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I recall a working definition of a miracle that went along the lines of "a miracle is an event where the only naturalistic explanation behind it is less probable or plausible than the event itself". I think this works nicely, as there are many miracles that seem to defy all plausibility and probability, yet the various naturalistic explanations are usually very simple and probable - perhaps it could be considered a variant on Occam's Razor in that sense. I can't remember where it comes from, however. Scarlet A.pngmoral 15:27, 24 July 2010 (UTC)

I'm probably being dim but I can't quite get my brain around this definition - but that could be the bottle of white wine. I'm trying to work out how one would get the numbers which would allow you to differentiate in a probabilistic manner between the event and the explanation of the event.
Anyway, the event - the "miracle" (or the description of the alleged event?) - would have to have a certain probability which would have to be worked out somehow. How? Then the only naturalistic explanation would have to be given a seperate probability? Can you give a probability to an explanation in this case? Especially if it's the only possible naturalistic explanation?
so, how would one apply this to winning the lottery,I expect this one to be easy abiogenesis, Jesus walking on water, the virgin birth and the continued survival to Conservapedia? On the other hand my knowledge of maths is quite limited and this all may be really easy. So I'd be interested to learn.--BobSpring is sprung! 16:25, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
It's not really anything that can be quantified like that, so perhaps "probability" is the wrong word if you're going to take it at face value. It's more getting at the fact that in order to be a proper miracle, the only possible natural explanation needs to be really really fucking outlandish. Kind of like some oddity of the animal kingdom that can't be explained by evolution, unless evolution occurred under rules that are completely implausible. Or a sudden eclipse where we have to assume that the moon suddenly sped up naturally. So this "prayer cured my cancer" stuff is suddenly less impressive because we know natural remission rates and that the disease just healed on its own, by hte body's own natural healing processes (in a completely non-alternative woo sense) isn't as outlandish as the idea that cancer can just disappear like that. Scarlet A.pngmoral 01:38, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
OK. Reading it I had thought that the idea was to use real values to arrive at a real conclusion. But I see it's not like that.--BobSpring is sprung! 09:34, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, it's a lot more qualitative. But I think it illustrates a very good standard for miracles. I was prompted to remember it by a friend who went to a proper godbothering conference where they were sharing stories about x, y and z (details don't matter, just the usual stuff) and my first responses was literally "wow, that's the standard you have these days for miracles? Christ it's gone downhill since the feeding of the five thousand." Scarlet A.pngmoral 10:27, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
I'm sure they'll beatify someone soon enough on the basis of "fucking magnets" - David Gerard (talk) 12:15, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
But on the other hand if it's not really useful for evaluating things on a a practical level ... well .... then it's not really useful. It's sort of a symbol of something which could be useful if it actually worked.--BobSpring is sprung! 20:29, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
It doesn't have to be ultimately quantifiable with a number for it to provide a use as a definition. In fact, the vast, vast majority dictionary definitions don't have numbers or quantifiable statements attached to them. Scarlet A.pngmoral 20:46, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
But the way you wrote this: "a miracle is an event where the only naturalistic explanation behind it is less probable or plausible than the event itself" surely suggests that both the event and the explanation should be quantifiable. That was the basis of my original question. Perhaps it should be rephrased - something which I think you sort of acknowledged above,--BobSpring is sprung! 20:54, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
Well, I can't remember where I got it from or the exact wording. If I was to substitute "probable" for "plausible" or perhaps butter up the language further, then you'd probably be happier. In the context of a fairly throwaway comment about how miracles are usually a bit shit, they're practically synonymous. Scarlet A.pngmoral 20:59, 25 July 2010 (UTC)