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Is It Reasonable to Believe in Miracles?

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Miracles

Should I believe in miracles? This question doesn’t pertain to whether I should believe in this miracle or that miracle. It has to do with whether I’m rationally justified in believing in miracles as such.

David Hume's Wisdom for the Wise

The eightenth-century Scottish skeptic philosopher David Hume argued the wise man should not believe in miracles. The basis for his assertion was what might be called the “repeatability principle”—evidence for what occurs over and over (the regular) always outweighs evidence for that which does not (the rare). Since miracles are rare and contradict our uniform experience, Hume argues the wise man ought never to believe in miracles.

While it’s true that a wise man should base his belief on the weight of evidence, it’s not true that evidence for uniform experience always outweighs evidence for what is singular and rare.

We know this for several reasons, but I’ll give you four.

Why Uniform Experience Doesn't Make Belief in Miracles Irrational

First, if Hume’s principle concerning uniform experience were correct, then we would have to deny many things we hold as true. For example, the Big Bang was a singular event that is unrepeatable. Have you experienced any Big Bangs lately? I would also venture to say you haven’t experienced anybody landing on the moon in recent times.

Now, if we hold to Hume’s principle, it would be irrational to believe the scientific account of the Big Bang and the historical fact that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, since these occurrences contradict our uniform experience. But this is absurd. The Big Bang is one of the most rigorously established theories in all of science, and all who are not obsessed with conspiracy theories hold Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon is a historical fact.

Moreover, Hume’s principle nullifies science itself. As an inductive discipline, science necessarily presupposes the possibility of discovering new things that may contradict uniform experience. Scientific laws are revised all the time based on new contrary evidence. But if Hume’s principle were correct, scientists would never have reasonable grounds to revise laws, and thus replacing the Newtonian view of the universe with Einstein’s view would have been irrational. No skeptic can hold this and still be seen as intellectually credible.

A third reason why Hume’s argument from uniform experience fails is that it sets the standard for authenticating a miracle too high. It views rarity as that which disqualifies rational belief, yet rarity is of the essence of a miracle. A miracle, by definition, is an unusual event, something contrary to the ordinary course of things. So, according to Hume’s view, every miracle is disqualified from the start, because every miracle is a rare event.

This is analogous to making a fifty-foot bar the qualifying height for a good high jumper, when no jumpers can even clear an eight-foot bar. It is simply unreasonable to set a standard so high that no one can ever reach it. If skeptics desire Christian beliefs to be subject to falsification, then they ought not set standards where Christian beliefs cannot be proven true.

A fourth critique of Hume’s argument is it commits the fallacy of special pleading, a fallacy in which one deliberately ignores aspects unfavorable to his point of view. Hume is basing his argument on his experience, or perhaps the experiences of those he knows. Perhaps there were people in Hume’s time, or even people of the past, whose common experience involved miracles. This is precisely the claim of the early Christians. While Hume is within his rights to speak authoritatively about his own experience, he cannot do so with regard to others. His own uniform experience cannot be used to exclude the testimony of another person’s experience.

The Improbable is Too High a Hurdle to Jump

A skeptic may not articulate his or her skepticism about miracles as does Hume but simply might express the inability to overcome the hurdle of accepting something so improbable. A skeptic might say, “The miracles in the Bible are just too far-fetched for me to believe—a man rising from the dead? Blind people seeing? You expect me to believe that?”

While I can sympathize with someone who has a healthy skepticism when it comes to improbable events, we can’t reject something outright simply because it’s improbable.

First, an event might be improbable when considered relative to our general background knowledge, but, relative to other specific knowledge or evidence, improbability can decrease.

For example, it’s highly improbable that the winning number for the California Lottery would be 6345789. If the newspaper, however, says this is the winning number, then the probability changes, making the odds for it being the winning number higher. Furthermore, if the news anchor broadcasts it as the winning number on the nightly news, then the odds for it being the winning number become even higher.

Similarly, miracles, like Jesus rising from the dead, are improbable relative to our background knowledge—men don’t usually rise from the dead. But the improbability decreases when it’s considered relative to specific evidence, namely, eyewitness testimonies. If the testimonies are sound, then belief is rational despite the event’s improbability.

A second response to help a skeptic overcome the high hurdle of a miracle’s improbability is Hume’s principle:

"[N]o testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the miracle be of such a kind, that its falsehood be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish." (David Hume, Of Miracles).

Many skeptics consider only how improbable a miracle is but hardly ever consider the improbability of a miracle not occurring despite the testimony.

Take for example the Resurrection of Jesus, to which the early Christians testified. Skeptics rightfully consider this event as improbable and are rational when they exercise caution concerning the testimonies of it. But very seldom do skeptics consider how improbable the alternative explanations are.

For example, it’s much more improbable that the early Christians stole the body and lied about the Resurrection only to gain death. People don’t die for what they know to be a lie. Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely the apostles would give simple, nondramatic accounts—not to mention giving women the role as first witnesses—if they were lying about the Resurrection.

Another improbable alternative to the literal Resurrection of Jesus is that the Christians hallucinated. It’s improbable because St. Paul records Jesus appearing to many different people on several different occasions as well as appearing to more than 500 disciples at the same time (see 1 Cor. 15:6)—occurrences not typical of hallucinations.

So, when facing the obstacle of improbability, the question should not be “Should I believe in miracles as such?” but “Is there sufficient evidence to believe this or that miracle?” If the evidence for a particular miracle is trustworthy—say, the resurrection of Jesus—then belief in that miracle would be reasonable, even though it’s an improbable event.

The wise man surely needs to exercise caution when confronted with accounts of the miraculous. But the wise man should also be open to following the evidence where it leads, no matter how extraordinary and improbable it is.

Karlo Broussard

Written by

After a three-year apprenticeship with Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J. PhD., nationally known author, speaker, philosopher, and theologian, Karlo works as a full time apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers giving lectures throughout the country on topics in Catholic apologetics, theology and philosophy. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is one of the most dynamic and enthusiastic Catholic speakers on the circuit today. He resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo's online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

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  • David

    No, of course not. What kind of stupid question is this?

  • Of course it depends on what one means by "miracle".

    "A miracle, by definition, is an unusual event, something contrary to the ordinary course of things."

    Is that really the definition of miracle we are discussing here? This seems to me to be a very low bar in terms of the theist/atheist discourse.

    This would include Donalt Trump's success and billions of other events being a miracle in the same way as the resurrection is a miracle?

    Is there not some supernatural element required for the existence of miracles as Catholics will understand the term?

    • Mike

      yes i think that a strict miracle is something that no one but God could have done in principle. so turn the Eiffel tower to cheese an alien could do or a crazy russian billionaire but block or suppress some natural feature of say fire or water, that only God could do. however that's just the strict defn. others are 'looser'.

      there's some great stuff on miracles towards the end of this post: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2014/05/miracles-id-and-classical-theism.html

      • I think your post draws out the difficulty with this concept. How can we know what only God can do?

        We might say that only God can resurrect a person, but that is not the actual evidence. The evidence if believed is that the tomb was empty and many people, up to 500 at a time saw someone they believed to be Jesus and one person even put his finger in a wound. Is the existence of a God the only thing that could explain such facts? Clearly not. But even those facts are not what we have today.

        What we have today is not those facts but ancient accounts of those facts. Is the existence of a God the only reasonable explanation for these accounts? Is it even a likely explanation for these accounts?

        I do not think so. Nor do i think the criteria advanced as saving the credibility of these accounts gets one to the best explanation of the accounts is that they all actually occurred and that a God caused them.

        • Mike

          the idea is just that not even in principle could a powerful super smart alien re animate a totally dead person and their body. so not even an alien could somehow block fire from burning a human person but still continue to burn the oxygen around that same person. so the idea is that there are some things that would require 'access' to the inner workings of reality. now this all assumes that it's not an illusion of fire or not a zombie body but actual fire and an actual person.

          is God the best explanation well obv if things happened that way then yes bc no one else could even in principle raise a totally dead bunch of chemical elements from the dead.

          now maybe like some lib christians say the whole thing was wish fulfillment...in which case as St. Paul said our faith is dead bc in that case there is no after life ergo ergo no point to any of this...beyond what point we randomly assign to it....imho bc i know you disagree about morality and purpose and afterlife etc.

          interestingly this is why animals don't go to heaven and have no morality here and can't sin.

          • I see no reason to conclude that aliens or humans could not have access to the inner workings of reality or that a god could.

            God is not the best explanation for anything I've encountered.

          • Mike

            well then we just have different definitions of alien human and god nothing more.

            our God sustains reality in every second withoutwhich everything would disappear instantly. remember that it is uncontroversial that the laws of physics could have been otherwise but are particular. if your alien can change the weak force he would cease being an alien imho.

          • It is very much controversial that "the laws of physics could have been otherwise". This assumes much. We can imagine them being otherwise, which means being otherwise is logically coherent, but that does not mean it is actually possible.

          • Mike

            that's not what i've heard from stephen m barr who although a catholic is no physics slouch. i can't remember where but i am sure i've heard other prominent scientists say the same thing.

          • Mike

            actually i see what you mean by actually possible. maybe that's what stephen barr means. just that on paper they could've been different bc there's no way to actually test that.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Yes, a supernatural element is required, but what does supernatural mean?

      To my way of thinking, a natural course of events is just the ordinary course of events, i.e. what usually happens. Therefore, a supernatural event is an extra-ordinary event, i.e. a surprising event. At least, that's what it means to me. What does supernatural mean to you?

      • Supernatural would mean in defiance of laws of nature. But ultimately I think like a "god" it is poorly defined by its proponents. I am not a proponent and I think supernatural is actually an incoherent concept. That's a long discussion.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I actually agree with you to a degree. While I think that "God" and "supernatural" are both terms that can be salvaged in very meaningful and coherent ways, they both carry such an accretion of misleading connotation that it may be easier to dispense with both terms altogether and find different ways of saying what we mean.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Donald Trump's success and billions of other events being a miracle in the same way as the resurrection is a miracle

      Surprise depends on your frame of reference. I would have considered Donald Trump's success to be (demonically) miraculous from the frame of reference that I had a year ago. However, given the greater appreciation for certain social trends in the US that I now have, it is no longer miraculous from my current frame of reference. A "true miracle", in my mind, would be surprising from every possible human frame of reference.

      • On that definition I think it is unreasonable to accept miracles occur, since I do not think any person could ever be confident they have awareness of what every possible human frame of reference is and cannot therefore assess whether it is surprising in this context.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I was proposing that as definition of what miracles are ontologically. Whether we can know, with absolute certainty, whether any given event is a miracle according to that definition is another matter. I don't think we know anything with absolute certainty. A reasonable certainty will have to do, whether we are talking about miracles or anything else.

          • sure. as I noted, I don't think we could be reasonable in accepting a miracle has occurred on you definition.

    • Mike

      a good summary of what the term means:

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10338a.htm

  • I would be very surprised if Hume would take the position that no one could ever be reasonable in denying the occurrence of rare events. Rather, I would expect he is describing a more narrow category of claims. Claims which are not rare but contemplated by the background knowledge, e.g. a four-leaf clover, being the world's tallest women.

    Rather, he is describing events which are contrary to all other empirical observation. e.g. resurrection, the sun dancing in the sky, a statue weeping. Such events are not simply rare and out of the ordinary course of things, but virtually impossible.

    Hume is correct to say when such extreme cases are advanced we need to weight the supernatural explanation of them versus possible natural occurrences.

    Let us take the example of a claim of virgin birth. This is not just something rare, but given what we know of biology, or even hundreds of years ago, from experience, we are confident to say that not only would conception without intercourse of insemination be rare and extraordinary, but virtually impossible. I say virtually because we cannot be certain being fallible humans. Our background knowledge here tells us that in every case a pregnancy needs insemination by human sperm.

    Compare that to our evidence, a claim by a pregnant woman that she got pregnant without insemination. This is not just a rare claim, but an totally contrary to all verified experience.

    The question is to we accept that she is saying this because it is true? Or how likely is that to other alternatives, like she is lying or she is insane, or she is mistaken?

    If we consider that we have enormous evidence of people lying, being mistaken, or insane, these explanations are much more likely than the one that is virtually impossible.

    Therefore, even on this lowest standard of proof of the "best explanation" the best explanation is not that she became pregnant by supernatural means, but that she is lying.

    The same goes for just about any miracle claim based on testimony, by definition a miracle, in this context, is something virtually impossible. If it is based on testimony, it is to be compared to something that is perhaps not even rare, humans being mistaken or lying. It will never be reasonable to believe the more unlikely explanation.

    • I agree that the virgin birth is not something one would believe based on the evidence. It is a miracle that requires faith rather than one that strengthens our faith. To put that in the same category as resurrection or the sun dancing in the sky is wrong. For both those events the alternative explanations basically make no sense.

      People have tried for the resurrection. Yet everything they come up with creates more questions that it answers. The sun dancing in the sky has so many eye witnesses that people most just ignore it and don't even try. Is that the rational thing to do? To ignore evidence or to latch onto any wild conspiracy theory? People talk about atheism as falsifiable but it isn't really.

      • David Nickol

        The sun dancing in the sky has so many eye witnesses that people most just ignore it and don't even try. Is that the rational thing to do?

        The one thing we know for a fact is that the sun did not dance in the sky. Some people who were present in Fatima described and experience they had of something happening to the sun. Other who were there saw nothing. Nobody who was not there observed the sun to be dancing in the sky. Even if you want to claim a miracle (and who knows?) it is that a large number of people had the same "vision" of the sun. The alternative, I suppose, is to claim the sun really did dance in the sky, and witnesses who were there and saw nothing unusual about the sun were miraculously caused to have a false vision of a stable, normal looking sun.

        If everyone present had seen the "miracle of the sun," and if observatories had recorded odd behavior of the sun, then I suppose it would be foolish to deny it happened. But when some eyewitnesses see a miracle, and others don't, you even have eyewitnesses who say it didn't happen. If I am standing next to somebody, and they say, "Look at the sun! It's dancing in the sky!" and I look at the sun and don't see anything unusual, I can very well maintain that the sun did not dance in the sky. One simply has to figure out why some eyewitnesses saw something, others saw nothing, and then decide what happened and why. But, to repeat myself, even if a miracle occurred, it was not the sun dancing in the sky. At most it was a collective "vision" given to many people present.

        • So your point is that it is hard to know how God did this miracle? I get that. I am not aware of any eye witnesses who saw nothing. I suppose with 70,000 people present people will say all sorts of things.

          • David Nickol

            See the article Fr. Stanley Jaki on the Fátima Miracle by Stacy Trasancos, who hasn't had a piece here for some time, but who is nevertheless listed as a main contributor to Strange Notions. She quotes Fr. Jaki"

            However, enough data are on hand to force one to recognize the meteorological nature of “the miracle of the sun” and to look askance at the phrase, “the sun danced over Fatima.” That the miracle was not solar, that it did not imply any “solar activity” in the scientific sense of that term, is indicated by the fact that nothing unusual was
            registered by observatories about the sun at that hour. . . .

            I was responding to your statement: "The sun dancing in the sky has so many eye witnesses that people most just ignore it and don't even try." My point was that the sun did not dance. Different people saw different things.

            My point is that if the sun really danced in the sky, it would be obvious to everyone who looked at the sun at that moment, and it could be claimed that those who disbelieved it were in denial. But it is clear that there was no objective movement of the sun. Fr. Jaki seems to believe there was a meteorological phenomenon and that it was miraculous in at least some sense. I don't know what happened. Maybe something miraculous did happen. I have not denied the possibility, and I am open to the possibility of miracles. But it is not obvious what happened, and it is simply incorrect to imply that people who doubt that the sun "danced" are denying an obvious reality.

            There is some cognitive dissonance among the believers who write here on Strange Notion. On the one hand, it is argued that God does not want to "force" anyone to believe in him, and therefore he never shows himself unequivocally, always leaving room for doubters to continue in their doubt. Otherwise he would be coercing belief. On the other hand, it is argued that there have been obvious miracles (like Fatima), or (according to some) the existence and presence of God is everywhere so obvious that those who don't see it are willfully blind. This does not compute. God cannot be both blindingly obvious and "hidden." He cannot appear so clearly that any sane person must acknowledge him and yet remain so hidden that there is always room for the skeptic to doubt.

            I am perhaps willing to admit to the possibility that there are people to whom God's presence is clear, but people who claim God's presence is so obvious that they wonder why others are so blind (and no doubt willfully blind) don't impress me as the kind of people to whom God's presence really would be obvious.

          • God does not force people to believe. Yet He does not leave us without evidence either. It is a choice. People who say the evidence is not there have chosen to interpret the data in a very skeptical way for whatever reason. If you want evidence you will find enough to meet any reasonable standard of proof. If you don't you won't find any. It is a choice. God is both obvious and hidden. It would be impossible for anyone but God but He does that on many fronts. Even with rapidly changing data in both science and history there has always been a lot to affirm faith yet enough room to doubt without being crazy.

          • Will

            Mass delusions are quite common, here is an interesting list:

            http://www.csicop.org/si/show/mass_delusions_and_hysterias_highlights_from_the_past_millennium

            Expectation bias explains Fatima, and the lack of a miracle is indicated by many eye witnesses who did not fall victim to expectation bias, not everyone is as susceptible to placebo

            http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/nocebo-mass-delusion/

            The apostles certain expected the resurrection of Jesus (expectation bias) but they also expected a general resurrection of the dead in their lifetime (I can back this up with a ton of verses from the Bible if you don't agree). Paul even says this from 1 Cor 15

            12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

            There was no resurrection of the dead, so Christ has not been raise. We are not being irrational or dishonest, we have excellent reason, even by Paul's words, to disbelieve you. Should we believe every Elvis sighting?

            http://www.newsweek.com/his-80th-birthday-revisiting-conspiracies-have-kept-elvis-presley-alive-297968

            When the number of Elvis sightings in and around the City of Ottawa became too great to ignore, Elvis enthusiasts – Earl McRae, Moe Atallah, and Ervin Budge, met over breakfast at the Newport Restaurant on April 1, 1989 and established The Elvis Sighting Society. All three, inspired by their love for Elvis (and a darn good breakfast), wanted a place where fans could gather and share their memories of the King and stories about Elvis sightings.

            http://elvissightingsociety.org/

            There is much more evidence to suggest Elvis is still alive (resurrection would be the only possible explanation as his death was well documented) than Jesus resurrected. If you don't believe Elvis is still alive, how can you believe Jesus rose from the dead? Tons of eyewitnesses for Elvis.

          • So what evidence would convince you? I can't imagine any. If 70,000 eye witnesses don't convince you then nothing will. That is OK. It is you choice. It is not the most rational choice but it is one you are free to make.

            You talk about expectation bias. Like just saying the words justifies dismissing any amount of eye witness testimony. Both groups did not expect what happened. The witnesses at Fatima were not told the sun was going to dance. Many of them were just curious. Many of them were strong skeptics. But you can imagine they were all crazy. Your choice.

            The disciples were not expecting the resurrection. Even after the it happened they had trouble believing it. Comparing it to Elvis sightings is not really a serious objection. Elvis was seen by a small percentage of fans who did not have a personal relationship with him. Jesus was seen by all of his closest associates. They saw Him up close for a long time and talked with Him at length. It is the sort of thing people could not be mistaken about. They are either lying or telling the truth but there is just no way they could be mistaken.

            You really think 1 Cor 15 is about Paul denying the resurrection? Strange.

          • Will

            The witnesses at Fatima were not told the sun was going to dance. Many of them were just curious. Many of them were strong skeptics. But you can imagine they were all crazy. Your choice.

            Some people reported seeing brilliant colors spin out of the sun in a psychedelic, pinwheel pattern, and thousands of others present didn't see anything unusual at all.

            http://www.livescience.com/29290-fatima-miracle.html

            I'm not calling anyone crazy, but thousands of people present didn't fall victim to expectation bias (remember not everyone is as susceptible). Expectation bias occurs in healthy minds. If the sun had actually done something unusual, everyone would have seen it, were the thousands that didn't blind? You have to cherry pick only positive evidence to support your claim, as including the negative undermines it.

            The disciples were not expecting the resurrection.

            Matthew 16

            21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

            Did Matthew make this passage up? If not, the disciples were expecting Jesus to rise. They were also grieving, and I'm sure Peter was upset for betraying Jesus. It's very common for loved ones to experience the dead, it can even happen to fans who are in denial (Elvis sightings are just one small part of this overall pattern):

            Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing. As a marker of how vivid such visions can seem, almost a third of the people reported that they spoke in response to their experiences. In other words, these weren’t just peripheral illusions: they could evoke the very essence of the deceased.

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ghost-stories-visits-from-the-deceased/

            Recently, the theologian Bart Ehrman presented a very controversial argument, in his book How Jesus Became God. I have not read the book, but in an interview published in the Boston Globe (April 20, 2014), Ehrman argued that the belief in Jesus’s resurrection may have been founded on visual hallucinations among Jesus’s bereaved and grief-stricken disciples. Ehrman speculated that, “…the disciples had some kind of visionary experiences…and that these…led them to conclude that Jesus was still alive.”

            Now, I am no position to support or refute Prof. Ehrman’s provocative hypothesis, but there is no question that after the death of a loved one (bereavement), visual hallucinations of the deceased are quite common. Sometimes, post-bereavement hallucinations may be part of a disordered grieving process, known variously as “pathological grief” or “complicated grief” — a condition my colleagues have been investigating for many years, and which had been proposed as a new diagnostic category in psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, the DSM-5. (Ultimately, a version of this syndrome was placed among disorders requiring “further study.”)

            Though visual hallucinations usually are reported by a single individual, there are reports of “mass hallucinations” following some traumatic events; in such contexts, clinicians often speak of “traumatic grief.” A report from Singapore General Hospital noted that, following the massive tsunami tragedy in Thailand (2004), there were many accounts of “ghost sightings” among survivors and rescuers who had lost loved ones. Some would-be rescuers were so frightened by these perceptions that they ceased their efforts. There may well be a cultural or religious contribution to the Thai experience, since many Thais believe that spirits can be put to rest only by relatives at the scene of the disaster.

            http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/05/13/hallucinations-of-loss-visions-of-grief/

            Let's say the resurrection did happen. Who saw Jesus alive first, they should have seen him in Galilee first because that's what Jesus said, according to Mark 14: 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
            Well, according to Mark, a mysterious man in w robe (and it doesn't say the man saw Jesus), Mark 16

            As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[a]

            Of course, Mark says the women didn't tell anyone, so did Peter and the disciples forget to go to Galilee? Let's see what Matthew says, chapter 28

            5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,[b] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

            So we go from a strange man, to an angel in the tomb, that's a big change in the story. What's the point of the angel when Jesus himself shows up right after. Why didn't Mark say anything about that? Seems awfully contrived to me. Both the man in Mark, and the angel in Matthew say he has gone to Galilee, but apparently they were both wrong, because Jesus was right there. Let's go to Luke 24:

            4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women[b] were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men[c] said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.[e]

            The Walk to Emmaus

            13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[f] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[g] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

            So we go from a man, to an angel, back to two men in cool cloths, and now we have the women NOT seeing Jesus, and actually telling the disciples what Mark said they DIDN'T tell the disciples, and now some character named Cleopas first seeing Jesus? So did Mary see Jesus first or did Cleopas? Let's see what Paul says, back to 1 Cor 15

            3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.[d] 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

            So first he appeared to Cephas, according to Paul, not Mary, or Cleopas and the other guy. No mention of anything related to the gospel accounts. We have 4 stories, and they are all radically different, and it's not 100% clear that Cephas was the same person as Peter. In other words, we have no idea who saw Jesus first, and will never know. That's a pretty big problem to me, not even counting the dramatic variation in the written reports. The Elvis sightings don't have these kinds of problems, because people actually interrogated the eyewitnesses, unlike what happened with Jesus.

            You really think 1 Cor 15 is about Paul denying the resurrection? Strange.

            No, Paul is addressing many at Corinth who deny the general resurrection of the dead. Paul is emphasizing the fact that Jesus was to be the "first fruits" or the beginning of the harvest, and all of the dead were to be resurrected very soon. I can back this up with 1 Thess 4

            15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.[j] 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

            This agrees with Mark 9:1, Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21 where Jesus promises to return, resurrect the dead, and set up God's kingdom within the generation of the apostles. Paul was to live to see the parousia.

            So what evidence would convince you? I can't imagine any.

            What evidence would convince you that Jesus isn't God and didn't resurrect from the dead? That works both ways, you know ;)

          • I don't have time to reply to all of this. I do want to make the point that every miracle will have a Joe Nickell. That is someone who tries to dismiss the miracle. There will always be people whose philosophical will keep them from seeing a miracle. The question is whether you want to be like that? Whether it is rational to be like that? If you are looking for an excuse to remain atheist then you will grab this with both hands. If you are looking for the truth you will be skeptical of claims of mass hysteria and hallucinations just like you are skeptical of miracles.

            BTW, Catholics are supposed to be skeptical of miracles. I am glad of that because many of the claims are quite sketchy.

          • Doug Shaver

            God does not force people to believe.

            In your judgment, if I believe something because I am confronted with incontrovertible evidence, am I being forced believe it?

  • A few comments on the specific examples being made here.

    "Similarly, miracles, like Jesus rising from the dead, are improbable
    relative to our background knowledge—men don’t usually rise from the
    dead. But the improbability decreases when it’s considered relative to
    specific evidence, namely, eyewitness testimonies. If the testimonies
    are sound, then belief is rational despite the event’s improbability."

    Firstly, it is not that men do not "usually" rise from the dead, our background knowledge says they never rise from the dead. This would be the first occasion. Moreover, our current scientific knowledge says this is impossible. Either this did not happen or our fundamental understanding of chemistry and biology are wrong. This makes the prior improbability just about as high as it can be without being a logical impossibility.

    We then compare this to the "soundness" of the so-called witness testimony. We find no reason to accept it is sound enough to overcome this prior improbability. Firstly it is not demonstrated that there is any witness testimony at all. We have accounts of the resurrection, but these accounts do not claim to be witness accounts directly and we know they cannot be speaking based on the author's own experience in many instances, for example, the nativity stories, the experiences at the tomb, Jesus' trials are things the authors would not have seen.

    Moreover, they are fraught with other problems. They are hearsay even if written by witnesses. We don't have any way to test their credibility, were they lying? Joking? Writing fiction? Mixing fact and fantasy?

    We know there are many similar accounts that purport to be written about the same events and no one accepts them as true, the apocryphal gospels.

    They are old, but they are not contemporaneous to the events described.

    These are all reasons to be very skeptical of these stories, even of the non-miraculous claims, but when it comes to events that are virtually impossible, we should assume the best explanation is a natural explanation, that the author is lying, writing fiction or mistaken.

    • The trouble with assuming "the author is lying, writing fiction or mistaken" is that the church that accepted was already founded on the testimony of the apostles. Was their story essentially the same as the one contained in the gospels? If not, you wonder why these accounts would have risen to such high esteem. Like you say, there were other accounts they rejected. Why accept these?

      If the apostles testimony and the gospel accounts are largely the same then you have 2 sets of witnesses. Yet if they don't agree and agree with St Paul then it is really hard to see how the church developed like it did.

      • David Nickol

        If the apostles testimony and the gospel accounts are largely the same then you have 2 sets of witnesses.

        Where do you find the apostles' testimony? There is no testimony from the apostles to compare against the Gospels. And first, there is very little about the apostles in the Gospels themselves. Second, outside the Gospels (i.e., in Acts of the Apostles) there is almost nothing about anyone other than Peter and Paul (and of course Paul was not a witness to the earthly ministry of Jesus). The majority of the apostles vanish from the story after the resurrection, and we do not have their memoirs. What stories there are about the the lives of the apostles who (perhaps) went on missionary journeys are not taken seriously by historians, and even if they were, none of them left written testimony.

        If Mark was the first to write a Gospel, it was sometime at least 30 years after the crucifixion. And it was not published and put in bookstores all over the middle east. The idea that people could have read the Gospels and checked with the apostles to verify the Gospel accounts is far fetched. Peter himself died in 64 A.D., before the Gospel of Mark was written.

        It's my personal assumption (which I cannot back up with documentation) that the Gospels we have now actually did reflect the life and ministry of Jesus more faithfully than much of what was lost and certainly more faithfully than later "lost" (and rediscovered) gospels. But since we have nothing to compare the four Gospels to, that's just an assumption. And of course since Matthew and Luke rely heavily on Mark, for the material all three share in common, we have only one source (Mark), not three.

        • So now the apostles didn't exist? Your story keeps changing. Now you have to explain why Christian tradition decided to make up these people. Pious fiction I suppose. People think that phrase can explain anything.

          Why would you suppose Mark wrote before Peter died? I tend to believe Peter was the source for much of that gospel. Why else would other writers trust it so much?

          It is not like there is nothing written about the apostles. Historians won't take it seriously because it was written by Christians and it does not fit their theory.

          • David Nickol

            So now the apostles didn't exist?

            Show me where I said the apostles didn't exist. There seems to me no reason to doubt the existence of the apostles. What I said was we know very little about them, even from Acts of the Apostles, and we don't have their "testimony."

            Why would you suppose Mark wrote before Peter died?

            Because the consensus date given for St. Peter's death is 64 A.D. and the consensus date for the writing of Mark is the late 60s.

            It is not like there is nothing written about the apostles.

            Can you provide me with any "testimony" from any of the apostles about the sayings and deeds of Jesus that is not in the New Testament? I was responding to your comment in which you suggested comparing the testimony of the apostles with the testimony of the Gospels. Where do we find the testimony of the apostles?

          • Because the consensus date given for St. Peter's death is 64 A.D. and the consensus date for the writing of Mark is the late 60s.

            Really? I am glad glad the date for Mark is moving earlier. It was not to long ago the consensus was in the second or third century. More evidence that the Christian story is right. I still think they are too late. Acts was written in the 60's. Certainly before the death of Peter and Paul. Luke was witten before Acts. Mark was written before Luke. It does line up.

            Still Mark could have written after Peter died and worked from written fragments Mark accessed after his death. Those could have made up part of the infamous Q. It is all interesting.

          • David Nickol

            I am glad glad the date for Mark is moving earlier. It was not to long ago the consensus was in the second or third century.

            Where do you get your information?

            The oldest "mainstream" books I can find in my own library were copyrighted in the 1960s, and they generally date Mark to somewhere between 65 to 75 A.D. I am going to go out on a limb (but a very solid one, I am sure) and say there was never a scholarly consensus that Mark was written in the second or third century.

            There is no point in discussing New Testament scholarship with people who don't do their homework and just talk off the tops of their heads. When you can quote something to back up your opinions, we can begin a discussion.

          • Darren

            David Nickol wrote,

            There is no point in discussing New Testament scholarship with people
            who don't do their homework and just talk off the tops of their heads.
            When you can quote something to back up your opinions, we can begin a
            discussion.

            Welcome to debating with Randy.

            For even more fun, quote Randy to himself and have him accuse you of "playing word games" (whatever that means, I never did get an explanation, and I tried for the better part of a year) before storming off.

            Good luck to you.

          • Doug Shaver

            I am going to go out on a limb (but a very solid one, I am sure) and say there was never a scholarly consensus that Mark was written in the second or third century.

            I was a Christian during the 1960s, and I've been trying to pay some attention to Bible scholarship ever since. I came to believe a few years ago that the canonical gospels are second-century documents, but as far as I'm aware, this has always been a minority view never even close to a consensus.

  • "For example, it’s much more improbable that the early
    Christians stole the body and lied about the Resurrection only to gain
    death. People don’t die for what they know to be a lie. Furthermore,
    it’s highly unlikely the apostles would give simple, nondramatic
    accounts—not to mention giving women the role as first witnesses—if they
    were lying about the Resurrection."

    As improbable as a someone surviving his own death? I utterly disagree. I have zero evidence of this ever occurring before, and science tells me it cannot happen. On the other hand I have lots of evidence of people stealing bodies and lying. I also do not think non-dramatic accounts of fantastical events are that uncommon or in giving prominence to women. These are much more probable than surviving one's own death.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Or perhaps the women found an empty tomb. Maybe it was the wrong tomb. As the Gospels develop, you notice an attempt at strengthening the evidence for a Resurrection. Adding guards, mentioning that the apostles didn't steal the body, adding witnesses etc

    • Lazarus

      I am always stunned by the gaping hole in the theist's logic on this topic.
      We don't need hordes of people to have seen, or believed. We don't even need a group.

      We. Need. One. Person. To. Be. Mistaken. Or. Have. Lied.
      One.

      All that remains then is for a Matthew, a Peter, a Paul, to be convincing, charismatic. One figure in authority, regardless of motive, can convince a group of a resurrection, of an empty tomb, of appearances. The very next group can accept this version with a clear conscience. They can die for what they believe.

      All you need is one.

      • Mike

        just one? hmm that would be a miracle in itself. sounds like a conspiracy theory to me.

        • David Nickol

          just one? hmm that would be a miracle in itself. sounds like a conspiracy theory to me.

          Then do various other world religions—Islam and Mormonism come immediately to mind—owe their existence to "miracles"? Remember how 900 followers of Jim Jones died because they believed in him? Heaven knows how many people believe in some of the most preposterous "private revelations" when the Church itself all but condemns them.

          • Mike

            no as far as i know islam and mormonism didn't have the miracles to back up their claims so that means that their success is based on lies? well not necessarily as islam is just a christian heresy and mormonism borrowed alot from christianity.

            i suppose that in the context of the gospels i think it's a bit of a conspiracy theory to posit that all it would have taken was for 1 person to lie for all of the facts to be accounted for.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            All religions have miracle claims.

            One of the best attested miracles in all profane history, is that which Tacitus reports of Vespasian, who cured a blind man in Alexandria, by means of his spittle, and a lame man by the mere touch of his foot....- David Hume

          • Will

            Jesus did the same thing, it was a magic spell back then

            Mark contains twenty accounts of miracles and healings, accounting for almost a third of the gospel and half the first ten chapters, more, proportionally, than in any other gospel.[34] In the gospels as a whole Jesus' miracles, prophecies, etc., are presented as evidence of God's rule, but Mark's descriptions of Jesus' healings are a partial exception to this, as his methods, using spittle to heal blindness (Mark 8:22–26) and magic formulae ("Talitha cumi," 5:41, "Ephphatha," 7:34), were those of a magician.[35][36] This is the charge the Jewish religious leaders bring against Jesus: they say he is performing exorcisms with the aid of an evil spirit (Mark 3:22) and calling up the spirit of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14).[35] "There was ... no period in the history of the [Roman] empire in which the magician was not considered an enemy of society," subject to penalties ranging from exile to death, says Classical scholar Ramsay MacMullen.[37] All the gospels defend Jesus against the charge, which, if true, it would contradict their ultimate claims for him.[38] The point of the Beelzebub incident in Mark (Mark 3:20–30) is to set forth Jesus' claims to be an instrument of God, not Satan.[38]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Mark

            22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people[d] brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?”

            Why did the God himself need a magic spell? Great Question!

          • Mike

            what are mormonism's miracle claims? did jsmith cure blind ppl?

            i don't deny that miracles can happen to all religions or none btw.

          • David Nickol

            The Catholic Church credits founders of (Catholic) religious orders with a miracle if the order survives 100 years. Mormonism was founded in 1830 and is now one of the fastest growing religions in the world. If Mormonism were a Catholic religious order, Joseph Smith would be credited with a miracle.

            Joseph Smith met a number of times with the Angel Moroni and translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates, surely of supernatural origin.

          • Mike

            weren't the plates a forgery or some kind of Egyptian hieroglyphs that he couldn't read?

            mormon miracles i don't know much about but apparently jsmith performed them so i wonder whether they were investigated and what came of them.

          • David Nickol

            . . . . so i wonder whether they were investigated and what came of them.

            Were the miracles of Jesus "investigated"? How often do the Gospels follow up on people who were healed by Jesus, or even raised from the dead, to see how they are doing a week, month, or year later?

          • Mike

            touche but still this was in the 1800s and the miracle of the sun and at lourdes was around the same time and it was examined thoroughly by hostile secular papers and doctors. plus wouldn't the romans have tried to expose the new sect as liars and fanatics and wouldn't the jews have done the same. so what did ppl at the time of jsmith say about his miracles?

            back in jc's time they accused him of sorcery not of lying or so the gospels say. but why didn't the jews of romans just issue edicts or tracts denying all the miracles and especially the resurrection? do you know if there are any sort of straight forward documents that deny all of it?

            ps reading the miracle accounts in the gospels can be very difficult for a modern like me, especially the one about someone appearing in a chariot out of nowhere! very strange and quite honestly seems like it was made up.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            See WD's response.

            Did Jesus cure blind people?

          • Mike

            apparently jc did.

            do you know if jsmith's miracles if any of them were public?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Apparently Jesus cured the blind. How do you know this?

          • Mike

            didn't he cure the blind man with his spit? John 9?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That's enough for you to believe it actually happened? A religious text says it did

          • Mike

            God no! there's also tradition, the other books of the bible, the magesterium, 2000 years of history, personal experience, logic, metaphysics and on and on.

            look i have no idea whether he cured a blind man but i am willing to believe it based on a whole patch work of things.

            just like most ppl do not believe atheism bc of whether or not it is right about miracles but bc it explains for them a whole patchwork of things it makes sense out of their lived experience and lines up with their morals.

          • David Nickol

            apparently jc did

            I know you are the religious one and I'm not, so this may seem strange, but it makes me uncomfortable to see Jesus referred to as "jc." I think if an atheist did it, the Christians would probably see it as disrespectful. Can't you just type Jesus?

          • Mike

            i hear you but sometimes saying Jesus makes me feel a bit uncomfortable too. i've seen too many ppl make fun of fire and brimstone protestants yelling "JESUS SAVES", too much of that anti-christian bias ;). sometimes i like to myself to just say the Christ or Christ or Y'shua of Nazareth or something more arcane sounding.

            anyway you're right i'll try to write Jesus.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks! Perhaps a simple J would do? Or even j (you apparently have an aversion to using the shift key).

            There was a recent episode of Brain Games that explored why many people, including complete nonbelievers, respond to symbols and the like. They tested a group of atheists and let them pass around two objects. One was a pen that they told them Einstein had used and the other was a sweater that they told them had belonged to mass-murderer Jeffrey Dahmer. They were impressed to hold the pen, but nobody was willing to put on Jeffrey Dahmer's sweater. It gave them the creeps to touch it. (It turned out it wasn't actually Dahmer's sweater.) If you don't believe in something that is at least a bit like the supernatural, the sweater of a (dead) mass murderer is just a sweater like any other sweater.

          • Will

            The miracles of Joseph Smith are at least as well attested as those of Jesus, if not better (people actually had access to the witnesses and much better records survive).

            According to a number of eye-witness accounts, Joseph Smith is credited with the miraculous healings of a large number of individuals.

            Oliver B. Huntington reported that, in the spring of 1831, Smith healed the lame arm of the wife of John Johnson of Hiram, Ohio.[2] This account is corroborated by the account of a Protestant minister who was present. However, he did not attribute the miraculous healing to the power of God.[3]

            Smith related an experience in which he said the Lord gave him the power to raise his father from his deathbed in October 1835.[4]

            Smith related another experience, occurring in December 1835, in which he said the Lord gave him the power to immediately heal Angeline Works when she lay dying, so sick that she could not recognize her friends and family.[5]

            In his personal journal, Wilford Woodruff recorded an event that occurred on July 22, 1839 in which he described Smith walking among a large number of Saints who had taken ill, immediately healing them all. Among those healed were Woodruff himself, Brigham Young, Elijah Fordham, and Joseph B. Noble. Woodruff also tells of how, just after these events occurred, a ferryman who was not a follower of Smith but who had heard of the miracles asked Smith to heal his children, who had come down with the same disease. Smith said that he did not have time to go to the ferryman's house, but he charged Woodruff to go and heal them. Woodruff reports that he went and did as Smith had told him to do and that the children were healed.[6]

            Smith related an experience in which, on July 23, 1839, he charged his brother Don Carlos and his cousin George A. Smith to go and heal about sixty people who were bedridden due to illness. According to his account, all of these people recovered.[7]

            J. Shamp and Margaret Shamp attested to a miracle they saw performed at the behest of Smith by writing the following:

            [Dated 19 May 1841]

            Be it known that on or about the first of December last, we, J. Shamp and Margaret Shamp, of the town of Batavia, Gennesee county, N.Y., had a daughter that had been deaf and dumb four and a half years, and was restored to her hearing, the time aforesaid, by the laying on of the hands of the Elders (Nathan R. Knight and Charles Thompson) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons, through the power of Almighty God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as believed and practiced by them in these last days.

            [Signed]

            J. SHAMP,

            M. SHAMP.[8]

            After apostatizing and denying that Smith was a prophet, Fanny Stenhouse recorded an experience in which she said she saw Smith miraculously heal an old woman who had been bedridden for years. In her account, Stenhouse avers that this was not a fake healing. However, she attributes it to an occultic or otherworldly power not directly associated with God.[9]

            Exorcisms[edit]

            On a number of occasions, Smith is credited with the casting out or warding off of evil spirits and demonic presences. One account attests that, upon visiting the house of Joseph Knight of Colesville, New York in April 1830, Smith cast Satan out of Knight's son Newel.[10]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_of_Joseph_Smith

          • Mike

            interesting so have these records been investigated? and does the church affirm them today as true, have they defended them?

        • Lazarus

          A conspiracy theory can indeed be started by one person.
          You have not dealt with my point though. One person's view, rightly or wrongly held, convincingly conveyed to a group hours or days after an alleged or perceived event, can start such a movement, such a theory.

          • Mike

            yes of course but i just don't see the 1 person theory accounting for all the facts. i mean maybe the romans wrote the gospels themselves, right. who knows maybe jc didn't even exist. i am not experienced in the history but the 1 person lied theory seems like the most outlandish i've heard.

          • Lazarus

            You still don't tell us why it's outlandish.

          • Mike

            bc there are at least 4 gospels?

          • Lazarus

            So? One guy gets it wrong. Others believe him. Why can't four, or forty people, write gospels?

            I am not saying my theory is right. I'm saying its a plausible theory that seems to get overlooked every time.

          • Mike

            well i know what you mean and i too think it's possible but by that standard maybe lots of things are possible.

            i guess what your saying is maybe conspiracy but whose? the romans? disgruntled zealot jews who so badly wanted the messiah to come that they stole the body and lied/hallucinated/metaphorized the appearances of jc alive and the miracles?

            i don't know, the history of christianity seems like the new sect was founded on more than lies, maybe wishful thinking very very strong wish full thinking but not lies.

          • Lazarus

            No, you mentioned a conspiracy. There need not be one at all.

          • Mike

            ok but if not conspiracy then evil or delusion as for a person to do that would make them either evil if they know they are lying or a crazy person aka d koresh.

            btw as you know there were other gospels.

          • Why not? Only one person needs to tell the story of the resurrection. If she can convince others, already followers of Jesus, that it happened, they begin believing in it too. After all, it allows them to proceed with their movement event though their leader was easily killed by the Romans. This results in numerous churches spreading over the years. We know this happens, it happened with Islam, and with Mormonism. Then Saul has an epileptic fit and believes he too has been visited. Being the zealot he already was, he goes around founding churches and trying to influence conformity. During this period many different accounts of Jesus and his life arise, there are many gospels not just those accepted by current Christians. Four of these Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, are similar enough in theology to be accepted as canonical. But each of these is equally capable of being understood as a different theological take on a similar story irrespective of whether the author witnessed the events, or based them on similar oral traditions, and as is clearly the case, often on earlier writings.

            This is all very plausible and fits very well within what we know from history of that time and place.

          • Mike

            ok hold on islam spread by the sword as moh was admittedly a military general and there is historical evidence of his military conquests.

            that aside islam is a christian heresy and they don't claim many miracles i've heard in fact they only say their koran is a miracle or that moh wrote it even though illiterate.

            and mormonism well their claims aren't as outlandish as Christianities early ones. jsmith healed a few ppl but nothing public or grand whereas the early christians bet everything on something 'impossible' a man rising from the dead and on raising others from the dead etc. it just seems crazy that they would let it all ride on a dead guy who was a nobody 'loser'.

            that's why ppl are attracted to the story of Christianity bc it seems so improbable that if it was made up it would work.

            there have been lots of failed 'prophets' why do some hang on while others dont? well of the 2 you mentioned we'd say that both get their strength from their closeness to christianity the original thing as both are basically sects / heresies of christ.

          • I don't know why things spread, I'm only saying we both agree that religions don't need to be true to spread. They just need to be persuasive.

          • Mike

            i agree except i'd add that they have to have some degree of truth and the more the better.

            and remember persuasion itself trades in at least some truth. islam whether true or not gives comfort to a billion poor ppl on earth.

          • I would agree that untruths can be comforting. I further agree that much of the events discussed in the New Testament are likely true.

            What I do not accept is the resurrection or the claims of deity involvement. I am convinced that these types of stories could have been spread and gained the followers if these claims were mistaken or made up in the initial telling.

          • Mike

            i know what you mean but what a strange story to makeup. about some nobody carpenter from a nowhere town. why pick him? why there?

            maybe they so badly wanted him to be alive again that they made up the resurrection after? maybe but it doesn't sound like that in the gospels.

          • I don't doubt the existence of the man or his profession or his origin in Nazareth. I think the addition of a birthplace in Bethlehem was added in to be able to say he fulfilled prophecy.

            I don't expect the gospel authors writing decades later made it up of whole cloth, the author of Mark and Matthew may very well have believed what they wrote was true. All that needed to happen is one followe says I saw he's alive. Give that a few years and you have stories like we find in Mark.

          • Mike

            ok so you believe that basically he existed lived was a carpenter was maybe even a preacher but then his followers made up the rest? so no miracles and obv no resurrection just a conspiracy?

            again what a strange and honestly weird person to choose. a guy who never performed any miracles did nothing supernatural and who was humiliated cursed by his own people rejected by them accused of being a wacko sorcerer and killed and buried by their occupiers, and who also preached some weird stuff? that's the person you build a cult around?

            doesn't that seem really weird to you?

          • They need not have made it up or there been a conspiracy. The authors of the gospel may very vell have believed these stories. The cult and stories of healing would plausibly have occurred at the time. I don't believe them any more than I would Peter Popoff or Yuri Geller.

            Stories of him surviving his death arise soon thereafter. These are vaguely picked up by Paul who writes about the resurrection, but makes no mention of an empty tomb etc.

            So they don't pick or make up this character. They have to deal with the one they have.

            It doesn't sound that weird, nowhere nearly as weird as the creator of the cosmos becoming human to be tortured to death to solve a problem he created. That we have immaterial souls which are actually just the shape of our bodies so that we need our actual bodies to be magically reformed. That a virgin got pregnant. That the bodies of the dead rose and walked around Jerusalem, and so on.

          • Mike

            i hear you. anyway thx for the exchange.

            and just fyi our souls aka the forms of us are NOT the shape of our bodies nor any ghost or immaterial substance but are the principle of rational animals.

          • That makes little sense, the principle of rational animals does is not something that would in any way require a bodily resurrection.

            What you say is also at odds with the hylomprphic metaphysics I've seen advanced by Catholics here.

            In any event this too seems less likely to me than some of the followers started circulation untrue stories about Jesus that some people came to believe and gained a following.

          • Doug Shaver

            there is historical evidence of his military conquests.

            I went looking for that evidence a few years ago and couldn't find any. Just a few stories told a few generations later, and the storytellers didn't mention any sources.

          • Mike

            i thought that the conquest of arabia and those cities i can't remember their names was a historically established fact.

            again i don't think i am saying anything controversial as i think muslims are proud that moh was a military leader and spiritual leader.

            anyway good to hear from you again doug.

            ps: maybe this is wrong i don't know: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_career_of_Muhammad

          • Doug Shaver

            There was obviously a conquest of some kind. In the early 7th century, there was no Muslim empire. By the end of the 8th century, there was one. What I couldn't find during my Internet search was references to primary sources regarding the beginning of the conquest or the origin of the conquerors' religion.

            I assume that the books referenced by your Wikipedia article represent the current consensus of professional historians. I would be very interested in finding out what sources their authors relied on, but until I do, I have no opinion as to what kind of evidence the professional consensus is based on.

          • Mike

            i hear you.

            it's also my impression that islam does not find it controversial that moh was in fact a military leader. iow it's not some smear to them. he also apparently had many wives but that too is i think for them uncontroversial.

          • Doug Shaver

            it's also my impression that islam does not find it controversial that moh was in fact a military leader. iow it's not some smear to them. he also apparently had many wives but that too is i think for them uncontroversial.

            Correct. It's like the way Christians feel about King David.

          • Mike

            i suppose but i don't know much about him besides that he wrote alot of the psalms apparently and was a bit of a crazy man.

          • Doug Shaver

            Correction: It was disingenuous of me to say I have no opinion. I have a suspicion, which is a kind of opinion. But I have not done the kind of research necessary to present an effective defense of that opinion. I would be glad to hear from anyone who has done that research and reached a different opinion.

      • Will

        All that remains then is for a Matthew, a Peter, a Paul, to be convincing, charismatic. One figure in authority, regardless of motive, can convince a group of a resurrection, of an empty tomb, of appearances. The very next group can accept this version with a clear conscience. They can die for what they believe.

        I know I don't have to tell you this because of your profession, but this is why sourcing information is so important (and the average person is almost never concerned with the original source). Paul says 500 saw the resurrected Jesus? Where did Paul here that from? Where did that person here it from? If we can't get to the original source, the claim is nothing short of hearsay and has no credibility. I use this type of sourcing for every important claim, and it serves me well. It seems irresponsible, at least to me, to abandon such a rule for something I want to believe, and it would be nice to believe in an afterlife.
        If Christians presented Paul's claim as 500 eyewitnesses, they'd get kicked out of the courtroom, wouldn't they?

        • Lazarus

          Yes, that type of "evidence" is practically worthless. I cannot say, and am not saying, that Paul was lying, but as evidence his statement falls apart with the first critical weight placed on it.

          • Rob Abney

            Why was his testimony/evidence accepted at the time if it falls apart so easily?

          • David Nickol

            Why was his testimony/evidence accepted at the time if it falls apart so easily?

            Why does any movement gain followers? Why did over 900 people follow Jim Jones to Jonestown, Guyana, and die from "drinking the Kool-Ade"? Why do so many Catholics believe in Medjugorje and other even downright nutty "visionaries"? There are still people buying the Locutions to the World books on Amazon and giving them 5-star reviews when the whole enterprise crashed and burned in September 2015 with wild predictions that did not come true, whereupon the "locutions" stopped and the website was abandoned. If you think Islam is false, how do you explain its spectacular success?

            Ask yourself how Paul knew that Jesus appeared to a crowd of 500. Does he say? Was he there? Did somebody tell him? If somebody told him, who was it and how did he or she know? In what manner did Jesus allegedly appear? As a flesh-and-blood individual, or as a light in the sky or a figure in the fog?

            Now, I suppose it is possible that Paul was reminding people of an incident that they already had good reason to believe. It might have been quite reasonable for such people to accept a reminder. But Paul's testimony as we have it today can, for us, in no way be said to be "evidence." Of course, if you believe the Bible is inspired and inerrant, you will accept Paul's statement at something like face value. However, that is quite different from believing it because it is historical evidence. At best, it is historical evidence that some people believed Jesus made appearances after his death. But it is not historical evidence that their beliefs were true.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm asking why did so many people accept his testimony as true, because many people obviously did. I'm not asking for the evidence that someone 2000 years later can gather but why did those contemporary to him accepted it.

          • David Nickol

            I'm asking why did so many people accept his testimony as true, because many people obviously did.

            Why do so many people—including so many Evangelical Christians—believe what Donald Trump says?

            Why do people believe Obama was not born in the United States or that he is not a Christian?

            Why do people believe that the Bush administration arranged for 9/11 to happen?

            Why did so many people trust Bernie Madoff with so much money?

            What about Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science? From Wikipedia:

            Eddy and 26 followers were granted a charter in 1879 to found the Church of Christ, Scientist, and in 1894 the Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, was built in Boston, Massachusetts. Christian Science became the fastest growing religion in the United States, with nearly 270,000 members by 1936, a figure that had declined by 1990 to just over 100,000. The church is known for its newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, which won seven Pulitzer Prizes between 1950 and 2002, and for its Reading Rooms, which are open to the public in around 1,200 cities.

            Do you really think that because a lot of people believe something, it must be true?

          • Rob Abney

            No, I'm simply asking very specifically why did Paul's followers believe? The answer is only speculation but we know they did believe. It's likely that their belief is as well founded as beliefs that you hold or even more well founded since their knowledge was entirely person to person.

          • Lazarus

            There could be several reasons, but before we get there, we need to be reminded that the Christian community at that time was very small. His evidence was not accepted widely at all.

            As to those that accepted it, we should look to gullibility, Paul's charismatic personality, an inability to check the truth of his allegations, and other possible reasons and combinations.

            In fairness we should add to our list of possibilities the possibility that Paul was telling the truth, and that this was what attracted some people.

          • David Nickol

            There could be several reasons, but before we get there, we need to be reminded that the Christian community at that time was very small. His evidence was not accepted widely at all.

            You make an important point. We might turn things around and ask why early Christianity had so few adherents and why so shortly after his death, the only people Jesus had targeted for his mission (the Jews) became an ever dwindling minority in the Jesus movement.

            One gets the impression from the Gospels that Jesus was a major figure of his time, amazingly famous and beloved by the masses, and hated by a small number of the powerful. Yet the people whom Jesus preached to personally and worked miracles for—sometimes in groups of thousands—for the most part did not become his followers. ("He came unto his own, and his own received him not.")

            What makes this particularly remarkable is that the Jews, who were the target of Jesus's earthly ministry, according to Christianity, had been prepared by God to receive Jesus from the very dawn of the human race. According to must Christians, main purpose of Hebrew Scripture was to prepare the Jews for the coming of Jesus. Yet the Jews who allegedly saw his miracles and flocked to see him by the thousands did not accept him.

          • Lazarus

            On that topic, it has always bothered me that Jesus could have had the Jewish people, of all factions, in the palm of his hand by, immediately after the resurrection, walking down to the Sanhedrin and/or the Roman authorities, saying something like "So, where were we..."

            The rest of the gospels could have read pretty much the same. Some appearances, Ascension and so on. Jewish people of old had clear signs, from burning bushes, parting seas, rivers of blood, pillars of light ... but these poor guys get what? The whispering of a few outcasts. Seems unfair.

          • Rob Abney

            What courtroom presentation would you use to prove that Paul's audience was gullible? Or that Paul used special charismatic powers?
            When you were a believer did gullibility or charisma play a role in convincing you?

          • Lazarus

            Please note that I used that as an example of a possible explanation.

            People can be gullible, that is a simple everyday observation. Paul was speaking to an audience that wanted to listen to him. They may have wanted to believe. They may have been less skeptical than what we are nowadays. We also don't know whether those listeners really accepted Paul's words, or for how long. If they did accept the 500 witnesses story simply on a stranger's say-so then they would arguably be acting less prudently than most reasonable people would. Gullibility could be a very reasonable explanation for such conduct.

            Gullibility and/or charisma played no role in my own conversion. I however saw it work a charm around me for years, with people converting for the strangest reasons, or because Father X was such a nice man.

            But the Christian has a much stronger argument when it comes to Paul. No-one is using it ;)

  • "People don’t die for what they know to be a lie."

    Yes, I think they do. People would die for something they know is not true if they believe they could achieve some greater by dying.

    Though fiction, Sydney Carton's dying for something he knew was false, is not implausible at all. We have many examples of false confessions even to capital crimes.

    But all of that is besides the point there is no evidence that anyone ever died for declining to admit the resurrection was false. People could have easily stolen the body for all kinds of reasons. Or the burial and empty tomb could and likely are fabrications. The idea that Jesus, a common carpenter would be allowed to be taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb before his body rotted, is contrary to all we know about what the Romans allowed to happened to those crucified.

    • Rudy R

      Add Joseph Smith to the list. The founder of Mormonism, by all measure, invented the religion out of whole cloth and died defending his religion.

      • Mike

        you'd kill yourself for a lie if you were crazy but jsmith believed he was telling the truth.

        so maybe the apostles who were martyred were crazy? maybe jc never rose from the dead but they so badly wanted him to that they went mad?

        • Rudy R

          you'd kill yourself for a lie if you were crazy

          You could also kill yourself for a lie for other reasons that don't include phsychosis.

          jsmith believed he was telling the truth.

          You know this how? Because he said so? How do you know he wasn't lying?

          • Mike

            why would a person put them selves at risk for a lie if they weren't a bit crazy? only i guess if the lie was in some way going to bring about a good but to believe that you'd kinda have to be a bit loopy no?

            just guessing that he believed he was telling the truth as why else go through with it. bob jones also i would think thought he was telling the truth. d. koresh also thought he was telling the truth or else he was mad.

      • Jim the Scott

        >Add Joseph Smith to the list. The founder of Mormonism, by all measure, invented the religion out of whole cloth and died defending his religion.

        Rather he died defending his own life. An anti-Mormon Mob came for him and he fought back and shot at least one or two men dead.

        You need a better example.

        • David Nickol

          Rather he died defending his own life. An anti-Mormon Mob came for him
          and he fought back and shot at least one or two men dead.

          According to Wikipedia:

          On June 27, 1844, an armed mob with blackened faces stormed Carthage Jail where Joseph and Hyrum were being held. Hyrum, who was trying to secure the door, was killed instantly with a shot to the face. Smith fired a pepper-box pistol that a friend had lent him for self-defense, then sprang for the window. He was shot multiple times before falling out the window, crying, "Oh Lord my God!" He died shortly after hitting the ground, but was shot several times more before the mob dispersed. Five men were later tried for his murder, but all were acquitted.

          Surely Smith had a right to self-defense. He was murdered. Smith is considered a martyr by Mormons, and whatever your opinion of Mormonism, it seems difficult to me to argue that he was not a martyr. Wikipedia says nothing about Smith shooting two men dead, but even if he did, they were trying to kill him. Those who opposed him considered him a fanatic and a scoundrel, but even if they were right, you can't fault him for defending himself from a band of murderers.

          • Jim the Scott

            Way to miss the point David.
            Smith's right too self-defense is not at issue it's the idea "Why would you willingly die for something you knew to be nonsense?" Christian meme. Such as if hypothetically either Peter or Paul knew where the Body of Jesus was hidden why would (in the case of Peter) they go peacefully to a very painful death rather then spill the beans and spare themselves?
            You can try to come up with what you might think are examples of people actually doing that, knock yourself out, but specifically Joseph Smith is not one of those examples and can't be by any rational standard. That is my point.
            Smith didn't die willingly to bare witness to Mormonism. He didn't go gentile into that good night. He tried and failed to shoot his way out.
            Smith is only a Martyr in the equivocal sense the mob killed him for what he was preaching. But he is as comparable to classic martyrs as a Muslim who blows himself up is a "martyr".
            Smith is a bad example. Accept it.

          • David Nickol

            It was not my intention to defend the idea that Joseph Smith died for something he knew to be false. I can only imagine almost anyone who has ever been persecuted for a cause (the way the Mormons were, even long after the death of Joseph Smith) in some way or another believed in what they suffered for. I reject the idea that any of the early Christians willingly suffered persecution or went to their deaths knowing Christianity was false.

            Smith didn't die willingly to bare witness to Mormonism.

            I agree. But your comments made it sound like dying for a cause required willingly embracing death. I disagree. Soldiers who die in battle for their country don't throw down their arms at the sight of the enemy and ask to be shot. Martin Luther King would no doubt have avoided an assassin's bullet if he could have. Christians who attend a church that gets blown up with them inside, though they might never have dreamed such a thing was going to happen, still die for being Christians.

          • Jim the Scott

            But if hypothetically the physicists who ran the CERN experiments knowingly falsified their data about the Higgs Boson would they likely maintain their falsehood still being true after a round of water boarding, electricity threw their joy parts and being made to watch BARNEY AND FRIENDS for a hundred hours without a break ?

            That is the point of this argument. I leave it to others to defend or come up with a more credible polemical example then Joseph Smith.

            Cheers. Have a good weekend.

          • David Nickol

            As I said, I don't believe the early Christians who were persecuted and martyred secretly believed Christianity was a fraud and suffered or died for some inexplicable reason to give credence to something they did not really believe in.

            However, I also don't believe the Christian argument that Christianity must be true because some people willingly suffered and/or died rather than abandon it.

          • Jim the Scott

            >However, I also don't believe the Christian argument that Christianity must be true because some people willingly suffered and/or died rather than abandon it.

            I don't think anyone has ever made that argument. The only version f this argument I am familiar with in apologetics is in regards to immediate disciples of Jesus who had immediate knowledge of him.

            Cheers.

  • David Nickol

    For example, it’s highly improbable that the winning number for the California Lottery would be 6345789. If the newspaper, however, says this is the winning number, then the probability changes, making the odds for it being the winning number higher. Furthermore, if the news anchor broadcasts it as the winning number on the nightly news, then the odds for it being the winning number become even higher.

    This is a very bizarre view of probabilities.

    It appears that the California Lottery is SuperLotto Plus, and the instructions are: Pick five lucky numbers from 1 to 47 and one MEGA number from 1 to 27 on a SuperLotto Plus playslip. The odds of 6345789 being the winning "number" are zero, since it is a 7-digit number, not a set of five numbers 47 or under and a MEGA number 27 or under. The odds of guessing all six of the winning numbers in advance are one in 47 X 46 X 45 X 44 X 43 X 27 (or 1 in 4,969,962,360). However, once the appropriate California authority selects the winning numbers, probabilities enter into the situation not at all. Television or newspaper reports of the winning numbers don't change any odds at all! Nor does it make any sense to marvel that the most recent winning numbers (22 24 31 34 36 3) were chosen because the odds against that choice were astronomical.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I don't think Karlo's remarks are problematic

      The probability that a particular number is the winning number, conditional on the appropriate authorities having selected it, is one.

      The probability that a particular number is the winning number, conditional on the news media having reported that the appropriate authorities selected that number is some value close to, but not equal to one (proximity to one depending on how much one trusts that particular news service.)

      • David Nickol

        I don't think Karlo's remarks are problematic

        This shows the power of exegesis. You can take any text that is wrong and interpret in such a way as to claim it is right.

      • You are using the word probability with two different meanings. One is the mathematical definition of probability, namely the fractional concentration of an element in a logical set. The selected winning
        number is one in a set of one. Its probability is one. The second definition of probability is a quality, expressing the lack of certitude of an individual in the truth of a statement. It identifies the statement as that individual’s personal opinion. Your example of the second definition of probability indicates that the individual’s personal opinion is dependent upon a quality, namely his trust in a news service.

        The OP suffers severely from a lack of definition in its use of the
        word, probability.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          You are right about what I am doing, but this is the essence of what probability "means" in the now dominant Bayesian paradigm. In this paradigm, probability is understood as a "measure of uncertainty", and "uncertainty" is interpreted broadly to include both inferential uncertainty about conceptually fixed states of nature (these states being represented mathematically as parameters, e.g. the true probability of getting "heads" on a coin flip), and predictive uncertainty arising from expected variation in future data (for example, one would have predictive uncertainty as to the outcome of a future coin flip, even if the probability of heads -- the "state of nature" -- were known exactly). Though it is not obvious that these two ostensibly different concepts can be appropriately combined into a single slurry of uncertainty, there are very strong (though not universally agreed upon) philosophical reasons for doing so, as well as many very practical reasons for the applied statistician to do so.

          Now, you could shun all of this and stick to the frequentist paradigm, in which probability distributions are used only to characterize uncertainty that is associated with variation that is (in theory) observable, i.e. variation in future data. In practice however, the consumers of statistical analyses generally interpret frequentist measure of inferential uncertainty as probabilities, unless a truly acrobatic act of consulting has compelled them to do otherwise. So, at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat of effectively using probability to describe inferential uncertainty even once the data are "completely observed".

          It is good to maintain the conceptual distinction between variability and uncertainty, but it is also good to recognize that there is a deep, almost mysterious connection between the two concepts. On the one hand, variability is what gives rise to our uncertainty. On the other hand, it is our uncertainty, or lack of knowledge, that results in our perception of "variability" where there may only be unseen complexity. Because of this deep connection, it is not crazy to do what most Bayesian statisticians do and use one mathematical formalism to reflect both concepts.

          EDIT TO ADD: Not only is Karlo's and my conception of probability consistent with the Bayesian paradigm, it is also perfectly consistent with colloquial usage, wherein it is possible to say things like, "I think the probability of heads on the next flip of this coin is 1/2" even though the cardinality of the set of "next flips of this coin" is one. Since his usage is consistent with the colloquial, I don't think there was any need to more rigorously define what he meant.

          • I have absolutely no objection to statistics, which is a
            convention for quantifying human certitude among measurements or for determining a prudent choice based on Bayesian data.

            In contrast, mathematical probability is the fractional
            concentration of an element in a logical set and as such has nothing to do with human certitude or material data.

            The use of jargon referring to dice or playing cards as
            examples does not change the mathematical relationships characteristic of defined sets. Material simulations of mathematical probability are analogies of static, abstract relationships. If I define a set as all of the combinations of
            the sum of two integers, each from a set one to six, the probability of two is 1/36, because I have defined a set of thirty-six different elements one of which is two. I may attempt to simulate this set by rolling a pair of dice, but the results of such a simulation cannot change the definition.

            It is a serious error to mistake a convention agreed upon
            for its utility for an abstract definition within the mathematics of sets. It is also a serious error to think that mathematical probability, in which the IDs of elements are purely nominal, refers to the natures of the material entities, whose names are used as nominal IDs. The probability relationships of a set of two snowflakes and a giraffe are identical to those of two watermelons and a carbon atom.

            Recognizing the definition of mathematical probability within
            the mathematics of sets is not adopting a frequentist view in statistics. Statistics is another subject.

            For an example of confusing human opinion with mathematical probability see https://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/the-toss-of-a-coin-and-quantum-mechanics/.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To be more precise, probability is a type of measure (in the technical mathematical sense of the word) defined on a measure space. Strictly speaking, measures take sets, not elements of sets, as their arguments (though a set can of course be a singleton).

            Material simulations of mathematical probability are analogies of static, abstract relationships.

            That's an interesting view. So, if I understand correctly, you think "real probability" is a mathematical abstraction, which is only known analogically through rolls of the dice, etc? That's awfully Platonic :-) I would phrase it the other way round and say that probability is the mathematical formalization of a natural metaphor system that we all use. For example, if I say, "the probability of rain tomorrow is 1/6", I am implicitly using the simile: "My degree of certainty that it will rain tomorrow is like my degree of certainty that I will roll a '1' with a (conceptually) fair die". What is "real" is my uncertainty. The mathematical formalization of my uncertainty is just a model / metaphor. We do need to keep straight the difference between our models and the realities that they represent, but (per your linked blog) it seems like you don't want to allow any meaningful relationship between the model and the reality. What is the use of the model, in that case?

            In any case, since Karlo was referring to the probability of winning the lottery, I think it should be clear that he was not making a statement of abstract mathematics.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think the problem with Karlo's remarks is that it is a very bad analogy. Let's say that the probability of a set of numbers winning is 1/100,000. Very small chance that an particular set of numbers will be a winner. However, we know that one of the 100,000 sets will be a winner. We also know that thousands of people will play. The more people that play the more likely that at least one of them will be a winner. If 1,000,000 people played the lottery, we would expect that 10 of them will win. The fact that someone wins the lottery is not unexpected. The fact that a particular set of numbers wins is not unexpexted either, because the probability that one of the 100,000 sets of numbers wins is 1.

            This is not the case with miracles. In the case of the lottery, we know that a "rare" event will happen. The fact that some rare events happen does not mean that we are justified in believing that all rare events happen or that something with a near zero probability will happen. That's a logical fallacy.

            In the miracle case there are at least three explanations everytime. Someone is mistaken. Someone is lying. A rare coincidence happened. The first two are excellent explanations. If miracles are super rare events, the third explains them perfectly. Say Mr. Smith loses his job on Friday and heads to the local tavern. There meets someone who needs a person of Mr Smith's qualifications at his company. Is this a miracle or is this just a rare coincidence made likely by the fact that there are thousands of Mr Smiths looking for jobs and meeting people?

            Here's the problem as I see it. Atheists can ground our belief that miracles do not happen. We can also quite effectively attack Christian miracle claims. SN seems to take refuge in the fact that atheists cannot disprove miracles. So what? Atheists can ground their belief in the non-existence of miracles. What SN should try to do instead of taking refuge in the fact that atheists cannot disprove things is provide justification for Catholic beliefs.

            Suppose a person has cancer. They have $20,000. They can spend it on medical care or they can fly to a shrine reputed for miraculous happenings. What should they do? Suppose money isn't the issue, but rather time. Should the person spend their last weeks visiting shrines or with their friends and family?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Atheists can ground their belief in the non-existence of miracles.

            You can do that, of course. However, does that not entail, or at least flirt with, an anti-empirical attitude ("I know things always work this way, because things have always worked this way, therefore I won't keep looking for exceptions to the rule.")? That's an awfully high price to pay for the conceptual tidyness of a non-miraculous world. Still, you can do it. I just don't see why you would.

            Your question about the dying person is a good one, a way to keep this conversation real. I think it would be foolish to rely on the occurrence of a miracle, because miracles are, by definition, unpredictable. Therefore, if you have a course of action that is known to have some degree of reliability, then you go with that. In the absence of any such course of action, I would counsel that the person do whatever he feels will put him most in touch with God, whether that is spending time with friends and family, or going to a shrine, or skydiving, or whatever.

            I don't think the point of the OP was to provide reasons for belief. The point was simply to remove potential conceptual obstacles to belief.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You can do that, of course. However, does that not entail, or at
            least flirt with, an anti-empirical attitude ("I know things always work
            this way, because things have always worked this way, therefore I won't
            keep looking for exceptions to the rule.")? That's an awfully high
            price to pay for the conceptual tidyness of a non-miraculous world.
            Still, you can do it. I just don't see why you would.

            Not at all. I miracle is much more than an exception to a rule or rare event. A miracle is a supernatural intervention by a deity. Usually it is claimed that the miracle supports the claims of knowledge about the deity (Eucharistic miracles show Eucharistic teachings are true), or shows that a particular person is holy (canonization miracles or healing by mystics).

            It is possible that some Deity intervenes and performs miracles for reasons undetectable to us, but this is not us placing the epistemic limit. The epistemic limit is worked into the nature of the universe and the nature of how the Deity intervenes. There is no rational reason for believing that a Deity does such a thing; such a deity would be far to close to Russell's teapot.

            I don't think the point of the OP was to provide reasons for belief. The point was simply to remove potential conceptual obstacles to belief.

            Don't you think it is time that OP's started providing reasons for belief rather than pointing out that atheists cannot prove their positions. Proof is only found in mathematics. In order to remove potential obstacles to belief, you actually have to argue against actual atheist positions and not straw positions that make Catholicism seem more viable. I am not saying that I can prove miracles are logically impossible. I am saying that you do not have ground to suppose that the Supernatural intervenes in a detectable rational way. I am saying that atheists have plenty of ground to deny the existence of detectable supernatural interventions and no reason to suppose undetectable supernatural interventions.

            You say that "miracles are, by definition, unpredictable." Wouldn't that make them very difficult to detect. How do I know if God cured a person's cancer or if it was a freak act of nature?

            There should be a post: Are Catholics justified in believing in miracles? Logically possible things are not necessarily epistemically justifiable. Back to Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith offers a prayer up to St. Joseph to find a new job. Is that now a miracle because Mr. Smith said a few words? Or is it just a fact that unusual things happen all of the time. What about the thousands of Mr. Smiths who pray and do not find work?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I appreciate these good questions because they force me to articulate more precisely what I believe, and I actually discover a thing here or two in the process. Unfortunately, since they are good questions, I can't hope to provide comprehensive responses and so will just try to drip out partial responses bit by bit.

            As regards Mr. Smith, could we leave aside the petitionary prayer aspect of the problem on the first pass, since I view that as separate and subtle wrinkle? As to whether such an event would be miraculous, I would say this:

            First of all, I view everything that happens to me as God talking to me, whether directly or indirectly (even the evil that I experience is ultimately, albeit indirectly, attributable to God - He did create Satan and give him his freedom after all). Sometimes God speaks loudly and in a surprising voice, as with miracles, and sometimes (more usually) he speaks in the mostly rhythmic and subdued tones of daily life. For that reason, I don't find it especially important to classify the events my life, or anyone else's life as strictly miraculous or strictly non-miraculous. It's all part of the same conversation with God. What is important to me is maintaining an attitude of openness to the miraculous, an open-ness to God saying extra-ordinary things in special moments.

            So, back to Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is presumably surprised by the fortunate coincidence that landed him the new job. My feeling is then: surprise conveys meaning. (Of course, to a Catholic, everything conveys meaning :-). I think it is meant to be surprising to Mr. Smith, it is meant to be heard as a musical accidental in the song of Mr. Smith's life -- something special is being conveyed in that moment. The fact that such an event is not surprising from some global "objective" frame of reference is, to me, beside the point. God is speaking in a special, extra-ordinary way to him in that moment.

            To the thousand of Mr. Smiths who don't benefit from that fortunate coincidence, I would just say that God is speaking to them in those moments in a different, perhaps less direct, but no less loving way. I would certainly not assume that God's different way of speaking to those other Mr. Smiths was something punitive, e.g. as a punishment for not having prayed. I might, however, be inclined to interpret as an invitation to start praying now.

          • The outcome of the roll of a die is due to the forces to which
            the die is subjected in the roll. The result has nothing to do with mathematical probability. It can serve as a simile of a mathematical probability of 1/6, if we are purposefully ignorant of the material forces, which produce the outcome.

            In the link, I indicated that Jane’s probability of 70% of passing a French exam was a lousy simile because it was a simile of quantifying human certitude. In contrast, the flip of a coin at the beginning of overtime at an NFL game could serve as an excellent simile because it is a simile of mathematical probability.

            Certitude characterizes the knower, not the known. A model for the sake of quantifying the quality of human certitude is not a model of the relationships among measurable material properties, themselves.

            The probability of winning a lottery is a statement within abstract mathematics. The winning set of numbers is due to physical forces, not mathematical probability.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            In the link, I indicated that Jane’s probability of 70% of passing a French exam was a lousy simile because it was a simile of quantifying human certitude. In contrast, the flip of a coin at the beginning of overtime at an NFL game could serve as an excellent simile because it is a simile of mathematical probability.

            Why is your latter example any better than your former example as a "simile of mathematical probability"? (The reason you cited is circular.) In both cases we are using probability as a mathematical model for our uncertainty about a state of nature.

            I understand that randomness is not the cause of the outcome of a coin flip, or of the roll of a die, or of Jane's performance on her test. All of these things result from material causes (and free will, in the case of Jane). It is our ignorance of those forces (purposeful ignorance is not necessary; any old ignorance will do) that requires us to model those things stochastically. But, you seem to be saying that it is not ever valid to use stochastic models to model the real world? Whither my beloved field of statistics, in that case?

          • I apologize for giving the impression that I was denigrating statistics. I have the utmost respect for the rigor and utility of
            statistics. Yet, I judge it to be consistent with that respect to maintain that randomness is in the eye of the beholder. I believe our views are closer to compatibility than our expressions of them.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No worries Bob. I really wasn't offended at all (believe me, statisticians hear a lot worse, especially when delivering sobering interpretations of results to clinical researchers whose annual bonuses depend on those interpretations), it's just that I wanted to explore with you what I see as a reductio ad absurdum of your view of probability. I'm enjoying the opportunity to trade notes with someone who has thought carefully about what probability represents, so please take everything in that spirit.

            I don't want to quibble over subtleties of language, but I do want to continue to insist that it was perfectly reasonable to talk about probability in exactly the way that Karlo did in the OP. If you are interested in continuing the discussion, I'm interested in your response to my remarks on replication.

            I'm sure some will feel that this has gone off topic, but in my view probabilistic thinking is really close to the heart of the matter when it comes to thinking about the miraculous.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Here's another way of getting at what I want to say.

            I understand what you mean when you argue that probability is not "real" except in an abstract mathematical sense. However, if you want to go down that path, I think you end up blowing away the reality of replication as well. What are "replicates" other than sets of events that seem sufficiently similar because of our ignorance of what distinguishes them? No coin is ever flipped twice under exactly the same conditions. There is only a perceived symmetry of exchangeability that arises because of our ignorance of those initial conditions (in this sense, Heraclitus was right that "You can't step in the same river twice"). Should we therefore say that "replicates" characterize the knower and not the known?

            I think the problem arises because you are segmenting off "knower" from "known", as if the knower is some sort of Cartesian observer. Models, whether mechanistic or stochastic, do not characterize the known is a way that is independent of the knower. Models are part of the relationship between the knower and the known. As far as we know, it may be the case that nothing is truly mechanistic and nothing is truly stochastic, but we use mechanistic and stochastic metaphors to successfully navigate, and have a relationship with, reality.

            EDIT: added "it may be the case that" in the middle of last sentence.

  • David Nickol

    If you believe in miracles, you have to believe in God (or something like God). But it seems to me it is quite possible to believe in God without believing in miracles. God might not intervene at all. Or God might intervene so rarely that it would make sense to presume that you were never going to know about his interventions that took place, say, once every billion years.

    • Rob Abney

      It almost seems like the materialists could accept that miracles exist or else the laws of nature cannot be considered absolute. Of course the alternative is to say that miracles don't even occur.

      • Doug Shaver

        It almost seems like the materialists could accept that miracles exist or else the laws of nature cannot be considered absolute.

        There is another option. We could believe that although the laws of nature are inviolable, our current knowledge of them is both fallible and incomplete.

        • Rob Abney

          That makes sense, we don't understand how miracles are part of providential nature yet. Someday it will all be very clear.

  • David Nickol

    Similarly, miracles, like Jesus rising from the dead, are improbable
    relative to our background knowledge—men don’t usually rise from the
    dead. But the improbability decreases when it’s considered relative to
    specific evidence, namely, eyewitness testimonies. If the testimonies
    are sound, then belief is rational despite the event’s improbability.

    Yes, there is truth in this. But do we have "eyewitness testimony" regarding the resurrection of Jesus? Most biblical scholars would say we do not.

    St. Paul records Jesus appearing to many different people on several
    different occasions as well as appearing to more than 500 disciples at
    the same time (see 1 Cor. 15:6)—occurrences not typical of hallucinations.

    But St. Paul does not claim to be an eyewitness to the appearances of Jesus to other people. He does not even tell us if he spoke with any of the alleged 500 disciples he tells us saw Jesus all at the same time.

  • This "no one would die for something they know is a lie" argument is an indication that the author is not being careful or has not bothered to check his sources.

    We keep seeing it crop up though it has no merit.

    Who are these people who were killed for failing to admit they were lying about the resurrection? What is the source of this claim?

    • Rob Abney

      Would St Stephen, the first Christian martyr qualify as one of those witnesses?

      • No. We have one apparent first hand account of Stephen's death, it states he was stoned to death for blasphemy.

        He was seized for "...speak[ing] blasphemous words against Moses and against God" not for saying Jesus resurrected.

        They were concerned that "this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." again, no indication that their concern was over the resurrection.

        In Acts 7, he makes a long speech on Jewish history, but does not mention the resurrection. At best he suggests that Jesus was God and that the Sanhedrin murdered him and deny the holy spirit.

        "You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

        On my reading of this is pretty clear, Stephen was saying that Jesus was God and that he was murdered by those who claimed to be servants of God. The audience found this to be bald-faced blasphemy and they stoned him to death.

        What you need to base this claim is someone saying to Stephen, "admit you were lying about the resurrection and the empty tomb and we will spare your life." and Stephen says "cannot admit that because it is true" There is nothing approaching this in the sources.

  • Rudy R

    If a cause of an event can't be validated by science, then the cause is unknown, not a miracle. To state otherwise is not naturalism, but theism. That is where the red line is drawn.

    • Peter

      What we call science is merely that which can be perceived by our five material senses. An event which cannot be validated by science is one whose cause cannot be perceived by our senses.

      How do we know if the whole of reality is perceivable by our five material senses? An entire segment of reality may well exist which is beyond our perception. The only sign we may have of its existence is the effect it has on the segment of reality that we can perceive.

      We will perceive the material effect because we have the senses to do so, but we cannot perceive the cause since our senses will not allow it.
      I think this comes pretty close to describing miracles.

      • Rudy R

        Indeed, an entire segment of reality may exist beyond our means to perceive it, but if you cannot perceive the cause, you should withhold your explanation until you have scientific evidence. Even if you are a theist, the unknown cause doesn't necessarily default to the hand of god. There were many events attributed to miracles that were later refuted in lieu of a natural explanation.

        • Peter

          There is a distinction between causes hitherto unexplained by science but which may be explainable in the future, and causes which can never be explained by science.

          The former are causes which are potentially perceivable through our senses but we haven't yet devised the instrumentation which will allow us to detect them. The latter are causes which lie beyond the scope of our senses to the extent that we will never detect them through any instrumentation.

          Again, we only have 5 material senses which have evolved on this planet. What right do you or I have to say that these senses encompass the whole of reality? Why should they?

          • Rudy R

            causes which can never be explained by science.

            And what might those causes be? You appear to be implying that you are a psychic, and have looked far into the future and determined some causes will never be explained. Where it was once inconceivable that an effect would always require a cause, Quantum theory has disproven that, and shown particles at the sub-atomic level pop in and out of existence, with no cause.

            Again, we only have 5 material senses which have evolved on this planet. What right do you or I have to say that these senses encompass the whole of reality?

            I'm only aware of the 5 senses. Which other one(s) are you referring to? If you shut off sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, how would humans detect a specific physical phenomenon?

          • Peter

            Quantum theory has disproven that, and shown particles at the sub-atomic level pop in and out of existence, with no cause.

            There is a cause, gravity. Haven't you heard Stephen Hawking's great saying ""Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing"? (The Grand Design)

  • The bog standard arguments require bog standard counterarguments:

    "It would be irrational to believe the scientific account of the Big Bang and the historical fact that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, since these occurrences contradict our uniform experience."

    This is a really poor characterization of how Hume's principle ought to be applied when considering historical events. Obviously, historical events, by definition, only happened once, and cannot themselves be part of our uniform experience. But the corroborating evidence certainly can be.

    Case in point, we believe that the big bang happened, not because we can reliably produce big bangs, but because we can reliably produce evidence (through multiple channels) that are consistent with a big bang having happened. Ditto for the moon landing. The event itself isn't part of our "uniform of experience", but there are multiple channels evidence that reliably corroborate the allegation that the event happened.

    Likewise:
    "As an inductive discipline, science necessarily presupposes the possibility of discovering new things that may contradict uniform experience. Scientific laws are revised all the time based on new contrary evidence."

    Although it is certainly true scientific discoveries begin with anomalous experience, scientific consensus requires you to be able to reliably produce corroborating evidence. It's the difference between Louis Pasteur noticing "hey, when my lab assistant left the anthrax culture on the counter for a few hours, and then tried to expose it to some chickens, the chickens didn't get sick" and "I have an anthrax vaccine that has demonstrated its ability to protect livestock from a deadly disease".

    It is EXTREMELY disingenuous to draw a parallel between miracles, which break from normal experience, and scientific discoveries, which break from normal experience initially, but then become normal experience through repeated and rigorous, controlled investigation.

    Of course, that's not to say that miracles are beyond rational investigation. If you want to claim that "There once existed a man named Jesus who was able to reliably produce miracles (healing the sick, walking on water, raising people from the dead, ect...", one can certainly argue that there is eyewitness testimony to support it.

    However, I'd argue that this puts way too much stock in the eyewitness testimony and underestimates the power of motivated reasoning. Even at the object level, eye-witness testimony, even regarding mundane events, is demonstrably unreliable. But to make the meta-level point, it's not like Christianity is the only religious tradition that produces eyewitness accounts of miraculous events. To wit: if accounts of Jesus's miracles are strong evidence that he is the son of god, then accounts of Witch-Doctor Yamimba's ability to expel the spirits of sickness are strong evidence that he is connected to the divine power of Katristia, (and so on).

  • bdlaacmm

    Sherlock Holmes: "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

    In other words, after you've demonstrated that all the alternative explanations concerning what happened on Easter morning, A.D. 33, are impossible, the only remaining explanation is that Jesus actually physically rose from the dead.

    • David Nickol

      Based on the available evidence, of which there is so very little, it is simply impossible to demonstrate that the New Testament accounts are historically accurate, let alone that they contain the only possible explanation for whatever did really happen. I take it for granted that Jesus was crucified. But I don't think it is possible to prove that the body of Jesus was turned over to his followers for burial or that, if it was, three days later there was an empty tomb that must somehow be explained. I don't pretend to know. But nobody else knows either. These are matters of faith, not fact.

    • Will

      One problem with Holmes' trope is that you can never be certain you've considered all of the possibilities especially when there is no way to verify your favorite possibility. The idea that other explanations are impossible may indicate a lack of understanding of what the word impossible actually means and it embraces a very problematic epistemology which we could simply call "hubris". Don't confuse faith with fact.

    • I'm not sure that true even in the story. Granting the story in mark,(which I don't) There are still viable alternatives

    • Rudy R

      How do you conclude that resurrection is an event more probable than all others?

  • Dhaniele

    With what we know today about microbiology. It is evident that certain cures which take place overnight or even almost instantaneously go against all the laws of science. The amount of heat released in the chemical reactions, the collection of the necessary elements to restore the tissues, etc. cannot be explained scientifically. Those who deny the existence of God are simply presented with a real puzzle that has no answer in their intellectual world. Those who assert the existence of God have an answer. To deny such cures take place, is a simple flight from reality since the witnesses (medical staff) would be qualified to testify in any criminal trial (even a capital case) and their statements would be regarded as undeniable facts.

    • Lazarus

      So do those who have all these answers also have answers as to why these illnesses exist in the first place (and no, "original sin" is not an answer), why specific people (including millions of children) get ill with these dreaded diseases, why only some, very rare instances of these miracles occur?

      Mysterious ways, huh?

      Your comment is insensitive, arrogant and indicative of a very low level of actual understanding of the questions surrounding miracles, the problem of evil, and others.

      • Dhaniele

        Actually my comment had nothing to do with the problem of evil. That is another topic. I suspect your outrage comes from some hurt, and I am sorry about that.

        • Lazarus

          Rather stop patronizing me and deal with my question and objection.

          When theists claim that God cured someone, including children, through a miracle, they of necessity touch on the problem of suffering. You may not understand that, but it is a necessary consequence of this type of arrogance that you shared with us.

          You claim to have all the answers, and that people who do not believe as you believe do not so have these answers.

          I am not "hurt", I am offended. I am surprised, amazed, disappointed. Embarrassed on your behalf. Now, please share those answers with us.

          • Dhaniele

            As I said, the problem of evil is a separate one. If you want God's answer to that particular question, you can carefully ponder what God says in the Book of Job. You can skip over all the comments Job and his companions make. God has his own answer towards the end that calls for pondering rather than a hasty reply.

          • Will

            Job 1

            6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

            So, God enables Satan (not to be confused with Christian Satan, as this version is on the divine council and allowed to give God advice) to torture Job and murder his entire family just to see what Job would do? Isn't God supposed to be omniscient, so why didn't he just tell Satan he already knew what would happen? If any being allows someone's family to be murdered just to see what they will do, that being is a monster. I'm am always baffled by anyone who actually thinks the book of Job is based on actual events. It demonstrates a serious lack of critical thinking, in my opinion.

          • Lazarus

            No real answer then, after all that posturing.

            People who argue like you don't have answers. You have anaesthetic. You have talismans, books, spells that make you feel better. Age-old formulae that sound like profound solutions. They're none of that.

          • Will

            I'm still baffled as to what microbiology has to do with it. The fact that microbiology sounds cool? Yes, must be that ;)

          • Dhaniele

            What did you think after reading the portion of Job that I suggested (not the one quoted by William Davis)?

          • Lazarus

            Job does not help at all in those situations. See for example Bart Ehrman's "God's Problem".

          • Dhaniele

            I am not sure what you mean by "does not help." God's words are addressed to those seeking to understand his actions. Whether they are helped or not really doesn't depend on God but on their response to God.

          • Will

            Whether they are helped or not really doesn't depend on God but on their response to God.

            Is there any reason we should think God had anything directly to do with the book of Job? Assuming he did is one heck of a baseless assumption. Everyone from the time period personified nature with gods, why not assume it was the pondering of ancients as to why bad things happen to good people. There were two writers anyway, and the earlier writer has a different explanation than the second writer who added on to the first. I'll quote from "God's Problem" by Bart Ehrman (copying from the kindle app doesn't come out well, so I apologize for any formatting issues I missed).

            Most people who read Job do not realize that the book as it has come down to us today is the product of at least two different authors, and that these different authors had different, and contradictory, understandings of why it is that people suffer. Most important, the way the story begins and ends—with the prose narrative of the
            righteous suffering of Job, whose patient endurance under duress is rewarded by God—stands at odds with the poetic dialogues that take up most of the book, in which Job is not patient but defiant, and in which God does not reward the one he has made to sufferbut overpowers him and grinds him into submission. These are two different views of suffering, and to understand the book we have to understand its two different messages. As it now stands, with the prose narrative and the poetic dialogues combined into one long account, the book can be summarized as follows: it begins with a prose description of Job, a wealthy
            and pious man, the richest man in the eastern world. The action then moves up to heaven, where God speaks with “the Satan”—the Hebrew word means “the adversary”—and commends Job to him. The Satan claims that Job is pious toward God only because of the rewards he gets for his piety. God allows the Satan to take away all that Job has: his possessions, his servants, and his children—then, in a second round of attacks, his health. Job refuses to curse God for what has happened to him. Three friends come to visit him and comfort him; but it is cold comfort indeed. Throughout their speeches they tell Job that he is being punished for his sins (i.e., they take the “classical” view of suffering, which is that sinners get what they deserve). Job continues to insist on his innocence and pleads with God to allow him to present his case before him. At the end of the dialogues with the friends (which take up most of the book),God does show up, and overwhelms Job with his greatness, forcefully reproving him for thinking that he, God, has anything to explain
            to Job, a mere mortal. Job repents of his desire to make his plea before God. In the epilogue, which reverts to prose narrative, God commends Job for his upright behavior and condemns the friends for what they have said. He restores to Job all his former wealth and more; he provides him with another batch of children; and Job lives out his life in prosperity, dying at a ripe old age.
            Some of the basic discrepancies between the prose narrative with which the book begins and ends (just under three chapters) and the poetic dialogues (nearly forty chapters) can be seen just from this brief summary. The two sources that have been spliced together to make the final product are written in different genres: a prose folktale
            and a set of poetic dialogues. The writing styles are different between these two genres. Closer analysis shows that the names for the divine being are different in the prose (where the name Yahweh is used) and the poetry (where the divinity is named El, Eloah, and Shaddai). Even more striking, the portrayal of Job differs in the two parts of the book: in the prose he is a patient sufferer; in the
            poetry he is thoroughly defiant and anything but patient. Correspondingly, he is commended in the prose but rebuked in the poetry. Moreover, the prose folktale indicates that God deals with his people according to their merit, whereas the entire point of the poetry is that he does not do that—and is not bound to do so. Finally, and most important, the view of why the innocent suffer differs
            between the two parts of the book: in the prose narrative,
            suffering comes as a test of faith; in the poetry, suffering remains a mystery that cannot be fathomed or explained.
            To deal adequately with the book of Job, then, we need to look at the two parts of the book separately and explore at greater length its two explanations for the suffering of the innocent.

          • Rob Abney

            I think Job deals with the problem of suffering by concluding that God is responsible for all of reality, we are the ones who perceive events subjectively. We can't demand to be favored even by being righteous. We can question God but we are a long way from being able to suggest how the world should operate.

          • Will

            We can question God but we are a long way from being able to suggest how the world should operate.

            The more technologically advanced we are, the more we are able to suggest how the world should operate. Certainly we can't change physics, but we can make things much more fair, and save a ton of lives via medicine, farming technology (famine prevention even when "God" doesn't bring rain), evasion of natural disasters, ect.,ect. Interesting how times change.
            I don't mind the idea that we are a long way from suggesting how the world should operate, but I can clearly say, by any moral standard, why Job depicts God doing is evil. God doesn't seem to mind being depicted as evil, it seems. The Jews thought God would judge those who "blaspheme" (I can quote verses from Exodus and Samuel), though that obviously never happens, Richard Dawkins is doing just fine ;) Of course, blasphemy is relative, when I was a deist I considered the book of Job to be blasphemy...it really seems slanderous to me.

          • Rob Abney

            The more technologically advanced we are, the more we are able to suggest how the world should operate. Certainly we can't change physics

            That's true, we can become more and more advanced but we will still not be able to affect the laws of the universe. Just like Job, no matter how much righteousness he had it could not approach the authority of God.
            As I've said before, in God's Problem the problem is Ehrman's problem. He cannot get the bible to align with man's perception of the problem of evil if he doesn't first accept the existence of God.

          • Will

            As I've said before, in God's Problem the problem is Ehrman's problem. He cannot get the bible to align with man's perception of the problem of evil if he doesn't first accept the existence of God.

            Ehrman was a devout Christian. He was originally a fundamentalist, but found that position untenable due to all of the contradictions and errors in the Bible. That simply made him a liberal Christian until he eventually lost it due to the POE. He accepted the existence of God.

            When I was a deist, I accepted the existence of God. The POE wasn't a problem because the deist God simply doesn't intervene. The POE is created by the concept of divine intervention. I've see no credible evidence that God ever intervenes in nature. I am no longer a deist because I don't think the first cause or necessary being is minded. Having intelligence and a mind seems to be part of the definition of God. A non-minded necessary being just is, it's neutral, not good or evil. That's why it's called "being" not "doing" ;)

            Edit to add: It's not even clear that, if God exists, he can change the laws of physics. It's possible that there is only one way the universe could be, or the "laws" or parameters are randomized over an infinte multiverse. Temporal variability in the "tuning" of the parameters of physics is also possible (one nontheistic explanation for the appearance of "fine tuning").

          • Rob Abney

            a liberal Christian until he eventually lost it due to the POE. He accepted the existence of God.

            Which came first for Ehrman atheism or the POE?

          • Will

            For Ehrman the POE slowly led to atheism. Somewhere he said he went "kicking and screaming".

          • Rob Abney

            Since the laws of physics are so finely tuned would it be a logical contradiction to change them? Or would changing them make it a very different place? I think it is the former in order for life to exist.
            Is there such a thing as a multiverse?

          • Will

            Is there such a thing as a multiverse?

            Not sure, it's certainly possible though.

            In the most recent study on pre-Big Bang science posted at arXiv.org, a team of researchers from the UK, Canada, and the US, Stephen M. Feeney, et al, have revealed that they have discovered four statistically unlikely circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The researchers think that these marks could be “bruises” that our universe has incurred from being bumped four times by other universes. If they turn out to be correct, it would be the first evidence that universes other than ours do exist.

            Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html#jCp

            If there are an infinite number of universes, there could be a infinite number of configurations for the "laws" of physics. Of course we would find ourselves in one that appears "fine tuned" for life. It's also possible that the fundamental constants of physics (making our universe appear to be fine tuned) vary over time and space.

            The issue of a possible variability of fundamental physical constants has been put on the agenda of contemporary physics with recent claims on evidence for a variation of the fine structure constant alpha, based on comparisons of laboratory data on atomic multiplet structures and the observations of the same features in the absorption spectra of quasars

            http://www.nat.vu.nl/en/research/atoms_molecules_lasers/fundamental-physics-at-the-atomic-scale/metrology-studies-and-time-variation-of-fundamental-constants/index.aspx

            Both of these ideas have a small amount of evidence to back them up which, in my view, puts them ahead of the Cosmic Designer hypothesis WRT to the anthropic principle. That doesn't mean that any of these ideas are true, all of it is speculation based on little evidence.

          • Darren

            William Davis wrote,

            It's not even clear that, if God exists, he can change the laws of
            physics. It's possible that there is only one way the universe could
            be, or the "laws" or parameters are randomized over an infinte
            multiverse.

            From a Naturalistic standpoint, there _may_ be only certain physics that are stable and lead to a universe capable of supporting intelligence, but considering the Theistic God made both the rules of physics _and_ the rules of meta-physics which dictate only certain physics are stable...

    • Will

      To deny such cures take place, is a simple flight from reality since the witnesses (medical staff) would be qualified to testify in any criminal trial (even a capital case) and their statements would be regarded as undeniable facts.

      Can you give well documented examples? I know a good bit about medicine, and I'm not sure what you are talking about. Spontaneous cancer remission is fascinating, but it never happens instantaneously overnight. The more recent the example the better, as medicine is in a much better place now than it was even 10 years ago.

      • Dhaniele

        Of course, there are levels of skepticism. The Americans who believe that the moon landing was a hoax definitely outnumber the atheists in America. Anyway, there is an interesting book: Miracle of Lourdes by Ruth Cranston. You can look her up in Wikipedia. Then there is this case too: http://www.pattimaguirearmstrong dot com/2013/07/never-say-never-padre-pio-miracle-by.html

        • Will

          I'm very glad Paul Walsh recovered, claiming it was a "miracle" seems very problematic however. First, it was in the early 1980s and good quality brain scanning equipment simply didn't exist. Doctors had to make prognoses on much more limited information than they do now. In any case, a doctor who claims that it is impossible to recover from very serious brain injury needs to study some neuroscience. The brain is very plastic, and here is an example of a man who lost nearly 50% of his brain volume from swelling when he was an infant. The younger the person, the greater likely hood of recover, but decreased brain volume often has an affect on overall intelligence. In Paul's case, we can simply say the doctor made a bad diagnosis.
          Calling a bad diagnosis a miracle is problematic because of cases when doctors say the patient will be fine, but they day anyway. Think of the infant who gets a clean bill of health, only to come down with leukemia or some other disease and die. Is that a miracle? To only count positive outcomes and not negative ones is a very problematic way to approach anything. If you applied this approach to medicine, everything would work as medicine. If people recover from some illness at a base rate of 50%, and you give them sugar water, do you then say that everyone who recovered got better because of the sugar water, and ignore all of those who didn't? If you only count those who get better, then you have a cure rate of 100% from sugar water! I'm sure you see why that can't fly in medicine.

          WRT to Lourdes, millions of people visit Lourdes every year, but how many recoveries? Some should be expected. Spontaneous cancer remission occurs at a rate of 1 in 100,000 so we should expect 20 cases of spontaneous cancer remission per year. If the rate is lower than 20, one might could try to argue that going to Lourdes decreases the odds of spontaneous remission, but I have no idea what mechanism would be involved in that. The best study of intercessory prayer show a decrease in recovery for those who knew they were being prayed for, our best guess is that it may have been some form of performance anxiety, but it could have just been a random negative (studies need to be repeatable with the same result to be considered pointing to an actual correlation, and more complex studies are often needed to demonstrate causation).

          Major complications and thirty-day mortality occurred in 52 percent of those who received prayer (Group 1), 51 percent of those who did not receive it (Group 2), and 59 percent of patients who knew they would receive prayers (Group 3). Some prayed-for patients fared worse than those who did not receive prayers.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer

          Prayer has been studied repeatedly, and it does as well as placebo (sugar water), at best. If prayer doesn't work, you have a real theological problem with the divine intervention hypothesis.
          In the future I would recommend books written by medical researchers. Ruth Cranston was just a fiction writer, and that book is very old, 1955. Medicine was in a very bad state in 1955 compared to today, half of what 1955 doctors thought they new then would probably considered quack medicine today. In the 1950s, doctors appeared in ads explaining how good cigarette smoking is for you! Here is a quick one I found from 1949:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-y_N4u0uRQ

          Edit to add: In the future I'd back off this claim: "It is evident that certain cures which take place overnight or even almost instantaneously go against all the laws of science." You haven't even come close to showing any instantaneous cures.

          • Dhaniele

            Thank you for going to the trouble of reading up on the case of Paul Walsh. I would just remark on one detail. How was it possible for him to go from his "vegetative state" to sitting up and holding a normal conversation in just one night? Do you really believe that all the necessary changes could have taken place naturally in his brain in such a short time?

          • Will

            My grandma had a stroke, and was in a coma for a week. When she woke up, she could talk and sit up, it happened overnight. The brain was repairing itself the whole time (some argue that the coma is part of the healing process as the brain can heal more when offline) recovery after a coma can often be dramatic. Sometimes people can recover from a very, very long coma, that's why it's a mistake to ever be certain that they will never recover. Of course, more often than not, people don't recover. There is still much to learn about the brain's ability to repair itself. I certainly can't rule out divine intervention 100%, but if God was going to grant a miracle, why not prevent the accident in the first place. That would certainly have been more helpful :)

            http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/miracle-man-wakes-coma-after-5472641

          • Dhaniele

            Thank you for your reply. Of course, what happens in a stroke is far different from what happened in the accident as the doctors described it. As you know, after so many months of remaining immobile, it is not just a question of brain recovery, but normally the muscular coordination to sit up and speak clearly would require time. Since you have taken an interest in this case, this is on the line right now as new. It is significant because it is a cure regarding the lungs (not the brain). http://www.ncregisterdotcom/blog/pattyknap/vatican-recognizes-amazing-miracle-by-bl.-stanisaw-papczyski

        • Will

          The Americans who believe that the moon landing was a hoax definitely outnumber the atheists in America.

          Interesting comparison

          No. According to the July 1999 Gallup poll, only about 6% of the American public buys into that conspiracy theory, exactly the same number as did in a TIME/CNN poll of four years ago. Although, if taken literally, 6% translates into millions of individuals, it is not unusual to find about that many people in the typical poll agreeing with almost any question that is asked of them -- so the best interpretation is that this particular conspiracy theory is not widespread.

          http://www.gallup.com/poll/3712/landing-man-moon-publics-view.aspx

          It is true that the percentage of Americans that are atheists is fairly low, but does that really matter? A majority in Northern Europe (Scandinavia), Japan, Korea, and many Asian countries are atheists, and these countries also have the best rated education systems. High rates of atheism correlates with better education. 93% of the national Academy of scientists are atheist, and this poll of analytic philosophers has atheism at 71%, a consensus value. Most of the arguments for God are philosophical, though divine intervention (usually a medical intervention) qualifies as a scientific hypothesis. Your comparison to landing hoax shows that you haven't researched polls on the moon landing hoax (you can get a 6% positive on any poll by people just randomly answering questions) and you know nothing of the demographics of atheism. It seems you are bringing a giant pile of factual errors and flawed thinking to the table...that's about it. Sorry if that last comment is offensive, but it certainly seems true from where I sit.

    • Darren

      Dhaniele wrote,

      It is evident that certain cures which take place overnight or even almost instantaneously go against all the laws of science... ...To deny such cures take place, is a simple flight from reality since the witnesses (medical staff) would be qualified to testify in any criminal trial
      (even a capital case) and their statements would be regarded as
      undeniable facts.

      OK, I'll bite. Name five, names and dates, of overnight/instant healings and names of medical staff testifying, to standards of witness testimony consistent with US capital trials, that said cures violate known laws of science, with links please.

      • Will

        Lol, I'm curious myself. I do find medical "miracles" fascinating, so do medical researchers in order to figure out how they happened in order to repeat them. The study of supercentenaurians yields some interesting aging well tips, and making it to 110 years could be considered a "miracle" considering how rare it it, though no supernatural explanation is required.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312698/

        Immune stimulation, thought to be the cause of spontaneous cancer remission, is the inspiration to many new effective cancer cures, including this surprisingly effective one for leukemia.

        http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/treatment-saved-90-of-terminal-cancer-patients-but-it-has-scary-side-effects/

        While some resort to "Goddidit" and walk away, real scientists work to actually figure out what happened. A 90% terminal cancer cure rate is nothing short of miraculous, and no gods required ;)

      • Rob Abney

        Just out of curiosity, would this one meet your criteria?
        http://en.lourdes-france.org/deepen/cures-and-miracles/danila-castelli

        • Darren

          Rob Abney wrote,

          Just out of curiosity, would this one meet your criteria?

          I suspect you can answer that one for yourself. Was it an overnight/instant healing that violated known laws of science (leaving, for now, the question of whether or not the Lourdes council would meet the standards for testimony in a US death penalty trial)?

          Spontaneous cancer remissions can be freaky, but they do happen, even without the magic water of Lourdes. It is not clear that this case is even a spontaneous remission; this woman underwent 6 years of extremely invasive treatments, but with "...no bettering at all...", whatever that might mean (was the cancer still there, had it expanded or contracted, was she still having hypertensive episodes, where they of the same frequency and intensity?). Show me an amputated limb that grows back and I will be a lot more interested.

          From the larger perspective, though, it seems rather small potatoes, and this is one of the top tier examples. Assuming for the sake of argument these are anything other than statistical outliers, at best they rise to the level of a mediocre magic trick for a pagan nature spirit, the Naiad of Lourdes if you will, not the not-a-being-but-Being-itself, uncaused-cause, greatest conceivable being, creator and sustainer of the entire cosmos.

          In general, one wonders what is the point. God, if he existed and wanted to make his presence known, could do so, and being omniscient would know just exactly how to do so for each individual person.

          This is not controversial. The next stop in the argument is that this would somehow or other violate free will. This does not necessarily follow (Free Will itself, and how it operates, is far from clear cut), especially considering that who else but God wrote the "rules" of free will, and being omniscient, would know how to be unequivocal without violating those rules.

          Apparently God is only allowed the most meager of divine displays. I picture a Gary Larson'esq view of God's workbench with a sign reading, "No miracles greater than 4 sigma".

          Theists of a Calvinist bent (and I have met more than a few Catholics who qualify) will say that everyone already knows the truth of God, some just stubbornly pretend not to. This makes the question of miracles again one of "what's the point?"

          Anyways, other matters call. Best regards.

          • Rob Abney

            In general, one wonders what is the point. God, if he existed and wanted to make his presence known, could do so, and being omniscient would know just exactly how to do so for each individual person.

            This is a common response here on SN, and elsewhere too I'm sure. But the way I understand this is best exemplified by today's gospel reading of The Prodigal Son. The son insists on separating from the father, the father lets him even though there were many ways he could have stopped him. Finally, the son decides that he has given up a great gift of being able to be with his father and so returns on his own accord. The father accepts him unconditionally and gives him even more. However, the older son who has had everything all along is now upset and begins to separate himself from the father. The father tries to convince him otherwise but ultimately it is the son's decision.
            The father of course represents God, and as a father he is much easier to comprehend, but the analogy is that the father gave the sons everything and still allowed them to have free will to refuse.

            Could God have designed us with free will and the ability to know him despite our decision not to? That sounds like a square circle, it's beyond my ability to figure out how He could.

            As for miracles, I think the Lourdes Medical doctors have very strict guidelines. I'm not sure which argument you should pursue, that they didn't rule out every possibility of other highly unusual results or that their results are not very impressive. Maybe take a shotgun approach and propose both!

          • Darren

            As for miracles, I think the Lourdes Medical doctors have very strict guidelines.

            I have read the Lourdes guidelines. They are detailed, but a long way from strict, scientifically speaking. I work for pharmaceutical companies, and can say that I am not legally (or ethically) allowed to provide medicines to you or your children using the standards of evidence that Lourdes considers “strict”.

            I'm not sure which argument you should pursue, that they didn't rule out every possibility…

            Considering, as I suggested by referencing spontaneous remissions, that the most likely possibility is that it just went away on its own… 1,000 cures that did not go to Lourdes for every 1* that did go… Think you can do that math.

            Could God have designed us with free will
            and the ability to know him despite our decision not to? That sounds like a square circle, it's beyond my ability to figure out how He could.

            This is interesting! Are you claiming it is a logical impossibility for humans to have unequivocal knowledge of God’s existence and still be free moral agents?

            * arbitrary ratio, but considering we have 69 “official”
            Lourdes miracles, I am willing to bet my lunch-money there have been more than 69,000 non-Lourdes cures, especially since being medically treated for the better part of a decade does not seem to be a disqualification.

          • I don't think the prodigal son addresses the criticism here. The problem with the prodigal son is that it seems to deny the possibility of anybody being honestly mistaken or ignorant about god. For example, if you imagine a Chinese peasant who has spent his entire life farming rice in the Yangtze river valley, who has never had any contact with the Christian tradition, does it make sense say that this person "insists on separating from the father"? Could such a person "return on his own accord"? If so, how?

            In the prodigal son, there are plenty of factors that prevented the son to not return to the father-- pride, shame, the lot, but ignorance isn't one of them. If nothing else, the son knew that he had a father.

            The point is that, if you want to argue that there is indeed a single all-powerful, all loving deity that wishes to be in a relationship with each and every human, you gotta explain why the majority of people who've lived and died (especially before Europe conquered the world) have never heard of him.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think that the majority of people have never heard of God, many haven't understood who he is because they haven't had access to revelation perhaps. But that's not the case for Darren anyway.
            The prodigal son knew he had a father but that was about it, he didn't understand what the father had to offer him.
            If you're interested please read a short book by Henri Nouwen called Return of the Prodigal Son.

          • "I don't think that the majority of people have never heard of God, many haven't understood who he is because they haven't had access to revelation perhaps"

            That seems like two ways of saying exactly the same thing. It's obvious that the hundreds of thousands of Chinese peasants hasn't had access to revelation, but the question is why? This is also the question that Darren is asking. Why, when looking evidence of a loving god, are we having to scour medical records in search of events that our very recently-acquired understanding of bio-medicine can't explain? Why would revelation be a scarce commodity?

            To answer, you brought up the story of the prodigal son, a story about a son who elects to leave his father, and then elects to return. The question is, in what sense could a Chinese peasant have elected to leave god? In what sense could he elect to return?

          • Rob Abney

            All cultures have looked for God, and most have discovered that there is a supernatural force that is above man's nature. Those who continue to acknowledge this difference through fear or respect or gratitude are with the father. Those who decide that its more important to be self-serving as if there is no Other are the ones who leave the father. Chinese peasants have always had access to the power of reason that can make God known.
            Revelation offers advanced understanding, and it has been made available to all men.

            Is your concern with Chinese peasants? Or are you concerned with why this knowledge doesn't seem to be available to you. Maybe you are the older son, many of us are.

    • Doug Shaver

      their statements would be regarded as undeniable facts.

      Undeniable? Not in any jurisdiction that I'm familiar with.

  • Lazarus

    Here's the strange thing about discussions about miracles, in my view.

    Why should the non-believer in miracles have to have all of these contortions to consider. You believe or you don't. Why would the believer see it as so important for the non-believer to accept these arguments about onus and ditches and bridges too far?

    If a miracle happens and you accept that, great. If you don't believe in them, just as good.
    Why the sales pitch, why the convoluted hurdles and standards of acceptance? Why is it so important for the believer to make the non-believer see that accepting miracles is a rational endeavor?

    • Dhaniele

      You ask why it is so important to make non-believers see that accepting miracles is rational. It is important because non-believers aggressively argue the contrary and write into websites like this instead of just ignoring believers. Non-believers really have not reason to trouble us, but we believe that non-believers would be greatly benefited if they could see patiently by studying the facts what the truth really is. Knowing the truth is a good thing and leads to wise decisions in our lives.

      • Lazarus

        To trouble you? On a website designed for discussion between these two groups?

        • Dhaniele

          In your previous statement you were the one who raised question with "Why the sales pitch, etc."

      • Will

        It is important because non-believers aggressively argue the contrary and write into websites like this instead of just ignoring believers.

        Just fyi, this website is intended as a dialogue between atheists and theists (well, Catholics specifically there are plenty of other theists). I don't go to websites bothering believers unsolicited, it just makes people mad and accomplishes nothing useful.

        Non-believers really have not reason to trouble us, but we believe that non-believers would be greatly benefited if they could see patiently by studying the facts what the truth really is. Knowing the truth is a good thing and leads to wise decisions in our lives.

        Yes, if there is no God, it becomes much more critical to be worried about climate change and existential risks. If theists are wrong, there will be no one to save us from ourselves (or plagues, asteroids, ect). I believe theism causes people to underestimate existential risk and not invest in harm reduction and prevention due to a theistic "insurance policy" via divine plan. If that insurance policy doesn't exist, we need to know. You seem to assume you already have the truth, I'm not sure why, just because others you know assume the same thing?
        If I have any goal it is to reduce your irrational confidence in your "truth". I'm not convinced that atheism is true, I just don't see any good reasons to think God intervenes or affects reality. The necessary being of philosophy does not need to be minded, just to be and a first cause could be a blind force of nature akin to gravity (i.e. I'm not irrationally overconfident about my positions).

        • Dhaniele

          You might read what William Davis and I were discussing just one day before this. Seeing what he has to say and what I have to say should shed some light on the subject.

          • Will

            I'm William Davis, did you mean someone else?

          • Dhaniele

            No, I did mean you in regard to Walsh case. I have added something to that for you to ponder, and I am glad that you take the trouble to at least pay attention to these things I write.

  • David Nickol

    I was checking my Amazon recommendations just now (I buy a lot of books and get lots of recommendations), and in the list was a new book called Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton. The book information on Amazon is as follows:

    More than thirty years after his landmark book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985), biologist Michael Denton revisits his earlier thesis about the inability of Darwinian evolution to explain the history of life. He argues that there remains “an irresistible consilience of evidence for rejecting Darwinian cumulative selection as the major driving force of evolution.” From the origin of life to the origin of human language, the great divisions in the natural order are still as profound as ever, and they are still unsupported by the series of adaptive transitional forms predicted by Darwin. In addition, Denton makes a provocative new argument about the pervasiveness of non-adaptive order throughout biology, order that cannot be explained by the Darwinian mechanism.

    When I checked to see why this book was recommended to me, it was because I had previously bought Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham.

    Interesting.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      You are a troublemaker. ;-)

  • I'm not sure whether your characterization of Hume's views is correct, but if so then I disagree that proving miracles is impossible, as it appears that you make him out to believe. That said, I do think there should be skepticism toward miracle claims, which is reasonable and natural. I don't think it's unreasonable, for instance, not to simply trust someone's word that a miracle occurred, without very good reasons. This article cites Paul claiming 500 saw Jesus, where we have no way of verifying that but for his own word. How do we know this was not just a story that Paul passed on after hearing by word of mouth? We know how easily these things can arise. On a related note here, there is the claim that no one would "die for a lie." This ignores a number of factors. First, that a person can honestly believe something is true but be incorrect. Second, dying was not a result of their beliefs. Third, how do we even know the circumstances of their death? It is claimed that every one of Jesus disciples died a martyr, as one example, but how do we know this? I have never seen evidence for it.

  • Amrita Sharma

    Now, if we hold to Hume’s principle, it would be irrational to believe
    the scientific account of the Big Bang and the historical fact that Neil
    Armstrong walked on the moon, since these occurrences contradict our
    uniform experience. But this is absurd...

    http://www.kalikitab.com/vastu-shastra-for-getting-job/

  • Dhaniele

    When all is said and done, from what I have seen, the atheists are unable to come up with any credible explanation (other than God) for certain events which are described as miracles. I just came across this one today, and we are talking about tens of thousands of witnesses: This one can be found at the usual www. Followed by: thechristianreviewdotcom/when-mary-returned-to-egypt-the-apparitions-at-zeitoun. Just using "Zeitoun Mary Halo" you can find plenty on the web about this one. Then there are medical cases where the doctors would certainly be able to testify in the course in a murder trial. How can their testimony in these kinds of cases called miracles be ignored? An example of this type of miracle can be found by writing www. followed by pattimaguirearmstrongdotcom/2013/07/never-say-never-padre-pio-miracle-by.html. Just another one that I saw in these last days: ncregisterdotcom/blog/pattyknap/vatican-recognizes-amazing-miracle-by-bl.-stanisaw-papczyski. Thus, it seems that denial of these events undermines any belief in eye-witness testimony and our whole criminal justice system which nowadays makes great use of scientific evidence and witnesses. The problem I see in atheists is this double standard. What seems to motivate some is their disagreement with God’s actions in history. Isaiah answered that problem in his own times, and the answer still is valid: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.…(Is 55:8-9). This answer may be unsatisfactory to some people, but when you think that God is regarded as the origin of the universe, it should not be surprising that his thought is beyond human capabilities. In our struggle to understand even the atom we are on a continual quest that still is raising further questions. Man’s knowledge is tiny before the wonders of creation.

    • Will

      Thus, it seems that denial of these events undermines any belief in eye-witness testimony and our whole criminal justice system which nowadays makes great use of scientific evidence and witnesses.

      Just for you information:

      Since the 1990s, when DNA testing was first introduced, Innocence Project researchers have reported that 73 percent of the 239 convictions overturned through DNA testing were based on eyewitness testimony. One third of these overturned cases rested on the testimony of two or more mistaken eyewitnesses. How could so many eyewitnesses be wrong?

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-the-eyes-have-it/

      http://www.simplypsychology.org/eyewitness-testimony.html

      It is now becoming common place to educate jury's as to how unreliable eye witness testimony is. None of this has anything to do with miracles, just the desire to avoid wrongful conviction due to someone completely confident in what they saw, and they are wrong in spite of their confidence.

      http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/trialevidence/articles/winterspring2012-0512-eyewitness-testimony-unreliable.html

      This last article goes into more detail in the context you are speaking of. The author is a renown clinical neurologist at Yale, Steven Novella. His TTC lectures on critical thinking are excellent.

      http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/false-memories-in-the-courtroom-and-elsewhere/

      Of course, just because eyewitness testimony is unreliable does not guarantee the witnesses are wrong, but it makes this testimony's use as evidence very problematic. Certainly people are entitled to trust something even if it's unreliable, but that is the role of faith, not reason.

      • Dhaniele

        The word "eye witness testimony" has many meanings. It is one thing for people to identify the wrong person as a bank robber. It is another thing for doctors to report on the condition of the patient making use of all the modern means available.

        • neil_pogi

          i wonder if atheists have 'eyewitnesses' when they propose hundreds of theories about abiogenesis, macro-evolution, and 'molecules-to-man'? i wonder why they ignore the eyewitness accounts of thousands of people who have witnessed the existence of Jesus, the flood of Noah, and the red sea crossing?... just two thousand years ago?

          • Doug Shaver

            i wonder why they ignore the eyewitness accounts of thousands of people who have witnessed the existence of Jesus, the flood of Noah, and the red sea crossing?

            Show me an eyewitness account of any of those things, and then we can talk about whether I'm ignoring them.

          • Darren

            Doug wrote,

            Show me an eyewitness account of any of those things, and then we can talk about whether I'm ignoring them.

            Personally, I would be impressed if holy water cured cancer and communion wine turned out to be a source of safe, economical, eco-friendly carbon-free cold-fusion power.

          • neil_pogi

            Noah himself, his sons, his wife, his daughters-in-laws were eyewitnesses to the flood that once covered the earth ( iwonder how mars was once covered with water when tthe earth is filled with so much water?).

            Jesus Himself is an eyewitness for Himself, ancient israelites were witnesses for their crossing on the red sea! what kind of questions you have in mind?

            so show me your eyewitnesses for the big bang, for the first single-celled organism that eventually led to humans, (frankencell).. prove that a non-living matter became living matter! prove them first!

          • Doug Shaver

            I did not say, "Identify an eyewitness." I said, "Show me an eyewitness account."

          • neil_pogi

            what you mean by eyewitness accounts?

          • Doug Shaver

            I mean a narrative in the witness's own words: the actual testimony of an actual witness.

          • neil_pogi

            the ancient writers just don't know about that. they just write what they observed, and heard (oral traditions)

          • Doug Shaver

            If I hear an oral tradition, then I am not an eyewitness to anything the tradition reports.

          • neil_pogi

            oral traditions is just one form of preserving data that the ancients have witnessed. the other is the written form. Noah's flood story can be found in most countries.

          • Doug Shaver

            oral traditions is just one form of preserving data that the ancients have witnessed.

            Oral traditions can preserve real history. We're not justified, without corroborative evidence, in assuming that there is real history in any particular oral tradition.

            the other is the written form.

            Just because it's in writing doesn't mean it really happened.

            Noah's flood story can be found in most countries.

            Floods actually occur in most countries. It is to be expected that people would tell stories about floods. We're not justified in supposing that all such stories are historically accurate. A substantial amount of popular fiction is about real events and sometimes even real people.

    • Doug Shaver

      When all is said and done, from what I have seen, the atheists are unable to come up with any credible explanation

      You don't believe them. That doesn't mean they're not credible.

      • Dhaniele

        I just posted two days ago a reference to an article on the movie "miracles from heaven." Other than the action of God, how do you explain how a girl could fall 30 feet on her head and be perfectly healthy? How could her chronic conditions be simultaneously healed? The doctors had no explanation other than God. Do you have one?

        • Doug Shaver

          I just posted two days ago a reference to an article on the movie "miracles from heaven."

          No matter what the subject, I'm not going to believe anything just because I saw it in a movie.

          how do you explain how a girl could fall 30 feet on her head and be perfectly healthy? How could her chronic conditions be simultaneously healed?

          You're telling me what you believe happened. I don't need to explain anything until I know what happened.

          The doctors had no explanation

          When doctors admit ignorance, I'm usually more surprised by the admission than by the ignorance.

          • Dhaniele

            If you actually read the article I suggested, you would see that the the movie is based on a real family and real doctors. In our modern world, doctors are called on to testify in cases and their evidence can mean the difference between life and death. To simply write doctors off as having no value at all means that you have excluded yourself from the normal processes in civilized society for establishing important scientific truths. That decision of yours is of course possible for any a free being.

          • Doug Shaver

            To simply write doctors off as having no value at all

            That is not what I'm doing. You are misrepresenting my position.

          • Dhaniele

            You certainly seem to write off the doctors in this very public case.

          • Doug Shaver

            I can't write them off if I don't know what they're saying. I have seen nothing that any doctor says in that doctor's own words.

          • Will

            The case of Annabelle Beam is very interesting, and I could give some theories, but I'll refrain from saying much as the disorder she had was rare (assuming it was properly diagnosed correctly, some rural hospitals can be very bad, sadly) and there is no medical information to be had on the specifics of her case. It certainly seems possible that she did have some obstruction doctors and the impact from the fall freed it. I will ask one question though, where is God as 21,000 children die each day?

            http://www.globalissues.org/article/715/today-21000-children-died-around-the-world

            That's 1 every four seconds. At least ten children died while I was typing this (and I type fast).

            This couple was jailed because they killed two of their children relying on God. They had plenty of faith, where was God?

            “You’ve killed two of your children…not God, not your church, not religious devotion — you,” Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner told the couple, as he sentenced them to between three and a half and seven years behind bars.

            http://time.com/8750/faith-healing-parents-jailed-after-second-childs-death/

            Did you know that Muslims see Allah when they are near death?

            http://www.near-death.com/religion/islam.html

            Hindus have a different experience

            Many people have asked me (the webmaster) why experiences, such as Hindu near-death experiences, are so different than western ones. The reason is because everyone has their own cultural and religious background by which they see their experience. Jody Long, a near-death researcher with NDERF, put it best:

            "One of the near-death experience truths is that each person integrates their near-death experience into their own pre-existing belief system." - Jody Long, NDERF.org

            http://www.near-death.com/religion/hinduism.html

            I'd like to believe their is an afterlife, but it doesn't seem reasonable to use such experiences to confirm the truth of one's particular belief system. All belief systems have them. Muhammed was said to have healed people:

            http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/152/miracles-of-muhammad-part-3/

            If anything, some type of unitarian belief is more reasonable.

          • Dhaniele

            You do not seem to be very impressed that she fell 30 feet on her head without any damage. The doctors were. And any doctor would be. As for her previous medical condition, it had been diagnosed by specialists. You can look up the case on the web. As far as the second part goes on why there is human suffering, I would suggest this quote: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.…(Is 55:8-9). This answer may be unsatisfactory to some people, but when you think that God is regarded as the origin of the universe, it should not be surprising that his thought is beyond human capabilities. In our struggle to understand even the atom we are on a continual quest that still is raising further questions. Man’s knowledge is tiny before the wonders of creation. Whether you accept what Isaiah says, however, does not change the facts as the girl's medical condition which is really the bottom line in talking about a specific miracle.

          • Will

            The fall was impressive, but she fell into a hollowed out cottonwood tree. Hollowed out trees are usually full of compost, and even the shape could have broken her fall. I'm very glad she survived and got better. A few years ago my Dad fell over 30 feet off an extension ladder onto concrete, way worse. He survived but it did a number on his shoulder, sadly.

            http://www.cracked.com/article_19996_5-insane-falls-you-wont-believe-people-survived.html

            Improbable things happen all the time, here is an interesting article on the subject.

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/math-explains-likely-long-shots-miracles-and-winning-the-lottery/

            You can look up the case on the web.

            I have. I can find no details including the hospital. Some of the hospitals in the rural areas where I live in the South are downright terrible (Texas is likely similar). I know personally of many cases of misdiagnoses and have helped people get treatment at hospitals where I live (my family and some friends from the past live in the rural areas with terrible hospitals).

            You might not think my explanation of surviving the fall is credible, and that's fine, but I certainly don't think "we don't understand God" is a credible solution to the problem of suffering, nor the fact that no study of prayer shows it has healing value, though prayer can certainly make people feel better.
            God could certainly explain himself in a way we could understand. Let's look at what Jesus has to say:

            22 Jesus answered them, “Have[b] faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received[c] it, and it will be yours.

            Notice that he says "believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." This defines placebo. I'm sure you are familiar with placebo. Besides, if we ignore that, when is the last time you saw a mountain move, much less via prayer? Let's add Mark 6:
            4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

            Jesus's powers were disabled because of unbelief? Strange thing if his powers aren't all in the minds of those who believe in him. Belief is a powerful thing, and expectation is a huge part of perception.
            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0042698907005469

          • Dhaniele

            All I can say is that when the doctors examine case and put their reputation on the line in these very public cases any newspaper that said they were incompetents would be sued for libel and the doctor would win the case.

          • Will

            I agree with you here, because now it would be completely impossible to show a misdiagnosis (she would still need to be sick). I am not saying that she was misdiagnosed, there are plenty of other possibilities, that is just one of many.
            I haven't seen the doctors who diagnosed her in any of the online articles, no names, nothing. In other words, they don't seem too keen on putting their "reputations" on the line. Of course, we are talking Texas here, and in Texas you aren't putting your reputation on the line when you support Jesus, it's encouraged. In fact, being an atheist in Texas is putting your reputation on the line. In fact, it's ILLEGAL to hold office if you are an atheist:

            Texas, Article 1, Section 4:

            No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

            http://americanhumanist.org/hnn/details/2012-05-unelectable-atheists-us-states-that-prohibit-godless

            Look, I'm simply doing this because you say my position isn't credible. No offense, but it is quite credible, and I'd ask you to phrase it differently in the future. I think your position has plenty of problems, but I understand why people believe and wouldn't say it isn't credible, just problematic.
            Troubleshooting is a big part of my job, and coming up with plausible hypothesis is the first step of troubleshooting. Of course, there is no way to be certain any hypothesis is correct without testing it (resolving the problem is the ultimate evidence in troubleshooting) so any hypothesis we come up with in this situation will be under determined and undemonstrable. I've never understood why "God" should be the default explanation in an under determined situation but western religion teaches us to put him in that gap, and there may be deeper cognitive reasons why we lean in that direction (such as Hyper Active Agency Detection).

            Edit to add: I'm more agnostic than atheist, but I feel obligated to defend atheism in this context, and atheism seems pretty easy to defend, in general. Sometimes I'll defend theism to hard atheists who ridicule the idea, but that hasn't come up lately. I do tend to lean more toward atheism lately but that could be a biasing effect due to so many terrible arguments I've seen and argued against for theism.

          • Doug Shaver

            To say that someone could have made a mistake is not to say that they are incompetent. It is to say that they are ordinary human beings.

    • Doug Shaver

      How can their testimony in these kinds of cases called miracles be ignored?

      I am not ignoring someone just because, upon hearing their testimony, I remain skeptical.

    • Doug Shaver

      What seems to motivate some is their disagreement with God’s actions in history.

      I am not disagreeing with any action God might have performed. I am disagreeing with people who tell me that he has performed certain actions.

  • neil_pogi

    i do believe in miracles because the main miracles i've observe are the creation of the universe and life.

    • David Nickol

      i do believe in miracles because the main miracles i've observe are the creation of the universe and life.

      You must be a lot older than I had previously thought. I can barely remember the formation of our solar system.

      • neil_pogi

        how can you remember the formation of our solar system when the fact is, you're not there (even i, myself) to observe it forming?

        because the universe's creation is not 'occuring in regularity in nature', then i admit that its creation is not by natural event/origin..

        so what are your proposals? how can you explain an 'infinitely small dot' able to create it?

      • neil_pogi

        quote: 'miracles i've observe are the creation of the universe' --i observe the universe as a creation. if you think it was formed by an 'infinitely small dot' then explain how it generates so much energy?

  • Dhaniele

    For those interested in the latest news on the girl who feel thirty feet on her head and ended up being healed of her chronic diseases and living to tell the tale, this is one place to look and judge for yourself. The new movie is called “miracles from heaven” and will be out on March 16: http://aleteia.org/ 2016/03/09/its-not-our-story-its-gods-story-the-real-family-behind-miracles-from-heaven/

    • Rob Abney

      Dhaniele, will this incident be considered by the Church to be a miracle?

  • neil_pogi

    i watched a scientific explanations on how a fire consumes an altar of elijah that is filled with overflowed water. (don't remember if it is national geographic or discovery channel). read 1 Kings 18: 25 - 38.

    my questions: 1. how did elijah know that the fire will consume his altar that is filled with water? (i know that God has instructed him to do so), Elijah just know that it is impossible for a flame to ignite the watery altar!!

  • neil_pogi

    Hume said that we should not believe every time our eyes see?

    if Hume is still living today, i challenge him to go to a lion's den, and when he see a lion, he should not believe his eyes is seeing a lion.

    what a professional philosopher!

    • Will

      Hume was right, it's been demonstrated, over, and over, and over again by the scientific method.

      http://search.bwh.harvard.edu/new/pubs/PrevalenceHoutEtAlJEPHPP2015.pdf

      Since the 1990s, when DNA testing was first introduced, Innocence Project researchers have reported that 73 percent of the 239 convictions overturned through DNA testing were based on eyewitness testimony.
      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-the-eyes-have-it/

      Back in 1978, Rotterdam was the site of the first known red panda escape. It also spawned what's called the "red panda effect" in psychology and cryptozoology circles. Though the red panda was found (dead, unfortunately) just as newspapers publicized the escape, Rotterdam natives spent the next year or so calling the zoo, insisting they'd seen a red panda. The "red panda effect" refers to the way the brain fills in the blanks--you see what you expect to see, in other words. If you're expecting to see a red panda, you see a red panda, even if it's just a dirty raccoon.

      http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-06/red-panda-greatest-escape-artist-zoo

      http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/another-sighting/

      Of course, Hume didn't say you shouldn't run if there is any doubt it's a lion. In fact, this is why scientists think we evolved to have hyperactive agency detection.

      http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/hyperactive-agency-detection/

      • neil_pogi

        i don't need those 'scientific' bluffs you posted.. all i need for you is to prove that if your eyes can see things 'miraculous' events, you need not believe your eyes, because miracles are not to be believed.

        now i ask you to go inside a lion's den and if you are seeing a lion is coming towards you, what would be your reactions?

        • Will

          Neil, do you not realize that your argument depends on lions being miracles? Do you really think lions are miracles? You can't be that...I'd better not say.

          • neil_pogi

            we all know that lions are carnivore animals and naturally, when we see them approaching to us, we run for fear that they will eat us. i didn't say what you were trying to say ('lions are miracles')

    • Doug Shaver

      Hume said that we should not believe every time our eyes see?

      No, he didn't say that.

      • neil_pogi

        yes he did!

        • Doug Shaver

          Show us a quotation.

          • neil_pogi

            it's better if you research that

          • Doug Shaver

            it's better if you research that

            I already have. That statement isn't in his writings.

          • neil_pogi

            panic mode that david hume was very wrong about his philosophy? are atheists consider him a god? try searching again! look for the context of his writings!

  • Dhaniele

    I notice that the movie "Miracles from Heaven" has opened to very good reviews. I also noticed that in discussing the theme "Is it reasonable to believe in miracles" many tend to ignore the factual accounts and prefer to say things like why not this miracle instead of that miracle, etc. The real question is do these events take place. (And all the factual evidence points to them truly occurring -- which is perhaps the reason for so many people preferring to change the topic.) In any event, from what I have seen the real question should be "Can a reasonable person doubt the existence of miracles?"

    • Sample1

      "Can a reasonable person doubt the existence of miracles?"-Dhaniele

      You tell me.

      Mike

      • Dhaniele

        I have made a number of postings of sites where these miracles are described (like the one in the movie). So far I have found no credible explanation of the ones I have listed from anyone. Therefore the question: can a reasonable person doubt the existence or miracles?

        • Will

          So far I have found no credible explanation of the ones I have listed from anyone. Therefore the question: can a reasonable person doubt the existence or miracles?

          It's perfectly fine to say none of my explanations are credible (of course it would be good to deeply analyze the word credible), however, "why do you think Jesus did it with supernatural powers I can't explain" is a credible explanation compared to, "the compost in the cottonwood tree broke Annabelle's fall". Also with the resurrected fetus from the other article, why not "the doctor's missed the heartbeat which is very weak in a young fetus" (it's very easy to miss). Your last article had too few details, and I could find nothing else about the "healing" on the net. I have no idea why I should trust anything on an unfamiliar website from where Neil Pogi is from (the Philippines). The article, from Asia, discussing events which I believe were to have occurred in France. I see no evidence that the Vatican accepted the miracle either, can you link to the Vatican's site or a more reliable source? Don't you think it isn't reasonable to believe everything you read on the internet? Besides, this is back to spontaneous cancer remission, and immune changes are the most likely scientific cause, I've already given you links. If you want miraculous curing of leukemia, look no further than this article from a very reliable website (though like any it makes errors) that shows a new treatment involving re-engineering immune cells has a "miraculous" 90% cure rate of terminal leukemia patients. If we define miracles as highly improbable events, then of course they happen, but I see no reason to think that postulating magic is more credible than any scientific hypothesis, no matter how improbable.
          Look you made a statement before that people aren't inherently rational (more or less) and I agree completely, this is demonstrated scientifically. Critical thinking, however, is the art of thinking rationally, and making yourself think more rationally (although you can never be completely rational). Can you reasonably question someone else's rationality without a deep understanding of what it means to think rationally? Absolutely not. Your lack of interest in rationality disqualifies you from any influence on me, at least, especially when you make ridiculous claims like these. In lieu of the fact you have completely ignored our interactions and continue to repeat the same unreasonable mantra, I think that you are a quite irrational person, and incredible gullible. These are not positive attributes. If you aren't gullible, show me a Catholic miracle claim you reject. The Vatican does not approve many, and if you can't think of one you've already rejected, that tells us something about your thinking. Many have been shown to been deliberate hoaxes:

          http://www.csicop.org/si/show/padre_pio_wonderworker_or_charlatan

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-nickell/10-faked-historical-mirac_b_3268143.html

          Prison time for faking prayer efficacy:

          In 2001 the Journal of Reproductive Medicine published an experimental study by three Columbia University researchers indicating that prayer for women undergoing in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer (IVF-ET) resulted in a double success rate (50%) of pregnancy compared to that of women who did not receive prayer.[18] Columbia University issued a news release saying that the study had been carefully designed to eliminate bias.[19] The most important skeptic was Bruce Flamm, a clinical professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the University of California at Irvine, who not only found the experimental procedures flawed,[20] but also discovered that some of the authors were frauds.[21] The first-named author, Kwang Y. Cha, never responded to any inquiries. Daniel Wirth, a.k.a. John Wayne Truelove, is not an M.D. but an M.S. in parapsychology and was subsequently indicted on felony charges for mail fraud and theft, committed apparently during the time the study was said to have been conducted, and he pleaded guilty. On November 22, 2004, Wirth was sentenced to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release (parole). In December 2001 an investigation of Columbia University by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) revealed that the study’s lead author, Dr. Rogerio Lobo, first learned of the study six to twelve months after the study was completed, and he subsequently denied having anything to do with the study’s design or conduct and indicated that he had only provided editorial assistance. The name of Columbia University and Lobo were retracted.[22]

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer

          • Dhaniele

            I remind you of Ruth Cranston's book. You continually refer to "remission" in cancer cases (that occurs in medical literature over a period of time that can naturally be explained). Not even ONE of the cases in Cranston's book fits that description. These cures take place within hours at most, not weeks or months.

          • Will

            Neuroblastoma is very distressing, yet it can sometimes disappear as quickly as it came, even without medical intervention. In fact, for infants less than one year old, regression is so common that doctors tend to avoid starting chemotherapy immediately, in the hope that the tumour will shrink by itself. “I can remember three cases with rather impressive skin metastases and an enlarged liver, but we literally just observed them – and they did well,” says Garrett Brodeur at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

            http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150306-the-mystery-of-vanishing-cancer

            Very fast regression is common in some cancers. If you give me a credible modern doctor with imaging showing regression in hours, I'd be very interested. I remind you, that the technology simply did not exist in 1955 to show a very rapid regression of cancer, there might be a very rapid improvement in symptoms, however. There is a serious difference. We've already discussed this here I wrote (4 days ago):

            A book by a journalist (not even a scientist or a doctor) from 1955 cannot provide evidence of cancer remission in hours. The imaging technology required did not exist then. Why do you take a book written by a journalist to be authoritative on anything medical? That seems to be a serious mistake.

            Are you not really reading what I write or is this some type of selective memory? In either case, it is a bit frustrating from my point of view.

          • Dhaniele

            You assume that all tumors are detectable only with modern equipment. The miracles she speaks of involved tumors which were quite evident to the naked eye. (There are plenty of terrible cancers like this even now.) Moreover, a lot of the deformities that were cured weren't cancer anyway, and these were also quite visible. If anyone has a selective memory, in this case it is you. The doctors that worked at the Lourdes hospital were deliberately chosen to include even people with no religious faith at all.

          • Will

            I'm just going to leave you with this excellent paper written by medical researchers on the topic, here is a quote.

            The word “cure” has been, in the Lourdes context, misconstrued and overused. Allegations of cures, mere improvements in patients' medical status, especially in functional, nervous conditions, were often accepted as “genuine cures.”31 By crosschecking available data, we arrived at a rough estimate of the medical events acknowledged as “cures” as 4,516 in the period 1858–1976.32 Most of these cures occurred before WWII and were based on rather flimsy evidence, collected in a unique environment: one-time observations of alleged cures and improvements, a context of pious crowds eager for miracles, and the absence of follow-up, a flaw that has weighed down Lourdes' medical history. It is therefore not feasible to assess the number of “genuine cures” that occurred before 1947.

            Here is a good news article that summarizes increasing research on the power of placebo, aka belief, to heal. The Guardian is one of the few excellent news sites still around that writes for the general public (in my opinion, at least and I live in the US, not the UK).

            In other words, everything Ruth was writing about was medically unreliable information. That doesn't mean miraculous cures didn't happen, of course. From the conclusion:

            For lay people who take a leap of faith and are ready to believe “what is most contrary to custom and experience,”54 Lourdes is a privileged place of divine action through the Virgin Mary's intercession, and a prominent healing space in a growing pattern of the cult of Mary. The Lourdes cures have now shrunk to a trickle and the Lourdes mystique may have lost some of its momentum. It has been suggested that today's pilgrims as a whole have little in common with nineteenth-century believers who, after a long and feverish wait, “incubation and contagion” (Charcot), were moved with enthusiasm, reverence, and powerful emotions.....
            Rational individuals would assert that a sound interpretation will be brought to today's inexplicable facts. Alexis Carrel is oft-quoted as having written that “a fact is declared supernatural when its cause is unknown.”57 Significant mental factors are present in Lourdes: anticipation and hope, belief and confidence, fervor and awe, meditation and exaltation, and these are compounded by the spiritual atmosphere of the place, ritual gestures, hymns, and prayers. The reactivity and sensitivity of patients to these mental states may well be determinants of the cures and are likely to explain why the cures seem to occur at random and vary in timing, place, modes, and ways. Hunger, a telltale sign of return to health, also suggests brain involvement. We have also been struck by a matter-of-fact observation: the occurrence of cures that were not instantaneous but rather required days or weeks. This mode of cure occurred in about one-third of patients cured in 1909–14 and 1947–76. Largely unnoticed and overlooked, this pattern does not square with the usual script of a miracle, nor does it fit with the desiderata of the Church. From the pragmatic standpoint of an agnostic, the Lourdes cures, fewer than originally thought, have been a heterogeneous collection of medical facts, neither impostures nor miracles.58 Uncanny and weird, the cures are currently beyond our ken but still impressive, incredibly effective, and awaiting a scientific explanation. Creating a theoretical explanatory framework could be within the reach of neurophysiologists in the next decades.59

            In other words, we may understand what WAS (no longer, the last official miracle as of 2006 when the research was done, was in 1976) going on at Lourdes via neuroscience/psychology in the not too distant future. As I've said, belief is a powerful think, and it does have the power to heal, the mind has a dramatic effect on the body.

          • Dhaniele

            Rather than dealing in abstractions, it would be good to look at concrete cases and realize that science has no explanation for these kinds of cures. The replacing of diseased tissues with healthy tissues cannot take place in a matter of hours. Rather than spending time on abstractions, it is better to deal with concrete cases to reach the truth of the matter. Thus I share with you what real doctors have to say about this case: Danila Castelli, born on 16 January 1946, wife and family mother, has lived a more or less normal life until the age of 34 when she started having spontaneous and severe blood pressure hypertensive crisis. In 1982 some Rx and ultrasound tests detect a right para-uterine mass and a fibromatous uterus. Danila is operated for hysterectomy and annexectomy. In november 1982 she undergoes partial pancreatectomy. A scintigraphy the following year proves the existence of «pheochromocytoma » (a tumor that secretes high amounts of catecholamines) in the rectal, bladder and vaginal region. More surgical interventions follow in the attempt to stop the triggers to the crisis until 1988 but with no bettering at all. In may 1989, during a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Danila gets out of the Baths where she had been immerged and she feels an extraordinary feeling of wellbeing. Shortly after she reported to the Lourdes Office of Medical Observations (Bureau des Constatations Médicales de Lourdes) her instantaneous alleged cure. After five meetings (1989, 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2010) the Bureau certified the cure with an unanimous vote : « Mrs Castelli was cured, in a complete and lasting way, from the date of her pilgrimage to Lourdes -- 21 years ago -- of the syndrome she had suffered and with no relation with the treatments and the surgeries she received ». Danila Castelli has since gone back to an absolute normal life. The CMIL (Lourdes International Medical Committee) in it's annual meeting of 19 november 2011 in Paris has certified that the cure « remains unexplained according to current scientific knowledge » (When will science explain how diseased tissue can suddenly become healthy in a matter of hours -- all of this requires complex chemical reactions that require time to take place.)

          • Doug Shaver

            science has no explanation

            The inability of current science to explain something does not mean that it is contrary to current science.

          • Dhaniele

            There are certain fundamental processes which take place over a matter of time in the formation of new blood vessels, etc. Science can never explain such a thing unless you are speaking of science fiction.

          • Doug Shaver

            There are certain fundamental processes which take place over a matter of time in the formation of new blood vessels

            That is a contingent fact of mammalian biology. It is not a law of physics. You said laws of physics were being violated. I asked you to name one. You haven't done that yet.

          • Dhaniele

            I refer you to my answer above. However, to think that mammalian biology is separate from the laws of physics makes no sense in the modern world.

          • Doug Shaver

            to think that mammalian biology is separate from the laws of physics makes no sense in the modern world.

            I'm not suggesting that they're separate. I'm disputing your apparent assumption that they are the same thing.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Supposing these miracles are real, what are we supposed to take from them?

          • Dhaniele

            There is no need to suppose they are real. Examine the facts that are available on the web from many reliable sources and with full medical confirmation. Just look up Miracles Lourdes Bureau and you can find the full stories of numerous cases. Once you have realized these events are in fact taking place, then you are in a position to decide for yourself what action to take.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You are dodging my question. Whenever we suppose that God is intervening in a drastic way, it begs the question, why doesn't God intervene in other situations. What about all the people who have gone to Lourdes praying for a cure and receiving none? Why didn't God intervene there?

            There have been stories of the miraculous since the dawn of time. The sources that tell of them are not exactly trustworthy.

          • Dhaniele

            Here we are not supposing that events take place. Here we are not dealing with untrustworthy sources. From the net you get names, places, etc. To think that this is untrustworthy in general presupposes a conspiracy in which doctors, hospitals, and journalists are perpetuating lies on a grand scale.

          • Will

            Not only do you continue to dodge his question, but you also continue to say this "Here we are not dealing with untrustworthy sources." like you know this for a fact when I've given you a paper written by multiple professional medical researchers saying just the opposite. Who's ignoring what doctors say now?

          • Dhaniele

            It is one thing to make generic statements about so-called miracles and another to take a specific miracles and say there is a scientific explanation for this miracle. Again, I point to the miracles of Lourdes in which the doctors are speaking of those specific miracles and not anything that someone might call a miracle. That is why I presented the recent cure of Danilla Castelli. The paper your quote was not describing for example a case like this one:
            Pierre de RUDDER Born on 7/2/1822 in Jabbeke in Belgium.Cured on 4/7/1875, in his 53rd. year. Miracle on 7/25/1908, In 1867, Pierre de RUDDER had his leg crushed when a tree fell down. As a result he sustained an open fracture of both bones in the upper third of the left leg. Despite all treatment given, it was obvious from an early stage that the fracture would never heal. Due to local infection, and (because of it) the elimination of newly formed bone over the years, a pseudoarthrosis set in at the site of the fracture, and there was not the slightest chance of the bones uniting. The doctors advised amputation several times, but Pierre de RUDDER refused. In this state, eight years after the accident, Pierre de RUDDER decided to make a pilgrimage to Oostacker on 4/7/1875, where a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes had recently been built for the piety of our Belgian neighbours. Setting off from Jabbeke in the morning as an invalid, unable to stand on his left leg, he returned in the evening without crutches or wounds.
            The bones had united in a matter of minutes, without any shortening or deviation from the vertical axis. During the following days, the doctors who had treated him, verified these changes. Later, for further proof, the bones of both legs were exhumed. This allowed us to see the objective evidence, the site of the fracture in its healed state, which can now be seen in the moulds in the possession of the Medical Bureau. In July 1908, 33 years later (a sort of record!) the Bishop of Bruges declared that in the cure of Pierre de RUDDER, one could see a miracle attributable to "an intervention by God, obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary".

          • Will

            I love Buddhism, and have found them to be very deep, and thoughtful people. It is my favorite religion. Considering your other remark, I no longer wish to converse with you, it was deeply offensive to me, and sad, even though it created a sarcastic laugh. How bigoted.

          • Dhaniele

            As I pointed out above, I said nothing about Buddhism to a very generic comment that was made about amazing feats, it was you who made that statement. Moreover, if you are willing to concede that there are authentic miracles in Buddhism, I do not see what your problem is with miracles.

          • Dhaniele

            I am sorry I did not notice your question until today and I have written my response below.

          • Doug Shaver

            I remind you of Ruth Cranston's book

            She said certain things happened. I have no reason to assume that they happened exactly the way she said they happened. I don't attribute inerrancy to any document, no matter who the author was.

          • Dhaniele

            She is merely presenting the medical records that are available to anyone who wants to see them.

          • Doug Shaver

            The actual records, or her interpretation of those records?

          • Dhaniele

            If you read the book (available on line), you will see that the records are the official ones available to anyone. The interpretation is of the doctors who treated the patients. Any unbiased observer has to admit that the events took place which we call miracles. They might not want to call them miracles but to deny the events themselves is simply a flight from reality.

          • Doug Shaver

            Any unbiased observer has to admit . . . .

            When a book is recommended to me with an assurance that it will compel unbiased readers toward a certain conclusion, I know right away that I have nothing to gain by reading it.

          • Dhaniele

            What harm can come from courageously confronting facts?

          • Doug Shaver

            You say that it's about confronting facts. That doesn't make it so.

          • Doug Shaver

            The interpretation is of the doctors who treated the patients.

            I accept that some doctors witnessed recoveries that were inexplicable in the light of present medical knowledge.

          • Dhaniele

            Very good observation, and as I pointed out elsewhere, the sudden healing of substantial tissues in a matter of hour and the removal of diseased tissues violates the laws of physics since the diseased tissue has to be removed by chemical processes that require time and likewise the nutrients for healthy tissue have to gradually take form -- not in the time it takes to go from the Lourdes bath to the Lourdes hospital.

          • Doug Shaver

            the sudden healing of substantial tissues in a matter of hour and the removal of diseased tissues violates the laws of physics

            Not just because you say so, it doesn't. Can you tell me one specific law of physics that would be violated by any of the recoveries reported in Cranston's book?

          • Dhaniele

            Almost anyone knows that for new tissue to form, blood vessels have to develop, nutrients from the food we eat have to be provided for the healthy cell multiplication, etc.

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes, but what law of physics is being violated by the recoveries that Cranston reports?

          • Dhaniele

            A complex phenomenon like this would violate many known laws that are taught in any high school physics course.

          • Doug Shaver

            A complex phenomenon like this would violate many known laws

            Identify one of those laws.

          • Dhaniele

            The law of conservation of mass and energy supposes that no new matter can be created. In many of these cases, healthy tissue appears out of nowhere in a matter of hours or in some cases even minutes. Only a Creator God is capable of this.

          • Doug Shaver

            healthy tissue appears out of nowhere

            That wasn't in any of the reports I've seen. Some of the stories mention tissue growth that was anomalously rapid, but that "faster than normal" does not mean "contrary to the laws of physics."

          • Sample1

            Ever notice that non-human animal medical anomalies are evidently outside the purview of the Magisterium's miracle expertise?

            Why?

            Mike

          • Sample1

            It's also seemingly inconsistent that miracle claim investigations rely on science-based medicine rather than include unscientific modalities such as chiropractic and homeopathy.

            In fact, it would seem a moral duty to make a papal pronouncement about the value of science-based medicine over non-science based treatments considering countless Catholics flock to downright sketchy alternative practitioners every day.

            Just doesn't fit.

            Mike

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm sure it has something to do with how very special we Homo sapiens are.

          • Sample1

            And apparently not all Homo sapiens but exclusively Catholics? Sorry Benny Hinn, et al.

            What I'd like to ask an official Catholic recognizer of miracles is what exactly they are recognizing and how. If it's because humans are special, doesn't that also imply that the maladies which befall us are somehow special too? And yet cancer is no respecter of mammals.

            It seems to me that official Catholic miracle recognizers cannot be dependent on science-based medical experts because the method used to discern human remissions is the same for discerning remissions in non-human animals (indeed, much of our medicine begins its R/D in the veterinary sciences).

            I'm skeptical because it looks inconsistent. It seems to me that miracle recognition cannot be wholly dependent on the idea that a remission/healing occurs. Perhaps it isn't.

            Any Catholics want to chime in?

            Mike
            Edits done.
            A few more edits. Done now.

          • Darren

            Sample1 wrote,

            Sorry Benny Hinn, et al.

            Jan Crouch’s resurrected chicken?

          • Dhaniele

            I call your attention to the details of this case. Given the time element, the healthy tissue could not have appeared without the intervention of a Creator God. Otherwise, you yourself do not believe in science. Read on: Pierre de RUDDER Born on 7/2/1822 in Jabbeke in Belgium.Cured on 4/7/1875, in his 53rd. year. Miracle on 7/25/1908, In 1867, Pierre de RUDDER had his leg crushed when a tree fell down. As a result he sustained an open fracture of both bones in the upper third of the left leg. Despite all treatment given, it was obvious from an early stage that the fracture would never heal. Due to local infection, and (because of it) the elimination of newly formed bone over the years, a pseudoarthrosis set in at the site of the fracture, and there was not the slightest chance of the bones uniting. The doctors advised amputation several times, but Pierre de RUDDER refused. In this state, eight years after the accident, Pierre de RUDDER decided to make a pilgrimage to Oostacker on 4/7/1875, where a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes had recently been built for the piety of our Belgian neighbours. Setting off from Jabbeke in the morning as an invalid, unable to stand on his left leg, he returned in the evening without crutches or wounds.

            The bones had united in a matter of minutes, without any shortening or deviation from the vertical axis. During the following days, the doctors who had treated him, verified these changes. Later, for further proof, the bones of both legs were exhumed. This allowed us to see the objective evidence, the site of the fracture in its healed state, which can now be seen in the moulds in the possession of the Medical Bureau. In July 1908, 33 years later (a sort of record!) the Bishop of Bruges declared that in the cure of Pierre de RUDDER, one could see a miracle attributable to "an intervention by God, obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary".

          • Doug Shaver

            I call your attention to the details of this case.

            You're giving me your version of the story. Where can I find the pertinent medical records?

          • Dhaniele

            This is quite easy for your to do if you really want to. Look up the name that is there;it is a well known miracle. It is not my version at all, I just posted it.

          • Doug Shaver

            Look up the name that is there

            I did. I didn't find any medical records. I found the website from which you copied that story.

            It is not my version at all, I just posted it.

            You presented the story without attribution. That makes it your version until such time as you state your disagreement with it,

          • Dhaniele

            Here is another miraculous event that you can ponder. This can be found on Wikipedia. It is under "Zeitoun Mary." There you will read about thousands of people who saw the Virgin Mary appearing on top of a church and moving about in a quite natural way. This continued several nights a week over a period of about two years. The Egyptian authorities investigated it and concluded that there was no fraud involved. The apparitions were also witnessed by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and captured by newspaper photographers and Egyptian television. Investigations performed by the police could find no explanation for the phenomenon. No device was found within a radius of fifteen miles capable of projecting the image, while the sheer number of photographs from independent sources suggests that no photographic manipulation was involved. Having been unable to produce an alternative explanation for the luminous sightings, the Egyptian government accepted the apparitions as true.

          • Doug Shaver

            You probably have a mile-long list of such things that you can throw at me one after another for the next 10 years.

            Here is another miraculous event that you can ponder.

            I've been pondering these kinds of reports since I was 12 years old, and I'm 70 now. You're not saying anything that other defenders of the faith haven't been saying since before you were born. The fact that I don't believe the canonical versions of these stories doesn't mean I haven't investigated them. It just means that the kind of evidence you find persuasive is not the kind of evidence that persuades me.

          • Dhaniele

            It may not be convincing to you, but it was obviously convincing to a lot of people working for the Egyptian government whose jobs depended on figuring out what was going on, especially in a Muslim country. That is why they necessarily concluded that it was all true when they had carefully examined the facts. As for your skepticism, as I mentioned already, we have those who doubt that the US ever landed on the moon. If they want to think that way, of course, they can, but skeptics should understand that those who believe that objective observations are true (and have to be explained rather than ignored) have a very reasonable right to think so. The title of the article deals with how reasonable it is to believe in these extraordinary things called miracles. Which is why, looking at the facts, I say is it reasonable to doubt them?

          • Doug Shaver

            As for your skepticism, as I mentioned already, we have those who doubt that the US ever landed on the moon.

            There are people who say they doubt it. Why do you think that the existence of those people is relevant to whether I'm justified in doubting the occurrence of supernatural events?

          • Dhaniele

            Because a serious study of the abundant evidence for these kinds of events is there for anyone who wants to see it and if such a person wants to ignore this or doubt this, it is a choice in both cases.

          • Doug Shaver

            a serious study of the abundant evidence

            I have studied the evidence for miracles and the evidence for the moon landings. You may regard the evidence for one as equivalent to the evidence for the other. I don't, and that doesn't prove that my study of either was not serious.

            it is a choice in both cases.

            By "choice," do you mean an act of will?

          • Dhaniele

            How else can one reach a conclusion since in both cases one is relying on qualified witnesses, journalists, etc.?

          • Doug Shaver

            How else can one reach a conclusion

            I asked a question. Another question cannot answer a question.

          • Sample1

            For perspective, miracles really don't amaze people like me but rather the everyday occurrences of natural wound healing does. Studying science, medicine, is infinitely more textured in terms of actual knowledge capable of being understood than the types of stories you've related.

            Miracles are boring.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Studying science, medicine, is infinitely more textured in terms of actual knowledge capable of being understood than the types of stories you've related.

            Miracles are boring.

            It seems that the story she has related is just what you describe as interesting only at a faster rate than expected. Are you saying miracles are not interesting because we cannot understand them or because they seem to occur sporadically so that we cannot study them?

          • Sample1

            Unlike interesting unknowns in science, to my understanding the process of how a miracle works cannot, even in principle, be understood from a reductionist/materialistic approach. I am not a person of faith, so such events are of little interest to me outside of the anthropological understandings of how some religions function. It's the latter reason why I'm at all involved (by reading and sometimes responding) in this thread about miracles.

            It's also a subtle mistake to say a "faster rate than expected" because you are begging the question that natural processes are involved in a miraculous event.

            Mike
            Edits done.

          • Rob Abney

            I had asked your opinion on this statement previously, can something come from nothing?
            The above described miracle seemed to be a case of a very rapid healing of bone in my view. It sounds as if you are interpreting the event as something coming from nothing if it is not a naturalistic process?

          • Sample1

            It must seem vexing or even downright strange to you that people like me could find miracles boring. I can appreciate that.

            I know how bone heals. I learned many of the complex processes in histology; that was quite a while ago so I'm sure even more is known since I took it.

            Bone healing "by miracle" tells me absolutely nothing about the actual healing of bones.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Try a thought experiment Mike. Try to accept for a fact that the bone healing occurred, what process could be involved for it to heal in a sudden amount of time?

          • Sample1

            Miracles, according your church, are not, in principle, amenable to experiment. It's a kind of faith-diagnosis by exclusion. Without something testable, I don't believe what you've constructed is a sound thought experiment. Furthermore, if contradictions or counterfactual reasoning is invoked, you get what is known in logic as the principle of explosion: anything can follow.

            Not helpful.

            Perhaps you can reword it?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Rob Abney

            If the bone healed then it was through the natural process of healing only at a much faster rate.
            Or,
            It healed suddenly because something magical happened, such as new bone created in a space where bone existed before.

            It seems as though you might be considering that miracle-believers accept the latter possibility?

          • Sample1

            Last section first: in this religion there really is no such thing as a bad way to "come to Jesus" so what that means is that miracle believers can have any number of reasons for why they might accept such claims. There is no canon law prohibiting any action/belief if it authentically leads the person to Jesus. So it's very difficult to address your question without individual interviews.

            Now, when you say "much faster rate" (but natural) you really aren't considering what that means. The repair line (the communication needed) to that broken bone runs through the blood stream. Various hormonal triggers occur far away in the brain for bones to begin the healing process. Even gravity assists with reducing certain fractures but we don't have to go there. Let's just say it's even more complex than I'm describing: the fracture doesn't heal itself isolated. It takes body.

            So what's going to happen to the heart, the lungs, or even the plaques lining the vessels, the valves, (and on and on), when the required speed of blood flow (for the faster rate of hormonal communication [naturally]) is even faster than the fastest river in Middle Earth? The patient is going to die from internal damage before the first Haversian canal starts a churning.

            In short, I don't believe in miracles and saying something just happened "at a faster rate" inexcusably ignores the complexity behind such an assertion.

            Best answer, for sake of further argument is simply, unknown.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Rob Abney

            I appreciate that you finally engaged the subject. Your assertion is that various body organs and the vascular system in particular could not tolerate rapid bone healing. That makes sense. But initial stages of bone healing normally occur in less than 2 weeks and sufficient healing is usually within 6 weeks.
            Could the rapid healing actually be a much delayed healing that occurred because he planned and executed this trip to venerate the Virgin? Maybe the healing process was a normal rate but the miraculous part was that it finally occurred 8 years later. That still seems miraculous but less magical.

          • Sample1

            What I've engaged is what you were calling a thought experiment (not any particular case) and about which I've posted objections.

            I do not believe in miracles. You might.

            Next?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Would you believe in a miracle if your scientific reasoning supported it and your objections were overcome?

          • Sample1

            Think about what you're asking me. Would I believe in a miracle if it wasn't a miracle?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            How about healing naturally but only at a time far removed from when healing could've been expected?

          • Sample1

            We've covered this ground.

            Mike

          • Doug Shaver

            I call your attention to the details of this case.

            You are showing me what somebody who has a web site says are the details of a case

          • Darren

            Dhaniele wrote,

            In many of these cases, healthy tissue appears out of nowhere in a matter of hours

            A matter of hours, you say? That is impressive.

            Why, if someone were having an amputated leg regrown in, say, two hours, that is, what, 21,000 per day at 24 hours per day times 2 hours - the same time it takes 1,750 children under 5 to die with no apparent interest from God at all.

        • Sample1

          Dhaniele said:

          I have made a number of postings where these miracles are described...

          I have no quibble with the fact that you've made a number of postings but where have you established that these descriptions are miracles?

          Dhaniele said:

          So far I have found no credible explanation for the ones I have listed. Therefore the question: can a reasonable person doubt the existence or miracles?

          Ah, your ending question here follows an informal fallacy in the prior sentence called the argument from ignorance. The sentences are also disconnected, or what is called a non sequitur.

          As a result, answering your question requires fixing the fallacies first. Until that is done, I can only offer the charitable response of, I do not know.

          Mike
          Edit done.
          Final edit done.

          • Dhaniele

            It is up to you to show that you have a natural explanation and therefore they are not miracles.

          • Sample1

            You can choose to believe that but I see it as presenting a lot of problems that would make navigating through life not only frustrating but dangerous. I'd also submit, that except within the cultural climate of your religion, you don't choose this route for anything else.

            Again, your choice. Not mine. I guess I should therefore ask, why should I adopt your manner of thinking?

            Mike

          • Dhaniele

            The events that are described in the postings I made (and of course there are plenty others like these) point to the existence of God as the only being who can do such things that cannot be explained by the ordinary laws of science and which occur in these clearly religious contexts. Of course, you may feel that this presents "a lot of problems." However, ignoring reality can also present even more serious problems. The miracles have to be seriously studied and then appropriate action should follow. If they can be explained naturally, they are clearly not miracles, but if they cannot be explained naturally, it is prudent to investigate the God they reveal and who speaks to us through them.

          • Sample1

            The events that are described in the postings I made...point to the existence of God

            Assuming for sake of argument that your events are accurately portrayed and medical science is unable to offer an explanation, the prudent position is to acknowledge that all it points to is that there is an unknown etiology.

            Unknown etiologies are not new, but one mechanism has a good track record of figuring them out: science. Theology is not taught in medical school because it has a poor track record of figuring things out.

            but if they cannot be explained naturally, it is prudent to investigate the God they reveal and who speaks to us through them.

            No, this would effectively kill off medical progress. If medical schools said skin cancer rates can be lowered if only God was recognized as the cause of the lowering rather than understanding cancer caused by non-ionizing ultraviolet radiation, what do you think would happen? Prayer doesn't protect against skin cancer, sunscreen does.

            Saying God did it solves nothing, provides no mechanism for care, and most menacing of all offers no hope for an answer. It stops inquiry.

            I have zero interest in such a scheme.

            Mike

          • Dhaniele

            Since miracles are by their very nature exceptional, they do not in any way block scientific inquiry. Obviously if a person has only a few days or hours to live and science has exhausted all means of treating the problem, it is very wise to avail oneself of this option. The cases that I have noted in my postings are precisely of this nature.They are not ignoring medical science. Medical science was in no position to help them and could only acknowledge a cure that could not take place in a matter of hours since all the chemical changes underlying such a cure presuppose all kinds of nutrients, etc. that are not available in just a few hours. Danila Castelli, born on 16 january 1946, wife and family mother, has lived a more or less normal life until the age of 34 when she started having spontaneous and severe blood pressure hypertensive crisis. In 1982 some Rx and ultrasound tests detect a right para-uterine mass and a fibromatous uterus. Danila is operated for hysterectomy and annexectomy. In november 1982 she undergoes partial pancreatectomy. A scintigraphy the following year proves the existence of «pheochromocytoma » (a tumor that secretes high amounts of catecholamines) in the rectal, bladder and vaginal region. More surgical interventions follow in the attempt to stop the triggers to the crisis until 1988 but with no bettering at all. In may 1989, during a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Danila gets out of the Baths where she had been immerged and she feels an extraordinary feeling of wellbeing. Shortly after she reported to the Lourdes Office of Medical Observations (Bureau des Constatations Médicales de Lourdes) her instantaneous alleged cure. After five meetings (1989, 1992, 1994, 1997 and 2010) the Bureau certified the cure with an unanimous vote : « Mrs Castelli was cured, in a complete and lasting way, from the date of her pilgrimage to Lourdes -- 21 years ago -- of the syndrome she had suffered and with no relation with the treatments and the surgeries she received ». Danila Castelli has since gone back to an absolute normal life. The CMIL (Lourdes International Medical Committee) in it's annual meeting of 19 november 2011 in Paris has certified that the cure « remains unexplained according to current scientific knowledge ». (It should be evident that when you consider all the chemical changes that occur when diseased tissue is replaced with healthy tissue, such a change can never be explained by the laws of science as occurring in a matter of hours, i.e. the time it takes to get an x-ray.)

          • Sample1

            Since miracles are by their very nature exceptional, they do not in any way block scientific inquiry.

            Scientific inquiry is not blocked by miracles rather people who do not believe disease has a natural explanation can block scientific inquiry.

            Medical science was in no position to help them...

            Science based medicine advances with time so saying it was in no position is hard to know. But I believe it occupies the most effective position currently known. Are there some diseases without known effective treatments? Yes. Does this mean medical science is in no position to help? I don't think so. There are many ways to medically help besides the complete eradication of disease.

            Obviously if a person has only a few days or hours to live and science has exhausted all means of treating the problem, it is very wise to avail oneself of this option.

            If by wise, you mean searching for comfort, I might agree. But then again, not all are comforted by searching for miracles in their final hours. As a matter of fact, you seem to suggest that miracles should be a last line of defense rather than the first method of treatment. Interesting.

            Thank you for the stories but I am not in a position to evaluate them.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Dhaniele

            You do not have to evaluate them. The panel of doctors has already done the evaluation of the case I mentioned. I cannot fail to notice the similarity between your position and holocaust deniers and those who deny that man has reached the moon. There are expert witnesses (doctors) of these kinds of miracles; if you do not accept their testimony that is a free choice that has no objective grounds.

          • Lazarus

            Dhaniele, you seem to have studied these miracles quite extensively, so maybe you can help me with my only real problem with miracles. Please accept that this is a genuine question, with no snark or gotcha involved. I would love to find a good answer to this.

            Some of the reported miracles (let's stick to those in Christianity) are quite well described, in a way that creates a lot of reasonable doubt, and it is quite plausible to accept some of them on face value.

            But I always stumble over the bigger picture, the "why" of it. Why would God cure someone's cancer at Lourdes after years of suffering in Leeds, why not cure suffering itself, why is Mrs. Jones cured at age 76 while millions of small children are not?

            I'm sorry to be so skeptical about something that you take so much inspiration from, but if God accomplishes a miracle in my presence I will still have those questions.

            "Mysterious ways"?

          • Dhaniele

            It is important not to put the cart before the horse. By careful study, you should be able to see that in fact these miracles do take place. Only when you are fully convinced by the facts are you in a position for further questions, otherwise you lose your concentration on the facts and get lost in abstract rhetorical musings that are always found when these questions are treated.

          • Lazarus

            I don't believe that you have addressed the question at all. In fact, my question is even better summarized by Ignatius' subsequent question - even if we concede the miracle, even if we were convinced of the facts, what are we to make of it? Why do miracles happen?

            I understand that you believe in miracles, and that you want to. That's great, I also want to believe in them. But you seem to have found a way to so believe without answering those questions, or by ignoring them.

          • Dhaniele

            As I have indicated, I do not think it is a case of "believing" that these events take place. To deny they take place is to assume that a lot of people, including journalists of every description, are engaged in a conspiracy to hoodwink the public. There is no room for doubt if someone makes a sincere investigation (especially in the cures at Lourdes which have a lot of documentation). Only when one has faced these facts, can he profitably enter into speculations as to why they take place.

          • Lazarus

            And, as I have indicated, what is the answer if the miracles are conceded? What theological value lies in such a miracle?

            I am now becoming convinced that what you are saying is a version of the old "if you allow yourself to believe then you will believe" shell game. Get to believe this and then, surprise, you will believe.

            Do you believe in the myriad of reported miracles and signs that the Buddhist yogi, Milarepa, has manifested in Tibet? There are reports, by modern day Western doctors, about the miraculous events surrounding the death of the 16th Karmapa. Have you "sincerely investigated" those? Have you faced those facts?

            Again, I'm not trying to talk you out of your belief in miracles, but upon assessing your thought processes in defending it, I am disappointed.

          • Dhaniele

            Actually, if you study the topic of miracles (as theology), there is another sort of scientifically inexplicable event that can produce amazement for the onlookers. This brings out the other half of the picture. Besides God, there is also the devil who does have powers which he can use. Thus, in the lives of various saints, they are physically assaulted, wounded, etc. However, anyone who admits these kinds of evil powers exist would find it difficult to say the existence of a good power is impossible since it is evident that the evil powers do not have absolute freedom to do any mischief they want to. However, that is really another topic, but importantly it recognizes that science cannot explain everything if these events are examined carefully.

          • Will

            Besides God, there is also the devil who does have powers which he can use.

            So you think Buddhist miracles are because of the Devil? LOL!

          • Dhaniele

            To quote Jesus: "You said it" (not me). However, if you are willing to concede that Buddhist holy men are capable of working miracles, I do not see what your problem is with miracles.

          • Will

            No, I'm with the Buddhists who think it's in the mind.

            Gautama Buddha was alleged to possess superhuman powers and abilities; however, due to an understanding of the workings of the skeptical mind, he reportedly responded to a request for miracles by saying, "...I dislike, reject and despise them,"[1] and refused to comply. He allegedly attained his abilities through deep meditation during the time when he had renounced the world and lived as an ascetic. He supposedly performed such miracles to bring the most benefit to sentient beings and he warned that miraculous powers should not be the reason for practising his path.

            Buddha rejected the idea, but his followers attributed them to him anyway. The Jesus fan club may have attributed the majority of his miracles after the fact in the same way...exaggerated story telling. The mind can cause "miraculous" healing. Chopra certainly isn't very scientific, and proned to some ridiculous "woo", but this miracle story fits with many I've seen. The mind is especially effective in healing disease cause by the mind, obviously. We slowly grow closer to understanding these things, stay tuned.
            Just fyi, I was raised protestant, and taught that the miracles of Mary were actually done by Satan in order to trick people into staying in the false religion of Catholicism. I kid you not. How do you know, however, they were not right? You don't. It seems best to stick with rational explanations, for everyone's benefit...otherwise we could be back with insane witch hunts. Many women were murdered by Christians because their ability to heal was thought to be from Satan...I kid you not. This is why even mentioning such an idea should be treated with derision...it is a very dangerous idea that has gotten good people, especially women, killed historically.

            The classical period of witchhunts in Early Modern Europe and Colonial North America falls into the Early Modern period or about 1450 to 1750, spanning the upheavals of the Reformation and the Thirty Years' War, resulting in an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 executions.[3]

            http://www.salemtarot.com/archive/seminar.html

            The Age of Reason has saved so many lives that would have been victim to silly superstition, it's impossible to tally them.

          • Lazarus

            Buddhism is indeed a magnificent philosophy, in its pure forms, it's just a pity that it has these gaping internal inconsistencies that ruins it for me, to the point where I could never take it seriously as a religion.

          • Will

            I agree, and would even criticize it such that it often promotes inaction when it would seem wiser, to me, to take action. I think of it as more of a mental recipe for suffering reduction, which is what most psychologists seem to get out of it. From what I can tell, the founder of Buddhism did not intend for it to turn into what it did, the same is likely true for Christianity, but harder to demonstrate. It would be utterly fascinating to resurrect them both and see what they think of what their teachings turned into.

          • Sample1

            It would be utterly fascinating to resurrect them both and see what they think of what their teachings turned into.

            DA: The stories written about him do show someone who believed in everlasting punishment. Hell's makeover into a thought experiment that is climate neutral and possibly unpopulated could be confusing to Jesus.

            Mike
            Edit: fixed misplaced modifiers.

          • Will

            I'd bet on annihilation myself, I have other comments I can you refer you to to back that up. Would be nice if we could ask him though :)

          • Sample1

            No need. I'm familiar enough with SDAs to know their own justifications for annihilation.

            At any rate, we are talking about Catholic Jesus, plus, the makeover would be confusing to him if what you say is correct.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Will

            The many Jesuses. Who knows which, if any is close to the original...assuming there was an original.

          • Sample1

            It's not a question I really even think about. It's the followers in the 21st century that are real. Better stop there!

            Mike

          • David Hardy

            Not only inaction, but sometimes Buddhism can also create a sort of apathy within those who follow it. Traditional accounts of karma carry the risk of victim blaming, despite the efforts of many Buddhists to avoid it, and misunderstandings of suffering and attachment can create the view that one should not care too much about anything. In my mind, one of the great strengths that the Mahayana traditions add is that compassionate action is an aid to reaching enlightenment, not a barrier. If one takes karma as an account of how intentions can become habitual, which can create consistent results and responses in a person's life, good or bad, it becomes more acceptable in my mind.

            One the side of Psychology, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is obviously influenced by Buddhist ideas, including the idea of no self, non-attachment and the value of meditation. It also adds an emphasis on clear values that lead to committed action in alignment with those values. Within this orientation, the techniques of suffering reduction in Buddhism are connected to also overcoming the doubts, fears and struggles that prevent people from acting according to their values, which seems in line with the position of many Buddhists in the Mahayana traditions that benevolent action and freedom from suffering are closely aligned. Of course, like many therapeutic approaches that draw on Buddhism, it has divorced many of the concepts from a Buddhist framework and creates a new paradigm for them, but it is still an interested Western perspective for those drawn to the ideas in Buddhism.

          • Will

            Yeah, karma has a lot of the same problems as looking at good happenstance as divine blessing, and bad happenstance as divine judgement. There is truth in the idea that bad actions usually lead to bad consequences, but so much that happens to people isn't beyond their ability to control.
            Most of my exposure to Buddhism has been filtered through scientists. I'm definitely a fan of John Kabat-Zinn who was a student of Thich Nhat Hanh and Zen Master Seung Sahn. He considers himself to be a scientist first, of course.

          • Dhaniele

            I would simply say that it seems that your thinking is inconsistent if you go along with the idea "it is in the mind." If it is in the mind, then why are we talking about science that is based on the mind knowing an objective world, which is precisely why the topic of miracles arises in the first place?

          • Will

            The mind is also a major topic in science. I've alluded to this repeatedly.

          • Doug Shaver

            To deny they take place is to assume that a lot of people, including journalists of every description, are engaged in a conspiracy to hoodwink the public.

            No, that assumption is not necessary. The only necessary assumption is that a lot of people, including journalists of every description, are as fallible as all other people.

    • neil_pogi

      quote: 'Can a reasonable person doubt the existence of miracles? - no, because without these, no universe and no life would exist

  • neil_pogi

    if david hume is living today, what would be his opinions regarding the claims of atheists that:

    1. living matter evolved from non-living matter
    2. an 'infinitely small dot' evolved and produced a universe

    • neil_pogi

      why atheists are blatantly ignoring my post above? i really need your reactions?

      • Lazarus

        You've stumped them, Neil.
        They're speechless.

        • Darren

          I quite responding to Neil after he told me the human body was perfectly designed, with all the apparent flaws being the result of post-Fall mutations.

          I know better than to debate YECs, having been one myself.

          • Will

            I usually quote Genesis and show not only does it say Eve's pain in childbirth increased because of the curse, meaning there was pain before the curse, but it says man wasn't cursed. The ground was cursed and man will only escape working it when he is dead. If we are going to take it all literally, lets take it literally. They didn't see tractors coming...

            16 To the woman he said,
            “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
            in pain you shall bring forth children,
            yet your desire shall be for your husband,
            and he shall rule over you.”
            17 And to the man[b] he said,
            “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
            and have eaten of the tree
            about which I commanded you,
            ‘You shall not eat of it,’
            cursed is the ground because of you;
            in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
            18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
            and you shall eat the plants of the field.
            19 By the sweat of your face
            you shall eat bread
            until you return to the ground,
            for out of it you were taken;
            you are dust,
            and to dust you shall return.”

            It's an inversion of the Sumerian myth that claimed man was created (the rib was a joke because in Sumerian "ti" means rib and life) to farm the ground for the gods...and just coincidentally the ruling class (they were put there by the gods, you see).

          • Darren

            William Davis wrote,

            It's an inversion of the Sumerian myth that claimed man was created (the rib was a joke because in Sumerian "ti" means rib and life) to farm the ground for the gods...

            Hah!

            Clearly Satan spread those stories in earlier civilizations just so that later generations would be misled. Same as all the proto-Jesus figures he inspired in the ancient world and the dinosaur fossils he faked.

          • Will

            Satan, the ultimate conspiracy theory agent.

          • neil_pogi

            the body is designed to have pain receptors in order for us to know if there is something wrong in our body. not all the pain that we are experiencing is evil per se. the carbon dioxide can be classified as 'evil' but without it, the body will not send 'negative feedback mechanism' to trigger us to breath again. even if 'sin' is not yet in this universe, the Creator has already designed the presence of pain because we live in a material universe.

          • Will

            Did you notice man wasn't cursed? What do you have to say about that?
            Negative reward seems to be required for brains to function properly in evolutionary terms. Both negative and positive reward play different roles. The creator could have easily designed us to work without pain, but it seems to be required in evolution, as far as I can tell. Evolution explains pain much better :)

          • neil_pogi

            you quoted the sciptures above and yet you failed to understand what it teaches above the Fall and sin.

            before the fall, 'evil' (pain) is already present in this universe (a mother will give birth to her child with 'double', pain experiences). if the creation is supposed to be free of evil, then, there would be no trees and plants, because these are for food sources (meaning, man and animals will be eating, will experience hunger, and will need food to sustain their living). trees and plants also absorbed CO2 in the air, and because of that, oxygen is a by-product of it, there would be no darkness (night), and because the universe was created with the laws of entropy, therefore, all creations will suffer ageing and eventually death. there is a christian doctrine that is called 'conditional immortality' which says that 'if a man commits a sin, he will not be enjoying the gift of eternal life'.. before sin is committed, we never read in the scriptures that death will come to us, it was reserved for a time being.. after the fall, death is introduced.

            are you a deist? isn't it? then, you have to question your god why his creation 'is designed to have pain'.... if pain is required for evolution, then, evolution is evil. anyway, you have to prove first how a single-celled organism evolved into different forms of life. i always say this because evolution is the icon of atheism.

          • neil_pogi

            the human body is indeed perfect designed by the Creator. the apparent vestigial organs are not that vestigial, if closely studied, there are no vestigial organs, they serve some greater purpose in the body. i wonder why atheist scientists are not researching this?

        • neil_pogi

          yeah.. because they have just no explanations to offer. .

      • Will

        Talking to you is a complete waste of time. You don't need reactions, you are a troll.

        • neil_pogi

          call me any name you want, a troll, or any name-calls you want. you still didn't answer those basic questions. if Hume is living today, what's his opinions about atheistic science claims that 1. a non-living matter became a living matter.. 2. how an 'infinitely small' dot produced a universe.

          • neil_pogi

            1. living matter evolved from non-living matter -- this is not observed, it is not repeatable, therefore it is classified as a miracle. Hume must reject the atheistic 'scientific' beliefs of atheists because it 'violates the very laws of nature'

            2. 2. an 'infinitely small dot' evolved and produced a universe -- this is not observed, it is not repeatable, therefore it is classified as a miracle. Hume must reject the atheistic 'scientific' beliefs of atheists because it 'violates the very laws of nature'..

            now who's really so stupid? mr william davis?

          • Sample1

            If I were a trinitarian, I might ask you why you limit the LORD's creative power? Why couldn't the LORD bring about all the complexity we see from a small dot?

            Isn't he great? Isn't he majestic? Isn't he pretty freakin' awesome?

            Go on now.

            Friends of mine can ignore the sign off.
            -----
            Mike, grandmother atheism, chocolate sprinkles, dogs without leashes. *Pop* It's all right there. The Igarot.

          • neil_pogi

            it's the atheists who will present how a non-living matter became living matter.. just provide me an explanation for that!

            the burden of proof is not on us, theists.. it's on your shoulder.

            go on and experiment. will i give you a teaspoonful of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and other organic chemicals/elements to start with?

          • Sample1

            I love this deep longing you have, this restlessness. Your curiosity.

            It's enchanting.

            Love you.

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            because you don't have any plausible explanations for it.

            if i would like to be converted to atheism, then i would expect that these questions should be thoroughly explained, not by 'just-so' and 'make-believe' stories, but serious scientific explanations

            that is positive atheism

          • Sample1

            I edited my post, no question asked, so...

            Keep me posted. I love all the bits and pieces about you. Take care!

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            additional: which came first, the single cell? or the fully formed organism? (ex: human). the chicken? or the egg?

            we can't expect that life started from a single cell because it will never survive in earlier earth's atmosphere or conditions. you can even perform an experiment for it.

            in the 'cambrian explosion' almost all known organisms were found imprinted thru fossil records, and there were no traces of evolutionary changes, from a single cell to fully-formed organisms.

          • Sample1

            Not sure what you are talking about, but I love it. Keep asking questions! It's wonderful.

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            evolution says that all things just evolved.. so please, try to answer this:

            which came first: a heart, a blood vessel or the blood.

            clearly, that evinces design, and not evolution.

            yes, i keep on asking questions on atheism.. but atheism doesn't provide even just simple answers

          • Sample1

            Did you just use the word evinces?

            I love your questions. Keep them coming. You need some new ones though.

            Standing by,

            Your cousin in Alaska,

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            you still didn't provide me any logical answers to my questions!

            your cousin in Spratly islands,

            neil

          • Doug Shaver

            you still didn't answer those basic questions.

            I have asked you many questions, and you have answered almost none of them.

          • neil_pogi

            when did you answer my very basic questions on evolution? i am asking you to explain even in simple explanation on how evolution works

          • Doug Shaver

            If you actually wanted, in good faith, to understand what the scientific community has to say about evolution, you wouldn't be here posting the kinds of questions you've been posting.

          • neil_pogi

            dawkins says, he became an atheist because of evolution. evolution is a hallmark of atheism because it doesnt need a Creator (anyway, without a life, there is no micro evolution)

            nope, i just want atheists to explain in details about evolution. i don't need mere 'scientific' opinions of scientists, all i need is evidence, evidences from observation and experimentation.

          • Doug Shaver

            dawkins says, he became an atheist because of evolution.

            In which book did he say that?

          • Michael Murray

            There is a quote here

            http://www.alternet.org/story/46566/atheist_richard_dawkins_on_'the_god_delusion'

            Terrence McNally: When and how did you become an atheist?

            Richard Dawkins: I suppose it was discovering Darwinism. I was confirmed into the Church of England at the age of thirteen. I then got pretty skeptical about it, but retained some respect for the argument from Design -- the argument that says living things look as though they've been designed, so they probably have been. I then learned the real scientific explanation for why they look as though they've been designed, and that was enough for me. I lost my religious faith pretty much then.

          • Darren

            Thanks for the link, Michael.

            Not to put words into Dawkin’s mouth, but it sounds rather as
            if Dawkins had already travelled down the road to a-theism, having concluding the God of Anglicanism almost certainly did not exist, he was just hung up on the need for some deity-like-thing to account for creation. In other words, Deism, if one with a nominally Anglican flavor.

            We tend to forget about Deism, and I propose it is because
            we all live in a post-Darwin world, a world in which Darwin removed any need for Deism.

          • Doug Shaver

            Thank you, Michael. Good to know.

          • neil_pogi

            you are an atheist, and yet you don't know that stuff?

          • Doug Shaver

            I am an atheist because I don't believe in any god. It does not commit me to studying the works of any other atheist.

          • neil_pogi

            that's why you are the only atheist in this SN who contradicts other atheists' major belief systems

          • Doug Shaver

            you are the only atheist in this SN who contradicts other atheists' major belief systems

            I guess you'd be greatly surprised to discover just how much disagreement there is among atheists in general.

          • neil_pogi

            therefore atheists are grossly divided on atheist major belief systems. i can call it religious atheism

          • neil_pogi

            why not interview him? he is still alve and kicking!

          • Lazarus

            Ask Doug the question about why, if we evolved from monkeys, do we still have monkeys. He wouldn't have an answer to that.

          • Doug Shaver

            He wouldn't have an answer to that.

            :-)
            For starters, I would deny that we evolved from monkeys.

            Evolution is descent with modification. Descent from any ancestor does not entail the extinction of that ancestor. I am descended from two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc. etc. Both of my parents and three of my grandparents were still alive when I was born.

            Even creationists, so far as I'm aware, don't deny that dogs are descended from wolves. But, wolves still exist.

          • neil_pogi

            the question is how the LUCA gets in here on this planet?

            what did the first 'fully formed' organism LUCA did?

            if an organism evolved, then what happened to it?

          • neil_pogi

            i'm asking atheists in general, ok, what about monkeys? give me, at least, even one proof that man evolved from monkey! man's bone is composed primarily of calcium, so do the majority of animals. does that mean that human is related to animals? animals don't comment on this SN, animals don't build dams, buildings, bridges..

            animals have eyes, nose, tongue, mouth, ears, etc. humans have that too, it only means they have the same Creator who created them.

            if theists have a God who creates..

            then atheists have too, the 'self-replicating molecule' (i don't know if this resides in a cell or it just 'floats' in the air

          • Lazarus

            I would think that it floats in the air. If it resided in a cell, how would the first cell have contained it, huh? They just don't think their stuff through, do they?

          • neil_pogi

            if that 'self-replicating molecule' floats in the air, it should disintegrate faster than you ever think.

            all i know 'self-replicating molecules' resides in the cell. then the question is, which came first, the cell or the 'self-replicating molecule'?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Maybe you should stop confusing evolution with abiogenesis.

            Maybe, if you really cared you would read some books on the subject.

            Why Evolution is True can be bought for $10 on amazon. Your local library might have some books on the subject.

          • neil_pogi

            you should learn that evolution came from non-living things.

            atheists say that, without chemical evolution, there would be no life.

            so tell me how non-living matter became living matter?

            'Why Evolution is True' - is this a compilations of 'just-so' and 'make-believe'?
            why publish a book if evolution really is true? it's just a plea

          • Ignatius Reilly

            you should learn that evolution came from non-living things.

            Not true. Evolution is a theory on speciation not the origin of living matter.

            so tell me how non-living matter became living matter?

            I don't know. There are theories. This has nothing to do with evolution, so stop bringing it up if you want to talk about evolution.

            'Why Evolution is True' - is this a compilations of 'just-so' and 'make-believe'?

            Only one way to find out.

            why publish a book if evolution really is true? it's just a plea

            Did you really ask this? People publish books about true things all the time. Perhaps you aren't particularly experienced with books talking about true things, given how much you have read the bible.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: 'I don't know. There are theories. This has nothing to do with evolution, so stop bringing it up if you want to talk about evolution.' -- i thought 'evolution is true'? just tell me how the non-living matter evolve into living?

            you consider yourself (atheists in general), as 'brights' and yet simple question like that, you don't know? then your faith in atheism just failed. remember, evolution is your icon sets of beliefs.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Repeat after me: Evolution is not a theory on how non-living matter became living matter. Evolution is a theory on speciation. It is a very well evidenced theory. If you would pick up a book you would learn that.

            Abiogenesis is the process of non-living matter turning into living matter. There is not a universally accepted theory, but many theories share common elements. There is no shame in not knowing something. It certainly isn't a problem for us atheists that we do not yet know how abiogenesis occurred.

            Do you understand the difference between evolution and abiogenesis?

          • neil_pogi

            do you know the word 'genesis'?

            genesis means 'origins'

            then how come non-living became living? what's its origin? from non-living things? of course because living things are not introduced

          • Ignatius Reilly

            First answer my question. What is the difference between evolution and abiogenesis?

          • Sample1
          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think he ran out of time

          • Lazarus

            Ah, but not out of questions.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The answers to which he completely ignores

          • Lazarus

            They are too high in fact content, those answers.
            I still think Neil is your sock puppet.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Funny story. My brother and I used to argue about religion and politics on a now defunct website. This was almost ten years ago. (I used to argue on the theist side, if you can imagine.) Anyway, my brother decided that he would do a better job of convincing people that he was write, if instead of rational argument, he created a sock puppet that argued poorly for the opposition. Hilarity followed.

            If I was to create a sock pocket, I would create a follower of Norse paganism. I think I could have a lot of fun with that.

          • neil_pogi

            just tell me how a non-living matter evolved into living matter. you believe in that, so pls perform an experiment on it. pls!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There you go again. Evolution is not abiogenesis. If you can't answer a simple question, which shows that you are actually paying attention to what I write, why should I write anything?

            You tell me the difference between evolution and abiogenesis, and I will point you to an experiment.

        • Michael Murray

          But

          troll + sunlight = rock

          Neil wants to know how

          rock + sunlight = william

          It's a different equation.

          • neil_pogi

            why not just offer your explanations on my questions? atheists are really that good on ridiuling, name-calling!

      • Doug Shaver

        We've seen how you respond to our reactions. You have a lot of gall accusing anyone of ignoring you.

        • neil_pogi

          hello! i'm the one who needs your answers/ arguments regarding the issues i posted. why not just answer me straightforward?

          • Doug Shaver

            why not just answer me straightforward?

            Because when I do, you pay no attention.

          • neil_pogi

            oh really? i haven't read your answers on any topics i discussed. all you say is: 'i have no obligations to explain evolution to you' (something like that)

  • Jason Lem

    "It’s improbable because St. Paul records Jesus appearing to many different people on several different occasions as well as appearing to more than 500 disciples at the same time (see 1 Cor. 15:6)—occurrences not typical of hallucinations."

    Any person or a few people can just claim and write down, and then he appeared to 500 people. That isn't evidence to justify a miracle occurred.

    In order for it to even be considered you would need the 500 hundred individual first person accounts.

    What's more likely to be true, that God raised some one from the dead 2000 years ago OR some falsehood is involved with the story, some stretching of the truth as they say by your fellow human beings.

    Put it this way, imagine today some outside of mainstream religious preacher is claimed by their inner circle of say 12 people to have risen from the dead, how much and what kind of evidence would you need in order to justify a miracle has taken place ?

    Is their say so going to do it for you ? what about if they claimed they he appeared to 500 people, yet such a number independent accounts from said alleged witnesses can't be found ?

    What if the argument is put to you, well they wouldn't make this up, cause if they did they would of or would not of claimed X, ergo they are telling the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    So once again the question is put to you, what is more likely, a miracle has taken place or there is some falsehood being perpetrated by your fellow human beings ?