In Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: The Interplay of Science, Reason, and Religion, Phil Dowe attempts to answer many controversial questions about religion and how it relates to science and reasoning. In the book, he shows how he believes that religion and science can co-exist in an interactive harmony. One topic he covers is the idea of miracles versus the laws of nature.
First, Dowe approaches the ideas of Hume about miracles. Hume tried to prove that miracles did not prove a rational basis for belief in God. He believed that degree of belief should correspond to the evidence. Due to the probability of a miracle occurring, there was very little evidence on which to base one's belief. Another factor that contributed to the lack of evidence was the testimony. When considering a miracle, according to Hume, one must not only consider how probable the event itself is, but also how reliable the testimony of the witnesses is. Even if there is enough evidence, one must then be able to prove it is a miracle. But what exactly is a miracle? Is it just something that goes against nature? That has happened before and not been considered a miracle. Is it something happening with perfect timing? That could be considered a coincidence. Is a miracle very unlikely? Is it impossible? Is it logical? Finally, Hume decided that the definition of a miracle was a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of a Deity. Once one has defined what a miracle is and what evidence is logical, one must apply the rules that Hume had. Rule one said that people can never rationally believe on the basis of testimony that a miracle has occurred. This means that if there was full proof for the miracle and full proof for the law of nature, nothing was proven, and it does not require belief or faith of any kind. In another case, there is less than full proof for the miracle and full proof for the law of nature, meaning there was no rational proof of the miracle. This is a problem, but even if it was not, a miracle would not be able to pass rule two--proving that it supported a religious claim. There is difficulty in proving both that the miracle occurred, and that it supported a religious claim.
Dowe's argument is quite solid. He shows that with Hume's rules, it is impossible to prove a miracle. Hume says that in order to be believable, something must be logical, but that miracles are not logical but believable. Just by showing that sentence, Dowe disproved Hume's ideas. He also shows that Hume could not prove religious claims. Not only does he disprove that one cannot prove a miracle or a religious claim, he shows that the miracles are not the important part of Christianity. Christians should not need miracles; they should be able to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead to save his children from eternal damnation, solely based on the gospel. Although the gospel is based on a miracle, modern-day Christians do not need to see for themselves proof that Jesus rose from the dead--the simple faith that he did is enough for God.
While Dowe's argument was quite solid, it was not without its weaknesses. The argument was very complex, so complex that many college students had a hard time understanding it. It was not very concise, so that the only readers who would read it would have had to be very serious and dedicated to reading it (or having to do it for a class). The manner in which his argument and Hume's argument were demonstrated made very little sense to people without strengths in reasoning and math. If there had been multiple ways of presenting the arguments, ones which appealed to those who learn better through examples and anecdotes, this writer would have gotten through the text a lot more easily. The more people that can get through the text, the more people would believe his argument, and his argument would be supported by many, giving it more creditability.
Overall, the argument was won by Dowe, who pointed out that the argument was pointless. Christianity does not revolve solely around miracles and proving them. If there were no miracles, a person's faith would have to be that much stronger in the Lord because there would be no signs. Many people concentrate too much on the miracles themselves, not on the God who performed such miracles.