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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K048-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Does God at times miraculously intervene in earthly affairs? That is, do some events occur because God has entered our space-time continuum and directly modified or circumvented the relevant natural laws? Few philosophers today deny that this is possible. But many question whether we could ever justifiably maintain that such intervention has taken place.

According to some philosophers, it is not even necessary to grant that the types of events believers label miracles – for instance, healings or resurrections – actually occur as reported. Since the evidence supporting the occurrence of such events is the personal testimony of a few, possibly biased, individuals, while the basis for doubt is the massive amount of objective research upon which the relevant laws are based, it is always justifiable, according to this view, to conclude that such reports are erroneous. Others contend, however, that the presence of some forms of evidence – for instance, independent confirmation from reputable sources – could make it most reasonable in some cases to acknowledge that even the most unexpected of events had actually occurred.

Some philosophers also deny that we could ever justifiably conclude that an event could not have been produced by natural causes alone. Since we will never be in a position to identify all that nature can produce, they declare, it will always be most reasonable for the scientist facing a currently unexplainable counterinstance to a natural law to continue to look for a natural explanation. Many believers, however, are quite willing to grant that nature could in principle produce any event, since what they wish to maintain is only that nature does not do so in the case of miraculous interventions.

Finally, while many philosophers acknowledge that belief in direct divine intervention may at times be justifiable for those who already believe that God exists, some also argue that no single event or series of events could ever compel all thoughtful individuals to acknowledge the existence of a perfectly good supernatural causal agent, given all we experience – for instance, the tremendous amount of horrific evil in our world. Many believers, though, are also willing to grant this point.

Citing this article:
Basinger, David. Miracles, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K048-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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