Miracles: William Dembski gets it (mostly) right; NY Times does not

The New York Times on Sunday ran what I consider a very credulous article, How Would You Prove That God Performed a Miracle? by Molly Worthen, an historian who, I thought, had not the foggiest idea how you would do so. You may read Jerry Coyne’s takedown of her article here.

Dr. Worthen lets William Dembski get the last word. We have criticized Dr. Dembski seemingly endlessly on this blog, but here I think he’s got it essentially right:

“I believe in miracles, but I think they require scrutiny,” Dr. Dembski told me [Dr. Worthen]. “I don’t tend to see things as flamboyant as in the New Testament.” He published a moving account of his family’s disappointment at a healing revival, where he sought prayer for his autistic son. “There can be quite a bit of self-delusion on the part of people looking for miracles, and it troubles me,” he said.

Dr. Dembski’s family has learned to look for the miraculous in everyday loving encounters, like when a teacher’s aide made it her mission to help his son learn to use the bathroom on his own. “His life is so much better because of this person who wouldn’t give up on him,” he said. “It was no miracle, in terms of a magic wand that touched him and everything was fine. It was people who were willing to love him and do the hard work.”

Dr. Dembski says he believes in miracles. Or perhaps gives lip service to a belief in miracles. What happened when it got down to brass tacks, as when he took his autistic child to the so-called faith healer? The supposed healer refused to see the child because he did not “look the part”; Dr. Dembski saw right through faith healing and indeed recognized it as “self-delusion.”

I consider a miracle to be a figure of speech for when, say, that teacher takes his son under her wing, does the very best she can with him, and, against the odds, succeeds. Dr. Dembski professes a belief in literal miracles, but seems more impressed with practical, figure-of-speech–type miracles. On that, we can agree.