From the highest upvoted answer on Is any aspect of the supernatural testable? What level of proof is possible for the supernatural?:
However, you are probably wasting your time on the various hobgoblins and eerie powers you list. We do not see such phenomena, werewolves, resurrections, or mind controls, requiring scientific explanation. One must first demonstrate them publicly and repeatedly, which in most cases defies their very definition.
As Hume pointed out, what we mean by a "miracle" is precisely that which cannot be predicted, controlled, or experimentally repeated. We now fly, cure plague, transmit voices over miles, and perform other formerly "miraculous" deeds. But they are no longer "miracles," except metaphorically.
The requirement that to demonstrate that something may happen or has happened (especially a miracle) requires public and repetitive demonstration of it happening strikes me as odd.
There are lots of things that are accepted to have happened even though they cannot be demonstrated repeatedly. It would seem to me that not even rationalists consistently stick to the requirement of repeated demonstration:
- Court room evidence. It would be absurd to require that a person accused of murder commits this act consistently, repeatedly and publicly in circumstances resembling the circumstances of the alleged already committed crime before declaring him guilty. Instead even rationalists accept the validity of abductive reasoning in such cases in place of experimentation. We collect observations of the current state of affairs and through examination of such observations we conclude that the most likely reason of the presence of these observations is that the suspect has indeed committed murder. We do NOT require public, repeated demonstration of the suspect committing murder.
- This also seems the only available way to practice history. In most cases we cannot conduct experiments that would verify historical claims. For example, we cannot go back to year 814 and produce a living Charlemagne to demonstrate the possibility that Charlemagne died in 814.
- Less absurdly, it would seem to me that we cannot experimentally prove evolution either. Evolution happens too slowly, we do not have that much time. We may have plenty of evidence that evolution has been and is going on, but NOT repeated demonstration of it happening. Yet, it is irrational to disbelief the theory of evolution, not the other way around.
It would seem to me that rationalists dropped the requirement of repeated demonstration in all cases BUT in the case of miracles, where they still require repeated, experimental demonstration, even though - as the answer I quoted points out - the very definition of a miracle says we cannot experimentally test it.
It would seem to me that perhaps this sort of argument conflates 'has happened' with 'does happen'. Courtroom evidence may strongly suggest that the suspect HAS committed murder, while repeated demonstration in experiments could show that the suspect has an ongoing inclination to commit ever more murders - these are two different things. Same for Charlemagne's death in 814. (Evolution is even trickier, because we accept from existing evidence other than repeated demonstration that it both has been happening and is happening.)
Based on the above, may I ask why is it required for a miracle to be repeatedly demonstrated through experimentation in order to accept the possibility of it happening? We cannot provoke a miracle to happen, but we may ABDUCTIVELY, rather than experimentally, conclude that it may have happened in the history.
Resurrections for example, since the answer I quoted mentioned them. As I understand, those like N.T. Wright or Gary Habermas attempt to employ historical, abductive reasoning to conclude that Jesus has likely risen from the dead. It is not my intention to ask here whether the conclusion is warranted or not. Rather, I'd like to ask if this methodology is the correct one to approach such a problem. If I understand the answer I quoted above, it is not - we cannot accept resurrections until we repeatedly, experimentally demonstrate people rising from the dead. And yet even rationalists are happy to employ such reasoning to demonstrate the existence of Jesus.
Are miracles somehow different? When must we demand repeated, public demonstration, and when is abductive reasoning satisfactory?