Miracles Case Study

As a follow-up to this morning’s post about miracles and skepticism, I wanted to share an example of an extraordinary evidence that is hard to account for.  According to a video released online, China recently appeared to have two suns overhead.  Scifi site io9 asked a few astronomers to make sense of the data, but the scientists were semibaffled.  One scientist said:

“This is not a common optical phenomenon that we’re seeing here. I’m asking myself if this is an artifact of the lens, but if that were the case – if it’s reflections of the lens elements – then the images would move in relation to each other as the camera moves. But that doesn’t happen. You would have to assume it is particles of ice or something in the atmosphere aligned in such a way that they would refract the sunlight at that very small angle, but only in one direction. It would require some fairly peculiar characteristics.”

The other scientist was also at a loss for an explanation.  Both seemed fairly confident that an explanation existed and that an extra sun did not suddenly and temporarily come into existence over China.

So how reasonable do you find that conclusion?  As my earlier post made clear, I would trust the conclusion of these scientists and accept the assumption that the video was a fraud or that there was a natural, if uncommon explanation.  Do you agree?  Would you be more or less likely to be confused or unsettled if the maker of the video claimed he saw a divine apparition at the same time?

Your religion... is it bigger than a breadbox?
Filing Down the Sharp Edges of Failure [Pope Francis Bookclub]
Books that Change the Way You Think [Radio Readings]
Mind Continuing this Argument in a Counterfactual World?
About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011 and lives in Washington DC. She works as a news writer for FiveThirtyEight by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00008144506750160156 Matthew

    Greg Ganssle used to say that a characteristic of any plausible miracle is a context that makes sense in a theological narrative. So Moses parting the sea is makes much more sense as a possible miracle than two suns showing up in China for no apparent reason.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00008144506750160156 Matthew

    Which also means that most plausible miracles make it easy to distinguish which religion they correspond to. So if you ever see Mary in your toast you'll know it's the moment to convert.