Comment Promotion: Extraordinary claims and the frequency of divine intervention

Jayman writes:

48% of adult Americans claim to have personally experienced or witnessed a miracle. Thus, the Biblical notion that God intervenes in history is consistent with what we observe in real life. Moreover, at least in the case of those who have personally experienced a miracle, extraordinary evidence has been provided for this intervention.

Let’s run a quick reality check on that statistic, shall we? 48% of the adult US population is on the order of 116 million people. Assuming that each of these people is 116 years of age or younger, and making the pessimistic assumption that none of these people have ever seen more than one miracle during their lifetime, that’s still an average of at least 1 million miracles per year, or more than 2,500 miracles per day. And that’s just the number of miracles occurring in America, not including the believers in Europe, South and Central America, Africa, Asia, or Australia. So if this statistic is a valid indicator of the frequency of miraculous activity, we ought to have a gushing fountain of material to study.

Doesn’t it strike you as a bit odd that, with such an enormous reservoir of miracles to draw from, believers have yet to produce even one single verifiable instance of actual supernatural intervention? Even allowing for the possibility that atheistic scientists might be suspected of ignoring the evidence, 2,500 miracles a year for the past 116 years ought to give ample opportunity for Christians to learn scientific techniques for documenting and verifying genuine phenomena, and then applying those techniques to the task of producing at least one solid and well-documented genuine supernatural miracle.

On the other hand, perhaps the low success rate tells us something else about the 116 million miracle statistic. After all, if we assume that the past century is not atypical, and that these miracles have been happening at comparable rates for the past 2,000 years, that’s a really astronomical number of miracles. Even in the Gospels, in the heyday of allegedly miraculous interventions, Jesus didn’t perform 2,500 miracles a day. There are quite a few days when he is not recorded as doing any miracles, and at least one Gospel writer records that, on at least one occasion, “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

In fact, the unrealistically high “hit rate” for reported miracles seems doubly suspicious, because if God were indeed willing and able to be that busy visibly manifesting His existence in human experience, then why would He not simply take the more fundamental and obvious step of showing up to spend time with us, in person, as the Gospels allege He wishes to do? That was, after all, the whole point of dying on the cross: removing barriers so that Man and God could be together forever. Well, forever started yesterday, but God didn’t show up. And if He can’t even show up to say, “Hi, I’m God,” then does it really make sense to suppose He’s doing all those things people are giving Him credit for?

What the 116 million miracle figure tells us is not that God is remarkably active in human affairs, but rather that people are remarkably generous in what they are willing to consider a miracle. If these “miracles” are indeed occurring at the rate of 2,500 per day, every day, then chances are pretty good that you’ve encountered some of them, as I have.

And what do we see when we look at these “miracles”? We find first of all that people are superstitious: they see something they don’t fully understand, and they ascribe it to some invisible, magical cause even though they cannot show any verifiable connection between the two. Most of the time they cannot even say what such a connection would consist of if it did exist. So people see something they don’t understand, and they ascribe it to God, and since they cannot tell us precisely how God would have done what they claim, then it must be magic (or in Christian terms, “miraculous”).

And yet, these miracles do not involve any actual non-natural phenomena. People get sick, and often they get better. That’s perfectly normal and natural. Even animals recover from illnesses, and they don’t pray at all. Or someone will be praying for things to turn out a certain way, and they do. But it’s never a supernatural event, merely unexpected and fortuitous timing of a natural event: they need money, and get an unexpected check in the mail. Money doesn’t just magically poof into existence in their hands, they just fail to anticipate that it’s on its way. Sometimes it’s even a question of life or death: people happen to switch flights or stay home from work, and thus narrowly escape some disaster or other. But nobody escapes from a burning skyscraper by jumping off the top floor and floating gently and safely down, or otherwise defying the laws of physics.

In short, a large number of “miracles” turn out to be people’s surprise at the difference between what they expected, and what actually happened. It’s not that any laws of nature were violated, suspended or otherwise superceded, it’s just that people are not omniscient and don’t always have the best grasp of all the many factors that contribute to the natural outcomes of ordinary happenstance.

Other “miracles” aren’t quite so honest. I recall visiting a monastery once, as a devout Christian, and was looking forward to seeing their “weeping icon”, which was said to miraculously shed “tears” of some oily substance from the face of the Virgin Mary depicted thereon. You could indeed see drops of some darkish liquid on the icon, as though they had just condensed there or oozed out of the wood. I was a bit disappointed by it, because it didn’t look quite as miraculous as I had hoped, but that impression was reinforced many times over when, later on in the tour, we happened to pass by the door to the icon room again and I saw a nun vigorously scrubbing the icon with cotton balls dipped in olive oil. She was “cleaning” it, our guide informed us, assuring us that the oil on the cotton balls was just to make sure they picked up every drop of the “holy” secretions (which they then sold for a “donation” of $10 in the monastery gift shop).

I suppose it would be pedestrian to point out that any plank of wood, frequently saturated in olive oil, will eventually begin to ooze some of the oil back out again? Yet for all that, I’m sure the good nuns believed with heartfelt sincerity that they were merely doing their duty by “cleaning” the “miraculous” icon. The best way to fool others is to fool yourself first.

So I must agree with Jayman on one point at least: I think the thousands of “miracles” that we see every day are indeed consistent with the kind of miracles that took place in New Testament times. It’s just that none of them requires any actual existence on God’s part. No extraordinary evidence is needed for such claims, because all they’re really claiming is that humans are fallible, superstitious, and prone to count only God’s “wins” and not His losses. And that’s not extraordinary at all.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 39 Comments »

39 Responses to “Comment Promotion: Extraordinary claims and the frequency of divine intervention”

  1. Inquisitive Raven Says:

    Don’t forget the doctor’s pet peeve. If the patient dies, the doctor gets the blame. If the patient recovers, God gets the credit.

    Then there’s the recent USAir ditch into the Hudson River.

  2. Inquisitive Raven Says:

    Not sure how that happened.

    I was trying to point out that these alleged miracles are the result of human intervention, when I apparently hit “post” by accident.

  3. Jayman Says:

    Your calculation for the number of miracles that happen each day in the U.S. makes two unwarranted assumptions. First, it assumes that each miracle is experienced or witnessed by only one person. Second, it assumes that Americans who have experienced or witnessed a miracle did so on U.S. soil. Both your assumptions are false and therefore your number is wrong. You cannot accurately calculate the number of miracles that happen each day in the U.S. solely from the statistic I offered.

    Your calculations from the Gospels are just as bad. First, the Gospels do not claim to recount every miracle Jesus worked nor the exact length of his ministry, making it impossible to calculate the number of miracles Jesus worked per day. Second, you compare the (wrong) number of miracles per day in the entire U.S. with the number of miracles performed per day by Jesus (apples to oranges).

    It is more prudent to note that miracle stories have been relatively common throughout human history.

    It is debatable whether believers have failed to produce a verifiable instance of actual supernatural intervention. It is more accurate to say that not everyone is convinced by the evidence for the supernatural. This does not strike me as odd for at least the following reasons:

    (1) Disagreements are the norm for humans. This would not be the only case where people can look at the same evidence and draw different conclusions.

    (2) There are skeptics who will not believe in the supernatural regardless of the evidence provided and admit as much.

    (3) The vast majority of miracles appear to be historical occurrences that cannot be anticipated beforehand. This rules out scientific investigation, at least in the sense of repeating the same thing over and over again.

    You and Tony were discussing whether our present day observations are consistent with what the Bible says and I hope he has further comments. You claim that the Gospels say God wants to spend time with us in person. Where? I can think of passages where he says he will send his Spirit, but I assume that is not “in person” in your mind. More importantly, the “us” given the Spirit is his followers, not just anybody.

    I admit that people can be mistaken or careless when examining miracles and may believe a miracle happened when, in fact, none did (or the term “miracle” can be used in a non-supernatural sense). However, I also know there are many stories that have no natural explanation. Your attempted explanations for miracles do not adequately explain all miracles (which is the very thing you need to do in order to confidently assert God does not show up in real life).

    (1) You call believers in miracles “superstitious”. Yet there have been atheists who aren’t superstitious who have come to believe they have witnessed a miracle.

    (2) You say of believers in miracles:

    [T]hey see something they don’t fully understand, and they ascribe it to some invisible, magical cause even though they cannot show any verifiable connection between the two. Most of the time they cannot even say what such a connection would consist of if it did exist. So people see something they don’t understand, and they ascribe it to God, and since they cannot tell us precisely how God would have done what they claim, then it must be magic (or in Christian terms, “miraculous”).

    Most believers can explain how God might do something. For example, one could posit that God hears a prayer to be cured from a disease, decides to answer the prayer, and heals the person of the disease. You also fail to note that atheists do the very thing you accuse theists of doing. For example, they see an answered prayer for healing they don’t fully understand, and ascribe it to some invisible, natural cause even though they cannot show any verifiable connection between the two. Most of the time they cannot even say what such a connection would consist of if it did.

    (3) You assert that “miracles do not involve any actual non-natural phenomena” and that these miracles are “consistent with the kind of miracles that took place in New Testament times.” This attempted explanation fails since there are a number of miracles that go well beyond natural phenomena. For example, either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t, but there is no natural phenomena that explains how a person could be dead on Friday and alive on Sunday.

  4. jim Says:

    Jayman:

    “Your calculation for the number of miracles that happen each day in the U.S. makes two unwarranted assumptions. First, it assumes that each miracle is experienced or witnessed by only one person. Second, it assumes that Americans who have experienced or witnessed a miracle did so on U.S. soil. Both your assumptions are false and therefore your number is wrong. You cannot accurately calculate the number of miracles that happen each day in the U.S. solely from the statistic I offered.”

    This paragraph boils down to sophistry via statistical nit-picking. Don’t like Deacon’s numbers? Let’s settle for ‘lots and lots’ then, and not fill up space with disingenuous quibbling that strays from the point. After all, the statistic you use- 48% of adult Americans claim to have personally experienced or witnessed a miracle- doesn’t say a lot, unless you believe ‘claim’ vs ‘actual miracle’ breaks down to a simple one-to-one correspondence. I doubt you believe that. Moving on…

    “It is more prudent to note that miracle stories have been relatively common throughout human history.”

    Yes, ‘stories’ of miraculous events HAVE been common down through human history. So have legends, fabrications, and superstitious misinterpretations. These are common aspects of human psychology which have to be taken into consideration as realistic alternative explanations for the miraculous. Of course, a single news report, complete with video of Christians floating down from the top of a burning building, or walking through the fire unscathed, or a hundred other things easily imaginable, would certainly short-circuit the skepticism of all but the most adamant unbelievers. That’s because this would be an example of ‘extraordinary evidence’; in other words, evidence that lines up with extraordinary ‘claims, or stories’. So far, I haven’t seen any.

    “(1) Disagreements are the norm for humans. This would not be the only case where people can look at the same evidence and draw different conclusions.”

    There are many norms for humans, including fantasy, self-delusion, and legend building through hyperbole and just plain lying. As far as I can see so far, this is the ‘ordinary’ evidence which seems to belie claims of the supernatural. Of course, no one person or group can accurately prove or disprove every single claim of every single human, if for no other reason than it’s an ongoing process. The best one can do is reason from the general, until faced with ‘extraordinary evidence’ that might jump out at you, and cause one to give something a second look.

    “(2) There are skeptics who will not believe in the supernatural regardless of the evidence provided and admit as much.”

    And vice versa. I was a Christian for a long time, and understand from the inside how some believers are willing to bend over backwards to frame an easily misinterpreted, or even completely fanciful, experience in a miraculous light. Such examples are everywhere, from Lourdes, to tortillas with the Holy Virgin’s face in them.

    “(3) The vast majority of miracles appear to be historical occurrences that cannot be anticipated beforehand. This rules out scientific investigation, at least in the sense of repeating the same thing over and over again.”

    No, it only rules out tests of repeatability. It in no way rules out other tests of confirmation. The question needn’t necessarily be ‘Can we repeat this experiment?’ We can also simply start with the question ‘Did this really happen?’ And if it did, we proceed to questions like ‘is there a naturalistic explanation, like misinterpretation or fraud?’

    “You and Tony were discussing whether our present day observations are consistent with what the Bible says and I hope he has further comments. You claim that the Gospels say God wants to spend time with us in person. Where? I can think of passages where he says he will send his Spirit, but I assume that is not “in person” in your mind. More importantly, the “us” given the Spirit is his followers, not just anybody.”

    What next? The miracle happened, but can only be seen through the eyes of faith? I had a guy tell me that about UFOs once. Seems like the conversation devolves into solipsism right around this point.

    “I admit that people can be mistaken or careless when examining miracles and may believe a miracle happened when, in fact, none did (or the term “miracle” can be used in a non-supernatural sense). However, I also know there are many stories that have no natural explanation. Your attempted explanations for miracles do not adequately explain all miracles (which is the very thing you need to do in order to confidently assert God does not show up in real life).”

    Here, you’re limiting ‘natural explanation’ to the contents of the claim, and ignoring the claim itself. There are naturalistic explanations for ALL claims. People lie. People imagine things. People misinterpret. People self-delude. Your logic seems to dictate that the more outrageous the details of the claim are, the more surely the claim is true.

    “(1) You call believers in miracles “superstitious”. Yet there have been atheists who aren’t superstitious who have come to believe they have witnessed a miracle.”

    Perhaps, though surely on a lesser scale than those whose psychologies leave them more open to supernatural explanations. Anyhow, atheists aren’t perfect thinkers or observers, and can certainly make mistakes. I would have no problem calling an atheist superstitious, if the need arose. No point here, really.

    “(2) You say of believers in miracles:

    [T]hey see something they don’t fully understand, and they ascribe it to some invisible, magical cause even though they cannot show any verifiable connection between the two. Most of the time they cannot even say what such a connection would consist of if it did exist. So people see something they don’t understand, and they ascribe it to God, and since they cannot tell us precisely how God would have done what they claim, then it must be magic (or in Christian terms, “miraculous”).

    Most believers can explain how God might do something. For example, one could posit that God hears a prayer to be cured from a disease, decides to answer the prayer, and heals the person of the disease. You also fail to note that atheists do the very thing you accuse theists of doing. For example, they see an answered prayer for healing they don’t fully understand, and ascribe it to some invisible, natural cause even though they cannot show any verifiable connection between the two. Most of the time they cannot even say what such a connection would consist of if it did.”

    Indeed, Christians DO explain this and that as being miraculous. Skeptics, on the other hand, seek for evidence that conforms with how the real world seems to operate. They may not always come to specific, concrete conclusions. But lacking such conclusions, would it be reasonable for them to jump directly to ‘magic’ as an explanation. Or, take this example:

    You and I are walking along a deserted dirt road. Suddenly, we come upon what seems to be an old Coke can. You claim it as such, but I reply,

    “No! It’s a meteor in the SHAPE of a Coke can, which has broken off from the mysterious and little known ‘Coke Can Planet’. So, we take it in, have it analyzed in a dozen different ways. We find that there are, indeed, some differences in the makeup of the can from a pristine Coke can. Of course you, being a naturalistic skeptic, try to explain it all away as a result of the can sitting out in that road for several years, fading from sun, maybe getting contaminated by minerals in the surrounding soil, etc. But I stick to my guns, emphasizing the difference between THIS coke can and the others.

    Are our evidences equal? Or to validate my claim somewhat, mustn’t I offer something more ‘extraordinary’ in the way of evidence, other than just the reiteration of my belief system? I think I’ve made my point.

    “(3) You assert that “miracles do not involve any actual non-natural phenomena” and that these miracles are “consistent with the kind of miracles that took place in New Testament times.” This attempted explanation fails since there are a number of miracles that go well beyond natural phenomena. For example, either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t, but there is no natural phenomena that explains how a person could be dead on Friday and alive on Sunday.?

    Here, it seems like you’re limiting naturalistic explanations to direct instead of indirect causes. For instance, a direct (and rather silly) naturalistic explanation for Jesus walking on water might be to say he planned the whole thing beforehand as a ruse, stacking stones the night before to walk across, thus creating the illusion of walking on water. Yes, a possible naturalistic explanation, but certain not necessarily the most reasonable one.

    All this said, I’d like to offer my two cents as to what I mean when I use the term ‘extraordinary evidence’ vis-a-vis supernaturalistic claims. Simply stated, SHOW ME AN OBVIOUSLY SUPERNATURAL EVENT! Not something that’s easily explained away by naturalism. God heals? Show me ONE limb miraculous restored. Or empty out ONE children’s cancer ward. Just once, I’d like to see a believer hold God’s feet to the fire. I don’t know HOW many slightly shortened legs I’ve seen ‘miraculously’ lengthened in my past history of going to prayer meetings and revivals. So, why the hell are thousands of people gimping around on wooden legs, while God seems to show no surcease of mercy to people whose problems could be cured WITH A THICK SOCK, for crying out loud??? Show me the money, Jayman…there’s been enough beating around the burning bush for this old skeptic.

    BTW, it’s called induction…FYI. The foundation of reasonableness.

  5. jp mcavalon Says:

    Lightning, Seasons, Eclipse, Sunrise, Moon phases.

    Supernatural? From the realm of the gods? Dragons eating the Sun?

    How about volcanoes? Earth quakes?

    Natural phenomena or angry gods or perhaps work of the devil?

    I’m a simple construction worker, not schooled in philosophy, theology, or natural sciences. It seems to me, however that a number of years ago the natural explanations were unknown.

  6. Jayman Says:

    Jim:

    Yes, ’stories’ of miraculous events HAVE been common down through human history. So have legends, fabrications, and superstitious misinterpretations. These are common aspects of human psychology which have to be taken into consideration as realistic alternative explanations for the miraculous.

    They should be taken into account, but they fail to explain many miracle stories.

    Of course, a single news report, complete with video of Christians floating down from the top of a burning building, or walking through the fire unscathed, or a hundred other things easily imaginable, would certainly short-circuit the skepticism of all but the most adamant unbelievers. That’s because this would be an example of ‘extraordinary evidence’; in other words, evidence that lines up with extraordinary ‘claims, or stories’. So far, I haven’t seen any.

    Starting in 1968, and continuing over a 2-3 year period, an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared over the Coptic Church of Saint Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt. It was witnessed by millions of people of different religious beliefs, it was photographed and videotaped. Miraculous cures were also experienced. Investigations into the matter found no natural explanation. Time to start moving the goal posts?

    Of course, no one person or group can accurately prove or disprove every single claim of every single human, if for no other reason than it’s an ongoing process. The best one can do is reason from the general, until faced with ‘extraordinary evidence’ that might jump out at you, and cause one to give something a second look.

    In other words, agnosticism or theism are the only logical beliefs to hold. Only a very arrogant person would assert God never intervenes in human history despite the fact he has not explained even a small portion of the miracle stories.

    We can also simply start with the question ‘Did this really happen?’ And if it did, we proceed to questions like ‘is there a naturalistic explanation, like misinterpretation or fraud?

    Except historical inquiry relies on human testimony and atheists rarely find human testimony extraordinary, even if there are numerous trustworthy people giving the same testimony.

    What next? The miracle happened, but can only be seen through the eyes of faith? I had a guy tell me that about UFOs once. Seems like the conversation devolves into solipsism right around this point.

    I’m not saying miracles can only be witnessed through the eyes of faith. Over a number of posts Deacon has argued that the world we know today is inconsistent with the world described in the Bible. This is why he compared the difference between the supposed frequency of miracles in the U.S. today with the number of miracles worked by Jesus and why I objected. He also thinks he can rule out the existence of the Christian God by showing a disconnect between the Bible and the present day. In this case he is arguing that since God does not show up bodily in the present day the Christian God does not exist. I’m asking for a passage where such an expectation might come from.

    Here, you’re limiting ‘natural explanation’ to the contents of the claim, and ignoring the claim itself. There are naturalistic explanations for ALL claims. People lie. People imagine things. People misinterpret. People self-delude. Your logic seems to dictate that the more outrageous the details of the claim are, the more surely the claim is true.

    My logic does not dictate such a conclusion. I see your point but it fails to explain many stories. You would have to posit that numerous people misinterpret the same thing in the same way, or that everyone has the same delusion, or that photos and videos are delusional, or that medical equipment is mistaken only when evaluating the recipients of miracles but perfectly accurate all the other times. Such explanations for the claim become as extraordinary as the contents of the claim.

    Skeptics, on the other hand, seek for evidence that conforms with how the real world seems to operate. They may not always come to specific, concrete conclusions. But lacking such conclusions, would it be reasonable for them to jump directly to ‘magic’ as an explanation.

    But the reason people suspect a miracle is because there is no plausible natural explanation. Your Coke can example conveniently had a plausible natural explanation.

  7. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    Mostly it again comes down to this: what is more likely… that the entire body of what we’ve been able to discern about the universe can be circumvented at will by a being that conveniently enough cannot be detected, or that stories get better with the telling?

    I’m going to need extraordinary evidence that things such as this actually happened, were thoroughly studied and documented, and deemed unexplainable by the greatest experts on the subject; that’s how extraordinary the claims being presented as evidence are.

  8. jim Says:

    Jayman: I’ll just reply to your last comment, as I don’t relish building longer and longer threads, while saying virtually the same thing-

    ”But the reason people suspect a miracle is because there is no plausible natural explanation. Your Coke can example conveniently had a plausible natural explanation.”

    My whole point is that there ARE plausible natural explanations for these phenomena, as well as for the claims and stories that accompany them (or sometimes, PRECEDE them!). Miraculous claims are quite ordinary, as you’ve pointed out; and when sufficiently challenged and studied, the explanations generally turn out to be quite ordinary, as well.

    Just like my Coke can, there are plenty of naturalistic explanations, following lines of human behavior that we have lots of evidence for. To take any one so-called miracle, and say ‘yes, but THIS one is different!”, requires evidence more convincing than the run-of-the-mill stories and claims we hear about all the time. It’s the same with UFO stories. ‘Evidence’ in the form of stories is everywhere, but EVIDENCE of the more convincing sort is wholly, wholly lacking. Same for miracles. A story is not extraordinary evidence. A crop circle is not extraordinary evidence. A crashed saucer with dead aliens inside, on the other hand, WOULD BE extraordinary evidence. Note that I say a crashed saucer, and not STORIES of a crashed saucer, or WITNESSES who supposedly saw the crashed saucer.

    I really can’t think of anything else to say at this point, so I’ll let it go for now. Take care.

  9. pboyfloyd Says:

    “Your attempted explanations for miracles do not adequately explain all miracles (which is the very thing you need to do in order to confidently assert God does not show up in real life).”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that Duncan doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he cannot MAGICALLY explain each and every supposed miracle proposed through the ages.

    This is ridiculous. Come on, Jayman, why would Duncan even attempt this?

    Jayman, you say, “Most believers can explain how God might do something. For example, one could posit that God hears a prayer to be cured from a disease, decides to answer the prayer, and heals the person of the disease.”

    How does God do it? A person is sick(diseased), he prays to God, who anwers the prayer.

    That’s not ‘how’ HE did it, at all. That might be, for believers WHY God would heal a sick person, but not HOW!

    In every single case like this, a nurse or doctor tells some family members and friends that the outlook is bad, or even hopeless. The family and friends(who possibly include a Godly person with a chance to become a Catholic saint) pray.

    There are only two possible outcomes here. The doctor was right or the doctor was wrong.

    When the doctor is seen to be wrong, you dismiss that option and go to a third option which is, “The doctor was right, BUT prayers were said by the faithful and answered with a cure!”

    You can’t see that you’re just bolstering your own faith here?

    What would you say if you woke up in a hospital in Delhi, India and the doctor told you that it was a miracle that happened because they prayed to Krishna, in fact a graven image of Krishna!?

    Let’s say that they prayed and you started to recover, then they stopped and you relapsed ten times, would you believe that Krishna had saved you?

  10. Jayman Says:

    ThatOtherGuy:

    Mostly it again comes down to this: what is more likely… that the entire body of what we’ve been able to discern about the universe can be circumvented at will by a being that conveniently enough cannot be detected, or that stories get better with the telling?

    This dichotomy seems inconsistent with your next paragraph. There are miracle stories that do not get better with each telling yet you still don’t believe in miracles.

    I’m going to need extraordinary evidence that things such as this actually happened, were thoroughly studied and documented, and deemed unexplainable by the greatest experts on the subject; that’s how extraordinary the claims being presented as evidence are.

    Who are the greatest experts on paranormal and supernatural subjects? Can you give me a name and a subject of expertise?

  11. Jayman Says:

    Jim:

    My whole point is that there ARE plausible natural explanations for these phenomena, as well as for the claims and stories that accompany them (or sometimes, PRECEDE them!).

    Could you give me a plausible natural explanation for the Marian apparitions at Zeitoun or the miracle mentioned here?

  12. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that Duncan doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he cannot MAGICALLY explain each and every supposed miracle proposed through the ages.

    He doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he cannot provide a naturalistic explanation for all miracle stories. Atheists create an impossible task for themselves.

    This is ridiculous. Come on, Jayman, why would Duncan even attempt this?

    He claims to believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. He’s made the extraordinary claim that he knows God never acts in life so he should back it up with extraordinary evidence.

    Of course I know he won’t be able to back it up. Only agnosticism and theism are logically compatible with the belief that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The agnostic can honestly say he has not seen evidence for God. The theist can honestly say he has seen evidence for God. But the atheist cannot honestly say he has done the necessary leg work and determined no God exists. Is honesty to much to ask for?

    That’s not ‘how’ HE did it, at all. That might be, for believers WHY God would heal a sick person, but not HOW!

    I assumed you’d be able to fill in the blanks if given a specific illness. For example, God could kill germs in your body, remove a cancerous tumor, etc.

    In every single case like this, a nurse or doctor tells some family members and friends that the outlook is bad, or even hopeless. The family and friends(who possibly include a Godly person with a chance to become a Catholic saint) pray.

    There are only two possible outcomes here. The doctor was right or the doctor was wrong.

    When the doctor is seen to be wrong, you dismiss that option and go to a third option which is, “The doctor was right, BUT prayers were said by the faithful and answered with a cure!”

    You can’t see that you’re just bolstering your own faith here?

    You’re incorrect. If I thought the doctor was wrong I wouldn’t claim a miracle happened. In order for me to think a miracle may have happened I would need to believe that the doctor was right and that there was no natural explanation for the healing.

    What would you say if you woke up in a hospital in Delhi, India and the doctor told you that it was a miracle that happened because they prayed to Krishna, in fact a graven image of Krishna!?

    Let’s say that they prayed and you started to recover, then they stopped and you relapsed ten times, would you believe that Krishna had saved you?

    It’s certainly possible that I would convert to Hinduism, but I believe Yahweh can act even when people have false beliefs so it would be by no means certain that I would convert. The one thing I would not be is an atheist. How would you react (assuming you were convinced the doctor’s prognosis was accurate)?

    Interestingly, I’ve met an ex-Hindu from India who related a similar situation. He was diagnosed with a terminal case of stomach cancer. One day some Christian missionaries asked if they could pray for his healing. At the time this man detested Christians but allowed them to pray anyway as he thought it could do no harm. At that moment he felt an invisible hand in his abdomen repairing his insides. He was cured and converted to Christianity. I relate this story because it’s similar to the story you provided, it shows a skeptic convinced, and it describes how a healing can feel.

  13. jim Says:

    Jayman:

    “Jim:

    Could you give me a plausible natural explanation for the Marian apparitions at Zeitoun or the miracle mentioned here?”

    Last thing first, in the Bernadette Mckenzie story, I have just that…a story. I’m not privy to any other information besides that given in a magazine article. No interviews, no skeptical analysis, no official medical records, etc. Certainly something may have happened; but what, exactly? More info might serve to either bolster or mitigate claims of the miraculous, but I just don’t have anything here to work with… nothing that would prove a miracle healing, anyway.

    As far as the Marian visions are concerned…well, I categorize them with all the other ones. Certainly there are witnesses…but witnesses to what, exactly? Blobs of light? I’ve seen the pictures, and there’s nothing recognizably human in them to someone who isn’t predisposed to read something revelatory into them. Could be a hoax to fill the pews, or the town’s coffers, or whatever. Might be a trick of light, as is often the case in these sorts of things.

    Are you familiar with the term ‘pareidolia’? You might want to check out this link.

    I’m curious. What is the usefulness of such supposed ‘appearances’? This always seems to happen in poor countries, or communities, and yet she never delivers anything substantial, like food or something. And why always the mysterious distancing, all lit up like a lava lamp in a high tower, or in the sky, or the sun? Why not walk amongst the people, talk face to face with them? These appearances seem designed to amp people up, and not much else. Or, perhaps many of them are amped up already, and need any slightly anomalous visual cue to project their superstition upon.

    Again, I can’t prove there’s nothing more to this, but I can’t say I’m particularly impressed. As far as the other thing, seemingly spontaneous healings DO occur, and sometimes diseases regress. I’m not saying we understand everything about existence, or even about what we consider natural. But taking a jump from no information to an explanation framed in miraculous terms certainly requires more information than we have offered here. No?

    P.S. During my reading on these subjects, I came across a bit of testimony where a woman’s friend claimed a big cross on top of a building would often spin around. At some point the friend exclaimed something like, “Oh, there it goes now! Look at it spin!” The woman witnessed nothing. Hey, people are nuts…go figure!

  14. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “Who are the greatest experts on paranormal and supernatural subjects? Can you give me a name and a subject of expertise?”

    First of all, “supernatural” is a fancy way of saying “nonexistent.” Anything that exists is by definition “natural;” that’s what “natural” means. Paranormal, likewise, has very little meaning. The fields associated with the supernatural and paranormal are similarly unimportant; “professional” ghost hunting and the like so far have shown themselves to be worthless.

    What I am referring to is getting experts on natural explanations to examine events. I don’t want to hear anecdotal evidence of doctors confounded by magical prayer-cures who then immediately go about their business. If such things occurred they would become beacons of study for medical science, not little stories repeated infinitely as hearsay to make christians think they have a leg to stand on.

  15. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    @Jim:

    That seems to be the difference between scientists and the religious. When the religious fail to come up with an explanation for something, they immediately say “God did it!” When scientists fail to come up with an explanation for something, they KEEP LOOKING.

  16. Jayman Says:

    Jim:

    I realize you don’t have Bernadette’s medical records. I’m wondering how you would go about explaining her story assuming the story is accurate. It seems to me that the naturalist would have to say that Bernadette’s thoughts or words somehow healed her body and that it was a coincidence that “Forever Young” played on the radio at that moment. It seems you have to choose between believing God answered the prayer or that human’s can cure themselves through thoughts or words alone.

    As far as the Marian visions are concerned…well, I categorize them with all the other ones. Certainly there are witnesses…but witnesses to what, exactly? Blobs of light? I’ve seen the pictures, and there’s nothing recognizably human in them to someone who isn’t predisposed to read something revelatory into them.

    Witnesses said she took on different appearances and was only an articulated figure some of the time. The first people to see her were Muslims who initially thought it was a woman in danger of killing herself. They report she bowed before the cross, a thing no Muslim would want to see since they don’t believe Jesus was crucified and accuse Christians of being cross-worshipers/idolaters.

    Could be a hoax to fill the pews, or the town’s coffers, or whatever. Might be a trick of light, as is often the case in these sorts of things.

    The light trick would have to create multiple moving figures (Mary, birds, mist, stars) that could change shapes and that would appear and disappear. The lights would still have to work even after the power was cut to the area in an attempt to catch a hoax. The illusion would have to work at different angles. Does such technology exist today? Did it exist then?

    I’m curious. What is the usefulness of such supposed ‘appearances’? This always seems to happen in poor countries, or communities, and yet she never delivers anything substantial, like food or something.

    The strengthening of faith would be useful in itself. In this case miracles were also reported.

    And why always the mysterious distancing, all lit up like a lava lamp in a high tower, or in the sky, or the sun? Why not walk amongst the people, talk face to face with them? These appearances seem designed to amp people up, and not much else. Or, perhaps many of them are amped up already, and need any slightly anomalous visual cue to project their superstition upon.

    She didn’t seem very distant. It looks like the church is right next to the street and she would be about three stories up. If it’s possible to go up into the church domes you could probably be within a few feet of her depending on her location. Though you could find other Marian apparitions where she talks, this one has that too if you look back far enough. It is said that the builder of the church was told by Mary to build the church and that she would appear within 50 years. The church was built in 1924.

    But taking a jump from no information to an explanation framed in miraculous terms certainly requires more information than we have offered here. No?

    Obviously the mere telling of a story is not enough but if a story has been investigated and found accurate it may be reasonable to believe a supernatural event has occurred.

  17. Jayman Says:

    ThatOtherGuy:

    First of all, “supernatural” is a fancy way of saying “nonexistent.” Anything that exists is by definition “natural;” that’s what “natural” means. Paranormal, likewise, has very little meaning.

    Quite simply, you’re mistaken (supernatural, natural, paranormal).

    The fields associated with the supernatural and paranormal are similarly unimportant; “professional” ghost hunting and the like so far have shown themselves to be worthless.

    What I am referring to is getting experts on natural explanations to examine events.

    Who would you send to investigate a haunted house? What types of tests would they do that the professional ghost hunters do not do?

    I don’t want to hear anecdotal evidence of doctors confounded by magical prayer-cures who then immediately go about their business. If such things occurred they would become beacons of study for medical science, not little stories repeated infinitely as hearsay to make christians think they have a leg to stand on.

    First, you should have no problem personally meeting recipients of inexplicable cures, so it is grossly incorrect to think such stories are only hearsay. Second, wouldn’t only explicable cures be of use to medical science? How are you going to create a treatment or cure from a process you don’t even understand? How are you going to understand the healing process when it’s already completed?

    That seems to be the difference between scientists and the religious. When the religious fail to come up with an explanation for something, they immediately say “God did it!” When scientists fail to come up with an explanation for something, they KEEP LOOKING.

    Wrong again. For example, I’m not sure how the moon came to orbit the earth but I don’t say God must have done it. Moreover, I would say you should keep looking even after you’ve found a natural explanation since you can get those wrong too. The difference is that religious people are more willing to consider supernatural explanations.

  18. jim Says:

    Jayman:

    “I realize you don’t have Bernadette’s medical records. I’m wondering how you would go about explaining her story assuming the story is accurate. It seems to me that the naturalist would have to say that Bernadette’s thoughts or words somehow healed her body and that it was a coincidence that “Forever Young” played on the radio at that moment.”

    That’s my first problem with the story, Jayman. I can’t assume the story is accurate, though I certainly wouldn’t categorically assert that it is not. Like the biblical stories, I assume that there may be parts of truth mixed with parts of fiction. But I just don’t have enough information to go on.
    Mixing fact with fable IS the stuff of legend building, after all.

    “Witnesses said she took on different appearances and was only an articulated figure some of the time.”

    “The light trick would have to create multiple moving figures (Mary, birds, mist, stars) that could change shapes and that would appear and disappear…”

    This stuff makes me even MORE skeptical as to the reality of the ‘visions’. Here’s an interesting bit of reading I found on the subject of mass hallucination. It’s a google book in pdf format, so I’m not sure how this link will operate. Start at page 51.

    “She didn’t seem very distant. It looks like the church is right next to the street and she would be about three stories up. If it’s possible to go up into the church domes you could probably be within a few feet of her depending on her location. Though you could find other Marian apparitions where she talks, this one has that too if you look back far enough.”

    Again, this ‘waving from the balcony’ seems more appropriate to Michael Jackson than to a manifestation of the Divine. Birds. Mist. Stars. Why??? It all seems goofy, and utterly pointless. Strengthening of faith? My god, these people receive a faith booster every time they see a face in a grilled cheese sandwich, or a waterstain underneath a freeway overpass. Don’t you glean at least a small bit of the absurdity of this stuff?

    “It is said that the builder of the church was told by Mary to build the church and that she would appear within 50 years. The church was built in 1924.”

    Sorry, but this smacks of an after-the-fact contrivance to me. Of course, I don’t suppose such a ‘prophecy’ would be that hard to fulfill, considering the people and place. Let me try one- Mexican Catholics in S. California (where I am) will venerate a melted ice cream cone on a cement walkway in an apartment complex. Oops, already happened. Another try- Mexican Catholics will make pilgrimages by the thousands to witness the miracle of a Cross of Light in somebody’s bathroom window…um, at least at night when the streetlight outside the window comes on. Oops, that’s old news, as well. I’ll keep thinking about it.

    “Obviously the mere telling of a story is not enough but if a story has been investigated and found accurate it may be reasonable to believe a supernatural event has occurred.”

    It MAY be reasonable, after all other routes of inquiry have been exhausted. Until then, I’ll stick with the more ordinary possibilities, since experience has shown me (so far) that supposed supernatural events usually have prosaic explanations.

  19. jim Says:

    Drat! I forgot the thingamajig at the end of the embedded link. Oh well, purple’s pretty anyway :)

  20. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, you’ve probably not seen this comment, but it was a response to you.

  21. Jayman Says:

    Jim:

    That’s my first problem with the story, Jayman. I can’t assume the story is accurate, though I certainly wouldn’t categorically assert that it is not. Like the biblical stories, I assume that there may be parts of truth mixed with parts of fiction. But I just don’t have enough information to go on.

    You can still give a hypothetical answer.

    This stuff makes me even MORE skeptical as to the reality of the ‘visions’. Here’s an interesting bit of reading I found on the subject of mass hallucination. It’s a google book in pdf format, so I’m not sure how this link will operate. Start at page 51.

    You seem to be saying that the more difficult it is to orchestrate a hoax the more likely it is to be a hoax. The pictures I’ve seen rule out mass hallucination/illusion.

    Again, this ‘waving from the balcony’ seems more appropriate to Michael Jackson than to a manifestation of the Divine. Birds. Mist. Stars. Why??? It all seems goofy, and utterly pointless. Strengthening of faith? My god, these people receive a faith booster every time they see a face in a grilled cheese sandwich, or a waterstain underneath a freeway overpass. Don’t you glean at least a small bit of the absurdity of this stuff?

    You can make it sound silly and pointless when you edit the accounts to your liking. There’s nothing strange with greeting the crowds. The various items in addition to Mary make symbolic sense or are understandable in light of Scripture. You ignore the miraculous cures when saying it is pointless. You conveniently stereotype thousands of people by saying they need no strengthening of the faith despite their claims to the contrary. You ignore non-Christians who re-evaluated their faith and even converted (which could be another purpose).

    Sorry, but this smacks of an after-the-fact contrivance to me. Of course, I don’t suppose such a ‘prophecy’ would be that hard to fulfill, considering the people and place.

    I merely mentioned it as an example of Mary talking. You could find other examples as well. The point is that she is not always as distant and silent as you allege.

  22. » The healing of Bernadette McKenzie Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] upJohn Morales on Comment Promotion: Extraordinary claims and the evidence for GodJayman on Comment Promotion: Extraordinary claims and the frequency of divine interventionharebell on TIA Tuesday: Wrapping upDeacon Duncan on Sunday Toons: The Emperor’s New [...]

  23. Modusoperandi Says:

    “Starting in 1968, and continuing over a 2-3 year period, an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared over the Coptic Church of Saint Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt. It was witnessed by millions of people of different religious beliefs, it was photographed and videotaped.”
    So the question is: Is it more likely that somebody faked an appearing Maria in order to pursue his own interests or is it more likely that there actually is a supernatural entity proving her existence? (fm that link below)

    “Miraculous cures were also experienced.”
    Miraculous in the sense of anectodal. I doubt very much that an unbiased scientific analysis of the results (which include those who remained miraculously sick) would show any greater deviation than placebo.

    “Investigations into the matter found no natural explanation.”
    Proven absolutely? That’s pretty tough when one side holds all the cards. Reasonable doubt? scroll down to “Let’s look at this like a criminal investigation”. The only reason that Penn & Teller aren’t miracle workers is they’re honest enough to explain the trick.
    With something like Zeitoun, where the input is small, but the payoff is big (would anyone go there if the miracle hadn’t occured?), the apparition is more likely one of pious fraud.

    “In other words, agnosticism or theism are the only logical beliefs to hold.”
    In other words, to carry that a step farther, you’d have to be agnostic about everything.

    “Only a very arrogant person would assert God never intervenes in human history despite the fact he has not explained even a small portion of the miracle stories.”
    Pious fraud, non-pious fraud, any of the fallacies that negate studies, hallucination, mass-hallucination, ignorance, superstition. That knocks off most of them right there. It’s not that they cannot be miracles. It’s that it’s far more likely that they aren’t. I’ve got a jug that’s full of water, but pours out wine. Does that make me Jesus?

    “Except historical inquiry relies on human testimony and atheists rarely find human testimony extraordinary, even if there are numerous trustworthy people giving the same testimony.”
    Personal testimony is the least accurate evidence. I remember a friend waxing about a night out. He gave a detail explanation of what happened and when. The problem was, I was there, and my memory of the night was nothing like his. (I didn’t counter his explanation. His was better). In criminal cases, convictions based on personal testimony are regularly overturned by DNA evidence (in some cases they were fibbing. In others, they sincerely believed their memory of what happened was what actually occured).
    Remember that anecdotally, everything is true. Even the testimony that conflicts with other testimony.

    “Could you give me a plausible natural explanation for the Marian apparitions at Zeitoun or the miracle mentioned here?”
    See above. It’s more like a well photographed episode of Scooby Doo than anything else.

    “For example, God could kill germs in your body, remove a cancerous tumor, etc.”
    And yet at all the miracle sights, you never find a discarded wooden leg or glass eye.

    “The illusion would have to work at different angles. Does such technology exist today? Did it exist then?”
    Puppets aren’t high-tech. Nor is light. You want a miracle? Have a plane lose its engine, then fly on to it’s destination as though they were still there. Move a mountain. Move it back. Anything that could be hoaxed is probably not a miracle, unless God’s mojo is so weak that it’s all He can muster.

    “The strengthening of faith would be useful in itself.”
    “Oh, thank you Lord for appearing to me. Now, if you don’t mind, could you actually help a brother out?”

    “Obviously the mere telling of a story is not enough but if a story has been investigated and found accurate it may be reasonable to believe a supernatural event has occurred.”
    How well investigated was it? Unsolved Mysteries well, or Columbo well?

  24. pboyfloyd Says:

    Jayman, you say, “He doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he cannot provide a naturalistic explanation for all miracle stories. Atheists create an impossible task for themselves.”

    Are you being ‘smart’ here?

    This, a silly answer to my statement:-

    “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that Duncan doesn’t have a leg to stand on if he cannot MAGICALLY explain each and every supposed miracle proposed through the ages.”

    But I’m not implying that Duncan’s explanations ought to be magical, I’m saying that even if Duncan came up with reasonable explanations to every single miracle claim, just doing that would be impossible, ergo, magical.

    But Duncan’s explanations would have to be even MORE magical! In fact he’d need to find explanations that would satisfy YOU specifically, right?

    But I’m thinking that what I said was obvious since, by the context, you could tell that I’m not a ‘magical thinker’ and I wouldn’t mistake Duncan for a ‘magical thinker’ either.

    Once again, clearer this time, you are challenging Duncan to explain to your satisfaction all the miracles through the ages. This would be impossible! anyone, even yourself, ought to be able to see that!

    I think that the onus is on miracle-claimers here, bearing in mind that a miracle is a feat of magic which, it is claimed, is being performed by magical beings who live, somehow, outside of time and space.(which itself is not only magical and miraculous in itself, but unimaginable!)

    Some of you magical thinkers never tire of saying that ‘The fool saith in his heart that there is no god’, so, turning tables on that, isn’t it more reasonable that you are TAKING US(everyone) for fools, expecting us to believe this nonsense?

  25. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd, you seem to be missing the point so I’ll try one more time.

    (1) It is humanly impossible to explain all miracle stories.
    (2) If one cannot explain all miracle stories then one cannot know that God never acts in history.
    (3) A human cannot know that God never acts in history (from 1 and 2).

    DD contradicts (3) routinely meaning his beliefs are logically inconsistent.

  26. jim Says:

    Jayman:

    Your reasoning takes the form of a deductive syllogism. However, that’s not the only valid way to reason. There is inductive, or ‘common sense’, reasoning; that is, reasoning from the general to the specific. The results aren’t categorically conclusive, but it’s the way we reason about most things, most of the time. I have no problem stating ‘there are no leprechauns hiding under my bed’, even though my statement isn’t supported by purely deductive reasoning. Followed to its extreme, your sort of reasoning brings everything into question, including the meaning of your own words.

    Beyond that, I have serious problems with your first premise. How do you know its humanly impossible to explain all miracle stories? In fact, I’ll offer one right now:
    They’re ALL false, and are explainable by natural means (and I’m using ‘natural means’ as an umbrella term to include any and all explanations other than supernatural ones).

    There, I’ve made a bald assertion to counter your own.
    So, playing by your own rules, unless you can prove your first premise, BY DEDUCTION, I declare your syllogism false by reason of your #1, and hereby replace it with one of my own:

    1. Humans CAN explain all miracle stories.
    2. All supposed miracles have a naturalistic basis.
    3. Therefore, we know that God does not act in history.

    Seriously, Jayman, these seem like bottom of the barrel arguments. Probably time to move on.

  27. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, you haven’t established (1)*, and (2) is a false dichotomy. “The Unexplained”, such as it exists, can have any arbitrary presupposition as its cause, not just God. It’s pitiful that your claim boils down the God of the Gaps.

    In short, (3), just like (1) and (2), is an but an assertion. Care to you define your terms and establish a logical chain of inference for your argument, and show that (1) and (2) necessarily imply (3)?


    * Specifically, you have been claiming you can explain it, and aren’t you human? ;)

  28. Jayman Says:

    Jim, you don’t even have the time to investigate every miracle story. And certainly you can see the difference between claiming that X is not under your bed at this moment and claiming that X has never been anywhere in the universe at any time.

    John, I don’t claim I can explain all miracle stories and my second point did not state that inexplicable stories must have God as their cause.

  29. pboyfloyd Says:

    Jayman, “A human cannot know that God never acts in history.”

    But weren’t you using the ‘fact’ that there are miracles to show evidence of God in the first place?

    Weren’t you using the statistics that 48% of the population of the USA are SURE that they have witnessed a miracle to back up the claim that there ARE miracles in the first place?

    If all that you were trying to say, is that ‘we can’t know anything really’, why don’t you just say that?

  30. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd, I was merely asking DD to give a reason to believe God never acts in the present. His claim on that count is not nearly as self-evident as he believes.

  31. pboyfloyd Says:

    So, Jayman, you ARE saying that Duncan needs to give you extraordinary evidence of the non-existence of God by performing the impossible task of explaining all alleged miracles through the ages to your satisfaction, yes?

    Surely you stand by your conclusion that, “A human cannot know that God never acts in history.”?

    You seem reluctant to follow your reasoning to it’s conclusion, which is that a human cannot really know anything at all, no doubt because that would, unfortunately, include you and all your ‘testimomy givers’ not really knowing anything at all either.

  32. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd, it isn’t that I believe people can’t have knowledge, it’s that I believe they can’t have certain types of knowledge. I believe people can know that X has occurred, but I don’t believe they can know that X has never occurred anywhere in the universe at any time.

  33. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, you can if X is analytically contradictory – e.g. there are no bachelor husbands.

    Less (but only slightly!) pedantically, knowledge is not used in its purely epistemological sense in natural language, but as a justified idea. For example, I can know (in the everyday sense of the term) that no human can do an unaided standing high jump of 5 metres in Earth gravity.

    More seriously, may I say you’re edging awfully close to sophistry.

  34. pboyfloyd Says:

    Jayman, you say, “I believe people can know that X has occurred, but I don’t believe they can know that X has never occurred anywhere in the universe at any time.”

    But you believe that X occurred, or that other people believe that X occurred because you want to believe that. You and all the others who want to believe that base their beliefs on stories of people who believed.

    You are simply trying to shift the burden of proof of the supernatural claiming that Duncan cannot show that there is no supernatural.

    But, Jayman, you live every other aspect of your life knowing that the burden of proof is on the incredible claim, don’t you?

  35. » Cross-examining Bernadette’s healing Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] and I think it’s worth discussion. [EDIT: sorry, that's the wrong citation. Jayman was responding to an earlier post, not the one on Bernadette's healing.] Your calculation for the number of [...]

  36. Jayman Says:

    pboyfloyd, your comment is a perfect example that there are things ordinary people can’t know. You can’t know my thoughts based on the interactions we’ve had.

    But you believe that X occurred, or that other people believe that X occurred because you want to believe that.

    No, I try to follow the evidence. If I believed what I wanted to believe I wouldn’t be typing on this keyboard. I would just beam my thoughts to your head. I also hold many beliefs that I wish were not true. The same can be said for other people. There are non-believers who want to believe that God exists but still don’t. There are people who think their house is haunted even though they wish it weren’t. I imagine anyone who believed what they wanted to believe would be in a mental institution.

    You and all the others who want to believe that base their beliefs on stories of people who believed.

    My belief in the supernatural is based on both my own experience and the testimony of others. If I recall correctly, 84% of Americans believe in miracles and 48% claim to have experienced or witnessed a miracle. This means most believers in miracles do not base that belief solely on the stories other people tell.

    You are simply trying to shift the burden of proof of the supernatural claiming that Duncan cannot show that there is no supernatural.

    I claim there are certain types of knowledge ordinary humans cannot have. Your attempt at reading my mind proves my point. No shifting the burden of proof there.

    But, Jayman, you live every other aspect of your life knowing that the burden of proof is on the incredible claim, don’t you?

    No, I think everyone has the burden of proof on their shoulders. I can argue that there are types of knowledge ordinary humans can’t have and DD can argue that he knows God has never acted in history. Neither position should be considered the default position based solely on who has the burden of proof.

  37. pboyfloyd Says:

    Jayman, you say, “I believe people can know that X has occurred..”

    Jayman, you say, “I claim there are certain types of knowledge ordinary humans cannot have.”

    Gee, Jayman, I wasn’t ‘reading your mind’, I was reading your comments.

  38. » Investigating the Marian apparition at Zeitoun Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] brings up a fascinating subject in a comment on my post about the frequency of divine intervention. Starting in 1968, and continuing over a 2-3 [...]

  39. » Santa Claus, Nessie, and God Evangelical Realism Says:

    [...] it is possible for me to know that God does not show up in real life. I’m being inconsistent, he thinks, when I hold that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, because I can’t [...]