From Doug Krueger: Reply to Steve Hays

Doug Krueger submitted the following reply to Steve Hays. The selection from Parsons says:

“In conclusion, we have seen that there are a great number of practical difficulties in confirming the occurrence of an apparent miracle. Even if these difficulties are overcome, however, we have seen that there are no grounds for considering any event to be scientifically inexplicable…In sum, we have no good grounds for thinking that any event is a miracle.”

Stating that there are “a great number of practical difficulties” and “no good grounds” for a conclusion, such as that a miracle has taken place, does not rule out that at some time in the future one might acquire good grounds for belief in a miracle event.

The charge that Hume rules out miracles a priori is a common one among fundamentalists, but many Hume scholars read Hume as doing no such thing. Instead, many Hume scholars see him as arguing against testimony about miracles.

In “Science and Miracles” (1998), Ted Drange considers whether the proposition “No scientist could ever believe in miracles under any circumstances” is defensible, and he concludes that it is not. In fact he acknowledges that one could be a methodological naturalist and not also a metaphysical naturalist. That is, one could adopt a naturalistic worldview as part of one’s method of doing science, but this would not entail that one must adhere to naturalism as a metaphysical view.

I don’t see any incompatibility with arguing that there is insufficient evidence for a proposition (such as “A miracle has occurred in relation to event E”) and at the same time hold both:

(i) one might not be able to see in relation to an event E at what point one would decide that a miracle has occurred, and
(ii) a proposition P (such as “God exists and opposes events such as E occurring”), if true, would entail that one would expect miracles to occur at least sometimes.

Regarding (i), I don’t believe that leprechauns exist, but I can’t say that I know precisely what one would have to do in order to show that a given being is, in fact, a leprechaun. Would being of exceedingly short stature, having green clothes, and speaking in an Irish accent be sufficient? Surely not. But while I may be open to the discovery of leprechauns, I don’t know exactly at what point in such an investigation I would finally concede that a given being is a leprechaun. Similarly, we have nothing even approaching sufficient evidence that a miracle has taken place in any given instance, and we can know this lack of evidence pervades miracles claims, and yet at the same time I don’t know at what point I would say that a given event is indeed a miracle, and saying the latter does not entail that I am ruling out a priori the possibility of miracles.