Seeing “Miracles” Proves Nothing

Fake-Miracles1On the most recent Atheist Experience, at least as of this writing, they had a caller who was quite insistent that the claims of former Christians, including Dan Barker, of miraculous experiences while they were religious, somehow proves that miracles really happen.  My response?  Prove it.

See, I’m sure there are plenty of things that people who were once religious experienced while they believed but those supposed miracles weren’t enough to keep them from losing faith, were they?  Just because you identify an event as miraculous doesn’t mean it actually was.  The caller in question kept admitting that he couldn’t actually validate the details of any of the miracle claims.  Barker, according to the caller, said that he laid hands on a mute person and magically they could talk.  How is this verified by medical science?  I’m sure it hasn’t  been.  I don’t doubt that something happened to Dan Barker that, at the time,  he couldn’t explain.  I’m sure that, at the time, he thought it was a miracle.  However, he could never prove that it was actually a miracle and I’m reasonably sure that today, he would not consider it so.  How would you prove it was a miracle?  You’d have to take a person who was certified mute by a doctor, that they could not, through regular medical means, be made to speak.  You’d have to have a clergyman lay their hands on the person and have them begin to speak, then have them re-examined by a doctor to certify that whatever medical problem they had before is now gone.  Then, and this is the part that apologists seem to miss, you’d have to demonstrate that the malady was actually cured by a supernatural entity.  If you can’t, it’s not a miracle, at least not the religious kind.

Oh, and for the record, Barker was not talking about a mute person, he was talking about someone who showed up to preach, but who had a sore throat and after having hands laid on him, he could speak again.  That’s not terribly impressive, we know people recover from laryngitis without divine intervention all the time, in fact, I’d  be rather surprised if prayer was the only thing the sick individual tried, he may have been drinking chamomile tea or taking medication for his condition, both of which are more likely to explain the “miracle” than a couple of guys talking to themselves.

This goes straight back to my 30-second debate idea.  Just claiming that a god exists because you like the idea that a god exists does not, in any way, prove that a god exists.  The same applies to miracles.  Just claiming that a miracle happened because you like the idea of miracles and can’t come up with a better explanation does not prove that miracles happen. It’s yet another example of the argument from ignorance, a clear favorite among the religious.  Miracles cannot be simply defined into existence because the person or people involved declare it to be a miracle.  It takes significant evidence and without that, it’s just an event for which we cannot demonstrate a cause.  We don’t know.  That’s all we can say.

Of course, I’m sure the theist would never accept that their religious beliefs and religious claims actually need corroboratory evidence and demonstrable direct causal links in order for the skeptical to accept that it was, in fact, an actual miracle.  Since they have nothing to provide and no likelihood of ever getting such, I’m sure they’ll continue to call it unfair that we’d even dare to ask for such things, but that is how the real world works and all claims, no matter who makes them, are held to the same standard.

Put up or shut up.  That’s the way it works.

46 thoughts on “Seeing “Miracles” Proves Nothing”

  1. Even if we grant that a “miraculous” event is indeed exceptional enough to warrant an exceptional explanation, it cannot be assumed that this supports theism. We could, for example, postulate that the event was caused by the incredible powers of human minds rather than the incredible powers of a god’s mind. This explanation is no less credible and in fact has the advantage that we know that humans minds exist, whereas the existence of a god’s mind is questionable.

    The point is, if someone is going to advance one supernatural, paranormal, or unusual explanation for an exceptional event, they have to be willing to consider every other supernatural, paranormal, or unusual explanation. The question which thus faces the believer is: how can one possibly compare all these different explanations? How on earth can one reasonably support the idea that something occurred because of a god rather than human telepathy or ghosts

    1. Do you realize what the definition for 'miracle' is?

      To see one means you must accept there may be more to this world, this life than what can be explained. If that doesn't open the mind to a higher power, then you haven't actually witnessed a miracle.

      1. No, why don't you define it for us. Most people who claim to see miracles do so without actually demonstrating that they actually are miracles. They simply practice the argument from ignorance. They don't understand what happened, therefore God. Sorry, that's not a rational position to take. No one has ever demonstrated they actually witnessed a miracle, only something they cannot understand at the time.

        1. I'm sure your level of proof is much better than mine, so I wouldn't want to lower your standards.

          I'm waiting, patiently as always.

          1. Look up cosmic background radiation. That's called evidence. It's something that anyone can look at any time they want without having to believe in a particular conclusion first. Now present similar evidence for your God. We'll wait.

          2. You demand proof from me, I'm going to say you need to do the same thing.

            The radiation is there, but you haven't shown or proven it's from any big bang.

          3. Seriously, do yourself a favor and get a basic, high-school level science education, you're just being laughable.

    2. You might argue that it could support theism, since that is a very broad category, but it certainly doesn't support any particular brand of theism. There is no "God did it!" The only place it could lead us is "we just don't know", at least until theists can prove that their particular gods actually exist and were actually responsible. That's something that doesn't seem to be forthcoming, isn't it?

        1. If you think there is evidence for the actual existence of God, why don't you present it and prove me wrong? All that we see are anecdotes, empty, unjustified claims and calls of faith. That's not evidence.

          1. So, you have a credible story by a legitimate media source and you reject it out of hand.

            Fine, it's still time for you to make that same standard of proof on the big bang. See: burden of proof.

          2. How do you know it's a credible story? Where has it's credibility been studied by science? It would be in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Point that out for us, please.

  2. The difficulty here lies in the fact that every religion seems to make claims of miraculous events. If one religion’s claims are right and that religion’s god exists, what is the explanation for all the other miracles in other religions? It seems unlikely that the christian god was causing miraculous healings in the name of ancient Greek gods at one time.

    Unfortunately, any attempt to rationally explain away the miracle claims in other religions opens the door for similar explains in the first religion. And any attempt to explain away other miracles as the work of satan simply begs the question — namely, the truth of the religion in question

    1. What other miracles?

      You act as if they are common place. Why don't we examine religious miracles from some of these 'other religions'?

          1. Do you not know the difference between a peer-reviewed medical journal and a news story in the mainstream press? Seriously?

          2. I didn't want anyone to struggle over the format when it's the story that matters.

            But you do feel free to provide a peer review of this instance to show it didn't happen.

            I'll patiently wait.

          3. You have to struggle over the format because that's what matters. The press just tells stories without verifying they are actually so. Peer-reviewed scientific journals test the stories repeatedly to weed out unsupported claims, bad data and unsound conclusions. The media tells stories to sell ad space.

            So come back with what I asked for or you're wasting everyone's time.

          4. I understand your thinking. I do. I simply reject it.
            Formal debate is more about points on who is the most clever at insulting the other.

            I prefer to discuss where the most important part is actual content.
            I'm sure you understand the difference.

            I provided a classic example of the kind of thing in the thread and you simply don't like it so you demand a level of proof you have not offered to me once. Fair is fair.

          5. Formal debate is about audience entertainment, it's not about finding the demonstrable truth. That's why science isn't done through formal debates. I want to come to the actual facts and get around all of the dancing in front of an audience nonsense.

          6. Exactly, and that's why I have little use for formal debate.

            I still haven't been offered any formal proof on the big bang or any other number of subjects you toss out as 'conclusively proven'.

            Of course I accept they are theories that are widely taught, but that's a different standard than the one you demand from me.

          7. Of course you have little use for formal debate.

            Dr. Roy Hinkley is still waiting for you to debate him at……..

          8. Roger's view that "formal debate is more about points on who is the most clever at insulting the other" is completely incorrect. Formal debate is making the most compelling position for one's side on the basis of fact. It's clear from that comment and his body of work here that a structured debate would be a complete waste of time.

          9. Unfortunately, far too many "formal debates" are little more than popularity contests, people who spout drivel that is popular to their built-in audience but has very little fact, evidence or reason behind it.

          10. Roger is hooked on "foolowing" sites:
            The bitch so he can bitch
            Left right and center so he can find his way
            Speak out so he can speak out
            Story leak so he can leak all over
            The growl so he can be flushed
            The foundry so he can feel the heat
            TTC so he can do some loving
            The navy so he can learn how to swim

            That is not much of a repertoire.

            In order to do that he daily stalks Wee, Alinsky, zeb, njmcc, patriothere, serf, sbj1960, whoknowsU. Without them he would be lost.

            Yes this is Roger boy.

          11. Tea-monkey Roger, you could not debate your way out of a ticket for exposing your vagina.

          12. That depends largely on the venue. I'm most familiar with structured academic debate. In such events there is no built in audience, judges are trained and drivel is recognized as such.

          13. Unfortunately, you get the popular debates between theists and scientists and that's all exactly as I said, dancing around like fools in front of a live studio audience. The recent
            Bill Nye/Ken Ham "debate" was a perfect example, or any of the debates against William Lane Craig. They're all just performance art.

          14. No question. It seems the larger the intended audience, the less substantive the arguments and the more readily logical fallacy steps in.

            This is why I'm a fan of competitive academic debate. While not as rigorous as the scientific method (how could it be) it does hold participants responsible for their assertions and teaches a methodical thought process that many people seem to lack.

          15. It all depends on the makeup of the crowd. When the crowd is stuffed with rational scientists, then no one on stage is likely to be making emotional arguments to cater to the largely emotionally-biased audience. When it's made up of people whose only attraction to their beliefs is emotional, you will get almost entirely emotional arguments being made. Personally, I prefer to bypass the public debate format entirely and just go with the peer-reviewed scientific method, where there is no performance, just science.

          16. Boy you got that right. He have never been able win a debate in any way shape or form

          17. Roger is hooked on "foolowing" sites:
            The bitch so he can bitch
            Left right and center so he can find his way
            Speak out so he can speak out
            Story leak so he can leak all over
            The growl so he can be flushed
            The foundry so he can feel the heat
            TTC so he can do some loving
            The navy so he can learn how to swim

            That is not much of a repertoire.

            In order to do that he daily stalks Wee, Alinsky, zeb, njmcc, patriothere, serf, sbj1960, whoknowsU. Without them he would be lost.

            Yes this is Roger boy.

  3. I don't know if i have ever seen a miracle, but I have seen numerous visions.

    Of course, my friend John Daniels was normally present.

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