By Sheikh Mansour Leghaei
2. Scientific Possibility
Is a miracle scientifically possible?
In order for us to understand whether miracles are scientifically possible or not, we ought to get acquainted with some of the characteristics of natural science.
Some Characteristics of Natural Science:
1. Nomological (Newtonian): That means according to the Newtonian natural concept of the world, the scientific laws are general based on our observation.
2. Repetition: (See the article: Miracles and Modern Scientific Thought)
3. Statistical (Quantum Physics): That means according to quantum physics, what we call a natural law is in fact the most possible option, not the absolute one.
4. Natural laws are conditional not absolute. That means the relation between a natural cause and its effect is not absolute and limited and hence there are scientifically more possible methods to achieve the effect. For instance, one of the ordinary known methods of splitting the water of a river is to construct a damn. But is this scientifically the only possible method? Science has no negative answer for it. Thus, though perhaps exceptionally there is a natural phenomenon of making a path amidst a sea in Korea which is one of the most surprising sights in Korea.
Internationally renowned, “Chindo’s Sea Way” is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the waters around the island of Chindo recede to reveal a long path connecting Hoedong-ri with the neighboring Modo-ri. The seaway is formed because of the great difference between the ebb and flow of the tide. The path is 10 to 40 meters wide and 2.9 km long.
This phenomenon occurs regardless of the speed of the tide or waves. Every year, around half a million foreign tourists and local tourists come to witness this marvelous phenomenon in February of the lunar calendar.
A variety of lively festivals take place to mark the occasion such as Kanggangsuwollae (Korean traditional circle dance), Ssitkim-gut (a shaman ritual, consoling the souls of the dead), Dul Norae (songs people sing while working in the fields), Tashiraegi, Manga (songs of consolation sung at burial ceremonies), and Puknori (drum performance). A French Ambassador, who visited Chindo Island in 1975, first introduced “Chindo’s Sea Way” to the world, by contributing an article to a French newspaper saying that he has seen Moses’ Miracle in Korea.
In 1996, the Japanese popular singer Taentoyosiri sang about Chindo’s Sea Way, which was a great hit. This song motivated a lot of Japanese tourists.
5. Possible Alternatives. Ibn Sina suggests that miracles and other extraordinary events occur because some humans enjoy a powerful soul that can influence nature. He argues as any human soul can influence his own body, they have the power to exceed this power to other materials. Levitation, thought reading, hypnotism and evil eyes are ordinary examples of this influencing power.
Imagine you are a plant. In the world of plants it is impossible in the natural movement of a plant to move from one continent to another. But a human can interfere and move a plant thousands of miles away just in a few hours.
Therefore, our senses can only claim the relation between two phenomena but cannot scientifically claim that A is the only cause of B. Thus, a miracle is not the violation of a natural law; it is introducing a new cause to a particular effect.
As a matter of fact, given the scientific progress of the last two centuries in medicine for example, diseases that were considered mysterious are now understood without appeal to supernatural powers. Thus, if today’s medicine cannot cure a born blind, it is not rational to assert it is rationally impossible to cure a born blind.
Dr. Paul Feyeraben: Against Method (1924-1994)
The Austrian physicist and scientist who perhaps due to a personal experience of his health problem not only lost his faith in western medicine but in science in general and promoted the school of postmodernism or decentralism.
In his book ‘Against Method’ he argues that there is no scientific method and as such we can’t justify science as the best way of acquiring knowledge. The truth, he argues, is that: “Science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best.”7
6. Descriptive or Prescriptive. We were told that natural laws differ from national laws in that the first is descriptive and hence cannot be changed. One can claim that natural law is descriptive to us since we do not make them, we only discover them, but for the Maker of the natural laws it is possible to be prescriptive. For instance, national law for any ordinary citizen is descriptive as he cannot change it, but for the members of the parliament it is prescriptive. Similarly, natural laws for us as humans are descriptive, but for God who made these laws, it is prescriptive and He can order fire not to burn or harm His Prophet Ibrahim.
‘It is a miracle!’ Many physicians have experienced situations during their careers whereby something out of the ordinary and contrary to their medical knowledge had happened; they call it a miracle. We have witnessed many patients diagnosed with fatal diseases, who without any scientific explanation, and ironically ‘impossible,’ were cured. The Shrines of our Imams (a.s) have cured many miraculously.