A Miracle, A Miracle!

The word “miracle” is actually a synonym for “wonder”, but in Latin: mirare, to wonder, also the root of words like admirable, mirror and so forth. Now, when “wonder” is used to describe an occurrence, as in Signs and Wonders, this is actually an elision for “an event at which people wonder”. It is not the actual occurrence that makes people wonder, but their prior belief that the event is in some way worthy of wonder; that is, their attitudes and expectations. To take a hoary example, an eclipse is a wonder unless you know what it is. To the child and the idiot, everything is wondrous, which may be very pleasant for them, but ought not constitute a religious guideline to the rest of us.

Whenever we hear that the odds against something happening are astronomical, we should remember that the odds against any given event, if measured in the right (or wrong) way, are astronomical. Imagine statisticians meeting in the year 1600 to discuss the probability that you, Dear Reader, should come to be. Let them list your various characteristics, and assign numbers to the likelihood of a creature that possessed all of them coming into existence four hundred years down the line. The chances of this happening are so minimal that we can say the thing is impossible – and yet behold, here you are. And so on with all of us, and everything else that happens. Any actual configuration of the world has, so to speak, defeated billions of alternative configurations in order to come about. Our world is one huge statistical impossibility.

This being so, to credit each and every event to the direct intervention of God is at least a consistent position, but selecting a few improbabilities to be designated “wonders” and proof of such divine intervention is not.

Posted on April 28, 2009 at 10:07 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion And Conceptual Muddle

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