The logic of science and miracles

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Any time that you set yourself up as a creationist, then you are bound to get bombarded by others who believe the opposite of you. It’s like flies to warm feces. They all seem to want to prove how stupid you are by not believing in science and trusting in faith and miracles. As usual they are wrong about the basic underlying principles and we will attempt to straighten it out here. I’ve composed a letter from several emails with the majority of the concepts they reiterate over and over in italics.

Scientific proof of miracles.

Creationists don’t claim this. Rather, miracles are a matter of history not (operational) science. But the principles of origins science are consistent with certain miracles in the past.

Origins science uses the principles of causality (everything that has a beginning has a cause) and analogy (e.g. we observe that intelligence is needed to generate complex coded information in the present, so we can reasonably assume the same for the past). And because there was no material intelligent designer for life, it is legitimate to invoke a non-material designer for life. Creationists invoke the miraculous only for origins science, and as shown, this does not mean they will invoke it for operational science.

If one contends that miracles have occurred and that they are the direct intervention of a creator god it implies that within natural law there is a loophole that allows god to alter outcomes on his whim.

First, it is better to call miracles an addition to natural laws rather than a loophole within them. This is because natural laws are formulated in isolated systems. For example, Newton’s 1st Law of Motion states that objects will continue in a straight line at constant speed — if no unbalanced force is acting. But there is nothing in the law to prohibit unbalanced forces acting—otherwise nothing could ever change direction! This can be applied to the claim that Jesus couldn’t have walked on water because it would ‘violate’ Archimedes’ Principle, ‘Objects will sink in water if they weigh more than the buoyant force’. But this is true only if no other are forces operating. For example, if you were tied to a helicopter you wouldn’t sink. There is nothing that ‘violates’ Archimedes Principle, just that it can’t preclude other forces acting. If God exists, there is no truly isolated system. Thus there is no basis for disallowing miracles unless you could prove that God doesn’t exist, but you can’t prove a universal negative. And if Jesus really were God Incarnate as I believe, He could certainly bring other forces into play without violating science.

Second, this comment treats natural laws as real entities. In reality, scientific laws are descriptive of what we observe happening regularly, just as the outline of a map describes the shape of a coastline. Treating scientific laws as prescriptive, i.e. the cause of the observed regularities, is like claiming that the drawing of the map is the cause of the shape of the coastline.

That is: this god can and does cheat when he wants to.

As creationists we are not just advocating any ‘god’ and there are many of them. Christians don’t advocate just any ‘god’ who may or may not be capricious. Rather, they identify the Designer with the faithful triune God of the Bible, the one and only God (see posts on my blogs www.iamnotanatheist.wordpress.com and www.intelligentdesign.wordpress.com ):

The Bible explains that: we are made in the image of a rational God (Genesis 1:26–27), God is a God of order not of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), God gave man dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28), and He commanded honesty (Exodus 20:16).

Modern creationists, regard ‘natural laws’ as descriptions of the way God upholds His creation in a regular and repeatable way (Col. 1:15–17), while miracles are God’s way of upholding His creation in a special way for special reasons. Because creation finished at the end of day 6 (Gen. 2:1–3), creationists following the Bible would expect that God has since mostly worked through ‘natural laws’ except where He has revealed in the Bible that He used a miracle. And since ‘natural laws’ are descriptive, they cannot prescribe what cannot happen, so they cannot rule out miracles. Scientific laws do not cause or forbid anything any more than the outline of a map causes the shape of the coastline.

If we allowed appealing to God anytime we don’t understand something, then science itself would be impossible, for science proceeds on the assumption of natural causality.” This argument is a red herring. It is true that science is not compatible with just any form of theism, particularly a theism that holds to a capricious god who intervenes so often that the contrast between primary and secondary causality is unintelligible. But Christian theism holds that secondary causality is God’s usual mode and primary causality is infrequent, comparatively speaking. That is why Christianity, far from hindering the development of science, actually provided the encouragement for its development. (I have a 3-part examination on my blog for further details: http://intelligentdesign.blog.com/2013/05/28/science-history-and-religion-pt-1/ )

So any evidence for or against his existence, be it a book, a fossil or supposed miracle, may just be his intervention, perhaps hidden from our ken.

If god will cheat or boast that he can or does intervene in our lives, in the natural order, to create a species, for prayer, for adulation, or any purpose not even disclosed to us, it makes observation of the world and the affairs of the tiniest microbes to galactic catastrophe, all futile, for they are then placed at the whim of a fickle god who will deceive us when it suits him.

Therefore to test that god exists or does not by appeal to observations in and of this world and its affairs is quite futile. If god has intervened in the world even once then no observation or consequent conjecture we can make is reliable.

Actually, this is a perfect illustration of G.K. Chesterton’s point (Orthodoxy ch. 9 http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/orthodoxy/ch9.html):

Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.

Also, C.S. Lewis pointed out that arguing against miracles based on the alleged total uniformity of nature is actually circular reasoning (from Miracles):No, of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, in other words, they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately, we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we know all the reports are false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.

Let us suppose that some clever person makes an observation that purports to prove a miracle has occurred, that god has intervened just once. We cannot thereafter trust our observation on any other point, for it may be another intervention. And since the tool science is ideally rigorous observation and conjecture it would seem to discredit that very tool as a way to discover the nature of the world, and since it is, by this test, a discredited tool, its proof that a miracle has occurred is also discredited.

Without a belief that the universe was made by a God of order and that we are made in the image of this God, the Logos, we have no basis for either an orderly universe or that our thoughts can be trusted. Atheists can treat these premises as axioms, i.e. accepted as true without proof, but they are theorems for Christians since they follow from the propositions of Scripture. Indeed, atheists can’t prove that the universe is orderly, because the proofs would have to suppose the order they are trying to prove. Similarly, they can’t prove that their thoughts are rational because the proofs would have to assume this very rationality. Yet evolution would select only for survival advantage, not rationality.

So either there is a god and he cheats with miracles, or the world obeys strict rules of action and consequence.

This is the false dilemma. However, an alternative, as explained, is a God of order who used miracles for creation, and in rare occasions at other times when working out His program, but normally works by what we call ‘natural law’. The logical feasibility has been amply proved in practice by the good science discovered by believers in miracles.

If the former, we can prove nothing by even the most rigorous observation and conjecture.

And most philosophers of science agree that it is impossible to prove things with science; rather, scientific progress comes from disproving things. This should become very clear upon understanding the underlying logic (a detailed post on logical fallacies is coming soon).

If the latter, our world is true to its appearance and we have a chance of understanding it.

You cannot derive an orderly universe from the proposition ‘God does not exist’. Indeed, you need to accept an orderly universe as a ‘brute fact’, which ironically was actually plagiarized from the Christian world view.

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