APOLOGIA (13) – Can miracles by God be explained scientifically?


Objection 1: Recently, with the advancement of science, we have discovered that certain events that were considered miracles are indeed possible also in the framework of a scientific explanation. This removes God as cause of their happening.

Objection 2: In the past people were more ignorant than today, so they would call “miracle” everything because they were not able to give a better explanation to account for certain phenomena.

Objection 3: God cannot go against the natural laws that He has created. So we should have a more natural and scientific explanation for certain event.

On the contrary, in Jeremiah 32:27 it says: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind! Is anything impossible to me?.”

I answer that we should avoid having a reductionist view of God. If God would be explained within a scientific framework, what kind of God would he be? For this reason, even if there are some alternative explanations for certain events, it does not mean that these events were not the work of God. John Paul II in Fides et Ratio has said: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).”

Reply to objection 1: ABC news recently reported:  “Scientists Explain Red Sea Parting and Other Miracles.” This title, as many other titles of the sort, is misleading. Even if an event may be explained with a scientific proof, it does not mean that is not the work of God. Because for a certain event it is not only important how they happen but why. Some people suggest we should have a different approach to miracles. In the same ABC article I was referring it said:  “The key may lie in how a miracle is defined. Robert John Russell, founder of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, California, argues that miracles are less about an event itself, than the powerful experience of the person who witnesses it. “Some people take miracles literally — as miracles — and that’s fine,” says Russell. “But I think a lot of people have come to interpret miracles as natural events with extraordinary significance.” Witnessing a solar eclipse or the birth of a child, he suggests, can be miraculous occasions, even though both can be explained by science. However a miracle is defined, polls show an overwhelming number of Americans believe in them. A recent Fox News poll found that 82 percent of those surveyed believe in miracles.

Reply to objection 2: The fact that people were more ignorant does not really affect the way we understand miracle. Yes, it is true that today thanks to science we understand many more things about ourselves and about the world that surrounds us, but this doesn’t change the things themselves. It only makes their comprehension easier. As we have said, even if science may give an alternative explanation for certain phenomena, the “how”, cannot account fully for the “why”, the reason why these events occur exactly at that moment and not a moment later, why the Red Sea parting that the scientists pretended to explain in the news article, was happening at that moment when needed and not a moment later, when the people running would be more or less butchered.  Saint Thomas Aquinas, as usual, said it very well in the Summa:  “An arduous thing is called a miracle, not on account of the excellence of the thing wherein it is done, but because it surpasses the faculty of nature: likewise a thing is called unusual, not because it does not often happen, but because it is outside the usual natural course of things. Furthermore, a thing is said to be above the faculty of nature, not only by reason of the substance of the thing done, but also on account of the manner and order in which it is done. Again, a miracle is said to go beyond the hope ‘of nature,’ not above the hope ‘of grace,’ which hope comes from faith, whereby we believe in the future resurrection.

Reply to objection 3: God is God, so we assume already He is omnipotent. But it is important to make a distinction and for this we need the help of the great Saint Thomas Aquinas: “If therefore we consider the order of things depending on the first cause, God cannot do anything against this order; for, if He did so, He would act against His foreknowledge, or His will, or His goodness. But if we consider the order of things depending on any secondary cause, thus God can do something outside such order; for He is not subject to the order of secondary causes; but, on the contrary, this order is subject to Him, as proceeding from Him, not by a natural necessity, but by the choice of His own will; for He could have created another order of things. Wherefore God can do something outside this order created by Him, when He chooses, for instance by producing the effects of secondary causes without them, or by producing certain effects to which secondary causes do not extend. So Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxvi, 3): ‘God acts against the wonted course of nature, but by no means does He act against the supreme law; because He does not act against Himself.’”

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