Doubling down the Humean Argument against Miracles

Elizabeth Cornman, Keith Lehrer, and George Pappas wrote an introduction book to major philosophical problems. Among these problems is the problem of justifying the belief in God. I am pleased with their discussion on the characteristics of God; omnipotents, omniscients, and all-loving. I believe they wisely argue that these terms do not ultimately face any serious objections. Then I came to their discussion about miracles. It started out very promising. Here is a quote from the first page of section that gave me hope, “the strongest proof for the existence of God would be one based on someone’s experience of God. Let us, therefore, consider whether or not there are good reasons to think that someone has experienced God, because if there are, then we have excellent reason to believe that God exists.” (1) Here they have in mind both one’s personal experience and/or the testimony of a person who claims to have an experience with God.I believe that this quote is spot on. If we have good reason to believe someone has experience God or a miracle, then there is good reason to believe in God. Sadly, later they retract from this promising start by falling for the Humean trap. They conclude that no miracle can ever be believed because of testimony because there is a uniform experience of nature against miracles. There are plenty of problems with that line of thinking, but I do not wish to cover them now. Later, they double down on the Humean trap by arguing it applies for personal experiences as well,

“In the case of  miracles, however, there is a great deal of evidence against the claim a violation has occurred. Thus,  not only is there not sufficient reason to justify a claim that a violation-miracle occurred, but there is surely a question of whether one should trust one’s own testimony in the face of the overwhelming evidence against the violation he seems to have witnessed. In short, the reasonable conclusion is that what was experienced is the result of natural causes in spite of the way it may seem.” (1)

The only reason they could make such an audacious claim as one could not trust one’s own experience is that they did not give this topic a proper amount of reflection. Take for example, a woman who was born with only one arm. She prays day and night for fifteen years that she may have two arms. Then one night, as she does her routine prayers, she hears a voice say, “Your prayers and persistence have not gone unnoticed, you shall have two arms. And in that instance she watches a left arm grow out of her limb. She is so ecstatic she instantly goes to visits her friends and family who all inquire to how she has two arms now. In such a case, whether the friends and family have sufficient evidence to believe in God, surely the woman does. It would be absurd to assume that this was a normal course of nature and would in fact probably be irrational for her to believe so.

Now, I am going to briefly cover why there is not overwhelming evidence against miracles as the authors suppose. (This retracts my previous statement that I wouldn’t critique Hume’s argument) While it is true that most of us have no seen any laws of nature broken, that does mean we have evidence that the law of nature always holds, we simply have evidence that it holds most of the time. Now, a miracle, is by definition something that would happen only if some supreme being willed it. We can only rationally believe miracles never happen only if we presuppose that God could not exist or that the laws of nature hold 100% of the time. As long as there is possibility that God could exists, even if it lower than 10%, miracles if they occur do count as strong evidence for his existence. Since, there is no way to know or justifiably believe that God cannot exist or that the laws of nature always hold, there is no good a priori argument against miracles.

(1) Cornman, James W., Keith Lehrer, and George Sotiros Pappas. Philosophical Problems and Arguments: An Introduction. 4th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992. 205,216. Print.

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