Updated July 2019
Divine Intervention: Undeniable, but What Difference does it Make? by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
“Divine Intervention: Undeniable – But What Difference Does It Make?” at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion Conference at St. Anne’s College Oxford (July 13-17, 2014)
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Divine Intervention: Undeniable,
But What Difference does it Make?
Denial of divine intervention in the physical order oversteps the limits to human reason as does its affirmation. Kant’s discussion of miracles acknowledges that it is impossible to prove or disprove a miracle not only, as Hume maintained, because the empirical evidence is too limited and by definition denies duplication but also because the judgment whether or not a miracle has occurred is an a priori synthetic judgment of cause that, as with all causal explanations, the observer must add to the phenomena. We can determine a cause only in reflecting judgment stimulated by its effects, and the appropriateness of our determination hinges on the consequences for the totality of our experience and understanding. When it comes to the “domain” of theoretical reason, those consequences have to do with the causal explanation fitting into a coherent totality of physical laws. Here, a miracle by definition is suspect (even if unprovable) because it claims to be an exception to physical law. More destructive is the consequence for the “domain” of practical reason. Miracles would shift humanity’s focus from “doing the right thing because it is right” to “obsequious pursuit of divine favor” out of mere self-interest.