More on Miracles

This article reviews two articles I recently encountered related to miracles:

  1. 74% Of Doctors Believe In Miracles, 55% Have Seen Them
  2. From a fellow atheist: How unlikely would an event have to be for you to consider it divine providence?

From the first article:

  1. The poll also indicated that American physicians are surprisingly religious, with 72% indicating they believe that religion provides a reliable and necessary guide to life.
  2. β€œThe picture that emerges is one where doctors, although presumably more highly educated than their average patient, are not necessarily more secular or radically different in religious outlook than the public.”
  3. Most physicians pray for their patients as a group (51%). Even more, 59% pray for individual patients.

From the second:

  1. OP does a good job of thumbnailing the argument for intelligent design in non-technical terms. An unlikely event which matches to an independently given pattern is called complex specified information, and large quantities of this kind of information increases the probability of intelligent design.
  2. OP then asks, “How unlikely would an event have to be for you to consider it divine providence?” The respondents almost universally dodge the question, but they propose some other tests:
    1. The Alien Test: Why posit it was God when it could be an alien?
      1. I think there is substantial external evidence for God and none for aliens. So I think this test is easily dismissed.
      2. One atheist posits “Because people want to believe in God.” I think there is some truth in this and I think it is morally desirable to want to believe in God.
        1. The existence of God explains the existence of objective moral values. Without God there is no good argument for the existence of objective moral values.
        2. So, “People should want to believe in God” is internally consistent while “people should not want to believe in God” is contradictory.
        3. Moreover, objective values exist. That’s of course a separate argument for God.
    2. The Magic Test: why posit it was God when it could be magic?
      1. This begs the question: What is magic?
        1. If it is a blind natural force then we reject it on the grounds of Complex Specified Information.
        2. If it is a force which is guided by supernatural intelligence then it has been granted that supernatural agency is properly inferred.
      2. I think in general, over time the Bible has been repeatedly validated and witchcraft has been invalidated.
    3. The Hallucination Test: “How unlikely would an event have to be before you thought that you had imagined/hallucinated/were losing your mind?”
      1. I think this test is actually quite interesting, in contrast to the other tests proposed. This test can be formed: “How can you be sure you aren’t a brain in a vat?”
      2. It is worth noting that hallucination is characterized by a perception which does not conform to the normal state of affairs. So in a deep way the brain in a vat question, characterized by general hallucination, is different than a 1-off hallucination.
      3. I think there are two answers:
        1. Suppose that it’s equally likely that the world is real and that I am hallucinating. Then I would believe whichever I prefer. Belief in God is rationally preferred.
        2. Hallucination is not properly assumed even it is possible. Whatever appears to be the case is the expected case and it should be believed, even if it is not believed with certainty.
          1. Modern philosophy strongly supports this point. Alvin Plantiga and William Lane Craig support a reformed epistemology which holds that belief in God is properly basic. Interestingly, atheist libertarian philosopher Michael Humer has essentially the same idea, which is referred to as phenomenal conservatism.
    4. The respondent atheists fail to appreciate the importance of non-reproducible events. As an example, user spaceghoti demands independently verified peer reviewed observation. He also has 4 other great examples of nonsense internet atheist tests.

Combining the two articles, I think the Reddit atheists basically dodge an important question proposed by their OP which medical doctors answer very well: Medical events of extremely low probability are not only able to provide convincing examples of miracles in theory, but they in reality occur at a rate substantial enough to convince an enormous majority of our well-educated medical professionals.

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