I was trolling through the gospels recently when something occurred to me. When Yeshua went to Nazareth, the writer of Matthew said, “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matt. 13:58) Similarly, the writer of Mark said, “he could not do many miracles there,” and further, that Yeshua “was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6:5-6) This is interesting: something about the mentality of skeptics impedes the miracle process.
I couldn’t help but let my mind wonder on this. Have you ever been in a room when somebody intense and full of negative energy walks in? Is it not the case that such a person can deflate and suck the energy out of an otherwise upbeat gathering? So must it be with the presence of doubters and scoffers, so full of confidence in their own knowledge and opinions! I propose a rudimentary hypothesis: faith and belief allow wave function collapse; skepticism and doubt impede it. Is this not borne out in certain evidences? That placeboes work? That cheerfulness and faith are beneficial to healing? That doubt and negativity impede healing? That a man can literally think himself to ill health or radiance?
Food for thought, if nothing else.
While doing some "fall cleaning" around here, I found today's post in the "drafts" folder.
Although the original exchange occurred over a month ago, and I'm unsure why I'm responding to a guy who banned me from his blog for an unspecified "breach of honesty" while he apparently has no problem calling me names like "mealy-mouthed prick" all over the internet, but dedication to the arguments must overlook the uglier sides of debate. Granted, I know what one or two of you might be thinking: "Ah cl, we hate it when you rehash these 'he said this, I said that' arguments. Why burden us with your own online social difficulties??" It's not that. Rather, I feel there are some cogent rebuttals here on my part, and I thought it would be a waste to just trash the post.
So, let's get to it. Comments welcomed.
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So, we were discussing the hypothetical scenario of a limb generation, and how much supernatural credence we could assign to such a thing. The blog owner, jim, banned me, because his blog is, in his own words, "not a free-speech zone." He claimed I committed an "egregious breach of honesty above" and demanded that I apologize for it, yet 40 comments preceded his, and he refused to be any more specific than that. I felt such a demand was a bit strange coming from somebody who apparently has no problem calling others things like "mealy-mouthed prick" and "disputational pissant." Further out of line for a rationalist was that jim didn't even offer a testable claim: he never even said where this "egregious breach of honesty" occurred, that I could challenge it. He just deleted my next comment.
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What in the world do people mean when they use the word miracle?
The answer is essentially something out of this world.
The problem is, how in this world do we test for that?
Over at SI's, Modusoperandi recently described a miracle as "something that doesn't happen." Okay, well… I had to assume he meant something that rarely happens, but is that really any more helpful as a parameter? I'm no probability whiz, but it seems to me that given enough rolls of the dice, any combination can eventually result.
Another problem with this view is that it just simply assumes miracles rarely happen. Granted, nobody I know has been resurrected, but who's to say any of the countless everyday occurrences where lives are being saved weren't miraculous? Who's to say any of the countless everyday occurrences where lives are being lost weren't malevolent expressions of the phenomenon? Who's to say there's not a supernatural or spiritual component to things like UFO phenomena, astral projection, clairsentience or any of the other strange phenomena human beings experience? If we have no idea what miracles are, how can we move forward and say they happen rarely?
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I have an open mind (I think) so I am willing to be convinced. I’ll even say that if you show me good evidence, I’ll bow down and worship your god, whoever he may be. But I want evidence. -SI, The Existence of God
MiracleQuest is alive and well again, this time at SI's. So far, it's went more or less exactly as every other discussion of this nature I've seen: hundreds of comments, plenty of insults and not much to mention in terms of reasonable resolution.
SI asks believers to present their "good evidence" for God. Sounds innocent enough, right?
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False Argument #30 is a two-tier one coming from the chaplain and PhillyChief:
Well I think we can start by reviewing everyone who refused medical treatment instead of prayer and were healed. That list would be….. strangely unavailable.
Maybe all those who were healed by prayer never bothered reporting it to the newsies. I wonder why they kept their lights hidden under their bushels? It seems like their testimonies would be powerful stuff. Still, it seems strange that not even one person appears to have stepped up and told such a story.
Now, there's certainly some non-committal posturing on chaplain's behalf here, but someone who's looked into this stuff for even a microsecond has to wonder: Are chaplain and PhillyChief merely being rhetorically successful? Are they taking themselves seriously? Or have they really not looked into this stuff for more than a microsecond?
Although I certainly don't expect either of them to think any miracle story on the news is actually credible, that's a different story, and .22 seconds on Google disproves their claims. Accordingly, a rational person has to wonder: Are the chaplain and PhillyChief reliable? Like John Evo said about my last little soiree with PhillyChief: Is he even doing any research? Is the chaplain? Or are they just voicing their opinions?
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So, I'm running a bit late on the next installment of the Atheist Universe series, but I happened to have an experience this morning that was quite an epiphany. The experience itself was nothing uncommon, grandiose or mystical, and it was something I'm willing to bet most all non-indigenous people experience quite frequently.
The weather is great today, which always makes the 5-mile skate to the warehouse that much more enjoyable. After I'd entered the front door, and as I was walking upstairs, I heard a very loud and unmistakable THUD coming from an adjacent room. Always naturally curious, I wondered what may have caused this noise, and no sooner than I'd finished wondering, the epiphany came on with such strong force that I subsequently wondered if somebody had slipped me a hit of ecstasy or something.
Can we deduce the specific attributes of a rock lobbed into a pond based solely on the ripples produced? Similarly, seeking to affirm or deny acts of supernatural beings puts one on the same epistemologically untenable level as seeking to affirm or deny the specific cause of the THUD one hears in an adjacent room.
In X-Files Friday: The Ultimate Superstition, DD cites Geisler and Turek,
David Hume argued that miracles cannot affirm any one religion because miracles are based on poor testimony and all religions have them. In other words, miracle claims are self canceling. Unfortunately for Hume, his objection does not describe the actual state of affairs. First, Hume makes a hasty generalization by saying that alleged miracles from all religions are alike. As we’ve seen since chapter 9, the miracles associated with Christianity are not based on poor testimony. They are based on early, eyewitness, multiple-source testimony that is unrivaled in any other world religion. That is, no other world religion has verified miracles like those in the New Testament. (G&T)
What we have in the New Testament is a well-documented, well-preserved record of people making claims. This does not constitute a body of verified miracles. (DD)
I agree. I've certainly not been afraid to criticize some of G&T's strategies elsewhere, and I agree that in this citation, G&T conflate claims with verification – and that's wrong. To me, it appears G&T simply presume the correctness of that which they are trying to prove, by alluding to it as verified. However, G&T's criticisms of Hume happen to be spot-on, and quite pertinent to our ongoing miracle discussion. That being said, I've also complimented DD's logical prowess elsewhere, but this time he did not address G&T's citation squarely at all – just flanked them with Benny Hinn before proceeding on to their "One Solitary Man" ideas.
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This morning I'd like to write a post about something that happened a year or so ago, something that pops into my head quite frequently ever since it happened.
It was just after eight o'clock when a buddy of mine who is also a published writer and also likes to drink beer called me up with the equivalent of, "Let's catch the bus down to club so-and-so, and grab a coupla' beers."
"Okay," was my immediate response, and that's how this story starts.
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So I'm part of the lovely little soiree about miracles that's been going on over at DD's for months. The purpose of today's post is to strain some of my points from that debate, and eventually I hope to distill them into one concise listing.
When I entered the discussion over at DD's, I just happened to be fresh off the heels of a similar argument, and my first comment criticized attempts to verify miracles without agreed-upon definitions and criteria. More specifically, in the context of allegedly miraculous healing, I asked how we might eliminate confounders such as spontaneous remission and the placebo effect. Commenters John Morales and jim both chimed in at this point.
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