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?

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  • 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.

  • 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.