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Are miracles just coincidences?

Do you explain all of what people call miracles as coincidences?

Posted: December 5th 2011

Eric_PK

I don’t think they are coincidences, but I do think that the people are filtering – looking at things that are beneficial as miracles but not considering the non-beneficial things.

This is sometimes phrased as follows:

Why does god get the credit when good things happen, but doesn’t get the blame when bad things happen?

I also note that the kind of miracles that are described in the bible – burning bushes, turning water into wine, walking on water, raising the dead – seem to be conspicuously absent these days.

Posted: December 13th 2011

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Galen Rose www

No. What are termed miracles may be coincidences, but they may also be errors in perception (hallucination, delusion), misunderstandings, magic tricks, written or spoken exaggerations, outright lies, etc.

There are many possible explanations for any alleged miracle, and, taken together, they are overwhelmingly more likely explanations for a “miracle” than supernatural intervention.

The miracle, as an explanation of an occurrence, has only one weakness; it depends on the existence of a supernatural realm, and no such realm has ever been detected, despite the efforts of millions of people over hundreds of years. As David Hume wrote, accepting something as a miracle only makes sense if the ONLY other possible explanation was an even bigger miracle.

Posted: December 12th 2011

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brian thomson www

I think I should make it clear that it’s not incumbent on me to dismiss or explain away claims of miracles made by other people. The things people believe don’t have to be a problem per se, but they become a problem when they take action based on them, or expect others to.

An example of what I’m getting at took place here in Ireland, at a little village named Knock. There have been reports of apparitions at various times, starting in 1879, and some Catholic people still visit a shrine that was erected there. Sounds harmless enough, and could be easily ignored; however, in 2009 some believers were so determined to see “something” that they stared directly at the Sun and suffered permanent eye damage.

I don’t know about “all of what people call miracles”, so I’m in no position to explain them away – but I’m not obliged to believe them, just because people say so. I might try and find an explanation for a specific claim, but experience tells us that believers are going to believe regardless of explanations. The only cure I know of for gullibility is education: in the case of the Knock shrine, seeing the Sun “dancing around” can be explained in terms of human vision, the mental processing involved, and the effect of getting your retinas toasted.

Posted: December 12th 2011

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SmartLX www

Some are, certainly. If something with a one-in-a-million chance happens to you, but also doesn’t happen to a million other people, then it’s happening about as often as you’d expect it to if there were no divine intervention.

Some supposed miracles can’t be coincidence, because they go beyond the realm of the improbable into the realm of the impossible. You can’t cure terminal cancer or hear from the dead just because you’re lucky; something supernatural has to be going on. In cases like these, the question is whether the miracle happened at all, and how much evidence there is.

Posted: December 12th 2011

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