Tony Powell Miracles: Opium of the people Inexplicable, sometimes mystifying, events in the world plague the intellect

with a desire for origin and reason. How is it possible to delineate and comprehend an event if there is no known way to explain its origin? Ignorance of nature around us is a perfectly resolute justification for the inexplicable, right? However does that notion definitively preclude the possibility of a non-naturalistic force as the cause? Many would say no. This issue has been the cause of pettifog and larger debate between theists and secular groups for many centuries. Legions attribute the unexplainable to divine intervention or a miracle. Others view the events as coincidence, or a harmony of smaller events creating a profound natural phenomenon. A miracle is classically defined by Hume as, “a transgression of a law of nature by a particular violation of the deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.” (Davies p.237) Most people use the term “miracle” colloquially as a reference to non religious events that are highly improbable but perfectly possible. Alternatively, it is commonly said that a miracle is a strange occurrence, but perfectly explicable with the laws of nature. The interpretation of the word miracle can be construed in many ways, as can most commonly used social expressions. This argument is a disagreement in semantics and needs no further attention as it does not critically address the heart of the matter. Namely, how can a miracle be proven? Three criterions must be met to unequivocally claim that a miracle can indeed be proven. Firstly, a demonstration must be made empirically proving the laws of nature have been broken, excluding all possible natural explanations. This is a difficult proposition, as

Mackie recognized, when he said, “For whatever tends to show that it would have been a violation of natural law tends for that very reason to make it most unlikely that it actually happened.” (Davies p251) A failure to exclude all natural explanations creates a fundamental issue in how science evolves, adapts, and advances over time. When the laws of nature-from our understanding-have been broken, a prudent person would not concede and discard all laws of nature. He or she would simply recognize the existence of previously unknown laws of nature. Hume would agree as he implicates that we can never revise our views concerning laws of nature in the light of observed exceptions to what we have taken to be laws. (Davies p.245) The human mind is a curious one; we seek reasonable explanations for occurrences to satiate the explanation of our wonderment. It is why magicians are so captivating and

entertaining. The allure of mystery and the unknown drives us to find reasonable explanations. To suppose that an inexplicable event should be intrinsically tied to an incorporeal being unjustly presupposes that we have exhausted all possible avenues of natural explanation, which is impossible. Human beings are constantly discovering new scientific ideas and laws. The universe is infinite, expanding, and full of possibilities. To claim that we have exhausted all naturalistic possibilities would be a statement in futility and arrogance. An infinite universe creates infinite possibilities. rule out all possibilities. Secondly, it must be proven without doubt that what occurred was supernatural in nature. Here, we fall into a different niche of naturalistic ignorance as a species. If an event is supernatural, then it transcends natural explanation. That is all. Supernatural action should not No matter how many possibilities are ruled out, one can never


appertain, by default, to a supernatural being. The reason of this falls back on our finite understanding of the universe and all naturalistic systems. How are we to know the difference between natural and supernatural if we are not cognizant of all actions and systems of this universe? We cannot. What we may interpret as a supernatural event may simply be an extraordinary, naturalistic occurrence which is in fact congenital with the universe. An illustration of such ignorance is found numerous times throughout our history. Slightly over two hundred years ago, static electricity became a popular new source for entertainment and supernatural mystery. Men would charge themselves with static electricity, hang on boards suspended in the air, and pull gold flakes in the air with the charge, making the flakes dance in the air. People were astounded, while some religious people cried heresy, as they believed mankind was meddling in God’s domain. This is a prime example of our lack of naturalistic knowledge leading to divine explanation of the indescribable. Supernatural ability should not also be limited to a deific being to which we ascribe the omnipotent ability. Assume for a moment that supernatural events (breaking natural law) are present in the universe. We could reasonably postulate that other life in an infinite universe, greater in complexity and ability than ourselves, might exist as well. With this possibility, how are we to claim that unnatural events are miracles and deserving of religious cause? Once again, our lack of empirical information of the universe prevents us from properly recognizing the origin of enigmatic events. Thirdly, it must be proven that the break in natural law was caused by the traditional theistic God. Setting aside for a moment the prior criterion, which must be met in order for the

third to even be considered, let us ponder how we would identify the acts of an omnipotent, omniscient, temporally free being. All living things on Earth are bound by time, physicality, and the laws of nature. We rightly adhere to this notion because we know no other form of reality; we are limited by experience and the spectrum of discovered natural science. If one were to witness a miracle, how would that person have the ability to recognize that which is unexplainable by the scope of our reality? By this rationale, perhaps, miracles are only visible to those who can also create miracles as well, which would exclude any being on this Earth. In this third area, another issue arises when attempting to attribute miracles to a deific being: omnipotence and omniscience. For if a being were all powerful, all good, and all knowing, it would follow that such a being would have no need for a break in naturalistic law to bring into order what should have already been. This sort of intervention implies imperfection, as a change was clearly needed from the original, intended course of action. God is timeless; we have all heard this colloquialism before. It means God is outside of time; his purview of space and time are complete, endless, and without fault. If God is timeless, then how can God change that which is directly associated with time? The universe and all elements in existence are strictly governed, dictated, and referenced by time. For God to physically intervene in a temporal universe, one could conclude that he must first put himself in a temporal state of being to enact such a change. To do this contradicts the temporally unbound property that God is. In addition to all of this, a moment of thought should be directed towards miracles performed by different Gods across several religions. Every religion seems to make claims of


miraculous events. If one religion’s claims are right, and that religion’s god exists, what is the explanation for all the other miracles in other religions? Miracles, by Hume’s definition, are enacted by an invisible agent. Therefore, intrinsic to miracles, we cannot ascertain the direct origin of a miracle. We are now faced with a dilemma. If we cannot pinpoint the source of a miracle and miracles are claimed to derive from different sources, then we must conclude that all possible sources exist, or none do. Occam’s razor states that the simplest explanation is often better than a more complex one. Would it be more simple to suppose there are multiple omnipotent, omniscient Gods governing our existence, or that there are no gods, and all miracles are simply unexplainable events at that particular junction in time. towards the latter. Miracles, in the sense of mystifying, divine events, do not exist. We should all agree on this statement. Rooting a belief system with an untenable, phantasmagorical idea creates a faulty lynchpin in classical theism. To claim miracles are from the hand or will of an unseen, allpowerful, and omniscient being commonly fails to address scientific oversight. Those who make these assertions attempt to demonstrate that laws of nature have been broken but cannot. All miracles fail under the glare of scientific scrutiny. Theists struggle to verify the break in natural law was caused by a theistic God with no proof. These claims, in the end, offer a simple, non-threatening, and comfortable way to view incidents in our lives. To paraphrase Karl Marx, miracles like religion are the opium of the people. Logic leans


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