What I knowFebruary 17, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
More comments from Jayman:
DD, nowhere in the first quote do I argue that God exists because there are things we cannot explain. My point was the hypocrisy in demanding extraordinary evidence only for some extraordinary claims but not others.
Regarding the cause of Bernadette’s cure, you’re begging the question (you know Bernadette’s cure has natural causes because events always have natural causes). We are dealing with Bernadette’s specific case, not some general case where the cure is unknown, so you can’t just pass this case off as ordinary for it apparently is not ordinary for her impairments to be reversed.
Finally, you are incorrect in assuming that God has not shown up in my life. Don’t assume other people’s “real-world investigations” go the same as yours.
Regarding the first point, I’ll grant that Jayman was not explicitly raising the issue of whether God’s existence is proved by the occurrence of unexplained mysteries, but the topic of miracles was too good a blog subject to pass up, and I was commenting in general on the fact that using unexplained phenomena as evidence is necessarily an appeal to ignorance, since if we were’t ignorant about the true causes of these phenomena, they wouldn’t be unexplained and we wouldn’t call them miracles.
I want to correct Jayman’s misunderstanding on his second point, though. We don’t know specifically what caused Bernadette’s cure, so I am not claiming that I do know what caused her cure. I am claiming that the specific cause is unknown. It’s true that our past experience has been that unknown causes, once discovered, have universally turned out to be natural causes. And it’s also true that we have no factual basis for supporting the conclusion that any supernatural cause was involved in producing Bernadette’s healing. And it’s even true that the stories men tell about God are extremely improbable, due to blatant internal and external inconsistencies, and on that basis we can be certain, beyond a reasonable doubt, that no such deity exists to have been the source of Bernadette’s healing. But I haven’t ever said that I know what caused Bernadette’s symptoms to disappear.
On Jayman’s last point, we come to a really interesting topic. I don’t just assume that God has not shown up in Jayman’s life, I actually know He has not. Truth is consistent with itself, and this allows us to learn much more than we can by first-hand experience alone. I know God has not shown up, tangibly and in person, in Jayman’s life, just like I know that no star in Orion’s belt is our sun, even without personally flying to each star in the constellation for an up-close inspection.
Now, granted, Jayman almost certainly has had certain experiences which he attributes to God. But because the truth is consistent with itself, I can know what the limits are on the types of experiences that are available to him. I know, for example, that he does not have any photographs or videotapes or audio recordings of God showing up in person to speak to him or to anyone in his hearing. I know he does not have any notes, letters, or postcards personally written to him by God’s own hand. I know that no one has ever overheard what God has “told” to him, nor has he ever overheard God “speaking” to anyone else. And I’ve never even met him!
The 25-words-or-less version is that God is limited to doing only those things that an imaginary friend can do. God cannot tell Jayman what is written on the piece of paper in my back pocket, because Jayman does not know, and therefore cannot imagine his Friend giving him specific and accurate quotes. (Hence the taboos against “testing” God.) Jayman can have some unexplained coincidences and happenstances, and can attribute them to God, just as any imaginary friend can be the passive recipient of credit for random unexplained phenomena. Under the influence of autosuggestion and peer influence, God can even move Jayman in subjectively powerful ways, possibly even producing psychosomatic manifestations.
But He can’t show up, tangibly and in person, in real life, because if He were willing and able to do it for Jayman, He’d be willing and able to do it for a lot more people that just him. A world in which there was a God Who showed up would be as different from our present world as night is from day, so I don’t even need to ask Jayman what the specific details are of the events he considers to be “showing up.” They’re going to turn out to be subjective, coincidental, and superstitious, because those are the only options that are available in the real world.