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Thought for the Day: I am an Orthodox Jew Because I Can't Muster Enough Blind Faith for Anything Else

I saw a nice article on the internet concerning why there is insufficient evidence to believe that miracles have ever happened.  Not that miracles haven't happened, just insufficient evidence.  Sounds nice and scientific and rational, eh?  Let's examine that conclusion.

The structure of the argument goes like this.  Suppose your doctor tells you that you have tested positive for a certain condition.  He also tells you that the test gives false positive reports one out of a 1,000 times.  Sounds good, right?  Not if the condition itself appears in the general population only once in 1,000 people.  Now you chances of having the condition are more like 50-50; a false positive is just as likely as having the condition itself.  Tests are only valuable if the false positive rate is much lower than the random chance rate.  Now comes our skeptic's punch line.  Even if we have really, really good witnesses who are only wrong one out of a million times, the chance of the miracle is much lower!  The nature of miracles, obviously, is that the chance of occurring in nature by chance is tiny; otherwise we'd ascribe them to natural causes.

Our skeptic stands there very smug happy that he doesn't have to have a philosophical argument.  Black on white; no evidence.  We answer him as follows: First, we agree that there is a lack of evidence for the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc miracles; they all had only one (or a few) witnesses and the miracles had no particular affect on their lifestyle... just a cool event.  Our miracle of ma'amad Har Sinai, on the other hand was witnessed by (conservatively) over 2,000,000 people.  And this wasn't just a cool event; these witnesses had to throw out dishes, write t'fillin, prepare for Shabbos, etc.  If normal witnesses err once in a million times, then these witnesses are probably at least 100 times better.  Oh yeah... and there were two million of them, which now makes the probability of false positive one in a hundred million to the two million power.  That is what's known to mathematicians as "Dante's snowball" and in the OTB circles by its more colloquial name, "less than a snowball's chance in a very warm place."  Think our skeptic would change his mind?

You may have noticed that I just pulled numbers out of the air.  That brings us to the second point: We don't care.  Miracles are no proof.  The Rambam says in the eighth chapter of Hilchos Y'sodei haTorah that even the coolest miracles could be sleight of hand, or even real magic.  Miracles are proof of nothing except that the miracle worker is good at special effects.  We are the original "show me" folk.  We didn't have two million witnesses to ma'amad Har Sinai... we had two million participants to ma'amad Har Sinai.

Not enough evidence to believe in miracles?  100%  That's why I'm not religious.  I need facts.  I need Torah.


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