In Defense of David Hume, Part 4: Hume's Arguments are Not "Mathematically Fallacious" Nor An "Abject Failure"

Critics are saying Hume's arguments against miracles are "mathematically fallacious" per William Lane Craig, Timothy McGrew, Lydia McGrew, John Earman and some others. The point of their criticism is that Hume didn't factor God's existence into the evidence for or against miracles. But when apologists do so the low probabilities of miracles (by definition) can be brought up to being probable after all, because with God all things are possible. Okay. But this isn't a fair criticism. At all!

Let's back up. What is mathematically fallacious about saying we must proportion our beliefs according to the strength of the evidence? Hume said that. Where the evidence isn't decisive we must suspend judgment. Hume said that too. In other words, we should think exclusively according to the probabilities. How can that be fallacious, mathematically or otherwise? It's just good sound sense. The reason apologists attack Hume is because he was right and they are wrong, and that's it. For if there was good strong objective evidence that supported their miracle beliefs they would tout Hume's praises. You know it. I know it. They should know it.

Now let's go deeper. Whatever inconsistencies you might think are in Hume's essay on miracles, his main contention is this concluding maxim: "Therefore we may establish it as a maxim, that no human testimony can have such force as to prove a miracle, and make it a just foundation for any such system of religion." (#98)

What Hume is aiming at throughout chapter 10 of his Enquiries is his twofold contention, not only that testimonial evidence for miracles is never sufficient enough to accept a miracle claim, but also that miracles cannot be the foundation of a religion. [Hume's targeted religion is Christianity, which requires a creator, revealer and sustainer god.] In other words, the testimonial evidence for miracles cannot show that this god exists and his religion is the true one, and by extension, other religions as well.

So Christian, just tell us where you start, other than from birth and childhood inside a largely Christian culture. If you want us to believe in your specific god and his religion then you have to present us with sufficient objective evidence for it. Where is that evidence? If you start by arguing the case for your god's existence first, then that's one thing, and Hume debunked this in his Dialogues. But if you start by arguing the case for miracles first, then that's another thing, and Hume debunked that in chapter 10 of his Enquiries. In this later case:

If you use Bayesian math to assess biblical miracles apart from god's existence, then you must do what you say you'll do by excluding god's existence from your calculations. But if you did what you say you do, god cannot factor in them to bring the low probability of a miracle up to a probability.
If your claim is that miracles provide sufficient objective evidence that your god exists and his religion is true, you cannot use your god in calculating the probability of any miracle. Furthermore, and this is very important, you cannot subsequently call Hume's arguments "mathematically fallacious" or an "Abject Failure." For if your claim is that the evidence for miracles provides sufficient objective evidence that your god exists and his religion is true, then your Bayesian calculations cannot allow god or his religion into any calculations of whether one should believe in his miracles. For the evidence on behalf of miracles is supposed to show your god exists and his religion is the true in the first place.

Please, at this season, if what I do here is important or helpful consider donating, as it really does help, every little bit.