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 tries to establish.






Let’s put Hume’s point into other words. If John tells you a miracle happened, you should believe it only if it would be even more miraculous for John to tell a lie ( or make a mistake).




For example, you might say, “I would trust John with my life, he never tells a lie, it would be a miracle if John ever told a lie”. That’s all well and good, but Hume would say something like this:




“However unlikely it might be that John could tell a lie, is it really more unlikely than the miracle that John claims to have seen?”




Suppose John claimed to have watched a cow jump over the moon. No matter how honest John might be, the idea of his telling a lie would be less miraculous than a cow really jumping over the moon. So you should prefer the explanation that John was lying (or mistaken).





The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), ‘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….’ When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.