|Three miracles of St Zenobius|
Medical Miracles: Doctors, Saints and Healing in the Modern World.
Initially I was surprised to find the best case of which I am aware for the reality of miracles being provided by an atheist. Her particular faith is philosophical materialism, the main form of atheism of which I'm aware.
But should I be surprised? She believes that all phenomena are governed by natural laws and that miracles will one day be explained by yet to be discovered natural laws. There is no reality outside the realm of science. So this exclusively naturalistic reality must have created itself, existed before it existed. In this scenario anything could happen because the scenario is intrinsically irrational. A fried egg could appear in front of a group of atheists at any time without an eyebrow being raised. In fact there would be a lot of surprise and denial; but the surprise would be entirely illogical since in a reality where a universe creates itself before it exists and all phenomena are meaningless chance events, anything can happen at any time.
Atheists in effect share this view with pagans, who believe in multiple gods who compete with each other but who do not operate within a rational system. Within the Christian worldview miracles would be expected to occur less frequently and only when they serve some purpose. For example, Jesus cured a blind man to teach that the spiritually blind can be made spiritually aware by faith.
God would work through natural laws known and as yet unknown, leaving open the possibility of laws that exist outside the realm of logical investigation. In fact the medical miracles performed by Christ were all based on accelerating or reversing entirely natural processes, rather than bizarre ones such as causing a human limb to regrow. Restoring sight, for instance, meant reversing the process which led to blindness and this is repeatedly recorded in the New Testament; whereas limb regrowth would require a mechanism that exists only in certain reptiles and amphibians. No miracles of this nature are recorded in the manuscripts of the New Testament.
What about the non-medical miracles of Jesus, such as walking on water or calming the storm? This is where anyone up to date with physics and mathematics is in a better position to see how such things could happen than a 19th century scientist, providing we make the assumption that the universe was created not by itself before it existed but by an all powerful rational Creator.
Superstring theory, for instance, which looks like having a good chance of integrating the 4 forces of nature (electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear and weak nuclear) , invokes 10 dimensions – 9 of space, 1 of time. This compares with our 3 space dimensions (length, breadth and depth) plus 1 of time (along which cause and effect proceed). God would be able to use any number of dimensions to perform a miracle. It can be shown mathematically that a basketball can be turned inside out without tearing it by transferring it temporarily into 5 dimensions (4 of space, 1 of time).
In cosmology there is a theory which appears in the mainstream academic literature that our ‘reality’ is simply an illusory manifestation of a 2 dimensional hologram. What else could happen in such a reality I would not like to guess.
The Incarnation and the Resurrection are entirely plausible given the physics and the evidence written down in Koine Greek within a few decades of the events and 300 years before the Roman church was established.
Since the Enlightenment there had been an increasingly reductionist, left-brain centered view of our world which had made miraculous phenomena seem increasingly improbable. Now it is accepted that things are immeasurably stranger than was imagined at, say, the time of Darwin, when most people thought that a cell was no more complex than a blob of jelly and that the universe was just a great clockwork machine.
Our worldview has progressed a lot since then. The philosophy of David Hume (the no.1 anti-miracle man) has also been superseded and Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem, together with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, show indisputably that there are built-in limits to what can be investigated scientifically or even logically.
Now we accept, as standard, miraculous quantum events, such as the experimentally proven instantaneous propagation of a signal independent of distance (quantum entanglement), the Big Bang and cosmic fine tuning for the genesis of self-conscious beings. And time reversal is a common concept used in discussing elementary particles and the concept of a multidimensional reality is part of the currency of theoretical physics.
History from ancient man up to about 100 years ago can be viewed as a progression (via the Enlightenment) from a pre-rational age to a rational one. Now we are moving into a trans-rational age in which reason will be a powerful servant but not the master.
Author, 2077: Knights of Peace