[It’s very naive to think that if you apply logic to facts or what is called ‘the evidence,’ it will be a relatively simple matter to arrive at the truth. Facts need to be interpreted; and they will almost always support multiple interpretations. If you look at the facts in one way, logic may lead you off in a particular direction. If, however, you look at the facts in another way, you may be inclined to set off logically in quite a different direction. The outcome of these two exercises in reasoning from the facts is likely to be two mutually incompatible conclusions, and no obvious way for reason to establish which, if either, is true. Here is an example from the age-old controversy over miraculous occurrences. According to the famous Scottish empiricist and atheist, David Hume, ‘A miracle is a violation of the laws of Nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established those laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.’ On the other hand the famous English utilitarian and atheist, John Stuart Mill, reasons as follows: ‘The interference of the human will with the course of Nature is not an exception to law: and by the same rule interference by the divine will would not be an exception either.’ They flatly disagree! I’m on the side of Mill, but what side is reason on? A particular interpretation of the facts is often built into the premises at the beginning of a chain of reasoning, although it is rarely acknowledged as only one of several possible interpretations. Consider how the following line of reasoning from G. K. Chesterton starting from a plausible premise leads to a conclusion that is inconsistent with Hume’s: ‘Science is the study of the admitted laws of existence. It can’t prove a universal negative about whether those laws could ever be suspended by something admittedly above them.’ Notice that Chesterton’s reasoning is somewhat different from Mill’s, although they both arrive at the same conclusion, namely, miracles are possible. As to the quality of the evidence for the actual occurrence of miracles, they might well disagree. But it all goes to show that the use of logic, so clear and straightforward in some applications, is far from clear and straightforward in others.]
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