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Does a miracle constitute a sufficient evidence for the truth of a claim?

I see lots of religions really presenting a history of their pivotal figures being able to perform miracles. However, the source of the miracle is generally attributed to some divine being. It's generally understood that miracles are supportive of their faith that they are coming from extra-terrestrial source, which they claim to be divine.

But I don't understand how it is sometimes taken to be a sufficient evidence for the truth of what they claim. Supportive evidence is not the same as sufficient evidence. For example, wearing a skirt is supportive evidence of being female, but it is not sufficient evidence; however, having an XX chromosome is. I mean: performing miracles only means that who performs it is in possession of something that others do not have, but that possession doesn't directly entail that its source is as the performer claims; it might as well have an extra-terrestrial source. Even yet, this source might not be God; for example, it might be other intelligent source.

Of course I'm not claiming existence of such sources, but I'm merely examining the details of the presentation. I mean: for the sake of discussion, let's assume that a proof was advanced of some action which was deemed miraculous to humans and other known beings on earth, i.e. they are incapable of doing that action; now suppose that proof was scientifically valid! Even then, this would only prove that there is an intelligent being, more intelligent and capable than humans, who is the source for that action; but that in itself doesn't provide us with any detail about that being

What is this intelligent being exactly? Can it lie, for example? Was it actually lying? What is its intention? All of those remain in the darkness; i.e., we have no illuminating evidence about answers to those.

In other words "being a miracle" in itself doesn't grant, for example, that the source of that miracle is as it claims. For example, if the source of the miracle is claiming to be God, it doesn't follow that just because it did a miracle, i.e., something that humans cannot do, then it is really what it claims itself to be; i.e., it doesn't follow that it is really God!

In order to prove that the source is God, for example, we need evidence that everything in existence other than God cannot do that act; but we don't have the whole universe in front of us on the table to be examined, so this is not a verifiable claim. What is verifiable is that humans (and other objects on earth) cannot do it. So, at best, it just proves the source being some extra-terrestrial being, or even a terrestrial intelligent being that we didn't discover, or something like that. There is no guarantee that it is saying the truth about itself.

On the contrary, since that source is a STRANGER, then we ought not to listen to it in the first place; we don't know his intentions, and being so intelligent would put more suspicion on his intentions, because from experience with nature on earth, the more intelligent a being, the more it is capable of fooling lower intelligent beings. So the miracle would place us humans at a lower intelligent capability than the source of the miracle, rendering its real intentions more of a suspicion than it being a fountain of comforting faith.

Now, the problem would get worse if, in that religion, the source of the religion (a Deity, God, supernatural, etc..) claims that his miracles are sufficient evidence, and base consequences of denying them as of those of denying sufficient evidence, like being subject to his wrath, dispelled from its mercy, eternal damnation, etc.

Some religious people claim that the evidence is not in the miracle itself, but it is a conjoint evidence of some rational thought about existence that to them is an evidence for an existence of a creator (argument of design, among others). Now, this creator cannot be imagined to stay there not connected with us, so to them this is an evidence of the will of the creator of this universe to make a connection with us, since he couldn't have created us in vain; i.e. leave us to our own devices, which are imperfect and cannot reach him, so he must send prophets, apostles, sages, etc. When those do miracles it is just a sign of this already confirmed in a priori manner expectation, and so the miracle would constitute the key that would open the door for the pathway to God. However, finding the door in the first place resided on a priori reasoning about existence.

The problem with that way of reasoning is that even if the a priori reasoning of existence of a creator is supposedly correct, still the expectation about his will to send prophets is not as clear; since, by then, this will open the door for any being more intelligent than us to claim this argument and place himself as God.

So the defect is not breached by this a priori expectation about God's will to communicate with us. It's a very risky kind of ideation. It might as well be possible that God's plans didn't encounter him making that connection with us, for reasons best known for him. Such a speculation about God's will is not the kind of the general expectation that God must be Good in the general sense; no, this expectation is very detailed, and we know that the detailed will of God is not clear.

Even the religious people maintain that the detailed will of God cannot be anticipated by human reason. God didn't prevent innocent children from catastrophes and calamities of this world; while, if we are to make a theory about expectations of God's will, the opposite would have been the expectation. So actually no religious man claims he has an exact theory of expectation of the detailed will of God.

There is no clear evidence that the matter of God willing to establish a connection with us through prophets with miracles as signs of that connection. There is no evidence that this is not among the detailed will of God that we humans cannot grasp.

So, still I don't see miracles even when viewed as topping an already existing a priori philosophical edifice of contemplation about existence; still, I don't see all of that constituting a proof of the truth of a claim. What is worse is that those claimed a priori evidence are not easy material to fathom, and no consensus on their validity is reachable; so this makes matters even more grim. What is really worse is for a God to consider all of that as valid in a clear manner that he'd sentence people to eternal damnation in hell for not observing such a difficult to prove argument. This is neither mercy nor justice.

The last standing is that some religious people say that "miracles" are just gestures to draw attention to a message from God, but the validity of the message doesn't have any connection to them; a position which to me seem to be more reasonable. But many people thought according to what's presented in the main books of those religions that "miracles" are the proof. They are NOT!

  • You are approaching "faith" with a rational (scientific) point of view... Obviously, it is not the main one. Having said that, "rational theology" has a very long tradition at least in Western world : it is hard to assert that it succeeded in proving the existence of God and the main dogmas. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Feb 9 at 11:47
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    I'm sorry, Zuhair, but there is no chance of me reading through all of this. It needs breaking up into manageable chunks. I don't believe anyone thinks a miracle is a proof of a religion, or not just because it seems to be a miracle. Jesus had some things to say about this. But a lot depends on what we mean by 'miracle'. . . – PeterJ Feb 9 at 11:49
  • definitely there are people who believe that miracles are proofs of their religion, I actually encounter those EVERYDAY. – Zuhair Feb 9 at 11:53
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    I think in most cases only people who believe in and pray for 'miracles' actually experience them. Not always, of course; but true in most cases. – Bread Feb 9 at 13:17
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A miracle is a violation of a Law of Nature by some agency. If you are satisfied that a Law of Nature has been violated, you need to establish (a) that it has been violated by some agency and (b) that the relevant agency is that assumed by the religion in question. So, briefly, no, a miracle, suppose such to have occurred, is no proof of the truth of a religion.

  • so you agree with me on that! good – Zuhair Feb 9 at 12:14
  • I think satisfaction of violation of a law of nature need a proof of (a), a proof of (b) is needed only when one is satisfied with what the agent violated this rule is saying, I mean satisfied with its claims about itself, by then (b) becomes very compulsory, one must present by then evidence of lets say honesty of that agency. In order for us to be satisfied that a miracle constitute a proof of a religion then both (a) and (b) must be satisfied! – Zuhair Feb 9 at 12:25
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    If God himself writes the laws of nature, then it is impossible for him to violate them. That is not how I define miracle. From the Latin, etymologically it simply means object of wonder. And in Acts of the NT miracles is at least twice textually linked to wonders. You have provide us with the dogmatic definition of the word, which I consider a false doctrine. – Bread Feb 9 at 13:35
  • The Arabic translation of "miracle" means something that the audience challenged cannot do. For example Islam challenges Humans and Gin to bring something like the Quran, if they cannot do so, then it is a Miracle. It really doesn't matter whether it breaks a natural law or not, but of course since it is attributed to God, then the general expectation is that it breaks natural laws, but not necessarily! For example Leonardo Da Vinci's painting is miraclous to most of humans, because they cannot draw a painting like it. But of course the Quran is claimed to be something that Only God can do! – Zuhair Feb 9 at 19:24
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    @Bread - I share your view and do not understand the premise of the question. – PeterJ Feb 10 at 11:46
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Miracles are not a reliable evidence for the truth of a religion, for two main reasons :

1- A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic : suppose that an alien visited earth in the past, and performed miracles (that are not breaking the laws of nature except in the eyes of ancient people), would that be qualified as evidence for the religion that alien founded? no. Now suppose a more technologically advanced alien visited earth today, we would think he can perform miracles (although they are mere science), even though he is not God.

2- We do not know how many beings can break laws of nature (if such beings exist) : Suppose that a man who says that he is prophet sent from God performed genuine miracles (and not just by means of highly advanced technology). One would say that since he performs miracles then he must be from God. But this conditional presupposes that only God can break the laws of nature.

Although we know that this conditional is false even according to religions themselves : We know that, according to religion's claims, even demons, Djinns, angels are given the ability to perform miracles , therefore the conditional If it is a miracle then it is from God is false, since it can be one of those mythical entities.

The correct conditional is if IS-GOD then CAN-DO-MIRACLES, but not IF CAN-DO-MIRACLES then IS-GOD.

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    +1 I think your last sentence answered the OP's question about sufficiency of the evidence provided by miracles. Miracles are not sufficient for a religious position. – Frank Hubeny Feb 9 at 14:11
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    @FrankHubeny thanks, also, I was always thinking whether there is anything at all that can be qualified to be evidence for God being the source of such and such. I do not know whether there are some references that investigate this subject in western philosophy of religion, but my conclusion is that there exists nothing that is qualified to be evidence that something is from God, for a simple reason : We do not yet know how God ought to provide His evidence, or what His evidence ought to look like... – SmootQ Feb 9 at 14:19
  • Precisely because we do not know what criterion(or criteria) can be objectively devised to say that if something matches that criterion , then no being can do it but God. – SmootQ Feb 9 at 14:21
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    @MauroALLEGRANZA provided a good reference in his comment to the OP's post that might be relevant here: plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/#WouMirEviForExiGod I am still reading it. – Frank Hubeny Feb 9 at 14:25
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    @FrankHubeny , this is a bit different, the link discusses whether Miracles are evidence for God, and not 'what kind of Evidence (or even Miracle) can be qualified to be only possible if God were behind it, in other words : How do we know if x is from God, and what criterion (method) or particulars should we use. – SmootQ Feb 9 at 14:30
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No, but it's necessary evidence!

If a person wants you to believe X, where X is some statement about supernatural things (i.e. the future, the afterlife, origins, deities, souls, morality, etc.) then you have the right to demand some indication that he knows a thing or two about supernatural things.

"Why should I believe you, when you are just like me? How did you come to know these supernatural things?" ...is a question that we all should ask.

If the answer isn't satisfying, then even if you do adopt the religion it won't be moving for you and its effect won't be lasting, I think.

  • I agree that it is necessary for anyone who claim to have a revelation from God or any supernatural entity, that's correct! – Zuhair Feb 12 at 7:32
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In the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, a "miracle" is typically not just a feat of supernatural power, but simultaneously a demonstration of some larger metaphysical principle. In the Old Testament, the principle is always the single primacy of the God of the Israelites as the one true God, creator and ruler of the universe. In the New Testament, the miracles are quite often supernatural metaphors for how we are supposed to treat each other, for example, feeding the needy ("Loaves and Fishes"). Jesus himself warns his followers repeatedly about being too obsessed with miraculous signs.

There are several incidents in both the Old and New Testaments where ungodly forces (or representatives of other religions) are shown to exhibit supernatural powers. This demonstrates that, at least within the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, demonstration of a feat of supernatural power is not, by itself, presented as sufficient proof of a religious belief.

Interestingly enough, Jesus does on occasion cite his miracles as evidence that he has come from God, but it is NOT the supernatural part that he focuses on, but the fact that his deeds are good works, and therefore cannot come from an evil source.

  • Sometime evil sources can do some good work to fool others that they are good. Anyhow. – Zuhair Feb 11 at 21:08

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