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On Miracles and Modern Spiritualism: An Answer To The Arguments Of Hume, Lecky, And Others, Against Miracles.:

Modern Objections To Miracles.

We will now proceed to some of the more modern arguments against miracles. One of the most popular modern objections consists of making what is supposed to be an impossible supposition, and drawing an inference from it which looks like a dilemma, but which is really none at all.

This argument has been put in several forms. One is, "If a man tells me he came from York by the telegraph-wire, I do not believe him. If fifty men tell me they came from York by telegraph wires, I do not believe them. If any number of men tell me the same, I do not believe them. Therefore, Mr Home did not float in the air, notwithstanding any amount of testimony you may bring to prove it."

Another is, "If a man tells me that he saw the lion on Northumberland-house descend into Trafalgar-square and drink water from the fountains, I should not believe him. If fifty men, or any number of men, informed me of the same thing, I should still not believe them."

Hence it is inferred that there are certain things so absurd and so incredible, that no amount of testimony could possibly make a sane man believe them.

Now, these illustrations look like arguments, and at first sight it is not easy to see the proper way to answer them; but the fact is that they are utter fallacies, because their whole force depends upon an assumed proposition which has never been proved, and which I venture to assert never can be proved. The proposition is, that a large number of independent, honest, sane, and sensible witnesses, can separately and repeatedly testify to a plain matter of fact which never happened at all.

Now, no evidence has been adduced to show that this ever has occurred or ever could occur. But the assumption is rendered still more monstrous when we consider the circumstances attending such cases as those of the cures at the tomb of the Abb Paris, and the cases of living scientific men being converted to a belief in the reality of the phenomena of modern Spiritualism; for we must assume that, being fully warned that the alleged facts are held to be impossible and are therefore delusions, and having the source of the supposed delusion pointed out, and all the prejudices of the age and the whole tone of educated thought being against the reality of such facts, yet numbers of educated men, including physicians and men of science, remain convinced of the reality of such facts after the most searching personal investigation. Yet the assumption that such an amount and quality of independent converging evidence can be all false, must be proved, if the argument is to have the slightest value, otherwise it is merely begging the question. It must be remembered that we have to consider, not absurd beliefs or false inferences, but plain matters of fact; and it cannot be proved, and never has been proved, that any large amount of cumulative evidence of disinterested and sensible men, was ever obtained for an absolute and entire delusion. To put the matter in a simple form, the asserted fact is either possible, or not possible. If possible, such evidence as we have been considering would prove it; if not possible, such evidence could not exist. The argument is, therefore, an absolute fallacy, since its fundamental assumption cannot be proved. If it is intended merely to enunciate the proposition, that the more strange and unusual a thing is the more and better evidence we require for it, that we all admit; but I maintain that human testimony increases in value in such an enormous ratio with each additional independent and honest witness, that no fact ought to be rejected when attested by such a body of evidence as exists for many of the events termed miraculous or supernatural, and which occur now daily among us. The burden of proof lies on those who maintain that such evidence can possibly be fallacious; let them point out one case in which such cumulative evidence existed, and which yet proved to be false. Let them give not supposition, but proof. And it must be remembered, that no proof is complete which does not explain the exact source of the fallacy in all its details. It will not do, for instance, to say, that there was this cumulative evidence for witchcraft, and that witchcraft is absurd and impossible. That is begging the question. The diabolic theories of the witch mania may be absurd and false; but the facts of witchcraft as proved, not by the tortured witches, but by independent witnesses, so far from being disproved, are supported by a whole body of analogous facts occurring at the present day,

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