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The Science of Miracles

What happens when an atheist doctor and historian is given access to the Vatican’s Secret Archives to investigate miracle claims? Just such a thing happened in the early 2000s, and both the story behind it, and the doctor’s conclusions, are worth recounting.

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, a hematologist (M.D.) and historian (Ph.D.), was the Hannah Chair of the History of Medicine at Queen’s University from 1988 until 2017, and she’s served as both the President of the American Association for the History of Medicine and Canadian Society for the History of Medicine. It was in her role as a hematologist (a blood doctor) that she got involved with miracles in the first place, as she would later recount:

About twenty years ago, in my capacity as a hematologist, I was invited to read a set of bone-marrow aspirates “blind,” without being given any clinical details or the reason why. The fourteen specimens had been taken from one patent over an eighteen-month period. Using the microscope, I found this to be a case of severe acute leukemia with a remission, a relapse, and another remission. I assumed that the patient must be dead, and the review was for a lawsuit. Only much later did I learn, to my great surprise, that the patient was (and is) still alive. Although she had accepted aggressive chemotherapy in a university hospital, she attributed her recovery to the intercession of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, a Montreal woman who had died two hundred years earlier. This case became the capstone in the cause for Youville’s canonization as the first Canadian-born saint. Again, I was surprised.

This experience, and the Vatican’s invitation to come to the canonization of St. Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, piqued Dr. Duffin’s interest. She asked for, and received, access to the Vatican’s Secret Archives, containing “the documentation on more than 600 miracles pertaining to 333 different canonization or beatifications from 1600 to 2000,” including at least one miracle for almost every canonization since the early seventeenth century. As a non-believer who was new to this, she wanted to know what the process was like: how medically serious were (and are) the Vatican investigations? And how unusual was it that Youville’s canonization involved the testimony of a non-believing physician?Many people assume that belief in miracles is anti-scientific. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins mocked the idea of miracles, and declared them (by definition!) to be against science:

I suspect that alleged miracles provide the strongest reason many believers have for their faith; and miracles, by definition, violate the principles of science. […] The last King of the Belgians is a candidate for sainthood, because of his stand on abortion. Earnest investigations are now going on to discover whether any miraculous cures can be attributed to prayers offered up to him since his death. I am not joking. That is the case, and it is typical of saint stories. I imagine the whole business is an embarrassment to more sophisticated circles within the Church.

This is characteristic of Dawkins’ approach: he laughs at an idea he’s incapable of actually refuting. He simply asserts that miracles “violate the principles of science” without specifying which principles or why, and then holds the whole thing up to laugh at with a sort of “can-you-believe-it” mockery… even though his own account suggests an approach resembling that of science. Dawkins’ argument amounts to saying that if a doctor says “let’s try Drug X and see if it has any effect on the patient’s disease,” that’s respectable science, but if someone says, “let’s pray to Baudouin for his intercession, and see if it has any effect on the patient’s disease,” that’s silly! The only problem is that, amidst his sneering, he forgets to actually give us any reason why. We’re just left with the blanket assertion that the sacred Principles of Science have been somehow violated.

Contrast this with what Dr. Duffin found when she actually examined the centuries’ worth of medical records related to miracle cases. Her findings were originally presented in a Presidential Address that she delivered to the seventy-ninth annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A revised version of these remarks were published in the Winter 2007 issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine under the name The Doctor was Surprised; or, How to Diagnose a Miracle. The whole report is worth a read, and includes several interesting details:

  • The way that “new technologies appear in the Vatican records soon after their invention” (in other words, that miracle investigations were relying on the best medicine available at the time);
  • The crucial role that medical experts play throughout the whole history of these miracle investigations;
  • The use of non-practicing and non-Catholic medical experts, dating back at least to the Middle Ages;
  • The high standard to which medical testimony was required to comport (for instance, an apparent miracle in 1906 involving the healing of a 49 year-old nun was treated as inconclusive because the treating physician failed to order a bacteriological examination on the pleural effusion to confirm his clinical diagnosis of tuberculosis).

Dr. Duffin concluded:

With codification of the Consulta Medica of the Vatican in 1949, the gold standard of a miracle cure entrenched three specific characteristics: that the healing be complete, durable, and instantaneous. [….]

Gradually, I began to understand that the process cannot proceed without the testimony of a physician. The doctor need not believe in miracles, the doctor need not be Roman Catholic, nor even a Christian – but the doctor must fill two absolutely essential roles.

The first role is to declare the prognosis hopeless even with the best of the art. This rigorous duty is built into the drama of every final illness. Many of the miracle healings occurred in people who had already received the last rites. No doctor – be she religious or atheist – takes that decision lightly; nor can it be taken in private. As a result, it becomes a public admission of medical failure, available for corroboration in a distant future. Its credibility resides on trust in the physician’s acumen: the diagnosis and prognosis must have been corrected; the learning and experience, solid. Treating physicians who happened to be academics held great sway over the proceedings. A doctor is a good witness, not for being a good Catholic, or a believer in miracles, but for being demonstrably skilled in medical science.

The second role, which is equally, if not more, important to the recognition of a miracle, is to express surprise at the outcome. And here’s the rub – although the doctors must have used the best scientific medicine available, they can take no credit for the cure. A religious miracle defies explanation by science. Traditionally arrogant, medicine must confess its ignorance. [….] For the Vatican, miracles occur when the patient recovers from certain death or permanent disability, following excellent, up-to-date medical care which the doctor claims had nothing to do with the cure. To turn a familiar phrase on its head: the doctor must say “the operation was a failure, but the patient lived.” And only the doctor can say it.

Unless one arbitrarily defines science as denying miracles, the entire investigation into whether a particular healing is or isn’t a miracle is a scientific question, just as much as the question of whether or not a particular healing is a full recovery or only a temporary remission. The same techniques, the same methodology, is used in both.

Duffin noticed what Dawkins was too bigoted to see: that both medicine and science are looking at the same problems, along parallel and complementary lines. When the Church declares that a particular event was miraculous, it’s not just on the basis of faith. It’s after carefully reviewing the relevant medical information, and in light of the latest and best medical technology. Rather than contradicting the principles of science, this is a healthy integration of science and faith, and her research into the process led Dr. Duffin to say, “though still an atheist, I believe in miracles—wondrous things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation.”

Joe Heschmeyer

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Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • David Nickol

    Unless one arbitrarily defines science as denying miracles, the entire investigation into whether a particular healing is or isn’t a miracle is a scientific question, just as much as the question of whether or not a particular healing is a full recovery or only a temporary remission.

    There is no "science of miracles." There are so many problems with this post it is difficult to know where to begin (or where to stop).

    It's my understanding that in the Vatican investigative process, doctors and scientists are not asked to determine whether particular medical happenings are miracles or not. They are asked to determine whether or not the matter under investigation can be explained by current scientific knowledge. Their findings then go to theologians, who make the decision as to whether to accept the occurrence as a miracle.

    Dr. Duffin is quoted as saying, “[T]hough still an atheist, I believe in miracles—wondrous things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation.” However, "wondrous things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation" in no way defines miracle—certainly not for Catholics. A miracle is a divine intervention involving a suspension of the laws of nature. Atheists by definition do not believe in God, and so they do not believe in divine intervention.

    Dawkins’ argument amounts to saying that if a doctor says “let’s try Drug X and see if it has any effect on the patient’s disease,” that’s respectable science, but if someone says, “let’s pray to Baudouin for his intercession, and see if it has any effect on the patient’s disease,” that’s silly!

    I think many people (including no small number of atheists) would under many circumstances not consider it "silly" to pray. In any case, comparing a doctor trying a new drug on a patient with praying to a saint for a miraculous intervention is comparing two things so unlike each other that calling them apples and oranges is grossly insufficient. I think after years of discussions on blogs most of us who believe prayer may conceivably be called "efficacious" would nevertheless maintain that unlike a new drug, prayer cannot be empirically tested. Also, one or two miraculous cures attributed to a saint may be sufficient for canonization, but a drug that seems to work on one or two patients but fails the rest of the time is a worthless drug. Belief in the efficacy of a prayer can in no way be compared to belief in the efficacy of a drug. The former is religious faith and the latter is empirical science.

    Many of the miracle healings occurred in people who had already received the last rites. No doctor – be she religious or atheist – takes that decision lightly; nor can it be taken in private.

    "Last rites" probably refers to "Anointing of the Sick," which is not reserved for dying people for whom there is no hope. My grandmother, considered to be dying of cancer, received the sacrament and lived five more years. Miracle? Who knows? I never heard anyone on my mother's side of the family (all devout Catholics) attribute her longevity to any particular saint or any specific prayers, although I suppose some in the family believed prayers were answered.

    I think it is generally known by people familiar with "miracle cures" that some inexplicable recoveries (such as from breast cancer) are not even considered as possible miracles, since spontaneous remission occurs "naturally" in sufficient numbers of cases to disqualify it as miraculous. Spontaneous remission can very rarely occur in cases of leukemia. Does a "miraculous" recovery (especially after chemotherapy) really qualify as a miracle? I don't know, but as the atheist Dr. Duffin defines the word miracle, I think most other atheists would say "miracles" occur all the time.

    I certainly believe there are "wondrous things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation.” I also believe there are horrific things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation. I believe most of what happens has no scientific explanation. (I do not, by the way, rule out the possibility of authentic miracles—inexplicable occurrences attributable to divine intervention.)

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      spontaneous remission occurs "naturally"

      I think one would have to say that this hinges crucially on how one understands the words "nature" and "naturally".

      In one perspective, a perspective that, as far as I can tell, is aligned with the medieval scholastic understanding, nature is by definition that which is regular or ordinary (and hence not spontaneous). This is the sense evoked by the birth-related etymology of the word (cf "nativity") : the pushed-from-behind logic that a thing has "from birth" is its nature. On that understanding, whatever does not follow from, or is surprising with respect to, that predictable / pushed-from-behind logic, is by definition beyond nature, or supernatural. Dr. Duffin's quote ("I believe in miracles—wondrous things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation.") seems perfectly reasonable.

      And then there is the modern perspective, in which the words "nature" and "natural" have come to mean ... well it's not really clear to me. It's sort of like people use the word "nature" to just refer to everything that there is in reality. I don't think it's a very helpful way to understand what "nature" is. If we're going to assign that meaning to "nature", then it sort of becomes a meaningless word.

      What I find somewhat frustrating about these discussions is that we start arguing about what is or isn't "supernatural" before we have even established a common understanding of what "nature" is.

      • One of the more rigorous definitions I've seen comes from @jlowder:disqus over at Secular Outpost; the lynch pin seems to be this:

        physical entity: an entity which is either (1) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists today; or (2) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists in the future, which has some sort of nomological or historical connection to the kinds of entities studied by physicists or chemists today. (The Nature of Naturalism)

        Curiously enough, this either permits 'natural' to have an arbitrarily large definition, or it is scoped just like we see in the OP, to the best knowledge of present scientists. What I've noticed in my time debating atheists is that there is a tendency to equivocate between these two senses of 'nature'. When they want to deny something about theism, they'll appeal to (1). When they need to account for something that doesn't seem to work on that basis, they'll appeal to (2).

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I'm increasingly convinced that natural / supernatural language collapses too many categories. In the Bible you have, on the one hand, that which is revealed versus that which is unrevealed. And then you have, on the other hand, God acting in both surprising and unsurprising ways (e.g. in the category of unsurprising, we have God in the Psalms giving food to the wild animals and the young ravens ... even while Gods activity in that regard is obviously mediated by natural means, e.g. by mother ravens). But the "natural" / "supernatural" language that seems to have arisen in the Middle Ages, seems to collapse that into a single distinction of {revealed, unsurprising} versus {unrevealed, surprising}. It really should be two distinct distinctions, as far as I can tell.

          • I like it! You are in effect insisting on both ontological and epistemological distinctions, vs. only one acknowledged distinction which now that I think about it, I'll bet oscillates between the two under the surface. After all, does a Humean miracle break the laws of nature, or our model of the laws of nature?

            More nuance also allows us to talk about each one of us having an orderliness to ourselves which, if we know carefully enough, we can see interact with the orderliness of others. If you tell me a thought, can I figure out how likely I was to come up with it by myself, vs. really needing you to say it? Well, the better I know myself, the better I can answer that question. If your thought shows up as Luke-orderliness-breaking, that's relevant to how I process it. Furthermore, there's actually a difference between breaking my orderliness (contradicting something) vs. simply being unreachable from my orderliness (because, say, you added an axiom).

            There's a deep irony, here: it's theists who are supposed to need to have a complete lock on reality, and yet here you and I are, speaking of adopting finite positions and making careful distinctions that can only be seen by self-reflectively finite positions. I suspect we can in fact do this because we believe God holds everything together and isn't going to surprise us with something devastating. We can in fact be arbitrarily wrong as long as God is going to be good to us and show us our errors in a way that doesn't flatten & reinstall us.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            ontological and epistemological distinctions

            I've given a bit of thought to whether there can be such a thing as "ontological surprise". Some things are merely subjectively surprising: once you change your perspective a bit and understand the context a little better, it's no longer surprising. But it seems possible and perhaps even likely that there are some phenomena that are going to be surprising from every non-divine vantage point, and I think it would be reasonable to refer to such things as "ontologically surprising". Unpredictable quantum outcomes might be in this category. Decay times in the tail of the distribution might be "ontologically surprising" in the sense that you wouldn't and couldn't expect that sort of result in any given instance.

            I've also given some thought to the fact that maybe it's not so important to distinguish ontological surprise from subjective surprise. God knows what we know. Whether he communicates via ontological surprise or by merely working with the particularities of our ignorance, I'm not sure it matters.

          • The rough difference I had in mind was this:

            ontological surprise: I didn't know it was possible to generate the phenomena before my eyes, for it requires a fundamentally different way of thinking about how things could be.

            epistemological surprise: I didn't know that my conception of how things could be allowed this configuration [with appreciable probability].

            This presupposes at least a two-level view of reality—directly observable and unobservable-but-inferred-from-observation. When Ernst Mach was shown Brownian motion, he finally admitted that atoms exist, even though nobody could see an individual atom. He knew of no other way to generate Brownian motion.

            I think there is an important difference between these two kinds of surprise, because I think our ontology is rather tied up with our identity. After all, others will interact with you according to what they think you're likely, unlikely, and exceedingly unlikely to do. We are powerfully shaped by how people interact with us, and how we anticipate them interacting with us. Now when YHWH spoke of Israel's heart drifting from him, might that have been an undesirable ontological change? If we don't know how to understand such changes, that could be a major problem! I could see surprise fitting in, here.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Without commenting on all you write here, one major point you make is worth underlining.

      This article talks about miraculous cures as if they were merely a matter of medical judgment.

      At Lourdes, France, the most famous of all the places where miracles are said to occur, there have been reported some 7000 cures, but only 70 have been officially recognized by the Church.

      The International Medical Committee at Lourdes examines reported cases and after extensive examination that consider the condition of the patient both before and after the alleged cure, may make an official judgment that some case is "medically inexplicable." I know of some one thousand such decisions being rendered on purely medical, scientific grounds.

      But, that is not the criterion of a miracle, since a miracle must be something that only God could do and medical science, as such, is simply outside its proper competence to render such a judgment. Certain philosophical criteria must apply as well, such that the event cannot even be considered as preternatural, but solely supernatural in nature. The Church renders its judgment according to properly theological criteria which include the philosophical as well as added restrictions flowing from the science of theology.

      At any rate, the key point is that after a thousand or more cases at Lourdes being claimed to be beyond the power of medical science to explain, only a mere seventy have passed theological scrutiny as well.

      Unfortunately, the article above appears to restrict its considerations primarily to those of medical science, which gives a somewhat misleading picture of what is really involved in the official declaration of a miraculous cure by the Catholic Church.

      • flan man

        "But, that is not the criterion of a miracle, since a miracle must be something that only God could do and medical science, as such, is simply outside its proper competence to render such a judgment. Certain philosophical criteria must apply as well, such that the event cannot even be considered as preternatural, but solely supernatural in nature. The Church renders its judgment according to properly theological criteria which include the philosophical as well as added restrictions flowing from the science of theology."

        In the case of the canonization of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, this particular AML case was the 'capstone' of her being declared a saint. As Brian Green Adams notes below, AML is survivable. So, either AML is survivable with medical treatment, or all the AML survivors are the recipients of miracles.
        Can you enlighten us to what are the exact theological criteria which include the philosophical as well as added restrictions flowing from the science of theology that led the Church to assign this survival to the intercession of a woman who had died 200 years earlier?
        I can't possibly imagine what criteria could be used to draw the causal line away from the treatment for the disease the woman was receiving, to a person long dead. I don't see how it's remotely possible in any logical way. If it's simply, "Most people don't survive, but this one did, and she prayed to a dead woman, so the dead woman must have done it", I would question the validity of the proper theological criteria and science of theology involved.

    • Jim the Scott

      You will forgive me for nitpicking on this minor point.

      >A miracle is a divine intervention involving a suspension of the laws of nature.

      That sound too Humean for my scholastic tastes. Laws of Nature are nothing more that the observed regularities of natural phenomena. They are not some sort of Platonic Force or entity that keeps things operating the way they do. So there is nothing to "suspend" as it where.

      A supernatural act is when God who is Pure Act directly actualizes a potency in something(i.e. causing water to spontaneously freeze). A Miracle is when God actualizes a potency in something beyond or outside it's nature and essence. Like causing a bush to be on fire without the fire consuming it.

      Anyway this is a minor thing but for accuracy sake I just thought I might bring it up.

      Cheers.

    • Mark

      Super well thought out response as per usual David. I read through the entirety of the responses to Dr. Duffin article from 6 years ago and was impressed with your acumen on the subject matter at that time as well. Enough with the compliments :)

      What do you mean by:

      I believe most of what happens has no scientific explanation.

      Out of curiosity, did you read either of her books?

      • David Nickol

        I had forgotten the earlier discussions of Dr. Duffin. I took a very quick look back and I seem to be in agreement with my younger self: Atheists don't and can't believe in miracles (as Catholics would define them). To acknowledge a true miracle would be to acknowledge some divine power.

        I did not mean in any way to dismiss science. A great deal of my reading since childhood has been about science, although I do not have the math to read anything beyond popularizations. Isaac Asimov was my hero back then. I got to meet him briefly on three occasions.

        • Mark

          Thanks for the response David.

    • Sample1

      David,

      I believe most of what happens has no scientific explanation.

      There is nuance worth mentioning (I’d argue a mandatory mentioning) about what you wrote, considering it is frequently a weaponized phrase against the satisfaction of science. I’ll go further and say that without such explanatory nuance the blockquote also becomes a near Dennett deepity. But I’m pretty sure I understand and agree with how you’re using it.

      Suffice to say, as Deutsch does, we are always at the beginning of infinity. A book of his with the same title. One I think you may like. You might not think about knowledge qua knowledge the same again. No small thing! Will become a classic in my humble opinion.

      Mike

      • David Nickol

        I have both The Fabric of Reality and The Beginning of Infinity on my Kindle and hope to read them someday.

        I didn't mean anything particularly profound by my comment about scientific explanations. There are kind of two big areas where scientific explanations are either lacking or at best fall short. The first is everyday affairs such as politics, criminal justice, popular music, and so on. The second involves "scientific" reports (at least in popular publications) involving such things as nutrition, in which there seems to be no definitive approach or consensus.

        • Sample1

          Oh that’s great. I haven’t read FOR. You will enjoy them. With TBOF I found Brett Hall’s YouTube chapters analyses helpful even though each chapter ends with a summary. Though I haven’t yet read FOR something tells me it might be better to read TBOF first. I will say this, and Hall confirms, Deutsch uses words sparingly which can lead some readers, especially audiophiles, to miss the depth in the words he does use. That’s where the YouTube chapter tutorials helped greatly.

          Darwinian theory is only relatively recently being added to other academic curricula (like medicine [nutrition a sub-discipline], though that has been difficult considering so much is already required in such curricula). There is, arguably, a place for it in any known biological system. Politics, law, even economics; all find connections in literature back to Darwin with the latter having some people predict that Darwin, not Adam Smith, being the better choice of founder for economics.

          I think I picked up on your science/explanations point on account of the OP. H made mention of tired tropes like, “sacred Principle of Science,” which I claim are malware-esque apologetic seedings attempting to weaken what some, no doubt he, think is useful to disengage non-believers from a straw man of authority.

          The point with science and is indeed expounded upon by Deutsch, is that all problems are the result of lacking knowledge. And somewhat paradoxically, but happily so, each problem explained inevitably leads to more questions for the scientific method. The mistake is to see that as a bug rather than a feature.

          Hope that clears up, at least a little bit, why I focused on your sentence. Left without clarification, it is all too often weaponized as a bug—not that that was your intent.

          Mike

    • Phil Tanny

      There is no "science of miracles." There are so many problems with this post it is difficult to know where to begin (or where to stop).

      You're making the same mistake I always make, attempting to apply reason to ideological assertions. There's great irony involved in such attempts, because when I attempt to reason with either religious or atheist ideologists I am myself being illogical, simply by making such an attempt. Such logic dancing rarely if ever leads to anything but all parties to any debate clinging ever more tightly to their preferred ideology. I know that, and you probably do too, and yet we continue, revealing the emotional agendas underlying the entire operation.

      Neither the path of reason, nor the path of Christian compassion, lead to the art of philosophical fancy talk. This post included.

  • >“though still an atheist, I believe in miracles—wondrous things that happen for which we can find no scientific explanation.”

    But obviously, this is a bit of an overstatement. Just because people heal and science has not found an explanation doesn't mean it cannot.

    And even if science is not able to find an explanation it doesn't mean there isn't a natural explanation.

    But yes, if by miracle, you mean an event for which science has no explanation, and is even contrary to why science implies, I accept this happens.

    A good question is why does this happen. Science failing to explain it, is obviously not an explanation.

    Presumably, Catholics believe that praying or some other religious act is engaging some non naturalistic cause to heal or cure these people, or cause their diseases to go into remission. This is something science can test.

    We would need to sample how often this happens and how often people pray etc, and see if there was a a significant correlation. I would tend to think. I would guess that overwhelmingly when these acts are undertaken by Catholics the healing does not occur. We have a fail rate most certainly in the millions, at least hundreds of thousands a year? and how many cases does it succeed in? One a year? Twice?

    How many times does it happen with no one praying etc? Or praying to Allah, or Vishnu?

    Once we have this info we could see what kind of a correlation we have. My suspicion is that the effect occurs in such a small percentage of cases that it would not be statistically significant.

    And we would be excluding some ailments entirely. We have no modern miracles of limbs regrown or severed spines healed I presume?

    And even if we did get to a correlation, there is still no explanation. It becomes even more mysterious. Why is the spiritual force only performing a vanishingly small number of miracles? It surely isn't the most devoted or the most virtuous people.

    I expect for similar reasons it's not preventing these diseases in the first place. No idea, it just happens sometimes. When it happens and the person is Catholic, it's called a miracle?

    • flan man

      "And we would be excluding some ailments entirely. We have no modern miracles of limbs regrown or severed spines healed I presume?"

      The key to miracles in the modern world is that they're limited to "things that can happen anyway". The miracles of past saints - bilocation, levitation, instant cures, resurrections, etc are a thing of the past. Of course limbs aren't regrown, quadriplegics aren't made to walk, burns victim skin is not restored - these things don't happen. Miracles are now limited to diseases going into remission over time, especially when the patient is undergoing treatment for it.

      I'm curious how theologians determine which cures are miraculous. If someone undergoing 'aggressive chemotherapy' goes into remission, how is the cause of the cure determined to be miraculous rather than owing to the treatment? If two people are undergoing aggressive chemotherapy for the same disease, and pray to the same saint, and one recovers and one doesn't, how is it determined through the science of theology that the particular saint was responsible for the one miraculous recovery?

      "Although she had accepted aggressive chemotherapy in a university hospital, she attributed her recovery to the intercession of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, a Montreal woman who had died two hundred years earlier. This case became the capstone in the cause for Youville’s canonization as the first Canadian-born saint. Again, I was surprised."

      I'd be surprised, too, as to why someone would attribute their recovery to a woman who died 200 years earlier rather than the treatment for the disease. How did theologians attribute this miracle to a long dead woman, exactly? How does one draw the causal link away from treatment to the intercession of a long dead person? Why couldn't we just say that someone in the hospital that had come in contact with the patient was the cause? That they exude a miraculous healing aura, and that's what did they trick?

      If I have cancer and pray to, say, Mark Twain, and I recover, can I credit him with the cure? If not, why not?

      • Yeah... The Catholics on this site don't seem to want to defend this kind of faith healing. Maybe not by one of the the slave owning grey nuns of Montreal.

        • Jim the Scott

          Nice cheap shot. But unconvincing.

          We presume the Nun in question didn't treat her servant in the manner of a chattel slave since Theoretical Slavery isn't contrary to the moral and natural law unlike chattel.

          But as interesting as that tangent is I remind you it is off topic.

          • flan man

            Why would we presume this?

          • Jim the Scott

            Well how can she be a righteous person if she is cruel to her servant? Brian is trying to infer because her order owned slaves that precludes God performing a miracle for them because merely owning a slave or slave by itself is somehow wicked. Technically it isn't anymore than being an absolute ruler of a country makes you automatically wicked. Being a tyrant makes you wicked if you happen to be an absolute ruler and treating yer servant as if they had the moral status of an animal or object makes you wicked. But merely owning one does not per say.

            What a silly question. It is obvious.

          • flan man

            Who said she was a righteous person? You know the definition of a saint, a sinner revised and edited.

            What a silly statement.

          • Jim the Scott

            Hardly silly at all, but your response OTOH......

            Brian was clearly inferring she wasn't righteous(ergo she is not worthy of a miracle) because her order owned slaves. I responded and debunked that via some sound moral theology(non-chattel slavery isn't against the moral or natural law) and the principle of charity(we assume the good in people till proven otherwise).

            If you have evidence she treated the slaves owned by her order in a cruel fashion that violated their rights under the moral and or natural law let's hear it. If you have other evidence she was secretly running a brothel I am all ears too.

            >You know the definition of a saint, a sinner revised and edited.

            Whatdoesthathavetodowiththepriceofteainchina?

            FYI a Saint basically is any redeemed person in Heaven. A canonized Saint is a person in Heaven formally recognized as such because of the outstanding example they have given in life. One wonders if you know the difference?
            If not I will educate you. No need to thank me.

            Are we done?

          • flan man

            I don't care what he said.

            If you have evidence she treated the slaves owned by her order in a cruel fashion that violated their rights under the moral and or natural law let's hear it.

            We don't know either way. We don't just presume it.

            If you have other evidence she was secretly running a brothel I am all ears too.

            Silly, silly stuff.

            FYI a Saint basically is any redeemed person in Heaven. A canonized Saint is a person in Heaven formally recognized as such because of the outstanding example they have given in life.

            Whatdoesthathavetodowiththepriceofteainchina?

            One wonders if you know the difference?
            I don't care, believing in neither canonization, nor Saints, nor Heaven.

            Yes, we're done.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I don't care what he said.

            FYI don't care what you say either. I was responding to him not you.

            >We don't know either way. We don't just presume it.

            Who cares about that? That was not my point.

            >I don't care, believing in neither canonization, nor Saints, nor Heaven.

            Then why waste my time and yours with your off topic response?

            >Yes, we're done.

            Good. Peace be with you.

          • Jim the Scott

            Additional: This is over the top & disingenuous. Not to mention confrontational and hostile.

            flan man writes:
            >Just curious, to the moderators, is "Whatdoesthathavetodowiththepriceofteainchina?" fit with this stated goal:Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted.
            ?</i?

            The above was added to yer response right after I posted. What is it doing there? Why would you put it in my post and not e-mail Brandon with yer concerns or complaints? If you have an issue with me why not confront me directly? Or are you just trying to stir up trouble? Also I was responding to Brain's "snarl=k" (which was not worth complaining about or running to tell the teacher) & you butted in.

            What gives? I thought we where done?

          • Feel free to respond to my main comments then. I fully agree this is irrelevant and that they are not thought to have been particularly cruel to their slaves, though she is described as a prominent slave holder. First Canadian I've ever hear of holding slaves, though I know it happened.

          • Jim the Scott

            I decline I was merely put off by the cheap shot. Such as pointing out the historic Philosopher who is the world's earliest Atheist & gave us Atomist Materialism (i.e. Democretus) was a Flat Earther(vs his theistic contemporaries who confessed a round Earth). That too is irrelevant & a cheap shot. But since you concede your cheap shot is irrelevant then I am satisfied and we can move on(having got in my own licks).

            Cheers.

            PS (don't bring up Tea or China for some reason that triggers some people. Don't know why?..... but there you are)....

          • Sure Democritus may have been a flat-earther he probably owned slaves if he could afford them.

            It's not a cheap shot, if someone were claiming he was somehow divine or holy and did the work of a perfectly moral deity.

            Do you think Democritus is revered by atheists? Do you think we care if you point by out where he was wrong, I applaud it! Anything else you want to mention.

            Hitchens was an alcoholic and chain smoker. Dawkins is an embarrassment, Krauss doesn't se to understand philosophy. Matt Dillahunty is a grumpy curmudgeon.

            It you'd like to take shots at atheists I do passionately admire I've named myself after them. Brian Eno, Robert Green Ingersoll, Douglas Adams.

            For Eno I am vulnerable on the work he did with Coldplay. Ingersoll lived in the 19th century and probably has some skeletons in his closet. The video game Adams wrote was basically unplayable.

            Take your best shot!

            So you want to respond to anything relevant? Or was my suspicion correct: the Catholics on this site are not interested in defending miracles attributed D'Youville or this claimed miracle.

          • Jim the Scott

            >if someone were claiming he was somehow divine or holy and did the work of a perfectly moral deity.

            So basically it was a cheap shot because Theoretical Slavery is not intrinsically immoral. If I want to sell you my lifetime labor to pay a debt that is not intrinsically immoral. Now such an institution may be at worst gravely imprudent and prone to abuse and can devolve into tyranny but doesn't change that fact.

            But I don't expect moral self awareness from ideologs who think murdering the unborn is permissible (see another cheap shot! For my next trick I will bring out Stalin. We can do this all day or we can argue real issues).

            >So you want to respond to anything relevant? Or was my suspicion correct: the Catholics on this site are not interested in defending miracles attributed D'Youville or this claimed miracle.

            Others are doing a good job of it IMHO (it is not my area of expertise) and might I suggest if you are so confident in yer opponents inability to defend legitimate miracles you need not make any cheap shots.

            Just saying. Carry on my wayward son. There will be peace when you are done.*

            *Note: I am not making patronizing paternal overtures to you I just felt like quoting KANSAS.

            Cheers.

            PS Even thought I don't like yer cheap shot make no mistake Greene. You and Nickols are IMHO (and others share my sentiments) are the most knowledgeable religious skeptics here when it comes to basic Catholic doctrinal knowledge and teaching. That earns my respect.
            Just so you know.

          • It wasn't theoretical slavery it was actual slavery.

            These people didn't sell their labour they were prisoners of war.

            I guess you want to argue that slavery is moral? And not whether this nun somehow intervened to keep a cancer survivor in remission?

            It is absolutely morally permissible to have an abortion. Sure call the legal ending of a pregnancy murder and the illegal institution of slavery moral.

            Sure bring out Stalin, I will bring out Yaweh.

            No one is responding to my points. So who is doing a good job?

            I have no interest in your respect. That's up to you. I am fine with how you judge me.

            I'm interested in your response to the points I raised in my comment.

          • Jim the Scott

            Actually it was theoretical slavery. Chattel Slavery is the technical term
            for a state of permanent indentured servitude where the permanent indentured servant has at best the moral status of a mere animal at worst the moral status of an object. Such a state of slavery is immoral and thus condemned by divine and natural law. Theoretical slavery is any form of permanent indentured servitude where the slave/servant's human rights under the natural and moral law are upheld. Either in Law or by a righteous Christian Master. Said laws cannot be transgressed.

            Of course in modern time we have no wide spread legal institutional slavery in Christian or Western countries so it is not an issue(not counting underground criminal activities which by definition are chattel slavery) so the Church's teaching on the moral status of slavery is largely obscure so I don't expect you to know it. So great guy that I am I am informing you.

            >I guess you want to argue that slavery is moral?

            No I wish to inform you Theoretical Slavery isn't intrinsically immoral. It is not contrary to the moral and or natural law. But it can be said to be imprudent and by nature morally hazardous since a master would still have an inordinate amount of personal power over their slave that they could abuse and have it devolve into de facto Chattel slavery.

            It is like having a government ruled by an autocrat or dictator (in the classic sense). There isn't anything intrinsically immoral about it but it is not a good idea. In a like manner Theoretical slavery isn't a good idea either.

            >Sure bring out Stalin, I will bring out Yaweh.

            Tisk! Tisk! I expect that from Michael or Ella. You know we cannot unequivocally compare God to creature. We are not Theistic Personalist here. God is not a moral agent or have you forgotten?

            >It is absolutely morally permissible to have an abortion. Sure call the
            legal ending of a pregnancy murder and the illegal institution of
            slavery moral.

            No abortion is murder. Obviously any illegal institutional slavery would be immoral. Any institutional slavery that regarded slaves as mere animals or objects would also be immoral. But any institutional slavery that recognized the slave's natural law rights and rights under the moral law would "not be contrary to the moral and natural law" but we could still judge it morally hazardous and gravely imprudent like electing a dictator to rule the civil government.

            >No one is responding to my points.

            I think Mark is doing an excellent job so far.

            >I'm interested in your response to the points I raised in my comment.

            For you I shall consider them. As you may have figured out by now. I don't usually respond to religious questions outside my area of expertise and competence. I defer to others but for you my friend I shall see what I can do.

          • Yes she was a major slave owner. Agreed.

            If you have to use the term "slavery" to describe it, it's on the wrong side.

            No, abortion isn't murder. I mean it might be in some countries. But not this one.

            All slavery is immoral. If it isn't immoral it's called employment.

            Yes, autocracy and dictatorship is also intrinsically immoral.

            Mark stopped responding after one round.

          • Mark
          • Jim the Scott

            >If you have to use the term "slavery" to describe it, it's on the wrong side.

            Rather these days when we speak of "slavery" we are usually talking about the chattel variety.

            >No, abortion isn't murder. I mean it might be in some countries. But not this one.

            Direct Abortion is murder or manslaughter at all times and in every place because it is intrinsically immoral.

            >All slavery is immoral. If it isn't immoral it's called employment.

            Rather all acts of unjustly depriving a free man of his liberty and placing him or her in bondage are immoral. It was an open question wither or not somebody could be born a slave. Many believed you could (for "reasons") but with modern abolition the discussion is moot.

            It is not really immoral per say if I am made (under the law) to be yer unpaid laborer & you in turn have direct sovereign authority over me as a consequence for me being in grave debt to you or as a punishment for me committing a crime.
            Thought it is morally hazardous given its history.

            >Yes, autocracy and dictatorship is also intrinsically immoral.

            No rather tyrannies are intrinsically immoral. A benevolent autocracy or dictatorship would in fact be ideal. Granted given the weakness of human nature it would not be a good idea to try to implement such a government. The proverbial Dragon Queen was lovely to the people of Mareen over all but for the people of King's Landing....yeh not so much.
            Autocracies and dictatorships are potentially morally hazardous.

            >Mark stopped responding after one round.

            He has been answering the rabble. Rather well I think. See his responses to Flat Man and GHF.

            But obviously I am bias.

            Cheers.

          • The grey nuns did practice chattel slavery. Slavery in New France consisted of indigenous people, war captives, and some African imports. The average age of death for an indigenous slave was 17.

            No abortion is not murder direct or indirect. You may find it immoral, but I don't. But your opinion on morality doesn't determine what is a crime or not.

            Yes, any unpaid employment is immoral. People should be paid for their work they do for others. But slavery is much more than that. It derives people of of the freedom to make fundamental choices about what they do with their lives. Slaves in Quebec were forcibly baptized and made to.be Catholic
            It's at best imprisoning the innocent. At worse a horror show of abuse. The Catholic Church has been complicit in such crimes in Canada for centuries. Look at its role in Residential Schools. It played a central role along with the government and other churches in essentially cultural genocide, and it was very abusive. It went on well into to 20th century.

            A dictatorship or autocracy is a system of re by force without consent which it fundamentally a violation of the dignity of the governed. It also has no requirement of the rule of law or protection of minorities. These are immoral systems of governance.

          • Jim the Scott

            >The grey nuns did practice chattel slavery.

            What direct proof do you have they didn't regard their slaves as human beings? Did they refuse them Baptism or sacraments? Do you have proof she treated her slaves poorly? Guess not.

            >Slavery in New France consisted of indigenous people, war captives, and some African imports. The average age of death for an indigenous slave was 17.

            It doesn't logically follow because France, England and America practiced practical Chattel slavery that these nuns practiced it.

            >No abortion is not murder direct or indirect.

            You are inconsistent in condemning all forms of unpaid labor where a person is deprived of their freedom yet you think an innocent can be deprived of their life? I think I would rather be born a slave with a hope for freedom than murdered in the womb and have nothing. Especially if there is no God then you take away my one and only shot at life and existence.

            >Yes, any unpaid employment is immoral.

            Nope, as payment for a debt or punishment for a crime and prisoners of war(who loot countries as invaders) can in principle be made to pay with their unpaid labor.

            >It's at best imprisoning the innocent.

            Just because Theoretical Slavery isn't intrinsically immoral doesn't mean all acts of enslavement are moral or that the slave trade itself (which the Popes are on record as condemning for over the past 800 years) is moral it was not. Nor does it mean most institutional slavery was moral. It wasn't.

            Yer either/or mentality is dogging you here.

            >A dictatorship or autocracy is a system of rule by force without consent which it fundamentally a violation of the dignity of the governed.

            Actually that applies to all governments. Nobody asked my permission to make the USA a Constitutional Republic. I wasn't consulted. The issue is not the form of government but wither or not said government is a tyranny. A Benevolent dictatorship is better than a democracy where the majority vote to torture and kill the minority.

            So yer argument is irrational. Dictatorships are undesirable but not evil in themselves. Not all unpaid obligatory labor and personal authority over an individual is evil in itself.

            Also stop boring me to death by trying to get me to defend institutional slavery. I said it was morally hazardous even if morally Theoretical on paper. We have the proof of history it doesn't work.

            >Slaves in Quebec were forcibly baptized.

            Like Priests touching teenage boys that is immoral. So what? You wish to remind me Catholics have sinned? Guilty as charged. I know some Ukrianians who have definite views of the Atheist Government of Stalin. Their population was reduced by 7 to 11 million as a result. Objectively more damage done to them by good Atheist Communists than wicked Christians did to indigenous peoples.

            Brian don't bore me. The fact Theoretical Slavery doesn't contradict the moral and natural law doesn't justify Colonialism. Yer inferences are wrong.

          • They bought their slaves generally children who had been taken from their families. Good people don't do that to people.

            Slaves in New France we forced to be Catholic.

            I never said they treated them poorly. I said the opposite actually.

            No actually it doesn't matter if the person you've killed is innocent in determining whether it was murder it only matters if they are a person and there is no legal excuse such a self defence. The unborn aren't legal persons.

            I would rather be a slave than be murdered. I'd rather be an employee than a slave.

            A payment of a debt by work is not unpaid labour. It's just the timing that us different. But the persons enslaved by the grey nuns were not working off debts, they were captured in war or from Africa and sold to the nuns.

            Then these nuns were in violation of papal law if not French law. They held slaves.

            Nothing is digging me. Rather the text of the Bible and the theological requirements of your form of Christianity prevents you from denouncing all forms of slavery.

            No, liberal democracy is based on the consent of the governed. Autocracy doesn't care about consent, only power.

            The Constitution of the US was established with the consent of the governed by their elected leadership. It can and has many times been changed by way of this consent. This is not possible in an autocracy.

            Unpaid labour and governance without consent it immoral.

            Not just Catholics sinned but this saint was one of the more prominent slave holders of 18th century Montreal.

            I have nothing to do with Stalin and don't call h a saint or name public schools after him.

            I know Christian apologetics on slavery. I just opined to another atheist maybe her history as a prominent slave holder was one of the reasons there was no defence of her in this site.

            If you're bored, you don't need to read or respond.

          • Jim the Scott

            >They bought their slaves generally children who had been taken from their families. Good people don't do that to people.

            Taking about the general injustices that take place during slavery times is not proof that these specific nuns participated in them.

            >I never said they treated them poorly. I said the opposite actually.

            Then you have conceded my point and refuted yer own that the Nuns practiced Chattel slavery.

            > The unborn aren't legal persons.

            Neither are Chattel slaves. They are at best 3/5th a person. You are inconsistent. So by yer own standards you cannot morally object to the institution of slavery in any form. I can because I can judge the over all institution to be chattel in nature and even if it was Theoretical on paper I can still judge it has gone off by the objective standards of the moral and natural law & became del facto chattel.

            >Then these nuns were in violation of papal law if not French law. They held slaves.

            Sorry but all I am getting is guilt by inference not direct evidence. I have no reason to believe they unjustly enslaved anybody or that they violated their rights under the natural or moral law. You just assume it here without evidence. It is boring and unworthy of you Brian. I expect this from Michael or Ella. I have a higher opinion of you then them.

            >Nothing is digging me. Rather the text of the Bible and the theological
            requirements of your form of Christianity prevents you from denouncing
            all forms of slavery.

            Rather I have objective standards by which I can denounce past institutional slavery for transgressing the moral and natural rights of slaves & thus judge it chattel (except in the individual cases of some just individuals) . You by yer own standards have no reason to denounce it at all since legality is yer sole standard and legally these people where not full persons. Also yer ideoology allows for partial birth abortion or leads to it? What did you say? You don't approve of late term abortion? Well I don't approve of chattel slavery and I don't think theoretical slavery is at all a good idea. So there.

            But I am consistent. You I am not so sure about. That is not a personal slight. I am sure you try to be moral but yer reasoning here is questionable IMHO.

            >The Constitution of the US was established with the consent of the governed by their elected leadership.

            Yes and a lot of dictators where made so by popular acclaim. But I didn't give my consent to be ruled by a Republic. So by yer standard it is illegitimate for the USA to demand my allegiance to their laws while I am on US soil(which I don't believe but I am following yer thinking to its logical conclusion. Not mine).

            >No, liberal democracy is based on the consent of the governed. Autocracy doesn't care about consent, only power.

            Yes I agree which is why it is better IMHO than dictatorship. But it isn't intrinsically more good or dictatorship more evil. In essence there is no difference. In accidents democracy is better IMHO but in essence they are not. Even Liberal Democracy can devolve into tyranny.

            >I have nothing to do with Stalin and don't call h a saint or name public schools after him.

            I don't want to morally defend chattel slavery since I already said it is immoral and I don't want to defend theoretical slavery on practical grounds either but you I think equivocate between them. I don't. I apply strict moral categories.

            >I know Christian apologetics on slavery.

            I do too and it is all crap because they don't understand natural law from a hole in the head.

            There is no apologetics here. Simply the fact theoretical slavery and autocracies are not evil in essence. Just severely morally hazardous and or gravely potentially evil.

            Tyrannies and or practical or institutional chattel slavery and abortion are always evil as they are evil in essence.

            >Not just Catholics sinned but this saint was one of the more prominent slave holders of 18th century Montreal.

            You offer no proof other than supposition and yer own inconsistent (situational?) personal ethics. You already conceded they where kind to their slaves ergo they didn't personally practice chattel slavery.

            >Unpaid labour and governance without consent it immoral.

            That is ambiguous. It needs qualifiers. That is like saying all war is immoral(so it was immoral for the allies to fight back against the Nazis?). Or all killing is immoral(tell that to the woman defending herself from a rapist who breaks into her home).

            >If you're bored, you don't need to read or respond.

            Some of what you write is interesting. That makes up for some of the tedious parts.

          • I think this is now the third time that I've said I don't think the Grey Nuns mistreated their slaves.

            No, they were chattel slaves because they were owned as property. "Chattel" derives from the same root as "cattle" it refers to objects of property or slaves rather than parties to a contract or employees.

            Under my standards slavery is immoral, and always has been. But it certainly wasn't illegal in the French Empire in the 18th century. Nor after the British annexation.

            No under the law at the time I doubt slaves or women were persons. My morality does not extend to all legal persons, such as corporations. My moral standards aren't dependent on what the law says is a person. I'd the law were to change to consider an Embryo a person I still would not consider abortion immoral. I would consider it murder.

            I've explained what I find immoral about slavery.

            My sources for this are Wikipedia and the virtual museum of New France. What are yours?
            Depends on the circumstances about when I would consider an abortion late in the term immoral.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I think this is now the third time that I've said I don't think the Grey Nuns mistreated their slaves.

            Then by definition you concede they didn't practice chattel slavery as defined by Catholic Moral Theology and natural law theology.

            >No, they were chattel slaves because they were owned as property. "Chattel"...etc...

            I am gonna stop you right there and cry fallacy of equivocation. The definition of Chattel slavery as defined by Catholic moral theology is any form of slavery where the slave's rights under the natural and or moral law are disregarded. Reducing him to an animal or object. Merely owning their labor and their service in perpetuity (& being able to sell it to others with their permission) is not a violation of their natural or moral rights.

            >Under my standards slavery is immoral, and always has been. But it certainly wasn't illegal in the French Empire in the 18th century. Nor after the British annexation.

            Yer standards are arbitrary and ill defined. Also they are not across the board as there exists a class of persons in yer scheme who are chattel specifically the chattel of women as long as they occupy a womb.

            >My morality does not extend to all legal persons,
            such as corporations. My moral standards aren't dependent on what the
            law says is a person. I'd the law were to change to consider an Embryo a
            person I still would not consider abortion immoral. I would consider it
            murder.

            So the State is yer god? Its nor mine.

            >I've explained what I find immoral about slavery.

            Yes and everything here you justly complain about by definition is a feature of chattel slavery or theoretical slavery gone wrong making it de facto chattel.

            >My sources for this are Wikipedia and the virtual museum of New France. What are yours?

            Both the regular Wiki and the old Catholic Encyclopedia provide excellent info on slavery and moral theory in regards to it.

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14039a.htm

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_slavery#Development

            >Depends on the circumstances about when I would consider an abortion late in the term immoral.

            Which is why we can't really come to a full accord. You are giving me situational ethics & I am being a ruthless Essentialist.

            Cheers. Great discussion.

          • I never said they violated Catholic moral theology or ant theology. I said they were slave holders and slavery is immoral. Catholicism may not think it is, but it is.

            I do not really care what Catholic moral theology says for myself. I don't think the Grey nuns were likely in violation of any terms that the church allowed then to keep slaves on. I explained why all forms of slavery are immoral. Because it deprives slaves of the ability to make fundamental personal choices. The moral thing would be for the church to say never buy or sell a human being if someone does work for you they should be allowed to leave when they want.

            Slave holders don't just own labour, they have the legal right to control all aspects of their slaves lives
            Importantly here slaves in Quebec were not allowed to go home to their communities and families.

            No, in my moral system there are no moral agents or subjects that can be the property of others. I do not consider the unborn to be moral subjects or agents.

            I am an atheist I don't believe any gods exist. The state is not a god it is a political institution. The law, written and interpreted by state agents, which are representatives and appointees of the governed, determines what is legal, not what is moral.

            I just see no relevant distinction between your ideas of theoretical and chattel slavery. There are slaveholders who were abusive to more and less degrees to their slaves.

            Again I don't deny that Catholics were allowed to hold slaves and I am surprised that the church may continue to accept that some forms of slavery as acceptable.

            I was basing my views on the status of the slave's held by the nuns in 18th century Montreal from historical sources not rules on what religious orders can do. These sources suggest the slaves were probably the spoils or indigenous or colonial fighting they were children sold to them by winning indigenous nations. They were likely children. They would have been coerced into baptism and told their culture and religion was wrong. The average slave died at 17, I expect usually from disease.

            I'm not surprised an atheist pro choice and Catholic pro-life cannot come to terms on the morality of ending pregnancies. I didn't raise the issue. You did to characterize me as a baby killer to raise an irrelevant issue you felt you had the moral high ground on. As you did with Stalin.

            I did not do any of that.

            I did not raise slavery of Margaret D'Youville in my criticism of the OP. I did not raise it with anyone defending the OP. I raised it with someone who agreed with my criticism as a guess at why there was really no defense of this miracle.

          • Jim the Scott

            Sorry if this is too long.

            >I never said they violated Catholic moral theology or ant
            theology. I said they were slave holders and slavery is immoral. Catholicism may not think it is, but it is.

            Let us be real bro. It was a cheap shot designed to appeal to emotion like arguing against Atheism by bringing up Stalin. As for the immorality of slavery Catholicism does thinks that slavery is wrong. But it is
            important to describe how it is wrong and in the correct way. Simplyput Chattel Slavery is intrinsically evil and Theoretical slavery is morally hazardous and gravely potentially evil(given it's generally negative historical pedigree and the morally wicked behavior of the
            majority of the slave holding classes). See? Easier then falling in love.

            >I do not really care what Catholic moral
            theology says for myself. I don't think the Grey nuns were likely in violation of any terms that the church allowed then to keep slaves on. I explained why all forms of slavery are immoral.

            No really youhaven't IMHO (naturally you will disagree). You asserted it but you really didn't give me any reasons why I couldn't morally sell mylifetimes worth of labor to someone else to pay a debt or have it takenfrom me because I was captured while invading a country during war or for a serious crime.

            You cited examples of abuses which de facto make theoretical slavery into the chattel type but you really didn't explain to me why the above is immoral. Then there was yer inconsistency with abortion.

            >Because it deprivesslaves of the ability to make fundamental personal choices.

            So does being sentenced to jail. But the fundamental flaws in yer responses here is yer tendency to equivocate between Chattel and Theoretical slavery. 90% of yer objections apply to chattel slavery IMHO.

            >The moral thing would be for the church
            to say never buy or sell a human being if someone does work for you they should be allowed to leave when they want.

            Actually many Saints gave advice on how to treat slaves and they all recommenced freeing slaves who performed meritorious service & they also advised not freeing slaves who where morally suspect as such persons would
            devolve into thieves and or criminals. You cannot sell yer slave to a person who will treat them harshly or wickedly. You cannot sell them to infidels. You cannot deny them their rights under natural law & or the moral law.

            >Slave holders don't just own labour,

            Morally that is all a Theoretical Slave owner owns. To own more makes it chattel slavery which is intrinsically evil.

            >they have the legal right to control all aspects of their slaves livesImportantly here slaves in Quebec were not allowed to go home to their
            communities and families.

            North American Slavery waslegally chattel slavery ergo immoral as an institution. A Catholic participant may not act in any way other than in the theoretical model & even if the law allows him too.
            A theoretical slave owner has no authority that transgresses the moral or natural law. Never the less medievil critics of slavery according to Feser pointed out it was morally hazardous because of their inordinate
            authority over a slave which can be abused.

            If you think I am say there is NO WAY to say even Theoretical Slavery is wrong within Catholicism let me disabuse you of that misunderstanding. You can, but
            you must do so correctly and with the correct terminology.

            >No, in my moral system there are no moral agents or subjects that can be the property of others.

            That is chattel slavery. In theoretical you have command over others and you own their labor. Their souls and being are their own.

            >I do not consider the unborn to be moral
            subjects or agents.

            What does that have to do with them being in essence human beings ergo they have rights? My children are autistic at best two of them are not moral agent either. But they are human even if they are deficient cognitively.

            >I am an atheist I don't believe any gods
            exist.The state is not a god it is a political institution. The law, written
            and interpreted by state agents, which are representatives and
            appointees of the governed, determines what is legal, not what is moral.

            It is yer highest authority which is the problem because like dictatorships and even theoretical slavery it never ends well even if not essentially evil per say.

            >I just see no relevant distinction between your ideas of theoretical and chattel slavery.

            They are morally relevant like a benevolent dictator who treats his/her subject fairly and with justice is different than a rogue democracy where the majority go full on fascist and crush the minority.

            That doesn't make dictatorships more preferable but it does make that individual dictator more preferable than the rogue democracy.

            >There are slaveholders who were abusive to more and
            less degrees to their slaves.

            They where sinners who have been judged by a Just God. God have mercy on them.

            >Again I don't deny that Catholics
            were allowed to hold slaves and I am surprised that the church may continue to accept that some forms of slavery as acceptable.

            Sorry but saying it is "not contrary to the moral and natural law to do X" is not the same as saying "it is good to do x" or that "x is free of all moral hazard and should be implimented immediately".

            As a Catholic I can in fact say even Theoretical slavery is "wrong" but I can do it precisely and correctly. You not so much if you will forgive me for saying so.

            >I was basing my views on the
            status of the slave's held by the nuns in 18th century Montreal from
            historical sources not rules on what religious orders can do.

            If you read my links especially the old Catholic Encylopedia explaining the moral status of Chattel vs theoretical Slavery does not equal a defense of the institution as a whole or the general wickedness of the
            slave holding classes.

            >These sources suggest the
            slaves were probably the spoils or indigenous or colonial fighting they
            were children sold to them bywinning indigenous nations.

            Some could be enslaved by natural law standard some could not and most slavery was either legally chattel or practically so.

            Religion alone civilized the institution as pagan slaves are no better than objects to be disposed of by their master at will. Religion also laid the seeds for it's abolition. Including the theoretical one.

            >I'm
            not surprised an atheist pro choice and Catholic pro-life cannot come
            to terms on the morality of ending pregnancies. I didn't raise the
            issue.

            You did to characterize me as a baby killer to raise an irrelevant issue

            You brought up slavery first for the same reasons. I merely fight back. It is what I do.

            >you felt you had the moral high ground on. As you did with Stalin.

            Rather I am making an equal playing field.

            >I did not raise slavery of Margaret D'Youville in my criticism of the OP.

            You took a cheap shot at her order so I leveled the playing field and got to explain some stuff & hear myself pontificate. It's a win win.

            >I did not raise it with anyone defending the OP. I raised it
            withsomeone who agreed with my criticism as a guess at why there was
            really no defense of this miracle.

            It was still a wee bit of a cheap shot but I got to explain soem stuff so no big deal.

            We are good.

          • Call it a cheap shot if you like. I don't care. We both agreed all along that it was irrelevant to this OP. Again, it wasn't raised as a criticism of the OP.

            I've offered several times to discuss the relevant and substantive criticisms, but you're not inclined. That's fine.

            Ok, so you agree it was wrong for these nuns to own slaves? Or you don't think what they were slaves?

            It's not immoral for you to see yourself if you want to, it's imorral for someone to own you and restrict your fundamental life choices or to require you to work without remuneration.

            It's not immoral to imprison people to protect society and deter crimes. But that's incarceration, not slavery.

            I've never heard of this idea of Theoretical slavery. I think it's not a thing. I do conflate them. What's the difference.

            I'm sure some saints were abolishonists, Margaret D'Youville was a prominent slave owner, or her new convent was.

            All slavery is chattel slavery. It is the legal state of owning a person. When I use the word "slave" I mean the status where one person how personal property rights over another rather than contract brights between two parties. This is not a moral state of affairs. I can elaborate if you like.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Ok, so you agree it was wrong for these nuns to own slaves?

            Given the standards of moral theory I cannot say in their case (& assuming they hold fast to Church teaching) they did anything intrinsically wrong. Also in cases of potential evil and or accidental evil circumstances play a part in rightness vs wrong. Unlike instances of intrinsic evil where the wrongness cannot even in principle be justified or tolerated.

            > it's imorral for someone to own you and restrict your fundamental life choices or to require you to work without remuneration

            Only if one is unjustly enslaved which the Church condemns. Also they don't strictly own you. They own yer labor. That is not immoral per say.

            >It's not immoral to imprison people to protect society and deter crimes. But that's incarceration, not slavery.

            Wither its debtors prison or theoretical slavery you lawfully loose yer liberty.

            >I've never heard of this idea of Theoretical slavery.

            Obviously!:D I learned it reading the CE and listening to the Feser. The claim is made the Church "changes" Her teaching on slavery ergo She can change it on the Death Penaly or (insert X). Technically She hasn't changed her teaching.

            > I think it's not a thing. I do conflate them. What's the difference.

            Then you can't discuss the issue accurately or rationally. Like if I said "Communism vs general Atheism? What is the difference?" Yeh there is kind of a big difference between rational classic liberal Atheists like Youtuber Sargon of Ackkad vs Stalin. One I would vote for as a member of Parliament the other I would join an uprising against.

            >I'm sure some saints were abolishonists,

            Yes.

            >All slavery is chattel slavery. It is the legal state of owning aperson.

            No a slave is a human being bound to another in perpetual service because that other person owns their labor. Chattel vs Theoretical depends on the metaphysical status of the slave. It (s)he human or an animal/object.

            >When I use the word "slave" I mean the status where one person how personal property rights over another rather than contract brights
            between two parties. This is not a moral state of affairs. I canelaborate if you like.

            You are using the common understanding which equates all slavery with the chattel variety. One bloke I argued with on FB remarked "Well than what you are talking about with this Theoretical business isn't "real slavery'".

            In the end this only shows the importance of precise definitions.

            Yer claim "all slavery is chattel" would only make sense if you defined a "slave" as a human being treated like property analigous to an animal or object.

            But we are using different definitions here and we must avoid equivocation otherwise we wind up like GHF & his ilk who equate Thor with Pure Act or Being Itself which is comical.

            One might as well confuse Darwin and Lemark.

            Cheers.

          • Debtors prison is just as immoral. It's why we have personal bankruptcy.

            The difference between Communism and Atheism is the former is an economic system in which all property is held communally by the state, the latter refers to the point of view of persons who lack a belief in any gods. A great deal underlies and follows from the former, there is not much more to the latter.

            Owning someone's labour exclusively would be a contract of employment with an unconscionable restrictive covenant.

            What you are calling Theoretical Slavery is better called employment. It's not what the grey nuns did. There were employees there but they held slaves.

            Yes, as I've said before slavery means you have property rights over someone not a contract with them.

            The definitions are obviously not helpful.

            I am saying there were at least two options for these nuns to engage workers. 1 was to provide remuneration for service, which allowed the worker the freedom to leave employment at the time of choosing. 2 was to purchase them and own them as property and require work from them about which they had no choice. 1 can be done morally or not depending on the conditions and remuneration. 2 can be done very abusively with beating and other conditions. But 2 can't be done morally.

            The nuns chose 2.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Debtors prison is just as immoral. It's why we have personal bankruptcy.

            Not sure why it would be immoral in principle or in essence? The abuses surrounding the debtors prison system are without a doubt immoral but I don't see how it is immoral in principle? But then again I am an essentialist not a utilitarian or a consequentialist.

            >The difference between Communism and Atheism is the former is an economic system in which all property is held communally by the state, the latter refers to the point of view of persons who lack a belief in any gods. A great deal underlies and follows from the former, there is not much more to the latter.

            No those definitions are only partially correct IMHO and Marxists will tell you Dialectical Materialism and positivism Atheism are an integral part of Communism. Especially the version Stalin practiced. He wasn't all about "lacking god belief" he wanted people to believe there was no God. Still my point was the problem with equivocating & guilt by association. It is wrong to do it to Atheists. Well it is still wrong to do it to Christians.

            >Owning someone's labour exclusively would be a contract of employment with an unconscionable restrictive covenant.

            Yes otherwise known as Theoretical slavery vs Chattel.

            >What you are calling Theoretical Slavery is better called employment.

            I would accept this.

            >It's not what the grey nuns did. There were employees there but they held slaves.

            How do you know what they did? Clearly they regarded (or ideally should have) regarded their slaves as human beings whose labor they entirely owned and who where bound under their perpetual command at their pleasure. Which is theoretical slavery.

            >Yes, as I've said before slavery means you have property rights over someone not a contract with them.

            Theoretical Slavery is the result of a contract or civil penalty. This either/or thingy is special pleading. If I can in principle sell myself to you to pay a debt then I am under a contract and has an obligation to serve you.

            >The definitions are obviously not helpful.

            They are extremely helpful as they avoid the fallacies of equivocation one sees in all these discussions.

            >I am saying there were at least two options for these nuns to engage
            workers. 1 was to provide remuneration for service, which allowed the
            worker the freedom to leave employment at the time of choosing.

            They can do so out of charity just as I can forgive a debt someone owes me but I am not absolutely required to do so in all circumstances and the nuns didn't have to free all their slaves right away.

            >2 was topurchase them and own them as property and require work from them about which they had no choice.

            Since they are Catholics Nuns de fecto they would not see themselves as own that metaphysical part of the slave which belongs to God alone.

            They are not "property" they are persons who are bound to serve them.

            So what if the Nuns didn't buy them? It would have been better to let Protestant heretics who saw them a mere cattle and whose interpretation of the Holy Writ saw them as mere animals buy them instead? I would rather be owned by nuns.

            >1 can be done morally or not depending on the
            conditions and remuneration. 2 can be done very abusively with beating
            and other conditions. But 2 can't be done morally.

            Pretty much one can morally require one's theoretical slave to do their job. Just as you can compele someone to fulfill their contract. Thought by yer own admission the nuns treated them well so there is no reports of them coercing them.

            >The nuns chose 2.

            Sorry but speaking hypothetically if I own yer labor and you are under my direct paternal command then I can compel you to work and reasonably punish you if you don't. If I unreasonably punish you then as per the rules of Theoretical slavery I must free you.

            At least in principle. Personally I wouldn't want the headache of a theoretical slave. At worst I would make them clean my house than free them as best just free them. OTOH if I just freed them well what would become of them?

            It is not all black and white even if you do have an objective set of moral principles.

          • If you have a debt to someone you should have pay them back, not lose your freedom. Your loss of freedom is a harm to you unrelated to the debt, it is a harm not justified by the debt. Debtors prisons were outlawed as cruel.

            No, atheism is not integral to communism. And atheists can be capitalists. The point is to define and distinguish. Do you want to define Theoretical Slavery, or move on to economic systems?

            I know the Grey Nuns held slaves not employees because of the sources I cited. One speaks of the conditions of slaves on New France as being comparable to immigrant workers, meaning there was an alternative.

            Ok, if theoretical slavery is a contract between two parties for labour, that is not what Margaret D'Youville practiced. She "purchased and sold both Indian slaves and British prisoners, including an English slave which she purchased from the Indians."

            In employment, there really isn't punishment. You aren't compelled to do anything. Misconduct results in a breach of contract and remedies where applicable. Discipline can occur in unionized environments but is restricted to warnings, suspensions, and rarely demotion. Needless to say the slaves in French colonial Quebec were not unionized. They weren't employees. Their owners didn't just own their labour, they simply owned them and had full authority over their lives. France did not regulate slaver in Quebec.

            The nuns didn't need to buy slaves at all. Slavery was quite rare in Lower Canada. The nuns could have offered employment for remuneration, what you are calling Theoretical Slavery. But they didn't. They bought people.

            I don't know what would happen if you freed a slave in 18th century Montreal. I assume is you didn't help them get home they might be quite vulnerable. Better not to buy any in the first place.

            It's not all black and white but the practice of slaveryin Lower Canada in the 18th century was immoral. The nuns didn't need to do it, they chose to.

          • Jim the Scott

            That debtor's prison like Theoretical slavery where morally hazardous & subject to abuse does not make them contrary to the moral and natural law in principle. Freedom is after all property and or an asset thus it can be subject to being payment for a debt in principle. Wither it should be is another question and we can all say no it shouldn't be even thought in principle it can.

            Like the Death Penalty. It is permissible in principle but that doesn't mean we are required to have one.

            >No, atheism is not integral to communism.

            Except for those strict pure Marxist Leninist types who think it is then it is as integral as the Papacy is to Catholic Christianity. Grant Luther didn't think Catholic Christianity (his version) really needed a Pope but it exists. Some Commie lite types believe you can be religious and a Communist/Socialist. Anyway my point remains fallacies of equivocation and cheap shots against Christianity can be turned on Atheists.

            >Ok, if theoretical slavery is a contract between two parties for labour, that is not what Margaret D'Youville practiced. She "purchased and sold both Indian slaves and British prisoners, including an English slave
            which she purchased from the Indians."

            But we don't know that their individual slavery was objectively unjust. War Prisoners can be enslaved as compensation for them attacking and looting yer country.

            I do note Theoretical Slavery is not racial in Catholic Countries as Father Rutler once pointed out in a talk unlike the Chattel slavery of America.

            >Needless to say the slaves in French colonial Quebec were not unionized. They weren't employees. Their owners didn't just own their labour, they simply owned them and had full authority over their lives. France did
            not regulate slaver in Quebec.

            Most likely it devolved from the principles outlined by natural law. The same Popes who said Theoretical Slavery didn't contradict the natural and moral law also condemned the contemporary slave trade because it was intrinsically unjust. One does not exclude the other. Legal or practical chattel slavery can exist and a righteous Christian who buys a slave is still compelled to practice Theoretical Slavery. Which is still morally hazardous because of yer practical near absolute authority over the slave which hearkens back to my Just Autocrat/Dictator example.

            It is not evil in essence only at worst gravely potentially evil.

            Anyway you said three time the Nuns treated their slaves kindly so by definition you have conceded they didn't personally practice Chattel slavery. If you want a defense of slavery as an institution in Quebec you will get none from me.

            >The nuns didn't need to buy slaves at all.

            In yer personal judgement but that hardly is reasonable evidence.

            > don't know what would happen if you freed a slave in 18th centuryMontreal. I assume is you didn't help them get home they might be quite vulnerable.

            Nothing good IMHO. So the Nuns would be justified in keeping most of their slaves if only to protect them.

            >Better not to buy any in the first place.

            But where does that leave the slave? They can still be purchased by persons with no respect for the moral or natural law. The Nuns at least do.

            >The nuns could have offered employment for remuneration, what you are calling Theoretical Slavery.

            Technically they do. They provide food, care and human lodging and they are obligated to take care of slaves who are too old to work.

            Chattel slaves are treated as animals at best. Objects at worst.

            >It's not all black and white but the practice of slaveryin Lower Canada
            in the 18th century was immoral.

            Theoretical slavery can and often does "go off" and devolve to chattel on the practical level which is why it is still morally hazardous.

            >The nuns didn't need to do it, they
            chose to.

            But given the circumstances it was likely a mercy.

            I think we have beaten this topic to death. You may have the last word. (Try not to temp me with a interesting tangent if you would)

          • Freedom is not property. Freedom is not an asset. It is a set of individual rights.

            We do know the kind of slavery Margaret D'Youville practiced was immoral and unjust because it was chattel slavery where you buy a person as property from another not theoretical slavery where you contract with an individual.

            Treating prisoners of war as unpaid labourers is immoral and illegal. They are to be held incarcerated until the conflict is over and then returned. They are not to be sold to nuns as slaves.

            In Quebec the slaves were almost all indigenous or black. They had one English slave. The French did not enslave the French.

            Again the slaves we are talking about were likely children stolen by one indigenous nation from another in a raid. Sold to these nuns and forcibly converted.

            This was the slave trade. It was people buying slaves who were captured.

            Unbought slaves are in a bad spot. But if you just buy slaves to free them you increase the demand and raise the price, growing the industry. If you buy them to enslave them you do this but not as much. The moral thing to do is to not buy any and advocate for abolition. The grey nuns just participated in this industry.

            I didn't say it was evil I don't use that word. I am saying it is immoral.

            If you don't buy a slave it leaves the slave unsold. These nuns didn't buy the slaves to free them. They bought them to use them.

            No chattel slaves could be treated very well. Such as some house slaves. Some were even used as expert technicians.

          • Jim the Scott

            You have the last word. Some things you wrote here I already answered in past posts and I will leave you to re-read them. Cheers.

      • Phil

        Of course limbs aren't regrown, quadriplegics aren't made to walk, burns victim skin is not restored - these things don't happen.

        I wouldn't be too sure of this. There have definitely been cases such as these in the past 100 years, especially surrounding Lourdes. You just need to find the people that actually witnessed them.

        The key to miracles in the modern world is that they're limited to "things that can happen anyway"

        I don't quite know what this would mean, because let's assume you witness someone having a limb regrow.
        So we would say it is something that can happen, since it happened!
        The question is if it is the natural order of things or not.

        My view is that the proper definition of a miracle is a suspension of the natural order.

        • flan man

          I wouldn't be too sure of this. There have definitely been cases such as these in the past 100 years, especially surrounding Lourdes

          Please give some citation of any of these happening, from legitimate medical sources.

          I don't quite know what this would mean, because let's assume you witness someone having a limb regrow.
          So we would say it is something that can happen, since it happened!

          Correct, but it doesn't happen. If it did, that would change everything, but it doesn't happen. Miracles in the modern world have been downgraded to remissions of illnesses and such, things that happen all the time.

          if a miracle is defined as a suspension of the natural order, I don't see how anybody surviving something like leukemia could ever qualify as a miracle, as people survive all the time.

          • Phil

            Please give some citation of any of these happening, from legitimate medical sources.

            Your best bet is simply to speak to those that personally witnessed such things or had them happen to them, or read their stories.

            I'd just look for reputable books containing 1st person testimony of these stories, and ones that involved accredited medical persons.

            if a miracle is defined as a suspension of the natural order, I don't see how anybody surviving something like leukemia could ever qualify as a miracle, as people survive all the time.

            You'd have to give specific examples, because each case is different and should be investigated individually.

            One person healed of some disease could be classified as a miracle while another person healed of the same disease may not be classified as a miracle. It all depends on if there is reasonable evidence that the suspension of the natural order has taken place or not.

          • flan man

            Your best bet is simply to speak to those that personally witnessed such things or had them happen to them, or read their stories.

            I can also find first hand attestations of Bigfoot kidnappings, alien anal probings, Hindu near death experiences, encounters with Icke-like lizard humanoids, encounters with Slenderman, etc so I'll pass.

            I'd just look for reputable books containing 1st person testimony of these stories, and ones that involved accredited medical persons.

            And what are these? If they're reputable and have accredited medical data, you'd think they'd be pretty widely known. You're telling me people have regrown limbs at Lourdes, and there is medical attestation to it, but the word just hasn't gotten out?

            You'd have to give specific examples, because each case is different and should be investigated individually.

            Let's use the one given in the article above.

            It all depends on if there is reasonable evidence that the suspension of the natural order has taken place or not.

            And what I'm asking is what is the evidence that makes this case miraculous vs. being the result of aggressive treatment. There is all this mention of "criteria" used, but no one seems to know what it is.
            Honestly, it seems like the criteria is, "most people don't survive this, this woman did, so it's miracle"

          • Phil

            And what I'm asking is what is the evidence that makes this case miraculous vs. being the result of aggressive treatment.

            If the healing of a person can reasonably be attributed to medical treatment, whether ordinary or extraordinary treatment, a medical expert would rightly not suggest a healing could be a case of the miraculous.
            (I don't know exactly what you mean by "aggressive treatment".)

            I'll say that I am philosopher, so coming at it from that realm the driving question is, "is there good reason to believe this happened according to the natural order of things?"
            If nature took it course, could we expect what to place to happen?

            I'll leave those that investigate these things from a medical standpoint and such other experts to chime in as that is not my expertise.

          • Mark

            The miracle of Calanda has affidavit from doctors that knew Pellicer's that his amputated leg was regenerated. Court testimony was acquired to confirm the miracle. There was nobody who denied his amputation or regeneration. Of course none of that would convince a skeptic the testimony was true.

          • flan man

            Of course, this was back in the 17th century. I'm talking now. Why did these types of miracles stop when cameras and reliable medical records began?

            I'm told people are growing limbs back at Lourdes, but nobody seems to know much about it. Why have miracles nowadays become a matter of things that already happen? Let's just have one single well attested case of somebody's leg growing back.

            We have sworn, written testimonies by the Mormon Witnesses. Three witnesses swore they were shown the Golden Plates of Moroni by an angel. They were eventually excommunicated from the Mormon Church, yet none ever recanted their testimony.
            We have eight sworn, written testimonies by people that saw and handled the plates. They also eventually fell out with Smith and were excommunicated from the Church, yet none ever recanted their testimony. And this is even closer in time to us, the 19th century.

            Of course none of that would convince a non-Mormon the testimony was true.

            I'm curious if this convinces you of the truth of Smith's story. If not, I wonder why?

          • Jim the Scott

            I hate to interrupt but there is a host of contemporary testimony in the 19th century Joseph Smith was a con man. Thus he wasn't trust worthy. What counter testimony do you have that similar flim flummery took place at Calanda?

            Just asking...….

            >Let's just have one single well attested case of somebody's leg growing back.

            I seem to recall Atheists originally complained God NEVER performed a miracle to reattach somebody's leg ergo "God hates amputees" or some such weird meme......

            Now the goal posts have definitely been moved since we can cite a few of them. What is next "God hates people who have been burned to ash"?

            Silly people.

          • flan man

            We're done, please don't butt in to other conversations with your nonsensical comments.

          • Jim the Scott

            This violates the rules sir that you tried to cite against me for merely posting "Whatdoesthishavetodowiththepriceofteainchine?" in response to yer off topic response to me.(& yer compliant INHO was over the top).

            This response is snarky and hostile by your own standards. It is also passive aggressive. Good luck with that.

            OTOH My response here to this specific post is on topic. I addressed yer Joseph Smith analogy, which is clearly, given the circumstances of his life and the existing historic counter testimony not a good example of "Testimony" for a miracle . Come up with a better one. Because based on evidence I don't see equivalence here? What counter testimony against the character of the witnesses in the Calanda case exist?

            These are valid questions regardless if gods exists or not or miracles occur or not.

            If you don't have a response and or cannot respond in a civilized manner then fine then. If you want to plainly say "Nothing personal I just don't like you then speak plainly". I prefer honesty to phony curtesy(which is why I smiled when you said "I don't care". The honesty was refreshing, Now you have disappointed me).

            >please don't butt in to other conversations with your nonsensical comments.

            Sorry I will respond to bad arguments and or bad analogies and Joseph Smith is a bad analogy as there is a mountain of evidence he is a fraud. It's not wrong to demand you produce the same for Calanda.

            PS Dude, chill. if you make a weak point it doesn't make you wrong ultimately.

            PSS We all know the amputee thing is a bad Atheist meme and they have moved the goal posts..

          • Jim the Scott

            Lastly:
            If Tea and China trigger you for "reasons". I promise not to bring them up again.

          • Mark

            A camera picture or film footage doesn't convince a skeptic we landed on the moon. I'm quite confident the depth a skeptic can hold onto their fundamentalism isn't challenged by a camera. You wanted one single "well attested" case and I'm confident you didn't read anything about the miracle past the first link you Googled. You certainly didn't read the book that was published that chronicled the event nor the court room testimony or other evidence presented. You just paralleled a known con man in Joseph Smith rather than address the evidence which is a cheap parlor trick Joseph Smith might appreciate. I'm curious why you think sophistry should be convincing? Next time go with either the "he buried an empty amputation box and he bound his leg behind his thigh for 2+ years because it is better for the beggar business and Dr. Estranga (and 100+ sworn attestations) confused Pellicer with a different amputee" which is what the fundamentalist skeptic does. Or go with the standard skeptic response, "I'm not saying it didn't happen, I just don't have convincing evidence it did. Even if it did, it might be explained by science (eventually) so why introduce a new evidence of supernatural cause which cannot be falsified?".

          • flan man

            You just paralleled a known con man in Joseph Smith

            Even if he was a con man in some aspects, you're telling me this farm boy somehow inscribed the entire Book of Mormon on Golden Plates and somehow instilled a vision of an angel is multiple people's minds? And they refused to call him out on his deception even after they fell out with him and were excommunicated from the Mormon Church?

            Nay, sir, that's a bit too much, even for a fundamentalist skeptic like yourself. I'm simply asking why I'm supposed to discount sworn eyewitness testimony in one religious case but not in another. If you're not required to accept the sworn eyewitness testimony of eleven people in this case, I'm not sure why I'm required to accept the testimony in the magic leg case.

            And again, I'm asking the simple question of why magic legs having suddenly stopped in the modern age?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, it is my understanding from long ago that those eleven eyewitnesses all recounted their testimony before they died. I believe I was told that some sixty years ago by a former Mormon elder.

            From the relative paucity of cases like Calanda even in times long ago, why would you expect them to be flowing in today?

            Every case of alleged miracle has to be examined carefully on its own merits. I am not asking you to believe what I might judge to be convincing to me. I might try to convince you, too, but as Gabriel Marcel pointed out, the fact that another person does not see the same proof you do does not mean he exhibits "bad faith." Still, that also does not mean that one is incorrect in his own judgment that a miracle is authentic.

          • flan man

            First, it is my understanding from long ago that those eleven eyewitnesses all recanted their testimony before they died. I believe I was told that some sixty years ago by a former Mormon elder.

            Please produce actual evidence, and not hearsay from some "former Mormon elder" sixty years ago

            What counts more as evidence, sworn eyewitness testimony in print, or hearsay? Really, really think about this.

            I was told by a Catholic priest many years ago that the miracle of Calanda was a pious fraud perpetrated by the church, and the witnesses later recanted their testimony, so we can cross that one off the list, too. He presented good evidence to this claim.

            See how easy that is?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is all simply a matter of what is the truth, right?

            I know what that elder told me. Are you telling me the truth about that "Catholic priest?"

            The issue of genuine miracles is not decided by false ones, but by whether there are any real ones. See my next posts to you.

          • flan man

            But was that elder telling the truth? Even if he was telling the truth, was what he was told just hearsay? Just repeating hearsay doesn't make truth.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not in doubt that the former elder was telling me the truth, but it may have been in the sense that the issue was more complicated than his brief expression was read by me. After all, this was over half a century ago.

            What is more relevant is that the whole issue of the witnesses is more complicated than simple. I suggest you take a close read at the following: https://www.mrm.org/eleven-witnesses

            In any event, my experience with Mormonism is limited. I once encountered two Mormon elders who were trying to convert me. I have always respected how clean cut and gentlemanly these young elders are whenever I encounter them.

            I do know that one of the constant themes of Mormonism is the enigmatic dictum: "What man now is, God once was. And what God now is, man someday will be."

            Without getting into the curious doctrine that formula expresses, I did ask those elders I mentioned above as to what or who was the "mechanism" behind this grand scheme expressed by the cited dictum. They said they did not know.

            My problem is that that amounts to saying that they do not know the metaphysical context in which the grand scheme operates. To me, if anything had to sustain such a process, it would have to be the God of classical theism. But then, that would raise the question as to the exact status of the "God" who is mentioned in the dictum.

            I really have had no further encounters with Mormonism, so it will do no good to pursue this discussion further.

          • Mark

            And again, I'm asking the simple question of why magic legs having suddenly stopped in the modern age?

            If meet that goalpost where will you move it next? I refuse to answer to a question when that answer will be dismissed a priori. It's like talking to a flat-earther.

          • flan man

            Let's meet that goalpost first, then we'll go from there. Let's argue from existing evidence, not some miraculous leg regrowing that's in the future.

            And simply restating Calanda! again won't really do anything, because we've already determined that eyewitness testimony can be discounted as one likes.

            I think you refuse to answer because you don't really have an answer.

          • Mark

            flan man, "Let's just have one single well attested case of someone's leg growing back."

            I don't discount credible eyewitness testimony a priori. That's you and your YEC friends. I refuse to answer because you're a fundamentalist. You've fully displayed your objective evidence weighing and dialogue abilities.

          • flan man

            I don't discount credible eyewitness testimony a priori.

            Yes, you do. You just define "credible" by "does it agree with my religion?"

            The Mormon Witnesses are credible, multiple witnesses, with reasons to recant, and yet they don't. Why are they not credible?

            Please answer this question. I'm asking why the witnesses aren't credible - not Joseph Smith - why these Witnesses never recanted.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See my other reply to this question below.

          • Mark

            Please don't take my refusal to smell your red herring as an a priori assumption. I define credibility in many ways including a person's habitual use of fallacy in argument.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are good at missing essential points.

            Many skeptics question why there are no reports of legs regrowing. Calanda is such a report.

            Whether you want to believe it really happened is quite another and distinct question.

            Moreover, the mere fact that an event took place centuries ago and eyewitnesses reported it does not mean that it did not or could not have taken place.

            it just means that modern skeptics, like yourself, will never recognize it as genuine.

        • Thanks Phil, what cases of regrowing limbs since 1920?

          Or are you just guessing?

    • Mark

      Presumably, Catholics believe that praying or some other religious act
      is engaging some non naturalistic cause to heal or cure these people, or
      cause their diseases to go into remission. This is something science
      can test.

      I'm curious what you think "non-naturalisitc cause" philosophically means to a Catholic?

      Based on how you follow-up with a poorly designed unblinded questionairre based study I'm guessing you're weaving your own materialistic theology into a Catholic understanding of nature. There have been science based prayer studies going back to 1872. Most are inherently poorly designed: statistically small; unblinded; poor control, unquantitative or unqualitative outcome analysis to name a few. The best are blinded intercessory prayers, many of which showed statistical differences and were positive on prayer: (Byrd 1988; O'Laire 1997, Walker et al, 1997,Harris et al 1999, Leibovichi 2001, Cha et al 2001). After Harris especially, everyone jumped in the prayer research but much of this new research prayer is grouped with new age positive thinking and other non-traditional prayer. It's a mixed bag, and in the scientific world brings out the typical skepticisms. Which I will say I find amusing every time a positive prayer study come out the skeptic fundamentalists write letters to the editor en masse. Scratch a skeptic as they say.

      Having said that, I don't pay much attention to the results of any of these studies for a few reasons. First I would suggest it is impossible to create a control non-prayer group. Secondly, statistical analysis of a defined benefit of a specific prayer doesn't address the benefit or purpose of prayer or suffering as robustly understood by Catholics. Lastly, I'd point out these studies are inherently unequipped to prove or disprove God which is what you want them to do. Trying to (un) justify religion on a scientific basis is rather asinine, it does no service to either religion or science properly understood. This circles back to my skepticism of your understanding of how Catholics view science or God when you use the term "non-naturalistic cause".

      • flan man

        This kinda circles back to my skepticism of your understanding of how Catholics view science or God when you think you can "test" a "non-naturalistic cause".

        It also circles back to skeptic's charges that this is a way to have miracles, while at the same time putting them beyond all range of proof or falifiability.

        Lastly, I'd point out these studies are inherently unequipped to prove or disprove God which is what you want them to do.

        No one is asking them to prove or disprove God, just miracles.

        There are prayer studies I find worthwhile.

        Why, I thought one couldn't "test" a "non-naturalistic cause"? If proof of miracles is beyond all "testing", why is there an article on the science of miracles here? Why is there "attestation" from a doctor? Why bother with prayer studies at all if we're starting out with the assumption that they can't scientifically be tested at all?
        You can't put forth medical evidence when trying to prove miracles, and then suddenly pull the rug out from under it when it doesn't get the results you want.

        And, again, these prayer studies are geared towards people surviving survivable illnesses, or, as you bring up, addiction. But people survive severe illnesses and overcome addiction all the time.

        I'm curious why the real "violations of natural order"-type miracles have ceased, when they seem to have been so common back before cameras and accurate medical records.

      • I couldn't say what Catholics think is going on with miracles or what would prove them or what the purpose of prayer is, you would have to ask one.

        I'm just saying I would have thought attributing a healing to a saint they don't think it is just because no natural cause of the healing is known.

        I don't think I am presenting Catholics as Materialists, or naturalists. As I said, I presume they mean more by miracle than "science doesn't have an explanation".

        What do you think Catholics mean has happened when they say a church approved miracle has occurred. Why are they connection ng these to people and places? How have they ruled out non miraculous explanations?

        It's certainly open for Catholics to explain what is going on and what they believe is happening.

        • Mark

          To respond to what you reply, very few miracles are given official verification by the Catholic Church. For example, of the 8k "extraordinary" cures of Lourdes, only 70 have been approved. That means that the Church has done Her due diligence in ruling out any ordinary means or cure. Thus she finds these worthy of our belief and faith. Sometimes the recipient of the miracle may have had a particular devotion to a s/Saint, commonly Mary. You can choose to believe in these private and often public revelations or not as a Catholic. We are not bound to believing in them but She offers us a skeptic's review of the evidence for claims. In doing so She deems some worthy of a Catholic "universal" belief in a sign of God's presence and his extraordinary relationship with us.

          Having said that, simply existing is sign of God's presence. As for myself, I don't pray for a cure to God for any particular affliction I have or my professional affiliation with people. I simply pray for His Will to be done, through me and reflect on my gifts and how I can answer that universal call for humanity. I'm extremely skeptical that can be tested by science.

  • A few other questions arise. Why are they asking a medical historian who, it would seem never practiced hemtology. She seems to have gone from getting her MD right into medical history.

    This form of Leukemia is curable with treatment. From Wikipedia "In 2015, AML affected about one million people and resulted in 147,000 deaths globally." So, in fact most people who get this disease survive it. Because they are treated.

    What is unusual is to be cured after relapse. Wikipedia says only one person survived after relapse. But guess who the source is?

    Then I found this:

    "Patients with AML that relapses after an initial complete remission can be cured with autologous stem cell transplant. Many centers have reported cure rates of 25-50% for patients with AML transplanted in second remission or early in first relapse."

    It also seems that similar procedures have been done since the 1960's.

    I'm no expert. But I'd like to know whether this claim that no one except for this miracle has ever survived after a relapse is accurate, when it seems many have been cured?

    • flan man

      "I'm no expert. But I'd like to know whether this claim that no one except for this miracle has ever survived after a relapse is accurate, when it seems many have been cured?"

      It's simple, the ones that survived were cured through the intercession of a person long dead.

  • ...she attributed her recovery to the intercession of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville

    That's nice, but the fact that somebody attributes their healing to a long dead person doesn't tell us that this is what actually happened. We have no reliable methodology that can determine that dead people are actually able to heal others when you think quiet thoughts to them.

    When the Church declares that a particular event was miraculous, it’s not just on the basis of faith.

    If miraculous simply means "we cannot explain this", then fine, I can go along with that. The problem is that the Church doesn't stop there. They actually have the audacity to declares that a particular dead person has in fact had something to do with the healing of the person in question, and the science does not support this theological assertion.

    There is no plausible mechanism by which prayer to a dead person can be responsible for somebody being healed.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      The logical sequence here needs some amending.

      I agree that it would be difficult to assign who does the healing as a result of prayers -- in principle.

      But I don't think it all goes quite that way. If a miracle is declared by a local bishop (who, I believe, is the normal authority for such matters), it is not based merely on some healing or remission for which we presently have no medical explanation.

      If it follows the procedure of the Medical Committee at Lourdes, first a purely secular evaluation of the medical case is made -- usually requiring detailed medical diagnosis of the person before any alleged cure, followed by a very detailed examination after the healing, followed by a medical declaration that there is no scientific way to explain what occurred.

      All that does not make for a declaration of a miraculous cure. Only then are philosophical and theological criteria applied to the same alleged cure to make sure that no other natural or preternatural explanation is possible and that the cure must be attributable to God alone. Such criteria would be met in a case where, say, missing bone instantly appeared in a shattered leg as appears to be the case with Pierre de Rutter's healing -- since it would require the infinite creative power of God to produce new bone instantly. This particular example is not my concern here, but rather the establishment of the actual methodology used by the Medical Committee and the Church to determine whether a cure is miraculous.

      Finally, if you do have clear evidence of a miraculous cure (which means it could only be attributed to divine power), then, and only then, a determination may be made as to whether it appears to be the result of intercessory actions by some saint as a result of prayers to that saint.

      This last step makes more sense once you are assured that you are dealing with a genuine miracle, since, by then, the power of God is manifested.

      Skeptics will deny that such miracles ever occur in the first place, which is why they see no rhyme or reason to attributing the cure to a particular saint.

      • flan man

        Finally, if you do have clear evidence of a miraculous cure (which means it could only be attributed to divine power)

        But what I'm asking is: how is that attribution made? On statistical likelihood? If a person receiving aggressive chemo for a disease that has survivors, survives, how is the attribution made that it could only have happened by divine power? What are these criteria that you keep mentioning?

        determination may be made as to whether it appears to be the result of intercessory actions by some saint as a result of prayers to that saint.

        So the best that can be done is to say it appears to be the result? There's really no way through the science of theology, etc, that it could be shown in anything remotely a logical way?

        Skeptics will deny that such miracles ever occur in the first place

        Skeptics are waiting to see good evidence of them first. It's difficult to see why this evidence is hard to get, as saints in the past were doing all sorts of miraculous things, calming storms, making instantaneous healings, bilocating, levitating, and the like.
        The quality and frequency of miracles seems to have bottomed out for some reason.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          It would help if you actually studied the procedures followed by something like the Medical Committee at Lourdes, so that you would understand that anyone who is, say being given aggressive medical treatment, would not be a proper subject for investigation of a miracle.

          Among the criteria -- and I am no expert on them -- would be such things as instantaneous or near instantaneous recovery from a disease of long duration for which science knows no cure, since nature always takes time and medical science knows that. For example, a wound takes a certain amount of time to heal according to nature.

          Moreover, the fact that some cures may be accepted which do not meet the highest philosophical and theological standards does not logically prove that they were not miracles. While the Catholic Church proclaims a long history of miracles, it is also true that God works miracles for others.

          It is easy to discount this or that miracle, but you must remember that it takes but one single genuine miracle to prove the existence of God!

          While it is not an instance of medical cures in itself, I have yet to see a reasonable explanation for the miracle of the sun at Fatima in October of 1917. Many just wave their hand in easy dismissal, but a detailed examination of the facts makes such dismissal unrealistic in my judgment.

          Before scoffing too forcefully, you might want to read this:
          https://www.markmallett.com/blog/2017/10/14/debunking-the-sun-miracle-skeptics/

          • Jim the Scott

            Well said.

          • Raymond

            "anyone who is, say being given aggressive medical treatment, would not be a proper subject for investigation of a miracle."

            "Although she had accepted aggressive chemotherapy in a university hospital, she attributed her recovery to the intercession of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, a Montreal woman who had died two hundred years earlier. This case became the capstone in the cause for Youville’s canonization as the first Canadian-born saint."

            Please reconcile these two statements.

          • Raymond

            "the fact that some cures may be accepted which do not meet the highest philosophical and theological standards does not logically prove that they were not miracles"

            How silly. If certain cures do not meet the highest standards, there is no proof that they WERE miracles either. We are back to supposition and magical thinking.

          • flan man

            "the fact that some cures may be accepted which do not meet the highest philosophical and theological standards does not logically prove that they were not miracles"

            And it doesn't remotely prove that they were. I'm not sure of the point here. It sounds like more of, "Come on, just play along and say they were miracles"

            What's the point of having "the highest philosophical and theological standards" if they can be discarded at will?

          • flan man

            Among the criteria -- and I am no expert on them -- would be such things as instantaneous or near instantaneous recovery from a disease of long duration for which science knows no cure, since nature always takes time and medical science knows that.

            With codification of the Consulta Medica of the Vatican in 1949, the gold standard of a miracle cure entrenched three specific characteristics: that the healing be complete, durable, and instantaneous. [….]

            But yet, yet, Ms. Duffin herself states that it was not instantaneous, at all. So much so that the Vatican was initially unconvinced. There was actually a relapse after the first remission, which would seem to make it fall far short of the "gold standard" established by the Consulta Medica

            https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/06/opinion/pondering-miracles-medical-and-religious.html

            The “miracle” involving d’Youville had already been overturned once by the Vatican’s medical committee, unconvinced by the story of a first remission, a relapse, and a much longer second remission. The clerics argued that she had never relapsed and that her survival in first remission was rare but not impossibly so.

            I've never understood the Miracle of the Sun - are people saying that the sun ACTUALLY flew around in the sky??

            The sun, at one moment surrounded with scarlet flame, at another aureoled in yellow and deep purple, seemed to be in an exceedingly swift and whirling movement, at times appearing to be loosened from the sky and to be approaching the earth, strongly radiating heat.
            The sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws—the sun ‘danced’ according to the typical expression of the people.
            The sun’s disc did not remain immobile. This was not the sparkling of a heavenly body, for it spun round on itself in a mad whirl, when suddenly a clamor was heard from all the people. The sun, whirling, seemed to loosen itself from the firmament and advance threateningly upon the earth as if to crush us with its huge fiery weight.

            Let me guess, the miracle is that it SEEMED to do so to people that came looking for a miracle.

            You'd think astronomers would have noticed the sun leaving its normal position and approaching the earth, or dancing about in the sky, no? And we have photos of the event, or correction, all we have are photos of people looking up. We have no actual proof of the sun dancing about in the sky, we just have people saying it did. We also have Mormons saying they saw the angel and the Golden Plates, and Hindus who died and met Shiva and came back.

            Of all the miracles in the world, the sun leaving its position and dancing around in the sky and approaching the earth and increasing its heat output, etc etc, for god's sake this one should have some better evidence than people who went expecting a miracle said they saw it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Look, I am not going to try to justify the judgments made about every "miracle" ever alleged.

            But you clearly have never studied in detail the events at Fatima. I suggest strongly that you take a good look at this:
            https://www.markmallett.com/blog/2017/10/14/debunking-the-sun-miracle-skeptics/

            You make the typical skeptic's mistake of thinking the miracle meant massive astronomical events objectively took place. The real miracle was that while the sun and earth kept their place in the solar system, tens of thousands of people at the same place and time simultaneously experienced a similar non-objective solar phenomenon.

            I suggest you read the details of the (1) prediction, (2) experiences of the witnesses, and (3) sudden drying phenomenon. If you approach it with the mindset of an openminded reporter, you might not be so surprised as the headline the next day in the secular Lisbon paper, O Seculo!

          • flan man

            Right. It all comes down to people "experiencing a miracle", versus an actual miracle. "Visions" vs actual miracles.
            The miracle is, although the sun didn't behave abnormally, many religious people said it did. Miracles simply used to be more objective. They're now limited to the possible and non-objective.

            1. The prediction is what fueled the 'visions'
            2. Witness testimony can be discounted, see the Mormon Witnesses and the millions of Hindus noted below
            3. Sudden drying phenomenon

            This is the most perfect example of what I mean by miracles "coming down" in the modern age. It used to be parting the Red Sea and resurrection and instantaneous healing and calming storms and bilocating and levitation. Nowadays the Almighty uses his awesome power to dry clothes faster than usual. I can't believe anybody puts this forth as a miracle with a straight face. What's next, the Miracle of the Miraculously Tied Shoelaces?

            https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-09-23-mn-49166-story.html

            A Hindu miracle, witnessed by millions, across lines of education and caste, not just tens of thousands, reported in the very godless Los Angeles Times. O Seculo!

            "Indians by the millions rushed to see, and believed."
            "The outpouring of faith cut across caste and education. “At first, I did not believe it. But having come here and offered milk, I have no doubts left,” a corporate executive, Parmesh Soti, told an Indian news agency in New Delhi. “It cannot be a hoax. Where would all that milk being offered go?”

            And please don't point to the ridiculous claims at the end of the article by skeptics. They simply dismiss miracles a priori.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are doing a lot of hand waving here, but either do not understand the facts of Fatima, or else, simply do not want to even look at the facts.

            First, the prediction did not say that it would be a miracle involving the Sun. So much for your "expectations" theory.

            Second, as I pointed out before, the event was not an actual astronomical reality. Yes, it amounted to mass visual experiences that were subjective in that they took place in tens of thousands of eyewitnesses. But, this was not mass hallucination. Anyone who says it was has not knowledge of what an hallucination is, since at most a couple mentally impaired people might have had them.

            The mere fact that a visual experience takes place in a person makes that experience, by definition, subjective in that it takes place in a "subject." Still, it is an "objective" fact that this "subjective" experience took place.

            For that reason, having tens of thousands (but not all) people having similar visual experiences simultaneously is an objective fact which cannot be explained without some sort of universal cause. Since the Sun was NOT actually "dancing in the sky," that cause had to disrupt the rule of nature for visual experience for tens of thousands of people simultaneously. Good luck at explaining that by your "modern science."

            Third, you ignore the details of the "drying phenomenon" which shows that the event was not merely visual in nature.

            I can see that your mind is so made up that you have no intention of being confused by the factual details.

            As for the Indian "miracle," (1) I did not deny that other miracles are impossible, and (2) let the facts there also dictate the objective judgment of what happened.

            You are still studiously ignoring the actual details of what happened at Fatima. I know you are so sure it could not have actually been beyond the ordinary causation of nature that you are not disposed to research its details objectively.

          • flan man

            First, the prediction did not say that it would be a miracle involving the Sun. So much for your "expectations" theory

            No, but there was going to be a miracle, and the Sun was the only thing around when the time came. Something was going to happen

            But, this was not mass hallucination. Anyone who says it was has not knowledge of what an hallucination is, since at most a couple mentally impaired people might have had them.

            I never said anything about hallucinations, we're not talking mentally ill people, we're talking about normal people under a strong religious compulsion that confirmed each others basic non-objective ideas.

            As for the Indian "miracle," (1) I did not deny that other miracles are impossible, and (2) let the facts there also dictate the objective judgment of what happened.

            Why the scare quotes around "miracle", if you do not deny that other miracles are impossible?

            So Hindu gods can make miracles possible? I don't get it, please explain this part. Hindu gods outclassed the Christian God at Fatima by 10 to 1, here. Can Hindu gods cause miracles?

            Third, you ignore the details of the "drying phenomenon" which shows that the event was not merely visual in nature.

            I never said it was "merely visual in nature", where did you ever get that? It not being merely visual in nature is not the problem for me, it's the trivial nature of it. Next god is going to miraculously tie shoes.

            You are still studiously ignoring the actual details of what happened at Fatima. I know you are so sure it could not have actually been beyond the ordinary causation of nature that you are not disposed to research its details objectively.

            Hand Waving

            You want it so much for it to be true, that it is, a priori. true.I see your mind is made up, there's no point in arguing objectively with you

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Rather than get into a lengthy discussion with you about this complex topic, I am going to refer you to the very in depth exchange I just finished with Sample1. Frankly, I have neither the time nor the incentive to go over it all again with you. Just scan the thread for our exchange. Sample1's last comment is still up on the side list and will take you to our discussion.

      • ... followed by a medical declaration that there is no scientific way to explain what occurred.... Only then are philosophical and theological criteria applied to the same alleged cure to make sure that no other natural or preternatural explanation is possible and that the cure must be attributable to God alone.

        And at best you're dealing with an argument from ignorance here.

        since it would require the infinite creative power of God to produce new bone instantly.

        Citation needed.

        Skeptics will deny that such miracles ever occur in the first place, which is why they see no rhyme or reason to attributing the cure to a particular saint.

        Whatever you need to tell yourself in order to paint skeptics as the ones with the problem.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The only ignorance here is if one is ignorant that it takes infinite power to create something where before there was no physical reality. One does not "prove" such an understanding with a citation. Not all truths can be proven merely by citing some other human authority. If you think honestly that you can get something from nothing, without an immeasurably powerful agent to produce it, then no "citation" will do you any good.

          The clear suspension of the laws of nature would also require the intervention of some agent who is above nature -- although one must here be careful to distinguish the perternatural from the supernatural.

          What I said below applies here also. A truly open mind would carefully reflect on what is the most reasonable explanation of the observed and reported data before declaring it all impossible and contrary to science and reason.
          https://www.markmallett.com/blog/2017/10/14/debunking-the-sun-miracle-skeptics/

          • If you think honestly that you can get something from nothing, without an immeasurably powerful agent to produce it, then no "citation" will do you any good.

            Something from nothing? How did you determine that this is an example of something from nothing, or that an immeasurably powerful agent is necessary to produce such an effect? You seem to have some presuppositions about this that I don't see as being warranted.

            We have some effect in the real world that we have not been able to replicate, but you seem to be quite happy to take our ignorance of how this happened and use that as a springboard to assert that this is your particular god at work. You're welcome to believe such nonsense, but don't expect me to follow your lead.

            The clear suspension of the laws of nature would also require the intervention of some agent who is above nature

            How did you determine that the laws of nature were even suspended in the first place? All I'm seeing is more assertions with insufficient evidence to support the claims.

            A truly open mind would carefully reflect on what is the most reasonable explanation of the observed and reported data before declaring it all impossible and contrary to science and reason.

            How is "an immeasurably powerful disembodied mind, urged on by the intercession of a dead Catholic" the most reasonable explanation for anything?

            I'm almost sorry that I unblocked you.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First of all, you replied to my comment in fourteen minutes, which makes me a tad suspicious that you did not carefully read and ponder the link I gave you to the scientific evaluation of objections to the miracle of the sun at Fatima.

            Second, I cannot make you see the impossibility of explaining the phenomena that occurred there in 1917 without recourse to a force above nature, since it does require some philosophical reflection to understand that this was no natural phenomenon.

            It is easy to just wave your hand at the events at Fatima (as well as thousands of other alleged miracles), but a reasonable person will at least consider the evidence without a priori declaring it all irrational and impossible. I suspect that if you were not quite so sure that God does not exist, you might look at such claims with a slightly different perspective.

            And, as you know, as a philosopher, my intellectual conviction that God exists rests on rational arguments, not merely knowledge of some miraculous events. In fact, one cannot even properly understand the nature of a miracle without at least some modicum of insight into what is possible by nature and what is not.

            If you really do not wish to read what I write, you are free to "reblock" my comments. I won't even know you did it.

          • First of all, you replied to my comment in fourteen minutes, which makes me a tad suspicious that you did not carefully read and ponder the link I gave you to the scientific evaluation of objections to the miracle of the sun at Fatima.

            I'm not interested in re-opening discussions on Fatima.

            Second, I cannot make you see the impossibility of explaining the phenomena that occurred there in 1917 without recourse to a force above nature, since it does require some philosophical reflection to understand that this was no natural phenomenon.

            Citation needed! How do you know this?

            It is easy to just wave your hand at the events at Fatima (as well as thousands of other alleged miracles), but a reasonable person will at least consider the evidence without a priori declaring it all irrational and impossible.

            I haven't declared it impossible. I'm saying that the evidence doesn't support the conclusion you think it does without some unjustified assumptions, namely that we know the limits of nature.

            n fact, one cannot even properly understand the nature of a miracle without at least some modicum of insight into what is possible by nature and what is not.

            I don't know how you could ever determine that something is impossible by natural means without fundamentally relying on an argument from ignorance. Unless you wish to claim that you're omniscient, I don't see that you have any good justification for the claim that something cannot have a natural explanation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I guess if you want to reject the entire body of all we know from natural science and say that anything is possible, then every argument becomes an argument from ignorance.

            Yet, without going into all the details that further follow from this, consider the fact that no observatory or observer more than some twenty miles from Fatima witnessed any objective changes in the sun's position relative to the earth. Nor would the laws of astrophysics permit such reported movements to be astronomically real without destroying the planet!

            That means that the subjective experiences of tens of thousands of individuals must then be explained as real to them, but not based on external astronomical events.

            I won't push the analysis further here, but that is the sort of reasoning that leads to conclusions about what nature can explain and what it cannot explain. That is to say, it is not all a matter of mere argument from ignorance, but rather an argument from knowledge of what nature can and cannot do.

            I can give you citations to the nature of the events at Fatima, but I suspect you already have them. Here is one good one that is easily available: http://devotiontoourlady.com/solar-miracle-fatima.html Note that they include newspaper reports as well as eyewitness testimony.

            But you do not want to revisit the event itself. Respecting that choice, I am merely pointing out here that even knowing the data of the events, one still has to have some philosophical reflection to grasp the significance of what is reported (assuming it is true). For example, to realize that an entire hillside of people and ground sodden by rain all morning could not dry out completely in fifteen minutes without applying so much heat it would have killed the people!

            So, while respecting your desire not to revisit Fatima, I hope that you can at least see how human reason and our knowledge of nature can rationally evaluate reports of miraculous events without abandoning all reason in favor of medieval superstitions!

          • Unfortunately, my previous reply was detected as spam by Disqus. Let's try again:

            I guess if you want to reject the entire body of all we know from natural science and say that anything is possible, then every argument becomes an argument from ignorance.

            Not at all. Science offers us causal explanations based on demonstration or modeling. With science we can also show that certain pathways are not plausible explanations, but it cannot tell us that something is not a result of any natural pathway. The only way to get to this is to argue from ignorance.

            If we observe some effect, which we cannot find a causal explanation for, I really don't understand how one gets to "nature cannot possibly explain this", but that's essentially what you're doing.

            That means that the subjective experiences of tens of thousands of individuals must then be explained as real to them, but not based on external astronomical events.

            Almost certainly this is the case. I certainly don't believe the Sun actually danced around the sky, because the evidence doesn't support this. But I'll tell you what Dennis, when there is a consensus of scientists that Fatima was a miracle, specifically an act of your God, I'll accept that
            conclusion. As it stands I don't see that your explanation is justified, because we have no reliable methodology to show that God either exists, or can do anything.

            Here is one good one that is easily available: [redacted to stop from being detected as spam.] Note that they include newspaper reports as well as eyewitness testimony.

            You would point me to a religious website, devoted to Catholic dogma, that shares newspaper reports, and eyewitness testimony? This really isn't the kind of thing I'm looking for. As it stands, I don't regard any of this as good objective evidence for a miracle.

            I'm completely willing to grant that a large number of people believed they witnessed the Sun dance around in the sky, just as I'll grant that there were many people who believed they saw the risen Jesus, but both are a far cry from establishing that God had anything to do with the event in question, or that anything miraculous happened.

            Tell you what Dennis, I'll accept whatever scientific consensus there is about Fatima, whatever that consensus happens to be.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "when there is a scientific consensus among scientists that Fatima was caused by your particular God, then I will accept your claims."

            I hate to accuse you of scientism, but it sure sounds like it.

            If a bunch of scientists made the claim that these events were caused by God, I would say they were incompetent in their fields because natural science cannot make judgments that transcend the natural order. You don't seem to realize that such inferences -- be they from proofs for God or inferences drawn from scientific observation -- are philosophical in nature.

            I gave you that site as a convenient source for the data, but at least the newspaper reports came from secular sources, namely, the papers themselves and can be verified by secular sources.

            "If we observe some effect, which we cannot find a causal explanation for, I really don't understand how one gets to "nature cannot possibly explain this", but that's essentially what you're doing."

            Once again, you are reducing all knowledge to natural science, which is not the proper discipline to prove supernatural realities. Proofs for God's existence are philosophical, not natural scientific.

            You grant that a large number of people believed they saw the sun dance in the sky, but deny this proves God's existence. I don't ask you to accept the existence of God based on this data. What I ask is that you try to explain the phenomenon of so many people having similar subjective visual experiences at the same time, at a time predicted to occur to prove something, and with an amazing drying of thousands of people who had been standing in wool soaked clothing from a soaking rain storm all morning.

            Don't try to prove God. Just try to come to reckoning with the evident facts of the event, without your a priori skepticism forcing you to refuse even to reason about the data and its possible meaning.

            I suspect that if these events occurred today in your own vicinity, you would be eager to investigate what happened. But the curious thing about Fatima is that it did happen in modern times before many thousands of witnesses and was recorded in anti-Catholic newspapers.

            You may argue that people somehow were deceived by seeing the resurrected Jesus two thousand years ago, but the problem here is not an immediate religious interpretation of something happening too long ago to verify easily. The problem is an objective fact about generalized subjective visual experiences that defy natural explanation combined with a drying physical experience that vouches for the visual one.

          • I hate to accuse you of scientism, but it sure sounds like it.

            Call it what you want, but the fact remains that we're talking about events that happen in the real world, and science is the single most reliable tool that we have to investigate these things, and determine what happened. If science cannot yet determine what the answer is, I don't see that any non-science answer is more likely to be correct.

            When you have a demonstrably reliable tool-set that can investigate causes that aren't natural, then we can start talking about miracles, particularly ones related to Catholicism.

            I gave you that site as a convenient source for the data, but at least the newspaper reports came from secular sources, namely, the papers themselves and can be verified by secular sources.

            And how does this give me a reliable tool to determine that the cause is as you claim it is?

            Once again, you are reducing all knowledge to natural science, which is not the proper discipline to prove supernatural realities.

            We are, as far as I can tell, we are barred from investigating the supernatural. We cannot confirm any supernatural claims, and we have no way to verify that any supernatural claims are actually correct, so I don't see how accepting a supernatural claim is warranted.

            You seem to believe that philosophy, namely thinking really hard about the problem, is somehow going to give us reliable answer, but the fact remains that empirical testing is the most reliable method we have of determining how something was caused. Non-empirical means are notorious unreliable,

            So again, get back to me when you have a demonstrably reliable method for investigating the supernatural.

            The problem is an objective fact about generalized subjective visual experiences that defy natural explanation combined with a drying physical experience that vouches for the visual one

            Seriously?! Neither of these two facts demonstrate that any supernatural explanation is warranted. That people believe that stuff dried quicker than expected, and that people had an experience of the Sun dancing around, doesn't come anywhere close to the bar of establishing supernatural causation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "You seem to believe that philosophy, namely thinking really hard about the problem, is somehow going to give us reliable answer, but the fact remains that empirical testing is the most reliable method we have of determining how something was caused. Non-empirical means are notorious unreliable,"

            I suspect this is a root cause of our differences intellectually.

            Natural science presupposes many things, some of which I have described in previous articles.

            Among them is the principle of empirical verification itself. How do you empirically verify its validity? Also, where do you get such first principles as those of non-contradiction or that phenomena require explanation, that effects need causes, that an extramental world exists at all? How do you verify the trustworthiness of sense perception when you need to trust it to begin your investigation of it by empirical means?

            In a word, while natural science is a legitimate tool by which to investigate the physical world, it is not the only science that exists. Philosophy isn't just a matter of "thinking really hard about a problem." We do that in natural science, too. It entails an examination of problems and principles antecedent to and transcendent to the domain of natural science -- since natural science presupposes some of its content and since some of its content, such as universal principles, like non-contradiction, are known to apply to all being, not merely empirically verifiable being.

            My point is that, while natural science is a valid lens through which to look at the world, its sole use leaves us a bit myopic.

          • Among them is the principle of empirical verification itself. How do you empirically verify its validity?

            By pragmatically assessing the usefulness of the results. The fact that empirical methods have consistently produced useful results in the real world, while other methods fail, is a testament to how good they are. There may be better methods, but none have demonstrated their usefulness like empiricism has.

            Also, where do you get such first principles as those of non-contradiction or that phenomena require explanation, that effects need causes, that an extramental world exists at all?

            Non-contradiction is an axiom of rationality. I don't know that phenomena require explanations, or that effects need causes, but we've certainly found that we can sufficiently explain certain phenomena in terms of causes, but I do not know that they are necessary. That an extra-mental world exists is simply a basal assumption. Surely you must have heard these before.

            Philosophy isn't just a matter of "thinking really hard about a problem." We do that in natural science, too. It entails an examination of problems and principles antecedent to and transcendent to the domain
            of natural science

            My problem is that we have no justified precedent to offer the supernatural as an explanation for anything. We know that nature exists, and that we can explain things in natural terms. We've don't know that the supernatural exists, and we've never successfully explained anything in any supernatural terms. The supernatural simply has no predictive power, and is useless as an explanation.

            My point is that, while natural science is a valid lens through which to look at the world, its sole use leaves us a bit myopic.

            I'm far from claiming that everything must be looked at through the lens of science. There are lots of questions that science will never answer. Should I walk my dog today? Should I leave my spouse? These are not matters for science to answer, and I've never claimed they were.

            If we're talking about trying to establish some matter of causation, science is the most reliable method we have to determine causation, and nothing else comes anywhere close. If that means I'm guilty of scientism, then so be it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "The supernatural simply has no predictive power, and is useless as an explanation."

            That is funny. What happened at Fatima was precisely something clearly and precisely predicted -- so much so that people came from all over Portugal to see it and the major newspapers of Lisbon sent reporters to see what would happen. That sounds like predictive power to me.

            As for the usefulness of an explanation, if unaided reason can come to know that God exists, would the fact that the entire cosmos depends moment to moment for its continued existence be what you would call a "useless explanation?" Would it not make the scientific curiosity in you really want to know something about your Ultimate Cause?

            You see, it all depends on what the truth is.

            Of course, natural science aims to produce useful predictions in this world. But, what prediction does it give for an afterlife? And how will you empirically verify that prediction?

            And saying non-contradiction is an axiom of rationality is an explanation that explains nothing. How do we know that it is true in every instance? And, if it might not be, what happens to all our scientific knowledge?

            Non-contradiction is useless knowledge unless it is a law, not only of rationality, but of extramental reality, of being itself. And if it is, then this law of being is not a truth derived from natural science, but rather one that governs it. It is the basic law and foundation of metaphysical science -- for which you clearly have no use. And yet, you are using its law of being as the most basic law of your natural science.

            This is just the tip of the iceberg as to why natural science alone leaves us legally blind.

          • That is funny. What happened at Fatima was precisely something clearly and precisely predicted...

            Except that there was no clear and precise "prediction." The children claimed that "a miracle would happen", several days later, which clearly primed people to expect something. The prediction itself had no specific elements to it. I don't think you understand what the term "predictive power" actually means.

            As for the usefulness of an explanation, if unaided reason can come to know that God exists, would the fact that the entire cosmos depends moment to moment for its continued existence be what you would call a "useless explanation?"

            That the cosmos depends on God to continue to exist, if I understand what you're saying correctly, is nothing more than a baseless assertion.

            Would it not make the scientific curiosity in you really want to know something about your Ultimate Cause?

            You assert that there's an "ultimate cause", but I don't know that this is reality.

            Of course, natural science aims to produce useful predictions in this world. But, what prediction does it give for an afterlife? And how will you empirically verify that prediction?

            Everything that we understand about the brain, and the mind (which as far as we can tell is a product of the brain), suggests that anything that might be called "me" will cease to exist when my brain dies. We have exactly no credible evidence that any afterlife happens, in any meaningful sense. The universe will simply continue without me.

            And saying non-contradiction is an axiom of rationality is an explanation that explains nothing.

            Then you don't seem to understand what axioms are, and how they form the foundation of analytical systems, is shocking. I don't know what to tell you if this is your nonsense response.

            You're supposedly a PhD philosopher, yet you seem to act like a clueless fool. Are you're trying to elicit something from me by acting dumb, because I would expect much better from a professional philosopher?

            Non-contradiction is useless knowledge unless it is a law, not only of rationality, but of extramental reality, of being itself

            Non-contradiction is an axiom that we assert in order to be able to effectively describe reality using traditional formal binary logic. The fact that paraconsistent logic systems exist, that do not assert non-contradiction, tells me that non-contradiction may not be as universal as you seem to think it is.

            Regardless, the law of non-contradiction is an analytical tautology as long as we're dealing with traditional binary logic.

            It is the basic law and foundation of metaphysical science -- for which you clearly have no use.

            Yes, I find metaphysics to be little more than speculation, and I see no good reason to accept it as useful.

          • Raymond

            "one cannot even properly understand the nature of a miracle without at least some modicum of insight into what is possible by nature and what is not."

            Well, you got THAT right. You can't understand a miracle without some modicum of insight into the ability of the human body to on occasion spontaneously throw off cancer or other serious diseases. Which is poorly understood at this time, in part because we have no way of knowing when it will occur to collect pertinent data on the patient's previous condition.

            Not to mention you are being condescending again, stating that disagreement with your positions comes from a person's ignorance or the lack of an open mind.

    • flan man

      There is no plausible mechanism by which prayer to a dead person can be responsible for somebody being healed.

      It turns out that the best that can be said is it appears they are responsible. I guess that's good enough. I bring up again - why couldn't somebody that had contact with the patient claim that it appears they were the ones responsible? I don't see how it could be ruled out that, although the patient prayed to a dead woman, the actual cause was through the healing power of this other person.

      It's like playing a game, you have to just accept the rules of the game or it doesn't work.

      • Fundamentally, the line of reasoning that one line has to take to arrive at "some dead person interceded on my behalf and that is why this person was healed", makes the assumption that we're super smart, and know enough about nature that we can say that it is much more likely that this healing was caused by God. The problem is that we can't study God, so I don't know how one can say that God is more probable than something else.

        This whole scheme relies on a fundamental argument from ignorance, since nobody can actually demonstrate that God exists, or has any causal power.

        If we're going to start appealing to magic, which is essentially what we're talking about here, then any magical explanation seems to be just as probable as any other. "The healing woman down the street said an incantation and that's the reason why I was healed." "I stared at a himalayan salt lamp for an hour and I was healed." "I prayed to my dead ancestors and asked them to heal me." All of these are just as implausible to have healed somebody as praying to a dead Catholic and all of them have about as much evidence supporting them.

        At best we have something that we cannot explain, but that doesn't justify the belief that God somehow healed the person. The fact that people jump to irrational, superstitious explanations boggles my mind.

        • flan man

          Even if one is Catholic and believes in miracles, I don't see how the line is drawn to a specific saint. Do they verify the woman only ever prayed specifically to that one saint alone, and no other, and not God or Mary? If she prayed to two saints, how is the determination made to attribute it to one in particular, or would they just split the difference in that case?

          • I don't see any way to properly make a assessment that any dead person had any effect on the health of somebody else. Suppose that other people prayed to other saints, other gods, or even inanimate objects. How do they rule out that any of those were responsible for the end result?

            Without a reliable methodology that can investigate these kind of "supernatural" (a term I hate to use) causes, I don't see how any attribution of "miracle" can be dished out. When science looks at the problem and says "we don't know how to explain this", they seem to want to take that as a sign that it must be the work of God, but I fail to see how that's ever warranted.

  • God Hates Faith

    Dawkins is correct. This article creates a false dichotomy. The author defines a miracle essentially the same way Dawkins does---

    Dawkins: "miracles, by definition, violate the principles of science."

    Heschmeyer (quoting Dr. Duffin explaining the second role of science): a "religious miracle defies explanation by science."

    (1) Does the RCC use science in any way as a measurement for whether a miracle occurred? Yes, by the absence of a known scientific explanation.
    (2) Does the RCC use science to verify a miracle? No, a miracle by definition violates the principles of science (this is Dawkin's point).

    • Mark

      It isn't essential the same way. Both in the actual intent of the words used but also because both of those people have different presuppositions for the definition.

      • God Hates Faith

        Dawkins: "miracles, by definition, violate the principles of science."

        Heschmeyer (quoting Dr. Duffin explaining the second role of science): a "religious miracle defies explanation by science."

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Are you suggesting that those two quotes have similar implications?? To say that there is no scientific explanation for a given phenomenon is not in any way to imply that scientific principles have been violated.

          • God Hates Faith

            Are you suggesting that those two quotes have similar implications??

            Did you read my prior post?

            This article creates a false dichotomy.

            (1) Does the RCC use science in any way as a measurement for whether a miracle occurred? Yes, by the absence of a known scientific explanation (Herschmeyer's point)
            (2) Does the RCC use science to verify a miracle? No, a miracle by definition violates the principles of science (this is Dawkin's point).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I did read your prior post. The third sentence in it was "The author defines a miracle essentially the same way Dawkins does". I can't see how that is the case at all, hence my request for clarification.

          • God Hates Faith

            They have separate points (see 1 and 2 above) but are essentially saying the same thing (miracles relationship to science). The author makes it appear that Dawkins is wrong if Dr. Duffin is correct. But they can both be correct.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, I think I see what you are getting at. That particular Duffin quote per se is not in logical tension with that particular Dawkins quote.

            It doesn't seem to me that the OP was really relying on there being a logical tension between those two quotes ... but we don't need to debate that point. Thanks for clarifying.

          • God Hates Faith

            My point was not about those two quotes. It was about the OP's false dichotomy. From the article:

            Duffin noticed what Dawkins was too bigoted to see...

            Dawkins didn't fail to see anything. They were making separate (related) points.

          • Mark

            Here is the author's OP:

            Many people assume that belief in miracles is unscientific. Richard Dawkins mocked the idea of miracles, and declared them (by definition!) to be against science:

            Here's your OP:

            Dawkins is correct. This article creates a false dichotomy. The author defines a miracle essentially the same way Dawkins does---

            No, Dawkins is indeed incorrect. The author (who doesn't give his definition of miracles, but one can assume is the RCC's) defines Dr. Duffy's definition of a miracle. Her definition makes miracles possible. Dawkins definition of a miracle is impossible by definition because a violation of the principles of science are not in the realm of possible. If you want to go after Dr. Duffy's definition of a miracle feel free to do so. I'm not going to defend it because it doesn't seem intellectually honest and she seems to be playing word games to sustain her atheism.

            Here's your #2:

            (2) Does the RCC use science to verify a miracle? No, a miracle by definition violates the principles of science (this is Dawkin's point).

            The RCC (and presumably the author) doesn't believe in a violation of the principles of science because the principles of science are sustained by God. He cannot violate something He creates and sustains. - Not Dawkin's point

          • God Hates Faith

            Dawkins definition of a miracle is impossible by definition because a violation of the principles of science are not in the realm of possible.

            Incorrect. Dawkins definition used in the OP, make miracles outside the scope of scientific verification (not impossible).

          • Mark

            Which might be fine if Dawkins hadn't consistently overplayed his cards. I'll grant in this particular quote Dawkins isn't claiming not impossible However, here's a quote from the chapter on miracles in his book, The Magic of Reality: (p 263).

            Suppose something happens that we don’t understand, and we can’t see how it could be fraud or trickery or lies: would it ever be right to conclude that it must be supernatural? No! … It would be lazy, even dishonest, for it amounts to a claim that no natural explanation will ever be possible. (p. 263)

            Therefore it is never right to conclude a supernatural explanation. Fundamentalist dogmatic scientism. It's lazy and dishonest to be a Catholic. I'm well aware of the intent of Dawkins even if you're not.

          • God Hates Faith

            Perhaps you can write your own OP. This one creates a false dichotomy.

  • God Hates Faith

    Dawkins’ argument amounts to saying that if a doctor says “let’s try Drug X and see if it has any effect on the patient’s disease,” that’s respectable science, but if someone says, “let’s pray to Baudouin for his intercession, and see if it has any effect on the patient’s disease,” that’s silly! The only problem is that, amidst his sneering, he forgets to actually give us any reason why.

    The reason why is that people heal randomly by chance. If a million people prayed to a magic rock, some people would be healed (since that is how chance works). But to infer causation from correlation, the percentage of people healed must be statistically significant.

    However, since no people suddenly regrow limbs by chance, that is a better measure of a miracle. When your "miracle" can't do anything that chance can't do (such as regrow limbs), you are probably misunderstanding how correlation and causation work.

    • flan man

      This is exactly my point. Modern miracles only operate within the realm of the possible.

      • God Hates Faith

        Yep!

      • Mark

        Yep! There is no such thing as a miracle that operates outside the realm of possible; modern or otherwise. Next you're going to tell me there is no such thing as a married bachelor. Stawman ninja skills.

        • God Hates Faith

          It is possible for cancer to spontaneous heal.

          It is not possible for a human limb to spontaneously regrow.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I am sure you will dismiss the evidence as being from a Catholic source, but you cannot say such an event has never been reported:

            https://churchpop.com/2016/01/12/god-cured-amputee-the-astonishing-miracle-of-calanda/

            After all, would you expect the American Humanist Association to record and report such an event?

          • God Hates Faith

            I don't outright dismiss it, but I am skeptical. Miracle claims are a dime a dozen from every religion...

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9zmpfdefPk

          • At best, with the example of Pellicer, we have something that we cannot currently explain. We're talking about something that happened almost 300 years ago, and the only evidence for this is the say-so of others.

            For some reason the credulous want to use that as the basis for claiming that it was God that restored the limb, even though they cannot demonstrate God, or that God has any causal power in reality.

            Why is God did it so much more likely than giant hoax? At least a giant hoax is something that we know to be possible, even if it not really all that plausible. It's still much more than we can say for the supernatural.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I just found another and more complete account of this case.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_Calanda#Thanksgiving_and_inquiry

          • Jim the Scott

            Good find.

          • God Hates Faith

            Ready to buy that bridge yet?

          • Mark

            This is the exact tactical response the author accused Dawkins of using. Nice. Consistently nonintellectual.

          • God Hates Faith

            Incredulity is nonintellectual???

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have a real problem with the credulity of those who believe that a material world of finite things could have existed from all eternity without any reason other than that "it just happened that way."

          • God Hates Faith

            Strawman. The reason most non-theists provide is NOT, that it "just happened that way." Rather it is: "I don't know (but I am not going to make stuff up and pretend I know either)."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Then you have not been reading those who refer to the eternal existence of some form of a material reality as being merely a "brute fact." And if one does not know, why take the adamant position that there can be no First Cause that transcends the cosmos, even if it had no beginning. That sounds like a pretty firm knowledge claim to me.

          • God Hates Faith

            You can ask them that question. I don't claim to know. Most people I interact with also don't claim to know.

          • Mark

            I got a problem with using sophistry rather than reason to make yourself credulous.

          • God Hates Faith

            I am not credulous. So, that might explain your confusion.

          • Mark

            We'll just have to agree to agree.

          • Mark

            Selling bridges is credulous. So yes, I am confused.

          • God Hates Faith

            https://www.dictionary.com/browse/credulous

            willing to believe or trust too readily, especially without proper or adequate evidence; gullible.

            I would be credulous for someone to believe I have a bridge I can sell them.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yeh I noticed that too. Ridicule is their weapons. I also note when using that weapon some* people here can dish it out but cannot take it.

            *mercifully others do have a sense of humor otherwise it would be completely tedious.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think we have a clear and understandable bias against anything we cannot see on the evening news, complete with videos. And we tend to dismiss witness testimony from the past because we cannot verify it with a video taken this morning.

            This does not make the testimony automatically worthless. I think there are two other factors at work in attitudes toward such "evidence." First, atheists and agnostics do not believe in God and therefore automatically presume that nothing miraculous could occur in the first place, so whatever testimony is offered must be wrong or false.

            Second, the Humean objection ever lies beneath the surface that automatically discounts the miraculous simply because it claims to violate the order of nature which is presumed to be more believable than a miracle.

            None of this disproves witness testimony from the past. Moreover, to those who understand the force of rational evidence for God's existence, the possibility of miracles is entirely rational and credible. In fact, it would be expected that at some point in human history, God would make his presence known by miracles, whose very nature is that it entails a suspension of physical natural laws.

            I am not saying that all this proves a particular alleged miraculous event in past history. Every incident and claim must be examined on its own merits.

            But the automatic discounting of all past reports and records of miracles has no great merit beyond being a witness to the biases of those who make them.

          • God Hates Faith

            First, I did not automatically discount. I am skeptical given the number of bogus miracle claims throughout history (many of those claims outside of the Catholic faith).

            Second, are you automatically discounting that I own a bridge I can sell you? Or are you skeptical?

          • First, atheists and agnostics do not believe in God and therefore automatically presume that nothing miraculous could occur in the first place, so whatever testimony is offered must be wrong or false.

            While I cannot speak for every other skeptic out there, my position is that we have not established that God exists, nor have we established the existence of any "supernatural" realm as the basis for miracles. We know that nature exists, and we don't know of anything "outside" of nature.

            If you want to talk about miracles as simply being unexplained phenomena, I'm completely fine with that. If you're going to talk about miracles as if they are established as being events which are caused by the supernatural, then I fail to see any rational basis for this.

            Moreover, to those who understand the force of rational evidence for God's existence, the possibility of miracles is entirely rational and credible.

            Even if I grant you that God exists, that doesn't give you sufficient evidence to justify that any particular event is most likely caused by God, as we haven't established what kind of causal power God has. By the null hypothesis there is no relationship between God and any other entity. So it's still up to you to established that there is some kind of causal relationship, rather than simply assert it.

            In fact, it would be expected that at some point in human history, God would make his presence known by miracles, whose very nature is that it entails a suspension of physical natural laws.

            Even if I was to grant you that this is expected, which I'm far from convinced is true, how do we actually go about determining that an event is actually defying natural law? The laws of nature are simply our descriptions of apparent regularity that we've observed in nature. At best a "violation" of natural law would suggest that we don't entirely understand nature, not that some being from outside reality is the cause.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Most of what you are saying is simply consistent with the atheist position. If you reject proofs for God's existence and hold that he does not exist, of course you do not see any grounds for miracles. Nor, since you do not define the properties of the God of classical theism, do you see how we would detect that a certain event is miraculous in nature.

            One must first know that God exists and what kinds of acts would have to be attributed to him alone. Not all unusual phenomena constitutes a miracle. Literally, "miracle" means "by God alone" -- so we need criteria of phenomena that could be produced by God alone, such as creation from nothing or a healing that is impossible by nature. Thus, while it takes time for a wound to heal, instant healing with no human intercession would be a candidate for further investigation. It is not a matter of us not fully understanding nature in such a case, but rather that we do understand how nature works and such a case would appear to contradict that understanding.

            Certainly, the sudden appearance of a missing leg would seem to suffice, which is why modern skeptics keep using that example as if it never could or has occurred.

            The "trifecta" found at Fatima makes an interesting case, since it combines (1) specific prediction as to date, (2) many thousands of people have similar visual experiences which have no objective astronomical correlation, and (3) sudden drying of clothes and the entire hillside.

            When does skepticism itself become unreasonable?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Literally, "miracle" means "by God alone"

            Is that right? What is the etymology you are referring to there? I thought a "miracle" was more literally "that which induces wonder".

            Also, in terms of doctrine, it's not quite true that miracles occur "by God alone" is it? Isn't God's grace mediated through saints, at least sometimes?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are quite right about the strict etymology of the word, "miracle." I was really giving more the connotation of the word, since, strictly speaking, God alone can cause one.

            Certainly, saints can intercede with God on our behalf so that he produce a miracle for us, but is directly by the power of God that the effect is produced.

            Even in the case of God driving back the sea with a strong East wind, it is God that uses the wind as an instrument of his power. Conceivably, the forces of nature alone could produce such an effect. If God, though, intervened directly to produce the wind, then it is his power producing the effect using the wind as an instrument. I suspect another possibility is that divine providence so ordered the forces of nature that they would naturally produce that wind when the history of his people required it! What makes such an event miraculous is not that other things could not have produced it, but the de facto truth that it was the will of God directly acting on events that was responsible for the effect.

            Some things are miracles in the sense that God alone could produce the effect, as in instant healing of an incurable disease. Other things are miracles, not in that God's power alone is adequate to the effect, but that God so arranged natural forces as to meet the needs or prayers of his creatures. That is why some true miracles can be viewed by skeptics as not miracles, even though they are because God directly caused them. Other things are miracles because the evidence of the nature of the effect alone is sufficient to prove that solely divine power could produce it.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thank you for the detailed response. If I could push back just a bit:

            divine providence so ordered the forces of nature that they would naturally produce that wind when the history of his people required it! What makes such an event miraculous is not that other things could not have produced it, but the de facto truth that it was the will of God directly acting on events

            (bold emphasis mine)
            I'm fully on board with the idea of God's will being mediated through the natural order, but I don't see how something that is mediated through the natural order can be described as resulting directly from the will of God.

            This brings me to my favorite hobby horse: what all miracles seem to have in common is that God has hidden the cause from us, and because the cause is hidden, the effect is surprising. It doesn't seem to matter whether God's will is mediated through the natural order or mediated through angels and saints, or whether it comes in some sense directly from God. What all those scenarios have in common is that God has hidden the cause from us, so as to induce wonder, so as to make us pay attention.

            Do you find that to be a reasonably way to think about it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, everything that is part of divine providence flows directly from the will of God. It all depends on how you understand "directly." God often uses secondary causality to achieve his ends. So, if you want to call that "mediation," so be it. But God is in total charge at the same time and what happens according to providence he is in direct control of every step of the way -- using his secondary causes. I suspect this is mostly a matter of emphasis. You are noting the secondary causes. I am noting God's orchestration of events.

            I agree that God surprises us with miracles. But, strictly speaking, we are certain it is a true miracle, in the sense of something that God alone could have produced, when we apply metaphysical criteria to the effect.

            On the other hand, I am sure that some events the Church has declared miraculous do not meet those criteria. Does that mean they are not miraculous? Heavens, no! If the Church declares that God did something special, I acknowledge the divine guidance of the Church. I know the unbelievers will gag on that one, but that is why they are unbelievers.

          • flan man

            On the other hand, I am sure that some events the Church has declared miraculous do not meet those criteria. Does that mean they are not miraculous? Heavens, no! If the Church declares that God did something special, I acknowledge the divine guidance of the Church. I know the unbelievers will gag on that one, but that is why they are unbelievers.

            You're right, because it's a tacit admission that, if the Church says it's a miracle, it's a miracle, and that's that, evidence and the highest theological and philosophical principles be damned.

            The problem is a Mormon will accept the Testimony of the Eyewitnesses for the same reason.

            If somebody wants a miracle, they're going to get it one way or another.

            A good example is the recent case at Bethel Church where they were trying to resurrect a child from the dead. Not to keep you in suspense, but it didn't happen. This didn't keep believers for a second from claiming a miracle did actually occur - that miracle was the outpouring of faith, etc. If somebody wants a miracle, they can find a way to get one.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not going to try to defend all alleged miracles.

            As I have said, all it takes is a single genuine miracle, that is, something outside the laws of nature that only God could do, to prove his existence. See what I said about Fatima in response to you in another reply.

          • flan man

            And I'm sure you're going to dismiss the Sworn Eyewitness Testimony of the Eleven Mormon Eyewitnesses as well?

          • flan man

            I'm sure it's been reported, but so have alien anal probings and Bigoot and Hindu miracles and Muslim exorcisms and Mormons seeing the golden plates and much else. It's good evidence of it in an age of cameras and accurate medical reporting that's lacking

            We did have cameras at Fatima, unfortunately all they caught was people looking up at the sky, so, opportunity missed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Photos of similar incidents taken directly of the sun showed precisely what one would have expected at Fatima: the sun in its normal place. You are forgetting that this was not an objective astronomical event, but a mass subjective "vision" of similar nature most people which did not correlate to the objective astronomy. THAT was the extraordinary nature of the event.

            You are totally misunderstanding the event. Do some reading.

          • flan man

            Of course it was a subjective miracle, and thus beyond any real evidence. All miracles today are subjective.

            Meanwhile, over in India, statues Hindu gods are miraculously drinking tons of milk

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I just pointed out in another reply, having tens of thousands of people simultaneously having similar visual experiences is "subjective" in the sense that they took place in "knowing subjects." But the universality of the experience itself is an "objective fact" that must be explained in some rational manner.

            Whether the Hindus have yet another objectively genuine miraculous event taking place requires that you apply rational analysis to that claimed event, just as you need to do in the case of Fatima. These are separate and distinct cases.

          • Sample1

            It’s interesting to me that you strongly point out a difference between a “vision”‘of a similar nature and objective astronomy. There’s a serious problem here I don’t think you are considering.

            There is absolutely no reason that your God couldn’t have allowed the actual sun to literally move out of orbit without affecting planets in the solar system while still allowing only those pilgrims to “witness” that.

            Another believer can make that case and you have no metaphysical tools to know exactly which miracle interpretation is correct.

            But they could both be mistaken.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Does it really matter where the dissonance exists between what the laws of physics dictate and what the people experienced precisely falls?

            To me what matters is that such a radical difference exists.

            Besides, ex post facto it is clear that God did not change any of the regular motions of the heavenly bodies. So, the extraordinary event must be somehow in the widespread objectively real subjective experience of the people present.

          • Sample1

            No. This is important for me to have you at least understand what I am saying.

            God could have created the miracle whereby the actual sun literally moved millions of miles out of its position without, by God’s power, affecting the orbits of other planets and also being seen only by those pilgrims.

            But you choose to believe otherwise. What criterion are you employing to absolutely know your interpretation is correct?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course, you are right. He could have done that.

            But, it would have been a different event, since in that case the entire world would have witnessed the event, and not just those who came to Fatima.

            Oh, yes, you might then ask, "Why not do it that way, then, so that the whole world would have instantly been virtually "forced" to believe?"

            Quite so. And that might have been God's very reason for not doing it that way. Any time God wants the whole world to be "forced" to believe, he could work a miracle so manifesting his existence that none could doubt.

            But, first, that puts us in the place of being wiser than God as to the "why" of his intentions.

            Second, I can think of one reason. Namely, perhaps the whole enterprise of creation is designed to allow the maximum of human freedom, so that a large segment of mankind will choose to believe and love their Creator more freely, and therefore, with even greater sanctity of soul than if they were moved both with absolute certitude of God's existence and fear of his justice.

            I deal with this type of possibility in the Epilogue of my Origin of the Human Species -- third edition, pp. 212-213.

          • Sample1

            Of course, you are right. He could have done that.

            Agreed. Please answer my original question. What criterion are you using to say your interpretation is absolutely correct?

            But, it would have been a different event, since in that case the entire world would have witnessed the event, and not just those who came to Fatima

            No Dennis, this is you not reading what I described. Something you agree with. As such, these additional paragraphs of replies from you are non-sequiturs. Please answer the question above. How do you know your interpretation is correct when you do agree that God has the power to literally move the sun while keeping that event localized to Fatima viewers only?

            I’ll give you another crack at this.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First of all, since my interpretation is coherent, I see no problem with holding it.

            Second, the scenario you suggest might entail a contradiction in terms of the natures involved. You are the scientist. You can tell me. But your scenario sounds like it would take two different suns to do it -- one for the locals and another for the rest of the world.

            Besides, Ockham's Razor favors my reading.

          • Sample1

            Dennis, I don’t know how much clearer I can express this but please hang in there with me. First things first.

            We are talking about a miracle. Leave physics and science generally out of this. That is my point. God has the power to literally move the sun without, if that was His Will, planetary orbits being adversely affected or astronomers perceiving it. Do you deny God can do that? Of course not.

            All of the above could reasonably match those in Fatima who claim the sun danced and shot down toward the earth.

            Now your interpretation is that this was a local collective vision, not one whereby the literal sun moved from orbit.

            And I’ll ask again, how do you absolutely know that your interpretation is correct as opposed to the one I offered? By what criterion are you evaluating and thereby judging one interpretation over the other?

            You can believe whatever you like about Fatima, I’m not under any illusion that our exchanges will dislodge your claims. But I do want an explanation to my paragraph above this one.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Okay. You make a valid point. There are other possible interpretations of this event. For example, Fr. Stanley Jaki suggests that God may have used some kind of natural prism effect (if I recall it right) to produce this unique spectacle, making the thrust of the miracle rely more on the prediction of its occurrence, while still granting an extraordinary effect properly attributable to God: "Clearly, the "miracle" of the sun was not a mere meteorological phenomenon, however rare. Otherwise it would have been observed before and after, regardless of the presence of devout crowds or not. I merely claim, which I did in my other writings on miracles, that in producing miracles God often makes use of a natural substratum by greatly enhancing its physical components and their interactions.[4"
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun#Believers'_explanations

            The point, though, is that whatever explanation is given, it is an event singular in history, with many aspects in the visual experience alone that I am really not sure Jaki's explanation would "explain," such as those having diverse, although similar, experiences and some having no special experience at all.

            When combined with the prediction of the date of the event, but not its nature (so that people would not imagine the same expected phenomena), as well as the amazing sudden drying of soggy clothes and hillside, the only reason I believe that skeptics still find it unbelievable is because they simply do not first accept the possibility that a God exists who could actually be responsible for such a miracle. From this, they are very convinced that no actual miracle could possibly have occurred.

            I am not sure that the scenario you propose as an alternative would not just as much require God's direct action. The problem for the doubters is to find an explanation that is both completely natural and also explains the three distinct extraordinary aspects of Fatima: (1) the prediction, (2) the visual experience, and (3) the physical drying.

          • Sample1

            Alright. So here’s my point in all of this.

            If some Catholic believed my scenario (God controlled the sun, made the experience only visible to locals and controlled any possible deleterious negative physical effects of a giant gravity well dancing all over the place and last but not least made the miracle look innocuous to astronomers elsewhere in the world) that particular view, if held by a believer, would not confront a mechanism of correction in Catholicism so long as it was spiritually meaningful to the believer and enriched their faith in Jesus.

            You did not offer a criterion where you can say your interpretation is the absolutely correct explanation. And I don’t believe you can.

            You did offer Ockham’s Razor. That is a standard that is so problematic I dare you to challenge me why that can be met with serious objections so many to count, it would be cruel to go there. But I’m at your disposal if you want to go there. :-)

            And you know what I am going to say now. These miracle interpretations are excellent examples of easy-to-vary explanations. I know that doesn’t matter for you. Your faith is your own. But when there is no method in your system to know truth from observation, that is a serious problem for me and in my opinion it should be a serious concern for you if your goal is a reliable and logical system of explanation.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, the fact that we might not be able to discern which of two or more possible supernatural explanations is the exact description of what took place does not make the events reported to become natural. And it is not a matter of preconceived belief that forces that observation. Moreover, "not explainable by natural means" remains "not explainable by natural means" -- no matter which non-natural means is chosen.

            In other words, even if I grant that which non-natural explanation may be offered is easy to vary, the fact that all possible explanations are non-natural makes that aspect hard to vary.

            Second, you may not have seen my added Edit when you posted your reply just now, but it makes clear that the actual visual experience reported fit solely MY explanation, not yours or Jaki's. In a word, the only adequate explanation has just become hard to vary when you add the variation in eyewitness testimony, while still recognizing that the fact that such variegated subjective visual experiences are so generally reported as to be objectively real.

          • Sample1

            First, the fact that we might not be able to discern which of two or more possible supernatural explanations is the exact description of what took place does not make the events reported to become natural.

            You keep bringing up irrelevancies. I concede the miracle claim. I said we don’t need to discuss physics or science or the natural. Please take a moment and re-examine how I’m responding instead of offering knee-jerk apologetics against naturalism which I am not arguing for here. Your knowledge acquisition methodology, or however you want to term it, but one that allows miracles, is the focus. Not mine. I am not and have not sought to give scientific or natural explanations for Fatima this time around with you.

            Before I continue let’s take a full nights rest break. If after the break you still insist on bringing up the natural I will have to either carry on differently or sadly abandon what I believe suggests serious problems in your epistemology.

            Talk to you tomorrow.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think you fail to grasp the need for natural reason here. It isn't just a matter of Catholicism having no mechanism of correction as long as the experience is "spiritually meaningful."

            What is relevant solely is whether the phenomena in question can be explained by natural means rather than non-natural ones. If every alternative explanation possible remains non-natural in nature, the fact that we don't know the exact explanation is irrelevant. Now you can deny the reports or say the witnesses are lying. But, short of that, I explained why my explanation is a hard to vary explanation of the fact that we have variegated reports that still constitute a massive, simultaneous set of visual experiences.

            Any proof that Fatima, taken as a whole, is non-natural must be "hard to vary" by nature. If it is so sloppy that some other really rational explanation can be given, then it is not only easy to vary -- it simply invalid.

            I think the more basic problem is that naturalists are so convinced that God is a myth that they "know" that miracles cannot happen, and thus, that any event can be explained naturally.

            Theists are convinced that God does exist. And so, they look for unequivocal evidence of his action in any alleged miracle.

            Hate to snatch the football away like Sally does to Charlie here, but you notice I have several times pointed out that Fatima is a trifecta: prediction, sun dancing, drying effect.

            The "drying effect" is precisely what makes it clear that the visual effect is no fluke. Combined with the prediction of the miracle, I contend you have a classic "hard to vary" situation where non-natural action is the only reasonable explanation, since no other explanation can correlate all three aspects at once. (Notice that the Catholic Church demands other, theological, criteria before anything is called a miracle.)

            My main concern with the "visual effect" is not to directly prove that "God did it," but to get people to realize that no merely natural explanation really works.

            That is why the exact mechanism through which the laws of nature appeared suspended with respect the the visual part of the Fatima event becomes irrelevant as long as it is clear that what took place was not natural -- a conclusion locked in place by the two other aspects: the prediction and the drying effect.

            It is the simultaneous interactivity of all three factors in the Fatima event that make a non-natural explanation logically necessary. There are simply too many aspects that defy natural explanation here. When combined, they make a very "hard to vary" story to be explained by purely natural means.

            And, just to play devil's advocate here, let's look at your most "hard to vary" scientific theories and the data that seem to support them. If you think you can find some alternative explanation to the total Fatima picture, I could just as well say that your "hard to vary" scientific theorems' support data isn't really real at all because there exists a legion of anti-scientific pixies "out there" whose sole mission in life is to fabricate false data points to delude you scientists who think you have found exclusive evidence that supports your "hard to vary" theory! Science avoids such "easy to vary" explanations by simply ruling out pixies and other non-natural explanations a priori. Thus you provide a "hard to vary" framework for your scientific studies by defining a naturalistic methodology, which just rules out explanations that don't follow your rules.

            More than one can play this game of insisting his is the only "hard to vary" world of explanations. I think the Fatima trifecta presents a pretty "hard to vary" requirement for a non-natural explanation.

            Again, since the atheist will accept the incredible odds against this being natural as being more believable than that God exists, I can see why you will still not find a truly non-natural agency explanation as being the only credible solution.

            When do the odds get too long even for the skeptic?

            Remember, as a philosopher, my proofs for God's existence do NOT depend on the existence of miracles. And sound arguments automatically meet the hard to vary criterion, since logic makes their conclusions impossible to vary.

          • Sample1

            Dennis, I am using your platform for finding truth, not mine.

            Here are the points.

            1. Miracle explained as X
            2. Miracle explained as Y
            3. This can go on with more letters

            Logically, it is possible, among many permutations, that one interpretation is simply wrong.

            I’ve repeatedly asked what criterion you have in your system to determine which interpretation is correct. Crickets

            The point here is you. Your method is being examined. Not naturalism. Not whether atheists think God is a myth. Not science. I am stepping into your method.

            I find it severely problematic. Why? Because the logic in your system demonstrates that you Dennis may actually be believing in something that is wrong. That is logically possible. And crucially, you have no mechanism in your system to help you determine error; certainly not demonstrated at any rate.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You ask about the methodology for discerning a miracle, and this is a legitimate question. Certainly, it is not the same as a metaphysical demonstration, but rather something outside the ordinary course of natural events that is attributable solely to divine intervention.

            In the case of events at Fatima, what is clear is that something happened that does not conform to the natural order of events. If we take the testimony of the witnesses at face value, either the Sun fell from its position in space without disturbing the stability of the Earth, or else, the Sun stayed where it was and an objectively-real subjective visual experience took place in the tens of thousands of people present there. Add to this the variegated nature of the experiences themselves, where some saw nothing at all and others saw visions of holy figures, what is clear is that the physical natural laws were in some manner suspended or modified in their natural function.

            You might object that we do not have metaphysical certitude of what belongs to the “natural function” of any substance or force of nature. That is true. But we do have scientific and natural knowledge about how many things work. And if you wish to throw that into real doubt, then the entire foundation for natural science is cast into the same doubt.

            What if I told you that in one case sodium was suddenly behaving like sulfur? Or, that sodium suddenly could be eaten in it pure form? What would that do to the entire body of scientific knowledge? Well, that is akin to what we are looking at if we accept the first hand testimony at Fatima on October 17, 1917. Well known things are simply defying the proper behavior of their well known natures.

            Very realistically speaking, there is nothing “east to vary” here without also totally destroying the basis for your “hard to vary” scientific claims.

            Similarly, what to make of the first hand reports of the rain soaked muddy hillside and soggy woolen clothing all being completely dried by a strong wind at the same time as the Sun prodigy took place? Such could occur only if the people were subjected to a heated wind hotter than the inside of a modern clothes dryer for ten to fifteen minutes. Yet, they were unscathed by the event. This again clearly manifests suspension of natural physical laws.

            Even here, unlike metaphysical demonstrations, caution is in order – since some such effects could be produced by either preternatural or supernatural agents. That is why additional theological criteria are applied by the Church before even affirming that such events are credible for belief.

            In any event, either skeptics must deny the mental capacity and/or veracity of the many eyewitnesses, or else, I submit, they should be more open to the possibility of preternatural or even supernatural agency involved in what took place a century ago at Fatima, Portugal.

          • Sample1

            Certainly, it is not the same as a metaphysical demonstration, but rather something outside the ordinary course of natural events that is attributable solely to divine intervention.

            What is the explanation? “Something outside the ordinary course of natural events that is attributable solely to divine intervention”. Your explanation is “God did it?”

            Ok. God did exactly what? Miracle X or Miracle Y? And how do you know? Only one is correct using your logic. One is wrong. How do you know you aren’t believing in the wrong one?

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Read the full comment. It first establishes that the testimony supports something happening outside the known physical laws of nature. It then makes the logical division between possible preternatural and supernatural agency, pointing out that this last judgment requires theological criteria. So, it isn't quite as simple as you suggest.

            What you must first admit is that, if you take the testimony at face value, we have at Fatima a predicted event that defies the known laws of nature. The mere fact that there is possible ambiguity as to which natural laws were breached in the visual aspect of the event in no way detracts from the logical need for some explanation that is outside the physical laws of nature.

          • Sample1

            I’m ignoring any reference you make to the natural. I am demonstrating that even if naturalism is wrong, your truth finding methodology is a nightmare.

            Until you lay out the theological criterion for finding truth your system is not persuasive. And I’m surprised you haven’t extended the logic of your system here. In point of fact, it means all claimed miracles, not just Fatima, that do not have a demonstrable theological criterion for finding truth logical means all miracle interpretations are suspect since without demonstrating why one interpretation is correct and another is false ipso facto means you can literally be believing a falsehood.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Once again: You do not need to know which natural laws were violated in order to know that one or more of them were.

            If I don't know which apple in my cart is gone, but I know one is missing, am I not able to say one is missing?

            Edit: The failure to know everything is not the same thing as the failure to know anything. And we do know something. We know that some physical natural law was suspended in some manner.

          • Sample1

            Your last paragraph is a different subject. It’s a worthy subject to investigate but takes nothing away from my concerns about X and Y. Remember. Remember! I am conceding a miracle occurred. You don’t seem to be entering that into your calculus. Instead you’ve migrated like a goddam caribou all over the place mentioning “atheist’s don’t believe in myths or Gods” or science, or astronomy, Ockham’s Razor. All irrelevancies.

            This is about me accepting your premise that a miracle happened full stop! but showing that your methodology could result in believing an interpretation of a miracle can be wrong, and you’ve so far shown zero corrective tool to know right from wrong. That is the point.

            It has been exceedingly difficult to keep you on point. Perhaps yet another worthy subject of inquiry as to why that is so. I have my suspicions!

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            My point is on point. What difference does it make if one of, say, two natural physical laws must have been broken or suspended, but I don't know which? Either one suffices for the premise that a natural physical law was suspended.

            The interpretation THAT a violation of physical natural law has taken place is NOT wrong. It is more like some gets murdered by someone with a gun and I am not sure which bullet killed him. But I am still sure he got murdered.

          • Sample1

            For someone who exquisitely understands the important nuances that logic can reveal and uses those nuances when talking about your own metaphysics, you are displaying an uncharacteristic stubbornness here.

            What difference does it make if one of, say, two natural physical laws must have been broken or suspended, but I don't know which? Either one suffices for the premise that a natural physical law was suspended.

            My concern about your methodology is not premised one iota on whether physical laws were violated, how many, or not. Not a single one. There is an interpretation problem here. An explanation problem.

            You have argued in the past, that something cannot both be true and false at the same time. PNC. If we have more than one or two or three or 70x70 different explanations they cannot all be truthful.

            I grow tired of repeating this but I respect you too much to ignore it. You do not have a method to help you know which explanations are correct. I’ve already conceded, for this conversation, the miracle occurred. The explanation is either important for you or not. Do you really want to say a miracle’s explanation (interpretation) matters for nothing? You must realize how that would destroy your position on yet another level, correct? Do you really want to go there? We may have to eventually.

            For now, I’m satisfied that I’ve demonstrated your methodology for finding truth can result in believers accepting a falsehood for the simple fact that you haven’t shown how to know one interpretation is wrong or right.

            Your defense is to say you don’t care about that. And that is something nobody who is interested in finding truth should be happy with.

            In the end this is your position: God did it. We don’t know how, can’t give an explanation, don’t know if one interpretation is right or not, but by golly, don’t worry about the details. Just accept the appeal to incredulity or my group’s authority. If the end result leads you to Jesus, that’s all that matters.

            Sorry buddy, that is intellectually lazy, criminally lazy if there was a Reason Police. But there isn’t, so you are free to export your methodology across borders, through tunnels, over fences.

            What’s the Nancy Reagan analogical response here? Oh yes. Just say no.

            Indeed,

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, that was quite a diatribe!

            But it does not make one iota of difference to the logic of what I am saying.

            If I find the bank has been robbed and I cannot determine which window the thieves broke in through, should I then be in doubt that the robbery occurred? Talk about being illogical!

            I strongly suspect that the correct explanation of the visual aspect of the Fatima miracle is that God somehow gave unique subjective visual experiences to each person present, but I really do not have to know how he did it in order to know that a massive miracle took place.(or, at least something fantastically extraordinary)

            And no, it is not just a matter of the end justifies the means here. I call it a miracle because one has to be blind in both eyes not to see that something radically extraordinary occurred at Fatima on October 17, 1917.

            When you have eyewitnesses fearing they are about to die because they think the end of the world is upon them, you have to sit there questioning whether anything happened at all just because I am not certain exactly how God pulled this off? Now who is being logically nonsensical?

            What really amazes me is that people can look at the recorded statements of the witnesses and the secular public papers and feel so sure that nothing unnatural happened.

            This is not a test of whether one can win the Jeopardy championship. You really do not have to be able to nail down every last detail of what happened to realize that somehow the laws of normal physics or nature were grossly violated or suspended.

            Are you suffering from some sort of intellectual OCD here? We really do not have to know every least detail about how this happened to realize that we hit the trifecta: (1) a prediction of the date that a great miracle would occur, (2) the miracle of the Sun that even while people are debating about its exact nature, no one claims nothing extraordinary happened, and (3) that amazing sudden drying of everyone's sopping clothes and a muddy scene!

            Go challenge the veracity of the witnesses, doubt the news stories, question the honesty of the books written about it. That approach makes some sense in light of the startling reported facts.

            But don't insult my intelligence by suggesting that we accept the recorded details, but they really don't mean anything outside the normal order of nature took place. You can still accept that something very unnatural took place, and then, if you insist, try to explain it by some agency other than God -- aliens perhaps (as has been done).

            But don't try to tell me that just because I cannot cross every 't" and dot every "i," the whole story falls on its face and I am just a Catholic fideist looking for a miracle to believe in.

            If such a story as this was reported in the New York Times today, as it was in the leading Lisbon newspaper, O Seculo!, at the time, you can bet that the facts on the ground would be in hot dispute and getting deeper investigation.

            But no one would be sitting around wondering whether anything worth reporting happened at all -- just because the reporters were not sure whether it was the sun itself moving or some kind of massive vision. Either way, it would be a major story.

          • Sample1

            If I find the bank has been robbed and I cannot determine which window the thieves broke in through, should I then be in doubt that the robbery occurred? Talk about being illogical!.

            No. I am not objecting to that. It’s a straw man. What I am objecting to is someone’s interpretation who might say something like, “a robbery occurred AND the thieves used a ladder, a stolen car to get there, and left their stove on at home.” Those details are either right or wrong.

            Your position is claiming to know the details of Fatima. You are essentially saying you know the thieves used a ladder, etc. Why? You’ve explicitly said your interpretation (a vision) as opposed to other interpretations is the right one and supported that opinion by saying someone else agrees with you.

            But you have not demonstrated a methodology that supports your details as being right or wrong. Thus, you could logically be wrong as I’ve laboriously explained. And if you then go on to say the details don’t matter then why bring them up? What are you left with? A miracle occurred. That’s it. An assertion.

            Let’s take this up in another reply I just left you that asks you how you justify that assertion. I have four possible ways you might reply. Surprise me with a fifth.

            Don’t reply with a response here. Let’s consolidate the discussion at the other post with my post that addresses this.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Your position is claiming to know the details of Fatima."

            Wrong. I am speculating about the most likely explanation in my opinion among possible alternatives. And I did not say that Jesuit physicist Stanley Jaki agreed with me. He has a different take based on his own speculation.

            And, while not claiming it is critical to there being something preternatural about the whole scene that day, I did note that my explanation alone appears to take into account the varying experiences of those present.

            But I also have a perfectly natural scenario that could have happened. At the appointed hour, Lucia pointed up at the sky and said, "Look at the Sun!" And everyone did. And everyone shouted, "Boy, that hurts my eyes!"

            And we would not be discussing it all now a century later.

          • Sample1

            Yes, I allowed, later in my reply, that you were speculating. I quoted you.

            So here is likely my penultimate comment in this conversation because I am finding little effort from you despite my constant appeals to ignore the actual miracle. I conceded that the miracle occurred for the purposes here. It’s about the details and the logical pathways I’ve shown that you do not have a method to know right from wrong about them.

            Yet, go around using these details without acknowledging that you could be dead wrong about them. Instead, you use them when naturalists say the Fatima pilgrims’ original testimonies conflict with what we now know about science. The sun probably didn’t crash toward earth, despite that is what they literally said! They were fearful of that! Instead you use your details as an apologetic. You’ve shown precisely what an easy-to-vary explanation looks like. When facts call into question an experience (sun crashing to earth) you change the experience to a special localized vision. But you have no right without demonstrating a methodology that supports it how you can know if it is right or wrong. Then you hand wave it all away.

            Meanwhile it evidently matters zero to you that you could be spreading falsehoods all over the place. That’s the best your methodology has left you with. A scattershot approach, logic be damned, truth seeking be damned. It’s about how Fatima makes you feel and how you are comforted through faith. That is an explanation that wouldn’t persuade me but it would make me respect consistency on your part, it’s about faith, instead of trying to give interpretations that have no logically provided right or wrong tool of discovery.

            And finally, before you ask, I do not need to give an alternative explanation. All I need to say is I’m not convinced by your reasoning. But I’ve gone further having demonstrated why that is so. And you have so far been unable or have refrained from demonstrating how my logic is wrong.

            What does this all mean? The straw men, the caribou distractions, the various logical fallacies that I’ve witnessed. I’ve seen a system that is antithetical to other systems of truth discovery that take great care in avoiding such things.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            At your suggestion I was in the process of responding to your other post up above, when I see we are now back down here again! So I will just respond down here and not up there.

            First, this is not a case of certitude like is possible in metaphysics (even though you don't think metaphysics attains this). I have said that even if I lost my Catholic faith I would still be stuck with God's existence since reason demands it.

            >"You’ve shown precisely what an easy-to-vary explanation looks like. When facts call into question an experience (sun crashing to earth) you change the experience to a special localized vision. "

            It is not irrational to distinguish between what a witness saw and his inferences taken from it. It becomes clear, when you look at astronomical observations, that most humans did not experience seeing the sun falling, and that therefore, the inference that it was actually doing so was wrong. (In fact, the witnesses described the "sun" as a pearly disc you could look straight at.)

            But to say that I have no method supporting my own inference is wrong. I noted the varied experiences of the witnesses, including those who saw nothing and those who saw holy figures. Natural phenomena tend to be inherently uniform in their effects. So, there was warrant to judge that this massive, but definitely somewhat varied, visual experience was not a natural phenomenon.

            Add to that the other facts we have not addressed, namely, a precise prediction of a miracle as to date but not content (so the sun miracle was not expected) and the sudden drying of the entire rain soaked area, including woolen clothes -- and you have a simultaneous equation with three variables that all fit together perfectly.

            You can remain in your incredulous posture, which, I suspect, arises precisely from your naturalistic mind set with which a real Fatima miracle simply cannot fit.

            For my part, I do not have enough credulity to be comfortable with accepting a purely naturalistic dismissal of the Fatima "event."

            And yes, I will admit that my metaphysical worldview includes the rational possibility of miracles, which does affect my judgment of probabilities, just as yours affects yours.

          • Sample1

            Ok Dennis, let’s call it for now if you don’t object. In think we’ve both expressed our positions such that I think we are going to start repeating ourselves and boring lurkers.

            I hope my frustration at times isn’t taken personally. I respect you, it’s precisely why I engage your ideas.

            Cheers,

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I concur. I sensed we were at the point of an impasse -- probably rooted in even deeper disagreements!

            Don't worry. I won't go away completely :)

            Good night!

          • I Came To Bring The Paine

            Don't you get it? Epistemological methodism = Naturalism = SCIENTISM! /s

          • Sample1

            There are, no doubt, scientism definitions that look problematic for the naturalist. In my experience it’s the scientifically literate who are least impacted by those negative connotations. On the one hand we have Deutsch who makes a distinction between philosophy and science but still puts them both under the umbrella of reason. And on another hand we have Scott Alexander who on Slate Star Codex wrote the piece myself am a Scientismist. Both make the point, and I agree, that there is nothing scary about thinking scientifically when reasoning about theology, philosophy, or, obviously, science. I’ve never witnessed, and don’t expect to, theologians and philosophers not using at least some manner of scientific reasoning in their epistemologies. Scientific reasoning is now glaringly ubiquitous in human culture such that it’s analogous to onions in cooking. An onion’s raw flavor may disappear in some cooking but the final meal is incomplete without them. There is no navigating through life without science. Can the same be said of theism? Metaphysically, sure. We can ignore metaphysics, however, and still live. The metaphysician who ignores science falls off of cliffs.

            Ironically, it is precisely theism that resembles the negativity believers want attached to scientism! Consider that theism claims for itself an environment of absolutes, proposes dogmas and lays out ultimate answers about reality. But that’s not all! Their concocted reality enacts penalties when reason tries to unlock their cage. All this reminds me of a former governor of Alaska who once said, “you can’t let nature run wild.” Replace nature with reason and you get the same circus.

            But if theists are anything, they are clever. When their replies offer a seemingly “I don’t know” humility for a given problem, what’s really going on when we reason a little deeper? That scientific-looking humility is undergirded by faith that, far from being humble, reduces to “I don’t know, but I do know it’s God.” Textbook contradiction; keeping their cake after eating it.

            Scientism is not a problem for a person of reason. It’s usually just a muddy word that some apes sling at other apes. Am I slinging mud? Maybe a little, but it’s in self defense against a trope.

            When the adults finish washing up they are back at the table, once again, facing divergent explanatory methods about the human condition. A divergency rooted in disparate ideas of what each finds cognitively valuable. One side using the armchair to think about reality, the other using that same chair but also getting up from time to time to look out the window.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            And we do know something. We know that some physical natural law was suspended in some manner.

            What is your explanation for this assertion? You’re saying you have knowledge when you say “and we do know something.” What methodology did you use to uncover that knowledge?

            Pro-tip: I have already evaluated four ways in how you may reply. 1. A natural methodology (which will ignore the fallacy of appeal to incredulity). 2. A supernatural methodology that will result in a faith claim at bottom. 3. A mixture of the two which will ignore a tu quoque fallacy. 4. A distraction by implying I’ve already made up my mind or something along those lines which is evidently false considering I have from the beginning only attempted to seek knowledge.

            Mike

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Just as an aside / public service announcement, whether a given correlation is statistically significant or not is COMPLETELY a separate issue from whether a causal interpretation can be ascribed to that correlation. In the words of Judea Pearl: "Every claim invoking causal concepts must rely on some premises that invoke such concepts; it cannot be inferred from, or even defined in terms statistical associations alone." (from https://ftp.cs.ucla.edu/pub/stat_ser/r350.pdf )

      • God Hates Faith

        Thanks for the clarification.

        I think I am defining "inference" different than Judea Pearl.

  • Sample1

    Let’s grant, generously, that every claimed Catholic medical miracle throughout the history of the Church avoids the use of easy-to-vary explanations and as a result leaves little, if any, doubt that such healings are divinely effected. Is it unreasonable to tentatively conclude that divine healing is therefore fantastically uneconomical compared to human medicine? Why should that be so? /rhetorical

    Secondly, we find cancer remissions and inexplicable spontaneous healings in veterinary medicine too. Coincidence? I think not.

    My own take: so-called healing miracles are a retained cultural artifact from centuries past when hard-to-vary medical explanations had yet to be discovered. When going to a non-science-based healer had about the same or near the same statistical efficacy as staying in bed. The Church, imo, was unwise, lacked foresight, when it aligned physical processes of disease with theology. As a human-guided enterprise that makes sense. As a divinely guided one, not so much. We know the prior beliefs for the causes of plagues and epilepsy have been updated and this Church has been trying to escape that artifact by retreating to the easy-to-vary environment of essentially, let’s call it, the medical gown of the gaps fallacy.

    How some people don’t see this amazes me!

    Mike

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Is it unreasonable to tentatively conclude that divine healing is therefore fantastically uneconomical compared to human medicine?

      The relevant contrast is between natural and supernatural (or equivalently between ordinary and extraordinary), not between divine and human. On the theistic understanding, all healing (including healing via human medicine) is divine healing. It's not like God is taking a break when human medicine is employed, or when things proceed naturally. The only question is whether some healings are truly surprising, and if so, whether that surprise is meant to convey meaning. The nature of surprise is that it can't happen regularly. If it happened regularly, it just wouldn't be surprising.

      Consider a bass player who is mostly just supporting the song "in the background" in a more or less predictable way, but then busts out for a surprising solo at some point. Is that solo "uneconomical"?

      • Sample1

        I anticipated this response and I understand how such an explanation can be accommodated by the theology. So, the Catholic God’s Will is to give surprises mostly in the form of healings that find corroborated examples in non-human animals who don’t light votives or pray?

        Yes, I can anticipate a theological reply to that too. Why? Because God’s Will is fungible (easy-to-vary) depending on the psychological needs of human beings, though you will undoubtedly explain it much differently. :-p

        We will not agree. But at least we can understand each other’s point of view. That about all I hope for here anymore.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Who ever said that miracles are limited to humans, or to only those who pray, or to only Christians who pray?

          • Sample1

            See edit above. Yes, I anticipated that easy-to-vary accommodation. As I said, we won’t agree. But I do understand you. Do you understand me?

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I maybe kinda partly understand you, but I'm sure I don't understand you entirely. The whole "hard-to-vary" thing is still a little vague to me and I'm not sure what its range of application is supposed to be. At one extreme, I can see that a theory in physics, because it can be formalized mathematically, and because the math just won't work out if you arbitrarily tweak it here or there, is hard to vary. I like that stuff; that's good. But are there examples of "hard-to-vary" explanations that aren't associated with mathematical formalizations? For example, are there any examples of theories that involve intent that are "hard to vary"?

          • Sample1

            I would not word it as “at one extreme” but rather in such and such application, though I understand by extreme you are denoting a spectrum of relative simplicity (physics) to complexity (emergent complex biological phenomena).

            I’m glad you “like that stuff” and you find it good. With that you are at least acknowledging the principle of hard-to-vary is acceptable to you (in that circumstance). That’s excellent from my perspective as one trying to teach a principle in a combox.

            I’ll think on what you’re asking. What I should stress—and you may or may not like this—is that the principle can be extrapolated philosophically upwards to more complex situations, in theory. It’s a sound theory in my opinion. Similar to Occam’s Razor but not quite. The emphasis is a little different. I’ll think.

            Mike

          • flan man

            Let's just agree that God works his miracles at the same percentage as random chance, and you can make of that what you will.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I wouldn't say it that way exactly, because I don't think random chances causes anything. I would say rather that when we don't know the causes of things we employ stochastic models, and stochastic models provide a conceptual framework for talking about surprise.

            FWIW, I have no problem agreeing with R.A. Fisher that

            for the ‘one chance in a million’ will undoubtedly occur, with no less and no more than its appropriate frequency, however surprised we may be that it should occur to us.

            That is undoubtedly true, but it doesn't make surprising events any less surprising or any less meaningful.

          • Jim the Scott

            Random just means simply "unforeseen". There is no causality in randomness. Given Classic Theistic presuppositions & the classic view of divine providence God answers prayers by knowing what prayers will be said from all eternity and then willing from all eternity wither to answer them or not.

            So testing them will be no different than testing the results of random wishing.

            This OP merely tells us science is employed maximally to rule out a propertied miracle. Not directly prove one. When it comes to these miracles the Church says they are worthy of belief not that they are true.

            Science plays a role but I suspect the usual suspects here are overplaying it. They are making the OP claim what it does not claim.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Let's just agree that God works his miracles at the same percentage as random chance, and you can make of that what you will.

            I actually agree but I don't see that as an argument against miracles.

          • Raymond

            Were there examples of miracles not involving humans, or those that do not pray, or non-Christians in the Vatican archives?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't know. But as far as I know there is no doctrine that proposes that miracles only occur as a result of Christian prayer. For example, the Resurrection, which is understood by Christians to be the most consequential miracle of all , occurred (putatively, at least) before there was any such thing as a Christian, and no one is reputed to have been praying for it.

      • flan man

        So is the definition of miracles now "is it surprising"?

        The only question is whether some healings are truly surprising

        They would be, for example, if somebody regrew a limb. With modern medical attestation, not stories from a largely Catholic country in the 17th century.
        The occasional medical outlier of survivable diseases isn't all that surprising.

        whether that surprise is meant to convey meaning.

        The question is exactly how one determines if it is meant to convey meaning, and what meaning it means to convey.

        In this case, I don't find a person surviving a usually fatal disease after a course of aggressive chemotherapy that surprising, at all. And I'm at a loss as to how draws the causal line from that to a long dead person. It seems like the real vague part is the meaning one draws from it.

        If the Catholic Church is to be believed, saints commonly did much more surprising things in the past, which would have downgraded their status. Now we don't see any really surprising miracles at all. One limb regrowth would shock the hell out of the world. But instead, they're low key miracles, like when people survive survivable diseases with modern medical treatment.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          So is the definition of miracles now "is it surprising"?

          That's half of the definition. The other half is that it is meant to convey meaning. This isn't something new thing. You can look right back to the biblical meaning of the words dunamis and simeia, or you can look to the way that Aquinas defines miracles in terms of mirare.

          The occasional medical outlier of survivable diseases isn't all that surprising.

          Surprise is always relative to a perspective, or context of inquiry. That medical outliers happen at all is not surprising, but a medical outlier can be very surprising when it happens to you.

          • flan man

            Surprise is always relative to a perspective, or context of inquiry. That medical outliers happen at all is not surprising, but a medical outlier can be very surprising when it happens to you.

            Seems to me like you're saying, "A miracle is a miracle if you believe it is"

            Winning the lottery is a statistical outlier, but it's not a statistical outlier if you win the lottery.

            Do you see the problem here?

            I'm sorry, but I don't believe standard Christian belief is that miracles depend on a point of view. They either are or aren't.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Aquinas said: "Now we experience wonder [mirare] when an effect is obvious but its cause hidden". In other words, miracles aren't uncaused. They induce wonder because their cause is hidden to us. That is most certainly a matter of perspective.

          • flan man

            I thought we were clear on the cause - some variation of the power of God or the intercession of a saint. If the cause is hidden to us, who knows?

            It sounds like we agree, we don't agree on the cause.
            I'm surprised that chemotherapy works so well.

            I don't even want to start on Aquinas' use of 'we' in a philosophical sense, not particularly 'me', can Dennis comment on this?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well again, I would say that it's quite uninteresting to identify God as the cause of some particular thing, because God is the cause of every particular thing. In my view, God is always speaking to me, even when he speaks in the most predictable and naturally mediated ways (like the fact that when I drop a ball it falls to the ground). Again I would say, it's not a matter of whether God is speaking, but only a matter of whether he is trying to put an exclamation point here or there to call our attention to something special.

            I'm not trying to sell you on all this. If you have no use for it, that's fine. I'm just trying to help you understand how at least one religious person who is not totally crazy (me) thinks about miracles, just in case you were curious.

          • God Hates Faith

            I would say that it's quite uninteresting to identify God as the cause of some particular thing, because God is the cause of every particular thing.

            If God is the cause of every particular thing, then it seems redundant to say he is also the cause of a specific particular thing.

            It would be like saying--we know that invisible fairies cause planes to fly, and so we will look for evidence to confirm it. Its assuming the conclusion.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If God is the cause of every particular thing, then it seems redundant to say he is also the cause of a specific particular thing.

            That's my point. From an explanatory perspective, it is redundant. To characterize something as a miracle is to point out its semiotic value, not its explanatory value.

          • God Hates Faith

            From that perspective, this god also caused the problem. Thus couldn't we say causing cancer is the miracle?

            Also, if its redundant, why pray at all? Or why give credit to the intermediary?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Also, if it's redundant, why pray at all?

            It's a good question, and I won't pretend to offer a complete answer. Although petitionary prayer comes naturally to me now and I engage in it pretty regularly, I don't have a complete theory of what I am doing when I do it. One thing that I'm sure I'm not doing is changing God's mind. I have a sense that in engaging in petitionary prayer I am opening myself up to God, and that in opening myself up to God I am connected to all of the saints. Beyond that I wouldn't want to claim too much about it.

          • God Hates Faith

            Or you are opening yourself up to confirmation bias.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, we are all susceptible to confirmation bias at times, and I hope you won't presume to count yourself as an exception. We are all especially susceptible to confirmation bias when we are in dialogue with another person. We tend to hear what we want to hear, and not what the person intends to communicate. One tries to work around that by listening carefully and not jumping to conclusions. Or another option, I suppose, if one wants to completely immunize oneself from confirmation bias, is to not engage in communication at all.

          • God Hates Faith

            I completely agree that we are all susceptible to confirmation bias.

            But if I talked to a magic rock, to try to learn what it wants. Then you pointed out that action could be confirmation bias. That would be effective communication.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, let's agree to help each other not engage in talking to magic rocks. If someone starts talking to a magic rock, then confirmation bias is probably the least of his or her problems.

            I view rocks as being different from that which gives rise to all things, including my own consciousness. It seems not only likely but unavoidable that I should be in an intimate relationship with that which gives rise to my own consciousness. It seems far less plausible that rocks are capable of any form of intimacy.

          • God Hates Faith

            If someone starts talking to a magic rock, then confirmation bias is probably the least of his or her problems.

            This is the same way I feel, when someone talks (prays) to an invisible friend (deity).

            I view rocks as being different from that which gives rise to all things, including my own consciousness.

            What if I said the rock gave rise to all things, including your consciousness? It seems very implausible that an invisible friend can form any intimacy.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            What if I said the rock gave rise to all things, including your consciousness?

            That would seem very implausible to me for several reasons, including that fact the rock itself was not always in existence, and will not always be in existence.

          • God Hates Faith

            How do you know the rock wasn't always in existence? Maybe this rock is special (pleading)!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            As best I understand it, our best models from physics tell us there was a time when there was no matter at all, let alone rocks. But even if that weren't the case, it seems clear to me that rocks are not logically necessary. Even a rock that was "happenstantially eternal" couldn't provide the logical grounding of all possibility.

          • God Hates Faith

            I already said this is a special rock. It existed outside of time and space before the universe, and is a logically necessary rock.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Oh OK. Well, that one I believe in then. I can be friends with that rock.

          • God Hates Faith

            The rock says you should give me money : )

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            :-) I'd like to see the evidence first that the rock said this.

          • God Hates Faith

            Pray to the rock yourself ; )

          • God Hates Faith

            So, you will start praying to this rock, to know its purpose?

            This rock doesn't care about morality, by the way.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If the rock is the logical root of everything, then all caring that exists is inherent in the rock. It must necessarily care about everything.

          • God Hates Faith

            Nope. Caring and not caring our simply evolutionary traits of a social animal. The rock doesn't care about that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Caring and not caring our simply evolutionary traits of a social animal.

            Let's say that's true. That emergent property can only have emerged from a logical material reality whose logic was and is determined by the rock. So, insofar as caring exists at all, it has come from the rock and continues to come from the rock in every moment.

          • God Hates Faith

            The rock says that it created the universe by accident. The rock doesn't care about what emerged from the universe .

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            There are certainly times when the rock does seem to say something like this. But, on balance, it doesn't seem to be what the rock is saying. Cosmic history seems to have a directionality to it, and human history does as well. The rock seems to be weaving together a coherent narrative and not just spouting directionless and accidental gibberish.

          • God Hates Faith

            The universe is finite, but that doesn't mean it wasn't an accident. The human animals can only make sense of things with narratives. The narrative is our own making, not the rock's.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But by your own logic, we are derived from the rock, so whatever narratives come from us have ultimately come from the rock.

          • God Hates Faith

            Nope. That is like saying J.K. Rowling's great-great-great-great-grandfather is the author of Harry Potter. Our narratives are our own creation. The fact that we can create narratives is an accident of biology, which is an accident of the universe, which was an accident of the rock.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It seems very implausible that an invisible friend can form any intimacy.

            To my way of thinking, everyone's interior self is invisible. You only know my interior life to the extent that I reveal myself to you through my words. If you could see my body, you would perhaps know a little bit more about me, but not much. Mostly what you can know about "the real me" is revealed at my discretion. (This is related to the philosophical idea that there is no objective way to distinguish another person from a zombie or a sophisticated robot.)

            In Genesis, God speaks the world into existence. The idea is that creation itself is like God's speech, revealing his invisible interior self in much the same way that I reveal my invisible interior self in these words that I am typing now.

          • God Hates Faith

            You are a physical person that I can meet. A robot is a physical thing. I may not be able to understand a robot's software, or a human's wetware (biological software), but that does not mean the person (or thing) is entirely invisible. Parts of them may simply be unknown.

            On the other hand, Thor, Vishnu, Allah, and Yahweh are all COMPLETELY invisible. Yet we claim to know about them through lighting (Thor), or the earth (Allah), etc.

            Of course the other possibility to all these deities being invisible, is that they are simply a way to explain stuff we didn't understand (at the time).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You are a physical person that I can meet.

            And when you meet "me" by encountering my physical body, what I would say is that the "me" is being revealed to you through my physical body. My body is a revelation of the "interior me". In an analogous manner, I understand creation to be a revelation of the "interior God".

          • God Hates Faith

            Again, I can see your physical body. I can't see your god's body. Your god is ENTIRELY invisible.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But my point is that in seeing my body you aren't seeing me exactly. And my other point is that God is not ENTIRELY invisible. He reveals himself through a visible creation, in the same manner that I reveal myself through a visible body.

          • God Hates Faith

            And Thor isn't entirely invisible because we can see lightning...

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Perhaps, but I don't know that Thor exists, so that is a more precarious claim. I do know that that which is logically necessary exists, and that that which is logically necessary must necessarily be the source of all creation, so it doesn't seem nearly as precarious to claim that all of creation is a revelation of that which is logically necessary.

          • God Hates Faith

            Thor is logically necessary, because I define him as such (same with all the other gods).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, well if we are proceeding with that definition of "Thor", then I also believe in Thor.

          • God Hates Faith

            And all the other gods too?

            How do you define "logically necessary"?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            And all the other gods too?

            You can find other posts in these pages (and elsewhere) that illustrate pretty convincingly that that which is logically necessary must be a unity, not a plurality. So, yes, if all those other gods are defined to be that which is logically necessary then I believe in them as well, but with the understanding that those must all be different names for the same underlying reality.

            It's a bit hard to define anything in terms more fundamental than "logical" and "necessary", but I'll take a stab. I would say that "that which is logically necessary" is "that which cannot not be". Does that help to clarify?

          • God Hates Faith

            The understanding that is must be a union is a misunderstanding. It is rationalizing backwards from the conclusion that there is only one.

            "That which cannot not be" is defining something into existence. I could just as easily argue that "everything" or "nothing" cannot not be. Its a semantic game, not an empirical one.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't think you could coherently argue for either of the things you mentioned, but feel free to prove me wrong.

          • God Hates Faith

            When you say "coherently" argue, do you really mean, "convincingly persuade you"?

            Coherent arguments are easy. For example...

            P1: If A then B.
            P2: A
            C: B

            We could argue whether either you are convinced by the P1 or P2 is true, but that is separate from whether the argument is coherent.

            Given that, do you want to modify your previous statement?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It takes more than a syllogistic structure to achieve coherence. A proposition such as "nothing cannot not be" is inherently incoherent, regardless of where it sits in an argument.

          • God Hates Faith

            By that logic, I could also say "something cannot not be" is also inherently incoherent.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I can't see why that would be incoherent (?) ... but look, we don't have to beat this to a pulp. If you think I'm just playing semantic games and not saying anything meaningful, then this is not going anywhere. We gave it a good go and perhaps understand each others position a bit better now. I'm happy to leave off here if you want the last word.

          • God Hates Faith

            I don't think you are playing games, I just think you don't fully understand your beliefs.

            I can't see why that would be incoherent (?)

            I can't see why my statement is incoherent. Once you define your terms, I can show how either both are coherent or neither are coherent. (Or that you are possibly assuming your own conclusion without investigating the idea).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, I have thought more about what you likely meant and I retract my claim that you had an inherently incoherent proposition. Nothing is a tricky word, and I think I misinterpreted your proposition to mean "there must necessarily be nothing" (which would be incoherent because nothing doesn't exist at all, let alone necessarily) rather than "the set of things that exists necessarily is empty". I imagine you intended the latter, and I accept that that is not incoherent.

            As far as why I believe in the reality of that which is logically necessary, this will be a fairly standard argument from contingency (which you can get for a dime a dozen), but in the interest of dialogue I'll put it in my own words:

            I start with the observation that some things exist that need not have existed. It seems to be that this can be said of everything in the universe: it exists, but there is no logical reason why it must exist. In other words, everything in the universe exists, but is contingent.

            And then from there I reflect on the nature on contingency itself. To say that something exists but might not have existed is to imply that there is some context in which that "on or off" state obtains. It seems to me to be the nature of contingency itself that any contingent reality must be embedded in a context. A physical analogy would be that the lights can be on in the room, or the lights can be off in the room, but it doesn't make sense to say that the lights are either on or off in the "no room".
            Now you could say that that enveloping context may itself be contingent, and that's fine. This is where it comes to disagreements about infinite regress. I'm not going to pretend to offer an airtight case in that regard. I will just say that it doesn't make sense to me to have an infinite "Russian doll" embedding of infinitely many contingent contexts. It seems to me that it has to bottom out in some root context, something that is not contingent but is logically necessary.

            I don't pretend that this is so airtight that any rational person must accept it, but I hope it makes clear why a rational person might find this to be a good argument for the reality of that which is logically necessary.

          • God Hates Faith

            GHF: "That which cannot not be" is defining something into existence. I could just as easily argue that "everything" or "nothing" cannot not be.

            Jim: rather than "the set of things that exists necessarily is empty". I imagine you intended the latter, and I accept that that is not incoherent.

            Exactly. Or it depending how you define the terms, it could mean "nothing" could never exist, or "there must necessarily always be something."

            As far as why I believe in the reality of that which is logically necessary

            The problem with that reasoning is that to get to the conclusion that something must be logical necessary, is failing to consider that what if something isn't logically necessary. Rather than have an infinite regress, there are a number of possible alternatives. For example:

            (1) Nothing can ever come from nothing, therefore there was never nothing. (But whatever has been, is simply changing form, and its not supernatural).
            (2) On the quantum level, causality is not necessarily linear, so an to say the must be an Uncaused thing, is not logically necessary. The entire concept of causality is based on Newtonian theories, and has not caught up to Einstein.
            (3) "Infinite" and "never" are based on a human conception of time which is not an inherent quality of the universe, any more than smell is an inherent quality. Time is simply how we perceive things, but is not inherent.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            is failing to consider that what if something isn't logically necessary.

            Whatever you may say about my argument, you can't say that I have failed to consider that possibility. My argument offers the reasons why I don't think that is correct. It would make no sense to provide such reasons in relation to something I hadn't even considered.

            (1) is irrelevant. I didn't rely on the fact that there ever was a state of "nothing". I only relied on the fact that there is no logical reason for "something".
            (2) is not correct. Our notions of cause and effect long preceded our Newton, and logically and mathematically they do not depend in any way on Newtonian mechanics.
            (3) time is completely irrelevant to my argument. I did not invoke the concept of time at all.

          • God Hates Faith

            (1) I only relied on the fact that there is no logical reason for "something"

            But you have not supported that assumption. As I stated, I could just as easily assume that "there must necessarily always be something."

            (2) Our notions of cause and effect long preceded our Newton

            But Einstein and quantum physics changed how we look at cause and effect and time.

            (3) time is completely irrelevant to my argument.

            Time is extremely relevant to your argument against an INFINITE regression.

          • Mark

            But Einstein and quantum physics changed how we look at cause and effect and time.

            http://www.quantum-thomist.co.uk/my-cgi/blog.cgi?first=44&last=44

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Let me revise then: there is no evident logical reason for “something”, unless you know of such a reason?

          • God Hates Faith

            There are lots of evident logical reasons.

            (1) "Nothing" has never been demonstrated (you cannot demonstrate there was "nothing" prior to the universe)
            (2) "Something" does exist.

            Also, you have not provided any evident logical reason for "nothing".

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Again, this has nothing to do with “prior”. The point is that in every moment there is no logical requirement that anything in the universe should exist (and if we are in a multiverse, no logical requirement that that should exist either). To me this is self-evident. I leave it to you to make your own plausibility assessments on that point, and if you disagree I would respect that. But I don’t want to keep repeating myself so I will most likely drop off here.

          • God Hates Faith

            By that line of reasoning, there is no logical requirement that "nothing" exist.

            I respect your decision if you chose to disengage, but I think we are having a good discussion.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree, nothing doesn’t “exist”, and it never did. Nothing and existence don’t mix. Nothing is a lack of existence, and I maintain that that lack is a logical possibility in every moment. Every natural law could poof out of existence before I finish writing this .... sentence. Ok we are stil l here, but I’m sure it wAs possible.

          • God Hates Faith

            Nothing is a lack of existence, and I maintain that that lack is a logical possibility in every moment.

            A lack of everything might be logically possible, but not logically necessary.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Agreed! A lack of everything surely isn't logically necessary: if it was we wouldn't be here! When you say that, "A lack of everything might be logically possible", that is exactly the premise that I'm trying to build on. To say that is to acknowledge the contingency of everything in the universe (and everything in the multiverse, if there is one).

          • God Hates Faith

            To say that is to acknowledge the contingency of everything in the universe (and everything in the multiverse, if there is one).

            Jim: there is no evident logical reason for “something”

            That premise only says it is possible that everything is contingent, not that it necessarily is so. If its not logically required, it is not logically self-evident that it everything is contingent.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sure, that's a reasonable distinction. I don't think logic compels you to believe that everything in the universe (and multiverse, if applicable) is contingent. I'm happy to just say that I have a very strong intuition that everything is contingent and leave it at that. All arguments have to start with premises, and that one seems secure enough to me. As I said earlier, if you judge otherwise, I respect that.

          • God Hates Faith

            I have a very strong intuition that invisible friends are also imaginary : )

          • Mark

            (2) On the quantum level, causality is not necessarily linear, so an to say the must be an Uncaused thing, is not logically necessary. The entire concept of causality is based on Newtonian theories, and has not caught up to Einstein.

            http://www.quantum-thomist.co.uk/my-cgi/blog.cgi?first=44&last=44

          • God Hates Faith

            This reminds me of the scene from Pulp Fiction...

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ-y3kDkF6w

        • Jim the Scott

          >So it is ok for you to butt into conversations with your nonsensical comments etc.......

          Well actually it is OK I try to be consistent. Carry on.

      • God Hates Faith

        On the theistic understanding, all healing (including healing via human medicine) is divine healing.

        I have never heard the definition of healing before (other than perhaps by a Christian Scientist).

        How did you arrive at this theological position?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          This is not some exotic idea. God is the root cause of everything in every moment, even if his activity is mediated through his creation. That's standard "Theology 101" in pretty much any theistic tradition.

          • David Nickol

            I see a real problem here. Maybe a Thomist should step in. As I understand it, there are different types of causes. In some sense, for example, God is the cause of a person developing cancer. But if that person then experiences a miraculous cure, God is the cause of that cure in a different sense than he was the cause of the disease in the first place. It seems to me you are trying to "demiraclize" miracles by saying since God is the cause of everything, what makes an event a miracle is how we interpret it.

          • God Hates Faith

            God is the cause of a person developing cancer.

            Yep. If God is seen as directly responsible for everything, he doesn't just get credit for "good" but also "evil".

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think this gets into the privation theory of evil. Insofar as cancer is a sort of "natural evil", privation theory would characterize it as a privation of a normal healthy physiology. And then from there you come to the idea that privations in themselves don't have causes. So the idea would be that God "causes the incomplete health" of the person, he is causing the health but not its incompleteness. In fact, the idea is that strictly speaking, no one and no thing causes an absence. (In the same sense that when you fill a glass halfway with water, you cause the water to be present, but you don't "cause the remaining half glass of emptiness").

            I don't claim that that whole argument is simple to make (and certainly not that it is emotionally compelling for someone suffering from cancer), but the broad makes sense.

            And please let me emphasize that I am not trying to demiracalize miracles. I do think that the medieval sense of the word has been lost, and I am trying to recover that sense as best I can with my limited understanding. But I think awesome and truly surprising things happen, and I think God intends that, and intends to convey something to us by that stuff. As in any communication, it is not simply a matter of "how we interpret it"; it is also a matter of how the "speaker" intended things to be interpreted. I wouldn't want to suggest otherwise.

          • God Hates Faith

            So the idea would be that God "causes the incomplete health" of the person, he is causing the health but not its incompleteness.

            That simply another way of repackaging the same question/problem...

            Whether a deity acts (miracle), or doesn't act (allows incompleteness) is the same essential question.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't agree that that's the same question, though I could agree that those are two related questions. Why God partially withholds his self-revelation and goodness and lets it unfold in time rather than spewing it all out at once is a mystery that I'm not claiming to unravel. But, even while that remains shrouded in mystery, nothing prevents us from saying that all that is good is caused by God.

          • God Hates Faith

            The questions are essentially the same (packaged different), because to comprehend either question you have to ask the same subset of questions--(1) WHY did this deity (or did not) do X; (2) How can we falsify that this deity did (or did not) do X (vs. it naturally occurring)?

            nothing prevents us from saying that all that is good is caused by God.

            Anyone can claim anything. I am not interested in tautological statements/conclusions. I am interested in the justification or epistemology.

          • Sample1

            I think this gets into the privation theory of evil. Insofar as cancer is a sort of "natural evil", privation theory would characterize it as a privation of a normal healthy physiology.

            This can be said to be a theory of health and disease. Let’s use that type of rationale for back pain. Back pain is characterized by privation theory; a privation for normal healthy physiology.

            Now, let’s look at evidence. Bipedalism left human physiology susceptible to back pain that is rare in quadrupeds. Here we have a theory-laden explanation that is supported by multiple disciplines (physics and biology).

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You might have found some objection to Young Earth Creationism, but this may not apply to theistic evolution.

            In theistic evolution, divine providence permits the development of creatures with ascending levels of perfection through secondary causality. This process entails both new levels of perfection, but also per accidens evils. For example, one could argue that the development of carnivorous hominins enabled them to have the greater sustained energies needed to outpace other primates that did not eat meat. But at the same time, this left us susceptible to things like heart disease and cancer, if not used carefully.

            As I point out in my book, Origin of the Human Species (212-213), this might have been part of a plan to create a world in which it is even possible to be an atheist (by trying to explain everything by evolutionary naturalism) so as to maximize human freedom -- so as, in turn, to make human virtue an even freer choice, which, in turn, permits the formation of the greatest saints.

            The only way we can be sure that the permission of evil has no valid purpose would be if we had the omniscience of God -- something only God possesses.

          • Sample1

            I understand that. I believe you believe that. I don’t think you are lying. I just think you’re wrong. Privation theory earns no natural explanatory persuasion for me. My world view so far does not require it to remain true to my conscience.

            this might have been part of a plan to create a world in which it is even possible to be an atheist (by trying to explain everything by evolutionary naturalism) so as to maximize human freedom -- so as, in turn, to make human virtue an even freer choice, which, in turn, permits the formation of the greatest saints.

            For one beholden to an ontology that purportedly discovers absolute certainties, this remark’s tentativeness is paradoxical at best.

            This all boils down to what we’ve understood from previous conversations. You are unable to demonstrate how a view of existence isn’t sufficiently explanatory and reasonable within naturalism’s epistemology without the promise that my afterlife is at a minimum in jeopardy of being unpleasant.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The tentativeness is there only as a caution against presumption to know God's plans.

            As for any untoward afterlife experiences, God is just and will never harshly judge any soul that does not freely choose to lead a morally evil life. You may have heard the insight that even an atheist may simply be rejecting a god that is not the true God, and that if he understood the actual nature of God, he would not reject him.

            If one truly loves and serves the good as best he understands it, he is actually serving and loving the God he thinks he rejects.

          • Sample1

            What comes to mind for you when a pagan claims that you are inwardly rejecting their gods and goddesses despite having an outward behavior that the pagan can respect?

            I’m guessing something along the lines of, “well that’s nice but who cares?” Or, “how can I, Dennis, inwardly reject a goddess I don’t even believe in?”

            I hope your God is just! But I’m guessing his continued existence might be an unpleasant one for those who decide to evaluate his actions and commands should the power roles be reversed after death!

            Come to think of it, and I’m serious now, I’m unaware of any god, least of all your God, who could be said to be that kind of entity for whom the created and the Creator could behave exactly the same way without any moral reservations in every epoch or their existences.

            Something to chew on. I might have had a novel thought. Ha.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am trying to understand that last larger paragraph, but honestly am not totally sure of your meaning. If you mean that creature and Creator are in the same moral situation, that would not be true -- since God is the giver of natural moral law and is not judged by it.

            But I am more concerned about your belief that God will not honor your sincere good will, regardless of whether you are aware of his existence. Yes, there is real danger that his existence after our deaths means he will judge our performance in this life. But I don't see how that guarantees that he will be harsh toward men of good will.

            The most relevant thing the Bible says about atheists is that dictum: "The fool says in his heart there is no God." But this first of all does not refer to the honest doubter or agnostic, since such do not deny God'e existence, but simply are not in a position to affirm it. The ontological error of saying there is no God is that he does exist, even if we do not know it, and hence, any judgment that he does not exist is objectively wrong, and hence, "foolish." The problem there is that to make such a false conclusion one must exercise more than the intellect: the will must make the leap to a false conclusion, since surely valid logic could not arrive at a false conclusion.

            But what of the person who rejects a false conception of God? Who goes beyond mere doubt to affirmative rejection of that God? Since it is not the true God he is rejecting, his misconception of God might be the cause of his conclusion, which, since it involves a false God, is not in itself wrong in denying that false God's existence.

            I realize there is plenty of complexity here, but would not rule out eventual salvation even for the sincere atheist -- provided his sincerity exceeds his atheism!

          • Sample1

            If you mean that creature and Creator are in the same moral situation, that would not be true -- since God is the giver of natural moral law and is not judged by it.

            Was a hypothetical. Yet a hypothetical that if it WAS true would not be objectionable. Think about it. If both the created and Creator could employ the same moral/behavioral method and means throughout time there would be no need for special pleading regarding a Creator’s position.

            Let me say it a different way. You are essentially supporting a “Do as I say, Not as I do” type of theology/apologetic. My point is it seems rather odd that it can’t be Do as I say AND do as I do. That’s impossible for a moral person. And yet IF we could do that, have the created and the Creator in behavioral harmony, I strongly doubt you’d object but rather see the current apologetic odd.

            But this is explainable in naturalism. Bronze Age people existed in societies that often did do precisely as Yahweh did (slavery, stoning children for bringing dishonor to parents and a trillion other examples. In fact, they were even disciplined by Yahweh for not being immoral enough!

            We know better now. Yes we do. God is all the famous adjective given to him by Dawkins. But because his so-called inspired words have largely been transmogrified over the centuries into poetry rather than prose, it’s become easy-to-vary such scriptures into whatever moral relativism is needed for the comfort of current memberships for any given century.

            The history of biblical morality is a paragon example of situational ethics and moral relativism. Something, ironically, atheists are derogatorily accused of!

            Mike

          • God Hates Faith

            But because his so-called inspired words have largely been transmogrified over the centuries into poetry rather than prose, it’s become easy-to-vary such scriptures into whatever moral relativism is needed for the comfort of current memberships for any given century.

            The history of biblical morality is a paragon example of situational ethics and moral relativism. Something, ironically, atheists are derogatorily accused of!

            Well said!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not a scripture scholar, but I recognize your attack on the morality of God in the Old Testament as one that has often been made by atheists -- old and new.

            It is not without answer from the standpoint of those who do know Scripture and do not compromise the goodness and mercy of God. Just one example would perhaps be here: http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/morality-and-the-old-testament-law-seven-quick-points/

            "It’s a blessing this god doesn’t exist."

            Well, I don't know about the god you paint from your own reading of Scripture, but the God of classical theism does exist and if you understood the proofs for his existence, you would realize that he does.

            Moreover, if you understood the proofs for God's existence, you would realize that the goodness found in creatures demands that he possess goodness without measure in order to be the Infinite Cause of the goodness found in creatures.

            I recognize that we don't agree on these matters.

            Still, if you start with the arguments that lead up to God's existence and his nature, it becomes evident that, whatever we find in Scripture cannot contradict what we know from reason about the divine goodness. So, yes, it becomes a matter of whether we can read Scripture in a legitimate way that comports with the metaphysically demonstrable goodness of God.

            Of course, we must also recall that God is not the subject of natural moral law, but its Maker. This means that in certain respects, he is not bound to the law as we are. For instance, while we are not allowed to kill the innocent, the very nature of creating mortal beings, human beings, is such that they are subject to death by the very composition of their bodies and souls.

            Moreover, as divine life giver, God has the perfect right to end human life when he so chooses (inevitably after a certain length of time for mortals anyway), and that right can be delegated to his ministers. That may seem cruel to us, but we also have to remember that this life is only a preparation for eternal life where good and evil is rewarded and punished. So, to abort one's perspective to merely earthly values and existence is to pervert its context and true nature. The prospect of eternal life must condition our understanding of all that takes place in mortal life.

            Yes, this is a totally different perspective from that of naturalism. But, one final point: Naturalism has no claim to a moral perspective, since it has no basis for morality. Yes, it may make lofty claims about what is right or wrong, usually based on a purely utilitarian ethical method. But ultimately, since it has no God to whom we humans are responsible, it becomes the individual's choice as to which "ethical system" he chooses to give his allegiance. He is responsible to no one but himself, which equates to having his moral actions answerable to no one and nothing.

            So, I do not see naturalism as escaping the charge of moral relativism, since every moral act is ultimately valued relative to the person choosing to accept it as good or evil.

            In theistic ethics, the individual is responsible to a transcendent God against whom there is no appeal and whose goodness and justice is as absolute as his nature. Instead of the human being setting his own standard of morality -- relative to everyone else's, God provides an absolute standard based on his own goodness and the goodness of his plan of creation.

          • Sample1

            God provides an absolute standard based on his own goodness and the goodness of his plan of creation.

            You say I don’t understand the proofs. I say if you understood philosophy of science you’d understand that any absolute standard automatically becomes the least reliable so-called standard. Provisionality is moral and commensurate with reality. Absolutes are not moral constructions. They actually endanger life and liberty more reliably than any other mechanism of behavioral control, they are without peer the worst philosophical moral claim ever devised.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear you are turning the living God into a draconian, rigid machine -- rather than pure love which seeks to maximize all being to the fullest, even though some of this is done in ways we humans cannot understand because our intellects are limited. We think of the term, "absolute," in the sense of some absolute dictator whose will is law, but whose intention is corrupt. The truth is that a benign king is the best form of ruler -- one capable of prudentially adapting to the needs of each of his subjects. The reason we don't like that notion is because we don't trust the character of most kings. But God is a King with perfect character, even if you don't recognize that fact.

            I know you will say that this is an easy to vary explanation, but, if the proofs are rigorous and the conclusions are rigorous, then they necessarily speak the truth about God.

            Easy to vary and hard to vary is a good criterion for evaluating the rigor of scientific theories, but every metaphysical proof is impossible to vary if the logic is done correctly.

          • Sample1

            False. We use hard-to-vary explanations to dispatch weak philosophies too. It’s not only about science. Science and philosophy go together. It is naturalism, not Fides et Ratio that is the better format for explaining the relationship.

            Philosophy provides the criterion that our bipedal species finds cognitively and physically valuable while science is the sub-discipline within reason that creates knowledge in harmony with the philosophy.

            This may sound shocking but I honestly think you have only a rudimentary understanding of what knowledge actually is. That’s ok. I did too for decades, despite thinking otherwise! There is a colloquial usage of that word and an academic usage. Too many ignore the latter or refuse to be exposed to philosophies that threaten sunk cost investments. You owe it to your species, figuratively if you permit me, to make the most of your brain and understand that what most challenges your worldview. Perhaps that is why you do engage in the comments and if so I commend you. Why do you think many atheists used to be here? Because many have a character trait to constantly challenge their positions.

            Consider so many who die tragically in their youthful prime who no longer have access to wonder deeply, to challenge fiercely, to discover truth. You’re in the golden years of your life. Give back in figurative solidarity to those youth who can no longer do what you do. Exercise your reason for them and by doing so make them smile if only they could do so. But they cannot. So instead make the living around you smile by thinking for them and just perhaps, perhaps, that new you will effect promising change that societally, if not locally, brings knowledge to a fallible species. And by doing so, when the time comes you will have the reward of knowing you did your best. For them but also for you.

            Respectfully,
            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I do appreciate what I see here as an eloquent apologia pro vita sua for your naturalistic worldview.

            And I can see how those who have transitioned from one worldview to the other views with suspicion what they think to be the somewhat naive life experience of those who have not so transitioned. Never having shared your atheistic perspective, I cannot fully put myself in your shoes as to exactly how you made the transition you did. Still, I know yours is not the only rational journey from one side to another, since I think of Dr. Feser who began as a Catholic, transitioned to atheistic naturalism, and then back, through Thomism, to his original roots, but with new intellectual justifications.

            For myself, I can only tell you that about the time I entered grad school, while I was a practicing Catholic and knew the formal structure of Thomism, for some time I could not see why the positivistic explanation of reality was not just as coherent -- at least philosophically.

            It has taken me a life time of reflection and discovery to find a number of inflection points that convince me of the intellectual inadequacies of your worldview. Among these is (1) the inability to explain the substantial unity of beings above the atomic level, (2) the inability to explain the simplicity of perception which I have explained in an OP here, (3) the inability to explain the radical distinction between the universal concept and the particular image, (4) the inability to empirically verify the methodological presuppositions of the scientific method (for example, extramental realism), (5) the, what I consider the impossible to vary, proofs for the spirituality of the human soul and God's existence, and (6) something I pointed out to you recently without response from you, namely, the need for reality (as the basis for metaphysics) to comport with the rules of rationality in order for reason itself to be of any value.

            I did not start out my teaching career understanding all these points. I dare say that when I left the U. of Notre Dame, my background was the structural grasp of Thomistic philosophy at the undergraduate level, combined with exposure to most other modern philosophies at the Notre Dame philosophy grad school, which, though viewed by most to be a Catholic school, was in fact already offering the "zoo syndrome," like Noah's Ark, two of every variety of philosophy -- from Kantian, to phenomenology, to analytic, to existentialism, etc.!

            So, what I got was a good taste of most all the modern philosophies, including naturalism, combined with a grasp of the format of Thomism (knowing what went where), but without really knowing the key points where A-T thought trumped the alternatives.

            Over half a century later, I have had the chance to see some of the insights and arguments I mentioned above. I fault no one for not knowing them, since it literally has taken me a lifetime to encounter, step by step, the key points I cite -- mostly by chance encounter with others who already knew them.

            These are some of the intellectual reasons why, although I am impressed by the defense of naturalism you just presented, I am forced to hold a form of philosophical realism that includes strictly immaterial entities -- a worldview which I do not think is as naive as you suggest.

          • Ficino

            The truth is that a benign king is the best form of ruler -- one capable of prudentially adapting to the needs of each of his subjects.

            No it isn't, not unless you imagine said king has superhuman virtues. A king is just one guy. The whole point of the dialogue in Herodotus, where absolute monarchy is praised as yielding a system guided "by a single mind", as though that's the best thing, is the defeat of Xerxes by the Athenian democracy (w/ help from Sparta).

            In Aristotle the best form in our world, where the absolute just man is an class without members, is a sort of middle-class democracy he calls "constitution" in a strict sense. In it you get many people's knowledge and perspectives.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But God DOES have "superhuman virtues."

          • Ficino

            You asserted it as a general truth that

            a benign king is the best form of ruler

            I gave a reason to reject this assertion. Its truth as a general proposition is not established by arguing that there exists one benign king, sc. God. You are only establishing that God is the best ruler. And you'll be equivocating on "benign." A human king, however "benign" under the usual sense of that word, does not possess superhuman virtues.

            I understand that you are arguing that God is not such as atheists and others, who read about the character Yahweh in the Bible (or even figures in parables in the NT), conclude via their private judgment that He is. I was really reacting to the thesis that a benign king in general is the best form of ruler, which you asserted as "the truth".

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I concede that a mere human king could intend to be "benign," but a total failure.

            My defense has to be what I had in mind with God being omnipotent, omniscient, and all good. I was not particularly worried about earthly kings.

            You may properly credit your point. My only concern is to defend the honor of this one unique King.

          • Ficino

            My only concern is to defend the honor of this one unique King.

            Yes, it's clear that was your overall aim. I only brought up the issue because some conservative Catholics exhibit what I might call a wistful yen for monarchy, while others are out-and-out monarchists. A friend of mine once worked as a priest in "trady" circles in France. Some were literal monarchists, some yearned for the days of Vichy. My friend was given a Marshall Petain cigarette lighter by a seminarian.

            I am not imputing monarchism vel sim. to you -- unless in fact it is your view. In a political climate in which political authoritarianism seems to be flexing its muscles, I think it important to look at the positives in forms of democracy. One of them is the ideal that all the citizens pooling their perspectives and particular pieces of knowledge have access to more wisdom collectively than any single ruler can have, even a benign one.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Following that inconvenient incident in that Garden long ago, prudence requires that we no longer trust any single human ruler. That is how we came up this this Republic.

          • God Hates Faith

            I think this reply was intended for Jim.

          • Sample1

            Nope, wanted to put it out there without opening another line of conversation I already have going with him. A point of solidarity with you was the intent.

            Mike

          • God Hates Faith

            Thanks!

          • Rob Abney

            But quadrupeds do have back pain also, their privation is of the rational ability to perceive pain and to communicate.

          • Sample1

            This simply won’t do if meant to illicit a meaningful reply from me other than to say I think you owe me a steel-man response of my position. Then I will have the confidence to open a longer discussion.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            First let me ask you what statistics are you using to affirm your position that humans have more back pain than quadrupeds?

          • Sample1

            Nope. Not having this conversation with you. And in this case I really don’t care if guy don’t believe me.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Ok, although you’re usually friendlier.
            I think your argument fails because the premises are not true. Humans with low back pain have many contributors to their pain, many of which are self inflicted such as obesity, diabetes, and lifestyle choices. Humans also have the capacity to recall days of pain and to look ahead and fear a future of pain. Whereas in the mind of a quadruped he has pain at this instance only.
            This failed argument doesn’t discount evolution, it just says your explanation is easy to vary.

          • Sample1

            Nothing you said remotely concerns me with what I wrote. Not friendly or unfriendly. Just matter-of-fact being truthful.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I was simply continuing with dialogue, I am concerned when you embrace a theory as the truth without good explanation since it goes against your usual use of reasoning.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for your concern. We haven’t had a discussion where I consider, not should you, myself on a path against my usual reasoning. But you’re free to hold that opinion.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Back pain is a measurable and testable and quantifiable conduction of nocioception receptors to your brain not a privation of nocioception. Whatever analogy you're drawing up is corrupt.

          • Sample1

            First of all, and I’ll bet you agree, you are unable to absolutely demonstrate that privation theory excludes a category like receptors. So this is a non sequitor reply.

            Secondly, privation theory was attached, not by me, to a theory of health and disease.

            Back pain, a state of non optimal health in humans, has a Darwinian explanation. I’d argue the most compelling natural explanation. Hominids selected for bipedalism were rewarded with many environmental successes in deep time but uprightness exerts physical forces on the spine that are unique to vertical vertebrae. It’s why a majority of human beings experience and remain susceptible to back pain.

            Evolution, generally, has no mechanism to “correct” what we may find maladaptive so long as the adaptation doesn’t drastically interfere with reaching reproductive age. Basic antagonist pleiotropy theory.

            There is no evidence, nor is there good conjecture to assume any, that quadrupeds experience the physical forces that vertical spines are negatively affected by.

            Obviously there are some domesticated animals like dachshunds who do develop back pain but that is artificial selection not natural selection. It is also a different etiology (age-related osteoarthritis rather than biped vulnerabilities from vertical spines). Moreover, quadruped and bipedal spinal pain as a result of spondylosis and then the subsequent bone spurs leads to bridging between vertebrae is discomforting but unlike in humans, the discomfort (subjective with plausibility) and immobility (objective with evidence) lessens when the bridges are complete in quadrupeds but typically not in bipeds.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Nocioception is not an inherent evil. It isn't maladaptive. Osteophytosis as you explain is not inherently evil. Cancer seems inherently evil, which was Jim's example ( and plausibly can bring about a greater good.) Cancer is essentially a cell that suffers a mutation your body cannot recognize as nonself.

          • Sample1

            I do not know the philosophical criterion by which you are claiming something to be inherently evil or not.

            Evil is also not a word I use for health and disease subjects.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Feeling pain when you touch fire is good. Bony limitation of range of motion of an unstable joint is good. I cannot think of a positive physiological sense of cancer. It seems to be evil meaning I haven't pondered it in depth philosophically.

            FWIW, mostly as an interesting related side note, identifying cancer as an external evil improves the cancer victim's outcomes.

          • Sample1

            FWIW, mostly as an interesting related side note, identifying cancer as an external evil improves the cancer victim's outcomes.

            Ok. Let’s grant this. What is the explanation?

            Mike

          • Mark

            Obvious... a magic rock they hold with their opposable thumbs. :)

            I'm confident any explanation on intent of the mind will be far from hard to vary. It was a side note, but I'm open and curious about the point you want to make Mike.

          • Sample1

            There’s a lot to discuss with what you’ve written. But instead I’ll simply answer your question. My only point was to contrast the disease privation theory as an explanation with a natural explanation for disease via evolution.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Thanks for the reply Mike. Going back to my original point and your response; I'm confident that nocioception/pain reception is not a poor example for an analogy with a privation theory of health. Pain per se is not evil. It should seem obvious evolution-wise pain serves a higher and good purpose than what a chronic back pain sufferer would allege. Therefore not all things someone asserts is a disease should be considered a privation of good or health in the philosophical sense. Dis-ease by definition simply means a lack of ease. That could be painful bleeding gums after brushing your teeth. I'm confident evolution is non-explanatory for the symptom of the gums. Symptoms don't equate to etiology and I've never seen evolution listed as a medical etiology.

            David brought in the idea different causes. I don't think it follows as David hints, philosophically, the etiology of a lack of optimum health is also God. In my opinion he is falsely equivocating First Cause and all (known and unknown) etiologies. It does follow God allows a privation of health that He has the power to erase if He chooses to intervene.

            I think I get you point you are trying to make about evolution, broadly speaking, however, it's explanatory power for dis-ease, IMO, is quite limited. Maybe I'm missing something though.

          • Sample1

            Darwinian Medicine, originally codified under exactly that descriptor in the 1990s by Williams and Nesse, is a growing discipline within evolution academia and is taught in a few medical schools (MD). But, as I said, med school is already heavily standardized with little room to add more theory. But it’s a new field and slowly it’s catching on. Humans are biological organisms, and as we all know, or should, nothing in biology makes sense without evolution. Dawkins has helped, being a younger colleague of the late Williams who was mainly responsible for the origin of the connection of evolution with medicine.

            Nesse is the MD of the pair, G.C Williams the once-in-a-century eminent biologist (a little bias with that, but he did earn the Nobel in Biology (Crafoord Prize).

            Contrary to your opinion, evolution is precisely the deepest and broadest factual explanation for disease currently known to science. Understanding how the body, through deep time evolution, explains many disease processes being the result of antagonist pleiotropy and macro vulnerabilities is firmly established. There are some hands on practical applications for medicine but also, importantly, theory that makes predictions, from antibiotic microbial resistance in medicine, to understanding morning sickness, fever, and even psychological challenges like plausible OCD origins and to yes, bipedal back pain. Too many to list.

            But as I said, doctors already have programs so full of subjects, it’s been slow to incorporate even more text books for them, they who already experience a fire hydrant in the mouth of knowledge as it is. But it’s beginning.

            Maybe I’ll find the interest to unpack from your posts what it would take to flesh this out. But good replies are those that encourage the reader to explore more. I hope I’ve done that.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Thank you Mike. More info than I dare respond to without further reading. Yes you absolutely piqued my interests. I wholeheartedly agree that evolution is a premise to understanding biology.

            I'm afraid in the end, no matter how fascinating the science, Im not sure the dichotomy you propose I'd agree to philosophically: that seemed evolution versus the POE/classical theism. I'd have to read further to see exactly what Neese and Williams are claiming for explanatory value so please don't take that as a a priori dismissal.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just read this comment and want to say honestly that I am most impressed with the detail of your understanding of the scientific mind and the reality of evolutionary concepts in this and other fields.

            My only qualification of that sincere complement is to say that most, if not all, of what you so well describe here falls under what some of us would call micro evolution. This is not alien to my own philosophical openness to what is a form of theistic evolution.

            For purely philosophical reasons, I do not embrace macro evolution in the form of transformism from one philosophical natural species to a new and more perfect one. See here: https://www.godandscience.org/evolution/philosophy_darwinian_evolution.pdf

            That said, I want to underline that I do not think that my philosophical reservations in any way detract from your own fine observations about the impact of evolutionary explanations on the discipline of medicine.

          • Sample1

            My only quibble (not touching the micro/macro subject!) is that from my perspective you seem to make consistency per se, a virtue on a scale where good explanation is subordinate to it.

            Or if not, I think I can see a logical pathway in your philosophy/theology to that end.

            If that’s a plausibility or indeed your reality, it’s inconsistent with my worldview in which good explanation and consistency are philosophically marching side by side rather than one being a leader. Consistency seems to be your leader.

            Am I completely mistaken or somewhat in the ballpark? I suspect our older conversation involving the Thomist, Jacques Maritain, whose faith ultimately supersedes reason position appeared to have merit for you as well.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Not sure if I am properly responding to your point, but faith cannot really supercede reason in Catholic thought, since we have those pesky preambula fidei (preambles to faith) to deal with. If we have no natural knowledge, for example, that God is not a liar, we could believe that he wrote the Bible by his own hand and yet still not know if it is trustworthy! :)

            If it addresses your point, I guess I would say that the only properly consistent explanation must be the only really good one -- while the only good one must be consistent.

            For example, any valid proof for God must be both a consistent and a good explanation of whatever starting data one begins with.

          • David Nickol

            Reading back, David brought in the idea different causes. I don't think it follows as David hints, philosophically, the etiology of a lack of optimum health is also God.

            Most of your discussion with Mike is way over my head, but I must jump in here to correct your misinterpretation of my comment to Jim (hillclimber), who said:

            The relevant contrast is between natural and supernatural (or equivalently between ordinary and extraordinary), not between divine and human. On the theistic understanding, all healing (including healing via human medicine) is divine healing.

            In a subsequent message, he said:

            God is the root cause of everything in every moment, even if his activity is mediated through his creation. That's standard "Theology 101" in pretty much any theistic tradition.

            I responded as follows:

            I see a real problem here. Maybe a Thomist should step in. As I understand it, there are different types of causes. In some sense, for example, God is the cause of a person developing cancer. But if that person then experiences a miraculous cure, God is the cause of that cure in a different sense than he was the cause of the disease in the first place.

            If I was going to stray from orthodoxy, I would not have said, "Maybe a Thomist should step in." If you don't differentiate between kinds of divine causes, you get into serious trouble. If it is divine healing when the penicillin shot makes your infection go away, it is divine mercy killing when the deliberate overdose of morphine permanently ends your suffering. Just because God is the first cause, or ultimate cause, or whatever, does not mean that everything that happens can be called "divine." As I said, we need a Thomist, but it is clear to me that the Catholic view is not that a "natural" healing (by, say, antibiotics) is "divine" in the same sense as a miraculous healing.

            Jim (hillclimber) seems to object to differentiating between natural and supernatural. I think he is the one straying from "Strange Notions" orthodoxy. The whole point of the OP (which has problems too numerous to go into) seems to me to require a distinction between natural and supernatural, or between God as in some remote sense being the cause of everything and God being the direct cause of miracles.

            While I am typing, I will throw in that health is actually very difficult to define, and the idea that health is the absence of disease seems problematic. I don't know how one can look at viral pneumonia as the absence of something. It is the presence of something—a living (or quasi-living) virus invading lung tissue for its own survival to the detriment of the host.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I have some disagreements with your summary on the natural / supernatural thing, but I've had my monthly dose of talking about that stuff, so I will leave that alone.

            With regard to the privation stuff: the idea would be, not that health is the absence of disease, but that all disease can be conceived of as an absence of health. In the case of viral pneumonia, it is not the presence of the virus per se that makes it a disease, but the fact that it leads to an absence of normal respiratory function.

          • Mark

            Thanks for the clarification David.

          • David Nickol

            I am not sure we have reached agreement, even though I am arguing the Catholic position (I think). In some sense, God is the cause of everything that happens. But in the case of a healing by administering of penicillin, God is not the cause in the same way as he is in a miraculous healing by an instantaneous disappearance of all traces of a bacterial infection. A miracle is thought to be a direct intervention by God.

            It would be misleading to call everything "divine" in the same sense just because God is the ultimate cause of everything. Given a devout doctor who administers penicillin because he believes God has called him to be a healer does not make his actions divine in the same sense as miracles are divine. In cases where the penicillin fails to cure the infection and the patient dies, you wouldn't call it a divine failure!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree that we have to acknowledge a distinction in some sense. I have tried to argue that the sense of the distinction should be similar to what we mean when we say that a bass player takes a solo in a musical performance. At that point the bass player is trying to say something to the audience more directly, as opposed to just providing the backbone structure of the music as he or she usually might. I'm trying to argue that one shouldn't imagine that the bass player wasn't present for, or essential to, the rest of the song, as if he or she swooped in from another realm to "interrupt". A solo is not an "interruption", at least not in the violent sense of interruption. It goes along with and elevates what is already present in the rest of the song. I am fairly confident that this is not just my own innovation, and that what I am proposing here is very much in continuity with the Biblical sense of divine action as well as medieval scholastic thinking on the distinction between natural and supernatural.

          • Mark

            Thanks for the response David. I don't think we are far apart as I was confused by your first post and allowed your clarification to mostly stand. When disease/disorder would go away according to the privation of health theory, it ceases to exist. Where I see you see the trouble is that not all "disease" might constitute a privation of Good health. I won't disagree with that because medical use of the word disease is not per se synonymous with a philosophical use of the word.
            If I read you correctly, you agree what theists attribute the ceasing of the privation of (Good) health would have an ultimate cause in God. In a case of a miracle God is the proximate cause. Here's where we differ: Theist are claiming God is ultimate cause of everything Good. If God allows privation of health or even death of the body it is to bring about a greater good. So no I wouldn't call it a divine failure. If a doctor is the proximal cause of the ceasing of a privation of good health the doctor is the proximate cause and God is the ultimate cause. If the same doctor wills the proximal cause of the unnatural death of the body of another person that is not the Will of God, so God is not the ultimate cause. If that doctor wants to call the sin a "divine" mercy killing that is a misuse of divine in both the proximal and ultimate cause senses.

          • Sample1

            In cases where the penicillin fails to cure the infection and the patient dies, you wouldn't call it a divine failure!

            That’s because a logical tautology exists: God cannot be linked with failure. But it’s not objectionable among theists to say patients who die have done so within the purview of God’s will; either directly (the Flood, etc.), indirectly (consequences of divine rules) or as a hybridization such as Jesus matching his will with the will of God resulting in crucifixion.

            What more should be interested in, if knowledge is valued, is the methodology used to explain those examples and whether those explanations are easy or hard-to-vary.

            History shows that many of the older explanations from theologians (when disagreements could mean death or “house arrest”) have varied away from the literal. We have a moment in time when the morphing began: the Enlightenment. Jesus’s ancestors, Jesus himself, and for centuries there after, people believed the flood literally happened because of, for instance, evidence of sea shells being dug out of the alpine. Hard-to-vary explanations involving science via geology have displaced such claims to such an extent, theologians have been required to place many previously held literal understandings into the category of poetry and broader abstract moral lessons.

            They have that prerogative and it’s an attractive evolution of thought for many believers today, even people reading along here. But I don’t think they realize what that means. It means they find an easy-to-vary method of explanation satisfactory as long as the explanations subsist in the realm of abstraction, leaving science to explain the physical. That sounds conciliatory but it’s a Marie Antoinette ruse. Why? Because their explanations claim divine tangibility upon the physical via miracles. That’s cake. Easy-to-vary explanations have a zip code but believers want their explanations mailed to the wrong address, one already occupied by a grumpy though reasonable land lord who is, you guessed it, hard-to-vary.

            Mike

          • Mark

            They have that prerogative and it’s an attractive evolution of thought for many believers today, even people reading along here. But I don’t think they realize what that means. It means they find an easy-to-vary method of explanation satisfactory as long as the explanations subsist in the realm of abstraction....

            It's somewhat funny you bring this up today. Spent part of the weekend learing about eolutionary medicine (EM). Soooooo... speaking of easy-to-vary explanations explanations. Here are the six natural selection "whys" Nesse uses to explain why we are vulnerable to disease/disorder with EM.

            Selection is slow:
            1. Mismatch with the modern environment with historical
            2. Co-evolution of pathogens

            Selection is limited:
            3. Constraints on what selection can do/vulnerability
            4. Trade-offs

            Selection only shapes certain things:
            5. Selection maximizes reproduction, not health
            6. Defenses such as pain and fever are useful despite causing suffering

            Nothing empirical there. Nothing quatitative or qualitative falsifiable. Highly respected professionals in the medical field call EM "storytelling" due it's inability to give practical purpose/ clinical application versus more plausible, understandable, predictable, empirically verifiable, hard-to-vary proximal explanations that already exist for most clinical applications. EM is forcing doctors to learn storytelling rather than relying on the (hard-to-vary) proximal explanations and in some stange instances asks the clinicians to throw out existing models of disease and disorder. And I'll steel man EM: EM has been practical and clinically useful in phylogenic methods which give help with infection sourcing and understanding antibiotic resistance. But really that's evolution we can see, test, and make mathematical models for on a microbial scale.

            This isn't a stawman either: According to Thornhill, who you know is a big name in EM, the cause of rape is a special genetic adaptation and a remnant of the Pleistocene epoch. And here us religious Catholic fanatics who "subsist in the abstract" view it as an objectively evil selfish act against Goodness.

            https://www.newsweek.com/can-we-blame-our-bad-behavior-stone-age-genes-80349

            Sorry Mike, what's easy-to-vary for the goose.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That last line of the Begley Newsweek article was this:

            "Evolution indeed sculpted the human brain. But it worked in malleable plastic, not stone, bequeathing us flexible minds that can take stock of the world and adapt to it."

            Sounds a lot like the function of the intellect to me.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Mike -

            Sorry, your initial comment to me on this topic did not show up in my notifications (and still isn't there?) so I'm just seeing this now.

            Why would you contrast privation theories with evolutionary etiologies in the first place. They are not competing theories. Privation theory provides a conceptual framework for thinking about what a disease is in the first place, while etiologies attempt to explain how diseases came to be. It's two totally separate enterprises.

            My Mac dictionary app defines disease as: "a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury". A dis-order is an absence of particular order, which is a privation. I don't think that's controversial, nor does it stand in any sort of tension with evolutionary explanations.

          • Sample1

            If privation theory (PT) is a framework for, as you say, “what a disease is in the first place” then it is a competing theory with Darwinian medicine (DM). I’ll explain.

            If I understand you correctly you’re contrasting, as you say, “how diseases came to be,” with “what a disease is.” The former being your take on DM and the latter your take on PT.

            Here is the reason why they are competing theories. Dm is not about the how of disease, it has been invented and implemented by Williams and Nesse to be the why of disease. PT is theology/philosophy and DM is philosophy (of biology). They are two methods attempting to answer the why questions of physical phenomena.

            Medicine without DM is about the how. Etiology Greek for “giving a reason for.” And etiology cannot be ignored when explaining disease in medicine. What Williams and Nesse did was add why’s to the how’s of etiology. And by doing that, their new approach (they are the founders of this novel view) demonstrate why diseases should no longer be thought as being evolutionary selected for but rather evolution creates organisms that are susceptible to, let’s call it, malfunctioning. Nobody before them attempted or at least succeeded, in discovering this heretofore missed nuance in medicine.

            Your definitions are accurate colloquially and you are not to be faulted for posting them. It’s precisely the goal, however, of Williams and Nesse to make them known as being incomplete and ultimately obsolete.

            DM is a new discipline, only less than a generation since the first papers/book. Medical colleges, valuable and indispensable to society as they are, nevertheless are comparatively older institutions with heavy bureaucracies having teaching theories that are, somewhat understandably, difficult to infiltrate and update. But it is beginning to happen. Williams’ and Nesse’s first goal was to have a single chapter in medical texts occurring at the end of each chapter to add the why for those etiologies having DM explanations. Some curricula are finally doing this.

            Nesse is a psychiatrist by training and still alive. I was able to meet him at Williams’ funeral (it was a celebration of life a month after his death actually). One way DM has helped him to help his patients was understanding the DM why as to obsessive control disorder (OCD). DM offers an explanation in how evolution leaves our brains susceptible to OCD. I’ll leave a link to one paper inspired by a DM approach called the Smoke Detector Principle (SDP) below, it’s a short abstract that will just take up space here. The point with DM and OCD is having a patient, for example, who doesn’t understand why she must lock her door when leaving the house only to walk back from the car and check the door multiple times before she can drive away. This is a cause of stress for people and there are myriads of ways OCD causes stress which ranges in severity from from trivial to debilitating. When Nesse explained the SDT principle to his patient, her stress immediately lessened. While not a cure, it was an answer that before DM was absent in medical practice. And that answer has helped his patient. That’s a success due to this new medicine of why rather than just how (brain receptors, neurotransmitters, etc., the how’s). The how’s had limited effect for that patient.

            It’s been a couple decades now and papers are flying off the shelf in this new field. Papers about the DM of why and papers which are crucially now providing ideas for better drugs to move toward better management of OCD and other psychological hiccups. The same is occurring in non-psychiatric medical fields including new understandings for, in principle if not yet practice due to current technological limits, any medical issue of biological origin. And because we are biological organisms, that’s all of them. We only lack knowledge, the understanding of a good explanation from a bad one is the tool that provides such knowledge.

            Smoke Detector Principle: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/11411177/

            Mike
            Thanks for the reply. I hope Disqus isn’t showing signs of being “sick” again. Should Disqus one day become an AGI (artificial general intelligence) not likely! future technicians will be employing the yet to be invented medical skills for AGI. ;-)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Can I ask this first: setting aside what Williams and Nesse say about the why of disease, what do they say about the what of disease. In other words, what do they say that a disease is, in general terms?

          • Sample1

            Excellent question. Perhaps it was prompted by you inferring from the words incomplete and obsolete that I fundamentally had a problem with how that word is generally understood? If so, well done. If not, excellent perceptivity by you.

            I was going to offer what you seek but don’t have the book near me and didn’t want to get it wrong. Also didn’t want to write a book length post. These topics lead to innumerable tangents. Despite the limitations of combox discussions they can force one to be a better communicator with fewer words. One of the reasons I enjoy using them because something a literature prof told me in college had stuck with me: specificity! specificity! specificity!

            From memory then. When Willams was first thinking about DM in the 1980s (and Nesse) they hit many roadblocks coming up with a good logic. They were communicating by mailing each other ideas at the time. Both had other full time jobs (Williams was the chief editor of The Quarterly Review of Biology while also teaching class at Stony Brook University in NY). An interesting choice for his tenure, to pick a young university rather than accepting professorships from Oxford or Princeton, but that’s another story.

            They exchanged ideas for some time but they kept failing because they focused on why disease is selected for (cancer, arthritis, etc.) in evolution. Their eureka! moment came when it they realized it wasn’t about disease per se, but why the process of evolution leaves organisms susceptible to “disease” or whatever word you want to use. The philosophical shift was not focusing on the human term “disease,” which is technically subjective because it relates to another subjective subject: wellbeing. The focus changed to evolution of human bodies. And then they were off to the races.

            Disease is only a word. It’s a description that has a usage that “works” for everyday speech. It’s a historical artifact in language development. But disease the word is, gasp!, a privation in DM, it’s the absence of health. In other words it’s an abstraction. That’s exactly why I disagree: PT and DM are in the same enterprise.

            But hold your horses. DM, in my view, not only does what PT philosophically does (exposes the abstraction) it also explains the why of those circumstances.

            As such, how is it not a superior point of view? A view that is supported not only by sound philosophy but also scientific evidence. A two-fer that theological PT lacks.

            Harmony in philosophy and science: Darwinian medicine.

            I think I got it mostly right. Hope that helps.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Disease is only a word.

            It's a very important and meaningful word. Doctors don't just make arbitrary adjustments to people's physiology. They cure diseases, or at least they try to.

            If Williams and Nesse found a productive line of inquiry by prescinding from the concept of disease, then that's great, but any theories that result from that line of inquiry would necessarily be silent on the question of what a disease is. As such, I don't see how those theories could have any bearing on the PT idea that disease is a privation of health.

            By way of analogy: physicists prescind from the concept of life. That turns out to be a very helpful methodological move, but they don't then come back and claim that there is no such thing as life just because their methodology prescinds from that consideration. Or: molecular biologists prescind from the concept of intent, and that also turns out to be a very helpful methodological move, but they don't then come back and claim that there is no such thing as intent. And so forth.

          • Sample1

            It's a very important and meaningful word.

            Well Jim, you may want to ask more questions before jumping to the implication that I deny the importance and meaningfulness of the word. Explanation was given to the word to fatten it up. I mentioned it’s usefulness colloquially and how there is another understanding. It is an invented word! The explanation is always more important than the word. Disease is also a general term, the actual pathology has the details.

            Doctors don't just make arbitrary adjustments to people's physiology.

            Gastric bypass surgery, one example, is a physiological adjustment performed by surgeons of the GI tract with the goal of weight reduction. All medical theory begins with conjecture and medical researchers may have consent for arbitrary aspects in some experimental settings.

            They cure diseases, or at least they try to.

            You’re putting oranges in the apple cart. DM is about understanding why biological organisms are susceptible to disease.

            If Williams and Nesse found a productive line of inquiry by prescinding from the concept of disease, then that's great, but any theories that result from that line of inquiry would necessarily be silent on the question of what a disease is.

            Straw man. They added to the philosophical and biological understanding of disease.

            As such, I don't see how those theories could have any bearing on the PT idea that disease is a privation of health.

            Made irrelevant.

            By way of analogy: physicists prescind from the concept of life. That turns out to be a very helpful methodological move, but they don't then come back and claim that there is no such thing as life just because their methodology prescinds from that consideration.

            Analogy irrelevant. Not denying the word is useful, only added the DM component to it for fattening.

            Or: molecular biologists prescind from the concept of intent, and that also turns out to be a very helpful methodological move, but they don't then come back and claim that there is no such thing as intent. And so forth.

            Again, irrelevant. Not denying life, intent, or disease. All mere words. It’s the explanations that are meaningful and valuable.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            All medical theory begins with conjecture and medical researchers may have consent for arbitrary aspects in some experimental settings.

            And all medical intervention is (or should) predicated on the idea that there is a disease or a disorder, or, in other words, that there is some privation of normal function or physiology that needs fixing.

            You’re putting oranges in the apple cart. DM is about understanding why biological organisms are susceptible to disease.

            ??!! I'm the one trying to separate the apples and the oranges. DM is about understanding the why. Fine. PT is not about understanding the why, it's about characterizing the what. That's why PT and DM are not competing theories. One is apples, the other is oranges. I'm not the one trying to put them in the same cart.

          • Sample1

            You said:

            Privation theory provides a conceptual framework for thinking about what a disease is in the first place, while etiologies attempt to explain how diseases came to be. It's two totally separate enterprises.

            And I specifically made the point that PT’s “what” is philosophically synonymous with DM’s “why.” I didn’t see an objection (or missed it).

            I went on to describe the heretofore standardized medical epistemology that is focused on the how of disease rather than including the “why” of the new Darwinian approach.

            I guess I need to know how you are contextualizing the word “what” that isn’t synonymous with how or synonymous with why. I was under the impression it must be why.

            Mike

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm going to try reading that one after a few beers tonight ;-)

            The "what" that I am referring to is most definitely not a "why". What characterizes disease is an inability (a privation of ability) of the body to do something that we all think it should be able to do. PT tells us that, when there is a difference between the way thing are and the way things should be, that difference can always be understood as a lack of something.

            Why the body is a particular way is another question.

            One way to see what it is different is to consider that we can define our "why" questions about disease without any reference to what should be the case. I would guess this is why the concept of "disease" becomes marginal or even irrelevant in the Williams and Nesse theorizing that you refer to. In that line of inquiry, one doesn't need to think about what should be the case, they just need to think about why things are the way they are. By contrast, we cannot define what disease is without reference to what what should be the case.

          • It also seems that God is indistinguishable from nature.

          • God Hates Faith

            Indirect responsibility is a different theological position than direct responsibility.

  • Jim the Scott

    One thing I note. The OP nowhere claims science can "prove miracles" so I don't understand the challenge here for Catholics to show that science can prove miracles? Science can falsify a hypothesis. So science showing a plausible natural explanation of a phenomenon undercuts it as a supernatural miracle. That doesn't disprove the existence of miracles but when the Vatican investigates a reported miracle that is part of the equation.

    Here we just have the rigorous standards of the Vatican in excluding things reported as miracles. Also a challenge to the philosophical presupposition of some Atheists that miracles are anti-Science.

    Again people Dembski is over there if you wish to take on the Intelligent Design crowd. Catholics are a different theistic species.

    • michael

      Didn't you cite Julis Sextus Africanus for you view on Jesus' geneology to me once? I recently found out he cited not the apostles for his view but said his source was "brothers of Jesus according to the flesh" https://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf06/anf06.v.iii.iv.html something Catholicism says it's heretical to believe in, since they affirm the perpetual virginity of Mary. Any comments? Anybody?

      • Jim the Scott

        WhatdoesthishavetodowiththepriceofIronBruinEdenburgh? This thing out of left field has nothing to do with the OP.

        (Apparently some people are triggered by tea and China. So don't bring up tea and China. Good Lad! I knew I could count on you, I replaced my quip with Iron Bru which is the soft drink of choice in Scotland. One day I hope to have some so I can be complete).

        But I will answer you anyway. Don't make me regret it. The wife wants me to lower my blood pressure. If I die from a heart attack it is on you for cheesing me off. No pressure.

        Here is a wiki on Julis Sextus African.

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

        Yer link says "For the kinsmen of the Saviour after the flesh," so given the translation I don't see how it teaches or implies these kinsmen are children of the BVM. At best some eastern writers claimed Joseph had children with a woman whom he married before Mary and later became a widower. Even if it did say "Brothers" it could still mean cousins. Mary did have relatives and by definition they are Christ's brethren by the flesh.

        • michael

          Matthew 13:55 would have used anepsios instead of Adelphos if the author wanted to make it clear Jesus had no siblings.

          • Mark

            Catholics are not claiming all the relatives referenced were first cousins only. It is consistent with how adelphos is used in the Septuagint and the NT writers typically quote and wrote in the pattern of the Septuagint.

          • michael

            Why not use Anepsos in Matthew 13:55? It'd clear up a lot of confusion.

          • Mark

            I think you fail to realize the amount of times you use words in a day that have a different etymological meaning than the contemporary meaning you attribute. Doctor, manure, awful, nice; they don't mean etymologically what you mean contemporaneously. The proof for how the word is used is throughout the Bible starting with Abraham and Lot. The best contemporary English translation I've seen is kin or kinfolk. Catholics are not confused, it's just revisionist theologians that make all sorts of claims as to what the inerrant Bible does or doesn't say. All appeals to scripture are appeals to an interpretation of scripture. It's a non-starter for Catholics for this reason.

          • Jim the Scott

            Says who? Are you making a "Sola Scriptura" argument? Where is that taught in the Bible and what business does an Atheist have making a Sola Scriptura argument?

            So now you want to waste everybody's time recycling old Protestant Fundamentalist arguments against Jesus being Mary's only child?

            Well I am feeling good. This might be diverting.

            Yet Mary the wife of Clopas is called the "Sister" of Mary the Mother of Jesus?
            (John 19:25)

            John uses the ordinary Greek word for sister and not the word for "cousin" like he did with Elizabeth. Are we to believe St Ann and St Jochakim had two daughters with the same name? Is this the BOB NEWHART SHOW of ancient Israel? "Hi my name is Larry & this is my Sister Mary and this is my other sister Mary".

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79vMe31CuIQ&ab_channel=Shout%21Factory

            Sometimes the writers of the Bible use the term Brother and Sister for cousin. Especially if the cousin is close like sibling. I call my older First Cousin the Son of my Mother's older Brother "Brother Joe".

          • michael

            The names Anne and Joakim are from a book declared to be aprocryhal and which has many contradictions agains the New Testament.

          • Jim the Scott

            So what? Also the Talmud calls Mary "the daughter of Eli" which could be short for Eliakim or Joiakim.

            Here is the problem. Are you claiming the apocryphal originated the tradition or could it be the tradition already existed and the book took it put it in context.

          • David Nickol

            Are you making a "Sola Scriptura" argument?

          • Mark

            We have written proof the tradition of Mary's perpetual virginity goes back to at least 150AD with the Protoevangelium of James.

            http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm

            I realize it is an apocryphal writing, however, it's seen as an elaboration of what was commonly accepted among the second century Church Tradition. Really the only ECF's that may have wavered on the PV was Tertullian (and the Arian leaders Helvidius and Eunomius cite Tertullian.) But when you actually read the Tertullian text, it isn't really a denial of Mary's PV; at best it is at best a single ECF pseudodenial of Mary's ante partum virginity with a rhetorical question. If Tertullian held such a contrary belief to what the ECFs all held he would have said as much. He was not one to mince words.

          • Jim the Scott

            It pretty much is an appeal to Sola Scriptura when you imply a doctrine is in doubt because it is not in Holy Writ. I will always roll my eyes at such an argument. Especially coming from an Atheist who has no business confessing Protestant doctrines when he denied the God of the Protestants. It's just weird.

            >What the Gospels say may or may not be helpful in answering the question.

            Well the Gospels never mention Mary having other children and they never show anyone else as her child other than Jesus. So Sola Scriptura can be used against the heresy of Helvidius. Also in the whole of the NT only Jesus is ever referred as Son of Mary and or Son of Joseph. The sole exception is the Beloved Disciple who takes her into his home. Which is irregular if Jesus has blood brothers. Also is "brothers" rebuke him in public which is not proper for younger siblings.

            >Witherington is an Evangelical Protestant but certainly not a fundamentalist.

            I've debated Evangelicals and Fundies on this issue for decades and they have yet to come up with any convincing positive evidence Mary had any children other than Jesus. There are many good scholars among the heretics & liberals but so what? They have no good arguments.

            >” But his basic point is that “the burden of proof” rests upon those who wish to argue against the Helvidian view.

            That is an admission on his part the Gospels don't definitively teach the Helvidian view. Sola Scriptura rejects doctrines not explicitly taught in the Bible. For example the Assumption or Sinlessness of Mary. Well if the Bible clearly taught Mary had other children then this would be elementary. But if it is not explicitly in there then he has no business affirming that doctrine while denying other implicit doctrines like the assumption or sinlessness of Mary. But Protestantism is an incoherent religion I would never confess. I would be an Atheist first.
            Also I find it hard to believe cousins who are the children of Joseph's siblings wouldn't hang around the widow of their uncle.

            >However, it is settled by the authority of the Church, not by irrefutable historical arguments, and not everyone believes in the authority of the Church.

            According to St Hegesippus, a second century Jewish Christian, who is quoted in Eusebius, & St Papas James and his brother Jude(two of the "brothers" named in the Gospel) where Old Testament Priests. Well that is a bit of a problem. Priests come from the Tribe of Levi and Joseph and Mary came from Judah. Now you might claim they are children of Mary who remarried a Cohen after Joseph's death but the OT law say a Priest may only marry a Virgin or the widow of another Priest. So to get to Helvidius' error you have to confess Mary was a virgin when she became a widow & married an old testament priest who believed her story and wasn't excommunicated. Why not just save a step and admit she never had sex. Ever.....
            A Virgin birth I can believe in but I can't believe the miracle of a woman of the Tribe of Judah giving birth to two Levi Children by her Judian husband.
            That is impossible.

            >But there are reasonable arguments to be made if one is not bound by the Catholic Church to reject them.

            They are all crap. I know I studied them for decades also you are in error here. The Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and the Church of the East all with one voice affirm the perpetual virginity of Mary. You don't have to be Catholic to believe it. You just have to belong to a Church with a historic pedigree not some johnny come lately religion founded in Europe by a bunch of Germans 1500 years after the fact.

        • michael

          Furthermore, citing relatives of Jesus doesn't make Julius' work Apostolic Tradition, nor is it Biblical teaching or from the Magisterium.

          • Jim the Scott

            You do realize Apostolic Tradition is oral teaching and that historical sources are where we find Tradition? Right?

            >nor is it Biblical teaching

            Whose interpretation of the Bible Mike? Catholics don't believe in Sola Scriptura & private interpretation? Why are you going off on this useless tangent?

            >or from the Magisterium.

            The Magisterium doesn't teach the perpetual Virginity of Mary? Since when? That is like saying with a straight face Sunni Islam doesn't teach the consumption of Alcohol is wrong.

            Good day to you Mike.....I said Good day sir.

          • michael

            Citing Kinsmen isn't citing apostles. And I was referring to Julius' citation as not being form the Magisterium, not the perpetual virginity of Mary. And that would be dubious too since no Ex Cathedra Statement or binding Ecumenical Council post 1870 has ever declared it to be a dogma.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Citing Kinsmen isn't citing apostles. And I was referring to Julius' citation as not being form the Magisterium, not the perpetual virginity of Mary.

            You lost me.

            >And that would be dubious too since no Ex Cathedra Statement or binding Ecumenical Council post 1870 has ever declared it to be a dogma.

            It doesn't need to be as it is taught by the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
            Mike you can't just make up yer own rules for formulating Catholic doctrine. Also this is still off topic to this thread.

          • michael

            So Origen and Helviticus (I think that's the name) don't count as Fathers? Who said?

          • Jim the Scott

            No they don't. Origen believed in Universalism thus along with Tertullian is classified as at best a Christian writer. Both have been formally condemned by the Early Church. Notice neither one is a Saint.

            Anyway it is the Unanimous Consent of the Fathers that Jesus was Mary's only offspring.

            St Jerome took on both of them in his writings and blew them out of the water.

          • michael

            Saints never started getting canonized until like, the 10th century, starting with St. Ulrich.

          • Jim the Scott

            Yeh so?

          • michael

            So when was Augustine canonized?

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Out of thousands of reported miracles, not a single one is needed for the mind of man to know that God exists, since that truth can be known by the unaided light of natural reason.

    And yet, out of thousands of reported miracles, it takes but a single genuine one to manifest the truth that God exists.

  • Ellabulldog

    No such thing as miracles. What happens is that occasionally the Church needs to make someone a Saint for propaganda and marketing purposes. So they find a way to concoct a story.

    Billions of Catholics. Lot's of praying. Occasionally some will correlate with something.

    I have a Catholic friend. Died from cancer. Many were praying for him. Nicest guy in the world. Prayer does not work.

    I know someone that lost their 3 year old to cancer.
    They are Christian not Catholic. Mega Church style. Lot's of people praying. Prayers did not work.

    Both families are raising money for cancer research.

    Moral of the story.

    Donating money to science to find cures is rational.

    Praying is an emotional action.
    If it makes you feel better have at it. It won't cure anything. Ever.

    Remember Catholics run hospitals. The doctors there do not pray to fix bones, hearts or bullet wounds. They use modern medicine.

    • David Nickol

      Neither I nor anyone I know has won the Powerball grand prize. Buying Powerball tickets does not work.

      • Ellabulldog

        Someone down my street won 3 million. Not the Powerball but nothing to complain about.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        You're going to compare people getting healed by divine intervention with winning the Powerball - which is literally a numbers game?

        Besides, unlike divine healing, we can prove people have and do win the Powerball - all the time.

  • Phil Tanny

    Sorry to be off topic, but there is no where else to put this. As you should know, the Pope recently gave a speech calling for action against nuclear weapons. You can find the full text and video here:

    https://nuke-ban.org/2019/12/22/the-pope-speaks-out-on-nuclear-weapons/

    That site is my response to the Pope's request.

    I need your help with the following. If you will, imagine that the Pope called upon a billion Catholics to donate $1 per year to fund a massive marketing campaign to further spread the Pope's teachings on this subject. If you have contacts within the Church who might be receptive to such an idea, please contact me via the site above.

    I won't post further on this subject here, unless somebody should choose to publish an article on the subject.

  • Phil Tanny

    The Apostle John said, "God is love".

    Love is an act of surrender. Therefore, God is an act of surrender.

    Dying to be reborn. Dying=Surrender, Reborn=God.

    The most reliable guide to what we believe is what do.

    Here's how to convert this site in to a Catholic site.

    Surrender the endless talking of the talk. Be reborn in to the walking of the walk.

    So, as a specific example, all the time, energy and intelligence being wasted in the talking of the talk might be reinvested in to practical tactical conversations about such things as, say, raising money for Catholic Charities, or any other worthy project which seeks to serve others.

    This site is not Catholicism. This post is not Catholicism. This site and post are talk about Catholicism, something else entirely. As example, talk about sex is not sex.

    • BTS

      Phil,
      I actually agree with you.
      I'm here at this site because I am trying to figure out if I am a Catholic.

      But, as I mentioned, in the broad view I agree with you. I'm thinking that action matters way more than right belief.

      I have a hard time believing in a god who would send Phil to Hell for having, for example, the wrong view of the trinity but who spent the final third of his life trying to save humanity from destroying itself.

      • michael

        I'd have a hard time calling a creator who allowed anyone, period, to end up in Hell, including Hitler and Ted bunny, "good" and "praiseworthy".

  • Mark

    Thanks for the reply Mike. The book I referenced is:

    A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion Thornhill and Palmer

    Sloppy paraphrase? The doctor assumes genetic heritable cognitive "modules" in the consciousness to make a social or behavioral assessment of the adaptive benefits of forceful coercive reproduction. This is perfectly in line with what I've read with EM. Correct me if you look into it further. He's not making an environmental/nurture heritable claim. He not making a moral assessment/moral fallacy. He is making a "sloppy" presupposition which seems common in the evolutionary psychology arm of EM.

    Mike, I can understand (and even value) EM's theoretical ultimate explanation for us being fat because I understand the proximal explanations for being fat. The theoretical math models put forth seem to confirm it, but I'll admit I'm not the math junkie to pick it apart. However, if we don't understand proximal causes, which is common in psychology, you're building a inherently flawed argument. As you'll notice the better the understanding of proximal causes the better the ultimate cause.

    I'm not denouncing evolution, but thanks for your synopsis. I'm not denouncing evolutionary explanations, I agree the science of biology must presume it. I have a few problems with what I've read and our conversation so far about EM: (apparently we have the same problem because you accuse me of strawman this) 1/ false equivocation of evolutionary explanation as an ultimate explanations scientifically vs an ultimate explanation philosophically. EM may be an ultimate scientific explanation but it's not The ultimate explanation. Scientist should be careful what they are claiming and what ultimate means. 2/ It seems to me there is a disproportionate skepticism employed with abstract human universtals embedded in scientific theory and abstract human universals embedded in philosophical metaphysics. It seems bias; something to ponder maybe. 3/ Medical providers would take 1 relevant proximal cause over 100 ultimate theoretical causes to treat a patient. A mechanic doesn't need to understand the ultimate cause of an internal compression combustion engine to understand pistons doesn't fire because of the proximal causes of no compression, no gas, or no spark. There is a limitation of time and resources and doctors/medicine highly value proximal causes for right reason. 4/ previously mentioned bad explanations based on contentious premises and couple it with my previous point. The better we understand proximal causes the better the ultimate cause explanation is and if we understand the proximal causes the ultimate cause is of inverse value. Proximal causes are treatable. I understand an ultimate cause can be a proximal treatment such as your case of anxiety. Unfortunately anxiety treatment isn't that simple.

  • David Nickol

    Can the saints in heaven—disembodied souls—hear the thoughts of those of us living on Earth? Or can individual saints only hear the prayers addressed to them by name? Does Saint Anthony constantly hear, "Tony, Tony come around; something's lost and can't be found"? Or perhaps the saints are somehow informed by God of prayers to them worthy of being answered. If that is the case, do the saints decide which of those prayers they want God to answer and intercede on behalf of the person praying? And when a saint intercedes with God on behalf of a living person praying, does God automatically grant the saint what he or she intercedes for?

    I don't know how "official" the sentiment is, but I have heard it said that praying to the Virgin Mary is potentially highly effective because she is God's mother, and because of the special mother-son relationship, she i more likely to receives what she requests of God. She has more "pull" in heaven.

    Here is what Jimmy Akin says.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      As usual, you have good information about the Church and a worthy question.

      I am tempted to just give the smart remark: God runs the switchboard!

      But, more seriously, we simply do not know what the saints in heaven know and how they know what happens in this world. We know that they can know whatever knowledge God infuses into their souls, since their ability to understand remains untouched by death. Could they have more direct means? If sensible suffering can exist in Purgatory, it appears that, at least by a miracle, God could provide even sense knowledge to the saints.

      I understand that St. Thomas, near the end of his life, opined that what the next world is like is simply "other." We don't know. Hardly shocking. We have only five senses through which to know even this world -- giving us but a sliver of direct knowledge from which we figure out the rest through the gift of natural science. Small wonder our speculative reasoning reaches some truths about the next life, but "we see through a glass darkly."

      Do some saints have more "pull" than others? I would guess so, given that some have more merit before God than others. Clearly, the Blessed Mother is top on the list, since what Son dares say "no" to his mother?

      All kidding aside, we should not expect to know all the details of what heaven is like. Remember the old adage I think it was Augustine who said, when explaining why Scripture and the Church do not teach us the details of science -- something to the effect that revelation is given to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.

      • BTS

        Do some saints have more "pull" than others? I would guess so, given that some have more merit before God than others. Clearly, the Blessed Mother is top on the list, since what Son dares say "no" to his mother?

        Wait, if I understand Catholicism correctly, God is unchanging. God does not change his mind. He is perfect, correct? He does not ever "reconsider" anything. His initial decision is always and ever the correct and immutable decision.

        In that case, I ask sincerely and without any hint of ill humor, what is the point of intercessory prayer?

        I have heard many, many explanations of this and I don't buy any of them.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          It really isn't hard at all to understand if you grasp what it means for God to be the "eternal NOW." God stands totally outside of time. Time is a property of created matter. Matter is movable being. Time is the measure of motion with respect to before and after. So, God knows all events in time, regardless of their order or sequence.

          This means that, "from all eternity," God knows every creature's actions, including whether he makes these prayers or those prayers or no prayers at all. Same with all our choices.

          So, it is never a matter of God changing his mind about anything. His Providence orders all creation, taking into account every change we make within it, so that what sounds like God "changing his mind" about something is simply his eternally foreseen response to a contingently changing event within creation.

          In other words, God already knows what we will choose and pray for, and, from all eternity, has "already" taken that into consideration in forming his eternal will.

          You notice that we have problems even speaking about God's eternal NOW, since we are in time and all our language entails tensed verbs, which we then tend to ascribe to God, even though they do not properly apply to him as tensed.

          • BTS

            Your response is consistent with what I expected. That is not an un-compliment. That is how I would have explained it, albeit less eloquently, to others 20 years ago.

            My major quibbles are:
            1) The Old Testament god is not like what you describe at all. Is the OT god adopting a persona of irascibility for some divine purpose?

            2) If this is true:

            In other words, God already knows what we will choose and pray for, and, from all eternity, has "already" taken that into consideration in forming his eternal will.

            ...then god has created very much on purpose some (many?) creatures which he knows will eventually reject him, with many of these rejections based on incomplete knowledge of god.

            As @Sample1:disqus would say, quoting Deutsch, all problems are a problem of lack of knowledge.

            Wouldn't it be more merciful to just never create those creatures? Eternity is a very long time.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "...then god has created very much on purpose some (many?) creatures which he knows will eventually reject him, with many of these rejections based on incomplete knowledge of god."

            I am sure you do not intend to do so, but you are presuming here that God is not all just and merciful.

            If one's knowledge of God is not complete through no fault of one's own, God will not condemn him on that for which he is sincerely not responsible.

            You are forgetting that in laying down all his laws and rules, God also is just and knows that some will not be able to follow for no fault of their own. Every person knows just how hard and sincerely he has tried to find the truth and follow it. The only "problem" with God is that he has perfect knowledge of us and thus we cannot deceive him.

            Still, the reason we dare not condemn any other person is that we do not know what God knows, that is, we do not know the person perfectly including all degrees of responsibility or non-responsibility the person has for his actions.

            Perhaps, you are being too harsh in judging what God is really up to in creating us? :)

          • BTS

            I'm the one who agrees with David Bentley Hart that all are saved. So I am not being harsh at all. It sounds to me like you are backtracking on your "Hell" article on strange notions. Your "take" here is much more merciful.

            If one's knowledge of God is not complete through no fault of one's own, God will not condemn him on that for which he is sincerely not responsible.

            I think where we disagree on your statement above is that you think the person's actions in this life comprise the entirety of the decision. I think it makes more sense that in the afterlife there is a "revealing process" where all is made plain, a discussion with god, if you will. It is THEN, when all cards are on the table, that a person can accept or reject. This is all conjecture, of course, based on my interpretation of divine justice. All of it, I would argue, is conjecture.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            No, I am not backtracking on my "Hell and God's Goodness" article. That was a purely philosophical analysis of whether the doctrine of Hell passes rational muster. I argued that it does. That is not the same thing as insisting even that it exists, much less its number of inhabitants or lack thereof. As a philosopher, I take theological claims as stated and test their rational credibility.

            What is not conjecture is the following: (1) God exists, (2) God gave man a free will with which to work out his immortal destiny, (3) if man can choose his last end freely, he can also reject it freely, and (4) natural law requires a different end for man depending on whether he freely chooses his last end or rejects it.

            What we can prove through philosophical demonstration does not suffer the inherent contingency of lesser forms of knowledge. For example, for all its well accepted high degree of probability, natural science does not afford the absolute certainty found in some of the aformentioned philosophical truths.

            Speaking of theological speculation (and here I do not speak as a philosopher), what you are suggesting is not that different than the private revelation of St. Faustina, who says that in his great mercy, the Lord approaches the soul at the moment of death, three times -- giving her the chance to choose eternal life.

            Again, purely as my personal theological opinion, I am skeptical of DBH's universal salvation, since there is good evidence for the existence of fallen angels in multitude. It seems to me that if the superior created intelligences have a number of their own in Hell (meaning, having rejected God as their last end), then it would be unreasonable to expect that somehow not a single member of the lower human species would fail to attain his last end. But that is just my opinion.

            I would hope that God's laying down the strict criteria for salvation he would leave plenty of room for mitigated punishment for the many less than absolutely stubborn souls that belong to our human race. After all, isn't that the reason Catholics believe in Purgatory, unlike our Protestant brethren whose theology demands an immediate binary solution?

          • Rob Abney

            I'm the one who agrees with David Bentley Hart that all are saved

            Here’s a good refutation of Hart’s position.
            https://www.thecatholicthing.org/

          • BTS

            Hi Rob,
            Thank you for the recommendation. I am very familiar with the Catholic Thing.
            I have stopped reading that site. I did read it for a for a while (couple years). I get the newsletters emailed to me now but I rarely read them. I think that is a brand of ultra-conservative spiteful Catholicism that I cannot abide.

            My take on the Catholic Thing is that they believe Christianity is basically following rules. Rules to those folks are way more important than love, charity, mercy, etc.

            The core group of about 20 commenters, too, on the Catholic Thing FB page say some of the meanest, uncharitable, unchristian things I have ever heard. I would never, ever, want my religion to be associated with those types of comments.

            Each day when a new OP is posted, the pitchforks come out and victim of the day (liberals, gays, whatever) gets torn to shreds. Independent thinking is not tolerated in any capacity.

            I was banned (not kidding) for posting in a gentlemanly manner that the site appeared to be shilling for the Republican party and asking if dissenting views were allowed. Immediately banned. WTH? I think that's why they only have about 20 or so commenters on the FB page.

            Commonweal, Crux, or America Magazine would be a more balanced opinion, I think.

            I may take you up on your suggestion and read the article, but it won't be real soon. I'm really not in the mood for reading pieces about the afterlife right now, as we've had an awful family tragedy the past week and I'm quite down.

          • Mark

            My thoughts are with you and your family BTS.

          • Rob Abney

            Sorry to hear that you’ve had a family tragedy.
            I’ll be interested in your response if you decide to read it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I just noticed your added edits to this comment to which I posted a reply earlier.

            I have seen estimates of failure to implant running from as low as 30% to as high as 67%. Who really knows? Still, any number that high deserves comment.

            First, it appears we are dealing here with genetic abnormalities: "Human embryos are genetically diverse, and some have mutations that impair normal development. In some cases, these impaired embryos will not implant in the uterus, but often, they implant only to undergo miscarriage later."
            https://www.livescience.com/43157-embryo-implant-signals-pregnancy.html

            If you forgive the pun, it is important not to throw out the baby with the bath water! The fact that many embryos fail to implant does not imply that the human spiritual soul is not real. Or, that God does not exist. Sometimes, it seems that when people raise an objection, they overestimate its implications.

            God still exists. God is still good. The human soul is still spiritual and immortal and has a destiny freely to be chosen for those who reach sufficient maturity.

            That said, either the spiritual soul is present from conception or not. It is arguably present from conception for those that develop into evident human beings. But what of the others? If genetic abnormalities exist, is it possible that some embryos never had a spiritual soul? If so, there would be no problem with them "self-terminating," since we were never dealing with true human beings in the first place. (This does not excuse abortion, since we have no way of knowing which embryos are so affected -- and besides, if nature prevents birth, why abort?)

            But if they all have souls from conception, does early death mean automatic heaven -- or failure to reach heaven? If the former, God's purpose may be to permit some to reach heaven without risking loss of heaven, but with the corresponding balancing factor that they can never become as saintly (higher in heaven) as those who live a long life.

            On the other hand, if they do not reach heaven, then the possibility of a perpetual state of natural happiness remains.

            All of this raises interesting speculative issues for those early miscarriages, but in no way affects the general plan of God for those who live fuller lives.

            I do not claim to offer a perfect or complete analysis of this problem here, as is evident by my use of disjunctive reasoning. But what is important is to realize that, whatever the case may be, it does not disprove the rest of the philosophical conclusions drawn from philosophical psychology and ethics.

          • Mark

            That said, either the spiritual soul is present from conception or not

            The RCC is clear that it doesn't specifically say when ensoulment occurs. Dr. B I'm curious how you resolve monozygotic (or even sesquizygotic twinning from 3 gametes) twinning which can occur up to 14 days after conception with the existence of a single soul from conception. Are the multiple souls of the single zygotes in a hypostatic union of sorts? Does the moment of twinning cause a second ensoulment?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Easy question to answer from a Thomistic perspective.

            Since the soul is the substantial form of an organism, if you had two souls, you would have two organisms already. So, no, you cannot have two souls in a single zygote.

            What must occur is that God directly creates a second human soul at the moment of twinning. Which twin gets the new soul? Ask God.

          • Mark

            In the case of sesquizotic twinning the zygote contains 3 sets of gametes at conception which contain both offspring's/organism's biological potency at zygote stage. It seems counterintuitive to suggest only one soul exists substantially. Maybe I'm missing the meaning of substantial existence.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is largely a biological question as to when distinct organisms are present. Either an organism is one substance or it is not. If it is one, then a single soul must be present. If it is more than one, then multiple souls must be present.

            Since monozygotic twinning takes place sometime in the few days after conception, it must be that a single organism gives rise to two, thus requiring the addition of a second soul.

            The one example I could find of a sesquizotic twin pregnancy showed a monochorionic diamniotic twin pregnancy with the absence of a chorion extending between the layers of the intertwin membrane unequivocally indicated a monozygotic twin pregnancy.

            One might therefore argue that, since the initial conception took place in monozygotic fashion, a single organism was present, regardless of the internal complexity of its cells, and that therefore the subsequent twinning event still required the creation of a new and distinct substantial form or soul on the part of God.

            Fortunately, we need not be certain as to exactly when the distinct spiritual souls are infused into matter, since it is clear from the production of single or multiple fetuses that there must be a single and distinct soul produced at some point for each of them.

    • Mark

      Great questions but tough questions because our understanding of this topic is only revealed knowledge. Afterlife isn't rationally provable, but it can be rationally acceptable. Revelation is purposefully not detailed about the afterlife because, IMO, it is likely beyond our human intellect and our capacities and any attempt by an intellect that experienced is straw. I've heard some apologists quote James, "...the prayers of the righteous man availeth much." as to why we should ask for intercession of saints. I don't think that is helpful to an agnostic. It might not even be James' intent to include the communion of saints. I think what might be more helpful is to look at the beatific vision philosophically prior to answering the questions you pose; (which is a "vision" that doesn't require a retina, optic nerves, or occipital lobe). Here is a good article I came across that points out in more detailed fashion the philosophical problems you see as well as a few others. It's lengthy, but Fr. Pope does a fair treatment of sense experience of the discarnate person.

      https://catholicsaints.info/the-beatific-vision-of-god-a-problem-in-philosophy-by-father-hugh-pope/

      I think on a more practical level, human-to-human relationships are something we can all intellectually grasp and handle. Jesus' own human nature gives us a path to divinity in our own lives. In other words, He teaches us how to be fully human without privations (how to be saints). The purpose of our prayers is not to change God's mind (God's providence is unchangable) but to make our carnate souls fully human. Keep that in mind when pondering why God would open up discarnate persons in heaven to cooperate in our prayers.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Good comment on a difficult topic. But one point needs be clarified:

        "Afterlife isn't rationally provable, ..." According to right reason and St. Thomas Aquinas, the spirituality and immortality of the human intellectual soul is, indeed, rationally provable. See Summa Theologiae, I, q. 75, a. 2, c and Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate, q. 2, a. 2, Vol. 1, ed. R. Spiazzi (Turin-Rome, 1964).

        See also chapter six, "The Human Soul's Spiritural Charactere and Divine Origin," in my book, Origin of the Human Species -- third edition (Sapientia Press, 2014), 103-110.

  • Ficino