What are Miracles?
There would seem to be truth in Bob Koepp's comment in the last posting when he wrote: "Patients should not be discouraged from hoping for miracles, but they should be given to understand that miracles are not the province of medicine. Doctors don't know how to perform miracles, and they don't know how to create the conditions in which miracles might occur. Whatever doctors or the rest of us mere mortals might have it in our power to bring about, it's not miracles." Thus physicians can control only factors related to the laws of nature. This view of Bob's would be consistent with that in an article titled "Miracles: What Is a Miracle?" which I discovered at the website of
The Global Oneness Committment where this and other aspects of spirituality and religion are described. Here is the brief article:
A miracle can be defined as an event contrary to, but not a violation of, a law of nature. If 'violation' is not being used in a technical sense, then a miracle can still be described as a violation of a law of nature - where 'violation' would mean something like "contrary to what could have happened had nature been the only force operative." An event may be contrary to a law of nature without thereby invalidating it, if non-natural forces cause it. This follows from the fact that laws of nature do not describe, nor are they intended to describe, the logically possible. They only describe the physically possible. Even if the laws of nature were logically necessary, there could be events contrary to those laws if it is assumed that the scope of those laws is limited. Apart from belief in miracles, one is left with a system of beliefs that has had and will continue to have enormous significance - good and bad - for people's lives. However, for the majority of persons for whom these beliefs have that significance, religion could no longer function in the way it does if they became convinced of the falsity of their beliefs. What one is practicing may be similar in significant respects to the religious tradition, but one will not be practicing that religion, nor will one properly be regarded as a believer. Prayers are empowered by a clear mind and heart, and purity of intention. With clarity, our consciousness aligns with higher consciousness, where the forces of nature and laws of creation operate according to divine order. Understanding Miracles"Those things are properly called miracles which are done by divine agency beyond the order commonly observed in nature ( praeter ordinem communiter observatum in rebus )." A miracle, metaphysically speaking, is never a mere coincidence - no matter how extraordinary or significant. If you miss a plane and the plane crashes, that is not a miracle unless God intervened in the natural course of events causing you to miss the flight! A miracle is a supernaturally (divinely) caused event - an event (ordinarily) different from what would have occurred in the normal ('natural') course of events. It is a divine overriding of, or interference with, the natural order. As such, it need not be extraordinary, marvelous or significant, and it must be something other than a coincidence, no matter how remarkable - unless the 'coincidence' itself is caused by divine intervention (i.e., not really a coincidence at all). Miracles, however, are ordinarily understood to be not just products of divine intervention in the natural order, but extraordinary, marvelous and significant as well. Thus, Aquinas says a miracle is "beyond the order commonly observed" and Dr. Eric Mascall says that the word 'miracle' signifies in Christian theology a striking interposition of divine power by which the operations of the ordinary course of nature are overruled, suspended, or modified. Technically speaking miracles are not violations of such laws but instead are positive instances of those laws. This is because laws of nature do not, and are not meant to, account for or describe events with supernatural causes - but only those with natural causes. Once some event is assumed to have a supernatural cause it is, by that very fact, outside the scope of laws of nature altogether and so cannot violate them. Only if one disregards the possibility of supernatural causes, can known exceptions to laws possibly be regarded as violations of laws. However, in such a case there might be better reason to suppose that the exception simply shows what was taken to be a law is not really a law, rather than, the exception is a violation of a genuine law of nature. If a miracle is not a violation of a law of nature, then how is it to be defined in relation to laws of nature?
What physicians have left for them to attempt to create a miracle would be to pray with and for the patient to have a miracle occur. "Praying with the patient" is that a role for the physician? .. ahh! But that is another topic for ethical discussion, later. ..Maurice.