Monday, October 15, 2012

The Epistemic Utility of Miracles

By definition, a miracle lies beyond what the laws of nature can explain. In other words, something contrary to the laws of nature has to occur in order for something to be called a miracle. Suppose something marvelous occurs - you win the lottery right after reading my blog - which is something established contrary to our current understanding of the laws of nature. I mean really, what are the odds you'll win the lottery right after reading my blog? 

Today, whatever those odds are - we are talking about miracles, after all - you're going to win the lottery. This post is probably a sign of an upcoming miracle. You have two choices now: either accept that you are going to win the lottery and that it is a miracle, requiring supernatural explanation; or else set yourself up to lose and revise your understanding of the laws of nature. 

Presuming that you believe in miracles and therefore believe you have just as good a chance as anyone else of winning the lottery (said author feels exactly the same way), let's talk money here...

How much is a miracle worth? Do miracles have economic value? 

Even if miracles don't exist outside the (known) laws of nature, thinking that they do affects peoples' attitudes and behaviors toward the positive. When this happens, people are more productive, more cheerful, and more willing to help their fellow citizens. This type of behavior leads to positive, productive action, which has a value. 

Whether or not miracles are possible is not the concern of this post. The question is how do we value them? Can we trade them like commodities? To where should we outsource them? 

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