Essay On Miracles David Hume

Worse still, the essay reveals the weakness and the poverty of Hume’s own account of induction and probabilistic reasoning.And to cap it all off, the essay represents the kind of overreaching that gives philosophy a bad name.” Now admittedly, these are strong words.According to Christian philosopher Bill Craig, “An examination of the chief competing schools of thought concerning the notion of a natural law…reveals that on each theory the concept of a violation of a natural law is incoherent and that miracles need not be so defined.” Thus, we might object that Hume’s definition of a miracle is simply incoherent.

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The result of this new formulation, however, is that “uniform experience does furnish a proof against a miracle in the sense of making the . After all, there is a great deal of human testimony that solemnly assumption, as we’ll see, is completely untenable when miraculous events are attested by numerous, independent witnesses.

In Part II of “Of Miracles,” David Hume argues that there has never been the kind of testimony on behalf of miracles which would “amount to entire proof.” He offers four reasons for this claim.

These questions are particularly important when one considers the cumulative power of independent witnesses for establishing the occurrence of some highly improbable event like a miracle. one out of 1,000,000.” “In fact,” he says, “the cumulative power of independent witnesses is such that individually they could be reliable more than 50% of the time and yet their testimony combine to make an event of apparently enormous improbability quite probable in light of their testimony.” So while Hume’s arguments should make us cautious, they cannot prevent human testimony from plausibly establishing the occurrence of miracles.

By “independent witnesses” I simply mean witnesses whose testimony to an event comes from firsthand experience and is , if one can find enough independent witnesses to a miraculous event, who tell the truth more often than not, then one can always show that the occurrence of the miracle is more probable than not. one out of 10,000; the odds of three such witnesses being wrong is . And the only way to determine if the testimony plausible is to carefully examine the evidence.

Third, miracle reports are usually found among barbarous peoples.

And finally, the miracle reports of different religions cancel each other out, thus making none of them effective for proving the truth of their doctrines. While all of the points have merit, nevertheless, as Bill Craig observes, “these general considerations cannot be used to decide the historicity of any particular miracle.” The only way to determine if a miracle has actually occurred is by carefully examining the evidence. Are they known to be honest, or are they generally unreliable?First, no miracle on record has a sufficient number of intelligent witnesses, of good moral character, who testify to a miraculous event that occurred in public and in a civilized part of the world.Second, human beings love bizarre and fantastic tales, and this irrationally inclines them to accept such tales as true.Hume’s first premise assumes that there could not be miracles and his second premise is based on his distaste for the societies that report miracles.As a Christian examining these arguments, we find little of value to convince us to reject a biblical worldview saying that God can and has intervened in natural history to perform miracles.When it comes to assessing the testimony for a miracle, we cannot simply consider the likelihood of the event in light of our general knowledge of the world. Instead, we must also consider how likely it would be, if the miracle had highly improbable in light of our general knowledge of the world. But the problem with this becomes evident when one reflects upon the fact that, for the Christian, part of what’s included in our “general knowledge of the world” is the belief that God exists.What’s more, as believers we have at our disposal a whole arsenal of arguments which, we contend, make it far more plausible than not that this belief is really true.But if miracles are really as utterly improbable as Hume maintains, and if reports of miracles are completely lacking in credibility, then it would seem that the New Testament’s accounts of miracles are probably unreliable and that Christianity itself is almost certainly false! Should believers be quaking in their boots, fearful that their most cherished beliefs are a lie? As philosopher of science John Earman observed in a scholarly critique of Hume’s arguments, Hume’s essay is not merely a failure; it is “an abject failure.” He continues, “Most of Hume’s considerations are unoriginal, warmed over versions of arguments that are found in the writings of predecessors and contemporaries.And the parts of ‘Of Miracles’ that set Hume apart do not stand up to scrutiny.But notice how this will influence our estimation of the probability of miracles.If belief in God is part of our general knowledge of the world, then miracles will be judged to at least be possible.

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