Science, philosophy and faith

We do accept that the scriptures are inspired based on faith. We can’t epistemologically reason our way to determine whether something written thousands of years ago was divinely inspired. I agree that we need common ground, so-called “preambles of faith” that are based on evidence we can access with reason and observation. The metaphysical existence of God, the historical evidence of the church and the bible, and the empirical investigation of miracles today may provide some common ground.

It depends on what you accept as discovery. There are rational arguments for the subsistence and indissolubility of the soul in the philosophy of mind, but this is not going to provide direct empirical observation of something that is immaterial, although we are intimately familiar with the material effects at every moment.

And sure you could set up experiments about exorcists or miraculous healings if you’d like. Please do! That sounds really interesting and I’d like to read what you suggest.

The difference with these possible non-physical entities is we are not investigating natural processes, but personal agency. How would you set up an experiment? It would be something like para-psychology, perhaps. As for prayer, it is not a magic spell, either. It’s like setting up an experiment and telling people to ask someone for something, and then saying, well, they got half “Yes” and about half “No” so asking people for things is not effective.

I do not disagree with that. But that does not answer what I asked. Humans only have our five senses to use as the input where we receive information. Theoretically it is possible to directly implant information onto our brain, but that would require “monkeying” with our thought processes, which would disallow our freedom of will.

This is a huge “bite” to chew upon. All the so-called philosophical arguments for God’s existence are filled with errors, and even if they would be good, they would only establish a faceless, deistic first cause, not the personal God of Christianity.

The church is just a human institution, comprised of fallible humans. And the miracles are just hearsay. We could set up some properly organized, double-blind experiments, for example the so-called Eucharistic miracles and wait for some of them to happen. I put my money on the negative outcome.

Oh, if it would be a 50-50 outcome, I would concede defeat. :slight_smile:

I don’t know how inspiration “works” but I agree it could not have violated free will. So it could have been like a providential guidance, which looked (if we could look at it) to all appearances as a normal psychological process. Inspiration may not have been “miraculous” in the sense that it was empirically observable. For example at every Catholic Mass we believe that a supernatural event takes place, namely transubstantiation, but this is not a miracle in the strict empirical sense.

We disagree obviously; but it at least establishes a common ground of reasoning for us to engage something. And isn’t deism a step closer to theism?

Yes — mostly, or at least partially — but how do you explain the church? What caused it to begin? Since you put your money on the negative (no surprise there) for miracles I’m presuming you explain it away, but it’s still worth examining how you do that. Everyone is different and a unique thinker although we may align into broad categories or schools of thought.

As for miracles today, you may want to investigate. Every canonized saint in the Catholic church has at least two [alleged] miracles supporting their cause. So there is plenty for you to dig into. Because the cause is a personal agent (God) I don’t know how you set up an experiment to test for predictability, though. Inductive reasoning doesn’t really work unless you have repeated and repeatable observations that can establish some predictable conclusion. Since miracles are, as part of their very definition, extraordinary, and therefore unpredictable, then setting up a double-blind experiment looks a lot like begging the question. Assuming the conclusion leaves no wonder you are so certain of the negative outcome. :slight_smile:

Correct me if I’m wrong but that is typically the outcome from experiments on prayer? [See the STEP project.]

Maybe “closer”, but the distance is still infinitely large. The point is that deism does not make any specific claims, so it cannot be either substantiated or falsified. Christianity, on the other hand make very specific claims, which contradict what we positively know about the world. And when these errors are pointed out, there comes the ever-present disclaimer: “the bible is not a science book, nor is it a history book.” And yet, some of the least credible assertions are accepted unquestioningly - on faith! As if those chapters were historically correct!

Sorry, that is not my cup of tea.

The same as the others. It started with a desire to explain the world, and people accepted it as valid.

Well, I checked the miracle for the canonization for JPII.

Without any disrespect, I found it unconvincing. On what grounds did the investigation discern that the healing of Floribeth Mora could be attributed to the intercession by the deceased pope? Set up today a group of a few thousand people, with verified brain aneurysm, and have all those people (and any helpers) to ask JPII to intercede on their behalf. Or you can perform the same kind of experiment with amputees, where there cannot be a question of incorrect diagnosis. I am willing to place a bet, that nothing will happen.

Of course I am aware of the excuse for the lack of success. You cannot put God to the test. Why? Because he will fail.

There are literally millions of supplicative prayers every day. In those extremely rare cases when something positive happens, the apologists argue that the prayer worked. In those millions of cases when there is no positive result, they simply forget to record the negative result.

I saw this kind of argument before. The question is: “what are the chances that my lottery ticket will win the jackpot?” The wrong answer is: “it is 50 percent. It will either happen or not.” Blaise Pascal, the “father” of probability theory would throw a hissy fit if he heard it. (And he was a very devout Catholic.)

Alright let’s examine. What claim in particular? What is the positive contradiction? That is a serious challenge. Keep in mind the bible is not a book, but a collection of books (bibliography shares the same root word). Some are meant more historical and some are more poetic, but none are written as scientific textbooks because of the time they were written, well before the modern scientific method was developed. Which book would you be most interested in?

OK so you believe there is a natural explanation. Is this based on an a priori assumption you have made about the world?

As for miracles of healing amputees, would that convince you, or would you look for some alternative explanation? Given your naturalist and materialist assumptions, I would suspect the latter. But if you just do a Google search you can find cases of miraculous healings of all sorts. Look up the case of the Miracle of Calanda.

You can set up an experiment, sure, and maybe you’ll “catch” one; you never know. But it’s not going to be the same as establishing some natural principle that you can predict.

So you’ve already decided, sadly. To put God to the test contradicts the meaning of faith. You don’t have faith, so you should feel free to set up whatever tests you would like. I’m still curious how you test a personal agent for predictability, especially one you don’t even think exists.

If people are treating petitionary prayer as some sort of magic spell — something that goes well beyond faith in the possibility of miracles and into personally invoked, directive powers over nature — then it is superstitious. Experiments to show that something contradicts observation and reason can expose the problem.

[Continued below…]

No I mean look at the Harvard study on intercessory prayer.

Petitionary prayer does not give a person some magical power over nature. [Although the placebo effect is well documented, it’s psychological.] Jesus did say that with enough faith, we can move mountains; but he was also fond of parables. The object and source of faith is God and is not the same as delusional or irrational belief in something imaginary.

If I pray, “Lord, give me the power to fly!” Then I jump off a skyscraper, truly believing that I can fly, that is not faith in anything divinely revealed, which is why we need objective authority beyond our own minds. That’s insanity and magical thinking with tragic consequences. It’s also putting God to the test in the same way Satan tempted Jesus (“throw yourself down”) which prompted that very response.

Why would there suddenly be a new desire to explain the Hellenistic world? You have to do better than this; it just doesn’t make sense considering the historical context with the abundance of pagan religions and Judaism, which all made efforts to explain that world that people found satisfactory for thousands of years. All of a sudden, a claim about a resurrection. Why was there a need for another explanation? What happened?

Do you at least accept that miracles happen sometimes? Has that convinced you that materialism and naturalism are false — or at least incomplete?

Even if the Hindu miracles did happen, what do we make of that? It may mean that there are spirits with preternatural powers, which I also believe. Consider that Hindus do not believe that the world our senses perceive is really “there” in the way we understand it scientifically; it’s an illusion, a dream in the mind of Brahman. So does a Hindu miracle confirm that our senses deceive us? Do you see the contradiction? We can’t use empirical observation to then demonstrate that there are no valid demonstrations from empirical observation. Miracles may be a motive of credibility, but so is rational consistency, and you need both.

Also notice the circular reasoning: “I’m not going to accept miracles of this faith because people of that faith believe in those miracles.”

1 Like

I don’t completely discount miracles but I’d place the probability very low.

I came to a place where I understand reality as not containing a supernatural layer. I’ve only recently begun to dip my toes into philosophy and as far as I understand things at this point in time, philosophy seems very adept at being able to make logical statements that don’t necessarily correspond to reality or have no evidence it is correct. Often, it seems, philosophy defines thing into existence. Talking about initial causes or unmoved movers uses our reality to make inferences about things outside our reality…an area we know nothing about. I’m not sure that’s kosher but it sounds good!

I’m not at a point where I can say it’s only materialism and naturalism but I’m 99% of the way there. I didn’t start with a materialistic view of reality. That actually came long after I became agnostic about God.

1 Like

You appreciate the lottery jackpot gets drawn frequently.

You understand that without LOGIC the computer you are using wouldn’t work. Neither would this network nor any of the devices you see around everyday. Including the machinery that made the fabric of the clothes you are wearing, or the processing that went into the food you eat. And yes, all of that started with philosophy and still overlaps with the field of philosophy. You use philosophy every time you have to ponder a decision.

(Now, the speculative side brought countless branches to philosophy that simply had to be explored until proving themselves dead-ends. The same happened with Freudian psychology at the inception of the field.)

this does not account for fruition, for differences in taste, for the dilemmas of freedom, for all the shades of subjectivity, nor the faculties of the spirit.

If an argument uses premises that you can observe are real, then the inference is not outside our reality: that would be a materialist and naturalist assumption, and an arbitrary limit for pragmatic reasons (if we don’t need it to figure out how most things work, we may as well pretend it’s not there). A lot of people think like this (“Where’s the evidence for God?”) and it’s because the scientific method is a materialist method; but we’ve become conditioned to mistake the epistemology for that part of reality we can measure or observe as the whole of metaphysical reality.

I’d strongly recommend looking into natural theology: the cosmological arguments, and the Argument from Reason. The latter will bridge you into the philosophy of mind, especially the problem of consciousness and intentionality.

Consider the practical consequences of total (reductionist, or eliminative) materialism: You are a deterministic, biological machine, and have no free will, or even free thought. Compare how rationally inconsistent that is with your efforts to find out what is real, true or good. We can’t actually live like materialists, practically. It doesn’t actually make sense to us, so we have to explain away our ability to make sense of anything — somehow using our ability to make sense of things, lol. Put simply: materialism can’t explain reality. It is a method to explore some of it.

I knew I’d get in over my head. I disagree with this but am unable to explain why. I really should take some official philosophy classes.

I will say that what you’ve described doesn’t seem to take into consideration the emergence of the higher functions of our brain. Rationality, cognition and behavior.

I’m going to bow out of the discussion and just read y’alls comments. It’s safer for me. :joy::woozy_face::joy:

It addresses exactly this issue: you can’t get rationality from non-rationality. Look into it, and the evolution of language. It’s fascinating and enlightening.

You may have some implicit, conditioned and not entirely conscious assumptions, like most of us. So you may be looking to confirm unexamined biases. It’s extremely difficult to excise these (and one reason I believe conversions to the faith require supernatural grace).

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit