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On the "physical impossiblity" of miracles...

popculturepooka
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12/22/2011 6:03:15 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
So, I was reading Alvin Plantinga's new book a couple of weeks ago ("Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism") and I remember reading about the compatibility of QM (quantum mechanics) and miracles.

He writes that it is actually controversial as to whether miracles were physically possible or impossible which was news to me.

Anyways he says John Earman (a big-time philosopher of physics) told him that:

"If we try to define a miracle as an event that is incompatible with (what we presume, on the basis of the best evidence to be) laws of nature, then it seems that water changing to wine, a dead man coming back to life, etc. are not miracles because they are not incompatible with QM. But QM does say that they are very, very improbable."

And Bradley Monton (another philosopher of physics) says:

"For what it's worth, I think all miracles are pretty unproblematically compatible with the GRW theory. The wave function for each particle is spread throughout an unbounded region of the universe, at every time (except perhaps momentary instants of time). This means that for each particle, there is at most a finite region where it couldn't be localized by a GRW hit. (For some (probably even most) particles, they could be localized anywhere.) So for changing water into wine, it's not a big deal - you've got a bunch of individual particles (electrons, protons, etc.) that are composing into water, and they can all have GRW hits such that their positions are redistributed to the locations that would be appropriate for them to compose wine. Since there's at most a finite region of the universe where these particles can't show up, there's no reason to expect the finite regions for different particles to overlap in any special way, the particles can all appear in the positions appropriate for them to compose wine."

http://books.google.com...

Thoughts?
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CosmicAlfonzo
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12/22/2011 10:44:42 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Like the New Agers who attempt to use quantum mechanics to support their claims of the impossible, it isn't a justified conclusion.

While technology may very well make these miracles a reality(as it has done in the past), vibrating your sacral chakra will not give you the ability to walk through walls, on water, or teleport. I think it is much more likely that these stories are a product of chaos magic, the exaggeration of tall tales, or in some instances, parable.
Do I believe Jesus did these supernatural type feets? No. Do I believe they are even an important part of his ministry? No, in fact, I would say that these are stories that can be counterproductive to Jesus' message, for it is written, "only a wicked generation demands a miracle.

This quote is usually used against skeptics of the atheist nature, but I feel it equally applies to those who believe and are convinced by these things.

The teachings of Jesus can be edifying, and practicing the teachings more so. Those who are afraid of challenging their faith through practice never had strong faith to begin with. They practice self deceit, and the holy spirit is not with them. We are justified by our faith, what we truly and honestly belief. Those who lack faith are tormented in this world for their blasphemy.

Woe to they faithless, they are hollow husks of men. Woe to those who insult God by lying to his face, they deserve tbeir reward of cognitive dissonance. Woe to those who blaspheme the holy spirit by holding on to what they know is not so, for hell is truly for them, and they will not find comfort.
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Gileandos
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12/22/2011 11:09:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/22/2011 6:03:15 PM, popculturepooka wrote:
So, I was reading Alvin Plantinga's new book a couple of weeks ago ("Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism") and I remember reading about the compatibility of QM (quantum mechanics) and miracles.

He writes that it is actually controversial as to whether miracles were physically possible or impossible which was news to me.

Anyways he says John Earman (a big-time philosopher of physics) told him that:

"If we try to define a miracle as an event that is incompatible with (what we presume, on the basis of the best evidence to be) laws of nature, then it seems that water changing to wine, a dead man coming back to life, etc. are not miracles because they are not incompatible with QM. But QM does say that they are very, very improbable."

And Bradley Monton (another philosopher of physics) says:

"For what it's worth, I think all miracles are pretty unproblematically compatible with the GRW theory. The wave function for each particle is spread throughout an unbounded region of the universe, at every time (except perhaps momentary instants of time). This means that for each particle, there is at most a finite region where it couldn't be localized by a GRW hit. (For some (probably even most) particles, they could be localized anywhere.) So for changing water into wine, it's not a big deal - you've got a bunch of individual particles (electrons, protons, etc.) that are composing into water, and they can all have GRW hits such that their positions are redistributed to the locations that would be appropriate for them to compose wine. Since there's at most a finite region of the universe where these particles can't show up, there's no reason to expect the finite regions for different particles to overlap in any special way, the particles can all appear in the positions appropriate for them to compose wine."

http://books.google.com...

Thoughts?

I am reading over now. I will respond tomorrow night.
RoyLatham
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12/23/2011 1:01:01 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Arthur C. Clarkes' Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Quantum probabilities are far too small to explain observed miracles. For anything that appears to be a miracle, the possibilities include:

1. The report of it is false: a mistake, hallucination, hoax, or fraud.
2. It's a known natural phenomenon not recognized as such.
3. It's an unrecognized natural phenomenon.
4. Space aliens did it using technology we don't have.
5. It's a miracle performed by a real miracle-maker.
6. We'll just leave it as unknown.

I remember reading of a sealed crypt housing coffins, back in the 1800s. The coffins were left neatly arrayed, but when the crypt was later opened the coffins were scattered about. It was impossible for anyone to have entered the room. Miracle? Someone figured out that the basement crypt had flooded, floating the caskets, and the water had then subsided.

The explanation is extremely simple, but until someone thinks of it, it seems miraculous. That's why (6) is a good option to keep in mind.
popculturepooka
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12/23/2011 1:36:10 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 1:01:01 AM, RoyLatham wrote:
Arthur C. Clarkes' Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Quantum probabilities are far too small to explain observed miracles. For anything that appears to be a miracle, the possibilities include:

1. The report of it is false: a mistake, hallucination, hoax, or fraud.
2. It's a known natural phenomenon not recognized as such.
3. It's an unrecognized natural phenomenon.
4. Space aliens did it using technology we don't have.
5. It's a miracle performed by a real miracle-maker.
6. We'll just leave it as unknown.

I remember reading of a sealed crypt housing coffins, back in the 1800s. The coffins were left neatly arrayed, but when the crypt was later opened the coffins were scattered about. It was impossible for anyone to have entered the room. Miracle? Someone figured out that the basement crypt had flooded, floating the caskets, and the water had then subsided.

The explanation is extremely simple, but until someone thinks of it, it seems miraculous. That's why (6) is a good option to keep in mind.

You're missing the point. None of this has to do with the notion of supporting or explaining miracles; the thing I wanted to discuss was whether miracles are really physically impossible (as in, they could not have happened given what the laws of physics, or, at least, what we currently know of the laws of physics say) as many, many people claim. Some seem to think that they aren't. It's not a matter of probability because it is already given that the antecdent or prior probability of a miracle is astronomically low.
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Kinesis
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12/23/2011 5:53:18 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I think this misses the point. I like J.L. Mackie's definition of the laws of nature as "The ways in which the world works when left to itself, when not interfered with" and a miracle as occurring when "the world is not left to itself, when something distinct from the natural order as a whole interferes with it". The point is not that a miracle would be impossible given the laws of nature, the point is that things wouldn't have happened that way if nature had been left to itself.
Thrasymachus
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12/23/2011 6:30:18 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'm also not sure how this is meant to help Theist. So really weird things are consistent with our best physics thanks to QM magic, albeit with probabilities like 10^-56 over the lifetime of a universe. But you'd be crazy to have credence in the deliverances of QM (or physics generally), such that this possibility is important to your decision making.

Atheists moves should simply be to argue for a very low prior in a non-question begging way (i.e. "we've never seen these things happen before or since, so it seems pretty unlikely they did"), and then just say the likelihood ratio isn't going to be good enough to raise your posterior above 0.5. To be honest, that strikes me as obvious enough to be summary judgement territory for considering the historicity of 'miracle' claims without independent grounds for believing them to be true (like, y'know, Theism).
Kinesis
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12/23/2011 7:01:21 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
BTW Thrasymachus, I'd like to friend you so I can see your posts when they're submitted, but it says you're not accepting friends. Any reason?
Stephen_Hawkins
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12/23/2011 7:23:26 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/22/2011 11:09:59 PM, Gileandos wrote:
At 12/22/2011 6:03:15 PM, popculturepooka wrote:
So, I was reading Alvin Plantinga's new book a couple of weeks ago ("Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism") and I remember reading about the compatibility of QM (quantum mechanics) and miracles.

He writes that it is actually controversial as to whether miracles were physically possible or impossible which was news to me.

Anyways he says John Earman (a big-time philosopher of physics) told him that:

"If we try to define a miracle as an event that is incompatible with (what we presume, on the basis of the best evidence to be) laws of nature, then it seems that water changing to wine, a dead man coming back to life, etc. are not miracles because they are not incompatible with QM. But QM does say that they are very, very improbable."

And Bradley Monton (another philosopher of physics) says:

"For what it's worth, I think all miracles are pretty unproblematically compatible with the GRW theory. The wave function for each particle is spread throughout an unbounded region of the universe, at every time (except perhaps momentary instants of time). This means that for each particle, there is at most a finite region where it couldn't be localized by a GRW hit. (For some (probably even most) particles, they could be localized anywhere.) So for changing water into wine, it's not a big deal - you've got a bunch of individual particles (electrons, protons, etc.) that are composing into water, and they can all have GRW hits such that their positions are redistributed to the locations that would be appropriate for them to compose wine. Since there's at most a finite region of the universe where these particles can't show up, there's no reason to expect the finite regions for different particles to overlap in any special way, the particles can all appear in the positions appropriate for them to compose wine."

http://books.google.com...

Thoughts?

It's misuse of terms. The a chance of a diamond jumping out of a box (watch video from minute 40) is inconceivably small. To illustrate this, for the probability to be greater than 0.5 (making the event 'likely'), you need t > 3x10^29 seconds. That's over 6 hundred billion times the age of the universe. Jesus proclaims to do things far more complex, many times over, in the period of (we'll be generous) 80 years. I call bullsh!t.
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popculturepooka
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12/23/2011 12:33:35 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 7:23:26 AM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:


It's misuse of terms. The a chance of a diamond jumping out of a box (watch video from minute 40) is inconceivably small. To illustrate this, for the probability to be greater than 0.5 (making the event 'likely'), you need t > 3x10^29 seconds. That's over 6 hundred billion times the age of the universe. Jesus proclaims to do things far more complex, many times over, in the period of (we'll be generous) 80 years. I call bullsh!t.

You call bullsh!t on what exactly? That miracles are physically possible? How does you pointing out the astronomically low antecedent probability have anything to do with wither whether miracles are physically possible or not? I'm confused as to what your objection is.
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popculturepooka
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12/23/2011 12:39:11 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 6:30:18 AM, Thrasymachus wrote:
I'm also not sure how this is meant to help Theist. So really weird things are consistent with our best physics thanks to QM magic, albeit with probabilities like 10^-56 over the lifetime of a universe. But you'd be crazy to have credence in the deliverances of QM (or physics generally), such that this possibility is important to your decision making.


It wasn't meant as a move to help Theist (at least on my part). Maybe it can be seen that way on Plantinga's part in a modest sense as he was (attempting, at least) to refute the claim that divine interaction with the world (miracles included) is impossible due to physical laws.

Atheists moves should simply be to argue for a very low prior in a non-question begging way (i.e. "we've never seen these things happen before or since, so it seems pretty unlikely they did"), and then just say the likelihood ratio isn't going to be good enough to raise your posterior above 0.5. To be honest, that strikes me as obvious enough to be summary judgement territory for considering the historicity of 'miracle' claims without independent grounds for believing them to be true (like, y'know, Theism).

I agree with this.
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PARADIGM_L0ST
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12/23/2011 12:49:09 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
You're missing the point. None of this has to do with the notion of supporting or explaining miracles; the thing I wanted to discuss was whether miracles are really physically impossible:

But isn't that the ENTIRE point of miracles to begin with -- that they defy physics?
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popculturepooka
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12/23/2011 12:49:17 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 5:53:18 AM, Kinesis wrote:
I think this misses the point. I like J.L. Mackie's definition of the laws of nature as "The ways in which the world works when left to itself, when not interfered with" and a miracle as occurring when "the world is not left to itself, when something distinct from the natural order as a whole interferes with it". The point is not that a miracle would be impossible given the laws of nature, the point is that things wouldn't have happened that way if nature had been left to itself.

I agree with that definition of a miracle and it's one I favor. This is more directed at a conception of miracles in which they "go against" the laws of physics. I've seen that more than a couple times here on this website...
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popculturepooka
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12/23/2011 12:51:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 12:49:09 PM, PARADIGM_L0ST wrote:
You're missing the point. None of this has to do with the notion of supporting or explaining miracles; the thing I wanted to discuss was whether miracles are really physically impossible:

But isn't that the ENTIRE point of miracles to begin with -- that they defy physics?

That's the point I wanted to discuss. According to those guys (who are atheists, btw) they don't defy physics- in fact, they are entirely compatible with QM and thus physics - they are just astronomically improbable.
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PARADIGM_L0ST
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12/23/2011 12:57:41 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
But isn't that the ENTIRE point of miracles to begin with -- that they defy physics?

That's the point I wanted to discuss. According to those guys (who are atheists, btw) they don't defy physics- in fact, they are entirely compatible with QM and thus physics - they are just astronomically improbable.:

My take on it is that this is a useless proposition. Debating over hypotheticals is useless conjecture. Why these atheists would even entertain it only serves to legitimize miracles, which is hilarious, considering they've set out to debunk it.
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RoyLatham
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12/23/2011 2:06:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 1:36:10 AM, popculturepooka wrote:
You're missing the point. None of this has to do with the notion of supporting or explaining miracles; the thing I wanted to discuss was whether miracles are really physically impossible (as in, they could not have happened given what the laws of physics, or, at least, what we currently know of the laws of physics say) as many, many people claim. Some seem to think that they aren't. It's not a matter of probability because it is already given that the antecdent or prior probability of a miracle is astronomically low.

I think you're missing the point. Miracles are by definition physically impossible. If they occur, it is through an agency that is not bound by physical laws. If they occur through quantum probabilities, then they no longer qualify as miracles; they are events within the bounds of the laws of nature.

For example, quantum fluctuation occurs randomly and spontaneously, with matter and anti-matter particles appearing in vacuum and then recombining. Something appears out of nothing, so is that a miracle? No, because it's happening according to laws of nature.

The deal is in defining "miracle." Anything that appears to violate previously known laws of nature can be called a miracle. We then have to go beyond the appearance to find out what category it's in.

Any, quantum probabilities for macroscopic objects are so low, there wouldn't be one such event occurring in the history of the universe, let alone observed.
popculturepooka
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12/24/2011 2:13:14 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 2:06:59 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 12/23/2011 1:36:10 AM, popculturepooka wrote:
You're missing the point. None of this has to do with the notion of supporting or explaining miracles; the thing I wanted to discuss was whether miracles are really physically impossible (as in, they could not have happened given what the laws of physics, or, at least, what we currently know of the laws of physics say) as many, many people claim. Some seem to think that they aren't. It's not a matter of probability because it is already given that the antecdent or prior probability of a miracle is astronomically low.

I think you're missing the point. Miracles are by definition physically impossible

If they occur, it is through an agency that is not bound by physical laws.
If they occur through quantum probabilities, then they no longer qualify as miracles; they are events within the bounds of the laws of nature.


For example, quantum fluctuation occurs randomly and spontaneously, with matter and anti-matter particles appearing in vacuum and then recombining. Something appears out of nothing, so is that a miracle? No, because it's happening according to laws of nature.

The deal is in defining "miracle." Anything that appears to violate previously known laws of nature can be called a miracle. We then have to go beyond the appearance to find out what category it's in.

Any, quantum probabilities for macroscopic objects are so low, there wouldn't be one such event occurring in the history of the universe, let alone observed.

Are you seriously saying that - on the supposition that things like turning water into wine and resurrection of the dead are compatible with QM - paradigm cases of miracles aren't really miracles? All that suggests is that your conception of a miracle as necessarily physically impossible is faulty if it can't accommodate such test cases - not that they aren't really miracles.
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popculturepooka
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12/24/2011 2:16:09 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
And, really, if you can't call the resurrection of the dead (religiously) miraculous in the strictest sense of the term I'm not even sure what it supposed to count as one.
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Gileandos
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12/24/2011 9:04:49 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/24/2011 2:13:14 AM, popculturepooka wrote:
At 12/23/2011 2:06:59 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 12/23/2011 1:36:10 AM, popculturepooka wrote:
You're missing the point. None of this has to do with the notion of supporting or explaining miracles; the thing I wanted to discuss was whether miracles are really physically impossible (as in, they could not have happened given what the laws of physics, or, at least, what we currently know of the laws of physics say) as many, many people claim. Some seem to think that they aren't. It's not a matter of probability because it is already given that the antecdent or prior probability of a miracle is astronomically low.

I think you're missing the point. Miracles are by definition physically impossible

If they occur, it is through an agency that is not bound by physical laws.
If they occur through quantum probabilities, then they no longer qualify as miracles; they are events within the bounds of the laws of nature.


For example, quantum fluctuation occurs randomly and spontaneously, with matter and anti-matter particles appearing in vacuum and then recombining. Something appears out of nothing, so is that a miracle? No, because it's happening according to laws of nature.

The deal is in defining "miracle." Anything that appears to violate previously known laws of nature can be called a miracle. We then have to go beyond the appearance to find out what category it's in.

Any, quantum probabilities for macroscopic objects are so low, there wouldn't be one such event occurring in the history of the universe, let alone observed.

Are you seriously saying that - on the supposition that things like turning water into wine and resurrection of the dead are compatible with QM - paradigm cases of miracles aren't really miracles? All that suggests is that your conception of a miracle as necessarily physically impossible is faulty if it can't accommodate such test cases - not that they aren't really miracles.

After reading over, I again agree with Pop.

You are arguing the definition of Miracle, when Pop is pointing to the "reality of a miraculous event."

Sometimes this only shows that all non religious on this website are contumacious to a point of self-destructive.
Gileandos
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12/24/2011 9:08:30 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/22/2011 6:03:15 PM, popculturepooka wrote:
So, I was reading Alvin Plantinga's new book a couple of weeks ago ("Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism") and I remember reading about the compatibility of QM (quantum mechanics) and miracles.

He writes that it is actually controversial as to whether miracles were physically possible or impossible which was news to me.

Anyways he says John Earman (a big-time philosopher of physics) told him that:

"If we try to define a miracle as an event that is incompatible with (what we presume, on the basis of the best evidence to be) laws of nature, then it seems that water changing to wine, a dead man coming back to life, etc. are not miracles because they are not incompatible with QM. But QM does say that they are very, very improbable."

And Bradley Monton (another philosopher of physics) says:

"For what it's worth, I think all miracles are pretty unproblematically compatible with the GRW theory. The wave function for each particle is spread throughout an unbounded region of the universe, at every time (except perhaps momentary instants of time). This means that for each particle, there is at most a finite region where it couldn't be localized by a GRW hit. (For some (probably even most) particles, they could be localized anywhere.) So for changing water into wine, it's not a big deal - you've got a bunch of individual particles (electrons, protons, etc.) that are composing into water, and they can all have GRW hits such that their positions are redistributed to the locations that would be appropriate for them to compose wine. Since there's at most a finite region of the universe where these particles can't show up, there's no reason to expect the finite regions for different particles to overlap in any special way, the particles can all appear in the positions appropriate for them to compose wine."

http://books.google.com...

Thoughts?
CosmicAlfonzo
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12/24/2011 9:40:13 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is. Probability is non-existent outside of human ignorance. Probability is something we have to work with due to our ignorance of all variables.

There isn't likely anything in the universe that violates the natural law of causality. I highly doubt there is anything. Quantum Theory, while very useful, is incomplete. There is something we are not perceiving that is introducing this "random" element.

This is why physicists are coming up with string theories, m-theory, and still smashing really tiny sh1t together.
Official "High Priest of Secular Affairs and Transient Distributor of Sonic Apple Seeds relating to the Reptilian Division of Paperwork Immoliation" of The FREEDO Bureaucracy, a DDO branch of the Erisian Front, a subdivision of the Discordian Back, a Limb of the Illuminatian Cosmic Utensil Corp
Thrasymachus
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12/28/2011 1:46:47 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/23/2011 7:01:21 AM, Kinesis wrote:
BTW Thrasymachus, I'd like to friend you so I can see your posts when they're submitted, but it says you're not accepting friends. Any reason?

(sorry for bump)

I've changed my profile settings. I am not hugely active here as (no offence to anyone), the standard of the site for my areas of interest ain't that great. Besides, I need to actually complete a medical degree, and those are fairly timeconsuming, even for wannabe polymaths like I.

Enjoy life!
RoyLatham
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12/28/2011 12:04:49 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/24/2011 9:40:13 AM, CosmicAlfonzo wrote:
Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is. Probability is non-existent outside of human ignorance. Probability is something we have to work with due to our ignorance of all variables.

There isn't likely anything in the universe that violates the natural law of causality. I highly doubt there is anything. Quantum Theory, while very useful, is incomplete. There is something we are not perceiving that is introducing this "random" element.

That's a religious belief, not a scientific one. Science acknowledges genuinely random events. the uncertainty principle is not lack of knowledge, it expresses the root impossibility of a particle being in a specific place. It exists only as a probability.

This is why physicists are coming up with string theories, m-theory, and still smashing really tiny sh1t together.

The objective is to better understand the universe, but getting back to determinism is not a scientific objective as far as a know. I'm not sure why it's a religious objective. Einstein said, "God does not play dice with the universe." Bohr replied, "Albert, if God wants to play dice, let Him." I don't see religion being naturally on either side.
RoyLatham
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12/28/2011 12:09:10 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 12/24/2011 9:04:49 AM, Gileandos wrote:
You are arguing the definition of Miracle, when Pop is pointing to the "reality of a miraculous event."

Okay, what is a "miraculous event" if it is something other than either a violation of physical laws or something that seems to violate physical laws but doesn't?


Sometimes this only shows that all non religious on this website are contumacious to a point of self-destructive.

You are an endless supply of ad hom attacks. That serves no useful purpose.