Miracles and the Principle of Causality
|April 25, 2008||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
In a prior post EJ wrote: “I think natural intelligences are to be preferred above supernatural intelligences in design detection, for the simple reason that we have experience with the former, but not the latter.”
I replied: “Says who? You are repeating Hume’s error of circular reasoning. “Miracles do not happen because they are counter to universal experience.” In other words, “miracles do not happen because miracles do not happen.” That may satisfy you and Hume. Those who would like to have their conclusions demonstrated rather than assumed might not be as impressed.”
Then evo_materialist wrote: “BarryA, you may have experience with miracles. Alas, I do not, and neither has anybody I know in a way that’s not better explained naturally.”
Pace evo’s comment, I never said I personally have had experience with miracles. My comment is a matter of the application of logic to EJ’s (and Hume’s before him) position. In other words, my point is that Hume’s position fails on logical grounds, not because my experience is different from his.
Hume (and EJ and Evo) asserts a univeral principle of natural law, which Karl Popper calls ‘the principle of causality.’
This is what Karl Popper says about this principle in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (which, as far as I know, is the only scientific text with the force of law in the United States):
“The ‘principle of causality’ is the assertion that any event whatsoever can be causally explained – that it can be deductively predicted . . . If . . . ‘can’ is meant to signify that the world is governed by strict laws, that it is so constructed that every specific event is an instance of a universal regularity or law, then the assertion is admittedly synthetic. But in this case is not falsifiable . . . I shall, therefore, neither adopt nor reject the ‘principle of causality’; I shall be content simply to exclude it, as ‘metaphysical’, from the sphere of science.”
Hume and EJ and Evo think they are being “scientific” when they reject miracles a priori. But as Popper convincingly demonstrates, they are merely showing their metaphysical prejudices.
Moreover, the premise of Hume’s statement is incorrect. His premise is that the universal experince of the human race is that miracles do not occur. This is not true. Miracles have been reported and many people believe those miracles actually occurred. For example, a man reportedly rose from the dead outside the city of Jerusalem circa 33 AD. Of the 6.6 billion people on the earth, approximately 2 billion people believe this account.
My point is not to argue that Jesus actually rose from the dead (I personally believe that he did). My point is that Hume’s statement should be modifed to read: “In the universal experience of the human race miracles do not occur if one rejects a priori all of the accounts of miracles that we have.” Again, this argument is quite circular, because Hume assumed a priori the very conclusion he wished to demonstrate.
Again, while I personally believe that miracles occur, my personal belief is quite beside the point. My point is that those who assert that miracles do not occur usually believe they are speaking with the authority of science. Popper says not so. The statement “miracles do not occur” is just as metaphysical as the statement “miracles occur.”