The nature of miraculous claims….

105


Discussion by: achromat666

I'm finding the more people come to the site and make defend miraculous claims a pretty common thread arises:

Either…

1. The claim itself has no corroborating evidence.

2. The claims are only reviewed by memeber of the clergy, or

3. The claims are only reviewed by a few outside agents and the findings are not thoroughly (if at all) peer reveiwed.

This is most common with claims from the RCC, but I know they're not the only ones making them. The Shroud of Turin is a popular one, along with variations of the Eucharist miracle claims and others.

I'm honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community? As in something that was proven to have occured that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer? 

105 COMMENTS

    • Not really what I asked for. To repeat:

      I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community? As in something that was proven to have occurred that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer?

      People make claims all the time. I’m curious as to whether there’s a single claim for which there is no response.

      In reply to #1 by Pauly01:

      You want a miraculous claim here’s one

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ASzDDOaLyk

      • Just found a video I thought was funny. I said, sh*t , I gotta share this. Then I saw your discussion and as they say , the rest is history.

        In reply to #2 by achromat666:

        Not really what I asked for. To repeat:

        I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community? As in something that was proven to have occurred that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer…

        • In reply to #7 by Pauly01:

          Just found a video I thought was funny. I said, sh*t , I gotta share this. Then I saw your discussion and as they say , the rest is history.

          In reply to #2 by achromat666:

          Not really what I asked for. To repeat:

          I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physic…

          Fair enough.

        • In reply to #7 by Pauly01:

          Just found a video I thought was funny. I said, sh*t , I gotta share this. Then I saw your discussion and as they say , the rest is history.

          In reply to #2 by achromat666:

          Not really what I asked for. To repeat:

          I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physic…

          Unfortunately I can’t see it because it doesn’t come up in blue! I lack the technical skills to trace it back to its source manually.

      • In reply to #2 by achromat666:

        Not really what I asked for. To repeat:

        I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community? As in something that was proven to have occurred that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer…

        no there isn’t

      • In reply to #2 by achromat666:

        Not really what I asked for. To repeat:

        “I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stumped the scientific community? As in something that was proven to have occurred that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer…”


        I know you’re looking for religious claims of miracles, but what about the Observer Effect on quantum waves? Measure a wave and it becomes a particle. Stop measuring, and it becomes a wave again. Though I don’t yet buy into the conclusions made on this experiment it surely must confound those in science.

        Even Physicist Richard Feynman said: “”If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

  1. That’s a somewhat contradictory question. If something is proven to have occurred it would have to be proven through our current knowledge of science. It is when something can’t be shown to ever have happened that the claims come that can’t be verified yet get repeated for years. There has never been, to my knowledge an existing phenomena like blood dripping from eyes of a statue that scientists have been able to study and say, “my gosh, that’s blood dripping from the eyes of a statue which is impossible yet it is happening!”. Nobody has been studied while levitating. James Randy has not lost millions paying mind readers and telekinetic spoon benders. Nope.

    I will say though, that the laws of physics cause phenomena that have stumped many scientists and we see things that SEEM to be beyond the laws of physics….but those observations don’t entail ghosts, miracles, telekinetics, etc.

    And BECAUSE we have seen no evidence, we can say the same thing about supernatural claims that defy the laws of physics as we say about god and that is simply that there is no reason to believe that either exists and I can and will therefore believe and act as if neither does exist. I’ll believe it when I see it (not meant literally).

    • In reply to #3 by digibud:

      That’s a somewhat contradictory question. If something is proven to have occurred it would have to be proven through our current knowledge of science. It is when something can’t be shown to ever have happened that the claims come that can’t be verified yet get repeated for years. There has never be…

      It’s sort of the point of the question really. I’m obviously aware that there are things for which science has no explanation, but it’s not the same as a faith claim that never gets proven to have happened in the first place. That’s the common sort of tripe I see in here all too often.

      I’m not expecting there to be any examples per se (and wasn’t expecting this discussion to be selected, if I’m being honest), but I’m always up for a chat, so what the hell.

  2. ‘something that was proven to have occurred that deifies our current knowledge’

    Was that a misspelling or are you suggesting that scientific knowledge be worshipped like a god? ;)
    Sorry, couldn’t help asking!

    • In reply to #5 by Archaic Torso:

      ‘something that was proven to have occurred that deifies our current knowledge’

      Was that a misspelling or are you suggesting that scientific knowledge be worshipped like a god? ;)
      Sorry, couldn’t help asking!

      Misspelling, dammit. Thanks for catching it. I meant to say defies.

  3. Being stumped is reasonably routine in science. The real question being for how long, and whether any particular claimed anomaly is even worth contemplating. You don’t just need explicit evidence about the actual anomaly, but implicit credible evidence that the anomaly is worth investigating.

    There’s a boy crying wolf phenomena where extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. At some point the boy making the extraordinary claim, following successive failures to deliver extraordinary evidence, can safely be ignored. At least until extraordinary evidence arises. The quality of the relevant extraordinary evidence increases with successive reiterations of low quality claims. Eventually only an actual wolf and the corpse of the boy will be sufficient proof, the claimants having previously exhausted all alternative credibility.

    Religious clerics did once upon a time have some credibility. But now only science has much credibility left. Probably because credibility for scientists is an indirect consequence of the work they actually do. Other easier approaches involve establishing an impression of credibility as the primary work focus, in order that what they want to do be taken more seriously. Hence the urge of some parties to tack on the word ‘science’ to their areas of interest. Eg. Creation Science, Revelation Science, Theological Science, Chiropractic Science, Homoeopathy Science, Christian Science, Islamic Science, Feminist Science, Marxist Science, Economic Science, Sports Science, and Nutrition Science.

    Scientists may now need to be rebadged as Real Scientists, to distinguish their peculiar minority group from the large majority that comprises of all these other kinds of semi-pseudo ‘scientists’. It’s a little harder to become competent as a real scientist, compared to these other kinds of sciencyness. Some of what real scientists do is counter-intuitive, and one way of distinguishing among the kinds of scientists is to check whether aspects of their work is counter-intuitive. E.g. A key technique of real science being to exploit unexpected data (i.e. real information in signals) to identify explanations that are inadequate and where established theories deviate from reality. i.e. they look for where they might be wrong, rather than the conventional political approach of always pretending to have been right, or the popular idea of scientists ‘confirming’ theories.

    So when the scientific community is stumped, this is usually regarded as a good thing by real scientists. (At least to the extent that it doesn’t jeopardise funding – scientists may always exist, but actual scientific work doesn’t always happen by itself for free if the bills don’t get paid.) That’s where scientists find out what is required to take things forward because that’s when the truth of reality is momentarily disclosing it’s otherwise invisible presence. Scientists are hardly likely to ignore a genuine anomaly and they don’t like being disappointed by fake anomalies. (Because money could end up being spent, but without a return on investment – implying maybe a risk of less money next time around.) At the very least a mind stumping anomaly would present the opportunity to identify yet another valuable aspect of cognitive bias or as yet unconsidered significant factors, which is a worthwhile discovery of itself. At best it will take actual theories forwards, or encourage better theories to emerge.

    A problem is often that it can be difficult to measure actual deviations from what is predicted by theory because of normal variances, including unavoidable cognitive bias and constraints of measurements and experiments. Sometimes this can take a long time to resolve, if only because the man-hours and overheads aren’t cheap, let alone actual experiments and data acquisition and management.

    In the meantime something can remain ‘unexplained’ by science having no answer. Sometimes for a long time. But most scientists seldom doubt that the matter will be satisfactorily resolved, if not in their lifetime. Generally it’s just a balance of probabilities question: It’s typically much more likely that previously unconsidered biases, external factors, errors, misinterpretation, or outright lying are at play than there might be something fundamentally wrong with major scientific theories.

    A recent minor issue that stumped the best scientific minds might be the Pioneer Anomaly (gravitational deviation in spacecraft trajectory) and a current issue is Protein radius – newer and more reliable estimates conflict with aspects of quantum theory. Which, along with evolution, is possibly one of the most successful and well-established theories in science. You don’t have to look hard to find all sorts of similar puzzles. But few people, other than real scientists, will get too exited about things that are too small to touch, or a chunk of derelict interstellar spacecraft that’s very slightly changing its velocity in the wrong way.

    • In reply to #9 by Pete H:

      One of the famous “long time ignored” problems with the black body problem — hot objects glowed the wrong colour. It was ignored until everything else was handled, thought to be insignificant. When they finally tackled it, it lead to quantum mechanics.

  4. It was a ‘miraculous’ claim that the Earth travelled round the Sun (at least it was against all that was accepted). Now it is part of actuality – no longer a miraculous claim. This is what happens with any ‘miracle’ that eventually is explained – it becomes part of mainstream science. Anything else that is not currently explained is (a) a hoax, (b) a misunderstanding, or (c) something that as yet has no explanation, but may well have one day.

  5. OP: As in something that was proven to have occurred that defies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer?

    Hi Achromat. Do you mean: apart from Michael Behe, Ken Ham, Will Craig, and other illogical, improbable and unfathomable creatures…? 8-) Mac.

  6. I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it.
    Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.
    Here’s a link of something you might find interesting, but likely won’t believe. Not saying that as an insult, just sayin’ it.
    http://www.is-there-a-god.info/life/tenhealings.shtml

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it….

      I’m very pleased your cousin no longer has Crohn’s disease (a horrible condition) but why are you linking prayer to the reason he no longer has it? Wishful thinking? Did he have no doctor?

      • In reply to #13 by Pabmusic:

        In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

        I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it….

        I’m very pleased your cousin no longer has Crohn’s disease (a horrible condition) but why are you linking prayer to the reason he no longer…

        As far as I know (read), there is no medical cure. This was about a decade ago. He’s still not exactly a really religious guy – even after this. I’m not either. Just responding to the original post. And thank for the the positive feedback about him no longer having Crohn’s.

        • In reply to #85 by stilljustme:

          In reply to #13 by Pabmusic:

          In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

          I see that the reply to those who have prayed in vain for healing is yet more silence.

          Clearly you have no idea as to why God heals one in a million times and leaves the other 999,999 to their fate.

          But maybe you could understand why people get sore about these claims, as they or their loved ones slip away?

          Or are these inconvenient facts to be ignored by the devout, like so many others?

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it.
      Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.
      Here…

      What is your point? If you are arguing for the efficacy of prayer, you will have to do way better than that.

      A single incident, under completely uncontrolled and monitored conditions does not even rise to the level of sample, but remains in the murky area called anecdote.

      Or do you not wish to engage the troublesome issues of the suspension of the laws of nature and the reversal of the divine plan, or even divine favoritism when millions of innocents have gone on suffering?

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it.
      Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.

      I hope all goes well for your cousin, but people with Crohns (fortunately) often have remissions:
      “People with Crohn’s disease sometimes go for long periods without symptoms, or with very mild symptoms. This is known as remission. Remission can be followed by periods where symptoms flare up and become particularly troublesome”. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Crohns-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx.

      And there are case reports of spontaneous full recovery: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF01071891#.

      I also wonder of your cousin was having medical treatment as well as healing prayers.

      However. medical evidence aside, I have an ethical, so to speak pastoral concern with miracle healing. For each of the rare healing stories, there are thousands where no miracle is claimed. So why does God heal some and not others? Because people didn’t pray or believe hard enough? (Jesus supposedly spoke of people needing faith to be healed). Maybe some people aren’t good enough to merit healing – many people think they must be guilty of something for God to be allowing them or their loved one to be dying. I took my father to see his son (and my older brother), after he was given a late diagnosis of terminal cancer. My brother, a stalwart of his church, cried out, ‘I’ve prayed to Jesus but he doesn’t seem to have heard me”. My distraught atheist father, himself a hospital patient, attempted no reply. Both were dead in a few weeks.

      There are many such bedsides where the healing Jesus seems to have been strangely absent.

      • In reply to #15 by steve_hopker:

        In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

        I don’t know why you have to have faith for these things to occur.
        My idea of God and man is not a solid position. I don’t get the need for suffering, or even a need for humans and our planet – if souls and heaven and real, lets just start there. Seems kind of like an experiment – and God would know the end result anyway.
        So, I don’t have an answer for that one.

        I’ve had many spiritual experiences. Some here would say things like God-Helmet, or something similar.
        And I can’t get past the minimal gene concept. I’m pretty sure the self-proclaimed only 6 out of 7 atheist Richard Dawkins is a bit troubled with it as well. A naturally occurring self-replicating molecule? Well if a plausible possibility is eventually “discovered”, there’s still a LOT of mysteries to solve before you can get a self-replicating cell.
        I am angered by all of the suffering out there. When it happens to innocence, it kind of leaves me shaking my head.
        We clearly are not perfect beings. I don’t thump the bible too much because I pick and choose concepts/phrases/thoughts. I know too much about it to just believe it floated down from heaven. But, the whole original sin thing. Even that doesn’t seem to justify all of the suffering.
        Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful reply. I have considered the things you mentioned about before. I don’t have an answer, but I do have a certain level of faith. But it’s faith based on something I would call evidence. A personal evidence. That spiritual thing I wrote about. And, again, you’re not gonna get that first functioning, metabolizing, DNA/RNA, self-replicating cell. It has to happen in one shot.
        Try fusing two lesser miracle non-replicating cells together, wouldn’t they need the right DNA/RNA sequencing? Among all sorts of other miracles that would have to take place.
        So, I don’t find it ridiculous to believe in an unexplainable god.
        What’s the alternative? Have faith in an unexplainable first self-replicating cell, not to mention things like the existence of energy from…I guess nothing.
        Just some thoughts.

        • In reply to #99 by stilljustme:

          In reply to #15 by steve_hopker:

          In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

          I do not see how one gets from gaps in knowledge about gene formation etc to the Nicene creed or anything worth worshipping. What’s more, Gods in gaps get smaller by the day – how could one securely base one’s values on that? It may be that ‘behind/before/under’ everything there was some creative event – but that seems to be a kind of mathematicians / philosophers god at best, ie emotionally no different or more reassuring than scientific explanations are without God – not surprising, as a Gap-God is only really another kind of explanation of physical events. Constructing a theological edifice on that small point might be like building an inverted pyramid ie likely to fall over at the slightest shake.

          Personal experiences are different to gaps in scientific knowledge. But – what kind of reliance can one put on private knowledge even for oneself? (I constantly get the wrong end of the stick etc)? Also, it seems hard to see how purely private knowledge can be communicated: can one even be sure that other believers have had the same experience? And what authority does private revelation give regarding others – eg in advocating laws?

          Indeed, personal experiences attributed to God might yet be another kind of gap-filling, invoking a God for an odd or unexplained experience. If so, faith based on such experiences could be vulnerable to advances in psychology or brain science, much as invoking a god to fill in missing bits in biology could fall as the gaps in genetics are filled in.

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it. Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.

      I don’t mean to offend personally, but this is sloppy writing. Why didn’t you just say, “I can supply evidence that prayer cures Chron’s disease.” I think we know why, right? Because you cannot.

      Mike

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it.
      Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.

      But the proper question to ask is, do people prayed over heal any more frequently than people who are not?
      You could have given him a pet goldfish. He healed, then you claim the magic goldfish did it.

      There were experiments where pigeons had to peck machines for grain rewards. Pigeons developed superstitions, e.g. standing on one foot, because by chance they were standing on one foot when they were rewarded. I refer to this as “pigeon superstition” when people do the same thing. It is a reasonable thing for pigeons to do. There is not much cost is standing on one foot. The pigeon is not trying to determine if standing on one foot is truly useful, just to get some grain. However, humans love to spread their pigeon superstitions to each other without researching them first.

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it.
      Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.

      Miracle cures are claimed only for those diseases/conditions that have a well understood spontaneous rate of remission. I suggest you check out http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com for a reality check.

    • Chron’s is difficult to define in terms of pathology. Its an inflammation of gastrointestinal tract. Different parts of the tract can be affected and I would assume that there could be many biological causes for inflammation.

      Who knows what the underlining problem was? Has this person changed their diet. Could it have being psychosomatic? Did the effects of making material changes to this persons life , happen to coincide with the priest’s prayers.

      Just throwing it out their

      In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it.
      Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.
      Here…

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it.
      Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.
      Here…

      I think this is the type of situation where one needs to look at statistics in order to gain perspective. Are positive outcomes to medical conditions skewed in favour of those who have someone praying for them? Do the number of prayers make a difference ( as in a whole congregation)? Are atheists with no prayerful relatives doomed to suffer without the hope of remission? I think the evidence would become apparent especially to medical staff.

      Should a positive correlation become obvious, I’m sure atheists would start converting in droves!

    • In reply to #12 by stilljustme:

      I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest…

      Mum used to tell people “I would sacrifice my right arm to cure my Lenny” and she prayed incessantly. When the new parish priest arrived with a reputation for curing sick or recalcitrant kids by prayer alone, my mum asked him to pray for my recovery. She also paid him to conduct a Novena.

      Crohn’s is incurable of course, so I’m still afflicted. The important point I wrote to emphasize is a cautionary one however.

      Immediately following the Novena mum’s right arm fell off.

  7. Hi achromat666,

    I’m curious: What would you think if an example of a suspension of the laws of physics, or an apparent violation of those laws, that has actually stumped the scientific community … turned up?

    The CERN scientists were troubled by the so-called faster-than-light-neutrino. Their reaction was to question the data, because they were anomalies – the data deviated from what is standard and expected. This is exactly what miraculous claims by religions are; claims of anomalies. Occasionally, we get a more sophisticated version: Anomalies are to be expected because science doesn’t know everything – which, in an over-arching impractical and inapplicable-in-daily-life sense, is true.

    When miracles are investigated it is enough that the judge(s) – whether appointed by an organised religion or self-appointed – can discover no evidence that the claim is false, that an alternative explanation can be found. This is obviously a low bar to jump compared to science. Essentially they are working from claim to evidence – with the emphasis on negative evidence (disproving the claim).

    The scientists at CERN worked hard on the neutrino problem because they work in the opposite direction, from evidence to claim – with the emphasis on positive and verified evidence (making a model that fits the verified facts). They had more than a century of scientific evidence that Special Relativity was a good theory, so they persevered until they found the problem. This level of persistence is, in my experience, never found among the faithful – except when it comes to nay-saying. They’re very good at sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting: “Nah-nah-na-nah-nah, I can’t hear you.” Nice. Mature.

    Note also the dissent among the scientists – with small groups refusing to sign-up to the Group’s early conclusions. Again, this marks them out as different to faith-heads.

    What happens when scientists discover that they can repeat an anomaly, but their current model doesn’t fit? They change their minds.

    Peace.

  8. The closest thing to that is dark matter and dark energy. We don’t have a theory to explain them. This does not mean God must exist, just that we are not yet clever enough to figure them out. I had a conjecture that our formulation of Newton’s law of gravitation needs a minor tweak. It is not quite inversely proportional to distance squared. I had a conversation with an astrophysicist who explained why perhaps a dozen hypotheses likely could not be correct. It truly is weird.

  9. I hope you are not being honest when you say you are curious about proof of miracles. It is intellectual high treason when you suspend logic and reason and allow the supernatural to claim even an ounce of truth. Why are people so afraid to view the supernatural for what it truly is: made up claims on the natural world which are grounded in ignorance and wishful thinking, where only the private individual can claim to know why it should be believed (since there is no verifiable evidence). Why is it so easy to dismiss the uniqueness of truth and the history of how humans slowly used their rationality to identify the characteristics of truth? (resulting in the scientific method) The answer is that people have been taken in by the illogical argument in favor of the supernatural. The argument basically goes like this: There is still a great deal science does not know and may never know, since the unexplainable is possible, anything is possible including a world outside of science. The trick is they are not being genuine about their acceptance of the scientific method for finding truth, but instead are using warped logic to justify postulating their own speculations as valid (since it could fall in the realm outside of science thus making it impervious to rational investigation.) Once you take the irrational leap from the gaps in our knowledge to a supernatural world that nurtures those gaps, you are giving up on reason and allowing confusion to guide your thinking. The problem is we are taught in philosophy classes to be irrationally skeptical of science. They might fluff it up better with words that mask their irrational leap into the supernatural, but be sure, they are making claims about reality without evidence

    • Not really,

      I think it’s good to look at the opposing view and be open to any potential possibilities. Do I believe the supernatural will ever be proved. No definitely not. Do I think it’s possible. No. But its no harm to look at what an overwhelmingly amount of people in this world deems real.

      In reply to #20 by realthinktank:

      I hope you are not being honest when you say you are curious about proof of miracles. It is intellectual high treason when you suspend logic and reason and allow the supernatural to claim even an ounce of truth. Why are people so afraid to view the supernatural for what it truly is: made up claims o…

      • In reply to #21 by Pauly01:

        Not really,

        I think it’s good to look at the opposing view and be open to any potential possibilities.

        This is a clear example of being convinced by the irrational argument for the supernatural. “any possibilities” meaning outside of science and rational investigation. You say its good to “look” at opposing views. No one is advocating censorships of thought, taking it to that extreme demonstrates you do not understand the central argument against the supernatural and thus would rather begin a debate over an easy issue such as whether we should never consider an opposing view.(as if I’m advocating such an unreasonable stance)

        Do I believe the supernatural will ever be proved. No definitely not. Do I think it’s possible. No.

        You began by responding to my critic of the supernatural by claiming that there is a potential possibility for its existence, yet here you sound as if you are firm in your belief that is impossible. What factors or traits about the supernatural realm were you considering when you made the first statement versus the second. This is clear confusion, which I said would result once you convince yourself that the irrational could possibly have truth. It is simply illogical, since by definition, irrational ideas bypass the very foundation to truth, evidence.

        But its no harm to look at what an overwhelmingly amount of people in this world deems real.

        You skirt the issue again. It is not about harm, it is about truth, and how many people believe it or not has no bearing on whether a claim on the natural world is true or not. You say “look” again, but you might also mean respect, which, if that is the case, there is great harm. Why do you think there isn’t much backlash and ridicule from the general public towards the teaching of creationism? It is because of unwarranted respect for faith.

        • This is a clear example of being convinced by the irrational argument for the supernatural. “any possibilities” meaning outside of science and rational investigation. You say its good to “look” at opposing views. No one is advocating censorships of thought, taking it to that extreme demonstrates you do not understand the central argument against the supernatural and thus would rather begin a debate over an easy issue such as whether we should never consider an opposing view.(as if I’m advocating such an unreasonable stance)

          How was what I said ‘extreme’. You put it in quotes yourself, I said we should “Look” at these claims , it’s only being openminded.

          You began by responding to my critic of the supernatural by claiming that there is a potential possibility for its existence, yet here you sound as if you are firm in your belief that is impossible. What factors or traits about the supernatural realm were you considering when you made the first statement versus the second. This is clear confusion, which I said would result once you convince yourself that the irrational could possibly have truth. It is simply illogical, since by definition, irrational ideas bypass the very foundation to truth, evidence.

          It’s my own personal opinion , I believe that there will be no evidence for the supernatural , but I’m prepared and openminded to look at evidence should it ever arise.

          You skirt the issue again. It is not about harm, it is about truth, and how many people believe it or not has no bearing on whether a claim on the natural world is true or not. You say “look” again, but you might also mean respect, which, if that is the case, there is great harm. Why do you think there isn’t much backlash and ridicule from the general public towards the teaching of creationism? It is because of unwarranted respect for faith.

          I believe that if evidence for the supernatural (God , etc) ever arose , I would have to change my mind. This is not a radical view at all and a view that most atheists , I suspect , would agree with.

          In reply to #25 by realthinktank:

          In reply to #21 by Pauly01:

          Not really,

          I think it’s good to look at the opposing view and be open to any potential possibilities.

          This is a clear example of being convinced by the irrational argument for the supernatural. “any possibilities” meaning outside of science and rational investigation….

          • In reply to #32 by Pauly01:

            Hey thanks for engaging me in this conversation in such a civil and constructive manner. I expect nothing less from people like us who understand the unique position that truth holds and are always seeking to have a clearer understanding of it.

            Let me just suggest that you might be taking the rational stance of being open minded, too far. Instead of saying that open mindedness means to give any claim on the natural world the chance to present evidence for its truth, you might be seeing open mindedness as every claim on the natural world has the potential for truth. This is a mistake because not every claim is based on the fundamental understanding that the truth of a claim has the potential to be proven by evidence. Some explanatory claims are created solely to avoid providing evidence and even proudly define themselves as outside of evidence and rational thought.

            I believe that if evidence for the supernatural (God , etc) ever arose , I would have to change my mind. This is not a radical view at all and a view that most atheists , I suspect , would agree with.

            Perhaps some atheists might, but I am a rationalist. To me, being an atheist is just the result of the rational approach I take to any truth claim. And that approach leads me to conclude that the supernatural is by definition created by man to take the place of evidence as the currency of truth, and thus, there is no such thing as evidence for the supernatural.

            If you accept that the phenomena not understood by science can possibly be investigated through evidence, then at most you are just saying that the phenomena is natural just unknowable by our current level of knowledge.

  10. The short answer is no, but there are many which have made this sort of claim only to overtaken by scientific explanations, which were not understood by those making such claims (from incredulity).

    I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community? As in something that was proven to have occured that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer?

    “No idea how it happened, so it must be supernatural magic”, runs through thousands of examples of history and mythology.

    • In reply to #23 by Alan4discussion:

      “No idea how it happened, so it must be supernatural magic”, runs through thousands of examples of history and mythology.

      And we see many people trotting such claims here as proof all the time.

  11. No.

    In every instance where a scientific investigation has been done it has been found to be an out right fraud, or have a simple natural explanation.

    Cold reading, plants, chicken’s blood, hidden microphones, simple physics – these have all been some of the real reasons for supposed super natural events.

  12. realthinktank,

    I hope you are not being honest when you say you are curious about proof of miracles.

    Something that was proven to occur that defies our knowledge does not necessarily mean a miracle. What I’m curious about was whether any of the claims have ever been based on proven events that science cannot explain. This is different from things science has observed that it cannot explain as that is simply something that requires further research to investigate.

    I’ll give an example, one that prompted me to write this discussion in the first place:

    In one of the other threads, a very devout catholic persisted in throwing links into a thread that were supposed to be of a miracle. It was documentation of something that was said to have happened hundreds of years ago that no one could possibly prove. And of course the only people to corroborate the tale were clergy or people hired by the clergy. This is clearly something that is fairly easily dismissed without anything tangible to even research and thus no reason to even consider such incredible claims.

    Obviously when such claims are generally put into the public square and are analyzed they generally turn out to be fakes, delusions, hearsay or just a complete misconception of the events in question. All I was asking is if anyone knew of an instance where someone actually had any such occurrence where science was able to analyze and couldn’t come up with any answers at all.

    Bear in mind this is not an insinuation of my endorsing any such claims in any way. I’ve had very religious relatives relay stories to me of what were supposed to be firsthand accounts of things that potentially had many explanations aside from the supernatural. It would require a tremendous amount of actual evidence for me to take any of it seriously.

    Additionally, when I say ‘that science has no available answers’ this is not to assume any credibility to a supernatural claim by default. It was once assumed that epilepsy and numerous other disorders were signs of demonic possession. I’m quite aware of how easily our senses are fooled and how easily belief can color the perception of a given event.

    Perhaps I should have been more specific in my questioning?

    • In reply to #26 by achromat666:

      Something that was proven to occur that defies our knowledge does not necessarily mean a miracle.

      How can something be proven and yet defy our knowledge? You have bought into the irrational way of thinking about reality that goes something like “science is unable to prove everything (perhaps because I have a philosophically irrational position against the idea of absolutes) and therefore it is rational for me to give respect to a baseless and imagined claim instead of calling a spade and spade and dismissing the nonsensical claim.” I was trying to point out the confusion of equating the mystery of what we don’t know to the mystery of the supernatural. You seem to be doing this when you say things like

      I’ve had very religious relatives relay stories to me of what were supposed to be firsthand accounts of things that potentially had many explanations aside from the supernatural. It would require a tremendous amount of actual evidence for me to take any of it seriously.

      The fact that you think there could be evidence of the supernatural and that you might be seriously convinced of the supernatural, tells me that you are confusing the supernatural with the unknown. They are not the same. The unknown has the property of being potentially investigable by rational means even if it requires the science of a thousand years in the future. And perhaps some things might never be known, however, we acknowledge the vast scientific knowledge and the truth of evidence when we say that. For example, if I say perhaps the big bang might never be fully understood, I do so knowing that there is an enormous scientific enterprise that is working on the problem and that there would be huge process of truth discovery that a claim would have to endure to remain unknown. Do you really think that people making supernatural claims understand and respect this? Does this fit with the nature of supernatural explanations? If something unknown is explained wasn’t it always natural to begin with? (This really gets to the heart of the confusion when people define “supernatural”)

      It was once assumed that epilepsy and numerous other disorders were signs of demonic possession

      Do you think that their claims are the result of even the tiniest bit of rationally investigation? The defining point that distinguishes the unknown from supernatural is that we acknowledge the potential for rational investigation.

      All I was asking is if anyone knew of an instance where someone actually had any such occurrence where science was able to analyze and couldn’t come up with any answers at all.

      What I’m curious about was whether any of the claims have ever been based on proven events that science cannot explain. This is different from things science has observed that it cannot explain as that is simply something that requires further research to investigate.

      I think this might be the heart of your argument so let me try to clear up the confusion I see. There are undoubtedly a great number of phenomena that science cannot explain. If not the scientific method, what other approach do you suggest to find the true explanations of phenomena? You say “proven” events that science cannot explain, how is it proven? If you simply mean that an unexplained phenomena is observed enough so that it is common knowledge to exist, for example, our “consciousness”, that really isn’t saying much. But, you go further by saying

      claims…based on proven events that science cannot explain ….is different from things science has observed that it cannot explain as that is simply something that requires further research to investigate.

      This, in my opinion, is the illogical foundation that you are building your arguments from. What really is the difference between the two claims? It seems to me that when you say “proven events that science cannot explain” you are just trying to use respectable language to validate your wish for such a magical realm to exist.

      Btw, I appreciate your want to have a constructive discussion with everyone. I’m always looking for my thinking to be tested since I know it is always possible to have a clearer understanding of the truth of any issue.

      • In reply to #73 by Roedy:

        In reply to #26 by achromat666:

        realthinktank,

        Hundreds of years ago saints used to levitate routinely. They stopped doing that since the invention of the cameraphone.

        The perils of technology…

  13. I actually thought initially this would be a waste of time as I assumed what the consensus would be, but it’s actually interesting to see how everyone else looks at both what an unexplained event is and how it should be viewed. Interesting chat so far.

  14. I don’t think a “miracle” is even a coherent concept. It strikes me as being a fancy way of describing either a perceived/real improbability of sufficient unlikelihood to warrant attention and speculations for causal factors, or a deviation from established science that requires an overhaul of at least one major field to accommodate it. The bizarre quantum effects of electrons and even matter itself must have seemed almost magical to the discoverers and pioneers of that field, such as Planck and Bohr.

    There is another sense of it being something that comes as such an utterly pleasant surprise and is suspected to be the work of some behind-the-scenes entity, like a deity or a brownie or something to that effect, but that isn’t worth pursuing if such entities haven’t been independently proven to exist. This is not leastways because that is the base-rate fallacy; it can’t be more likely that X exists because Y happened and because you assume X comes with Y, because you have to establish first that X exists independently of that conjunction.

    The examples of the first two definitions would be anything that didn’t submit to a modern scientific account. If spontaneous human combustion was well documented but couldn’t be explained by modern chemistry, for instance, or if human fossils in the Precambrian couldn’t be explained short of invoking a future time machine. As far as I’m aware, more realistic examples are dark matter and dark energy in physics and astronomy, which have a multitude of explanations but don’t readily submit to any one of them yet.

  15. Cicero dismissed all miracles with, “There are no miracles; what was incapable of happening never happened, and what was capable of happening is not a miracle”, but what Marcus Tullius couldn’t dismiss is the miracle of the Big Bang. Surely a miracle which eclipses all multiple miracles of all 10,933 Christian Saints currently, and of every future Saint yet to be canonised.

    For if what banged was the entire mass of the universe confined in a singularity, then how would this mother and father of all black holes of the universe (by definition) could mushroom into gas, dust and galaxies without a biblical miracle?

    Or, if what banged wasn’t mass but plasma, or energy, or the breath of a god, or some divine flatulence, then how, without a biblical miracle, would this energy be squeezed into a singularity before the same god who squeezed it or some other god pulls the trigger?

  16. I don’t think a “miracle” is even a coherent concept.

    I’m inclined to agree, especially considering the definitions. From Merriam Webster online:

    1: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs

    2: an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment

    The second definition is sadly almost never used commonly. When most think of the term miracle it almost always refers to the first, which is by definition impossible to establish. You can’t cite an event and then claim divine anything without evidence of divine something.

    And of course when something that appears extraordinary is explained, it ceases to seem miraculous, and we just move on with our lives.

  17. 1 Omniscience required.) How would one ever know that an event had no natural cause? One would have to be omniscient to draw such a conclusion. One can’t even claim evidence of a non-natural cause. All one can do is say “I don’t know” and keep studying the matter. (Pete H is correct about scientists being stumped many times.) Not continuing to study is the human disaster that occurs when people believe in the supernatural; it stops thought dead in it tracks and, basically, puts some aspects of nature beyond the reach of human reason.

    2 The supernatural is no explanation.) Also, a miracle is necessarily an argument from ignorance–a “god of the gaps” argument: there’s no real causal explanation. There’s no evidence of the supernatural agent cause and no evidence of the process linking the agent to the effect. I.e., there’s no evidence of “what” did it and no evidence of “how” it was done. I.e., we can’t study characteristics of the cause and characteristics of the process to see how it all works. It’s a claim without any rational cognitive content–null, zero, blank…nothing. The explanations starting with god that the pious love so much are not even authentic explanations; they, therefore, boil down to an extreme form of arbitrary assertions. Most pious aren’t going to ask about “what” or “how,” so these types of explanations are very effective bullshit tools for the holy men.

    3 Miracles contradict identity.) A miracle is alleged to violate the natural laws of causality. That would mean that it has to do something which is impossible to it according to its characteristics. Since what a thing can do depends on what it is, a miracle is a claim that a thing is acting against its own nature (identity). A miracle is something done by an unknowable agent performing pure magic tricks–an agent that doesn’t have to obey nature but can achieve his wishes anyway.

    4 Is a grounded pig supernatural intervention?) If we can’t see “what” did it or “how” it was done, how would we know whether a flying pig is a supernatural intervention or whether a grounded pig is a supernatural intervention?

    5 Forget it!) Epistemologically, I can see no possibility of evidence for the supernatural.

    As I recall, even Newton gave a supernatural explanation of something involving planetary orbits; later, another scientist figured it out. One wonders about how many kids in the U.S. have had the possibility of scientific careers killed because they were indoctrinated by creationist parents and preachers.

    IMO, the concept of god is too slippery to deal with and has, in itself, no connection to reality. The idea of the supernatural, however, does have chatter about reality in it and is, therefore, much more vulnerable to refutation. Recall that a fact refutes all contradictory propositions.

    BTW archromat666, you seem to be looking for a (negative) induction by enumeration and it can’t be done. You can’t even prove that there are no round squares by that approach.

  18. thinktank,

    you are just trying to use respectable language to validate your wish for such a magical realm to exist.

    No, not even remotely. Not on any conceivable level. I’m an atheist, and have no magical realm to aspire to or hope to believe in. Let’s clear the air on this right now. I’ve been on this site for a few years now, feel free to read any of my postings and see if there is a whiff of theism in my reasoning or need for faith or religion. You are taking me completely out of context.

    Let’s start….

    How can something be proven and yet defy our knowledge? You have bought into the irrational way of thinking about reality that goes something like “science is unable to prove everything (perhaps because I have a philosophically irrational position against the idea of absolutes) and therefore it is rational for me to give respect to a baseless and imagined claim instead of calling a spade and spade and dismissing the nonsensical claim.”

    Something can occur that can be proven to have occurred but science can’t explain. There are still plenty of things that we know happen in space for example that we can’t explain fully or in some cases at all. This wasn’t an inference to the supernatural, merely whether or not looking into any such claims have met with anything other than outright dismissal.

    My entire premise is: based on the massive amount of so called miraculous events that are claimed to have occurred has there ever been an example of something that has happened that has ever given science pause? Not is there evidence of the supernatural, but is there any claim that science couldn’t explain based on the research they could do on it. At no point have I said the unknown =god, the supernatural or any such nonsense. You’re reading that into my posts.

    Obviously if something is demonstrated as false it is dismissed. most often such things are dismissed out of hand for lack of any evidence, as I’ve already said.

    The fact that you think there could be evidence of the supernatural and that you might be seriously convinced of the supernatural, tells me that you are confusing the supernatural with the unknown.

    Who told you I believe there could be evidence of the supernatural? Where did I say that? Ever?

    Are you referring to statements like:

    I’ve had very religious relatives relay stories to me of what were supposed to be firsthand accounts of things that potentially had many explanations aside from the supernatural.

    Where in this statement do you hear me saying I believe in the supernatural? Especially when I follow it with…

    It would require a tremendous amount of actual evidence for me to take any of it seriously.

    Which never happens. Hence the question in the OP. At no point do you see me writing, “is the lack of an explanation any inference to the supernatural?” It was never the point of the OP.

    Do you think that their claims are the result of even the tiniest bit of rationally investigation? The defining point that distinguishes the unknown from supernatural is that we acknowledge the potential for rational investigation.

    That was rather the point of me mentioning it. If you would stop assuming I believe in the supernatural and such, perhaps you would have seen that.

    I think this might be the heart of your argument so let me try to clear up the confusion I see. There are undoubtedly a great number of phenomena that science cannot explain. If not the scientific method, what other approach do you suggest to find the true explanations of phenomena? You say “proven” events that science cannot explain, how is it proven? If you simply mean that an unexplained phenomena is observed enough so that it is common knowledge to exist, for example, our “consciousness”, that really isn’t saying much. But, you go further by saying

    claims…based on proven events that science cannot explain ….is different from things science has observed that it cannot explain as that is simply something that requires further research to investigate.

    Not positing any other methods of explaining unknown phenomena, for starters.

    What I was saying is that a finding in science research in the lab that requires more investigating is different than an unknown event (such as any supernatural claim) that requires more investigating. But that does actually sound far more confusing than it should so for that I apologize.

    What I’m trying to say is the issues surrounding uncovering such a claim are more arduous because getting to the bottom of the situation will more likely be more difficult. In a science experiment with any questionable results you have people of like rational thinking trying to find the same answer. In the case of any supernatural claim you would essentially have to separate the fact from fiction, often with people that have already drawn bad conclusions further complicating matters. You’re using the same methods but up against more resistance when your research potentially disillusions people with clearly wrong beliefs regarding the phenomena in question.

    So no, I’m not trying to use respectable language to justify or validate anything. I don’t wish for anything magical or supernatural. This was simply about whether any scientist has found anything in investigating any such claims that they actually couldn’t explain. The unexplained or unknown do not equal the supernatural. Merely the unknown.

    • In reply to #40 by achromat666:

      This was simply about whether any scientist has found anything in investigating any such claims that they actually couldn’t explain. The unexplained or unknown do not equal the supernatural. Merely the unknown.

      Yes. Some people claim that the apparition of life on earth was miraculous, and scientists investigating the case can’t quite explain how it happened. You want to know what science doesn’t know ; ask a scientist what he is working on. It’s probably something that even he, himself, considers sometimes miraculous only because it is just on the other side of human knowledge. About any gap of science can be called miraculous, in that sense. Beyond our understanding.

      But you know, in a universe where gods can only make statues cry to impress us and aliens could only teach us to build humongous tombs, that leaves a lot of intellectual room for miracle claims.

      Also, I have been privately revealed that DNA analysis proved that the Shroud of Turin was stained by a body that could have had no biological father, thus supporting the virgin conception theory and the divine nature of Christ dogma, but the Vatican ignored the evidence arguing that religion and science shouldn’t interfere.

    • In reply to #40 by achromat666:

      Hey, believe me, I know how insulting it is for someone who takes pride in rational thought (which we should all be proud to exercise) to be told they are thinking irrationally. Please do not take it as a personal attack on your intelligence. I think we would both agree that a discussion of the facts and logic of the arguments should be free of any emotional mental blocks. I know you have been completely civil, I just felt I needed to clear up what I perceived as an understandable emotional response.

      Let me say, I did not assume anything that you did not write yourself.

      Who told you I believe there could be evidence of the supernatural? …It would require a tremendous amount of actual evidence for me to take any of it [the supernatural] seriously.

      Let me just point these two statements out. First you scoff at the notion of evidence for the supernatural, but you do so not for the logically sound reason. The reason there will never be evidence for the supernatural is because the supernatural is by definition and in practice used to replace the relationship between evidence and truth.

      Let me ask you some direct questions that might help to clear up both our stances.

      How do you define supernatural?

      What is the difference you see, if any, between supernatural phenomena and unexplainable natural phenomenon?

      Should evidence be considered only if it exists in the natural world and is investigable (now or in the future) by our senses, or is there another kind of evidence that deserves to be considered when trying to explain unexplained observed phenomena?

      Feel to ask me three questions as well, as any more would be too much for me to digest. ;) jk ask away.

      thinktank,

      you are just trying to use respectable language to validate your wish for such a magical realm to exist.

      No, not even remotely. Not on any conceivable level. I’m an atheist, and have no magical realm to aspire to or hope to believe in. Let’s clear the air on this right now. I’ve been on…

      • In reply to #40 by achromat666:

        When I asked,

        Should evidence be considered only if it exists in the natural world and is investigable (now or in the future) by our senses, or is there another kind of evidence that deserves to be considered when trying to explain unexplained observed phenomena?

        I could have been more precise in my question by asking… Do you agree or disagree that the only rational view of evidence and truth is to say ” x is evidence for the truth of y only if that relationship can pass rational investigation by the scientific method?”

    • In reply to #40 by achromat666:

      This was simply about whether any scientist has found anything in investigating any such claims that they actually couldn’t explain

      Ask yourself why are you so adamant there is some kind of profound insight found in the fact that scientists cannot explain something. You keep trying to position your line of questioning as simply a rational bit of curiosity, but about what exactly? The fact that you are somewhat hung up on the fails of scientists to explain a phenomena tells me you want to leave the door open for the supernatural.

    • In reply to #40 by achromat666:

      Who told you I believe there could be evidence of the supernatural?

      You obviously do not see the distinction between saying we have not found evidence for the supernatural, to saying that the supernatural by its own definition doesn’t use evidence to validate itself.
      You clearly assume that evidence is a property of the supernatural like it is of natural phenomena. Why else would you say

      It would require a tremendous amount of actual evidence for me to take any of it[the supernatural] seriously.

      Either you understand the supernatural to be completely separate from evidence, or you believe that the supernatural is amenable to evidence.
      Btw, you sound offended that I keep using the word “supernatural”. But take an honest look at the examples you cite where scientists are useless. The only reality that exists is the natural world and the laws that govern it, any claim of a reality outside of that is supernatural. Your OP shows that these gaps in knowledge that our scientists have is somehow meaningful to you and that you think there is nothing illogical about simply asking “what could it mean?” What else could it mean except what it meant 100 years ago when scientists back then were stumped by a “proven” phenomena…It means we need to improve our science..simple as that.
      Don’t get hung up on the mystery.
      but instead of arguing for

  19. Hey, believe me, I know how insulting it is for someone who takes pride in rational thought (which we should all be proud to exercise) to be told they are thinking irrationally. Please do not take it as a personal attack on your intelligence.

    You accused me of having a supernatural belief I never at any point mentioned having by misconstruing what I said. I responded to that. Simple.

    Let me just point these two statements out. First you scoff at the notion of evidence for the supernatural, but you do so not for the logically sound reason.

    Where did I do this? What is the not logically sound reason you refer to?

    The reason there will never be evidence for the supernatural is because the supernatural is by definition and in practice used to replace the relationship between evidence and truth.

    I should mention that I never made mention of the supernatural in my OP. The word was never used. You introduced it when you made your accusation.

    Let me ask you some direct questions that might help to clear up both our stances.

    Sure.

    How do you define supernatural?

    I wasn’t using the term in the OP or inferring it. But my definition would be the same as the dictionary holds for it:

    unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature : of, relating to, or seeming to come from magic, a god, etc.

    I don’t accept the idea of the supernatural as valid. When I ask the question, “Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stumped the scientific community?” It should not be an inference to a belief in the supernatural. It is exactly what it appears to be: A simple question. My suspicion is the answer is no, which was rather the point. It was to reinforce the lack of evidence for the suspension of physical law, not a confirmation of it.

    What is the difference you see, if any, between supernatural phenomena and unexplainable natural phenomenon?

    Supernatural infers something beyond natural, which itself cannot be demonstrated. When something is discovered and it’s properties are researched, the notions of such supernatural properties go out the window. Something that is unexplained is exactly that. Not known, requiring further research.

    Should evidence be considered only if it exists in the natural world and is investigable (now or in the future) by our senses, or is there another kind of evidence that deserves to be considered when trying to explain unexplained observed phenomena?

    What other kind of evidence would you be referring to? We have arrived at the point we are in science by examining what is known to uncover what we don’t know and to discover new things. This has been by observation of the universe by way of our senses and the technologies that aid those senses.

    Why would you assume I think there is some other method for finding evidence? What is the point of that question, exactly?

    I’m not interested in asking three questions, simply put your cards on the table. If you don’t understand a stance I have, simply tell me what it is and I’ll explain it. This will go much quicker that way, and I won’t still have to assume you still think I maintain some supernatural belief. Because honestly some of this is beginning to sound mildly condescending.

  20. Ask yourself why are you so adamant there is some kind of profound insight found in the fact that scientists cannot explain something.

    Ask yourself why you assume I have that sense of the profound regarding it.

    You keep trying to position your line of questioning as simply a rational bit of curiosity, but about what exactly? The fact that you are somewhat hung up on the fails of scientists to explain a phenomena tells me you want to leave the door open for the supernatural.

    I am hung up on nothing. Go back and read what I said about why I posted this in the first place. In one of the other threads, a very devout catholic came in (I’m almost certain his name was Pascendi) and kept pushing his supposed miracles as fact and I spent a great deal of time debunking every bit of it as it came. This discussion rose out of that chat trying to see if there had ever even been an example of such claims stumping science, which of course I doubt ever has.

    There is no door for any such idea here. The unknown is the unknown. If we followed the line of thinking that supports the supernatural we’d never have gotten to the point we have in science.

    But, you are free to think whatever you want about me. I could care less. It won’t make your assumption any less fictional.

    Or, to sum up, you’re looking for a theist where one doesn’t exists.

    • In reply to #46 by achromat666:

      Ask yourself why you assume I have that sense of the profound regarding it.

      What then is the point of the questions you are asking in your OP and how are the answers meaningful to any scientist or rational thinker?
      Do you not see the setup when you ask for an example of

      something that was proven to have occured that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer

      In one sentence you undermine all of science by confusingly saying something can be proven without science and that science can have “absolutely no answer” to it….as if science being absolutely never able to prove something is a common thing enough that we should consider it. I can only think of one speculatory philosophical question that science might not be able to answer, and that is what happened before the universe. Admittedly this question entails assumptions I wouldn’t make so I would not lend credibility to such a question, but this shows that we have to really use our brains to create and imagine something that has the property of absolutely being impervious to scientific investigation.

  21. Now to turn my attention to something I missed as I was going through the thread:

    stilljustme (provided you were even here to do more than make a religious case and post a website link),

    I had a cousin diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. He was prayed over by a healing priest from Chicago. He no longer has it. Yep, that’s not proof, just my words. My family knows about the diagnosis, and then the healing. I don’t have diagnosis papers. Maybe he does. I’m sure his doctor does.

    So you decided to provide us with an anecdotal incident to do what exactly? It is not uncommon for diseases to go into remission.

    Here’s a link of something you might find interesting, but likely won’t believe. Not saying that as an insult, just sayin’ it. http://www.is-there-a-god.info/life/tenhealings.shtml

    Oh, this was just a way to shill your wares. The comment has been flagged, by the by.

  22. You obviously do not see the distinction between saying we have not found evidence for the supernatural, to saying that the supernatural by its own definition doesn’t use evidence to validate itself. You clearly assume that evidence is a property of the supernatural like it is of natural phenomena. Why else would you say

    It would require a tremendous amount of actual evidence for me to take any of it[the supernatural] seriously.

    Actually no. Are you honestly maintaining that saying it would take a tremendous amount of evidence for me to take any such claim seriously automatically insinuates I believe in the supernatural? Are you that willing to ignore everything I’ve said in the whole thread to harp on this?

    The point is there is no evidence for the supernatural, once you remove the mystery from such a claim it is no longer supernatural. So yes it would take a tremendous amount of evidence for me to take it seriously. One might even say such an amount of evidence is not ever likely to present itself…

    Either you understand the supernatural to be completely separate from evidence, or you believe that the supernatural is amenable to evidence.

    And it’s obvious you’ve already decided what I think, but let’s see where this fascinating trek takes us…

    Btw, you sound offended that I keep using the word “supernatural”. But take an honest look at the examples you cite where scientists are useless.

    I’ve cited where scientists are useless? Where exactly? I’ve said that there are things science doesn’t know, and further stated that science is the one reliable method we have of gaining further understanding of the universe we live in. You’re the one hung up on me believing in the supernatural.

    The only reality that exists is the natural world and the laws that govern it, any claim of a reality outside of that is supernatural. Your OP shows that these gaps in knowledge that our scientists have is somehow meaningful to you and that you think there is nothing illogical about simply asking “what could it mean?”

    Let’s go back to the OP (obviously ignoring the reasons I’ve already stated for making it in the first place but what the hell…):

    1. I establish the parameters theists commonly use to make their unreliable claims and the way the try to circumvent the flaw in their reasoning in 3 points.

    2. I cite examples of the types of claims they have made.

    3. I ask the question if anyone has heard of such an example ever happening.

    Please tell me where I insinuate that the gap in scientific knowledge is meaningful, to the point of supporting the supernatural, especially when I start the OP by reviewing the claims they make and refuting them out of hand.

    What else could it mean except what it meant 100 years ago when scientists back then were stumped by a “proven” phenomena…It means we need to improve our science..simple as that. Don’t get hung up on the mystery. but instead of arguing for

    It could mean I was using an example (epilepsy) to demonstrate how ignorance can lead people to try to substantiate things they can’t prove. Which is what I was doing.

    This is getting tiresome. You’re hung up on proving something that isn’t true. Have fun with that.

    • In reply to #50 by achromat666:

      Are you honestly maintaining that saying it would take a tremendous amount of evidence for me to take any such claim seriously automatically insinuates I believe in the supernatural?

      Yes. Plain and simple. Yes, it means exactly that. It means that you believe in the possibility of the supernatural, and that you believe evidence can lead to validating the supernatural. You reinforce the notion by saying you need “tremendous” amounts of evidence to believe in the supernatural, while I’m guessing you just need the standard amount for the natural.

      You cite the shroud of turin. Let’s think through the supernatural claims being made about the shroud that you are saying have the possibility of backing evidence. There are claims that it is able to physically heal those that touch it because its fabric somehow collected the residual lifeforce of an ancient jewish man who himself possessed supernatural powers. If you think that supernatural claims like these deserve an ounce of scientific credibility, I hate to use the cliché, but it seems appropriate here. You have opened your mind so much that your brain has fallen out.

      • In reply to #57 by realthinktank:

        In reply to #50 by achromat666:

        Are you honestly maintaining that saying it would take a tremendous amount of evidence for me to take any such claim seriously automatically insinuates I believe in the supernatural?

        Yes. Plain and simple. Yes, it means exactly that. It means that you believe in the…

        And you wonder why I’m hostile?

        Are you familiar with the term, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?” A common atheist term to express a need for tremendous evidence to make any such tremendous claim?

        This is what you’re holding on to, seriously?

        This conversation is done. You’ve clearly made up your mind. Type whatever the hell you feel like, I’m literally talking to a wall at this point.

        • In reply to #58 by achromat666:

          Are you familiar with the term, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?” A common atheist term to express a need for tremendous evidence to make any such tremendous claim?

          You are wrong about the meaning of that insight. It is meant to show the absurdity of how believers of the supernatural require no evidence for their extraordinary beliefs.

          • In reply to #59 by realthinktank:

            In reply to #58 by achromat666:

            Are you familiar with the term, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?” A common atheist term to express a need for tremendous evidence to make any such tremendous claim?

            You are wrong about the meaning of that insight. It is meant to show the absurd…

            Ok, one last remark.

            Do you know what a tremendous amount of evidence is? Do you realize that the amount of evidence necessary to fulfill that for virtually any extraordinary claim would then be nearly impossible to actually fulfill?

            If you don’t comprehend the idea of a tremendous amount of evidence meaning so remote as to not be possible in context to that statement i literally have nothing else for you.

            One last example of your myopia…

            You actually cited my mention of the Shroud of Turin as evidence of my belief in the supernatural. This literally tells me either you did not bother to read what I’ve mentioned several times about the reasons why this OP was created (refuting someone making claims about that very thing) or that you completely overlooked what an example is. You assume affirmation of supernatural belief where it is not even remotely implicit. You ignore what you care nothing about in favor of what you wish to assume. Nothing in the OP is implicit of me believing anything resembling a miracle, yet you insist on assuming that very thing.

            Do yourself a favor, go back and read the actual responses and explanations I have offered to all of your posts, then, go back and read what I have said to others. nowhere is it even remotely insinuating that I believe in anything, much less the supernatural. Then think about the nonsense you continue to harp on.

            Don’t accuse anyone of their brain falling out if you can’t take off your damn blinders.

            My last words on the matter.

          • In reply to #60 by achromat666:

            Does it fill you with so much anger to see and admit that you were wrong in how you understood and used the quote that you would rather attack the messenger? What happened to the open mindedness you keep espousing…

            I really have nothing further to add since you refuse to engage my arguments and would rather skirt around the hard questions.

          • In reply to #60 by achromat666:

            go back and read what I have said to others

            More telling is what other have said to you. Many of the respectable posts point out that you should not be so surprised that science can be stumped. The fact is, your fascination with that stems from your overlapping view of the unknown and the supernatural. I really hope you take a breath and think about that point.

  23. In one sentence you undermine all of science by confusingly saying something can be proven without science and that science can have “absolutely no answer” to it….as if science being absolutely never able to prove something is a common thing enough that we should consider it. I can only think of one speculatory philosophical question that science might not be able to answer, and that is what happened before the universe. Admittedly this question entails assumptions I wouldn’t make so I would not lend credibility to such a question, but this shows that we have to really use our brains to create and imagine something that has the property of absolutely being impervious to scientific investigation.

    And yet every time you quote me you miss the context entirely. Was the question saying I believed such a thing had ever happened, or simply asking based on the rest of the OP whether anyone had ever heard of such a thing ever being true? does the question automatically infer I believe such a thing to be possible?

    Let’s see, if no one has ever seen an example of the physical laws being defied, the answer should be obvious.

    Your problem is assuming my beliefs based on the question as opposed to letting the context of the question inform you of my interests. You assume what I believe and have based every single barb from that bit of bias.

    This is what fascinates me: I explain my reasons for starting the OP, I explain my position on everything you throw at me, and you choose to barge through all of it to harp on what you assume as opposed to what I’ve said.

    All this tells me is you have no interest in what I think, merely what you think about me. Why precisely should I care about your opinion if you’ve already made up your mind about mine?

    • In reply to #52 by achromat666:

      I knew that emotions might possibly enter in the discussion, that is why I tried to keep us both aware of the pitfalls of being offended by academic challenges. Listen, for the sake of having a real intelligent discussion, I do care about how you think and what you believe. And I am trying to be sure that I am not assuming things that you have not written so that we can have solid footing for our discussion. Even after re-reading your responses, I can’t help but feel like you refuse to consider the fundamental flaw in your understanding of the supernatural that I keeping “harping” on. When I pointed out

      >
      Either you understand the supernatural to be completely separate from evidence, or you believe that the supernatural is amenable to evidence.

      Instead of arguing your position on whether evidence is a property of the supernatural and telling me why you agree or disagree with my statement, you dismiss it by saying

      And it’s obvious you’ve already decided what I think, but let’s see where this fascinating trek takes us…

      Do you not see that your emotions are closing your mind to further rational debate? Listen, I have no desire to have a discussion with someone who refuses to have one, and my intention was never to personally attack you (and I believe I have not done so). Anyways, good luck with your search for knowledge and understanding. I’m going to continue with mine as well.

      • In reply to #55 by realthinktank:

        In reply to #52 by achromat666:

        I knew that emotions might possibly enter in the discussion, that is why I tried to keep us both aware of the pitfalls of being offended by academic challenges. Listen, for the sake of having a real intelligent discussion, I do care about how you think and what you b…

        And still you wish to ignore everything else I’ve said in favor of this as your position?

        I dismissed nothing, I said several times what I though about the supernatural (not provable). You chose to harp on the same quotes and not consider what I was trying to explain. Do not accuse me of being close minded if you refuse to listen.

        Have fun.

        Additionally, you attempted on several occasions to prove I believed in the supernatural, even when I told you in great detail that I did not. Would you be able to not get emotional when someone repeatedly throws that at you? Or at least understand why that might bother someone else? And you wonder why I may have seemed perhaps hostile?

  24. Anyone can plainly see there are many examples of phenomena that remain unexplained by scientists. But my view as a rational thinker is, so what?

    Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community?

    I do not accept your premise that the suspension of the laws of physics is possible. In contrast I see the search for even a single example as an irrational endeavor.

  25. Anyone can plainly see there are many examples of phenomena that remain unexplained by scientists. But my view as a rational thinker is, so what?

    Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community?

    I do not accept your premise that the suspension of the laws of physics is possible. In contrast I see the search for even a single example as an irrational endeavor.

    Must you insists on proving my point? You know the one about caring more about your opinion than what I’ve told you is my point of view? How many times are you going to focus on one quote even after I explain it?

    As a rational thinker the unknown is irrelevant to you? Is that something all rational thinker’s should assume? Are you speaking for all rational thought now?

    I imagine science cares quite a bit about the unknown. It’s how we’ve arrived where we are in science, I would argue. The difference being they don’t use it as an excuse to foster unprovable assertions. But once again, wasn’t the point of the question of the OP.

    Suspension of physical law is not possible. It was part of the point of the question, which if you looked at the whole OP would be a little more obvious. I didn’t expect anyone to answer in the affirmative (other than theists).

    You can assume it irrational and take from it what you wish. But stop using it to attempt to prove that it’s because I believe in something I don’t.

  26. The author obviously finds something fascinating about the fact that scientists (discoverers of truth) have been stumped by phenomena that has been claimed by supernaturalists. What meaningful discussion can come from the questions he is asking except figuring out how science can be improved? And isn’t this a conversation that we should leave to qualified scientists? The questions remind me of how supernaturalists use the gaps in our knowledge to conveniently fit their beliefs. The real insight that rational thinkers can take away from this OP is that there is still a war to be fought between the rational and supernatural. And that we must identify and attack the root of supernatural belief, which is the same for self-proclaimed athiests with open minds to the supernatural as it is for religious people who hold faith as a virtue or spiritual people who claim to be one with the world. The problem is a philosophical stance on reality that is not supported by evidence. People are afraid of absolutes like the statement “there is a right set of morals that all people should live by.” or “science is the only way to discover truth.” The irrational fear stems for a mix of rational views such as multiculturalism and subjectivity. It becomes irrational when such views are illogically imposed on other questions of reality, indeed on the question of reality itself. Have you noticed how it is difficult for people to define reality? They say things like “the natural world is just one reality”. Sadly, most of the philosophers that we are taught to respect so highly for their insight into thought, only add further confusion by creating other dimensions of reality, diluting the uniqueness of true reality.

  27. 63 postings, and you still want more proof of a genuine miracle. You are a hard man to convince, Achromat. Well here are some that no one can deny:

    Romulus was born to a Vestal virgin called Sylvia on 27 March 771 BC
    Is that not a miracle?

    He was sired by the god Mars.
    How is that for a genuine miracle?

    He died and came back to life.
    Surely a miracle to beat all miracles.

    He was seen by fishermen to walk on the waters of the Tiber.
    This must be the clincher.

    If you are still not convinced, OK try this one:

    About 771 years after the birth of Romulus, another guy further east performed a copycat birth, death, resurrection, and walking on water. If this doesn’t convince you then nothing will.

    • In reply to #64 by ZedBee:

      63 postings, and you still want more proof of a genuine miracle. You are a hard man to convince, Achromat. Well here are some that no one can deny:
      In reply to #64 by ZedBee:
      63 postings, and you still want more proof of a genuine miracle. You are a hard man to convince, Achromat. Well here are some that no one can deny:

      My I tentatively suggest that this thread shows there is at least an issue here over terms and concepts, ie ‘philosophical’ issues over the supernatural?

      For what is the content of statements that seem to refer to the unknown, such as that the case of event x is unknown and therefore supernatural? Well, I’d say that if something is entirely unknown, then it cannot be discussed at all: at best one can use a word and say it has no meaning (in which case any meaningless set of letter would suffice).

      But I’d suggest a few things about ‘supernatural causes’.

      First, somethings will be known about an event – for example about medical cures, quite a lot might be known (thought to be known). Thus, miracles could be linked to and tested a medical knowledge. In that sense ‘supernatural’ refers to a part or moment in nature that is not nature – quite tricky.

      Then, concerning the deistic implications of miracles, this seem to link to a dualism of ‘natural’ and ‘divine’ realms. This seems to beg the question as to what is natural and real. If ‘natural’ excludes the divine then the clearly divine is not natural. But if nature is what is real then this rules out the reality of the divine: and conversely if one asserts the divine is real, then it must be part of nature. In other words, there is a circularity such that the ‘supernatural’ pops in and then out of possibility according to which part of the semantic circuit one is on. to me this suggests a problem with the definitions and uses of the terms rather than a fundamental issue of states of affairs (since I take states of affairs to be separate from words that may be linked to them).

      Third – this leads to a challenge as to what value the term ‘natural’ has if it equates to ‘the real world’- ie what does it add to the meaning of ‘real’. I suspect ‘nature’ (‘Nature’) comes with value-heavy baggage such as ‘right’ or ‘good’ (as in ‘against nature’ etc). If we replace ‘natural’ with ‘real’ then supernatural becomes ‘above (beyond?) reality’ – which I suggest makes the meaningless of discussing the ‘supernatural’ clearer. If though ‘natural’ has a more local meaning e.g. ‘life’ or ‘the world’ (which in medieval models of the universe might be nearer the mark, ie the realm above the earth) then ‘supernatural’ takes on a quasi-cosmological meaning (though round world trips and satellite pictures etc should quickly dispose of any realm ‘above’ the earth).

      Finally, there are some issues in the concept of ’cause’, ie causation is often referred to but is not necessarily straightforward. It could be argued that causality is itself a bit of a myth – both as regards the idea of something beyond objects themselves, ie a causal relation, and maybe also if reality is viewed as space-time – wherein ’causes’ turn out to be structural relations in space time, such that ‘causation’ would be an illusion of time-bound consciousness: there were ancient Greek philosophers which regard change as an illusion (eg Zeno, admittedly on illogical grounds about arrows) but space-time surely tilts against usual notions of change. I think in particular that Einstein’s suggestion that the sequence of observed events is relative to the observer may put causality in a different light.

      I could well be wrong about Relativity: but my main point is that sequential cause and effect as invoked in science or indeed miracles is an assumed but not perhaps a necessary (ie inevitable) world view.

  28. In reply to #60 by achromat666:
    I know this is going to sound condescending given our discussion till now, but I learned a valuable lesson from our back and forth, and that is that one should never see arguing the same point over and over again as a futile exercise, instead we should approach it as a chance to improve upon the clarity of how we are presenting the argument. You accuse me of misunderstanding your statements and baselessly arguing that you believe in the supernatural. Let me present my argument one final time so that I am clear it is the case that you understand my point but disagree rather than me thinking I somehow misunderstood you or I didn’t present my argument clearly.

    Your stance: I do not believe the supernatural explanation for phenomenon X is true because there is no evidence for it.

    My stance: I do not believe any supernatural explanation for phenomenon is true because by definition it can never be true.

    These are two completely different understandings of the supernatural. When you say that it is because of a lack of evidence that you don’t believe in the supernatural, you are using a different definition of supernatural than what you gave me earlier. You gave me the dictionary definition

    unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature : of, relating to, or seeming to come from magic, a god, etc.

    and that is good enough to work with. What do you think it means to be unexplainable by the laws of nature? Even if evidence isn’t explainable by our current science, isn’t it fundamental that evidence be explainable by the laws of nature and thus investigable by the scientific method in the future?

    All I was trying to point out was that it is illogical to use evidence as a criteria to explain something to exist, if, by its own definition, it exists in a place where evidence is an unnecessary criteria to explaining its existence.

    Evidence only acts on things that can be proven true to really exist, which is again because it is investigable by rational means, that means within the laws of nature. By saying evidence is a criteria that needs to be considered when determining the truth of the supernatural, you are already mistakenly giving it the property of being able to be proven to exist. (if I only had tremendous evidence) It is this trait endowment that I am challenging.

  29. In response to Steve Hopker (#66)

    I read your well-argued article, Steve, and, save for the line on Relativity, I don’t find in it anything that justifies a heated argument, well, not from me anyway.

    Strangely, I am on the last chapter of William Paley’s discourse on Christianity. I chose him because his arguments in favour of “Christian Truths” and other Faiths’ “Falsehoods” are very similar to the arguments that don’t seem to change over the centuries, a sort of “boot-strap” arguments, where a miracle mentioned in a holy book must be true because the book is holy. Or like Goebbels endorsing every word his Fuhrer said, because it was written in Mein Kampf.

    Believers in miracles (for whatever reason) will always, like Paley, open their ears wide to any testimony, albeit third-hand, albeit inadmissible, albeit absurd, and will shut their eyes and close their minds to any evidence to the contrary.

    Now, would you like to discuss the miracle of the Big Bang :)

    • In reply to #67 by ZedBee:

      In response to Steve Hopker (#66)

      I read your well-argued article, Steve, and, save for the line on Relativity, I don’t find in it anything that justifies a heated argument, well, not from me anyway.

      Thanks for the kind comments. My meanderings on relativity are probably best forgotten.

      But if stilljustme is still with us, I’d be grateful for him to repond to my dead brother’s plea, ‘I’ve prayed to Jesus but he doesn’t seem to have heard me”. I don’t think that theists always understand the distressing effect their doctrines on miracles have on those who realise they have missed out on the pixie dust, sometimes even as they lie dying. Maybe stilljustme could at least accept that his case has some gaps.

  30. I cannot believe that on this site where free thinking and rational debate is championed, that I would have my account deleted because the author found my arguments too challenging for him. In fact, the author has deleted my last posting where I clearly showed why his stance about the supernatural is wrong. Instead of challenging my arguments, he felt threatened and deleted the last post and tried to shape the discussion with his editorial power. I hope you see that by censoring my argument so that you do not have to think, you are being just as irrational and harmful to free thinking as the religious people you are trying to challenge.

    The argument once again for why you should not even give the tiniest bit of respect for supernatural explanations.

    Your stance: I do not believe in the supernatural explanation for phenomenon x because there is no evidence for it.

    My stance: I do not believe in a supernatural explanation for any phenomenon because by definition it cannot be true.

    Once again, two completely different stances. Here’s why I take my stance.

    The definition (which you gave me from dictionary) -

    unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature : of, relating to, or seeming to come from magic, a god, etc.

    Again, I ask you to think about what it means to be unexplainable by the laws of nature. But don’t think too hard and make illogical philosophical leaps. It means its not part of reality. No one knows what outside of laws of nature means. It is simply the product of our evolved brains being able to think of concepts that can have no grounding in reality.

    I accuse you of giving the supernatural more credibility and respect than it deserves (as your OP is guilty of). Let me try to explain again why.

    Evidence must be explainable by the laws of nature. (again don’t get lost in bad philosophy) If you do not accept this premise, then we are at loggerheads. Any other view of evidence is philosophical trickery.
    By definition, supernatural means – outside and unexplainable by the laws of nature.
    Therefore, it cannot ever present evidence for itself because it exists outside the laws of nature required to produce evidence.
    When you ask for the evidence, and say things like you will change your mind once the evidence comes in, you are giving the weight of reality to the supernatural.

    If you did not give the supernatural the respect that I accuse you of, then you would not have been curious about the failings of scientists to prove the supernatural, or even tried to use that somehow to challenge those who believe in the supernatural. By challenging them to provide evidence, you are saying that they would be able to convince you with evidence because possibly the supernatural could be real. Don’t be so open minded. Don’t give such a ludicrous idea even the tiniest bit of intellectual respect.

    • I am a teacher and every day I take attendance and ask the students the same tired old question. i ask them to “point at whoever is NOT here”. i do this frequently enough that they start to roll their eyes. But, I think your stance, here, has the same type of logic in it’s undertoe…. I do not know about your “account deletion episode” but, I will tell you this, I am in your corner as far as the “supernatural” is concerned.

      In reply to #69 by realthinktank1:

      I cannot believe that on this site where free thinking and rational debate is championed, that I would have my account deleted because the author found my arguments too challenging for him. In fact, the author has deleted my last posting where I clearly showed why his stance about the supernatural…

      • In reply to #70 by crookedshoes:

        Thank you for your post. I know thinking the wrong way about something should always be in the back of the minds of rational thinkers, and I was beginning to think I had made a mistake somewhere in my thought process that I was blind to. I feel reassured that you see my point.
        But yes, sadly the author had my account deleted..hence the 1 after my name…plus he deleted several of my posts, presumably so that others could not see what I was challenging him on.

        Thanks again for the thumbs up.

        I am a teacher and every day I take attendance and ask the students the same tired old question. i ask them to “point at whoever is NOT here”. i do this frequently enough that they start to roll their eyes. But, I think your stance, here, has the same type of logic in it’s undertoe…. I do not…

  31. Tell me if this is off topic, but I’d be interested in people’s views on how to respond when you are told about personal miracles.

    I’ll use a real example. I have a friend who is RC, and who pulls out the line ‘science can’t explain everything line’ whenever we have a discussion about her faith. To back up this view point she trots out a ‘miracle’ she witnessed where all her relatives rosaries turned gold after her grandfather died.

    I have so many issues with this I don’t even know where to start, but as part of a civilised discussion it’s a bit of a showstopper. She uses it to justify her faith completely, I’ve heard the story ever time we’ve talked about this, so to question her faith I do have to question this miracle. But obvious it’s highly emotional, and I’ve got no desire to hurt her feelings by calling bullshit.

    Is there anyway I could debunk this, or just make her think about it, and could I do it without being offensive?

    • In reply to #76 by bob_e_s:

      Tell me if this is off topic, but I’d be interested in people’s views on how to respond when you are told about personal miracles.

      I’ll use a real example. I have a friend who is RC, and who pulls out the line ‘science can’t explain everything line’ whenever we have a discussion about her faith. To…

      no. walk away, at best say “ooh, makes you think eh?”

      my mother once described a miracle she witnessed where a small plastic statue of the virgin mary appeared in mug of lemsip. there was no possible explainaition. in my mind there were many, the fact that being a catlik means you’re never more than 3 feet away from some bit of gaudy religious tat, along with the fact that the lemsip in question was being drunk by my late father while in the later stages of alzheimer’s. he also had no idea how it got there.

      i barely got away with my lives after joking about “our lady of lemsip” so decided to avoid the “thanks for the toy but you got any cures of age related illness in your box of tricks up there?”

      • In reply to #77 by SaganTheCat:

        In reply to #76 by bobes:

        no. walk away, at best say “ooh, makes you think eh?”

        Up to now that’s the approach I’ve taken.
        I’m also tempted to play dumb and ask if she thinks the rosaries changing colours might have been aliens.

        • In reply to #79 by bob_e_s:

          In reply to #77 by SaganTheCat:

          In reply to #76 by bobes:

          no. walk away, at best say “ooh, makes you think eh?”

          Up to now that’s the approach I’ve taken. I’m also tempted to play dumb and ask if she thinks the rosaries changing colours might have been aliens.

          or the work of satan? it’s one thing to believe in miracles but getting into the question of “which pixie would be most likely to do magic?” is a great way of teaching self-questioning techniques. after all, if you were bad pixie, surely you’d spend most of your time pretending to be good pixie right?

    • _In reply to #76 by bobe_s:

      Tell me if this is off topic, but I’d be interested in people’s views on how to respond when you are told about personal miracles.

      I’ll use a real example. I have a friend who is RC, and who pulls out the line ‘science can’t explain everything line’ whenever we have a discussion about her faith. To…

      Well, setting aside the social and emotional complications in any particular confrontation you have with her on this point, I can suggest an intellectual train of thought for checking her actual statements.

      The first step is to consider the reliability of her testimony. Is she especially gullible? Does she give much thought or just zero in on the most intuitive answer? Has she ever told outright lies before, made too many mistakes, or shown a willingness to mold facts to fit her point in reporting such things? To what extent does she know what she’s talking about? For instance, does she know much about gold (for instance, that it’s heavier than most people think it is)?

      The second step is to question whether the claim itself is true. Does she have golden rosaries? Does she have photographs? Can she show that a change occurred (this is to prevent her trotting out gold rosaries that have always been gold)? Does she think it will happen again, and is it possible then to capture the evidence when it occurs?

      The third step, assuming you need to go this far, is to ask why a co-occurrence of two events can be taken as proof that one caused the other. The fallacy here is post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Even if it was the case that a rosary turned to gold, why assume that it had anything to do with someone’s death? Was something else going on at the time? Do other people like her grandfather cause things to turn to gold when they die – i.e. is this a reliably confirmed occurrence, or a realistic causal event as opposed to a misattribution of cause?

      If she starts making up causal explanations, like the ghost came back and turned the rosaries to gold, then go to step four and ask why she thinks this. Does she have knowledge of how ghosts work, and if so, where did that knowledge come from? If there’s nothing that points to ghosts existing in the real world, why privilege that explanation over others? Basically, you want to know where she’s getting her ideas from, and not take any of them for granted, but pick them apart and test how many liberties need to be given to make them work, use Hume’s razor, and see how easy or difficult it would be to fake them.

      And ultimately, expose the assumed connection between this and her conviction that this religion’s tenets has anything to do with it. Unless she joined up for reasons that can be reduced to the consequences of doing so, it looks like she at least agrees with the factual statements made by the RC, just as a scientist would or at least should ally with an idea based on the strength of its reasoning, its evidence, and its fit with other ideas.

      As for how not to come across as offensive, I suppose your best bet is simply to not set out with the aim of debunking her story, and especially not to convey the impression that you consider yourself smarter than her. If anything, you might fare better if you express an interest in what she does, and ask generic questions about how she got the beliefs she has first. If you give the impression of being open, she may reciprocate in kind so long as you don’t hammer it in.

      None of these techniques are field-tested by me, though, so take them with a healthy pinch of salt. The steps in particular don’t take into account how people’s psychologies will respond to them, and the last paragraph is basically an educated guess at that, and a bit generic as a result. It is a known finding in psychology that correcting someone over something other than a trivial error will make it harder to convince them, though, especially if they have a personal stake in the claim being true (reputational, say).

      • In reply to #80 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #76 by bobes:

        I’ve considered all of those approaches, Zeuglodon, but to be honest I don’t think I’d get past the first step without her getting the hump and refusing to engage. I’m not overly worried about this example, but I thought it might be an interesting thought experiment- how to reason with people who believe in miracles. Their advantage is they have no need to be rational, which I find really difficult to deal with.

        Honestly, I think she’s internally dishonest; I think somewhere deep down she knows it’s not true, but like how faith makes her feel so doesn’t want to address it. Of course, that does render any discussion pretty futile, but I’ll keep chipping away. It’s the irrationality that annoys me more than the religion.

    • In reply to #76 by bob_e_s:

      Tell me if this is off topic, but I’d be interested in people’s views on how to respond when you are told about personal miracles.

      I’ll use a real example. I have a friend who is RC, and who pulls out the line ‘science can’t explain everything line’ whenever we have a discussion about her faith. To…

      Ask her why on earth a ghost or a god would manifest itself to the world by turning beads into gold. Turning grandpa’s kidneys into young ones would have been more sensitive.

    • In reply to #76 by bob_e_s:

      She uses it to justify her faith completely, I’ve heard the story ever time we’ve talked about this, so to question her faith I do have to question this miracle. But obvious it’s highly emotional, and I’ve got no desire to hurt her feelings by calling bullshit.

      Is there anyway I could debunk this, or just make her think about it, and could I do it without being offensive?

      Personally, I’d have no problem in being offensive and point out she’s talking utter shit – but if you’re a nicer guy than I am then you could just put forward your own nonsense in your most sincere voice.

      “Yeah, I believe you. These kind of things happen all the time, signs from gods and the like. In fact, you know, I used to be a tree. Zeus himself ate one of my fruit and, in his wisdom and gratitude, said to me that I could be anything I wanted. Well, I thought about it for a while and I decided I wanted to be a man. So I pulled up my roots and started walking. Ever since then, I’ve been a man and I thank Zeus daily for his blessing.”

      Remember, absolutely straight faced – as though you truly believe it.

      • In reply to #90 by BenS:

        In reply to #76 by bobes:

        Personally, I’d have no problem in being offensive and point out she’s talking utter shit – but if you’re a nicer guy than I am then you could just put forward your own nonsense in your most sincere voice.

        I’d use either of those approaches happily if I thought they’d work. Unfortunately, anything that goes anywhere near a questioning of her faith is ignored, or results in upset.

        More annoyingly, any attempt to compare her (rational, in her mind) belief in miracles when associated with her faith to others beliefs (in her mind, irrational) is met with a blank refusal to engage. Her god is real, all the others aren’t.

        You can’t reason with that.

        • In reply to #91 by bob_e_s:

          I’d use either of those approaches happily if I thought they’d work. Unfortunately, anything that goes anywhere near a questioning of her faith is ignored, or results in upset.

          More annoyingly, any attempt to compare her (rational, in her mind) belief in miracles when associated with her faith to others beliefs (in her mind, irrational) is met with a blank refusal to engage. Her god is real, all the others aren’t.

          You can’t reason with that.

          Apologies for the delay in responding.

          You really can reason with that. Granted, it might be messy, but I – for one – am perfectly happy to point out that someone’s talking bullshit.

          If every approach is ignored or met with upset then I’d take upset every time. If rebuttals cause them upset – because they can’t answer – then pretty soon they’ll stop spouting bullshit. I find the ‘I disagree, but I’ll keep quiet’ approach just gives people the impression that the bollocks they’re talking is respected. Make it clear that it isn’t and they’ll either find an answer to your rebuttal or fall silent.

  32. Dark Matter. In a certain sense, there is zero evidence for its existence. The same can be said of gravity. We see effects, but we have not observed or explained the cause. Gravity and Dark Matter are place-holder concepts. Gravity is utterly mysterious and lacks explanation. It’s the biggest, longest lasting gap in science. There are even valid arguments that gravity does not exist in the same sense as say magnetism.

    As far as an event that is not explained by science… Hume. As a methodology, science can explain everything, in the infinite monkeys typing kind of way. This is based on the assumption that we have a causal universe and the Preservation of Information, proven by Hawking losing a bet.

  33. Achromat,

    A word of advice: Don’t believe what atheists tell you. What do they know?

    There is one true case reported by a dramatist called John, who never tells lies. It was witnessed by dozens of people at a wedding in Cana. This true story for which “science has absolutely no answer”, is about Jesus turning tap water into 120 gallons of vintage Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

    We all know that a molecule of water contains three atoms; two of hydrogen and one of oxygen. On the other hand, a molecule of drinkable alcohol (not the stuff you clean ovens with) contains nine atoms. These are six of hydrogen, one of oxygen, and two of carbon. Honest. Would I lie to you?

    Clearly, Jesus got the oxygen and hydrogen atoms from his water, but what has baffled science for 2000 years is how on earth he managed to infuse two freshly minted atoms of carbon into the brew. Yet that is what really happened, why else would more than two billion Christians today, over whose eyes the wool can never be pulled, say that it did?

    • In reply to #87 by ZedBee:

      Achromat,

      A word of advice: Don’t believe what atheists tell you. What do they know?

      There is one true case reported by a dramatist called John, who never tells lies. It was witnessed by dozens of people at a wedding in Cana. This true story for which “science has absolutely no answer”, is about Jesus turning tap water into 120 gallons of vintage Chateau Mouton Rothschild….

      Just noticed this and I write in support of ZeBee’s tale, which I know to be a true rendition, through family connections… long story.

      Suffice to say John’s gay half-brother, Bruce, whose family sourced the white butterflies for the wedding, caught Mary complaining to Jesus about the grog supply. He reckons it was inspirational to spike the drinks. They were so drunk already he tried to pass it off as rough red. The brides father, a real tosser, opined ‘Chateau Mouton Rothschild’ and they all agreed.

      Ever since that wedding Xians have struggled with ethanol abuse. Now some spike the ethanol of others, occasioning miraculous conceptions.

      • Len, in response to your posting #92

        I know another true story that science can never explain, it is about a bloke called Josh who wanted a few extra hours to do a bit more killing in broad daylight, and although he was well acquainted with the law of conservation of angular momentum, nevertheless he still went ahead and stopped the sun in mid heaven “for almost a whole day”. We all know what happened next, The moon left its orbit around the Earth and became a satellite of Venus. Honest. Would I lie to you?

  34. To Steve Hopker, a rejoinder on #88

    If you ask a vicar, “How comes it that you can go blue in the face, to no avail, asking a favour of god who guarantees in his autobiography to answer your request”, and he will tell you that god always answers, but sometimes the answer is no.

    But isn’t that proof beyond reasonable doubt that since the response is no better nor worse than a gausian distribution, then it has no more value than praying to a pair of dice.

    • In reply to #93 by ZedBee:

      To Steve Hopker, a rejoinder on #88

      If you ask a vicar, “How comes it that you can go blue in the face, to no avail, asking a favour of god who guarantees in his autobiography to answer your request”, and he will tell you that god always answers, but sometimes the answer is no.
      But isn’t that proof beyond reasonable doubt that since the response is no better nor worse than a gausian distribution, then it has no more value than praying to a pair of dice.

      Indeed, only the dice are at least real. I need to get over that Xians will never answer challenges honestly and directly, for the mo,net they did they would lose their faith. I should channel the anger…

      But isn’t that proo…

      • In reply to #95 by steve_hopker:

        Indeed, Steve, yet I have to say in fairness that the best examples of what go for miracles were those I have seen at the Basilica of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, at Aparacida in Brazil. Hanging on the walls of the huge annexe (connected to the basilica with a foot-bridge), are walking sticks, braces, crutches and artificial limbs donated by grateful patients who had received cures, thanks to their prayers to Our Lady.

        I can swallow stories about gammy legs, stiff necks, and broken arms, legs and spines, being put right by praying to Our Lady, but what baffles the hell out of me is how some amputees managed to grow new arms and legs, and why doesn’t the NHS make use of such miracles which cost nothing but save a lot of dosh. Unfortunately, the papal nuncio who was invited to see the arm-and-leg substitutes, refused to recommend them to the pope (John Paul II) as miracles, but what do popes and nuncios know about these things.

  35. “Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stumped the scientific community?”

    Any incident whose existence could be confirmed would cause a redefinition of the laws of physics.

    But the only people who ever witness “miracles” are either people who profit from them directly or indirectly, or the gullible people who are the victims of the first group

  36. I’m honestly curious: Is there a single example of a suspension of the laws of physics that has actually stupmed the scientific community? As in something that was proven to have occured that deifies our current knowledge and science has absolutely no answer?

    Several things come to mind
    The exact nature of the beginning of the universe, how life was actually created, and how come my wife always blames me whenever something breaks down and I have to fix it? These things defy logic and science and are miraculous in their own way

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