17. God Best Explains the Miracles in People’s Lives

I’ve nearly finished my series of my two cents on the book God or Godless? If you haven’t read all of my post yet, go back to the first post to get a sense of what I’m doing. Or don’t, it’s all the same.

Unlikely things happen. Very unlikely things happen less often. Near-impossible things still happen occasionally. The Christian in the book shares with us a story. But before I share the story with you, I want to account for why he considers this a miracle and not sheer chance.

The first thing you look for is for an event to be highly improbable. The second thing you look for is for an event to be specific to your context. For example, getting birthday cards on your birthday is specific to your context, but not what one might call improbable, and is therefore not a miracle. A man breaking into your house in the next two minutes, stripping down to a banana hammock and wearing a fruit hat while singing “Step Right Up” by Tom Waits is very unlikely indeed. But it’s not (or, at least, wasn’t until I wrote this) specific to anything, thus is also not a miracle.

His story is of a Pastor and Professor of Biblical Studies (read: immediate bias and possible, even if accidental, mis-telling of the story) who put his profile in to an adoption agency so that a mother can select said profile and offer them their unwanted child. His profile was with the agency for about 18 months. He gave up and went in for a private adoption. When his private adoption looked good, he phoned the original adoption agency to ask them to take his profile out of circulation. Before the agency got this message they phoned his with great news: a mother has chosen his profile and wanted to offer him the child being put up for adoption. It is specific to a context, but it is expected.

To say again, a man who signed up to adopt a child was offered an opportunity to adopt a child after a long wait. That is not highly improbable. In fact, you sign up to an adoption agency because this is exactly what you would expect.

If someone deals you a five card hand in a game of poker, each hand has a probability of 1 in 311,875,200 (1/52 x 1/51 x 1/50 x 1/49 x 1/48). That is highly improbably. If your hand is a royal flush in Spades that is very specific; that is the highest scoring hand in poker. Is that a miracle? (For the record, the chances of a royal flush in any suit are 1 in 62,375,040.)

Once you attach a numerical probability to a thing, you can know how often to expect it. So, being highly improbable is actually a bad criterion; these things still happen.

The best explanation of miraculous things is still blind luck (including back luck). ‘The universe is big and old and rare things happen all the time’, according to Lawrence Krauss.

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