Sunday, January 30, 2011

David Hume's "Of Miracles": A Summary

Unfortunately, we can't see everything that goes on everywhere all the time to verify it for ourselves. That would be really convenient, but it's just not possible. So we have to rely on the testimony of others to verify things we haven't seen for ourselves. How do we actually know Charlie Sheen is a bro king? We didn't witness him having sex with porn stars and partying for 36 straight hours for ourselves - maybe that never actually happened. Still, in the face of zero denials and 24/7 news coverage, it's pretty hard not to believe - the evidence overwhelmingly supports the Charlie Sheen is a Fucking G Hypothesis, and it's perfectly reasonable to believe it based on all that. It turns out, though, we have the same rule for everything, even the laws of nature. How do we that gravity causes rocks to fall to the ground when they're dropped? Because every single person in history who has ever dropped a rock on Earth reports that it fell. Everyone. No exceptions. Gravity, magnetism, speed of light, we know all that shit because we've seen it, and everyone swears they see it too - that's how laws of nature are discovered. It's that simple.

Of course, not everything is universally agreed upon. Did OJ Simpson really kill Nicole? Well, I mean, the evidence seems pretty compelling to all of us out here, but the 12 people whose opinion really mattered, who really got treated to the full exposition of the evidence, said they weren't sure. So we can't say outright, "He absolutely killed that bitch." At best we can say, "Probably. He probably absolutely killed that bitch." Really, we should say, "Maybe. Maybe he absolutely killed that bitch." We have to weigh the evidence and the testimony, just as with any claim - we can only believe a claim insofar as the evidence favors it over its denial. Sometimes, it's just barely.

Sometimes people claim even crazier shit than, "OJ is innocent." What could possibly be crazier than that? Fucking miracles. Occasionally someone insists that somewhere, for some period of time, the laws of nature stopped working and something absolutely batshit insane happened, like the sun danced in the sky or a bro rose from the dead, and he expects you to take him at his word. "No, seriously, bro, I swear. It fucking happened. I saw it!" as if you don't have the right to be incredulous at such a fucking outlandish claim. And then he gets pissed off at you for not believing him - "How could you know? You weren't there! You didn't see it!" So then you have to put on the patient gloves and kindly explain why he should get the fuck out of your face. "Okay dipshit, look. There's a ton of shit I haven't seen. In fact, there's a ton of shit *no one* has seen, like a man coming back from the dead. So you'll excuse me if I look for alternate causes when everyone in the world has, for thousands of years, reported with just about 100% accuracy - 'dead people: still fucking dead' and then suddenly you claim that maybe a hundred of you saw something different."

After all, I only know that everyone everywhere has stayed dead because we all agree that's true. I only know the sun doesn't fucking dance because I've seen it do the exact same thing every day of my life: not fucking dance. So has every single person in the world. It's like we've repeated this experiment billions of times, and now you're telling me that one bro saw something different? It's you against every single person in history. Is it possible you were deceived or mistaken? Doesn't that seem more likely? The evidence doesn't look good, champ.

But what if it's true? What if it really did happen? What would it take to render a miracle probable? Look, I'm all about the possibility that the future won't be exactly like the past - I've built my entire career on the idea - but again, it doesn't look good. So far, no miracle has even close to enough people testifying for it, much less trustworthy people. You say a hundred people witnessed the miracle? Funny how that miracle would entirely confirm the religious beliefs of all hundred of them - what a strange coincidence! Besides, people want to be fooled. They love believing in the supernatural, in shit that seems impossible. Maybe it's not a miracle that Jesus appeared in your ham sandwich - maybe it's just that, given all the ham sandwiches made in history, one of them was bound to look sort of like a guy in flowing robes with long hair eventually. Some people refuse to accept reason and leave their superstitions behind, but that doesn't mean I should have to believe their bullshit.

Plus, have you ever noticed how the more civilized we get, the fewer miracles get reported? It's not strange that none of the crazy shenanigans from the Old Testament happen anymore - it makes prefect sense, really. I guess I could see how you might think a bunch of people dying suddenly is the wrath of some gods, until you learn about germs. Do you think it's strange that the very earth shakes beneath your feet? It's called plate tectonics, bitch, get a taste. Those are the opposite of miraculous, it turns out - it's the laws of nature acting whether we like it or not. It's never long before we come up with ways to actually explain things in accord with everything else, but until then we have thousands of years of literature about miracles to put up with, and thousands of people who prefer to believe that literature than everyone else on the planet, and their own experiences besides.

Except we have a bunch of different literature about miracles. So not only do people who believe in miracles disagree with people who don't, they disagree with people who believe in other miracles. Look, if you want to believe that you saw a guy rise from the dead and no one else did, that's one thing. But you're telling me that you saw a bro rise from the dead, but that someone else in the Middle East making the same claim is obviously a liar and a heretic? Why the fuck should I believe you but not him? Every religion is outweighed by the denial of every other religion, and everyone else in history.

You can't prove religion via miracles, because you can't prove miracles. Your complete suspension of reason in favor of faith is your business, but if you try to 'prove' your religion based on reason, I'm going to embarrass you. Seriously bro, your continued faith is really the only miracle I can believe in, since it violates the very laws of nature and reason more flagrantly than any dancing sun could. 

Want more?

You can read the original 'On Miracles' online on Wikisource.


  1. Bravo!!! Seriously Bro, you keep getting better and better.

  2. That was awesome. Good one, bro.

  3. Hume was either blind or an idiot. Every morning he could observe how sun goes up. How is that not a miracle? Since his definition of miracle is flawed, everything based on that definition is wrong.

  4. Hume is fucking righteous.

    How is the sun coming up a miracle? I mean, first of all, the sun doesn't even come up. The Earth fucking spins and we're whipped around on its surface, so that half the time we're facing away from the sun.

    Sure, if you're willing to define miracles as any event whatso-fucking-ever that makes you feel inspired, there's plenty of bloody miracles. But then, by that standard boobs are the most fucking miraculous thing in my life.

    In order for miracles to serve as evidence for supernatural forces, they have to actually be supernatural. As in, outside of nature. As in, fucking miraculous. I mean, what the fuck, seriously? Am I supposed to take the fact that the sun rises as evidence that it's being pushed across the sky by a giant invisible dung beetle? Or maybe it's a flaming chariot?

    Grow the fuck up and join us in the 21st century, dude.

  5. "Giant beetle" is just as plausible explanation as gravity. Have you ever seen mr. Gravity moving shit around? You've just seen shit moving, that could easily be God or at least will of God.

    If people would just accept Jesus Christ in their hearts and stop worrying about specifics of God's will, world would be much nicer place.

  6. @ Stuart Andrews:
    Boobs are miracles.

  7. I think the funny thing about religious people is that they always pick fights with atheists and then atheists get blamed for starting it. I've never met one atheist trying to impose their views on anyone else unless it was in retaliation. That was aimed at dd, please evolve and join us. Best summary by far though IMO. 5/5

  8. I love your explanations. So many Philosophers I thought were full of crap are turning out to have really interesting ideas, at least seen through your lens.

  9. The tide goes in. The tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. Miracle. Fact.

  10. @Kevin

    I really hope you're joking, because that's just the applied laws of nature, while a miracle is by definition, an exception to the laws of nature.

  11. You are fucking awesome.

  12. If there was or wasn't a creator, how would you know unless shown proof? You really think we have evolved to such a great degree that we can disprove books of history? Because let me tell you, we weren't there when these events were written down on parchment. However, we are here today to discuss these books and go out of our way to disprove them. Every once and a while, take a step back and think about why it is so valuable for our "evolved 21st century minds" to disprove this literature that has been past down for thousands of years, and followed by billions. Gravity is real because everyone testifies that it is. Well faith is real, for the same reasons. And if you wanted to know if god was real or not, ask the billions of people who went to their graves believing in him. Brownage.

  13. @Exhausted: He's fucking quoting Bill O'Reilly if I'm not mistaken, of course he's fucking joking.

  14. @Beatingu

    Everyone agrees about gravity, everyone does not agree about God. And you have no idea what billions of people believed.

    It's valuable for our "evolved 21st century minds" because people can/do pervert religion to steal and kill.

    Billions of people went to their graves because of differences in religion.

  15. dd,

    Supposing that everything we see, gravity, force, mass, and other everyday things with perfectly reasonable explanations are all works of "god". Furthermore let's assume that all of our hypothesis for what governs the interactions between objects in our physical universe to be inaccurate, "god" controls all interactions. We would then be left with a higher being who allows deadly weapons to work, orchestrates natural disasters that leave hundreds of thousands homeless or dead, and let us utilize atomic energy for the destruction of cities and the immolation of thousands. If this omnipresent, all seeing, all controlling "god" is who you praise, then that is your own choice. But please, please do not tell me what possibly fictional character I need to accept into my life in order to make the world a "nicer place"


    You suggest that we do not challenge the books of history. So, then you perpetuate the idea that slavery is acceptable (Leviticus 25:44-46). I think many people the world around would agree that it is only through challenging these ancient dogmas that we have been allowed to advance as humans. Surely we could find passages condoning execution for adultery, and many more things that would be seen as flagrantly unjust today. You may argue that what I reference is in the old testament and things are different in the new testament. Then the logical conclusion is that just as things in the new testaments contradict the old it is our duty to examine the books of history ourselves and refine them again.

  16. Listen Bro, this summary was real legit. But as for all you religion haters out there you really need to stop thinking that because people believe in religion they are some how less evolved than you. I do not care if you dont believe in religion, but do not belittle someone else because of their beliefs. If you do they are going to say something just like you would. Religion and miracles are wonderful things to believe in, and sometimes there is concrete evidence for them such as an incorruptible body. That is a person who dies but their body does not decay, an example would be St. Bernadette of Lourdes. She died in 1879 but her body is perfectly preserved and on display in France. Not every miraculous thing is going to make sense, that is what faith is for.

  17. heres a question, what defines a force of nature? what's to say God isn't a force of nature? As far as the bible explains, God is a huge fucking uberforce of ultranature.
    And in response to joe's response to dd, yes, God lets all this shit happen, this really damn ugly shit, and if you think about it, you can come up with a lot of possible reasons why, at least, I can. God could be testing us, he could let it happen because he thinks of this life as an incredibly short period which decides whether you're ' thrown into the fire', or accepted into the kingdom of awesomesauce, he could let it happen because it helps us develop as a species, what are the lives of 100 people if it teaches us what we need to know in order to bring 1000's into heaven?

  18. Sorry, bro. Your overconfidence comes across as a little arrogant. When people are into love, wonder, and awe at creation, they begin to believe in miracles of some sort. And people who do aren't always as simple-minded and hateful as you make them out to be. If you believe in God, by definition you believe in the possibility of miracles, and there are plenty of reputable scientists who do. It all depends on your starting assumptions.