A miracle is something that is currently inexplicable by the laws of nature: statues crying blood; the resurrection of the dead; turning water into wine; etc.. Suppose I can accurately guess the lottery each weekend (I can't), and do so each weekend for a year. In a way, that seems a lot more impressive than the example miracles. Perhaps someone was simply mistaken about it being blood/water/a corpse. Suppose an improbable, but not impossible, event keeps happening. Can we put it down to divine intervention or is it just some supernatural thing that we don't yet have the best explanation for?

I'm guessing people have talked about the difference between miracles and the paranormal. What do they say? Why wouldn't performing baffling and improbable feats at will be any kind of sign of God's intervention? And does the statistical nature of many laws mean that they are immune to the concept of "miracle"? Moreover, if all laws are ceteris paribus, and I think some people claim that, might divine intervention be ruled out already

Hüttemann and Reutlinger (2013), Kowalenko (2014), Reutlinger (2014), Roberts (2014) and Strevens (2014) have recently explored a statistical approach to cp-laws, according to which cp-law statements are statistical claims

  • In what sense "artificial"? There are no miracles. May 4, 2023 at 5:36
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    Questions like this one are based on a misunderstanding. Someone who believes in God will interpret what happens in the light of that belief. Someone who doesn't believe in God will interpret what happens in the light of their unbelief. So whatever happens, there will be no evidence for God that will persuade those who do not believe and no evidence against God that will persuade those who do believe. Believing in God is decision (a choice, even) about how to interpret what happens, so it cannot be based on evidence.
    – Ludwig V
    May 4, 2023 at 8:34
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    Many people (both believers and unbelievers) would say that belief or not is a question of faith, not evidence (and, by the way, Hume, in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, claims that faith is itself a miracle).
    – Ludwig V
    May 4, 2023 at 8:34
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    Artificial no in miracle, artificial is in the phenomen emotional effect, and in a symbolic attribute of a phenomen. Why blood, why not orange juice, or petrol? Why wine not vinegar? This miracles are very useful. That is strange, it is not like phenomen of the eclipse for example - totally useless but it is. May 4, 2023 at 8:53
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    A miracle in Christian thought is not something that is currently inexplicable by the laws of nature; it is a direct intervention by God into nature. May 4, 2023 at 9:38

5 Answers 5


Miracles are completely "artificial". It is the phrase used when implying God had a hand to an event that there is not enough information to understand. "I don't know" is the "natural" response, and leads to inquiry, investigation, and knowledge.

In the mid 70s, NASA released photos of the famous Face on Mars. The low resolution image looked very much like a face. It was a miracle!! Proof of alien life on Mars!! NASA decided to take the picture again in higher resolution on a future flight to Mars.

A later, more detailed photo, showed conclusively it was a mountain. The "miracle" was nothing more than an anomaly in need of more reasearch.

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    See pareidolia, & 'Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion' philpapers.org/rec/ELLFIT-4
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 3, 2023 at 23:53
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    @CriglCragl Thanks for the link. This also addresses an earlier post regarding AI and anthropomorphism. A nice two for one. 😀
    – user64314
    Jun 4, 2023 at 15:53

"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"

-David Hume, in Of Miracles

He also points out in this chapter of 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding', that if miracles are granted as evidence, then those of multiple conflicting religious views are going to be irreconcilable, meaning such an a ceptance would not progress our understanding.

You might also like to read the related discussion on here: How improbable does an event have to be before we can say it didn't happen by chance?

But miracles have had a different soteriological role, than their literal reality.

For instance the 10 Plagues of Egypt are reckoned by scholars to show supremacy of Yahweh over each of the Egyptian pantheon. The plagues are scientifically plausible, like the Nile turning to blood relating to a red algae bloom. But consider the power of the story, including a dust storm blotting out the Sun, portrayed as showing the weakness of Rah compared to Yahweh.

I really like Barbara Thiering's interpretation of the miracles of Jesus, based on her direct study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. She relates what became Christianity, to the Essenes, a kind of monastic branch of Judaism, which required priests to hold to special standards in order to be supported by the community. In this picture, the loaves and fishes, and water into wine, weren't literal transformations, but the invitation to new people to be given the right to preach, by symbolically consuming the goods related to the rituals of having proven worthy of being sustained by the support of the flock. The walking on water, was reckoned to relate to a reenactment of the story of Noah, where a just-submerged pathway was provided for the priest-narrator, so Jesus was asserting his capacity to act as high priest, by taking up the role. The exorcusms, healings, and raising the dead, still have to be related to placebo effects.

It hardly needs saying that the Isra and Miraj Night Journey of Muhammed has the soteriological role of recentering the new Abrahamic faith from the Temple Mount to the Kaaba and Mecca.

I like tbis account of miracles in Zen:

A priest approached Bankei to challenge him. 'The founder of my religion," boasted the priest, "stood on one shore of a river with a writing brush in his hand. His disciple stood on the other shore holding a sheet of paper. And the founder wrote the holy name of Amida onto the paper across the river through air! Can you do anything so miraculous?"

"No," said Bankei, "My miracles are: When I am hungry, I eat; When I am thirsty, I drink; When I am insulted, I forgive."

-source: apocryphal

There is a song lyric:

Now Jesus was a conjuror,

Miracles were his game

He fed the hungry thousands

And they glorified his name.

He cured the lame and leper

He calmed the wind and the weather

And the wretched flocked to touch him

So their troubles would be taken.

And Jesus, knew the answer:

"All you who labour, all you who suffer,

Only believe in me"

But Judas sought a world where no-one

Starved or begged for bread

"The poor are always with us",

Jesus said.

-from Stand Up For Judas, by Dick Gaughan

This gets at several points. Simply being a conjuror can't really be the point of miracles, or Yuri Geller would have his own church; they gain their 'cosmic' theological significance, when they are also pointing at deeper truths. However, grand narratives, even 'Justificatio sola fide', don't solve our own challenges for us: feeding the hungry, finding how to forgive, require more than witnessing any sorcery. The real miracle would be, and the real purpose of religions is to find, how to live well together.

Civilisations have collapsed many times before, and the real question is whether we can find the courage to live up to what we acknowledge to be our moral duties, before it's too late. Wouldn't that, be a miracle..?


The entire premise of your question would be viewed by many credible modern philosophers, and this incredible one, as utter nonsense. Why do you insist on speculating about whether 'god' exists? Have you considered the possibility that it is a form of mania, or that it is a result of the cultural context in which you mind has developed? The term 'god' is a vague shorthand for an entirely imaginary concept with attributes that cannot be tested in any practical sense. Whether people chose to believe in a god, or in miracles, or that one type of miracle is more or less likely than another, is not a matter of logic. If you won the lottery every week for a year, there would be a good deal of interest in your achievement, but no one with any sense would leap to the conclusion that there must be a 'god' and that this 'god' had chosen to manifest itself by helping you win the lottery.

  • the question was why not? have you seen the psi experiments in ghostbusters? suppose my test came back: why would we attribute that to the occult rather than 'god'? the question is better than you suppose
    – user65758
    May 4, 2023 at 7:04
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    @trivia I am sure you are right. My grumpiness, for which I apologise unreservedly, was no doubt due to the unfortunate combination of the early hour and the lack of coffee in my system. My position would be that I would treat psi results etc as unexplained until such time as there was an explanation that fitted in with everything else we know. I wouldn't attribute them to the occult or to 'god', as they seem to be arbitrary default explanations used by some people when we can't explain things another way. Ghostbusters is an all time fave! May 4, 2023 at 7:27
  • This is not a philosophical answer; it is a partisan diatribe. May 4, 2023 at 15:58
  • @DavidGudeman can a diatribe not be philosophical? May 4, 2023 at 21:08

This is a very tough question, because technically, no matter how improbable an event is by chance, it is possible by nature. If someone predicted the lottery numbers every week for a year, it would technically not break the laws of nature.

However, it would be unwise to think it happened by chance, not because it would be very improbable in and of itself, but rather because another hypothesis, even if we don't know of it yet or don't understand it yet, is likely to explain the results better and be more probable.

I must admit though that this would ultimately be instinctual. You would be assigning a higher probability to an alternative hypothesis even if you don't understand how it works. There is no way to actually show this to be the case, because as mentioned before, as long as nature deems it possible, it can happen. This is different from the other types of miracles you mention since they directly break the laws of nature.

At that level of correct guesses, it would, atleast in my eyes, imply cheating or some other force that we don't know about at work. It doesn't have to be supernatural though nor have to be a god. It could be a natural force that we simply do not understand, maybe aliens, who knows.

  • yes "likely to explain the results better". the comment about aliens makes sense, but where do you draw the line? when is a skill at hypnotism "supernatural" according to our current understanding? random example/not what i was thinking of man
    – user65758
    May 4, 2023 at 8:49
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    I personally think it is impossible to define that boundary; however, one can argue reasonably that given the history of a lack of supernatural explanations explaining anything, this threshold should be very high. Arguably, the very notion of a supernatural cause may be incoherent, since there is nothing to suggest we've ever come across any causal process for any event that wasn't material and directly or indirectly observable by the senses.
    – user62907
    May 4, 2023 at 8:53

Is there something a little artificial about 'miracles'?

That depends on your metaphysical presuppositions.

To believe in a miracle (IEP) is an affirmation of faith and presumes the worldview of the faithful. The language itself is a sign of religious thinking and indicates divine agency. So, reason generally admits three approaches to interpreting the concept of miracle:

  1. Miracles in the general sense are possible because supernatural agency and belief in a god or gods is real, actual, and appropriate.
  2. Miracles are an illusion of thinking since there is no supernatural, there are no god or gods, and religious belief in such matters is misguided.
  3. It is simply unknown or unknowable whether miracles are real or mere illusion.

The general and imperfect three terms that are given for these broad positions in philosophical discourse are supernaturalism, naturalism (SEP), and the last one is some form of agnosticism or radical skepticism. Those who believe in the supernaturalism, say a theologian may have their methods for proving miracles, such as the process the Catholic Church has in place, and those who believe in naturalism have their methods for disproving miracles.

So, to an atheist, miracles are entirely artificial, because there are no supernatural causes to cause them in the first place, and somehow, through interpretation or direct action, people are responsible for them. To a faithful member of the Catholic church, a genuine miracle, such as a eucharistic miracle (indeed, transubstantiation might be taken as something as a bit of a reoccurring miracle in principle), is the work of God and not artificial at all.

If miracles seem artificial to you, then you're probably in the camp with those of us who hold claims to the supernatural suspect. But it's arguable the vast majority of people on Earth right now would accept miracles as possibly non-artificial. And that's a fact.

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