# Isn't this law a complete bullshit?

Encountered a rather strange definition of a “miracle” in Shermer’s book. He says a miracle is an event that has 1 in a million odds of happening.

So I researched further the source of this. It is based on Littlewood’s Law of Miracles. The law was framed by Cambridge University Professor John Edensor Littlewood

From Wikipedia:

Littlewood defines a miracle as an exceptional event of special significance occurring at a frequency of one in a million. He assumes that during the hours in which a human is awake and alert, a human will see or hear one “event” per second, which may be either exceptional or unexceptional. Additionally, Littlewood supposes that a human is alert for about eight hours per day.

As a result, a human will in 35 days have experienced under these suppositions about one million events. Accepting this definition of a miracle, one can expect to observe one miraculous event for every 35 days’ time, on average – and therefore, according to this reasoning, seemingly miraculous events are actually commonplace.

Why is this even a law? It’s full of assumptions. How does Littlewood know that a human will see or hear 1 event/sec? What if a second is passed with no event at all?

How about that “alert for about eight hours per day”? What about the rest of the day? What does being “alert” include?

By the way, this is a debate topic. I’m not asking for a definition of what a miracle is. I’ve already checked it from Merriam-Webster. I’m trying to figure out if anyone agrees with me that this law is bullshit, and deriving a definition and using it in a book is an even more bullshit move. By the way, he didn’t reference this law in the book, he just gave the definition.

You are misunderstanding “Law.” Laws are descriptive and not prescriptive. A law describes the universe in which we live. It does not prescribe happenings in the universe. All they are saying is that the likelyhood of something called a miracle happening is 1 in a million. (Frankly, I believe it is much more than that as I have never heard of or seen an actual miracle. All reports of miracles I have heard of so far are spurious at best.) Don;t coufuse a “Legal” term with a ‘Scientific term.’

I’m not confusing it with a legal law. I was considering it a scientific law i.e. a statement of fact, deduced from observation, to the effect that a particular natural or scientific phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are present.

But it’s not a statement of fact because it is based completely on subjective calculations.

See - I tend to lean towards the questioning.
For one - the use of “weird” (definition given by Shermer) isn’t the regular usage (perhaps he pulled out supernatural and expanded that) - as discussed in the other thread. Like a legal definition, it’s best to know how the author is defining his terms. No problem.

Personally - I’ve called theists on using obscure meanings or trying to take a commonly understood word and “word salad” it.

I like clear, concise communication (as far as possible) and fucking around with generally understood terms like miracle or weird???

It muddies the water, IMO.

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I don’t accept this definition! Lol!!!

Also, the personal categorizing of “miracle” is subjective to the person.

And I agree - calling it a “law” also muddies the water (lends authority???) as to how is this “law” word now defined? Scientific, Legal, how?

Where’s the agreement or authority to determine this particular law?

According to this article, Littlewood was joking

It is neither.

It has “Law” in the title, simply because someone typed the letters “L”, “a”, and “w” in the title.

In the same way Godwin’s “Law” isn’t a legal or scientific law.

exactly

Ok, I did not see that coming. Probably because Mr. Shermer went ahead and used the definition derived from that law in his book. And, because I had heard so highly of him, being the founder of Skeptic magazine, the podcast and the website all that shit, I thought I should go in without being skeptical.

Just what the fuck is wrong with Shermer. I should probably stop reading his book. What a confusing, crappy book.

Lol!

Read it…you’re doing great! You’ll find he brings a thought or reasoning or logic that works for you. I find lots of his stuff interesting - and other times I find he’s almost a biased cynic.

I’ve read stuff that would make you roll your eyes, but, there were kernels of corn in the pile of shit. At least he’s just got a few turds in amongst the corn pile!

EDITED to add: now when a theist comes on board and claims that Shermer is our leader lol you can confidently say - nope - even then you hold the claimant to the claim regardless (part of real peer review to weed out the biases and bullshit we all have a tendency towards).

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## The above are all in direct opposition to one another. It is not observable and an assumption at the same time. LAWS ARE OBSERVABLE PHENOMENA. They are not dictates about how the universe is supposed to behave.

Time is the measurement of objects in relation to one another. All existence exists in time. To exist for no time at all is an timeless-moment, an oxymoron. How would you know a second passed with no event? If it passed, the event is it passing. The event was you measuring. What does time pass?

Littlewood’s Law of Miracles. – Again… This is based on observation… Laws describe and do not dictate.

1. Littlewood’s law of miracles states that in the course of any normal person’s life, miracles happen at the rate of roughly one per month.

2. So the total number of events that happen to us is about 30,000 per day, or about a million per month .

3. With few exceptions, these events are not miracles because they are insignificant. The chance of a miracle is about one per million events. Therefore we should expect about one miracle to happen, on average, every month .

4. *(HOW IS LITTLEWOOD DEFINING MIRACLES?) Think about 100-year events. One-hundred-year floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, financial crises, frauds, pandemics, political meltdowns, economic recessions, and so on endlessly. Lots of terrible things can be called “100-year events”. (OR MIRACLES)

5. If next year there’s a 1% chance of a new disastrous pandemic, a 1% chance of a crippling depression, a 1% chance of a catastrophic flood, a 1% chance of political collapse, and on and on, then the odds that something bad will happen next year – or any year – are … uncomfortably high.

Littlewood’s Law tells us to expect a miracle every month. The flip side is to expect a disaster roughly as often.

Expect a disaster, one of god’s miracles, once a month. This seems pretty self evident given the definition he is using.

ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT IT. - About 385,000 miracles occur every year. That’s 140 million a year. Miracles occur at a rate of about 4.3 per second. All we need do is define “birth” as a miracle. This is the rate of the miracle of birth.

A LAW DESCRIBES A PHENOMENA - it does not dictate the phenomena. So ask yourself, what is it that is being described? I see no problem with Littlewood’s Law given his definition of Miracle.

Littlewood’s law of miracles states that in the course of any normal person’s life, miracles happen at the rate of roughly one per month.

Who observed this, and how did he come to the conclusion that miracles happen at the rate of roughly one per month?

So the total number of events that happen to us is about 30,000 per day, or about a million per month .

What? Why did you use the conjunction “so” here? How is (2) connected to (1)? The rate of miracles happening per month to the number of events happening per day?

And how exactly did Littlewood come with the figure of 30,000 events happening per day? What formula is used? What constitutes an event?

What if I sit in a pitch black room with no lights, no windows, nothing to be seen as it’s completely dark, for 24 hours. How many events happened during these 24 hours?

With few exceptions, these events are not miracles because they are insignificant. The chance of a miracle is about one per million events. Therefore we should expect about one miracle to happen, on average, every month .

How did Littlewood come with these odds i.e. one in a million? Again, you’re using the conjunction “therefore” to come to a conclusion based on an assumption, which is further based on an assumption and that is further based on an assumption. Everything Littlewood has done in this so-called law is throw in his own assumptions.

*(HOW IS LITTLEWOOD DEFINING MIRACLES?) Think about 100-year events. One-hundred-year floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, financial crises, frauds, pandemics, political meltdowns, economic recessions, and so on endlessly. Lots of terrible things can be called “100-year events”. (OR MIRACLES)

What? That’s your explanation for how Little wood defines a “miracle”?

And, it’s wrong. That’s not how Littlewood comes to the definition. Here’s how he actually comes to it:

1. Assume the number of hours a human is active per day (I’ll take a more realistic value of 16 hours, Littlewood assumes 8)
2. Assume the number of events happening per second (I’ll use Littlewood’s original value of 1)
3. Multiply the number of events happening per second, to the number of seconds in a day (57,600 events)
4. Multiply the number of events happening per day to 30 days to get the monthly value (1,728,000 events)
5. Assume a percentage of this value that refers to insignificant events i.e. non-miraculous events (let’s say 99%)
6. Calculate what the 1% of the remaining value is, and that in my case is 1.7 miraculous events per month

The problem? If I change the values in steps 1, 2 and 5, everything changes, rendering the definition extremely variable and dependent on what values the person, who’s trying to apply this so-called law, is thinking.

Littlewood’s Law tells us to expect a miracle every month. The flip side is to expect a disaster roughly as often.

And, according to Seek3R’s Law of Miracles, we should expect 1.7 miracles per month.

The point being that this is not a law. It is not an observable phenomenon. It is nothing but subjective calculations.

The dictionary definition of the term “miracle”, thanks to the Merriman-Webster Dictionary. Before we can discuss miracles, we first should define what a miracle is. This is one definition that I have seen:

Here is another one:

This is how most theists use the word. Fuck, we had one try to convince us that an old lady losing her home and moving in with her family was a “divinely guided miracle”.

Happenstance, coincidence, serendipity- those are words I understand form a “subjective monthly” occurrence that may occur in my favor - hahahaha if it doesn’t, is it just “bad luck?”

Are you not listening to the “DEFINITION OF MIRACLE?” You are obviously comparing some definition you are holding in your head with what Littlewood’s Law means and missing the point completely.

Your dictionary definition fits perfectly with Littlewood’s usage.

AKA: “AN ACT OF GOD.” That includes all the afore mentioned disasters, births, and anything else you want to shove into the category. It’s a fucking miracle that I got out of bed this morning. Raise your head up and take a look over that little wall you have constructed around yourself. Miracles are everywhere. All it takes is for the religiously inclined to point them out to us.

Well, you’re getting one because I think the one you cited is nonsense.

On what evidence does he base his claim? My definition of a miracle is a supernatural event which often ignores science and natural law.

I grew up chronic Catholic, and was always arse dep in saints and miracles.

I don’t believe in miracles. Have never been able to confirm one

Amazing/mysterious things happen constantly. To the ignorant, science looks like magic. I see many things which mystery me because I don’t understand. Such ‘miracles’ tend to have scientific or logical explanations.

I haven’t read Littlewood. Nor do I want to. Your descriptions make the man sound like an ignoramus.

READ IT AGAIN - HE CLEARLY DEFINES MIRACLE - “A DISASTER” - “AN ACT OF GOD” and then asserts that these events happen all the time. GET OVER THE DEFINITION YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO FORCE ONTO HIM. Read his damn definition and you will understand what he is talking about,. MIRACLES HAPPEN EVERY DAY, ALL THE TIME.

Miracles that happened today in the News: 88 politicians have been killed in Mexico. (The survivors say it was a miracle they were not killed as well.)

Volcano erupts in the Democratic Republic of Congo(Photos: Volcano erupts in the Democratic Republic of Congo)
It’s a fucking miracle!

Helio Castroneves wins Indy 500 It’s a fucking MIRACLE!!!