Miracles: Philosophy Unit 3

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  • An empiricist and sceptic
  • Miracles are 'violations of the laws of nature'
  • There must be an explanation for a miracle occuring - more likely than the miracle occuring to start with
  • Miracles don't have many sane or educated witnesses 
  • religious believers may know that accounts of miracles are FALSE but continue to spread them because it is a 'good cause'
  • It is mainly among the backward nations that stories of miracles are spread - not as common anymorw
  • Almost all religions have miracle stories, yet they cannot all be right as they contradict and cancel each other out
  • A law of nature is is something that can be tested scientifically - we collect evidence and reach a concluson if the same outcome occurs each time. He says that these laws are unchanging once discovered. 

Humes Maxim - 

'No Testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish'

- A miracle is false unless the idea of the witness being wrong is more miraculous than the miracle itself, for example, the feeding of the 5,000

Humes Probability Argument -

  • There are laws of nature which appear to be unverying and universal, based on past experience
  • Sometimes there are reports of miracles happening which violate these laws of nature
  • Which is more likely; The law of nature is wrong or the reports about the violation of the laws of nature are incorrect?
  • Conclusion - it is more likely that the report of a miracle happening is false than a law of nature being violated. 

Why do miracles matter for religious believers?

  • Miracles support arguments for God's existance 
  • Miracles are signs of God's continuing activity in the world
  • Miracles how that prayers are answered
  • The miracles of ressurrection 
  • Miracles show that Jesus is from God
  • Miracles show God's providence 

Richard Swinburne:

  • Quantum Laws prove that the universe is probablistic - miracles do not violate laws
  • Humans have created these laws, this means that miracles could be thought of as being natural
  • 'Perhaps God can suspend natural laws on occassions'
  • If God is all loving he would want to interact with his creation and may do so through miracles
  • Miracles, in their very nature, have to be occasional - if they were regular life would be


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