Instigator / Pro

Miracle claims are unlikely to be true.


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Contender / Con

PRO will defend the position that miracle claims are unlikely to be true.

CON will defend that at least one miracle claim is likely to be true.

Miracles = a Divine intervention in the natural world

Round 1
I'll argue that it's miracle claims are unlikely to be true. Specifically, that any naturalistic explanation for a miracle claim is more probable than divine intervention. 

The prior probability of miracles is low.  
The laws of nature (physics, biology etc…) state that people stay dead, people cannot walk on water, and that people do not heal limbs. This puts a low prior probability to any miracle claim that says that people rise from the dead, walk on water, or heal limbs. 

Since any Naturalistic explanation confirms to the laws of nature, it does not have a low prior probability. 

Daily Experience disconfirms miracles. 
In our daily experience miracles don't occur, so this is some evidence against miracles. In general, prayers for divine intervention are not answered, and The Divine doesn't intervene on our lives. 

While prayers of healing that come true (for example, with a flu) could be from divine intervention, a naturalistic explanation has a higher prior probability.  

The probability of miracles ever happening is low, which means one should not believe they occur

I'd like to begin by thanking Solaris1 for accepting my request to debate him.

To counter his opening claims, the very nature of a miracle means that it is scientifically unexplainable. This is the definition of a miracle put forth by the American Heritage Dictionary, 5th edition here:

"An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God." [1]

So to claim that a miracle is improbable because it violates the laws of nature is basically to assume the definition of a miracle is wrong.

But, according to the debate rules, this does not matter anyways because all I have to do is prove that a single miracle is probable to have occurred. I do not have to prove it DID occur, or who made it occur, or even that it will occur again on command. I simply have to assert the probability that it occurred as probable. 

This being said, I shall open up with a verified news story of a boy who was dead for 45 minutes and then, after his mother prayed to God, was resurrected.

The EMTs had been performing CPR on him for 27 minutes with no success. According to the news report, his pulse did not appear until after the prayer and his heart then restarted. [2]

Dr. Garrett, who was one of the medical doctors presiding over the treatment, called the occurrence "a bonafide miracle." [3] [4]

It also appears the kid has suffered minor brain injury.

Now. Here is why this is a probable miracle:

1. According to Medline, the U.S. Government's official medical health resource for the general public, the brain dies after 5-6 minutes without oxygen. [5] The child was dead for 45 minutes, but was submerged in the icy water for 15 minutes. Yet now he is alive. This defies the medical consensus concerning brain death.

2. After 10 minutes of a lack of oxygen, 80% of all people will go into a coma. Additionally, there will be permanent, sustained serious brain damage in the vast majority of cases where these people go into a coma. [6] The 14-year-old boy did not go into a coma and did not sustain severe permanent brain damage 

Considering the extremely unlikely survival of this boy considering the known medical science, and considering the fact his rising from the dead comes after a prayer, I think this qualifies as a probable miracle.

[3] ibid
Round 2
We are using the definition that is stated in the description of the debate. I'll note for future debates to put a rule against using alternative definitions, but I thought that was assumed. Either way, I'll like to stick with the one I had. 

The News embellishes things
The News embellishes things, and can be unrealible
News stories are known to embellish things, this is widely known. It could be that the boy's heartbeat came back at around the same time as the mothers. 

Maybe he wasn't clinically dead for 45 minutes.  

This could be true, and that is what I shall propose as my explanation. Side note that we are basing this off of a news story and not medical records. Side note, young people can survive up to 30 minutes under freezing water[1]

Also, the news can flat out lie, just last month USA today emitted to fabricating 23 journal articles. [2] [3]. (Note that USA today has emitted this and removed them) I don't say this to attack USA today specifically, just to demonstrate that the news can be unreliable. Also note that Poylnter, one of my sources, is a fact checker, not news source. 

Improbability of miracles
Even though the explanation above is improbable, it's still more probable than a miracle, which defies laws of physics and our daily experience.

Though my explanation is improbable, it's more probable than a miracle. My explanation doesn't break the laws of nature, or defy our daily experience.

PRO has provided no evidence that USA Today fabricated the news story in question and has therefore committed the genetic fallacy.[1] Until con provides evidence that specific article was fabricated, then his argument fails based on lack of evidence.

PRO also did not dispute my claim that said event would qualify as a miracle according to his definition, therefore, PRO agrees that my claim, on the surface, could be qualified as a miracle for the purposes of this debate.

The Umich website provided no justification or evidence for their assertion that people submerged in icy water for 30 minutes have been known to survive. Untim such justification or evidence is asserted, the Umich website is an appeal to authority. [2]

On the contrary, both of the websites I cited as medical sources provided numerous studies and sources backing up their information. 

In a debate, the burden if proof is on the person who makes the claim. I have provided sufficient proof that the events happened, that the circumstances are extremely unprobable, and have therefore provider justification of a "miracle likely to be true." The USA Today article also has an associated video where the mother, doctor, and others give their accounts of events. [3] Additionally, two other news agencies also covered the story and interviewed the boy and others. [4] [5]

The presiding physicians exain how the boy's case is rare and one of the doctors even called the event a miracle. The burden of proof is now on PRO to prove the story was embellished and that a boy submerged in icy water is known to survive, as he has provided no evidence of either, besides a single, incited, unclarified reference from a college organ transplant center's website.

Round 3
"PRO has provided no evidence that USA Today fabricated the news story in question"

My point was that newspapers are not 100 percent accurate, and that this should be taken into account while we evaluate this claim. Like I said, I don't do this to attack the USA today specifically, just that in general, we should take the news with a grain of salt.

"PRO also did not dispute my claim that said event would qualify as a miracle according to his definition, therefore, PRO agrees"


"Umich website provided no justification or evidence for their assertion that people submerged in icy water for 30 minutes"

Is not a good bar of evidence. If we need sources for our sources, then we would have to provide an infinite series of sources. The explanation must end somewhere. 

Anyway, here's a source [1] that says that the 'dive reflex' found in mammals helps keep the brain alive underwater, by diverting oxygenated blood from other parts of the body to the brain. The fact that the kid was in cold water would magnify the effect. 

"The Umich website is an appeal to authority. "

All sources are though. You are appealing to the authorities when you post the news source. Sure, they have a video, but you are excepting that on their authority. 

"On the contrary, both of the websites I cited as medical sources provided numerous studies and sources backing up their information"

But could I say that those sources need sources as well? Which type of sources need additional sources? CON doesn't specify. 


PRO has provided no evidence the USA Today article was fabricated and admitted his attack on USA Today was based on a generalization rather than the specifics of the article. Therefore, PRO has conceded the article is factual. 

PRO has also violated basic standards for burden of proof, instead claiming a source is an authority in and of itself, regardless of whether evidence has been put forth or not. This violates basic evidentiary standards [1] [2] and therefore erroneously claims a source does not need to provide proof of its assertions.

Additionally, PRO has made a sweeping generalization that all sources are questionable, regardless of the type of evidence cited, upon citation alone, and has therefore reduced to absurdity [3] by using his source, which failed to provide any evidence for their claim, as a baseline for all sources and reduced the result to an absurd conclusion that all evidence is therefore questionable, regardless of the type of evidence  presented.

PRO has also claimed that any source cited is an Appeal to Authority, which violates the definition of an Authority in speech and debate, as per Merriam Webster's Dictionary definition 4c:

"an individual cited or appealed to as an expert." [7]

To assume a statement is true simply because an expert cites it, and not because the expert cited numerous forms of evidence and studies for their position, thereby satisfying the Burden of Proof requirement, is to Appeal to Authority. [4]

My sources provided multiple citations for their assertions on brain damage, unlike the Umich article, which did not provide any evidence for their assertion, and thereby did not satisfy the Burden of Proof.

PRO has also asserted I appealed to authority by citing a news story. This is erroneous. I cited a news story that satisfied the Burden of Proof. It provided witness testimony, the testimony of doctors and physicians, and therefore satisfies the Burden of Proof. I did not simply assert the news story was correct without evidence. I also provided other sources, including video interviews, that prove the article was factual.

Ironically, PRO has claimed his Livescience article provides proof that the dive reflex keeps a child alive in icy water. The story sought to provide an explanation as to how a child can survive in icy water, using an example of a different teenager who survived 42 minutes under water, was then in a life-supported coma for one month, and woke up and seemed to be doing fine.

Firstly, as I stated in my opening response, 80% of all people who go without oxygen for 10 minutes or more enter into a coma. [5] So the teenager's story in Livescience is not unusual. Additionally, Livescience admits the boy was kept on life support until he woke up, which is vastly different from the story I cited of the child neither needing life support nor going into a coma. Additionally, the teenager would likely have died if removed from life support. This is because the purpose of life support is to keep a person alive until their body can do it on their own, as per the Cleveland Health Clinic:

"Life support refers to a variety of medical procedures that aim to keep you alive until your body is ready to take over again. " [6] 

So, essentially, the boy was artificially kept alive for one month, which is hardly a miracle.

Additionally, the "dive reflex," according to PRO's own article is not proven. Livescience explains:

"The first of these processes is known as the 'diving reflex,' or bradycardic response, a physiological response that has been observed most strongly in aquatic mammals, but which is also believed to take place in humans." [8]
The "believed" existence of the dive reflex has not been studied that much because there is significant risk of harming those involved in the study, as per Livescience:

"The diving reflex is often cited as the thing that saves people from nearly drowning. However, it's difficult to study this reflex in humans (likely because of the obvious dangers of recreating near-drowning experiences in a lab), said Fallil. . ." [8]
Based on these assertions and citations, the doctor cited in the article actually makes a case for the dangers of drowning in general and underscores why this is the reason the Bradycardic Response is not studied. He does not argue that the Beadycardic Response is a viable reason why all drowning victims survive. On the contrary, he claims that studying it would be quite dangerous to the people involved in the study.


PRO has so far failed to provide a logical, evidence-based reason as to why my verified news account of a boy who was dead for 45 minutes and then brought to life after prayer is not likely to be a miracle.

The Livescience article PRO used to explain the survival did not prove the teenager referenced in the article survived because of the Bradycardic Response and also anecdotally proved the medical resources I cited correct on the occurrence of comas following a prolonged period without oxygen and the fact of being dead after prolonged exposure to lack of oxygen, since the teenager in PRO's story was being kept alive by life support for one month.

This differs greatly from the story I cited where there was no coma, no life support, and the child came back to life after prayer to God.

In my story, the child defied the current known medical science, and therefore was a probable miracle. In PRO's story, the teenager anecdotally proved it.

Round 4
I have not conceded that the article was factual, because it is known that newspapers can get the facts wrong. The only point I was trying to make was that the News can get the facts wrong sometimes, so we should take any New story with a grain of salt. 

The sources that CON has provided have to deal with court proceedings. Nowhere in these sources is there any claim that there needs to be sources for my sources. 

"reduced the result to an absurd conclusion that all evidence is therefore questionable, regardless of the type of evidence presented."

Not quite the only types of sources I have questioned are the News. Every other source I'll accept at face value, including all other sources CON has provided. 

"The "believed" existence of the dive reflex has not been studied that much because there is significant risk of harming those involved"

This is correct. However, this does not stop it from being a possible explanation. 

While the explanation is improbable, I must ask the voters which explanation is more likely, one that as little evidence, but is consistent with the laws of nature (mine) or one that has little evidence and but is not consistent with the laws of nature (CON's)

Con says that there need to be sources for my sources, I have responded that the explanation must end somewhere. CON also claims I use the appeal to authority fallacy, however, he does as well (to a certain extent). The definition of the fallacy is this:

The appeal to authority fallacy, also known as argument from authority, is a type of logical fallacy that refers to the different ways of fallaciously using the statements or opinions of authority figures in order to support a conclusion.[1] 

All CON has done is give expert opinions on the topic. CON says that there are studies backing him up, however, those studies are themselves appeals to authority, so the fallacy still holds. 

Unless we want to deny scientific knowledge, we must go to the authorities of the relevant field (when we are not ourselves experts on them). 


PRO has claimed, for the third time, without evidence, that the article is not factual. He makes a sweeping generalization [1] of all news sources without even examining the mountain of primary source data presented both within the article and from multiple eyewitness interviews confirming the content of the article, which I have already cited.

PRO also engages in circular reasoning [2] to argue for his case. He claims that Naturalism makes miracles unlikely because miracles are unlikely to happen because of naturalism, which is circular reasoning.

Also, if PRO holds that the Laws of Nature disprove anything that disagrees with them, then PRO must also agree that Quantum Physics and String Theory do not exist.

As per an article published in the highly-respected journal Nature, titled "The new thermodynamics: how quantum physics is bending the rules":

"There is reason to suspect that the laws of thermodynamics, which are based on how large numbers of particles behave, are different in the quantum realm." [5]

So this Nature article explains that there is evidence that, in the quantum realm, the laws of thermodynamics, which are basic foundations for the Laws of Nature, [8] are not adhered to, but are rather bent and stretched past their limits. 

Furthermore, Schrödinger's Cat, the famed explanation for Quantum Superposition, explains how the universe changes due to observers watching it. [6] In the explanation, the cat is both dead and alive because it has not been observed yet. University researchers actually created an experiment to test Quantum Superposition with a tuning fork and found that it both was ringing and not ringing at the same time. [6]

What these studies claim is that the entire universe, even the laws of nature, are not absolute, but rather are malleable and held in a state of fluctuation.

So if the laws of nature can be broken at will by Quantum Mechanics, why do these same laws then superimpose a barring of miracles? PRO must explain how this is the case, since his definition of Naturalism means everything is explained by the Laws of Nature.

So, by PRO's own definition, that anything the Laws of Nature cannot explain is miraculous, Quantum Physics is miraculous. And if Quantum Physics is miraculous, then why is it improbable that the boy raising from the dead, defying current known medical science, is also a miracle? 

PRO also, engaged in special pleading, [3] rejecting my sourced definitions for the fallacies for his own, thus asking for special treatment for his definitions without examining or engaging with mine, even though mine were supplied first.

Further PRO has ignored the fact that the Bradycardic Response or so-called "dive reflex," has been barely studied and therefore the true effects of it are unknown, according to his own source. He therefore grasps at straws [4] and uses an unknown concept that is barely studied as defense against a probable miracle.

PRO has also claimed that all sources are a form of appeal to authority. PRO has not supplied any evidence or logical reasoning that this is true, and therefore the burden of proof is on PRO to prove that all sources are a form of Appeal to Authority. 

Scientific studies are empirical. They are, by their very nature, arguments and investigations and not "authorities" whom, according to Merriam Webster's dictionary definition 4c which was cited earlier, are individuals. Equating a scientific study, which is based on rigorous testing and empirical analysis, to an expert opening his mouth is a false equivalency. [7]

I have cited not merely experts opening their mouths, but also encyclopedic entries that are summaries of the collective medical science and experiments on a subject. This is not appealing to authority, this is citing sources that are reporting, with evidence, the known medical science. My arguments do not hinge on experts, but rather the empirical evidence these experts give to back up their claims.

If PRO cites such content in defense of his position, it would not be an appeal to authority. Unfortunately, PRO's only major citation in regard to miracles has been to a Livescience link that interviews a medical doctor (or an authority), and repeats his opinions. Thus showing that PRO, not CON, has committed an Appeal to Authority fallacy.


PRO has alleged, without evidence, multiple times, that my news story is false. PRO has not supplied ample evidence to satisfy the Burden of Proof.

PRO also must concede, based on his definition of Naturalism, that Quantum Physics is miraculous. And therefore, his argument that the Laws of Nature make miraculous events unlikely is specious.

PRO also grasps at straws to defend his claim of Naturalism explaining all miracles, citing an unknown, largely unstudied biological process that is not reliable enough to be tested without causing significant harm toward the test subjects, as a reason a boy rose from the dead and had no brain damage.

Round 5
I have never used the words 'not factual' to describe The News, only that we should take it with a grain of salt. 

"without even examining the mountain of primary source data presented both within the article and from multiple eyewitness interviews"

I have no access to the primary source data, I must rely on the News Article to get it, so that's just as good as just the News Article itself. 

I do not use circular reasoning to defend my case. I state that since miracles break the laws of nature they are unlikely. The laws of nature are founded on science, not naturalism. Also, our everyday experiences seem to make miracles unlikely. Dead people tend to stay dead.

"Also, if PRO holds that the Laws of Nature disprove anything that disagrees with them, then PRO must also agree that Quantum Physics and String Theory do not exist."

This is a strawman[1]. I don't say the laws of nature disprove anything that disagrees with them, it makes the claims unlikely. The is ample evidence for Quantum Physics and String Theory, this overcoming a very low prior probability. 

"PRO also, engaged in special pleading, [3] rejecting my sourced definitions for the fallacies for his own, thus asking for special treatment for his definitions without examining or engaging with mine, even though mine were supplied first."

This I did not intend to imply, my bad on that, I was simply supplying a source that agrees with me. 

As for the appeal to authority fallacy, CON's own definition he provided (via his sources, round 2 source 2)[2] is this:

"The fallacy of appeal to authority makes the argument that if one credible source believes something that it must be true."

Unless I misunderstand, the fallacy is believing that just because a credible source believes it, it is true. Which backs up what I said. Sure, CON has provided sources but since they are scientific sources, they appeal to authority fallacies. 

Thank you, Public-Choose, I enjoyed our debate and you have been a great opponent. 




It was an amazing opportunity to debate such a topic without either side resorting to trolling or emotional pleas. That is rare these days.

PRO claims he has no access to the primary source data. His claim is erroneous since the videos and articles provided have the doctors themselves testifying, the family testifying, and even interview the kid who was miraculously healed. These are primary sources. He has access to them. Claiming otherwise is either disingenuous or shows a lack of research ability.

PRO also states that anything with sufficient evidence in it is likely to be true. He claims that Quantum Physics must be true because there is evidence.

Based on his own admission, this means the miracle must have happened, and since PRO already agreed that, if this event happened, it would constitute as a probable miracle, PRO is forced to accept that a probable miracle took place. Just like in Quantum Mechanics, there is primary and secondary source materials proving the miracle event in question happened.

If PRO decides to reject the evidence, without reason, due to fallacious thinking and sophistry,  it does not change the fact that he admitted that anything with credible evidence is likely to have occurred and also his admission that the event would qualify as a miracle. Putting these two together, it is apparent PRO must agree a probable miracle took place.

I will not beat a dead horse and reexplain how PRO's position is circular logic. Since PRO did not provide justification or evidence that Naturalism prevents miracles from happening and he also did not explain how he did not engage in Circular Reasoning, my explanation still stands based on the standard burdens of proof I already cited. Since PRO failed to define the burden of proof laws, I am forced to supply definitions for them, which I did.

Citing a source is not an appeal to authority. As the fallacy stands, it is arguing that the authority is right regardless of evidence. Both of our definitions make this plain. PRO is using equivocation [1] to try to discredit credible science to justify his grasping at straws.


PRO has not provided any evidence for his claims that Naturalism prevent miracles. PRO also asserted he agreed my event would count as a probable miracle, and he also said anything that goes against Naturalism with evidence behind it is accepted as probable.

Therefore, PRO is forced to agree that a probable miracle took place.