1

Hume famously said,

That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish: And even in that case, there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.

In this context, Hume refers to miracles as violations of law. This could include for example someone rising from the dead or the sea being split into two. However, many religious people often see certain events in their life, such as prophetic dreams, improbable coincidences, potentially meaningful signs, etc. as evidence for God, events that they themselves acknowledge as possible under natural law. It is often what underpins their belief. Fine tuning arguments also fall into this category since theists don’t argue that it is impossible for constants to be fine tuned without god, but rather for it to be really unlikely.

Now, can one make a Humean argument against these sorts of evidence by the simple recognition that we have never observed a non human designer design anything? In other words, no matter what event we come across, as long as it is possible under natural law which itself acts as prima facie evidence, blind natural laws explaining that event must be more probable than god designing something for the simple fact that we have never observed the latter.

Would this kind of argument follow?

Side note: I suppose a theist could simply deny that there is any prior evidence of anything being caused by blind natural laws and say that everything is designed by god. This is fine but this then takes away the importance of their argument. If everything must be designed, then something like the fine tuning argument loses its power, since even if the constants did not result in life, it would support design just as much as constants that do result in life

8
  • there are similarities, but while they are not the same thing, you would need to work out why Hume makes these claims, in order to reapply them. maybe KB could help, as this reads suspiciously like something they could have written
    – andrós
    Feb 4 at 8:42
  • I’m not sure what KB is Feb 4 at 8:44
  • they are, ofc, a who, not a what!
    – andrós
    Feb 4 at 8:49
  • Well who is KB! What does the acronym stand for Feb 4 at 8:50
  • 1
    Might KB be our wonderful Kristian Berry? Feb 4 at 10:23

3 Answers 3

3

When you say 'we have never observed a non-human designer' you are begging the question. A theist could say that you are surrounded by the handiwork of a non-human designer, and that you yourself are equally a product of that handiwork.

That aside, and ignoring non-human designs such as beaver dams, yes you could apply Hume's type of argument to an extraordinary claim, since it would be reasonable to expect overriding evidence in order to accept it as true in the face of more-commonplace alternative explanations.

2
  • You are correct and I did talk about this in my side note which I admittedly put in about 10 minutes before your comment which you may not have read. But essentially, if a theist says that everything can be argued for design, then there is no difference between a rock being designed and the fine tuned constants being designed. But then this underscores the importance of many design arguments since most theists don’t just look at a rock and claim that is evidence of god. They usually involve things with a higher level of complexity and improbability like biology/life/fine tuned constants/etc Feb 4 at 9:05
  • i am finding the question tricky to think about, but +1
    – andrós
    Feb 4 at 9:25
2

It is difficult for me to understand what your question is. Because your title refers to the quote from Hume. He proposes a pragmatics how to assess the claim of a miracle. But in the body of your question you ask: “Would this kind of argument follow?”

  1. I think your argument is:

    We have never seen a non-human designer. Hence it is more probable that blind natural laws acted as desigener.

    This argument is not convincing, because also no one has seen the “natural laws”. They are free creations of our mind. Nevertheless, they are general, explicitly stated, and successfully explaining different phenomena by few principles.

  2. The questions, whether a theistic approach or a scientific approach explains better the phenomena, cannot be decided on the level of vision. One needs a general approach how to evaluate rival explanations concerning their explanatory power. An entry point for further research could be some reading from "philosophy of religion" and "philosophy of science".

0

Indeed, one cannot observe non-observational entities like Gods. But, given that God (as we understand that notion in the context of this reasoning) would create a fine-tuned world, there exists a reason (given a fine-tuned world) to believe in God. This isn't necessarily the Christian God though. An evil "God" could have created a fine-tuned evidence to torment living beings, afterall.

Hume's argument is about first-personal evidence that cannot ever be intersubjectively conclusive because there is always a good reason to believe that one who experienced the miracle was just crazy. But in the context of reasoning from fine-tuning you can treat the Christian God like every other theoretical (unobservable) entity, ex. atoms as opposed to chairs etc.

2
  • 1
    It is true that God would create a fine tuned world. But so would a universe that out of necessity results in those constants without god. The only reason to prefer the former over the latter is if we have prior reason to think that god exists and does things. In this case, we don’t. Feb 4 at 9:01
  • @Baby_philosopher That's true.
    – user71009
    Feb 4 at 9:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .