More on Miracles
The Evangelical Atheist has a blog carnival on Miracles featuring posts by both atheists and theists. (note: if you check it out, ignore the top 10 list entry for simply being offensive) Whilst I posted briefly about miracles yesterday, I wanted to highlight one particular argument that was featured a fair bit in the carnivals posts. Many of the atheists used David Hume's arguments against miracles which I have previously shown as self-refuting, but I have noticed another problem that is worth mentioning. Ochuk does a good summary of Hume's basic argument against miracles
1. Miracles, by definition, are events which violate genuine laws of nature.On reflection, the definition of 'genuine laws of nature' is immediately suspect. For EVEN IF materialism is true, then these laws of nature MUST have been violated at some point. A clear case example is the materialist notion of the beginning of the universe. Scientists claim that before plank time (1 * 10 ^-43 seconds), the laws of nature did not apply. Alternatively, the chain of causation would have to go back infinitely if natural law always applied which is also an impossibility. So, by Hume's claim, the universe could not have started to exist because this would mean a breaking of natural law. Obviously the universe has started to exist, hence Hume's definition of 'genuine law of nature' is incorrect. (Interestingly, this is similar to the Cosmological Argument and especially the notion that the universe NEEDS an intelligent cause agent because it is only intelligent agency that does not act 'regularly')
2. If a generalization is violated by an event, then it cannot be a genuine law of nature.
3. Thus, it is impossible for a genuine law of nature to be violated by any event.
4. Hence, it is impossible for any event to be a miracle.
Tim Challies also has a post on a similar questioning of what a law of nature really is and Macht from Prosthesis also investigates the idea of natural law further.
Another way to look at the issue is via the example of a computer program. If I write a program that happily runs according to certain routines (i.e. laws), I could also have written in other routines which would allow me to intervene in the general running of the program. The program still operates regularly for the most part, but if there is a need, I can intervene, breaking the observed regularity without breaking the true laws of the program. (This is another example of how Ceteris Paribus works which Macht at Prosthesis mentioned)
For the IT minded, the following php code snippet is an example of this
where GotAddSignal() and GotSleepSignal() detect keyboard input.
The program regularly sleeps for a second, adds 1 to the total, and then outputs that total on a newline. This will continue unless I intervene, in which case the program does something slightly different AND THEN goes back to its regular operation.