Friday, September 30, 2011

What Is Atheism? Part 5: Krueger and Miracles

Nick Peters continues his series:


In our continuing look at Krueger’s “work” the fifth chapter is about miracles. Do they prove that God exists? You know that it’s going to be a highly errant look at the topic when the first sentence is just wrong.

“A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature because of supernatural influence.”

Well, no. A miracle is what happens when God intervenes in a situation that disrupts what would normally happen had He not intervened. It is not a violation of the laws of nature as the laws of nature still remain intact. The loaves and fishes were miraculously created, but the digestion process went on as normal. God created a sperm in Mary for the virgin birth, but the birth process went on for the same nine months.

Such a way of phrasing the topic poisons the well. Unfortunately for Krueger, he cites no theological or philosophical dictionary that gives such a definition. Make it a point readers to watch the way people define terms. Often they can set it to win at the outset with just how they define their terms.

Of course, the argument is Humean (see link below) and has been dealt with. By this point, most every Christian philosopher and their mother has answered Hume. Still, his ghost keeps coming back. (Hmmm. Perhaps that should be considered a miracle.)

As an example of the idea, Krueger says that if we hear about a man who was holy and floated in mid-air because he was in a trance, we must either believe everyone has been mistaken about gravity, or that the report misunderstands or is lying. Instead, it could simply be that if said case was true, God was working but not violating a law of nature as gravity still holds throughout the universe. One can believe in gravity and also believe a higher power can cause something to float that normally wouldn’t.

Interestingly, Krueger goes on to say the laws of nature are not known completely. While I agree with this tentatively (I still hold out questions on if we can really speak of laws of nature), I see this as a great weakness in the argument. It means that whatever happens, Krueger can just say “Well that’s not a miracle. We just don’t understand the law yet.”

So if Krueger is presented with evidence that he cannot deny that Jesus rose from the dead, he’s really going to try to look for a law of nature that will explain one resurrection that took place at one point in time rather than thinking about eschatological fulfillment, the honor-shame dynamic, etc.?

Keep in mind, we theists are the ones who are supposed to examine our claims.

Krueger says there are also always alternative explanations. Sure. So what? That doesn’t mean they’re right. One shouldn’t go with an explanation because it’s an alternative to one you don’t like. You should go with it because it is true. In a revealing sentence at the end of the page on this part he says “Almost any other proposed explanation for a seeming miracle would be more likely to be true than theism because the other claims would not assert the existence of a supreme being, a situation which would place the theistic proposal at a great disadvantage.”

In other words, we have to assert any possibility that could be true except theism and since we cannot accept the theistic claim, that puts theism at a great disadvantage.

No joke. Really?

Krueger also says that even if the laws were violated, it would not show God’s existence since gods are usually thought to bring about events by magic powers or uttering certain words and that it could never be established that one god chose to do a miracle instead of another.

Well, maybe unless we could do something like establish that only one God exists which has been done….

Krueger also dismisses any biblical testimony since he thinks he’s shown the Bible to be unreliable. (See link to previous blog post on that topic)

Finally, Krueger says all such claims outside the Bible have not held up under examination. He tells about CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. An example worth mentioning is the Shroud of Turin. I have not seen word yet of this being refuted. Even if one does not accept it, there are a lot of unanswered questions about it. I wouldn’t use it in an apologetic argument, but it is something fun to think about.

I conclude that Krueger is simply dismissing every miracle claim too fast not also aware that even the Catholic Church has its own branch to investigate miracle claims thoroughly.

Not much here today folks. We’ll see what chapter 6 has next time.

On Hume

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