Monday, 11 April 2011

Christianity And The Evidential Problem Of Miracles

The Shroud of Turin is often held up as relic of Christ, even though there's no evidence that it actually was the burial shroud of Christ, and there's very good evidence to suggest that it was a middle-ages work of art.

There's a modern day story spread that Darwin recanted on his deathbed, something that is completely made up. The person in question who Darwin was supposed to have recanted to didn't visit Darwin during his final days.

Many statues, mainly of the Virgin Mary, have been made to weep in order to appear miraculous.

Faith healers use a variety of deceptive techniques as part of their performances.

A group of people committed suicide, convinced that by doing so there was a spaceship behind the comet Hale Bopp, where their suicide was casting off bodies to take them to the next level.

There are many people who are rewriting history to make United States a Christian nation, despite the secular nature of the origins of the country.

I could go on with examples, but it should be clear by now. These are the kinds of behaviours that we know people are capable of, especially when it comes to religious belief. For us to look back at the accounts of the New Testament and early Christianity, is the only good explanation that Jesus really was who he is made out to be in the gospels?


Anonymous said...

I was going to point out the many examples of fraud in science...and then I noticed you censor.

So I won't waste my time.

Bye Bye

Kel said...

What do you mean I censor? The only comments I delete are spam. Though what examples of fraud in science have to do with the problem of miracles is beyond me.

Richard T said...

It could go along the lines, we know fraud has been committed in science. So for us to look at examples of science as the only good explanation of what we see is a good idea?

Kel said...

While fraud can be a problem in science, the methodology is self-correcting. If someone fakes lab data, it gets caught out in the failure for others to replicate results. It might sometimes take years or decades, but it's evidential that science works - otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Though again I'm not sure what the problem of miracles has to do with science. Science is a subset of empiricism.

Richard T said...

My point was I guess that just because something has been proven to be dodgy does not make that general field incorrect.

I think what is documented in the bible is the best explanation for what happened based on a variety of different factors. I have yet to find an explanation that explains it better. Fraud is a potential though.

Kel said...

"I think what is documented in the bible is the best explanation for what happened based on a variety of different factors."
What factors would those be? I'm not trying to be too dismissive, but isn't that the whole point of the problem of miracles? That in order to accept a miracle it has to be more likely the miracle took place than any other explanation? From what I've read about the origins of Christianity, I just don't see how one could reasonably say it's the "best explanation". As I argued previously, it's not like there's a lot to go on...

Richard T said...

Actually, it would seem I strayed in to another argument without thinking properly. :-) I guess in the end you have to somewhat take miracles by faith but the ressurection of Jesus still seems to be at least a big one that I haven't seen good arguments against. I think the evidence for that miracle comes from how it impacted the people. You can't observe it directly but to me it would seem strange that people would knowingly die for a lie.

Kel said...

"You can't observe it directly but to me it would seem strange that people would knowingly die for a lie."
What about those in the Heaven's Gate cult?

Richard T said...

Just read up on them (from wikipedia) and I can't see anything that corellates well. I would say they believe utter nonsense but it is nonsense that can't be verified. Various people were claimed witnesses to Jesus resurrection and died because of their belief in it. It is possible they fooled themselves I guess.

Kel said...

Interestingly enough, when members of the Heaven's Gate cult bought a telescope to look for the craft, they returned the telescope as faulty when they didn't see the spaceship behind the comet as expected. Once people form a belief, it's very hard to get out of it. Look at all the people these days who still support the fraud Andrew Wakefield and insist on a link between vaccines and autism, children are now dying and the hardcore believers are still insisting that vaccines cause autism.

One possibility, I suppose, is that early Christians believe that the end of the world was nigh, and that Jesus was a doomsday prophet. Is it more believable that people would be willing to lay down their lives for a belief if that belief was telling them the world was going to come to an end anyway?