The Instigator
Conservative101
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Martley
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Miracles are Possible

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Martley
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/29/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,034 times Debate No: 53678
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)

 

Conservative101

Pro

Miracle: an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

1st Round - Acceptance only
2nd Round - Pro argues/Con rebuts
3rd/4th Round - Rebuttals
Debate Round No. 1
Conservative101

Pro

Main Arguments

Scientific laws are only assumed true through repetition. No finite number of attempts can show that a law is applicable for every case in the universe. For example, long before Australia was discovered, it was believed in the West that all swans in the world were white. But when Europeans landed in Australia, they saw, for the first time, a black swan. What was considered a scientifically violable truth before had to be withdrawn. Let's look at another example. When Newton published his laws about the universe, they were regarded as incontrovertibly true for almost two centuries. They worked very well, and were endorsed as irrefutable. Then, Einstein's theories of relativity contradicted Newton. Despite common belief, Newton's laws were proved in important ways to be wrong or at least inadequate. However, these laws could be, in the future, proved erroneous yet again. By this we learn that Einstein's theories have the capability to be proved wrong and are therefore, not completely true, but our "best guess".


So how are scientific laws verifiable? They aren't. As we have seen above, scientific laws are our best guess of what we know about the universe. In this respect we realize miracles are possible because science itself does not verify what each instance will turn out to be. It only assumes what will happen based on previous tries. In his book What's So Great About Christianity, D'Souza writes that "scientific laws are not 'laws of nature.' They are human laws, and they represent a form of best-guessing about the world. What we call laws are nothing more than observed patterns and sequences. We think the world works in this way until future experience proves the contrary."[1] By this we determine that "An effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause."[2] cannot be shown by science to be impossible. Through science we find that miracles are improbable, but not impossible.


How do know that light travels 186,000 miles per second? We measure it. But just because it's that speed one time, ten times, or a billion times, does not mean that it's that speed every time everywhere. Miracles aren't 99.9% likely, or even 50% likely, because there could be 20 billion cases where a scientific law could be wrong versus 10 billion cases that it is.


Another contention I have is that: if miracles by this definition are possible, then there must be a supernatural. In that respect, wouldn't the supernatural have complete control over science? If we assume the Christian God for example, how would he be bound by something he devised? He would have the power to alter the laws of nature if he chooses to, which are the very point of miracles themselves.



Sources

1. D'Souza, Dinesh. What's so Great about Christianity. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2007. Print.

2. http://dictionary.reference.com.........

Martley

Con

My opponent has opened with a position that I feel is fairly irrelevant to the topic, but I will counter. Our modern day approach to Natural Law is that of Description not Prescription (as Newton believed), not that Natural law can't be used to forecast events or outcomes, but our sense of Natural Law is never so concrete or concise as to be beyond reproach or reformulation under the weight of observations. An event cannot be simply dismissed because it is not explainable in the general pattern of events. The "Laws of Nature" are not laws in the concrete sense, instead they are inductive generalizations. At first glance this would seem to bolster my opponents position. But one only needs to pull back a few layers to see that my opponents position is not logically sound. Since Natural Law is, by its very nature, an inductive generalization of whatever occurs, than for an event to be a violation of a law of nature is non-sense. The event would simply enter our realm of consideration and inductive study. It is logically incoherent for any event to violate Natural Law. One must look past the "violation of natural law" argument and ask the question is it possible for an event to naturally occur? All a scientist can logically say is if an event is naturally impossible. Is a miracle naturally impossible? Yes, because it cannot be produced by nature causes, and because it lye outside the realm of natural cause it is therefore naturally impossible. Then this moves us to the logical question... is a miracle logically impossible??

If indeed there was on omniscient being who knew with certainty the precise formulations of natural laws that describe and bind our universe then he would know whether an event would or would not be actually possible given the laws of nature that he himself created. The only answer that would logically suffice the topic of whether miracles are possible or logical, is that there is the existence of the personal god of theism. For the god of theism to be forced to operate outside the formulations of the creation he begot is in itself illogical. Why would the god of theism create a universe which would require his own supernatural intervention in order to conduct his own will? However, the possibility or impossibility of miracles relies solely on the existence of the personal god of theism.
Debate Round No. 2
Conservative101

Pro

What is Natural Law?

"Since Natural Law is, by its very nature, an inductive generalization of whatever occurs, than for an event to be a violation of a law of nature is non-sense."

As we can agree, scientific laws are really only generalizations that we humans make. When a ball is dropped, it bounces. However, one can only predict that the ball will bounce because of previous attempts made. Since we cannot be certain what will happen to an object when we do something to it, it is impossible to justify the outcome of any situation. My opponent is supposing that Natural Law is just and cannot be violated, but as we have seen, what we believe to be Natural Law can be proven wrong (refer to my Round 2 argument). In this sense, we have really not discovered Natural Law. We have not identified any laws that are absolute everywhere, every time in the universe. So for something to violate a generalization, or best guess, is completely appropriate. If you flip a coin a thousand times, and it lands on heads every time, that chance that it will land on tails the next time is not eradicated. The chance still exists, no matter how many times you flip it. The only way to prove that it will not land on tails is to flip it an infinite number of times. Since we cannot test a 'law' an infinite number of times, the possibility of the law being wrong still exists, as does having that coin land on tails.

"If indeed there was on omniscient being who knew with certainty the precise formulations of natural laws that describe and bind our universe then he would know whether an event would or would not be actually possible given the laws of nature that he himself created." "For the god of theism to be forced to operate outside the formulations of the creation he begot is in itself illogical."

The god of theism (omniscient, omnipotent) would, by definition, have the ability to make exceptions to the laws he creates. By making laws he is not bound by them, neither is he forced to obey them, because there is nothing above him that would enforce him to do so. God would be able to alter the laws for an instance because the laws are bound by him, not the other way around. Think of it as him being the author of a novel. The events and characters in the book are under his control. Neither the characters nor the events force the author to do anything, because he is in control and can alter the events if he wants to. My opponent's argument is that if miracles are possible, then they are certain. My argument is that if miracles are possible, they have the chance of existing, not the absolute certainty of existing. The nature of a miracle is outside natural laws, like how grammar is nonexistent outside the English language.
Martley

Con

Pro is equivocating the concept of "Natural Law"

Pro Said - "As we can agree, scientific laws are really only generalizations that we humans make."

No! We absolutely do not agree! You are equivocating the definitions of Natural Law and Scientific Law. Furthermore you are attempting to build your own Staw-Man to argue against. Scientific Law
is a principle deduced from particular facts, applicable to a defined group or class of phenomena, and expressible by a statement or mathematical construct that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions be present. In other words is a testable, repeatable concept. A Scientific Theory is an empirical generalization requiring further study or testing. Natural Law is a philosophical construct based on empirical inductive generalizations that cannot be tested.

Pro is intentionally using concepts of Natural Law as vague unknown human guesses. Furthermore, Pro is seamlessly moving back and forth across these concepts as if they are all the same, mean the same thing, and have the same outcome.

Lets take Pro's example of the bouncing ball. This is an example of Epistemic Uncertainty. If I bounce a ball I can predict the outcome (I can even bounce it numerous times like in a basketball game and control the bounces at my will), even though I don't know the variables and natural processes at work, I can still go outside right now and successfully bounce a ball. Pro assumes that because we don't know the all variables and natural processes at work (epistemic uncertainty) then, by default, that gap in our knowledge allows for the possibility for supernatural intervention. This is not a logical position. Pro uses this analogy to create the illusion of an incomplete understanding of natural law, and the possibility of the existence of supernatural intervention. However this is nothing more than a warmed over "God of the gaps" argument, which is logically unsound, and is simply a statement of pessimism about the future progress of science. Supernatural intervention cannot apply merely because there is epistemic uncertainty, especially since Pro has offered no logical argument that the god of theism even exists.

Pro next looks at an example of chance, illustrating the concept of Aleatory Variability. Pro uses the example of flipping a coin. In this case we again have a number of variables. But I can still project the outcome of the flip. If I flip a coin, one of the two sides will be facing up. Exactly which side is up is the aleatory variability... or random outcome. Again, pro assumes that because there is the existence of this aleatory variability, that there is some gap that would allow for supernatural intervention. This is not a logical argument, again especially since Pro has offered no logical argument that the god of theism even exists.

Pro is furthermore equivocating the concept of "violation" of natural law. With no specified definition of what a "violation" entails, Pro is able to sculpt the meaning to fit his argument. I will use the classic example of cigarette smoking:

Our lungs contain cells that function according to natural processes that are quantifiable and justifiable. They grow, maintain and replicate following known parameters. Cigarette smoke contain carcinogens that can alter the cellular dna of these lung cells, thus violating the natural laws that bind these cells. These cells then begin to grow and replicate in drastically different processes that are not quantifiable. However, not every cigarette causes cancer, not every smoker gets cancer, not everyone that gets cancer dies and not everyone that dies with cancer dies from the cancer. These variables are Epistemic Uncertainties as they exist outside the natural processes of cell function and are not quantifiable, and thus are a violation of the natural law of cells. However, we are not helpless in the face of cancer, even with Epistemic Uncertainty we can gain knowledge and treat cancers successfully.

Pro assumes that if any violation of natural law is possible, that the possibility of miracles exists. However, without a discernible definition of what a violation would entail Pro is able to tiptoe around Natural Law at will. Epistemic Uncertainty (unknown causation) does not in itself open the door to the possibility of miracles.

Pro also assumes that since a natural law could possibly be proven incorrect at some point in the future than the possibility of miracle is then justified. However, this again is a "God of the gaps" argument that is not logically justified.

Pro's entire argument is based on equivocation and vague definitions of the concepts at play. Furthermore, Pro's argument is merely to cast doubt on Natural Law, and then in insert the "possibility of miracles" into these fictitious gaps.
Debate Round No. 3
Conservative101

Pro

I apologize. It's not easy getting time for your arguments when you're a high school student with homework, sports, and other activities. However, I will counter a little.

First of all, Con never gave the definition of Natural Law. It was just brought up and assumed something without really telling what it was. Since we've been talking about scientific laws and come to the conclusion that scientific laws don't can't be fully verified, then there really is no way to discover Natural Law. It is merely an assumption, and cannot be proven.

Also, here's a theistic argument to chew on. Everything in this universe has a cause and an effect. If A was caused by B, then B was caused by C, and so on. It is therefore perfectly rational to assume that the matter and energy in our universe came from something, which we call God. But was caused Him? Since the cause-effect law came with the creation of the universe, then it doesn't logically apply to the supernatural.

This was fun, good luck in the final round.
Martley

Con

First I would like to thank you for the opportunity and the debate. It has been enjoyable and I look forward to more.

With the concept of a miracle as an "extraordinary event", Con has attempted to cast doubt on the reliability of Scientific Law as the basic premise of creating a possibility for the occurrence of miracles. Overlooking the fact that this can simply fall under the fallacious "God of the gaps", a cynical argument against the future advances of science, Con's argument is fundamentally flawed in its portrayal of Scientific Law as it relates to miracles. In order for a miracle to truly be an "extraordinary event" that surpasses natural powers, then a true natural law must therefore be violated. Not merely the man-made generalizations we humans make of our empirical world. But a true Law. A violation of Archimedes' principle, for example would be a truly extraordinary event. Archimedes' Principle states that a floating body always displaces an amount of fluid the weight of which is equal to its own weight. A man walking on water would therefore be a violation of Archimedes' Principle and thus would be a miracle, right? Science, however, has too violated Archimedes' Principle. We know that Archimedes Principle does not take into account surface tension, and also is not valid in all complex fluids. Nano-science has also proven Archimedes' Principle to be invalid when the buoyant partial is of a certain size and geometry in relation to the dispersed partial. However, this none the less would not detract from the extraordinary miracle of a man walking on water, as this would in fact violate Archimedes' Principle. A miracle, by definition, is a violation of a true Law. However, if a generalization (or current law) is violated by an event, then it cannot be a true Law of nature... for example we have successfully violated Archimedes Principle. Therefore, it is impossible for any event to violate a true Law of nature.[1]

A man walking on water, however, is still a "extraordinary event" and would be considered by most to be a miracle. But by what dynamic? Is it our human interpretation that makes the event "extraordinary"? For example, if God secretly moves a few atoms on a remote planet for a moment and then moves them back, would we marvel at this miraculous event?? No, we would not. How could we? It is our human interpretation of the event that makes it extraordinary. A miracles relationship to Scientific and Natural Law is superfluous. It is merely an interpretation of an event given our know natural realm. "Today's widespread scientific illiteracy, even an outright attitude of anti-science, is concurrent with the spread of magical thinking even in our own relatively enlightened culture."[2] So a miracle, then, is simply a violation of our known natural understanding. So when then is the possibility of an event to truly be a miracle verses an occurrence of an event that simply enters our know natural realm that can thus add to our understanding of natural law... irregardless of how extraordinary we think it is? The fact is Con has produced no evidence that supernatural events can occur, and in fact has in my opinion not produced any logical possibility that a miracle can occur. Con's entire argument is based on a Straw-Man against Scientific Law, there is little understanding in Con's position on how empirical deduction forms our logical understanding of the world around us and what is possible.

Argument of Causation:

The argument of causation is a fallacy. It is indeed logical to assume a basis of causation, this argument dates back to Aristotle. But where the fallacy come in is to assume that causation is your god of theism. As I stated with your other positions this is a cynical argument, and doesn"t prove anything. The conclusion of this argument is that there is an initial starting point, but where the argument stops making sense is to deny the self assertion of nature, but then to grant self-assertion to your god of theism. What your doing is explaining to me that everything in nature has its cause, adding up one thing to the next. Then your assuming that nature cannot be self-caused, thus leading to an unproven "thing", then interjecting your god of theism as this unproven "thing". Again, this is an argument of cynicism, assuming that science can't, and never will, explain this causation or that the universe even has one.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org...
2. Examining Miracle Claims, Joe Nickell; Doelog, March 1996.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Mhykiel 3 years ago
Mhykiel
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"

Seems to me something we would call a miracle, may be common place for a god.

Even inside our universe there is the unknowable outcome of quantum fluctuations. However as demonstrated by a computer generated toy universe: http://www.newscientist.com...

A "Super-observer", an observer outside the universe would see the events as static and predictable.

Miracle as contrary to the defining laws of nature, would appear impossible.

Theistically speaking, god does not break his own laws.
Posted by LuciferRising 3 years ago
LuciferRising
I think you may have stuck yourself with a losing debate, conservative101. The first part of your argument merely states that scientific knowledge can never be comprehensive, which any scientist will admit. That doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that any occurance not predicted by a non-ideal science is miraculous. It's still just a natural event, albeit it one that was previously undiscovered.

In order to show that miracles are possible in anything other than a metaphysical sense you have to make a strong case for the existence of the supernatural, which there is unfortunately no evidence for.

On the other hand, it will also be difficult for your opponent to prove that miracles are absolutely impossible in a metaphysical sense. Just as it would be difficult for anyone to assert that the flying spaghetti monster is impossible or that a god does or does not exist. This is why I personally don't find teleological debates productive or meaningful, because through pure logic either side can make equally valid and sound arguments, though ultimately they be mere contrivances of logical play without being convincing or cogent.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by MrJosh 3 years ago
MrJosh
Conservative101MartleyTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I thought PRO had defined himself to a win after the first round, but he never actually made a case for miracles; he made a case that our knowledge about the universe is incomplete. Arguments to CON.
Vote Placed by NiqashMotawadi3 3 years ago
NiqashMotawadi3
Conservative101MartleyTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro seemed to refer to anything unexplained by current scientific laws to be a miracle, when Con clearly showed that this is an argument from ignorance and an inaccurate definition of miracles, which necessarily require divine intervention. That is to say, something not explained by a scientific or natural laws is not necessarily a miracle. Pro was asked to prove the existence of his theistic God first. Pro responded with a weak variant of the Kalam Cosmological Argument which Con refuted, and therefore she established that miracles were impossible because of Pro's failure to establish the existence of a Divine Agent to begin with, when miracles require divine intervention, and so she gets the ARG Points.