• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
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How Would You Define A Miracle, Redux

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?

A while back, Lifeguard offered the following definition, "from the hip" as he described it:

Miracles, if they exist, are observable phenomena whose cause cannot be sufficiently explained in purely scientific terms (materialistic and naturalistic causes).

That sounds fine, and I don't have a quibble with the "observable" part, but when we take a deeper look isn't this what atheists typically refer to as God of the Gaps reasoning? As Lifeguard also points out, "..today's miracles are killed by tomorrow's scientific discoveries." Unless we allow believers to use something's inability to be explained scientifically as evidence for their claims, it doesn't seem helpful to ask them to offer something's inability to be explained scientifically as evidence for their claims.

In that thread, John Morales offered the following:

What would make an event miraculous is if (a) it’s clearly contrary to the “laws of nature” (in practice that it contradicts current scientific theories [which would make such a theory wrong]) and (b) the most parsimonious reason for that is divine intervention.

Still, I see the same problem. Like Lifeguard's, John's (a) also forces the believer to formulate their argument in a manner the atheist is already pre-disposed to reject. That something is "clearly contrary to the laws of nature" doesn't help, even if it does contradict the current scientific paradigm, because this is essentially God of the Gaps reasoning. John's (b) prompts one to wonder, how do we decide that divine intervention is the most parsimonious reason for something? Arbitrarily? Isn't that what the ID camp receives harsh criticism for?

How do we reasonably discern between the natural and the supernatural? It's something we've talked about here before, and I believe we need to trash both terms and start again. Remember, we used to think lightning and fire were supernatural. Maybe some instances of them were, and maybe some still are, but we all know anyone with money and means can buy lighters and build Tesla coils.

An angel may have cradled that baby to make sure it landed in that dresser drawer full of socks after a tornado blew that house apart, but even though we find the baby in the drawer as such, we can never confirm our hypothesis with any sort of methodology that could even loosely be called scientific. A demon may have really manifested psychically to that kid who took his own life, but what empirical evidence are we justified in expecting from entities who are alleged to operate in the realm of intuition? A genuine miracle may have occurred in the case of Kayla Knight, but on what grounds could we prove such? If God's hand did heal Kayla, what would we expect to see that was any different than what we see? What could we expect besides an anecdote?

I believe these questions suggest that the type of evidence most skeptics demand cannot exist, and I'm only a few more posts from declaring MiracleQuest an irredeemable failure. Although supernatural events or miracles would interact with the natural world, unfortunately, they represent temporary intrusions into the natural world from entities whose very nature forbids them to leave hard evidence, because they themselves are said to come and go from outside our parameters of space-time.

To continue the Waldo analogy, atheists and believers can agree as to what Waldo looks like such that we can identify him in a crowd. What we need is a definition of miracle that shares this luxury.

Is it possible to offer a definition that begins with no assumptions? Probably not, but can we at least reduce the definition as much as possible? Also, preferably into something that doesn't require the believer to make to make an argument from ignorance?

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21 Responses

  1. Hate to be a buzzkiller, but don’t you think this line of inquiry will be about as fruitful as Socrates’ discussion with Meno regarding the definition of virtue?
    I see it often enough with other ideas, it always ends the same way. When ever people try to define things like morality, or science, and now miracles, it always ends the same…
    Miracles are like porn, you know it when you see it.

  2. No buzzkiller at all. I fully agree, and am happy for it. This is consistent with what we’d expect if no undeniable ontological argument exists, which is what I currently believe. I just find it odd that people would frame their criteria in a manner they’re pre-disposed to reject.

  3. Ah, you’re playing Socrates. Gotcha.

  4. I’m not going to assume I have any idea what that was supposed to mean. At least as far as miracles go, that there’s no successful ontological argument is a theory that is supported by the data, as you yourself agreed: “..it always ends the same way.”

  5. Not sure if this it the post you were asking me to check out or not, but it is intriguing.
    I certainly don’t think miracles to be rare, for I believe they ought not to be rare because Christians aren’t rare and Jesus said we would do even greater things than He. Not that miracles don’t also happen sovereignly. If the dead were being raised every day this would not be any less of a miracle. So normalcy would not cause something to cease being miraculous.
    Also science may be able to explain a possible natural cause for something — but they could not prove the natural was the cause for it. A headache could abate immediately with prayer and be the result of a supernatural touch of healing by God, but it could have been explained by a natural cause. Neither could be proven.
    Now the more involved miracles like someone who was deaf from birth and suddenly received full hearing without any medical intervention. Or a mute who can instantly not only speak but speak the language fluently — this is something outside the parameters of medical science. A leg or arm growing out before ones eyes would certainly unequivocally be deemed a miracle from any reasonable person. Something unnatural would have to be admitted to.
    I have recently heard of a minister who sees a lot of miracles in his ministry now travels with certified medical doctors to document the miracles first examining the person in need of healing prior to the healing and again after giving professional documentation of what took place.
    Regardless you are always going to have those people who will always believe miracles don’t happen and that everything has a natural cause no matter how improbable.

  6. Also another thought I recently read an article where the writer was explaining that what we usually deem supernatural is really the real natural and what we deem natural (that includes sickness, disease, pain, suffering) is really subnatural. Thus the miracles are restorative of what ought to be natural rather than something oddly supernatural.

  7. “Miracles are like porn, you know it when you see it.”
    That so needs to be a T-shirt. ;-)

  8. Hey cl,
    A miracle is an event that occurs in a blatant religious, historical context, wherein it is impossible for natural causes to have produced the event at the place and time where the event occurred.

  9. Just so everyone knows, what I’m really looking for are criteria that would allow us to create some sort of reason-based methodology we can use to evaluate miracle claims. Most all would say that praying for lightning in a lightning storm and getting a hit would fall in the “probably not” category. Why? Similarly, many would say spontaneous generation of a missing limb would fall into the “probably” category. Why?
    Mike,
    I swear I thought the same thing. Do you think a church would ever run it?
    Karla,
    Actually, if you’re still interested, this was the one I had in mind, but I’m glad you contributed here as well.

    So normalcy would not cause something to cease being miraculous.

    While I agree, I anticipate that this would be resisted by many.

    A headache could abate immediately with prayer and be the result of a supernatural touch of healing by God, but it could have been explained by a natural cause. Neither could be proven.

    That’s where many atheists simply trot out Occam’s Razor and just assume that every single instance of phenomenon X was naturally effected.
    Certainly, everybody can see there are differences in claiming divine intervention for remission of a headache vs. the deaf suddenly hearing. Of curiosity, what are the most compelling cases you’ve experienced and/or heard?

    Something unnatural would have to be admitted to.

    That’s the argument a guy named jim is making here. I tend to agree, but what I want to know is – where do we draw the line? How can we devise a rigorous set of criteria that would allow us to analyze any group of miracle claims and categorize them in either the “less involved” or “more involved” categories?

    I have recently heard of a minister who sees a lot of miracles in his ministry now travels with certified medical doctors to document the miracles first examining the person in need of healing prior to the healing and again after giving professional documentation of what took place.

    Who is this guy? Let’s here from (or about) him.

    Also another thought I recently read an article where the writer was explaining that what we usually deem supernatural is really the real natural and what we deem natural (that includes sickness, disease, pain, suffering) is really subnatural. Thus the miracles are restorative of what ought to be natural rather than something oddly supernatural.

    Well, I completely agree that the whole “natural vs. supernatural” is an obstruction to reason, and the best solution I’ve devised is to describe events as either conscious or unconsious, but lately I’ve been realizing that this approach has bigger limitations than the clarity it provides – so, back to the drawing board on that.
    MS Quixote,
    Howdy there…

    A miracle is an event that occurs in a blatant religious, historical context, wherein it is impossible for natural causes to have produced the event at the place and time where the event occurred.

    Well, okay, and I understand what you’re trying to describe, but… we used to think it was impossible for natural causes to produce lots of things. The limitations of natural causality decrease as our knowledge increases, so what do we do then?

  10. Well, cl, “we” thought none of the things I assume you’re alluding to; perhaps our distant ancestors did, but even there this is a greatly exaggerated rhetorical ploy. I get what you mean, though I think the objection is unfounded.
    You’ll notice first, that objectors employing this thought generally do not simultaneously deny the applicability of natural laws with regard to the miraculous.
    Secondly, it simply doesn’t matter. One is not within her epistemic rights to postulate unknowns such as these as defeaters for miracle claims. We have to operate within the epistemic environment in which we currently exist. Thus, it’s a matter of plausibility, and the rational thinker is bound by the most plausible explanation. Obfuscation to the unknown, though theoretically possible, is radical skepticism, which is self-defeating, and at any rate less plausible. Only a more plausible claim than the religious claim offered by the skeptic can serve as a logical alternative to the miracle claim. To do otherwise is simply to abandon reason.
    Thus if natural causes are known to be incapable of producing an event within an overtly religious historical setting, the most plausible explanation is the religious claim made in context of the miracle: note your recapitation example as a worthy “for instance.”
    As to the decreasing limitations of natural causality, this would only strengthen my definition as time and knowledge pass and increase. The more that is learned about natural causality, the less excuse one possesses to appeal to an unknown.

  11. ..even there this is a greatly exaggerated rhetorical ploy.

    Ouch! How so? How is it a rhetorical ploy to state the fact that we people used to think it was impossible for natural causes to produces lots of things?

    You’ll notice first, that objectors employing this thought generally do not simultaneously deny the applicability of natural laws with regard to the miraculous.

    I didn’t get what you meant by that.

    One is not within her epistemic rights to postulate unknowns such as these as defeaters for miracle claims. We have to operate within the epistemic environment in which we currently exist.

    I tend to agree with you there, if you remember, that’s pretty much what I said when DD offered a SMERF (Sudden Magnetic Energy Reversal Fields) as a logical possibility to my Recapitation example.

    Obfuscation to the unknown, though theoretically possible, is radical skepticism, which is self-defeating, and at any rate less plausible.

    I agree, and again, that’s how I felt about DD’s SMERF.

    Thus if natural causes are known to be incapable of producing an event within an overtly religious historical setting, the most plausible explanation is the religious claim made in context of the miracle: note your recapitation example as a worthy “for instance.”

    Sure, but what about a case like Kayla’s?

    The more that is learned about natural causality, the less excuse one possesses to appeal to an unknown.

    Well, that’s just the logical outflow of what I’m saying, but the problem is, we have no idea where the limitations of natural causality are, or if there even are any. People “ruled out” many “impossibilities” we enjoy today.

  12. “Ouch! How so? How is it a rhetorical ploy to state the fact that we people used to think it was impossible for natural causes to produces lots of things?”
    No ouch involved…for you, anyway. I should have made myself clear that you were not the referent, cl. Joseph, for instance, certainly knew how babies were normally produced, and suggestions that he was a duped, unscientific rube biased toward the supernatural conception of children is utter nonsense. Any like suggestion is nothing but shallow rhetoric. Sorry for the confusion…
    “I didn’t get what you meant by that.”
    It’s amusing to me that our knowledge of natural law is generally thought ironclad when some argue for naturalism; yet when miracles are in view, suddenly our knowledge of natural law gets cloudy and almost untrustworthy all of a sudden. It seems to be a general lack of consistency depending on the argument at hand.
    “that’s pretty much what I said when DD offered a SMERF (Sudden Magnetic Energy Reversal Fields) as a logical possibility to my Recapitation example.”
    And you were precisely correct.
    “Sure, but what about a case like Kayla’s?”
    I knew you were going to ask me that:) I just don’t know enough about the case, cl, to answer with any certainty; however, if you could satisfy my definition of miracle, I’d say you had a good case. At any rate, though, there’s nothing to preclude Kayla’s case from being a miracle, except a bias for naturalism. Anyone who says different isn’t trying. But, as you are as well, I’m also open to a natural explanation in Kayla’s case. Nevertheless, whatever we decide, if we do,it has to be the most plausible explanation, given the evidence at hand.
    btw-if anyone cares, my particular theological bias argues against Kayla’s case being a miracle.
    “Well, that’s just the logical outflow of what I’m saying, but the problem is, we have no idea where the limitations of natural causality are, or if there even are any.”
    Likewise, we have no idea where the limitations of supernatural causality are, or if there even are any. You have to go with the most plausible answer given all the information we have in the epistemic environment you find yourself in. Miraclequest is no different than any other epistemological problem, and should not be treated as such just because miracles are purportedly involved.

  13. CL, the minister I was referring to was Randy Clark of Global Awakening Ministries. I’ve attended a three-day training event led by him personally in the past.
    Also have you ever read Miracles by C.S. Lewis? He addresses this question very thoroughly.
    I’d say the most miraculous things I can attest to, is seeing an arm grow out, being instantly healed of a terrible upper respiratory and sinus infection, a friend of mine whose foot had been numb for many years suddenly having feeling in it again, a lady I prayed for received restoration of hearing in an ear that was partially deaf, a woman in my church had pain in her ankle and was scheduled for surgery and the pain completely left and she did not need surgery. . . those are the top ones that I’ve been close to.
    I would recommend reading also Bill Johnson’s book When Heaven Invades Earth.

  14. CL, the minister I was referring to was Randy Clark of Global Awakening Ministries. I’ve attended a three-day training event led by him personally in the past.
    Also have you ever read Miracles by C.S. Lewis? He addresses this question very thoroughly.
    I’d say the most miraculous things I can attest to, is seeing an arm grow out, being instantly healed of a terrible upper respiratory and sinus infection, a friend of mine whose foot had been numb for many years suddenly having feeling in it again, a lady I prayed for received restoration of hearing in an ear that was partially deaf, a woman in my church had pain in her ankle and was scheduled for surgery and the pain completely left and she did not need surgery. . . those are the top ones that I’ve been close to.
    I would recommend reading also Bill Johnson’s book When Heaven Invades Earth.

  15. Thanks for the info Karla, I’ll look into at least some of it I imagine. If you feel like taking a bunch of verbal lashes, post those examples here, where they would be quite relevant.

  16. I think this guy was hoping for a miracle. Shame he relied on faith, not on medicine. RIP.

    “He read his Bible daily, he spent his full focus on God,” said Webb.

  17. Unambiguous miracles would definitely make me a theist, and by unambiguous miracles, I mean “an event that is (1) completely and unmistakably contrary to our current understanding of how the world works, (2) done with the declaration that it was in God’s name, and (3) not possibly the product of trickery or fraud.

    I’ve always been of the persuasion that God is definitely capable of being obvious, rather than operating just on the tiny edge of statistical significance.

    For example, if God were to reveal a third testament that instantly cleared up all theological objections to Christianity and clarified all the theological debates within Christianity, that would convince me of Christianity.

    If a prophet were to be able to use prayer to do something unquestionably miraculous, like the oft-quoted heal an amputee, or a parlor trick like levitating a building in front of newscasters.

    If the three-hour darkness and resurrection of saints recorded in Matthew was also recorded in numerous other sources far away, like Chinese historians, I would be convinced enough to convert, despite not even witnessing the miracle myself.

    Stuff like that.

  18. Unambiguous miracles would definitely make me a theist, and by unambiguous miracles, I mean “an event that is (1) completely and unmistakably contrary to our current understanding of how the world works, (2) done with the declaration that it was in God’s name, and (3) not possibly the product of trickery or fraud.

    With all due respect, I’m skeptical, Peter. Every single atheist I have ever encountered waffles in this regard. You’re basically asking for a God of the Gaps argument in that the criteria you’ve given are fallacious [most notably 1]. An atheist who doesn’t want to believe can always resort to some variant of, “Well this is just an explained event. Science will probably find a natural explanation for this one day.” Been there, done that. But who knows? Maybe you’re from a different cut.

    I’ve always been of the persuasion that God is definitely capable of being obvious, rather than operating just on the tiny edge of statistical significance.

    There, we agree. To me, God is obvious.

    For example, if God were to reveal a third testament that instantly cleared up all theological objections to Christianity and clarified all the theological debates within Christianity, that would convince me of Christianity.

    Well, this presumes there are objections which stand. To date, I’ve not seen any that don’t dissolve fairly easily. While there are certainly unanswered questions, I don’t see that a third testament is needed. Nonetheless, one could say that we are indeed destined for a third testament: God’s return and subsequent restoration of the fallen creation. That will convince everybody, but unfortunately, time will have run out by then.

    I do intend to get to your other comments around here; I’m glad you made your way this way.

  19. You have good reason to be skeptical, but I’m not one of those people who don’t want to believe. If God truly exists and truly is all-good, then I would want to have a personal relationship with him.

    Surely you concede that while you see God as obvious, he’s not “obvious” in the way the existence of Mt. Everest is obvious. God could, potentially, if he wanted to, be a heck of a lot more obvious.

    Let me elaborate on point (1), which is probably the point of contention. By this, I mean something that is utterly impossible by current scientific knowledge, like the wholesale levitation of a building by magical incantation.

    “Science will probably find a natural explanation for this one day” does not dismiss the miracles that follow point (1), and points (2) and (3) attribute it to the God of a specific religion. I do know that you can use that to dismiss “miracles” of consciousness and even some of your NDEs that I haven’t looked into.

    But imagine if, in every home that did not have a Bible, a Bible appeared. It just suddenly materialized on every bookshelf; a Bible created ex nihilo right in front of not just your eyes, but the eyes of everyone on the planet.

    Now imagine Mr. “I hate God and will never believe in him no matter what” (if such a person exists) tries to dismiss this as some collapse of a wave function and says “Science will probably find a natural explanation for the sudden appearance of all these Bibles.” No one would ever buy that, and he’d be rightly dismissed as unreasonable. People would flock to Christianity.

    Take another example — that of the resurrection of saints, the earthquake, and the three-hour darkness discussed in Matthew. Imagine if these events weren’t just written about solely in Matthew, but made it to all the other Gospels and the epistles and also were written about by every historian in the time period, including some people who became historians solely to record these events. Imagine if we saw testimonies to the three-hour darkness, the earthquake, and the resurrection of saints in accounts from the Chinese, the Japanese, and even the Native Americans.

    Perhaps “Science will probably find a natural explanation” could be used to dismiss the darkness or the earthquake, but I could imagine situations where it couldn’t — the darkness doesn’t correspond to any possible eclipse from the orbits we know of and the earthquake was global to a degree that couldn’t be produced by plate tectonics.

    Even so, that wouldn’t dismiss a resurrection of the Saints (a resurrection in reality completely unnoticed by anyone other than Matthew and not even considered by the Roman authorities, which makes it undoubtably an exaggeration). Imagine if the Chinese witnessed several of their past emperors come back to life for a few hours, all during an inexplicable darkness and earthquake.

    Such is a biblically recorded miracle that occurred in the past thousands of years ago, yet *could have* been utterly and indisputably convincing. Any attempts to appeal to a global mass hallucination, the only conceivable atheistic defense, would be unfounded and rightly dismissed as unreasonable.

    Such miracles counterfactually would have convinced me of Christianity, and additional miracles could. Of course, I’m not of the persuasion “miracle or I stay atheist” — I could be convinced by other means. But those means would be the quickest and the easiest.

  20. You have good reason to be skeptical, but I’m not one of those people who don’t want to believe. If God truly exists and truly is all-good, then I would want to have a personal relationship with him.

    Well that sounds positive. Do you have a post anywhere that enumerates your reasons for not having such a relationship?

    Surely you concede that while you see God as obvious, he’s not “obvious” in the way the existence of Mt. Everest is obvious. God could, potentially, if he wanted to, be a heck of a lot more obvious.

    It seems you mean “obvious” in a direct, visual perception sense. Of course, this is exactly what the Bible tells us is going to happen, but by that time, it will be too late.

    Let me elaborate on point (1), which is probably the point of contention. By this, I mean something that is utterly impossible by current scientific knowledge, like the wholesale levitation of a building by magical incantation.

    I understand. The problem is, our “current scientific knowledge” is always growing. I mean, if some guy levitated an entire building, that doesn’t prove God, Christianity, or anything supernatural. It just proves that something highly extraordinary has occurred. That is the absolute most one could say regarding such an event. This, I believe, is why God doesn’t run around jumping through hoops for skeptics. For that reason, I think your line of reasoning is fallacious. An unexplained, extraordinary event is just that: an unexplained, extraordinary event. To go from there to God requires precisely the fallacious leap often referred to as God of the Gaps.

    Now imagine Mr. “I hate God and will never believe in him no matter what” (if such a person exists) tries to dismiss this as some collapse of a wave function and says “Science will probably find a natural explanation for the sudden appearance of all these Bibles.” No one would ever buy that, and he’d be rightly dismissed as unreasonable. People would flock to Christianity.

    It’s tempting to agree, but I know all-too-well the power of slothful induction. We would still have a subset of people who rationalized things away.

    Take another example — that of the resurrection of saints, the earthquake, and the three-hour darkness discussed in Matthew. Imagine if these events weren’t just written about solely in Matthew, but made it to all the other Gospels and the epistles and also were written about by every historian in the time period, including some people who became historians solely to record these events. Imagine if we saw testimonies to the three-hour darkness, the earthquake, and the resurrection of saints in accounts from the Chinese, the Japanese, and even the Native Americans.

    Again, we would still have people that would rationalize it away. All one would have to do is mount a persuasive case for the first story being a legend. All the rest could be explained by the copycat theory, in the same way we occasionally find a multiplicity of trusted news sources reporting a false story that came downstream. Hell, we even have atheists who would conclude they were hallucinating if God were to appear directly in front of them. For those who don’t want to believe, no argument or evidence is sufficient [and I’m not implying you’re in that category].

    Of course, I’m not of the persuasion “miracle or I stay atheist” — I could be convinced by other means. But those means would be the quickest and the easiest.

    Feel free to elaborate.

  21. Do you have a post anywhere that enumerates your reasons for not having such a relationship [with God]?

    I haven’t finished typing up my complete case; I’m not even close to done; but I do have Twelve Reasons I Don’t Believe in Supernatural Claims, The Problem of God’s Inaction, The Problem of Evil, and My Reasons Against Pascal’s Wager for starters.

    Oddly enough my biggest gripes have not yet been typed up — I think my biggest reason for doubt of God is that I doubt he’s necessary for cosmology and my biggest reason for doubt of Christianity is that the Bible is historically, textually, scientifically, and morally errant and incomplete and does not seem to portray a wise being. I suppose this is grossly unfair to you though because I haven’t explained these reasons yet, but I promise I will get to them.

    By the way, I noticed comments were down on my posts for about a week or so, but I fixed that so people can leave comments. I also know I haven’t gotten to your POE response yet, but I will.

    Not to mention that despite searching and praying to God to enter my life, no evidentiary circumstances changed. To the best of my knowledge, I did those prayers genuinely and with an open heart.

    It seems you mean “obvious” in a direct, visual perception sense. Of course, this is exactly what the Bible tells us is going to happen, but by that time, it will be too late.

    Yes, but that’s not all. God could have been obvious even in the historical sense — he could have left a much bigger and more insurmountable pile of historical evidence indicating his existence and actions in history.

    But even today, it seems rather unfair that God won’t prove himself until it’s too late. I suppose I’ll just have to be surprised when the time comes.

    The problem is, our “current scientific knowledge” is always growing. I mean, if some guy levitated an entire building, that doesn’t prove God, Christianity, or anything supernatural. It just proves that something highly extraordinary has occurred. That is the absolute most one could say regarding such an event. This, I believe, is why God doesn’t run around jumping through hoops for skeptics. For that reason, I think your line of reasoning is fallacious. An unexplained, extraordinary event is just that: an unexplained, extraordinary event. To go from there to God requires precisely the fallacious leap often referred to as God of the Gaps.

    It’s not fallacious because of points 2-3 — the highly extraordinary event is directly connected to God and his power. God is supposed to manifest himself specifically in these unexplained, highly extraordinary events — that’s exactly what the supernatural entails. In my book, “unexplained, highly extraordinary” + “specifically impossible by current science” = supernatural until proven otherwise. Satisfying points 1-3 meets the burden of proof.

    Some events could occur that are physically impossible without a complete rethinking of science, such as whole building levitation with not a magnet or string in sight, or sudden materialization ex-nihilo of Bibles, or perfect telepathy, or an eclipse when there is no astronomical body to cause it. These would be miracles.

    Other events, such as the Catholic Church announcing they found a cure for cancer in their prayers, would not be case closed, but still very convincing.

    It’s tempting to agree, but I know all-too-well the power of slothful induction. We would still have a subset of people who rationalized things away.

    I agree. It’s true that might be the case with a minority of people; just like we see evolution skeptics, global warming skeptics, holocaust skeptics, 9/11 skeptics, and Obama birth certificate skeptics. Not everyone is convinced by evidence that they ought to be convinced by.

    But unless you want to assert that each and every atheist is utterly unreasonable, something I very much doubt to be the case, such miracles I’ve mentioned would be not only utterly convincing but soul-winning.

    All one would have to do is mount a persuasive case for the first story being a legend. All the rest could be explained by the copycat theory, in the same way we occasionally find a multiplicity of trusted news sources reporting a false story that came downstream.

    That is a potential excuse, but it’s possible to construct counterfactuals where this couldn’t possibly be the case. For example, we know indisputably that there are civilizations the 1st century Jews and Romans had no contact with, such as the Japanese, Chinese, the Pacific Islanders, or the Native Americans. If all of these civilizations had written stories of the darkness, resurrection, and earthquake, it would be a historical miracle.

    Hell, we even have atheists who would conclude they were hallucinating if God were to appear directly in front of them.

    To be fair, I would include myself in this group. God has been so inactive in my life (from my point of view, at least) that his sudden appearance would be unexpected, and I would conclude hallucination as the most probable example.

    However, this isn’t insurmountable. If God also appeared in front of twenty of my friends and a NBC news team, or if God appeared and left physical evidence that could be verified by others, this would be convincing.

    As a matter of fact, it’s possible I still could be convinced even with God appearing to me alone — he could predict tomorrow’s lottery numbers for me, communicate a cure for cancer, or even say something so philosophically profound it is impossible for me to have come up with it.

    Feel free to elaborate [on what non-miracle evidence would convince you].

    Limiting myself to non-counterfactuals and non-miracles, the next easiest case would be convincing refutations of my arguments against God and convincing me at least one argument for God was true.

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