Of Miracles and Science

Ever heard the term ‘miracle of (modern) science’? Truly, to many laymen this term is going to appear oxymoronic. We could use it to refer to some amazing, unimaginable breakthrough in our methods, or discoveries of new things. Many many times we can see such ‘miracles’ in the fields of medical science, where many people most desperately need a ‘miracle’ to happen. Lives are at stake, often, and time is often of the essence. 

But too many reject the notion of ‘miracle’, minus the science. We would all be familiar with those claims to what we know as miracles, whether historical or in the recent past.

Miracle: an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.

There we have the oxymoron/paradox. Most certainly it is technically incorrect to employ use of that phrase, then? But what of the validity of a miracle itself? My whole writing of this post is because of a recent discussion with some of my friends regarding a related topic, and one pertinent question was certainty. What does it take to be conclusive about the cause of a certain event or occurrence of change? I argue, there isn’t anything fitting that description. What we take in science to be the case is often a close-to-absolute certainty, rather than a definite knowledge. I keep thinking of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, though slightly unrelated. The point is, we actually employ scientific processes to arrive at a conclusion that is more often or not based on the ‘average’ of several trial experiments. This is ‘first grade science’ – that empirical evidence is the key determinant in proving/disproving a hypothesis.

Miracles – extraordinary, welcome, but not explicable by natural or scientific laws? The second insistence was that attributing the cause of such events to divinity because natural or scientific laws could not explain ‘at the moment‘ is indeed standing on the mountain of ignorance and declaring one sees the answer a distance away. But I think miracles, though seemingly outside the explanations of science, are not excluded from the boundaries of reason. What I mean is that not (all) people are mindless theists jumping on every chance to attribute ‘miracles’ to ‘God’ or divinity. I can see two ways reason seems to work:

  1. ‘One or the other’ – our world is a scientific one, governed by laws all around. Yet if something cannot be described or explained by science, surely it is either a competitor of science or above science. Millions would disagree with either possibility though. But this is the unprovable – that there is a causation outside of science. Refraining from elaboration, the simple answer that it is a possibility, because science can’t go into certain areas because it will never reach there. Put one way, some authors think of it as a cog or gear arguing about the existence of the machine. ‘Divinity’ is the acclaimed creator of ‘science’, it is said. 
  2. Over and over again. Correlation = causation? Well, it depends. If we examine the scientific method, you can change variable x various times, and each time the result is approximately y. Then we infer the causation of y by x. Similar? Then again, some theologians are bound to point out divinity is not a measurable force that always acts in a certain way – depends what kind of divinity you believe in. But still, for those who believe in unchangability, this is just the thing. What the x is varies – good deeds, praying, meditating, sacrifices – and the y is of course the miracle.

Hope you become more interested in this topic – it most certainly is a very dodgey, never-will-finish-fighting-about-this thing. Still makes good conversation though.

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