Argument from scriptural miracles

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((Double) Standard of Evidence)
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David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, economist, historian and a key figure in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment. Hume is often grouped with John Locke, George Berkeley, and a handful of others as a British Empiricist.
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The '''argument from biblical miracles''' states (more or less) that because the [[Bible]] claims that people witnessed [[miracle]]s performed right in front of them by [[Jesus]], we can therefore believe that they happened—which confirms Jesus's claims to be [[God]].
He challenged the argument from miracles.
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==Counter arguments==
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===(Double) Standard of Evidence===
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Since there can be no physical evidence of a man walking on water, or feeding 5000 with five loaves and two fishes, or turning water into wine, we are left solely with testimonial attestation of these events.
  
== Problem of miracles ==
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Imagine taking a number of tribesmen from New Guinea and subjecting them to a magic show. Afterward, it would be possible to collect as many testimonies as desired to the "fact" that, for example, the magician was beheaded by a guillotine, but was re-integrated and completely unharmed several minutes later. These testimonies are '''contemporary''' (indeed, as contemporary as is possible) and mutually corroborative, Moreover, these witnesses could be question to any degree. What would be ''our'' reaction? Would we take these testimonies as evidence and conclude, based only on them, that the magician ''really did'' have his head cut off and survive? Or would our incredulity at the likelihood of the event override the testimonies and lead us consider other alternatives (the tribesmen were fooled/they aren't remembering correctly/they're lying etc).
  
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Would adding centuries of possible embelishment and distortion make the testimonies more, or less, credible?
  
In his discussion of miracles in An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (Section 10) Hume defines a miracle as "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent". Given that Hume argues that it is impossible to deduce the existence of a Deity from the existence of the world (for he says that causes cannot be determined from effects), miracles (including prophesy) are the only possible support he would conceivably allow for theistic religions.
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The only reason such submissions are accepted when it comes to miracles is that the believer's incredulity is overridden by their ''a priori'' assumption that their god, or Jesus, is [http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Omnipotence_paradox all-powerful]; the testomines are worthless without it. This will shift the discussion in that direction.
  
Hume discusses everyday belief as often resulted from probability, where we believe an event that has occurred most often as being most likely, but that we also subtract the weighting of the less common event from that of the more common event. In the context of miracles, this means that a miraculous event should be labelled a miracle only where it would be even more unbelievable (by principles of probability) for it not to be. Hume mostly discusses miracles as testimony, of which he writes that when a person reports a marvellous event we [need to] balance our belief in their veracity against our belief that such events do not occur. Following this rule, only where it is considered, as a result of experience, less likely that the testimony is false than that a miracle occur should we believe in miracles.
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{{argument-stub}}
  
Although Hume leaves open the possibility for miracles to occur and be reported, he offers various arguments against this ever having happened in history:
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[[Category:Arguments for the existence of God]]
 
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People often lie, and they have good reasons to lie about miracles occurring either because they believe they are doing so for the benefit of their religion or because of the fame that results.
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People by nature enjoy relating miracles they have heard without caring for their veracity and thus miracles are easily transmitted even where false.
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Hume notes that miracles seem to occur mostly in "ignorant" and "barbarous" nations and times, and the reason they don't occur in the "civilized" societies is such societies aren't awed by what they know to be natural events.
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The miracles of each religion argue against all other religions and their miracles, and so even if a proportion of all reported miracles across the world fit Hume's requirement for belief, the miracles of each religion make the other less likely.
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Despite all this Hume observes that belief in miracles is popular, and that "The gazing populace receive greedily, without examination, whatever soothes superstition and promotes wonder".
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Revision as of 05:02, 28 December 2011

The argument from biblical miracles states (more or less) that because the Bible claims that people witnessed miracles performed right in front of them by Jesus, we can therefore believe that they happened—which confirms Jesus's claims to be God.

Counter arguments

(Double) Standard of Evidence

Since there can be no physical evidence of a man walking on water, or feeding 5000 with five loaves and two fishes, or turning water into wine, we are left solely with testimonial attestation of these events.

Imagine taking a number of tribesmen from New Guinea and subjecting them to a magic show. Afterward, it would be possible to collect as many testimonies as desired to the "fact" that, for example, the magician was beheaded by a guillotine, but was re-integrated and completely unharmed several minutes later. These testimonies are contemporary (indeed, as contemporary as is possible) and mutually corroborative, Moreover, these witnesses could be question to any degree. What would be our reaction? Would we take these testimonies as evidence and conclude, based only on them, that the magician really did have his head cut off and survive? Or would our incredulity at the likelihood of the event override the testimonies and lead us consider other alternatives (the tribesmen were fooled/they aren't remembering correctly/they're lying etc).

Would adding centuries of possible embelishment and distortion make the testimonies more, or less, credible?

The only reason such submissions are accepted when it comes to miracles is that the believer's incredulity is overridden by their a priori assumption that their god, or Jesus, is all-powerful; the testomines are worthless without it. This will shift the discussion in that direction.

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