Reader: Dear Mesora, in Case 1, the cripple who entered
into a church and left in a recovered state is a singular, isolated
event, so Rabbi Akiva's "coincidence" explanation seems
acceptable. But if the same situation happened to several cripples,
would the "coincidence" explanation still hold?
Reader: I am a physicist. Your statement about "A
real relationship is one where there is perceivable, physical
interaction" follows perfect, physical logic. Your statement
"In case 1, the relationship is baseless, as a simultaneous
occurrence does not suffice to create a relationship between
two events" is however not logically precise. It is a fundamental
methodology in physics to search for simultaneous events to determine
the POSSIBILITY of the existing relationship. The next thing
a physicist would do is to see if these simultaneous events are
repeatable. Only when the evidence shows no sign of reproducibility,
do we conclude they are coincidence.
How many times must event B follow event A before the physicist "determines" a relationship exists? If you respond with any number, you claim that a relationship is not based on true laws of cause and effect, but on hypothesized, unknown means. You have not determined laws explaining phenomenon, but simply suggest "there is a relationship based on repeated, identical results." This is not scientific, nor truth. Science explains what is real. It is based on fact, not theories forced onto reality simply to fill the void of our being answerless. A true scientist - as was Rabbi Akiva - will not accept repetition of cases as evidence for something being a cause of something else. Idols of stone cannot control themselves, let alone other things. Stone cannot hear a person's prayer. Stone cannot respond to anything, including prayer. Stone cannot alter reality. A rock cannot control God's unchangeable laws. Based on these unshakable laws, Rabbi Akiva's knowledge of reality - not his theory - determined that no matter how many times a fool prays to stone, the success witnessed following the prayer is in no way connected. Rabbi Akiva teaches us that we are to follow proven principles, not inexplicable seemingly "repeated" relationships. Proven principles can never change. Assumptions do.
Another problem with the "repetition" approach is this: When formulating theories based on repeated events, you do not know why the assumed "effect" is happening. All you say is that B always follows A in time. You make no determination of a real law explaining this phenomenon. You admit ignorance. You are therefore wrong to suggest a cause and effect relationship. When one witnesses B following A many times, all one can say is that "I see B after I see A." He cannot say that A caused B, if there is no principle explaining this phenomenon. Incorrectly, your scientific equation requires no proven principle, whereas Rabbi Akiva held that with no proven law, there is absolutely no relationship. Regardless of the amount of times one can "repeat" phenomena, one is wrong to suggest relationships exist, if no principle explains such a duplication. Coincidence is the only possible explanation. In truth, one merely thinks he is repeating a phenomenon. Also, be mindful that we do not see 10 people praying at different time to different idols, followed by immediate success. So there is no real question here.
It is truly an emotion which generates this question - not a clear understanding of reality.
Reader: There are two issues here. One, to search for
physical cause or relationship. Second, to search for supernatural
cause. I think the second issue is the real interest of the discussion.
It is clear that one needs no supernatural events to draw the
conclusion about G-d's existence. Abraham arrived at his conviction
without or before experiencing apparent miracles (Am I right?)
Reader: However, were there no miracles as recorded
in the Torah, Heaven forbid, would Judaism still be the same
as we know it today? Do all miracles recorded in the Torah have
physical causes? Should one view the event of the arrival of
Moses' Army and the split of the See of Reed as merely simultaneous
events? Can we say that G-d uses miracle to enforce people's
faith or understanding on Him?
Reader: For the Jews, it is natural not to be led by
any other miracles into the belief of any other gods. But for
a non-Jew, to closely exam a miracle. he can hardly be a fool.
Reader: Maybe this is what people have in mind when
they ask "Does Idolatry Work?" In this case, "A
relationship where there is perceivable, physical interaction"
is not a miraculous relationship and "A relationship where
there is NO perceivable, physical interaction" could be
a miraculous relationship. Is this reasonable? Of course, if
one would argue that everything is a miracle, then there is no
miracle. To identify a miraculous relationship one should use
a rational method similar to what a physicist uses to identify
a physical (real) relationship. If two events occur simultaneously
with no other intervention, one may further explore if the phenomena
is reproducible. If it is, then one should further explore if
there is any possible perceivable, physical reason. If not, then
this is a possible miraculous event. No?
Reader: Back to Case I. Rabbi Akiva said about diseases,
"they are to visit man for a certain time, and they are
to leave at the certain day, at a certain hour, through a certain
means, and by a certain medicine". It just so happened that
the idolater left the church precisely when his disease expired.
From common medical knowledge, we also know the probability for
certain disease to be healed without special means (I am also
a medical professional BTW). If medical statistics show 0% natural
recovery rate of certain crippleness, when several such cases
"naturally" recovered under certain event, only a fool
will not raise question why.
Reader: Of course, this is not the case in Case I,
where the phenomenon is an isolated incident of one idolater
praying, and healing at the same time. Normally, a person would
immediately endeavor to offer a cause even if it is a singular
event, just because the chance is so odd. Rabbi Akiva's immediate
conclusion about Case I as coincidence implies (to me) a radical
disbelief of the possibility that a miracle can come out from
Idolatry. Is that a general view of the main stream Judaism?