Friday, 4 November 2011

Miraculous irrationality


Last Saturday's Unbelievable? was a discussion between Gary Habermas, Christian, and Geoff Campos, atheist, recorded during the Bethinking apologetics conference at Westminster Chapel, as part of William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith Tour. I listened with mixed feelings, as there had been a brief possibility that the three Pauls of Skepticule Extra could have been the ones in conversation with Gary Habermas, rather than Geoff Campos. In the event I think Geoff gave a good account of himself and his position with regard to the question at issue — which was, "Is it rational to believe in miracles?"

Nevertheless I found myself at times disagreeing with everyone in the conversation. A good deal was said about Geoff's stance on the status of the "supernatural", and Justin Brierley — moderating the discussion — made the inevitable point about denial of supernature closing off options, suggesting that perhaps Geoff was being closed-minded if he did not accept that supernatural events were even possible.

This is an invidious position to hold in the face of theistic miracle claims, but I think it's a result of not defining one's terms. Though the definition of "supernatural" was explored, I don't recall anyone clarifying what was meant by "rational". For an event to be rationally believed in, that event must conform to reason and logic. Its causes and effects must be capable of description in rational terms, and those causes and effects must lie entirely in the physical realm — because the physical realm of causes and effects is the only realm in which rationally observed phenomena have been verified to occur.

So the question posed by Justin for this show contained the seeds of its own irrationality. It's not rational to believe in miracles, because by definition miracles are effects without rational causes.


Streaming audio here:
http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={B9C493B0-276B-492F-82B7-C2C5D5F06EFA}

Download mp3 here:
http://media.premier.org.uk/unbelievable/f4ac58fb-9cf3-4ad7-aa49-1392546b275f.mp3
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