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November 17, 2006

Odds on Existence of God

Every once in a while, it's useful to check up on the theists' logic. Here is Mahlon Marr (writing, alas, under the name Thomas Paine), responding, he thinks, to Richard Dawkins:

Let's meet him halfway and assume for the sake of argument that there have been no supernatural events since the creation - the Big Bang in technical terms. Either the universe was created by a super-powerful being, or it came into existence spontaneously. There is no scientific theory or evidence available that can even begin to account for either possibility.
So, scientifically, philosophically and reasonably speaking, the odds for the existence of God are an undeniable 50-50. Throw in some slight scientific evidence from the argument for intelligent design...and make it a 50.1 to 49.9 advantage for God.

This calculation is, shall we say, somewhat flawed.

First, we should note that believers have been looking for some dark, as-yet-unexplained corner of the universe in which to secrete God for many centuries now. It was once the creation of life for which there was "no scientific theory or evidence available," but then Darwin shed some light on that "mystery." Now they (and agnostics also) have fastened upon the initial moment of the Big Bang. (To be sure, this is a rather important subject, but so was the creation of life.) Light -- scientific light -- will eventually be shed here, too. As Dawkins writes: "Physicists and cosmologists are hard at work on the problem." He mentions a couple of possible answers -- "a random quantum fluctuation or a Hawking/Penrose singularity" -- and then adds a prudent "or whatever." But even after such an answer arrives, there will undoubtedly remain new puzzles for scientists to work on -- leaving new dark corners into which indefatigable theists can try to stuff a God.

Second, given the track record of science in explaining the workings of the universe versus that of religion, it seems rather odd to assume that a supernatural explanation for the Big Bang is just as likely as a natural one.

Third, suggesting that God launched the Big Bang just raises the larger question of what or who launched god. So, instead of answering the question, by placing an Omnipotent Big Daddy there at the beginning of space-time you have simply raised a more difficult question

Dawkins would add a fourth response: that the universe tends to move from the simple to the more complex and therefore would not move from God, who seems astoundingly complex, to the germ of the Big Bang. We have debated this point below.

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at November 17, 2006 10:23 AM


There are no odds for questions without agreed upon outcomes.
For most people God exists, for them the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of God.
For those that believe there is no God, the odds are overwhelmingly against the existence of God. Neither group can offer proof. For agnostics it is somewhere in the middle. They answer the question with, "maybe". Yet they still ask the question.

For those of us that do not ask the question there are no odds.
Odd starts with OD.

The only way to get to the question of God's existence is to ignore the important questions that can be answered.

Posted by: Jay Saul at November 17, 2006 1:48 PM

An even more important, and more often overlooked mistake in the argument is that Big Bang Theory does not posit a beginning of existence.
Instead, all that the theory says is that the universe emerged from what is usually described as an infinitely dense state. It does not say that the universe "banged" into existence, because when the big bang happened, the universe was already there; indeed, it says nothing at all about what happened "before" the big bang, since, according to relativity, you can't really have a "before" as we know it without a properly formed space-time continuum.

Of course, one shouldn't expect any real understanding of a scientific theory from someone who considers that ID offers evidence, no matter how slight.

Posted by: ocmpoma at November 17, 2006 8:08 PM

The odds for the existence of god in a formal sense is vanishing small. In a less formal sense he simply doesn't exist.

We can always project wild notions on the unknown but if its based on no evidence sound reason that its extraordinarily unlikely to in fact be the case. Has it every?

Posted by: Boelf at November 17, 2006 11:14 PM

Just because there are only two options (if there are) doesn't mean the odds are 50:50. A trivial example: a zebra is either black & white, or it isn't. But the odds are hardly even that the next zebra you see will be yellow and red...

Posted by: The Ridger at November 18, 2006 9:11 AM

Is man one of God's blunders or is God one of man's blunders?
Friedrich Nietzsche

Posted by: BobbyV at November 18, 2006 10:42 PM

"It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word."
-- Andrew Jackson

I think the same can be said for a mind that can only think of two ways the universe could have come into being.

Posted by: Todd Sayre at November 19, 2006 3:58 PM

God, The Creator, Trumped By The First Law Of Thermodynamics

First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy is neither created nor destroyed but it may be transformed from one kind into another.
Einstein suggested that energy and matter are interchangeable (E=mc2).

My theory is that man's thinking is myopic and egocentric. Just as man used to think that the Earth was the center of the universe. The fact that man is mortal, that he is born and then dies, makes him think that the universe must have been created. I propose that the universe did not have a creation; it has always existed and always will. The universe is made of matter and energy in motion throughout time. The universe in total is the only perpetual motion machine.
Energy (and matter) can neither be created nor destroyed implies that it has always existed and always will. Since it has always existed it was not created by God. This renders the question "Who created God?" moot. This also invalidates any "cause" for the universe because it always "was" and "is" and always "will " exist. Existence exists.
Be brave. Follow the reasoning. The Big Bang cosmology model becomes a repeating cycle event of expansion and then contraction and then expansion again etc. etc. etc.
Life on the other hand did have a beginning and most probably will have an end. The conditions for life probably only exist for a certain limited amount of time within a Big bang cycle.
Time can only be relative from one moment to another since there is no beginning (creation). You can relatively date our universe as being 12 to 14 billion years old, which is the age of the current Big Bang cycle we're in.
Human consciousness and self-awareness seems miraculous but can be explained through cosmological and biological evolution. The early cycle of a Big Bang is a very hot place. Very early in a Big Bang, the temperature of the universe is roughly 10 billion degrees filled with a soup of sub-atomic particles and energy (neutrons, protons, electrons, etc. etc. and electromagnetic radiation). As the universe expands and cools hydrogen, helium and traces of lithium form and attract each other and become stars. Elements heavier than lithium are generated in stars through nuclear fusion up to iron. Elements heavier than iron are produced in super-giant stars or in supernovae explosions. This is cosmological evolution. All carbon-based life on earth is made of recycled stardust.
Life began from ever-increasing self-replicating complex molecules and about 3.5 billion years ago an original primordial single cell organism arose who all life on earth is descended. With the long slow gradual process of evolution through natural selection we arrive at the human brain, which creates the concept of God by egocentric default to explain the unexplainable. God did not create the universe. Man created God.
This is just a theory for discussion. Please don't hunt me down and kill me.

Dave Bevenger

Posted by: Dave Bevenger at November 20, 2006 2:03 PM

I'm with Dawkins. It is easier to evidence that from the simple arises the complex. This apples to simple sentences which evolve into complex ones, and simple mathematics which evolves into stuff that I won't even pretend to understand.

To assume the existence of a complex, intelligent being from the beginning, is diametrically opposed to that which is evidenced in the natural world.

Posted by: beepbeepitsme at November 21, 2006 1:15 AM

RE dave:

We anthropomorphise our natural world. We always have probably. So no surprise to me that the gods are so much like us.

Posted by: beepbeepitsme at November 21, 2006 1:18 AM

These two related essays give a unique understanding of the relation between religion & science. They also feature comments on the Big Bang.
1. www.dabase.net/spacetim.htm
2. www.dabase.net/christmc2.htm

Also Why Be Blinded By Scientism at:

3. www.aboutadidam.org/lesser_alternatives/scientific_materialism/index.html

Actually the Big Bang is what happens on ones wedding night!!

Posted by: John at November 23, 2006 2:53 AM

If one says there is no God then he must know more than the God they say does not exist.

Posted by: L. Hansen at December 17, 2006 2:35 AM

I know this is an old post, but I liked it. To Dave Bevenger though. you say,

To assume the existence of a complex, intelligent being from the beginning, is diametrically opposed to that which is evidenced in the natural world.

But to those who believe in a god, a single god, nothing seems more simple than an all-knowing/powerful God. That is why even simple civilizations believe in some type of higher power. It is a very simple concept that every civilization has held onto.

Posted by: C.Stripling at July 13, 2009 2:50 PM

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