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Miracles - Fact or Fiction?
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Philosophy and Believing in Miracles
David Hume presents an idea that states that an individual is never justified in believing in miracles. Hume says that miracles are violations of the laws of nature, which is hardly arguable, as by essence; that is exactly what a miracle is. If some sort of incident has taken place; that does not, by some nature of the event, suggest that the general understanding of natural laws has been violated; that event would be unlikely to be regarded as a miracle. For an event to be considered a miracle it must be miraculous to some degree for the event to have taken place; which would require that either some law of nature has been violated, or that there are laws that exist that are not yet understood, or that a miracle did in fact take place.
If I explore the idea that there may be laws at work in the world around us for which no understanding exists with in our world, I have at least, a good starting point for further exploration of those laws. I may be forced to assume that no observations can be made of them except for on the rare instances that they manifest in such a way that they can be observed. This does present a great difficulty to the prospect of further exploration, but does not give logical deduction of the occurrence of a miracle, nor does a natural law necessarily need be violated; only misunderstood, incomplete, or missing from our current list of known occurrences. Of course, some miracles don’t seem to properly fit into this category. On one hand, the parting of the Red Sea could be explained by some natural phenomenon that is not known about, but the story of the train engineer who passed out and as a result causes the train to stop just in time to avoid hitting a child stuck on the track ahead, would be much more difficult to find or imagine a law for. In this case the only logical options are to believe it was a coincidence, or a miracle. This is where I think Hume’s argument begins to weaken.
Hume’s idea that believing in miracles is contrary to logical thought because of the violation of natural laws miracles are attributed to, falls apart with the occurrence of astronomically improbable events or coincidences. If you are to believe that the event didn’t take place at all and was just fabricated, you could get by with saying a miracle is not logically believable, but suppose there were many witnesses, and a thorough investigation concluded that every aspect of the event happened as it was told. If you continue to deny that the event took place you are in fact engaged in illogical thought already, and there is no point in moving forward. So, in this case the logical conclusion is that the event did take place, now the question remains as to whether this event would be classified as a miracle or not.
Back to the story of the train engineer who has passed out and as a result has caused the train to stop just in time to avoid hitting a child stuck on the track ahead. Assume that all of the evidence shows that the child was riding in a toy car which became stuck on the tracks while crossing them and the child remained seated trying to get the car to move; unaware of an oncoming train. While at the same time a train moving quickly towards the child was just beyond a bend in the track preventing any view of the stuck toy car or the child, allowing no chance of stopping before hitting them once they come into view. Also, at this time a medical problem experienced by the train engineer causes him to become unconscious, thus releasing the throttle and causing the brakes to automatically be applied, which brings the train to a stop just before hitting the toy car with the child still seated in it. Also, at this time the child’s Mother steps outside and sees her child stuck on the track, and hears the train coming, but is too far away to do anything about it. Let’s also assume that there are several witnesses to all of this as it takes place. After all reports are in and there is overwhelming evidence that the events happened as stated, believing the events took place is the most logical conclusion, but what of the explanation for the event. The investigation shows that there is a rational cause for every thing that happened, but it can’t be explained why the events took place in such a way, as to spare an impending tragedy. When you consider all of the other moments in time that could have resulted in the engineer becoming unconscious due to a medical problem; why did it happen at this particular moment? If, you truly evaluate the probability, the likeliness of events unfolding as they did, are astronomical. I would conclude that there was a violation of the known laws of nature. Some may argue that all of the events were explained by logical causes, but just because the events have known causes the event as a whole is still left as an amazing coincidence, that seems to have had to be dictated by some higher power.
I could argue that the likeliness of our very existence constitutes just as astronomical of a figure or maybe more so, yet here we are. Again, we have a situation that seems very unlikely, yet has come to be, so there has either been a miraculous coincidence, or a miracle. So, we have reached a point of understanding that concludes that miraculous incidents do happen now we must define those incidents. In the case of our existence, I ask, what law of nature do you know that could bring about our existence? I have heard of none that could presumably produce the universe, and the Earth and our selves; certainly not with out an unimaginable number of coincidental incidents taking place. I’m not talking about one coincidence or two coincidences, but millions of coincidences. Consider, that each of these are reliant of all of the others, if even one of them were to have failed to happen as it did, our existence would not be possible.
No Ordinary Coincidence
This is no ordinary coincidence; our existence is no ordinary coincidence! If for no other reason, I argue that it is reasonable to believe in miracles, because I am able to believe in miracles. I am here, the universe is here, and the coincidence; if it was a coincidence at all; that allowed it is absolutely miraculous, and does violate the known laws of nature, and therefore is a miracle. In fact, it would be a miracle; if there were no miracles.