did, and they would not have ris!ed their lives for a lie. But this establishes, at best, only that their reports are sincereF unfortunately, their conviction is not conclusive evidence for the truth of their testimony. +e could e'pect the same conviction from someone who was delusional. 0et us consider a particular report of Jesus* resurrection in applyin# these considerations. -opular apolo#etic sometimes points to the fact that accordin# to -aul in 3 ;orinthians /3@,51, the resurrected Jesus was seen by five hundred people at once, and that it is hi#hly improbable that so many people would have the e'perience of seein# Jesus if Jesus were not actually there. "fter all, it may be ar#ued, they could not have shared a mass hallucination, since hallucinations are typically privateF there is no precedent for shared hallucination, and it may seem particularly far-fetched to suppose that a hallucination would be shared amon# so many people. "ccordin#ly it may be thou#ht much more li!ely that Jesus really was there and, assumin# there is sufficient evidence that he had died previously to that time, it becomes reasonable to say that he was resurrected from the dead. +hile this report is sometimes ta!en as evidence of Jesus* physical resurrection, -aul says only that he appearedto the five hundred

without sayin# e'plicitly that it was a physically reconstituted Jesus that these people saw. But let us suppose that -aul means to report that the five hundred saw Jesus in the flesh. Hnfortunately we do not have the reports of the five hundred to Jesus* resurrectionF we have only -aul*s hearsay testimony that Jesus was seen by five hundred. Furthermore -aul does not tell us how this information came to him. .t is possible that he spo!e personally to some or all of these five hundred witnesses, but it is also possible that he is repeatin# testimony that he received from someone else. This opens up the possibility that the report was distorted before it reached -aulF for e'ample, the number of witnesses may have been e'a##erated, or the ori#inal witnesses may have merely reported feelin# Jesus* presence in some way without actually seein# him. For the sa!e of ar#ument, however, let us suppose that there was at one time a #roup of five hundred people who were all prepared to testify that they had seen a physically resurrected Jesus. This need not be the result of any supposed mass hallucinationF the five hundred mi#ht have all seen someone who they came to believe, after discussin# it amon#st themselves, was Jesus. .n such a case, the testimony of the five hundred would be to an e'perience to#ether with a shared interpretation of it. .t is also possible that the te't of -aul*s letter to the ;orinthians has not been accurately preserved. Thus, no matter how reliable -aul himself mi#ht be, his own report may have been modified throu#h one, or several, redactions. There are, therefore, quite a few points at which error or distortion mi#ht have entered into the report in 3 ;orinthians, /31 The ori#inal witnesses may have been wron#, for one reason or another, about whether they saw JesusF /=1 the testimony of these witnesses may have been distorted before reachin# -aulF /K1 -aul may have incorrectly reported what he heard about the event, and /I1 -aul*s own report, as #iven in his ori#inal letter to the ;hristian community in ;orinth, may have been distorted. The apolo#ist may ar#ue that it would be very surprisin# if errors should creep into the report at any of these four points. The question we must as! now, however, is which of these alternatives would be more surprisin#, That some error should arise in re#ard to 3-I above, or that Jesus really was resurrected from the dead. /) Hume0s Ar ument .n %ection > of his 9nquiry ;oncernin# :uman Hnderstandin#, :ume tells us that it is not reasonable to subscribe to any Csystem of reli#ionD unless that system is validated by the occurrence of miraclesF

he then ar#ues that we cannot be ustified in believin# that a miracle has occurred, at least when our belief is based on testimony$ as when, for e'ample, it is based on the reports of miracles that are #iven in scripture. /:ume did not e'plicitly address the question of whether actually witnessin# an apparent miracle would #ive us #ood reason to thin! that a miracle had actually occurred, thou#h it is possible that the principles he invo!es in re#ard to testimony for the miraculous can be applied to the case of a witnessed miracle.1 :is stated aim is to show that belief in miracle reports is not rational, but that Cour most holy reli#ion is founded on Faith, not on reasonD /9nquiries, p. 3KN1. :ume surely intends some irony here, however, since he concludes by sayin# that anyone who embraces a belief in miracles based on faith is conscious of Ca continued miracle in his own person, which subverts all the principles of his understandin#D /9nquiries, p. 3K31F this seems very far from an endorsement of a faith-based belief in miracles. There is some dispute as to the nature of :ume*s ar#ument a#ainst miracles, and the 9nquiry seems to contain more than one such ar#ument. The most compellin# of these is the one . will call the Balance of -robabilities "r#ument. /For a brief discussion of some of the other ar#uments, see the entry CDavid :ume, +ritin#s on Beli#ion.D1 :ume tells us that we ou#ht to proportion our certainty re#ardin# any matter of fact to the stren#th of the evidence. +e have already e'amined some of the considerations that #o into assessin# the stren#th of testimonyF there is no denyin# that testimony may be very stron# indeed when, for e'ample, it may be #iven by numerous hi#hly reliable and independent witnesses. 7evertheless, :ume tells us that no testimony can be adequate to establish the occurrence of a miracle. The problem that arises is not so much with the reliability of the witnesses as with the nature of what is bein# reported. " miracle is, accordin# to :ume, a violation of natural law. +e suppose that a law of nature obtains only when we have an e'tensive, and e'ceptionless, e'perience of a certain !ind of phenomenon. For e'ample, we suppose that it is a matter of natural law that a human bein# cannot wal! on the surface of water while it is in its liquid stateF this supposition is based on the wei#ht of an enormous body of e'perience #ained from our familiarity with what happens in seas, la!es, !itchen sin!s, and bathtubs. Given that e'perience, we always have the best possible evidence that in any particular case, an ob ect with a sufficiently #reat avera#e density, havin# been placed onto the surface of a body of water, will sin!. "ccordin# to :ume, the evidence in favor of a miracle, even when that is provided by the stron#est possible testimony, will always be outwei#hed by the evidence for the law of nature which is supposed to have been violated.

;onsiderable controversy surrounds the notion of a violation of natural law. :owever, it would appear that all :ume needs in order to ma!e his ar#ument is that a miracle be an e'ception to the course of nature as we have previously observed itF that is, where we have had a substantial e'perience of a certain sort of phenomenon$ call it "$ and have an e'ceptionless e'perience of all "s bein# B, we have very stron# reason to believe that any #iven " will be a B. Thus #iven that we have a very #reat amount of e'perience re#ardin# dense ob ects bein# placed onto water, and #iven that in every one of these cases that ob ect has sun!, we have the stron#est possible evidence that any ob ect that is placed onto water is one that will sin!. "ccordin#ly we have the best possible reasons for thin!in# that any report of someone wal!in# on water is false$ and this no matter how reliable the witness. +hile ob ections are frequently made a#ainst :ume*s conception of natural law, in fact no particularly sophisticated account of natural law seems to be necessary here, and :ume*s e'amples are quite commonsensical, "ll human bein#s must die, lead cannot remain suspended in the air, fire consumes wood and is e'tin#uished by water /9nquiries p. 33I1. This may be a naive conception of natural lawF nevertheless it is true that, all thin#s bein# equal, we can assi#n a minimal probability to the occurrence of a counterinstance to any of these #enerali8ations. "t times :ume sounds as thou#h he thin!s the probability of such an event is 8ero, #iven its unprecedented nature, and some commentators have ob ected that the fact that we have never !nown such an event to occur does not imply that it cannot occur. -ast re#ularities do not establish that it is impossible that a natural law should ever be suspended /-urtill 346A1. :owever, re#ardless of :ume*s ori#inal intent, this is a more e'trava#ant claim than his ar#ument requires. :e is free to admit that some small probability may be attached to the prospect that a dense ob ect mi#ht remain on the surface of a la!eF it is sufficient for his purposes that it will always be moreli!ely that any witness who reports such an event is attemptin# to deceive us, or is himself deceived. "fter all, there is no precedent for any human bein# wal!in# on water, settin# this one controversial case aside, but there is ample precedent for the falsehood of testimony even under the best of circumstances. "ccordin#ly :ume says /9nquiries p. 33@ff1 that Cno testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a !ind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish.D +e must always decide in favor of the lesser miracle. +e must as! ourselves, which would be more of a

miracle, That Jesus wal!ed on water, or that the scriptural reports of this event are false? +hile we may occasionally encounter testimony that is so stron# that its falsehood would be very surprisin# indeed, we never come across any report, the falsehood of which would be downri#ht miraculous. "ccordin#ly, the reasonable conclusion will always be that the testimony is false. Thus to return to -aul*s report of Jesus* resurrection in 3 ;orinthians, .t may be hi#hly unli!ely that the ori#inal witnesses were wron#, for one reason or another, about whether they saw JesusF it may be hi#hly unli!ely that the testimony of these witnesses may have been distorted before reachin# -aulF it may be hi#hly unli!ely that -aul incorrectly reported what he heard about the event, and it may be hi#hly unli!ely that -aul*s ori#inal letter to the ;hristian community in ;orinth has not been accurately preserved in our modern translations of the 7ew Testament. %uppose the apolo#ist can ar#ue that a failure in the transmission of testimony at any of these points mi#ht be entirely without precedent in human e'perience. But the physical resurrection of a human bein# is also without precedent, so that the very best the apolo#ist can hope for is that both alternatives$ that the report is incorrect, or that Jesus returned to life$ are equally unli!ely, which seems only to call for a suspension of ud#ment. "polo#etic appeals frequently focus on the stren#th of testimony such as -aul*s, and often appear to ma!e a #ood case for its reliability. 7evertheless such an appeal will only persuade those who are already inclined to believe in the miracle$ perhaps because they are already sympathetic to a supernaturalistic worldview$ and who therefore tend to downplay the unli!elihood of a dead man returnin# to life. :avin# said all this, it may stri!e us as odd that :ume seems not to want to rule out the possibility, in principle, that very stron# testimony mi#ht establish the occurrence of an unprecedented event. :e tells us /9nquiries p. 3=61 that if the sun had #one dar! for ei#ht days be#innin# on January 3, 35NN, and that testimony to this fact continued to be received from all over the world and without any variation, we should believe it$ and then loo! for the cause. Thus even if we were convinced that such an event really did ta!e place$ and the evidence in this case would be considerably stron#er than the evidence for any of the miracles of the Bible$ we should suppose that the event in question really had a natural cause after all. .n this case the event would not be a violation of natural law, and thus accordin# to :ume*s definition would not be a miracle. Despite this possibility, :ume wants to say that the quality of miracle reports is never hi#h enou#h to clear this hurdle, at least when they are #iven in the interest of establishin# a reli#ion, as they typically are.

-eople in such circumstances are li!ely to be operatin# under any number of passional influences, such as enthusiasm, wishful thin!in#, or a sense of mission driven by #ood intentionsF these influences may be e'pected to undermine their critical faculties. Given the importance to reli#ion of a sense of mystery and wonder, that very quality which would otherwise tend to ma!e a report incredible$ that it is the report of somethin# entirely novel$ becomes one that recommends it to us. Thus in a reli#ious conte't we may believe the report not so much in spite of its absurdity as because of it.

1) 2roblems with Hume0s Ar ument There is somethin# clearly ri#ht about :ume*s ar#ument. The principle he cites surely resembles the one that we properly use when we discredit reports in tabloid newspapers about alien visitors to the +hite :ouse or tiny mermaids bein# found in sardine cans. 7evertheless the ar#ument has prompted a #reat many criticisms. %ome of this discussion ma!es use of Bayesian probabilistic analysisF John 9arman, for e'ample, ar#ues that when the principles of :ume*s ar#uments Care made e'plicit and e'amined under the lens of Bayesianism, they are found to be either vapid, specious, or at variance with actual scientific practiceD /9arman =NNN1. The Bayesian literature will not be discussed here, thou#h 9arman*s discussion of the power of multiple witnessin# deserves mention. 9arman ar#ues that even if the prior probability of a miracle occurrin# is very low, if there are enou#h independent witnesses, and each is sufficiently reliable, its occurrence may be established as probable. Thus if :ume*s concern is to show that we cannot in principle ever have #ood reason to believe testimony to a miracle, he would appear to be wron# about this /9arman =NNN, %ee particularly ;h. 3A and followin#1. &f course the number of witnesses required mi#ht be very lar#e, and it may be that none of the miracles reported in any scripture will qualify. .t is true that some of the miracles of the Bible are reported to have occurred in the presence of a #ood number of witnessesF the miracle of the loaves and fishes is a #ood e'ample, which accordin# to (ar! /(ar! 5,KN-II1 was witnessed by @,NNN people. But have already noticed that the testimony of one person, or even of four, that some event was witnessed by a multitude is not nearly the same as havin# the testimony of the multitude itself. "nother ob ection a#ainst :ume*s ar#ument is that it ma!es use of a method that is unreliableF that is, it may have us re ect reports that are true or accept those that are false. ;onsider the fact that a particular combination of lottery numbers will #enerally be chosen a#ainst very

#reat odds. .f the odds of the particular combination chosen in the ;alifornia 0ottery last wee! were IN million to 3, the probability of that combination bein# chosen is very low. "ssumin# that the li!elihood of any #iven event bein# misreported in the 0os "n#eles Times is #reater than that, we would not be able to trust the Times to determine which tic!et is the winner. The unreliability ob ection, made out in this particular way, seems to have a fairly easy response. There is no s!eptical challen#e to our bein# ustified in believin# the report of a lottery drawin#F that is, reports of lottery drawin#s are reports of ordinary events, li!e reports of rainstorms and presidential press conferences. They do not require particularly stron# testimony to be credible, and in fact we may be ustified in believin# the report of a lottery drawin# even if it came from an otherwise unreliable source, such as a tabloid newspaper. This is surely because we !now in advance that when the lottery is drawn, whatever particular combination of numbers may be chosen will be chosen a#ainst very #reat odds, so that we are #uaranteed to #et one hi#hly improbable combination or another. Despite the fact that the odds a#ainst any particular combination are very #reat, all of the other particular outcomes are equally unli!ely, so we have no pre udice a#ainst any particular combination. +e !now that people are #oin# to win the lottery from time to timeF we have no comparable assurance that anyone will ever be raised from the dead. 7evertheless if we are to be able to ma!e pro#ress in science, we must be prepared to revise our understandin# of natural law, and there ou#ht to be circumstances in which testimony to an unprecedented event would be credible. For e'ample, human bein#s collectively have seen countless squid, few of which have ever e'ceeded a len#th of two feet. For this reason reports of #iant squid have, in the past, been sometimes dismissed as fancifulF the method employed by :ume in his Balance of -robabilities "r#ument would seem to rule out the possibility of our comin# to the conclusion, on the basis of testimony, that such creatures e'ist$ yet they have been found in the deep water near "ntarctica. %imilarly, someone livin# beyond the reach of modern technolo#y mi#ht well re ect reports of electric li#htin# and airplanes. %urely we should be s!eptical when encounterin# a report of somethin# so novel. But science depends for its pro#ress on an ability to revise even its most confident assertions about the natural world. Discussion of this particular problem in :ume tends to revolve around his e'ample of the .ndian and the ice. %omeone from a very hot climate such as that of .ndia, livin# durin# :ume*s time, mi#ht refuse to believe that water was capable of ta!in# solid form as ice or frost, since he has an e'ceptionless e'perience a#ainst this. Let in this case

he would come to the wron# conclusion. :ume ar#ues that such a person would reason correctly, and that very stron# testimony would properly be required to persuade him otherwise. Let :ume refers to this not as a miracle but as a marvelF the difference would appear to lie in the fact that while water turnin# to ice does not conform to the e'perience of the .ndian, since he has e'perienced no precedent for this, it is also notcontrary to his e'perience, because he has never had a chance to see what will happen to water when the temperature is sufficiently low /9nquiries, p. 33K1. By the same to!en, we ou#ht to be cautious when it comes to decidin# how lar#e squid may #row in the "ntarctic deeps, when our only e'perience of them has been in warm and relatively shallow water. The circumstances of an "ntarctic habitat are not analo#ous to those in which we normally observe squid. &n the other hand, when someone reports to us that they have witnessed a miracle, such as a human bein# wal!in# on water, our e'perience of ordinary water is analo#ous to this case, and therefore counts a#ainst the li!elihood that the report is true. "nd of course our usual e'perience must be analo#ous to this case, for if the water that someone wal!s upon is somehow unli!e ordinary water, or there is somethin# else in the physical circumstances that can account for how it was possible in this one instance for someone to wal! on water when this is impossible in the ordinary case, then it is not a violation of natural law after all, and therefore, by :ume*s definition, not a miracle. Jesus* wal!in# on water will only qualify as a miracle on the assumption that this case is analo#ous in all relevant respects to those cases in which dense ob ects have sun!. The distinction between a miracle and a marvel is an important one for :umeF as he constructs an epistemolo#y that he hopes will rule out belief in miracles in principle, he must be careful that it does not also hinder pro#ress in science. +hether :ume is successful in ma!in# this distinction is a matter of some controversy. a) Does Hume0s Ar ument "e the 3uestion' (any commentators have su##ested that :ume*s ar#ument be#s the question a#ainst miracles. /%ee for e'ample 0ewis 34I6,3NK, :ouston 344I,3KK1 %uppose . am considerin# whether it is possible for a human bein# to wal! on water. . consider my past e'perience with dense ob ects, such as human bodies, and their behavior in waterF . may even conduct a series of e'periments to see what will happen when a human body is placed without support on the surface of a body of water, and . always observe these bodies to sin!. . now consider what is li!ely to occur, or li!ely to have occurred, in some un!nown case. -erhaps . am wonderin# what will happen the ne't time . step out into

the waters of %ilver 0a!e. &bviously . will e'pect, without seriously considerin# the matter, that . will sin! rather than wal! on its surface. (y past e'perience with water #ives me very #ood reason to thin! that this is what will happen. But of course in this case, . am not as!in# whether nature will be followin# its usual course. .ndeed, . am assumin# that it will be, since otherwise . would not refer to my past e'perience to ud#e what was li!ely in this particular caseF my past e'perience of what happens with dense bodies in water is relevant only in those cases in which the uniformity of nature is not in question. But this means that to assume that our past e'perience is relevant in decidin# what has happened in an un!nown case, as :ume would have us do, is to assume that nature was followin# its usual course$ it is to assume that there has been no brea! in the uniformity of nature. .t is, in short, to assume that no miracle has occurred. .n order to ta!e seriously the possibility that a miracle has occurred, we must ta!e seriously the possibility that there has been a breach in the uniformity of nature, which means that we cannot assume, without be##in# the question, that our ordinary observations are relevant. .t would be a mista!e, however, to suppose that this criticism represents a victory for apolo#etic. +hile the apolo#ist may wish to proceed by as!in# the s!eptic to abandon his assumption that ordinary e'perience is relevant to assessin# the truth of miracle reports, this seems to be# the question in the opposite direction. &rdinary e'perience will only fail to be relevant in those cases in which there was in fact a brea! in the uniformity of nature, i.e. in those cases in which a miracle has occurred, and this is precisely what the s!eptic requires to be shown. .t is temptin# to suppose that there is a middle #roundF perhaps the s!eptic need only admit that it ispossible that ordinary e'perience is not relevant in this case. :owever, it is difficult to determine ust what sort of possibility this would be. The mere lo#ical possibility that an e'ceptional event may have occurred is not somethin# that the s!eptic has ever questionedF when . infer that . will sin! in the waters of %ilver 0a!e, . do so in full reco#nition of the fact that it is lo#ically possible that . will not. .f the apolo#ist is as!in# for any #reater concession than this, the s!eptic may be for#iven for demandin# that he be #iven some ustification for #rantin# it. :e may be for#iven, too, for demandin# that he be persuaded of the occurrence of a miracle on his own terms$ i.e. on purely naturalistic #rounds, without requirin# him to adopt any of the assumptions of supernaturalism. &f course the most natural place to loo! for evidence that there may occasionally be brea!s in the natural order would be to testimony, but for reasons that are now obvious, this will not do.

.t would appear that the question of whether miracle reports are credible turns on a lar#er question, namely, whether we ou#ht to hold the supernaturalistic worldview, or the naturalistic one. &ne thin# seems certain, however, and that is that the apolo#ist cannot depend on miracle reports to establish the supernaturalistic worldview if the credibility of such reports depends on our presumption that the supernaturalistic worldview is correct. 4) $onceptual Difficulties5 The Lo ical #mpossibility of a 6iolation Becent criticisms of belief in miracles have focused on the concept of a miracle. .n particular, it has been held that the notion of a violation of natural law is self-contradictory. 7o one, of course, thin!s that the report of an event that mi#ht be ta!en as a miracle$ such as a resurrection or a wal!in# on water$ is lo#ically self-contradictory. 7evertheless some philosophers have ar#ued that it is parado'ical to su##est both that such an event has occurred, and that it is a violation of natural law. This ar#ument dates bac! at least as far as T.:. :u'ley, who tells us that the definition of a miracle as contravenin# the order of nature is self-contradictory, because all we !now of the order of nature is derived from our observation of the course of events of which the so-called miracle is a part /34AI,3@61. %hould an apparent miracle ta!e place, such as a suspension in the air of a piece of lead, scientific methodolo#y forbids us from supposin# that any law of nature has been violatedF on the contrary, :u'ley tells us /in a thorou#hly :umean vein1 that Cthe scientist would simply set to wor! to investi#ate the conditions under which so hi#hly une'pected an occurrence too! placeF and modify his, hitherto, unduly narrow conception of the laws of natureD /3A4I,3@51. (ore recently this view has been defended by "ntony Flew /3455, 3456, 34461 and "lastair (c2innon /34561. (c2innon has ar#ued that in formulatin# the laws of nature, the scientist is merely tryin# to codify what actually happensF thus to claim that some event is a miracle, where this is ta!en to imply that it is a violation of natural law, is to claim at once that it actually occurred, but also, parado'ically, that it is contrary to the actual course of events. 0et us say that a statement of natural law is a #enerali8ation of the form C"ll "s are BsFD for e'ample, all ob ects made of lead /"1 are ob ects that will fall when we let #o of them /B1. " violation would be represented by the occurrence of an " that is not a B, or in this case, an ob ect made of lead that does not fall when we let #o of it. Thus to assert that a violation of natural law has occurred is to say at once that all "s are Bs, but to say at the same time that there e'ists some " that is not a BF it is to say, parado'ically, that all ob ects made of lead will fall when left unsupported, but that this ob ect made of lead did not fall

when left unsupported. ;learly we cannot have it both waysF should we encounter a piece of lead that does not fall, we will be forced to admit that it is not true that all ob ects made of lead will fall. &n (c2innon*s view, a counterinstance to some statement of natural law ne#ates that statementF it shows that our understandin# of natural law is incorrect and must be modified$ which implies that no violation has occurred after all. &f course this does not mean that no one has ever parted the Bed %ea, wal!ed on water, or been raised from the deadF it only means that such events, if they occurred, cannot be violations of natural law. Thus ar#uably, this criticism does not undermine the ;hristian belief that these events really did occur /(avrodes 34A@,KK61. But if "ntony Flew is correct /3456,3IA1, for the apolo#ist to point to any of these events as providin# evidence for the e'istence of a transcendent God or the truth of a particular reli#ious doctrine, we must not only have #ood reason to believe that they occurred, but also that they represent an overridin# of natural law, an overridin# that ori#inates from outside of nature. To have any apolo#etic value, then, a miracle must be a violation of natural law, which means that we must /per impossibile1 have both the law and the e'ception. a) 6iolations as Nonrepeatable $ounterinstances to Natural Law The conception of a violation may, however, be defended as lo#ically coherent. %uppose we ta!e it to be a law of nature that a human bein# cannot wal! on waterF subsequently, however, we become convinced that on one particular occasion /&1$ say for e'ample, "pril 3Ath, 343N$ someone was actually able to do this. Let suppose that after the occurrence of & water #oes bac! to behavin# e'actly as it normally does. .n such a case our formulation of natural law would continue to have its usual predictive value, and surely we would neither abandon it nor revise it. The only revision possible in this case would be to say C:uman bein#s cannot wal! on water, e'cept on occasion &.D Let the amendment in this case is entirely ad hocF in its reference to a particular event, the revision fails to ta!e the #enerali8ed form that statements of natural law normally possess, and it adds no e'planatory power to the ori#inal formulation of the law. .t #ives us no better e'planation of what has happened in the past, it does nothin# to account for the e'ceptional event &, and it fares no better than the ori#inal formulation when it comes to predictin# what will happen in the future. .n this case & is what mi#ht be called anonrepeatable counterinstance to natural law. Faced with such an event we would retain our old formulation of the law, which is to say that the e'ceptional event & does not ne#ate that formulation. This means that there is no contradiction implied by affirmin# the law to#ether with its

e'ception. Thin#s would be different if we can identify some feature /F1 of the circumstances in which & occurred which will e'plain why & occurred in this one case when normally it would not. F mi#ht be some force operatin# to counteract the usual tendency of a dense ob ect, such as a human body, to sin! in water. .n this case, on discovery of F we are in a position to reformulate the law in a fruitful way, sayin# that human bein#s cannot wal! on water e'cept when F is present. %ince the e'ception in this case now has a #enerali8ed form /i.e. it e'presses the proposition that human bein#s can wal! on water whenever F is present1, our reformulation has the !ind of #enerality that a statement of natural law ou#ht to have. .t e'plains the past interaction of dense bodies with water as well as the ori#inal formulation did, and it e'plains why someone was able to wal! on water on occasion &.Finally, it will serve to predict what will happen in the future, both when F is absent and when it is present. +e may now, followin# 7inian %mart /345I,K61 and Bichard %winburne /346N,=51, understand a violation as a nonrepeatable counterinstance to natural law. +e encounter a nonrepeatable counterinstance when someone wal!s on water, as in case &, and havin# identified all of the causally relevant factors at wor! in &, and reproducin# these, no one is able to wal! on water. %ince a statement of natural law is falsified only by the occurrence of a repeatable counterinstance, it is parado'ical to assert a particular statement of law and at the same time insist that a repeatable counterinstance to it has occurred. :owever there is no parado' in assertin# the e'istence of the law to#ether with the occurrence of a counterinstance that is not repeatable. b) Miracles as 7utside the &cope of Natural Laws The force of this line of reasonin# to deny that natural laws must describe the actual course of events. 7atural laws do not describe absolutely the limits of what can and cannot happen in nature. They only describe nature to the e'tent that it operates accordin# to laws. To put the matter differently, we mi#ht say that natural laws only describe what can happen as a result of natural causesF they do not tell us what can happen when a supernatural cause is present. "s (ichael 0evine /34A4,561 has put the point, %uppose the laws of nature are re#arded as nonuniversal or incomplete in the sense that while they cover natural events, they do not cover, and are not intended to cover, non-natural events such as supernaturally caused events if there are or could be any. " physically impossible occurrence would not violate a law of nature because it

would not be covered by /i.e. would not fall within the scope of1 such a law. &n this understandin#, a physically impossible event would be one that could not occur #iven only physical, or natural, causes. But what is physically impossible is not absolutely impossible, since such an event mi#ht occur as the result of a supernatural cause. &ne way to ma!e this out is to say that all laws must ultimately be understood as dis unctions, of the form C"ll "s are Bs unless some supernatural cause is operatin#.D /0et us refer to this as asupernaturalistic formulation of law, where of course it is causal supernaturalism that is at wor! here, as opposed to a naturalistic formulation, which simply asserts that all "s are Bs, without ta!in# account the possibility of any supernatural cause.1 .f this is correct, then it turns out that strictly spea!in#, a miracle is not a violation of natural law after all, since it is somethin# that occurs by means of a supernatural intervention. Furthermore, since statements of natural law are only intended to describe what happens in the absence of supernatural intrusions, the occurrence of a miracle does not ne#ate any formulation of natural law. The supernaturalistic conception of natural law appears to offer a response to :ume*s Balance of -robabilities ar#umentF the evidence for natural laws, #athered when supernatural causes are absent, does not wei#h a#ainst the possibility that a miracle should occur, since a miracle is the result of a supernatural intervention into the natural order. Thus there is a failure of analo#y between those cases that form the basis for our statements of natural law, and the circumstances of a miracle. -robabilistic considerations, based on our ordinary e'perience, are only useful in determinin# what will happen in the ordinary case, when there are no supernatural causes at wor!. 8) $onceptual Difficulties ##5 #dentifyin Miracles +e have seen two ways in which the concept of a miracle, described as an event that nature cannot produce on its own, may be defended as coherent. +e may say that a miracle is a violation of natural law and appeal to the conception of a violation as a nonrepeatable counterinstance, or we may deny that miracles are violations of natural law since, havin# supernatural causes, they fall outside the scope of these laws. 7evertheless, conceptual difficulties remain. "ntony Flew /3455, 3456, 34461 has ar#ued that if a miracle is to serve any apolo#etic purpose, as evidence for the truth of some revelation, then it must be possible to identify it as a miracle without appealin# to criteria #iven by that revelationF in particular, there must be natural, or observable, criteria by which an event can be determined to be one which nature cannot produce on its own. Flew refers to this as the

-roblem of .dentifyin# (iracles. 0et us see how this problem arises in connection with these two conceptions of the miraculous. "re there natural criteria by which we can distin#uish a repeatable from a nonrepeatable counterinstance to some natural law? %uppose some formulation of natural law /"ll "s are Bs1 and some event that is a counterinstance to that formulation /an " that is not a B1. The counterinstance will be repeatable ust in case there is some natural force F present in the circumstances that is causally responsible for the counterinstance, such that every time F is present, a similar counterinstance will occur. But suppose we do our best to reproduce the circumstances of the event and are unable to do so. +e cannot assume that the event is nonrepeatable, for we have no way to eliminate the possibility that we have failed to identify all of the natural forces that were operatin# to produce the ori#inal counterinstance. The e'ceptional event may have been produced by a natural force that is un!nown to us. 7o observable distinction can be made between a case in which an e'ception is repeatable, havin# been produced by some as$yet undiscovered natural force, and one that is not. +orse yet, the naturalist will ar#ue that the very occurrence of the e'ception is evidence that there is in fact some previously un!nown natural force at wor!F where there is a difference in effects, there must be a difference in causes$ which for the naturalist means, of course, natural causes. 7or does the difficulty #o away if we adopt the supernaturalistic view of natural law. &n this view, natural laws only describe what happens when supernatural forces are absentF a #enuine miracle does not violate natural law because it is the effect of a supernatural cause. %uppose an e'traordinary event occurs, which the apolo#ist would li!e to attribute to a supernatural cause. The followin# two states of affairs appear to be empirically indistin#uishable, 3. The event is the result of a natural cause that we are as yet unable to identify. =. The event is the result of a supernatural cause. This, of course, is due to the fact that we do not observe the cause of the event in either of these cases$ in the first, it is because the cause is un!nown to us, and in the second, because supernatural causes are unobservablee' hypothesi. Thus the issue here is whether we should suppose that our failure to observe any cause for the event is due to our /perhaps temporary1 inability to fully identify all of the natural forces that were operatin# to produce it, or whether it is because the cause, bein# supernatural, is in principle unobservable. .f Flew is ri#ht, then in order to identify the event as a miracle, we must find some way

to rule out the possibility of ever findin# a natural cause for itF furthermore, if the identification of this event as a miracle is to serve any apolo#etic purpose, we must find some empirical #rounds for doin# this. To complicate matters even further, there is yet a third possibility, which is that, K. The event has no cause at all. That is, it is possible that the event is simply uncaused or spontaneous. .t is clear that there can be no observable difference between an event that has a supernatural cause, since such a cause is in principle unobservable, and one that fails to have a cause. The challen#e for an account of miracles as supernaturally caused is to show what the difference is between conceivin# an event as havin# a supernatural cause, and conceivin# of it as simply lac!in# any cause at all. The implications of this are quite si#nificant, 9ven if the naturalist were forced to admit that an event had no natural cause, and that nature is, therefore, not fully lawli!e, this does not commit him to supernaturalism. .t is possible that nature under#oes spontaneous lapses in its uniformity. %uch events would be nonrepeatable counterinstances to natural law, but they would not be miracles. They would fall within the unaided potentialities of natureF the naturalist need not admit the necessity of supernatural intervention to produce such events, because their occurrence requires no appeal to any transcendent reality. .ndeed, should we become persuaded that an event has occurred that has no natural cause, the naturalist may ar#ue that simplicity dictates that we for#o any appeal to the supernatural, since this would involve the introduction of an additional entity /God1 without any correspondin# benefit in e'planatory power. 9) &upernatural $auses and &upernatural :xplanation The apolo#ist, however, will insist that this is precisely the point. Describin# an e'traordinary event as the effect of a supernatural cause, and attributin# it to divine intervention, is ustified by the fact that it offers us a chance to e'plain it where no natural e'planation is available. "ssumin# /as the naturalist typically does1 that nature operates accordin# to physical laws, the occurrence of an apparent e'ception points to some difference in the circumstances. .f no difference in the physical circumstances can be found, then the only e'planation available is that there is some supernatural force at wor!. .t is unreasonable to re ect such a supernatural e'planation in the purely speculative hope that one day a natural e'planation may

become available. The notion of a supernatural e'planation deserves careful attention. The naturalist will surely ar#ue that the conception of a supernatural e'planation$ to#ether with its co#nate, the notion of a supernatural cause$ is confused. This position is motivated by the conviction that the notions of an e'planation and of a cause are fundamentally empirical conceptions. First, as re#ards the conception of a cause, -aradi#matically, causation is a relation between two entities, a cause /or some set of causal circumstances1 and an effect. 7ow there are many cases in which we witness the effect of a cause that is not seenF . mi#ht for e'ample hear the sound of a #unshot, and not see the #un that produced it. Furthermore . will be able to infer that there is a #un somewhere nearby that produced that sound. This is an inference from effect to cause, and is similar to what the apolo#ist would li!e to do with a miracle, inferrin# the e'istence of God /as cause1 from the occurrence of the miracle /as effect1. But what ma!es my inference possible in this case is, as :ume would point out, the fact that . have observed a re#ular con unction of similar causes with similar effects. This is precisely what is lac!in# when it comes to supernatural causes. . cannot ever e'perience the con unction of a supernatural cause with its effect, since supernatural causes are /by hypothesis1 unobservable$ nor can . ma!e an inference from any phenomenon in nature to its supernatural cause without such an e'perience. .ndeed #iven the very uniqueness of God*s miraculous interventions into nature, it is difficult to see how the notion of divine causation could draw on any !ind of re#ularity at all, as empirical causes do. .t is true that science often appeals to invisible entities such as electrons, ma#netic fields, and blac! holesF perhaps the apolo#ist conceives her own appeal as havin# a similar character /Geivett 3446,3AK1. These thin#s, one may ar#ue, are !nown only throu#h their observable effects. But the causal properties of such natural entities as electrons and ma#netic fields are analo#ous to those of entities that are observableF this is what entitles us to refer to them as natural entities. Furthermore, these properties may be described in terms of observable re#ularities, which means that entities li!e electrons and ma#netic fields may play a role in theories that have predictive power. Thus for e'ample, an appeal to electrons can help us predict what will happen when we turn on a li#ht switch. God is not a theoretical entity of this !ind. Far from bein# able to play a role in any empirical re#ularities, God*s miraculous interventions into nature, as these are conceived by the supernaturalist, are remar!able for their uniqueness.

"nother reason for doubtin# that God can possess causal powers analo#ous to those en oyed by natural ob ects arises from the fact that God is typically conceived as lac!in# any location in space$ and on the view of some philosophers, as bein# outside of time as well. ;ausal relationships amon# natural entities play out a#ainst a spatio-temporal bac!#round. .ndeed it would seem that to spea! of God as the cause of event in nature encounters somethin# similar to the -roblem of (indBody .nteraction. /This should not be surprisin# #iven the usual conception of God as a nonmaterial entity, i.e. as mind or spirit.1 "ll of the cases of causal interaction of which we are aware occur between physical entities that are fundamentally similar to one another in terms of possessin# physical properties such as mass, electrical char#e, location in space etc. Thus we !now for e'ample how one billiard ball may move another by virtue of the transfer of momentum. But God possesses none of these qualities, and cannot therefore interact with physical ob ects in any way that we can understand. God cannot, for e'ample, transfer momentum to a physical ob ect if God does not possess mass. .t may be ar#ued that the conception of an e'planation is ine'tricably intertwined with that of causation, so that if the conception of a supernatural cause is an empty one, the notion of a supernatural e'planation can hardly be e'pected to #et off the #round. The apolo#ist may respond by distin#uishin# the sort of e'planation she intends to #ive, when she attributes a miracle to divine a#ency, from the sort of e'planation that is common to the natural sciences. .n particular, she mi#ht characteri8e them as personal e'planations, which wor! to e'plain a phenomenon by reference to the intentions of an a#ent$ in this case God. /%ee for e'ample %winburne 3464, ;h. =1 7ow, it is true that personal e'planations do not have quite the same empirical basis as do scientific onesF nevertheless, li!e scientific e'planations, they do typically have empirical consequences. For e'ample, if . e'plain Bertrand*s runnin# a red li#ht by sayin# that he wanted to be on time to his meetin#, . have #iven a personal e'planation for Bertrand*s behavior, and it is one that is testable. .t will be supported by any observations that tend to confirm the hypothesis that Bertrand is due for a meetin# and that bein# on time is somethin# that he desires, and it will be undermined by any that are contrary to it, such as discoverin# that Bertrand does not believe that any meetin# is imminent. Furthermore this e'planation also serves as a basis for rou#h predictions about other actions that Bertrand mi#ht be e'pected to perform, e.#. he will li!ely ta!e other steps /possibly involvin# additional traffic violations1 in order to ma!e it to his meetin# on time. The most obvious way in which appeals to divine a#ency fail to be analo#ous to the usual sort of personal e'planation is in their failure to

yield even the va#uest of predictions. /%ee 7owell-%mith 34@@1 %uppose, for e'ample, that we attribute a wal!in# on water to divine interventionF from this description, nothin# follows about what we can e'pect to happen in the future. Hnless we can introduce additional information provided by revelation, we have no #rounds for inferrin# that God will brin# it about that additional miracles will occurF he may, or he may not. .ndeed, as far as this !ind of predictive e'pansion is concerned, we seem no better off sayin# that some event came about because God willed to occur than we would be if we said of it simply that it had no cause, or that it occurred spontaneously. /.ndeed, often when someone says C.t was God*s will,D they are callin# attention to the inscrutability of events.1 .n li#ht of this fact, there is no reason why the naturalist should find such a supernatural e'planation compellin#F on the contrary, faced with a putative miracle, if his concern was to e'plain the event, he would be ustified in followin# :ume*s advice and continuin# to hold out for a natural cause and a natural e'planation$ one that possesses predictive power$ or in the worst case, to simply shru# off the incident as ine'plicable, while denyin# that this ine'plicability warrants any appeal to the divine. "n ob ection here may be that all of this ma!es use of an unnecessarily narrow conception of causation$ one which arbitrarily see!s to restrict their use to the natural sciences. Hndoubtedly the word CcauseD is used in a very diverse number of ways, and it is surely wron# to say that no sense can ever be attached to a statement of the form CGod caused ' to occur.D The same may be said re#ardin# the notion of an e'planation. But it is the apolo#ist who tries to understand supernatural causes as analo#ous to the sort of causes that are of interest to natural science. .f supernatural causes are not sufficiently similar to natural ones, they cannot be e'pected to fill the #ap when natural causes are found to be lac!in#. The most fundamental challen#e to someone who wishes to appeal to the e'istence of supernatural causes is to ma!e it clear ust what the difference is between sayin# that an event has a supernatural cause, and sayin# that it has no cause at all. %imilarly when it comes to the prospect of #ivin# a supernatural e'planation, %upposin# that someone wal!s on water and we are unable to find any natural e'planation for this, what warrants our sayin# that such an event has a supernatural e'planation, as opposed to sayin# that it is ine'plicable and bein# done with it? ;) $oincidence Miracles Given the difficulties that arise in connection with the su##estion that God causes a miracle to occur, a non-causal account deserves

consideration. B.F. :olland /345@1 has su##ested that a reli#iously si#nificant coincidence may qualify as a miracle. %uppose a child who is ridin# a toy motor-car #ets stuc! on the trac! at a train crossin#. " train is approachin# from around a curve, and the en#ineer who is drivin# it will not be able to see the child until it is too late to stop. By coincidence, the en#ineer faints at ust the ri#ht moment, releasin# his hand on the control lever, which causes the train to stop automatically. The child, a#ainst all e'pectations, is saved, and his mother than!s God for his providenceF she continues to insist that a miracle has occurred even after hearin# the e'planation of how the train came to stop when it did. .nterestin#ly, when the mother attributes the stoppin# of the train to God she is not identifyin# God as its causeF the cause of the train*s stoppin# is the en#ineer*s faintin#. 7or is she, in any obvious way, offerin# an e'planation for the event$ at least none that is intended to compete with the naturalistic e'planation made possible by reference to the en#ineer*s medical condition. +hat ma!es this event a miracle, if it is, is its si#nificance, which is #iven at least in part by its bein# an apparent response to a human need. 0i!e a violation miracle, such a coincidence occurs contrary to our e'pectations, yet it does this without standin# in opposition to our understandin# of natural law. To conceive of such an event as a miracle does seem to satisfy the notion of a miracle as an event that elicits wonder, thou#h the ob ect of our wonder seems not so much to behow the train came to stop as the simple fact that it should stop when it did, when we had every reason to thin! it would not. " similar account of the miraculous comes from John :ic!*s conception of reli#ious faith as a form of Ce'periencin#-as.D .nspired by +itt#enstein*s discussion of seein#-as in the -hilosophical .nvesti#ations/34Ie1, :ic! has ar#ued that while the theist and the atheist live in the same physical environment, they e'perience it differentlyF the theist sees a si#nificance in the events of her life that prompts her to describe her e'perience as a continuin# interaction with God /346K,;h. =1. " theist, for e'ample, mi#ht benefit from an une'pected ob opportunity and e'perience this as an e'pression of divine providenceF the same event mi#ht not move an atheist in this way. Be#ardin# miracles in particular, :ic! /346K,@31 writes, " miracle, whatever else it may be, is an event throu#h which we become vividly and immediately conscious of God as actin# towards us. " startlin# happenin#, even if it should involve a suspension of natural law, does not constitute for us a miracle in the reli#ious sense of the word if it fails to ma!e us intensely aware of God*s presence. .n order to be miraculous, an event must be e'perienced as reli#iously si#nificant.

:olland #ives no indication that he wants to describe the miracle of the train in terms of e'periencin#-as. 7evertheless it seems reasonable to say, with :ic!, that in :olland*s e'ample, while the child*s mother has seen the same thin# that the s!eptic has$ the stoppin# of the train$ she understands it differently, e'periencin# it as a miracle, and as an e'pression of divine providence. But now a new problem emer#es, .f the question of whether an event is a miracle lies in its si#nificance, and if its si#nificance is a matter of how we understand it, then it is hard to see how the determination that some event is a miracle can avoid bein# an entirely sub ective matter. .n this case, whether or not a miracle has occurred depends on how the witnesses see it, and so /ar#uably1 is more a fact about the witnesses, and their response to the event, than it is to the event itself. /%ee %mart 345I,K@1 But we do not typically analy8e human a#ency in this wayF whether or not ;aesar crossed the Bubicon is not a matter of how anyone e'periences thin#s. The question of whether ;aesar crossed the Bubicon is an ob ective one. %urely the theist wishes to say that the question of whether God has acted in the world, in the occurrence of a miracle, is ob ective as well. "nd surely this fact accounts for the attractiveness of a causal account of miraclesF any dispute over the cause of a putative miracle is a dispute over the facts, not a dispute about how people view the facts. (<) Miracle as "asic Action This is a serious criticism, but it overloo!s somethin# very important about the character of actions #enerally. To as! whether a human bein# has acted is surely to as! an ob ective question, but it is not always to as! a question about causes. "rthur Danto /345@1 has ar#ued for a distinction between two types of action, Those that are mediated, and those that are basic. /%ee also Davidson 34A=, who refers to basic actions as primitive.1 . act in a mediated way when . perform action ' by doin# yF for e'ample, if . turn on the li#ht in my study by flic!in# a switch, my turnin# on the li#ht is a mediated action. (y flic!in# the switch is also a mediated action if . flic! the switch by movin# my fin#ers. 7otice that, when we say that . turned on the li#ht in a mediated sort of way, this may carry causal implications, .n this case, the li#ht*s comin# on was caused by the switch*s bein# flic!ed, and the switch*s bein# flic!ed was caused by my fin#ers* movin#. But not all of our actions are li!e this. +hen . move my fin#ers in order to flip the switch, . do not brin# about their movement by doin# anythin# elseF . ust move them. Thus to say . have acted in movin# my fin#ers does not imply that . caused anythin# to happen. Let clearly it is, in some sense of Cfact,D a fact that . moved my fin#ers.

.t is possible, of course, that my fin#ers* movin# has a cause, such as the firin# of various neurons. But my neural firin#s are not actions of mineF they are not thin#s that . do. .t is not as thou#h . set about to fire my neurons as part of a procedure aimed ultimately at brin#in# it about that my muscles contract and my fin#ers move. "nd even if . did, there would have to be somethin# that . did immediately in order to set the chain of causes #oin#, or there would be an infinite series of actions . would have to perform in order to turn on the li#htE . could never so much as start to act . Thus the possibility of bein# able to describe my fin#ers* movin# in terms of physical causes, and of thereby bein# able to #ive a natural e'planation for this in terms of neural firin#s and the li!e, does not rule out the possibility of sayin# that in movin# my fin#ers, . have acted. %ome philosophers believe that the truth of a libertarian account of free will implies that the free actions of human bein#s have no natural cause. This parallels the way that the traditional view of miracles has understood the manner of God*s action in a miracle. /J.-. (oreland has discussed the analo#y between free human actions and miracles in this re#ardF see (oreland 3446.1 %uch a libertarian view of human action may be correct. .t is important to reco#ni8e, however, that we do not have to settle the matterF we do not have to show that someone*s movin# of their fin#ers has no natural cause in order to attribute this movement to their a#ency. Thus analo#ously, a believer in miracles may insist that there is no natural e'planation for various miracles such as the creation of the universe, (oses* partin# of the Bed %ea, or Jesus* resurrection. But if miracles are basic actions on the part of God, then our attribution of divine a#ency to such events does not require us to show that these thin#s cannot be e'plained by reference to natural causes. +hatever we must do to identify an event as a miracle, if a miracle is conceived as a basic action on the part of God, it cannot involve a requirement to show that it has no natural cause. To ascribe a basic action to its a#ent is not to ma!e any claim about its causeF thus if miracles are properly conceived as basic actions on the part of God, it is not the case that Cany assertion that a miracle has occurred is implicitly a causal assertionD /0evine 344I,K41, thou#h this view is widely held. &n the contrary, the ascription of a miracle to God will be lo#ically independent of any causal analysis. /For a detailed discussion of this point see ;orner =NN6, and particularly ;h. I.1 (() -itt enstein5 Miracle as Gesture This leaves open the question of how we are to identify an event as a miracle, if this does not involve a causal analysis. &ne approach is to

thin! of a miracle as a #esture on the part of God. .n ;ulture and Ualue/34AN,I@e1, 0udwi# +itt#enstein writes, " miracle is, as it were, a #esture that God ma!es. "s a man sits quietly and then ma!es an impressive #esture, God lets the world run on smoothly and then accompanies the words of a saint by a symbolic occurrence, a #esture of nature. .t would be an instance if, when a saint has spo!en, the trees around him bowed, as if in reverence. .t is interestin# that +itt#enstein should spea! of a #esture as a symbolic occurrence. " human bodily movement becomes a #esture when it ta!es on a particular !ind of si#nificance. The si#nificance of a bow, for e'ample, lies in the fact that it is an e'pression of reverence or respect. Bein# able to identify a bendin# at the waist as a bow requires us to be familiar with the culture in which this particular bodily movement has the si#nificance that it does. 7evertheless, the question of whether someone has bowed is an ob ective one$ it is, we mi#ht say, a question about the facts. Thus the analo#y of a miracle to a #esture may #ive us a way to view miracles at once as si#ns, allowin# us to say that the character of a miracle lies, at least in part, in its si#nificance within what +itt#enstein would call a Cform of life,D and at the same time insist that the question of its si#nificance is an ob ective matter. .f a miracle is li!e a #esture in the way +itt#enstein thin!s it is, then supposin# that a miraculous event should occur, part of what ma!es it possible to identify that event as a miracle is an appreciation of its si#nificance. But a miracle does not ta!e on its si#nificance in a vacuumF the si#nificance of a miracle, li!e the si#nificance of a #esture, is dependent on a certain sort of conte't. This conte't is established, at least to some de#ree, by one*s view of the worldF whether one is able to identify an event as a miracle will depend on one*s ability to inte#rate it with a worldview in which the possibility of God*s actin# in nature is already ac!nowled#ed. %uch a limitation poses no problem for theolo#y #enerally, which mi#ht le#itimately re#ard such a view of thin#s as its startin# point. .t will, however, be fatal to any apolo#etic appeal that see!s to establish the credentials of theistic reli#ion by pointin# to the occurrence of a putative miracle and attemptin# to establish, on #rounds that are consistent with naturalism, that this event #ives compellin# evidence for the e'istence of God. -eter +inch has recently ta!en up +itt#enstein*s comparison of a miracle to a #esture, " certain disposition, or movement, of a human body can be called a

)#esture* only within a conte't where it is possible for it to be reco#nised and?or reacted to as a #estureV %uch a possibility depends, at least in lar#e part, on the rei#nin# culture within which the action occurs. /344@,=33, emphasis in the ori#inal1 +inch observes that our reco#nition of a #esture is typically immediate rather than inferred. Thus for e'ample, if we are introduced to someone and they bow, we would not normally arrive at the conclusion that they are bowin# by means of an inference, after first eliminatin# the possibility that their movement has a natural e'planationF on the contrary, if we are sufficiently familiar with bowin# as a cultural institution we will immediately reco#ni8e the character of their act. Furthermore, our reco#nition of the fact that they have bowed will typically be shown in our reaction to their #esture, e.#. in our bowin# in return. "nalo#ously, we e'press our reco#nition of a miracle not by loo!in# to see if it has any natural cause, but by respondin# in the manner characteristic of theistic reli#ionF with awe, perhaps, or with #ratitude for God*s beneficence. /This is the response of the mother in :olland*s miracle of the train.1 But, ust as our ability to reco#ni8e, and to react appropriately to, a bow depends on our bein# immersed in a particular culture, so mi#ht our ability to reco#ni8e a miracle and react to it in the characteristically reli#ious way. .f +inch is correct, then the s!eptic, who see!s to show that a putative miracle has a natural cause, is proceedin# in the wron# direction$ but then so is the theist who tries to show that the event cannot be e'plained scientifically. %uch a theist commits the same error as one would who thin!s that in order to show that a particular #esture is a bow, we must show that no physiolo#ical e'planation can be #iven for it. The mainstream theistic approach to miracles is, at the moment, one that would prefer to employ a method similar to that used in the natural sciences. -hilosophers ta!in# this approach are unli!ely to be satisfied with the conception of a miracle as a #esture. But if +inch is ri#ht, this is an indication of how deeply embedded science has become in modern western culture, and an indication as well of a drift away from the !ind of reli#ious culture in which the conception of a miracle ori#inally found its home.