Miracle Go

Originality (or at least, first recognised authorship) can often seem a cruel condition for laudation. Of course it receives that valuation because of the thankfully widespread notion that parroting or plagiarising are not activities of much worth. But seemingly nobody took into consideration the frustration which can ensue when one has developed a perfectly valid idea or argument which turns out to have been presented hundreds of years earlier by someone else. One could present such an idea or argument as originality-in-isolation, but one would be laughed down. No, the simple lack of standard originality condemns the no-less creative thinker to the status of nothing.

So here follows a strand of thought attributed to Hume. And no one else. Even those who had not heard of Hume before coming to the same conclusion.

I speak of miracles. I will not speak of whether miracles exist in terms of whether violations of the laws of physics are possible (or whether that is even a coherent idea), rather there is a more human consideration that should give any adherents of such events pause. However one wishes to define these events, their nature would seem to be of impossibilities under normal conditions, transgressions against expectation and understanding, and general showiness which in itself should have one thinking of a human source.

Miracles look like what we would expect of magic, or hugely advanced technology, though we are to understand them as neither (has anyone explained why divine acts are not magic…?). They are generally noteworthy overturnings of the natural order (though there are exceptions, Mr Aquinas and your herrings), which is to say they stand out to us as events that in some way defy the constitution of the universe.

So. What we have is something of a pivotal choice in where we place most of our confidence. Either that such events do happen, that at least in localised areas physical laws can be bent or broken, that in such cases there would normally be some kind of intention behind the event (an intention no one has any knowledge of), or that there may be a mistake occurring. It seems fair to assume that physical laws would be quite universal and stable, otherwise the uninterrupted billions of years required to produce, for example, you, would be hard to account for. But we don’t even need this assumption thanks to the second part of the above disjunction.

A mistake. Human perception consists of signals relayed from bits of meat and processed by a bag of lumpy water. It involves interpretation and assumption, is affected by the environment, internal and external. Differing levels of wakefulness or intoxication or emotion alter it. And, let us not forget, people lie. For countless reasons they lie. Are we really so unaware of the endless, manifest ways our perceptive faculties can fail us, and what a collective mass of calumny we are as a species, that we would ever think it may be the world which has apparently broken down in cases of ostensible miracles? Still, if you are the type to believe miracles, I’m sure this moves you not in the least.


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