Most specifically, I’m interested in the following point: if the laws of nature are an expression of God’s rationality (which, by divine simplicity, is his fundamental unity), wouldn’t God be contradicting himself to suspend or alter those natural laws? And because God is a unity, contradicting himself is something God cannot do, right?
Any book, article, etc. recommendations welcome (especially if they are by a philosopher).
The simplest answer would be that God does not break any “laws” of nature by exerting His will. The term “laws of nature” is a poetic term describing what is at base level, statistical probabilities based on observed phenomena in nature. The “laws” of physics (and other sciences) simply describe how matter and energy interact, in a particular described circumstance, in the absence of an outside force that is not included in the equation. A rock dropped from a height on the surface of a planet will fall to the surface - in the absence of an outside force that is not described in the statistics of the past observations of the phenomena - thus if I (or God) reach out and catch that rick before it falls, it is not a violation of any law, it is just a new description of a phenomenon with an added variable.
There is no “Law of Nature,” or physics, or any other science that the existence of God, or His actions, violates. They can only describe phenomenon that occur within the parameters of our space-time continuum, by which God (by his ontological definition) is not bound. Physics has nothing to say about the actions of God.
By definition, the Supreme Being (GD) is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. In short, Gd can do anything anywhere at anytime, thus any argument or further explanation is moot.
If one doesn’t believe in a supreme being, then there is no rational explanation for miracles.
You might read C.S. Lewis’s book, Miracles, for a very nice explanation, too. He talks about deep and shallow regularities in nature. When I fall into the water, that is a shallow regularity. When Jesus walks on water, that is a deep regularity. Which regularity applies is a matter of the situation.
The possibility or not of miracles is almost entirely dependent upon the possibility or not of theism in general. If there is a supreme being who exists outside of the Universe, who has truly absolute power and is involved with the running and operation of this Universe in some way, then saying that He cannot intervene in Nature in one instance is much like saying that I cannot intervene in a story that I’m writing in order to save a character. Of course I can do that, it all depends on whether or not I decide to. Of course, if there is no such being, then obviously He cannot intervene (or do anything at all, for that matter). Thus your opinion of miracles is dependant on your opinion of theism (Catholicism in this case), that is what determines whether or not you think it possible for a miracle to happen.
It is also important to keep in mind the actual nature of the laws of nature (as outlined by posters above), to remember that they aren’t prescriptive, but descriptive. If rocks were to suddenly fall upwards instead of down when we dropped them, we would have to change the “law” of gravity (after addressing the more likely possibility that we’re hanging upside-down).
As humans, we think we understand nature, but we are often limited in our comprehension by our own human nature; a miracle is God’s way of expanding our divine consciousness, helping us get beyond our own limitations. We are reminded that many of our greatest thoughts are still earthbound. There is “something more” when we face a miracle and it humbles us and lifts us to a deeper understanding of life and of our Creator.
Some atheist friends of mine dispute miracles (proven ones like Lanciano or people who went to Lourdes and got physically healed - for example a man who went there with an irreperable pelvis and somehow it was fixed and was as new) by saying that they are done by extraterrestial beings who exchange matter via some sort of teletransport (!!!). Evolution theorists, when faced with the clear facts that contradict their notion that we evolved from single-cell organisms, state that complex organisms were transported from space.
And we’re the weird ones who believe in fairytales? Give me a break!!
God can do anything he wants. Hence miracles happen.
A miracle is not necessarily an event that goes against the “laws” of nature. It is an event that cannot be explained by the known laws of nature. It may be explained at some later date, but what makes it a miracle is the circumstances in which it happens. If a couple of people are praying at the bedside of a person who is dying of an incurable cancer, and that person is cured a few hours later, that is a miracle. Ten years later, someone can find a rational explanation for the cure, but it still remains a miracle because of the circumstances that point to divine intervention.
Good evening NowHereThis: I would offer the idea that when things happen that we don’t understand, they are not necessarily unnatural events. If they happen they must actually be natural. The problem is that we just haven’t come to terms with how they happen. There are instances wherein people seem to be able to heal themselves from incurable illnesses. Perhaps this is an inbuilt ability that we have to varying degrees, and some people are just more capable of tapping into it, perhaps through their belief that it can happen.
I have the same problem with the term supernatural or paranormal. If such things happen, then they are actually natural and normal. The fact that we don’t understand them is probably due to lack of proper inquiry into such things. Take the example of people healing themselves. People with qualified credentials to do medical research can only research what is funded. Most of the funding for medical research comes from pharmaceutical companies that aren’t interested in our ability to self heal, so there has been very little serious inquiry into such things. Attending this problem is the fact that researchers and medical professionals put their careers at risk by discussing such things. People in academics, such as college professors stand to lose everything by seriously entertaining such ideas, so having eliminated researchers via funding, medical practitioners and academics via the threat of the loss of credibility, we have virtually no one doing any serious inquiry into such things. But everyone knows they happen. We just don’t know how.
And if from time to time such things turn out to be through divine intervention, then these are not miracles either. I suppose they might actually be a largely an unrealized potential held by all living things to tap into the divine source of their being. Again, I see this as natural and quite lovely too.
As for the people who call themselves skeptics about such things, they are not really skeptics at all. They have a belief system that they hold firm to that asserts that such things don’t happen, just as we have a belief system we hold firm to wherein we believe that they do happen.
Therefore, they are not more rational than they claim us to be.
Just my thoughts on the matter.
Evolution theorists, when faced with the clear facts that contradict their notion that we evolved from single-cell organisms, state that complex organisms were transported from space.
Hi JRTJ: While I will grant that our very existence is miraculous, I am curious about the idea you posited about facts that contradict evolution. Also, I would like to explore your thoughts more if I may about how it is possible that we have been transported from space when we are actually in space, both as a planet and as a species. What are these ideas, and can we discuss them? These are huge topics that may require some long discussion, but I would like to engage with you politely if I may.
So imagine if you will some 40 odd years ago, Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon, turning to Neil Armstrong and saying " Look Neil - out there in space - the Earth!" So, I will start the conversation by suggesting the idea that right now you are actually reading a post from a monkey from space. Miraculous but true? Let’s discuss it!
If you mean “something that cannot be explained rationally” then you may have an internal difficulty with your question. You may as well ask what happens when an irresistable force meets an immovable object .
I see no contradiction above. Normally I pay the green-waste man to take my rubbish to the dump (instrumental causality) but where’s the contradiction if I decide to take a trailer load myself after cleaning up the backyard on a holiday weekend (direct causality).
Who said God has to obey the laws of induction (based on a limited observation of consistant cause-effect examples) that puny man hypothesises. Which is basically what AM said below.