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Miracles and Science. Definitions of Miracle. C.S. Lewis: An interference with nature by supernatural power (Intervention Miracles) David Hume: A violation of the laws of nature (Intervention Miracles)

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definitions of miracle
Definitions of Miracle
  • C.S. Lewis: An interference with nature by supernatural power (Intervention Miracles)
  • David Hume: A violation of the laws of nature (Intervention Miracles)
  • John Polkinghorne: An event of an extraordinary kind, brought about by a god, and of religious significance (Natural Miracles)
scientific skeptic david hume
Scientific Skeptic:David Hume
  • Science shows that nature’s laws are unalterable
  • Extraordinary events require extraordinary proof, but reverse holds for miracle
  • Misperception, the “desire for the astonishing” or simple human mischief are more likely explanations
  • Why do competing religions all have miracles?
contingency miracles
Contingency Miracles
  • R.F. Holland points out that many miracles reported by believers simply involve very unlikely events
  • If such events can be described as miracles, why should the defintion or “miracle” necessarily involve the breaking of laws of nature?
classical scientific view
“Classical” Scientific View
  • Determinism: Everything that happens according to strict laws, with not exceptions (no freewill)
  • Reductionism (Mechanistic Outlook): The world is like a machine (eg clock) – the parts can fully explain the whole
  • Materialism: The world is composed of a bunch of distinct material objects (atoms)
quantum mechanics
Quantum Mechanics
  • The physics of the very small developed early in the 20th century
  • Its well established theories present many findings counter to classical views:
  • Subatomic particles can behave as particles and waves
  • Can occupy more than one position at once
  • Can influence other particles over vast distances, with no apparent connection
  • Requires an observer
the double slit experiment
The Double Slit Experiment
  • The behavior of sub- atomic particles changes when observed
  • The particles behave as waves and particles, depending on the observation
  • The exact trajectory of any atom can never be predicted with certainty (events can never be verified to be perfectly determined, but only behave according to laws of probability)
john bell s experiments
John Bell’s Experiments
  • Source emits two photons (A & B) in opposite directions
  • Detector 30 km away detects A’s spin (which is indeterminate, but must always be opposite to Bs)
  • B is detected immediately after A (too fast for light to travel between the two)
  • B is always opposite spin of A
  • Established the QM notion of “Entanglement”
the new physics
The New Physics
  • World is not mechanistic, but interconnected (more like an organism)
  • World is not deterministic, but ruled by a mixture of law and probability (indeterminacy)
  • World is not clearly material, but is multi-dimensional and more like an information system than a mechanism
quantum physics and religion
Quantum Physics and Religion
  • Provides opportunities for integration between science and religion
  • Some people take the findings of quantum mechanics as proof of the eastern religions’ claims about the unity of all reality (holism)
  • Others see in these discoveries a space (the quantum zone of indeterminacy) for God to act providentially in the world that is compatible with science
  • Miracles are possible, but not in Lewis’ sense
  • Quantum Theory or simple synchronicity make extraordinary events possible
  • Theological problem of Miracle—”Christian God of steadfast faithfulness” vs. interventionist god who practices favoritism
  • Perhaps miracles must be so rare b/c God is “self-limited by his respect of the freedom of his creation”
objections to hume
Objections to Hume
  • Is rejecting miracle “on principle” really a scientific way of looking at the question?
  • Why must one assume deterministic view of nature?
  • Why must one assume that God would not respond to wishes of non-believers (exclusivism)?