Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Carrier's Argument for Miracles

In critiquing Victor Reppert's AFR, Richard Carrier writes:

"For logical laws are just like physical laws, because physical laws describe the way the universe works, and logical laws describe the way reason works — or, to avoid begging the question, logical laws describe the way a truth-finding machine works, in the very same way that the laws of aerodynamics describe the way a flying-machine works, or the laws of ballistics describe the way guns shoot their targets. The only difference between logical laws and physical laws is the fact that physical laws describe physics and logical laws describe logic. But that is a difference both trivial and obvious."

Among the less obvious problems with this quote is this:

Logical laws are supposedly species of physical laws, just like laws of aerodynamics are.

Now, several atheists have defined miracles as violations of laws of nature. And, many atheists have scoffed at the Bible for reporting supposed violations of such laws.

Furthermore, atheists like Carrier and Richard Price find belief in miracles unwarranted, in part, because we don't see them happening today. We don't see laws of nature being violated, ever.

However, if logical laws are species of physical laws, and "the only difference" between the two is that laws of physics describe physics and laws of logic describe how logic works, then since we see hundreds of thousands of violations of logical laws during our life, what is the big deal with believing the paltry few violations of physical laws called 'miracles'?

If laws of aerodynamics describe how flying things work, then laws of logic describe how thinking things work. But does anything fly that violates laws of aerodynamics? Does anything think or argue that violates laws of logic? Sure they do. If laws of logic can be violated then why can't aerodynamic laws? Especially since "the only difference" between the two is the physical domain the describe. So for those who think Jesus' post-resurrection ascension is nonsense, since it violates laws of aerodynamics, think again. According to Carrier, we live in a strange universe where supposedly inviolable laws are actually violated.

This argument will be known in the literature as CAM (Carrier's Argument for Miracles). Atheists who want to mock talking animals and resurrected men had better deal with CAM.


  1. Richard Carrier? To heck with that nobody. I can get you interesting testimony about the validity of miracles from a much better source.

    Consider this claim: As I walk along, time--as measured by my wristwatch or my aging process--slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It's easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here's another: Matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the Universe, being created from nothing. Here's a third: Once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They're all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunneling, they're called). Like it or not, that's the way the world is. If you insist it's ridiculous, you'll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe.

    There's good ol' Carl Sagan on what's possible in our universe.

    Water into wine? Creation of loaves and fishes? You can pretty much pick your miracle. They are, given what we know about the universe, possible.

    I suppose someone could turn around and argue that this means that supposed miracles aren't necessarily violations of natural law, but merely special incidents of them. Therefore, miracles are actually displays of technology by God.

  2. Fascinating, Crude. What's the reference for the quote?

  3. According to one site, that exat quote is from:

    Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, p. 306 (Random House 1995)

  4. Violations of the laws of logic never happen. Someone doing a bad job in his proofs is not a violation of the law of logic.

    Of course, if this truth requires a view of the laws of logic that Carrier doesn't hold to, then so much the worse for Carrier.

  5. You mean, "Carrier's Argument for the *Possibility* of Miracles" which is underwhelming since he assigns them a nonzero probability in any event.

  6. This is interesting given that natural laws are rational descriptions. If such a law is "broken" then the law either requires refinement or reformulation. We're pretty arrogant to think that the natural laws we currently understand are absolute.

    Also interesting is that Carrier seems to confine himself to the physical realm when the argument for miracles begs observation of a meta-physical realm.

    Therefore, given that a Creator would be metaphysical and we have trouble fully understanding the physical any knowledge of a Creator would require an active revelation of the Creator to his creation in such a way as to be undeniable.

    Miracles are apparently deniable since so many deny them. Scriptural revelation is deniable since so many deny them. What is undeniable is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is necessarily unconvincing to those who do not have him. But miracles, scripture, and the steadfast faith of believers are evidence of the veracity of our claims.

  7. Steven,

    People violate laws of logic and laws of morality and other *normative* rules. Take Carrier's view. It would be (physically) *impossible* to fly while not obeying/following the laws of physics. But it is *not* logically impossible to *argue* while not obeying or following laws of logic.


    Um, no. Read the post before commenting. If you continue to offer unsubstantive drive-by's I'll just delete your posts.

  8. You are threatening me? Wtf? Is that really necessary? It is a fact that Carrier advocates a nonzero probability for miracles. Read any specific statement he says on the subject. Your argument is therefore a caricature. I'm just relating what he espouses. That's not a driveby. That's your lack of consideration. If you don't give a hoot about experience bias, that's your problem since most humans do. From "The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave" to "The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails" Carrier's argument succeeds well enough despite your observation here. You are only arguing against the most rigid scientism-esque view which does not even approach Carrier's view. That's not my problem. So edit as you will, but the truth is still the truth.

    take care,

  9. WOE,

    I don't find you to be an interesting, or honest, dialogue partner. Again, your comments about Carrier's view of miracles has nothing to do with the post here.