Essay On Miracles David Hume

Essay On Miracles David Hume-20
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.Hume essentially “presents a two-pronged assault against miracles.” He first argues that “a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature.” But since “a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle,” he says, “is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.” In other words, given the regularity of the laws of nature, Hume contends that miracles are exceedingly improbable events. He also argues that since miracle reports typically occur among uneducated, barbarous peoples, they are inherently untrustworthy and, hence, unworthy of our belief.

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Craig explains the matter this way: “If two witnesses are each 99% reliable, then the odds of their both independently testifying falsely to some event are only . Hume argues that since miracles run contrary to man’s uniform experience of the laws of nature, no testimony can establish that a miracle has occurred unless “its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” Although Hume makes it sound as though establishing one miracle would require an even greater miracle, all his statement really amounts to, as John Earman rightly notes, is that no testimony is good enough to establish that a miracle has occurred unless it’s sufficient to make the occurrence of the miracle more probable than not. testimony is really ever sufficient to establish that a miracle has occurred. For it can be perfectly reasonable to accept a highly improbable event on the basis of human testimony. Suppose the evening news announces that the number picked in the lottery was 8253652. The problem, says Craig, is that Hume has not considered all of the relevant probabilities.

As Craig observes, “this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, one out of several million.” If we applied Hume’s principle to such a case, it would be irrational for us to believe that such a highly improbable event had actually occurred. For although it might be highly improbable that just this number should have been chosen out of all the possible numbers that been chosen.

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.

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.For if an all-powerful God exists, then He is certainly capable of intervening in the natural world to bring about events which would never have occurred had nature been left to itself.In other words, if God exists, then He can bring about miracles!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.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.But this is a debated point, so let’s instead turn our attention to a more pressing matter.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.One of the most influential critiques of miracles ever written came from the pen of the skeptical Scottish philosopher David Hume.The title of the essay, “Of Miracles,” originally appeared in Hume’s larger work, , first published in 1748.


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