Thursday, August 04, 2005

Philosophical Naturalism and Miracles

Philosophical Naturalism (PN) holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.

Obviously then, a person who holds to PN cannot believe in miracles (defined as events that cannot be explained by pure natural forces). The non-existence of miracles is assumed by definition. Just as it would be impossible to believe in a married bachelor it is impossible – logically – to believe in miracles.

Now note this: PN cannot be itself established by science since, by definition, science only studies natural (not supernatural) events. PN defines the parameters of science; viz., everything in nature. This definition of “science” does not nor cannot prove PN. As philosopher Richard Purtill states, “a position that describes natural laws as simply a summary of what happens cannot even make the contrast between miracles and nonmiraculous events” (“Defining Miracles,” in A Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, eds. Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas, 70).

Philosopher Winfried Corduan adds, "By virtue of their assumptions about the nature of science the naturalists [adherents of PN] will never be convinced that a miracle has actually occurred... We can now see that the naturalists have laid out the rules of the game in such a way that they cannot possibly lose" ('Recognizing a Miracle," in Ib., 101).

Any attempt to argue from this notion of science that miracles do not happen is to beg the question.