conversations with Dan

conversations with Dan: 3 Daniel – science and the laws of nature

Could I start by saying that in my original email I was not attempting to
get you to question your faith, I was questioning why you believe what you
do. This was done not in an attempt to discredit your beliefs but for me to
gain a greater understanding of what you believe and why you believe those
things, and I guess to give you a similar understanding of me. I ask you
because from you I often get a response that makes some sort of sense even
to me.

Where I come from is that I believe that the world, the universe, is
governed by a set of laws that cannot be broken by anyone ever. Beliefs
that work outside of these laws (whether they are Christians, other
religious persuasions, magicians, or those that deny human induced climate
change) can perplex me a little.

I guess my response to your comments would be as below:

1. Lets start with the simple ones hey – I am glad you realize that life
is finite 🙂 . I do agree with this as well. I could take offence at your
insinuation that a life without a Christian faith is without meaning or
purpose, or somehow has less meaning or purpose – but I will not so lets
move on.

2. Every definition I can find of the term miracle is something like:

“An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to
be supernatural in origin or an act of God”

Given this I find your comment that people do not presume that a miracle has
no natural explanation a little perplexing. I would assume if it has a
natural explanation than it is not a miracle. I think we need to be careful
that we do not get the terminology miracle and amazing confused or even the
term extremely unlikely. If what you mean is unlikely or amazing please say
this to prevent confusion. (it should be noted here that unlikely event will
by definition happen, it is extremely I likely that I win the lottery but
someone wins every week, it may be a miracle if I win but do not have a

3. God at work in or through nature – Did God set up the laws of nature,
I have no evidence that he did or did not and personally don’t care. If
good chooses to work through nature all good but not a miracle as outlined
above. The big question here comes back to why fix Sam’s Mums cataracts but
not that child with Leukemia?

4. I agree 100% that things happen every day that cannot
currently be explained by science. But I come back to the fact that the
definition of a miracle is not “cannot be explained by science”, but is
“breaking at least one of the laws of nature”. How the Egyptians built the
pyramids, is currently unexplained by science but no miracle, a human being
walking on water – this is a miracle as the human foot is not large enough
to spread the weight of a human sufficiently so that it will not break the
limited surface tension provided by H2O
( Humans are not clever
enough, and never will, to unlock all the mysteries of nature. If something
happens that cannot be explained by our current understanding of nature is
it a miracle? No. It may be accurate to say “this seems miraculous” but to
me it is not a miracle, it simply reflects our lack of understanding (or
perhaps imperfect recording of the event, or deceit).

Still unsure if we have a simple issue of definitions (would you define
miracle “A highly improbable or extraordinary event”) or if you believe that
God can, if he chooses, decide to break the laws of nature?


About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on

1 Comment

  • Tennikate
    April 12, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Hey Dan,
    My name’s Kate. I used to work with Shane. If I can interject, I would suggest that perhaps one reason for Shane’s alternative definition for ‘miracle’ (different to the definition to which you’re accustomed) relates to his theistic evolutionary position and his loathe an intelligent designer’s ‘God of the Gaps’. Anyway, that’s my 2-cents worth. Carry on!


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