No miracles argument

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No miracles argument is the argument that the best explanation – the only explanation that renders the success of science to not be what Hilary Putnam calls "a miracle" – is the view that our scientific theories (or at least the best ones) provide true descriptions of the world, or approximately so.


  • The fantastic 12-digit agreement between the theoretical predictions of QED and the experimental results is a miracle. It would be good for physicists to acknowledge the unsatisfactory mathematical structure of this prediction. It starts from a mathematically undefined Feynman Integral, proceeds by making many very complicated manipulations, and ends up with a formal series that Dyson showed to be divergent! Physicists think of it as an asymptotic expansion, but they have no mathematical proof of this. I often joke that this agreement of theory and experiment is a new proof of the existence of God and that she loves physicists!
  • I claim that the success of current scientific theories is no miracle. It is not even surprising to the scientific (Darwinist) mind. For any scientific theory is born into a life of fierce competition, a jungle red in tooth and claw. Only the successful theories survive—the ones which in fact latched onto the actual regularities in nature.
  • Realism is not a dirty word. If you wonder why all scientists, philosophers, and ordinary people, with rare exceptions, have been and are unabashed realists, let me tell you why. No scientific conjecture has been more overwhelmingly confirmed. No hypothesis offers a simpler explanation of why the Andromeda galaxy spirals in every photograph, why all electrons are identical, why the laws of physics are the same in Tokyo as in London or on Mars, why they were there before life evolved and will be there if all life perishes, why all persons can close their eyes and feel eight corners, six faces and twelve edges on a cube, and why your bedroom looks the same when you wake up in the morning.
    • Martin Gardner, "Is Realism a Dirty Word?", American Journal of Physics 57, 203 (1989)
  • Not merely trainee and professional members of the medical profession commit the base-rate fallacy. Even very eminent scientists do, as we have seen. And all the philosophers who use the No-Miracles argument do so as well.
    • Collin Howson, Hume's Problem: Induction and the Justification of Belief (2000), Chap. 3 : Realism and the No Miracles Argument
  • The positive argument for realism is that it is the only philosophy that doesn't make the success of science a miracle.
    • Hilary Putnam, "What is mathematical truth?", in Mathematics, Matter and Method (1975)
  • The main reason for believing scientific theories (at least the bestverified ones) is that they explain the coherence of our experience. Let us be precise: here ‘experience’ refers to all our observations, including the results of laboratory experiments whose goal is to test quantitatively (sometimes to incredible precision) the predictions of scientific theories. … This agreement between theory and experiment, when combined with thousands of other similar though less spectacular ones, would be a miracle if science said nothing true – or at least approximately true – about the world. The experimental confirmations of the best-established scientific theories, taken together, are evidence that we really have acquired an objective (albeit approximate and incomplete) knowledge of the natural world.
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