What Are Miracles?

When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person would either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, would really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.

- David Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the parting of the Red Sea, the feeding of the five thousand and the general subject of miracles. Miracles have been part of human culture for thousands of years. From St Augustine in the 4th century through the medieval cult of saints to David Hume in the 18th, miracles have captured the imaginations of believers and sceptics alike. The way they have been celebrated, interpreted, dissected and refuted is a whole history of arguments between philosophy, science and religion. They have also been used by the corrupt and the powerful to gain their perverse ends. Miracles have been derided and proved to be fraudulent and yet, for many, the miraculous maintain a grip on our imagination, our language and our belief to this day.

Listen to the In Our time episode on Miracles

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

...Many people believe in miracles even in the 21st century. According to recent surveys in the UK, 77% of people agree with the statement that “there are things in life that we simply cannot explain through science or any other means”. Moreover, 16% say that either they or someone they know have experienced what they would call a miracle.

Philosophers typically hold that a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. The virgin birth of Jesus, for instance, is a miracle because it is impossible for a virgin to give birth to a child without violating the laws of biology. But why is belief in such extraordinary events so widespread?...

Continue reading Yujin Nagasawa's article: Why we still believe in Christmas miracles... according to philosophy

Further Reading

A miracle (from the Latin mirari, to wonder), at a first and very rough approximation, is an event that is not explicable by natural causes alone. A reported miracle excites wonder because it appears to require, as its cause, something beyond the reach of human action and natural causes. Historically, the appeal to miracles has formed one of the primary lines of argument in favor of specific forms of theism, the argument typically being that the event in question can best (or can only) be explained as the act of a particular deity....

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Miracles by Timothy McGrew

Bonus Webcomic

Related Topics

 Laws of Nature | Religion | Skepticism | Testimony

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