Tuesday Theology Musings: 0.1A – Can miracles exist?

Last week, we discussed how classical skepticism and the Bible interact in their perception of reality. Today, we will explore the implications of Pyrrho‘s eighth mode: constancy and rarity.

The ninth depends upon the frequency, or rarity, or strangeness of the thing under consideration. For instance, earthquakes excite no wonder among those nations with whom they are of frequent occurrence; nor does the sun, because he is seen every day. (from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, trans. C.D. Yonge, 1853, Book IX – The Life of Pyrrho, Chapter IX)

Many modern skeptics believe that miracles, like to the kind recorded in Scripture, are impossible because they violate the natural order, as “codified” in repeatable scientific empiricalism. Iwould like to venture a rebuttal on three propositions, inspired by Pyrrho:

1) The rare is not the impossible

Modern particle physics is presently searching for the Higgs boson, also known colloquially as the “God particle”.

However, as of today, it has not been discovered/detected. To quote a particle physics blog:

“The Tevatron by the end of 2011 will have acquired 10-12 inverse femtobarns of luminosity…. To unravel this, here is a handful of back-of-a-madgraph estimates of how many interesting events can the colliders get by the end of 2011.

Higgs Boson (120 GeV Higgs produced in gluon fusion) events:
Tevatron: 10 000
LHC: 11 000

Both experiments will have a similar sensitivity to the Higgs. Although 10k looks like whole lotta events, Higgs signatures are notoriously difficult to search. For example, one promising discovery channel at the LHC is when the Higgs decays into two photons, which happens roughly twice per thousand events for a 120 GeV Higgs. For this and other reasons, neither Tevatron nor the LHC has good prospects of discovering the Higgs, unless in lucky circumstances (e.g. production cross section larger than in the standard model, or Higgs mass sitting close to the sweet spot of 160 GeV).” (Resonaances, accessed 7/5/2011)

To be at least intellectually consistent, if rare events in science can be expected, then so to rare events beyond the comfort threshold of the scientist.

2) The common is not the non-miraculous

As stated in Pyrrho’s own words, ” the sun [does not excite wonder] because he is seen every day.” This is better explained by those more versed in the subject, so I will point you to two takes:

…to which I again appeal for equal treatment under my first proposition!

3) The “laws” of science are never set

The scientist is alwasy questioning and exploring. In science, there are relatively few laws: explanations of the mechanism of a process so rigorously upheld by empirical data (evidential test) and so entrenched in other corollary aspects of scientific understanding (logical-conceptual test) as to conceive of their not being true/real is tantamount to undercutting the whole existence of life/the universe as we know it. However, most scientific understanding is only about a hundred years old (at least, in its present formulation)…why should we not expect the rules of scientific thought to change again?

In conclusion, miracles cannot be discounted or disregarded simply because they do not fit our modern sentiments on the subject.


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