The claim of the last chapter was that we could have good reason to suppose that an event E, if it occurred, was a violation of a law of nature L. But could one have good evidence that such an event E occurred? At this point we must face the force of Hume’s own argument. This, it will be remembered, runs as follows. The evidence, which ex hypothesi is good evidence, that L is a law of nature is evidence that E did not occur. We have certain other evidence that E did occur. In such circumstances, writes Hume, the wise man ‘weighs the opposite experiments. He considers which side is supported by the greater number of experiments’ ( p. 111). Since he supposes that the evidence that E occurred would be that of testimony, Hume concludes ‘that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact which it endeavours to establish’ ( pp. 115 f.). Flew, it will be remembered, went further and claimed that because of the ‘nature of the propositions concerned’ ( p. 208) the evidence never could be that strong. In order to assess the worth of this claim we must digress and see in general how historical evidence is weighed.
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