Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why won't God heal leprechauns?

(Posted on behalf of Steve.)
I'm reposting some comments I left at Victor Reppert's blog in response to a village atheist:

Isn't there a simpler answer to the question "Why does god hate amputees?" than anything believers give?

I think the tougher question is "Why does God hate leprechauns." I don't know a single record instance where God healed a leprechaun. If that's not sufficient to disprove God's existence, I don't know what is.

It appears that you don't understand the amputee problem (amputees exist).

It appears you have a tin ear for satirical replies.

Is it possible that the god you believe exists has never performed any miracles? Why is hard for you to just answer that question with a yes or no.

Here's a better question: Why is it hard for you just to engage the evidence?
Atheism posits a universal negative in reference to miracles. The onus on the atheist is to disprove every single reported miracle (not to mention unreported miracles). By contrast, the onus on the Christian is to prove just one miracle. A single miracle is sufficient to refute a universal negative. Your burden of proof is a whole lot tougher than mine.
And instead of floating fact-free hypotheticals ("Is it possible..."), why don't you engage the actual state of the evidence?

The fact that there's no good evidence for any amputee, ever, being healed.

What makes you think God never healed an amputee? Most folks aren't famous. They are quickly forgotten after they die. Most folks leave no trace of their existence in the history books. Many ancient and medieval books no longer exist.

We have lots of cases of medicine healing people. We have NO good evidence for medicine (or anything else) healing an amputee.

Your objection is irrational. A classic example of the framing fallacy, where you act as if the only possible evidence for miracles is one arbitrarily selected example, which allows you to ignore all the other evidence. That's a mark of your intellectual evasiveness.

So, amputees are healed all the time, we just don't have any good evidence for any of that?

So you're telling me you don't know the difference between "ever" and "all the time."

Would that be an explanation for the problem with miracles only existing in stories.

Stories? You mean like Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle? He didn't really visit Patagonia or the Galapagos islands, because that's just a story, right?
I don't answer loaded questions. Only dumb people answer loaded questions. I don't play poker with someone who uses marked cards. Your "question" rigs the issue by acting as though the only relevant evidence for miracles is evidence for one arbitrarily selected example. That's philosophically preposterous.
Your myopic obsession with amputees is just a diversionary tactic. Let's begin with a definition. In his recent debate with atheist Zach Moore, Timothy McGrew defined a miracle as:

an event that would not have happened if the natural world was left to itself, as opposed to outside agency (i.e. divine intervention).

I think that's a good working definition. It's not a definition with Christian bias, but a neutral definition. Atheists define miracles in contrast to the natural order. Indeed, Zach never challenged McGrew's definition.
According to atheism, miracles never happen. They don't happen because they can't happen, and they can't happen because they require supernatural agency.
If we plug in the above definition, that means it only takes a single example of an event that would not have happened if nature was left to itself to disprove atheism. Atheism posits a universal negative regarding miracles.
Is healing amputees the only evidence for miracles? Absolutely not. Any event that would not have happened if the natural world was left to itself will falsify the universal negative posited by atheism. Any such event would suffice to establish the occurrence of miracles.
To act as if the regeneration of severed limbs is the one and only kind of event that counts as evidence for miracles is intellectually ludicrous given the definition of miracles. All you need is at least one event that fits the definition. There are innumerable kinds of events which are covered by that definition. All you need to establish is that some event like that has happened at least once in the course of world history. Just once is enough to disprove a universal negative.

For instance, I am not just telling a story when I say that the universe is consistent with itself. That's because anyone can go test to see if the universe is consistent with itself, and does't have to rely on just my story to 'know' that this is true. Same with all facts that examinable, in ways that reliable, verifiable, and objective.

Does you believe Darwin's "story" about sailing to Patagonia and the Galapagos islands? Can you "go and test" whether Darwin went there? Do you have independent verification that Darwin went there?

Let me be clear: if we believe in something that only, ever, happens in stories, then we are being inconsistent and foolish. I use the term silly, because it takes longer to type inconsistent and foolish.

That's a reflection of your self-reinforcing ignorance. Consider some of the paranormal studies by philosophers and anthropologists, or consider what foreign missionaries encounter in cultures where witchcraft is prevalent. In addition, I've pointed you to multiple resources for well-documented miracles.
No, it doesn't just happen in "stories".

Compare this to how Christians 'know' about the trinity, the virgin birth, and Jesus's resurrection. The only way those things can be "known" is through stories.

The way to know about the Resurrection is through testimonial evidence. Most of what you believe is based on testimonial evidence.

Do you see the difference between a story about you seeing squirrels and trees, and a story about you seeing unicorns and magical bean stalks?

That's a standard village atheist decoy. Instead of grappling with actual evidence for actual cases, they resort to silly hypotheticals. They try to shift the discussion away from specific evidence for concrete examples to imaginary cases.
Carl Sagan infamously said extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Pop atheists are very fond of that statement.
Unfortunately, it's terribly vague. What's the definition of an extraordinary event? What's the definition of extraordinary evidence? And why should an extraordinary event (whatever that means) demand extraordinary evidence?
Let's use an illustration. The odds of being dealt a royal flush are 649,740 to 1. As one source put it: "If you were dealt 20 hands of poker every night of the year, in 89 years you should only expect to see one royal flush."
So that's very rare. Extraordinarily rare, you might say. Yet it's also inevitable. Soon or later it's bound to happen.
In addition, the conventional odds of a royal flush depend on a randomly shuffled deck. But a cardsharp can drastically lower the odds. That's a crucial difference between personal agency and dumb luck.
Suppose you're dealt a royal flush. That's extraordinary!
Does it take extraordinary evidence to demonstrate that you were dealt a royal flush? Hardly. Ordinary evidence will suffice. Eyewitness testimony.
You don't need extraordinary evidence to establish the occurrence of an event. At best, you might need extraordinary evidence to establish the interpretation of the event.
For instance, your royal flush might be the luck of the draw. Or that might be due to funny business.
Does it demand extraordinary demand extraordinary evidence to determine which is which? No.
Suppose security camera footage, played in slow motion, shows the dealer using a riffle shuffle. Or suppose bank records show the dealer and the winning player splitting the jackpot. That's sufficient to establish a particular interpretation of the event. Extraordinary evidence is not required.


  1. Just a nitpick: "using a riffle shuffle" is "sufficient to establish a particular interpretation of the event"?

    The village atheist could (with some justification) object to the characterization of a royal flush as "extraordinary". After all, it is one of the permitted combinations of cards in the game (there is no matter or energy that renders it any more special than two pair). But that's a losing strategy -- as it (potentially) eliminates any notion of "extraordinary" at all (and they do love that quote!)

    But what makes an event "extraordinary"? Certainly not its raw probability (as the royal flush example demonstrates) Perhaps its misalignment with expectations? Unfortunately for the village atheist, that smells suspiciously of question-begging: the ploy is being used to reinforce expectations, after all...

  2. debating village atheists = magically delicious

  3. In Craig Keener's Miracles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), he cites examples of the healing of amputees. Keener has said that he's aware of more than 25 such cases. I discuss the subject of the healing of amputees, and cite some of Keener's examples, in a post here. And here's a post where I discuss another reason for rejecting the argument that God doesn't heal amputees.

  4. I read through this stuff like this and I'm struck.

    It's something akin to miraculous in my mind that God allows belligerent, insufferable, puny-fist-shaking rebel creatures like humans to use His air in order to breathe out blasphemy against His holy name. And eat His food and drink His water to strengthen their bodies so they can use them as instruments of sin - like I used to - without sweeping them away into eternal perdition with a motion of His hand, and without a moment's notice. Like a rancher setting fire to a dead and diseased, maggot infested animal to prevent further spread of the contagion.

    And I find it truly miraculous that He not only bothers to save such people, but He delights in it.

    I pray steve's hapless interlocutor comes to know God's lavish and amazing provision of grace in Christ, because one day he will be required to settle accounts with his Maker.