In the discussion thread to “Responding to comments from ‘Are self-described skeptics reliable to evaluate miracle claims?‘” Jeff asked “what further criteria have you added that could distinguish between divine and non-divine intelligent intervention?”
“Context. Isn’t this obvious? If I pray for a healing and a healing occurs which other intelligence should I appeal to in order to explain the healing?”
Well it looks like I was wrong about one thing: This isn’t obvious, at least to some people. Jeff replied:
“No it’s not obvious.
“Let’s assume that God exists. Furthermore, let’s say the design filter is valid, and that in a given case we conclude that intervention by an intelligent agent is the best explanation for a healing.
“Does it therefore follow that divine intervention is the best explanation for the healing? No, it most certainly does not. There are other possible agents we could appeal to as explanations–Satan, technologically advanced aliens, the “gods” of the Matrix simulation we might be in, etc. It doesn’t do any good to say that God is the most intuitively appealing option of the bunch, because theodicy has made it clear that–assuming God exists–our intuitions about divine behavior are utterly disconnected from the reality of divine behavior. So for the God explanation to be in any meaningful sense a good explanation, we’d need some way of understanding and modeling the reality of divine behavior.”
I know what you might be thinking. Jeff is sounding a bit crazy here. But let’s not dismiss this analysis prematurely. We can see the value of Jeff’s analysis as we apply it to other circumstances:
Imagine that a half hour after Mr. Smith has left for work Mrs. Smith comes into the kitchen on Friday morning ready to make her morning coffee. And there on the counter she sees a dozen roses with a card which declares “This is just to say.” Mrs. Smith smiles at the wry allusion to her favorite poem by William Carlos Williams. “Roses Mr. Smith?” she says to no one in particular. “You think of everything!”
Mrs. Smith has clearly decided that Mr. Smith is the best explanation for the roses. Does it therefore follow that Mr. Smith is the best explanation for the roses? No, it most certainly does not. There are other possible agents we could appeal to as explanations, Satan, technologically advanced aliens, the “gods” of the Matrix simulation we might be in, etc.
Poor Mrs. Smith. If only she had Jeff to set her straight.