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# Probability of the existence of God

Author Topic:   Probability of the existence of God
Wumpini
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Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008

 Message 1 of 219 (464062) 04-23-2008 8:20 AM

I am new to this community so I am not sure if this topic has been discussed extensively in the past. My internet connection is very slow so it is difficult for me to do an effective search.
My query is basically "Can we assign a probability to the existence of God?"
Although I am not a mathematician or a scientist, I have had an interest in statistics since I was in college numerous years ago. I have been reading about different theories related to the "origin of the universe," and the "origin of life." It seems that most of these theories have been assigned different probabilities. Some of them with astronomical chances!
When I review these theories, I see that that many times the assumptions are not based upon the natural laws of science. For example, different theories related to the origin of life teach that life arose from non-living matter. However the "law of biogenesis" teaches that life can only arise from existing life. Therefore, probabilities are being assigned based upon a deviation from the natural laws of science. In other words the event seems to have been supernatural, or outside the laws of nature. If this is not the case, then the probabilities must be calculated based upon the assumption that the "law of biogenesis" is invalid, and that life can arise from non-living matter. In other words, the probabilities are being assigned based upon the assumption that the law (of biogenesis) will be found invalid when the theory is proven to be true.
It seems that the same is true of the origin of the universe. It seems that some of the theories that I have reviewed make the assumption that the energy and matter in existence today came from nothing. This is in contradiction to the natural law that no energy or matter is being created or destroyed. The natural law says that all energy and matter in existence today had to always have been in existence. Therefore, if they assign probabilities to any event that uses an assumption outside of this natural law of science, the assumptions are supernatural.
My question is not related to the validity of the probabilities being assigned to the theories regarding the origin of life and the origin of the universe. My point is that scientists seem to be using assumptions that contradict the natural laws of science in existence today to assign these probabilities. Therefore, it would seem to me that science allows the use of supernatural assumptions in the field of statistics.
I have reviewed numerous theories which have attempted to calculate the probability of the existence of God. Anyone familiar with this field will know of Bayes Theorem, and some of the people who have advocated and criticized its use for the purpose of making these calculations.
Having laid a brief foundation for this thread, I would like to reiterate the primary subject that I have placed up for discussion.
Is there a chance that God exists? If there is a chance, what is it?
Can we assign a probability to the existence of God?

 Replies to this message: Message 4 by Phat, posted 04-24-2008 9:06 AM Wumpini has replied Message 5 by New Cat's Eye, posted 04-24-2008 12:07 PM Wumpini has not replied Message 6 by Chiroptera, posted 04-24-2008 12:48 PM Wumpini has replied Message 7 by Rahvin, posted 04-24-2008 1:20 PM Wumpini has replied Message 14 by ICANT, posted 04-24-2008 2:42 PM Wumpini has replied Message 34 by john6zx, posted 04-27-2008 3:54 AM Wumpini has replied Message 150 by Stile, posted 05-23-2008 10:04 PM Wumpini has not replied Message 201 by Doubletime, posted 06-18-2009 6:18 AM Wumpini has not replied Message 208 by achristian1985, posted 02-17-2010 10:46 PM Wumpini has not replied

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 Message 2 of 219 (464230) 04-24-2008 8:18 AM

Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

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 Message 3 of 219 (464231) 04-24-2008 8:20 AM

Moderator Request
Participants please note that the topic relates to God, not to abiogenesis or cosmological origins.

 -- Percy EvC Forum Director

Phat
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 Message 4 of 219 (464240) 04-24-2008 9:06 AM Reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini04-23-2008 8:20 AM

No Gray area here
Just using my basic horse sense, I would imagine that if probability could be assigned in this area it would be a simple 50/50.
Either matter/energy was and is an uncaused first cause
or
God (as Creator) is the uncaused first cause.
Critics may assert that there is no way to prove God in any past, present, or future form...thus the probability is zero. (Remember that this is a Faith topic, though) Thus...I stick with roughly 50/50.

"All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."--C.S.Lewis
* * * * * * * * * *
“The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”--General Omar Bradley
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog." -GK Chesterson

 This message is a reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini, posted 04-23-2008 8:20 AM Wumpini has replied

 Replies to this message: Message 8 by Wumpini, posted 04-24-2008 1:27 PM Phat has not replied Message 11 by PaulK, posted 04-24-2008 1:57 PM Phat has not replied

New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member

 Message 5 of 219 (464251) 04-24-2008 12:07 PM Reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini04-23-2008 8:20 AM

Can we assign a probability to the existence of God?
Nope. There's too many unaccountable variables.
The honest answer is that we don't know what the probability of god existing is.
I do know, however, that saying that there are two possibilities, so therefore it is 50/50 is wrong (Phat). Just because there are two possibilities does not mean that the probability of each possibility is equal. It could jsut as easily be 60/40...

 This message is a reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini, posted 04-23-2008 8:20 AM Wumpini has not replied

Chiroptera
Inactive Member

 Message 6 of 219 (464256) 04-24-2008 12:48 PM Reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini04-23-2008 8:20 AM

However the "law of biogenesis" teaches that life can only arise from existing life.
Actually, there is no "law of biogenesis."
-
Is there a chance that God exists?
I suppose that there is. But to answer this question, we must look at the evidence that exists, and decide whether there is evidence in favor of the existence of a god, how good that evidence is, whether there is evidence against the existence of a god, and how good that evidence is.
Me, I think it is very unlikely that god exists.
-
Can we assign a probability to the existence of God?
Not without more information. Probabilies are a form of mathematical model, and mathematical models of the real world are based on emprirical evidence. I don't know of any empirical studies that allow us to assign probabilities to the existence of a god.
The closest thing I can think of is to examine a large number of universes with life, and compare the number of these universes in which there is no god with the number in which there is a god.

Speaking personally, I find few things more awesome than contemplating this vast and majestic process of evolution, the ebb and flow of successive biotas through geological time. Creationists and others who cannot for ideological or religious reasons accept the fact of evolution miss out a great deal, and are left with a claustrophobic little universe in which nothing happens and nothing changes.
-- M. Alan Kazlev

 This message is a reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini, posted 04-23-2008 8:20 AM Wumpini has replied

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Rahvin
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 Message 7 of 219 (464266) 04-24-2008 1:20 PM Reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini04-23-2008 8:20 AM

The probability of the existence of "god" is completely indeterminable.
The problem is that there is no evidence of any deity's existence. The probability of any one deity existing, or any number of deities for that matter since they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, is exactly the same as the probability of an invisible, intangible pink unicorn existing right next to you.
In the absence of any objective evidence whatsoever, all things are equally probable - which is to say, not very probable at all. Literally every deity that has ever been conceived for whom there is no objective evidence, every figment of your imagination, is equally possible and probable.
This is the entire reason Atheists exist. If the probability of a deity existing is the same as the probability of fairies existing, there's no more reason to believe in "god" than in fairies.
This is not to say we can actually assign a numerical probability for "god." The best we could say would be "1 chance in an infinite number of possibilities." That basically means that the probability of "god" existing based on all currently available objective evidence so closely approaches zero as makes no difference.
Phat's suggestion that the chances are "50/50" follow the same line of thought that leads to Pascal's Wager, which we all know is a load of feces. There are more than two options. "God" can exist, or not, or many "gods" can exist, or basically any combination you can conceive of, and the probability for any one option is no greater or less than the probability of any other option. It gets worse when you define "god" as a specific religion's deity, as we see with Pascal's Wager. When hedging your bets by accepting the Christian deity, you'd be pretty disappointed when you find out Odin was the real King of the Gods all along and you should have tried to die in glorious combat. The 50/50 line of thought is a false dilemma.
This is on top of the problem where (existence/non-existence) are not necessarily equally probable at all, as has been mentioned.
Basically, when it comes down to it, any conceived-of entity for which there is no objective evidence of existence has an equal likelihood of existing. We cannot say it is impossible for any of these entities to exist, because you cannot prove a negative without proving a falsifying positive - which requires objective evidence. But there is no reason to believe they do exist, either. So while we cannot give a real numerical answer due to insufficient information, we can say that, since all things in this scenario are equal (there is no objective evidence at all), the likelihood of a deity existing is the same as the likelihood of fairies or trolls or goblins existing as well.
I think the best answer is the basic response Atheists tend to give:
"Maybe, but really, probably not."

 This message is a reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini, posted 04-23-2008 8:20 AM Wumpini has replied

 Replies to this message: Message 10 by Wumpini, posted 04-24-2008 1:46 PM Rahvin has replied

Wumpini
Member (Idle past 5892 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008

 Message 8 of 219 (464268) 04-24-2008 1:27 PM Reply to: Message 4 by Phat04-24-2008 9:06 AM

Probability
I think that it is correct that we must start with an either/or proposition. Without any additional evidence or information, and with only two possibilities (God exists / God does not exist) then I believe the probability would have to be 50%.
Since we do have additional evidence and information, it appears that we need to adjust the probability based upon this evidence.
...thus the probability is zero
I do not see how the question of whether you can or cannot prove the existence of God would result in a probability of zero. Why could we not use a probability of 100% just as easily in that situation? Is the argument valid that, "if you cannot prove that something exists, then it does not exist?"
Thanks

 This message is a reply to: Message 4 by Phat, posted 04-24-2008 9:06 AM Phat has not replied

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Rahvin
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Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

 Message 9 of 219 (464270) 04-24-2008 1:42 PM Reply to: Message 8 by Wumpini04-24-2008 1:27 PM

Re: Probability
I think that it is correct that we must start with an either/or proposition. Without any additional evidence or information, and with only two possibilities (God exists / God does not exist) then I believe the probability would have to be 50%.
And you're wrong. There are more possibilities than a binary "god/no-god." There could be two gods, or three, or a hundred. But the probability si not tied to the number of possibilities - not directly, anyway. First you have to show that both possibilities are equally probable...which you cannot do becasue there is no evidence.
Since we do have additional evidence and information, it appears that we need to adjust the probability based upon this evidence.
And what evidence and information would that be? If you have objective evideicne for the existence of a deity, then by all means, share.
quote:
...thus the probability is zero
I do not see how the question of whether you can or cannot prove the existence of God would result in a probability of zero. Why could we not use a probability of 100% just as easily in that situation? Is the argument valid that, "if you cannot prove that something exists, then it does not exist?"
No. However, it is valid to say "if you cannot prove that somethign exists, it is unlikely to exist."
What is the probability of a fairy sitting on your shoulder? There is exactly as much evidence surrounding the fairy as there is for "god." If you accept that the probability of a fairy sitting on your shoulder approaches zero (not disprovable, but highly unlikely), then how can you rationally claim that "god" has a 50% chance of existing?
Conversely, do you honestly believe that every figment of anyone's imagination has a 50/50 chance of actually existing? After all, each figment either exists or does not exist.

 This message is a reply to: Message 8 by Wumpini, posted 04-24-2008 1:27 PM Wumpini has not replied

 Replies to this message: Message 209 by Phat, posted 03-07-2014 10:15 AM Rahvin has replied

Wumpini
Member (Idle past 5892 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008

 Message 10 of 219 (464271) 04-24-2008 1:46 PM Reply to: Message 7 by Rahvin04-24-2008 1:20 PM

Maybe - Probably Not
You state regarding the existence of God.
"Maybe, but really, probably not."
It appears that would put the probability somewhere above zero and below 50% in your opinion.
Therefore, it would seem that the calculations are not completely indeterminable.
the likelihood of a deity existing is the same as the likelihood of fairies or trolls or goblins existing as well.
I really do not see what fairies, goblins, and trolls have to do with the existence of God! Is this what you guys call a strawman.
Thanks

 This message is a reply to: Message 7 by Rahvin, posted 04-24-2008 1:20 PM Rahvin has replied

 Replies to this message: Message 12 by Rahvin, posted 04-24-2008 1:59 PM Wumpini has replied

PaulK
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 Message 11 of 219 (464273) 04-24-2008 1:57 PM Reply to: Message 4 by Phat04-24-2008 9:06 AM

Re: No Gray area here
I've studied probability theory and I'm still pretty good at the really basic stuff like this.
To validly get an estimate of 50/50 by your method you need to :
a) Produce an exhaustive list of all the possiiblities (certain idealisations might be permitted, but only when they don't significantly affect the results)
b) Show that all those possibilities are equally likely
c) Only then, can you group together the possibilities into the outcomes you are interested in. To get 50/50 in that case you would have to show that half of the possible options fell into the result you want.
For instance if you wanted to calculate the probability of winning the lottery you couldn't just say "either I will win or I won't so the chance of winning is 50/50". To do it right you would need to look at all the possible results of the draw individually and see how many of those would get your ticket the win.
The problem is that since your probability is based only on how you choose to look at the outcomes, you have to look at the outcomes in the right way.
You haven't even managed to do the first. There is the possibility that something other than God gave rise to energy and matter.
I'll take this just a little further to show what I mean about how you look at it. We could just say that there are three possiiblities and give them all a probability of 1/3. Or we could say either energy/mass is an uncaused first cause or it isn't. And if it isn't then either the cause of energy/matter is God or it isn't which gives a probability of 1/4 for God existing. At least one of them has to be wrong - and in fact it's highly unlikely that either is any more use than your 50/50. Which is to say, not at all.

 This message is a reply to: Message 4 by Phat, posted 04-24-2008 9:06 AM Phat has not replied

Rahvin
Member (Idle past 99 days)
Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

 Message 12 of 219 (464274) 04-24-2008 1:59 PM Reply to: Message 10 by Wumpini04-24-2008 1:46 PM

Re: Maybe - Probably Not
You state regarding the existence of God.
quote:
"Maybe, but really, probably not."
It appears that would put the probability somewhere above zero and below 50% in your opinion.
Think much closer to zero. Not quite there, but infinitely close.
Therefore, it would seem that the calculations are not completely indeterminable.
You cannot develop a true mathematical model from which to deduce a probability. You can, however, say that "since there is exactly as much evidence in favor of the existence of fairies as there is in favor of the existence of a deity, they have the same probability."
Do you really beleive that fairies have a 50/50 chance of existing? Becasue the evidence in favor of their existence is identical to the evidence in favor of a deity's existence - there is none whatsoever.
quote:
the likelihood of a deity existing is the same as the likelihood of fairies or trolls or goblins existing as well.
I really do not see what fairies, goblins, and trolls have to do with the existence of God! Is this what you guys call a strawman.
Perhaps you have poor reading comprehension skills, as I explained it quite fully in my first post. Let me make it more clear:
Evidence for "god's" existence: 0
Evidence for the existence of fairies: 0
Evidence for the existence of trolls: 0
Evidence for the existence of goblins: 0
See where I'm going with this? All four have exactly the same amount of evidence in favor of their existence. Since the number is 0, there is no reason to beleive in any of them. If you understand why you do not believe in fairies, you will understand why there is no rational reason to beleive in a deity, either.
Since there is no evidence in favor of any of these thigns existing, it is reasonable to say "the probability of their existence given the information available to me is infinitely small." It would not be reasonable to say "there is no chance whatsoever of these thigns existing," becasue we have no way to prove the negative, either.
But claiming a 50/50 chance quite seriosuly amounts to pulling a number out of your ass. I attempted to illustrate with my fairy-on-your-shoulder example that the likelihood of an entity existing is not the same as flipping a coin.
Let's try another example:
There are two options for the lottery: you either win the lottery or you do not.
Should I run out and start buying lottery tickets? Is the probability of winning really 50/50 only becasue there are two options?

 This message is a reply to: Message 10 by Wumpini, posted 04-24-2008 1:46 PM Wumpini has replied

 Replies to this message: Message 13 by Wumpini, posted 04-24-2008 2:34 PM Rahvin has replied

Wumpini
Member (Idle past 5892 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008

 Message 13 of 219 (464282) 04-24-2008 2:34 PM Reply to: Message 12 by Rahvin04-24-2008 1:59 PM

As I said, I am not a scientist or a mathmetician
As I said in my original post, I am not a scientist or a mathematician. I am also not a debater. However, I can understand your reasoning related to these calculations.
I have read much information on the internet.
Stephen Unwin who would assign a probability of 67%.
Stephen D. Unwin - Wikipedia
or Dawkins who would assign a probability of zero.
The God Delusion - Wikipedia
There is a model that was designed by a man from Stanford based upon the Bayes Theorem that can be found here:
http://xastanford.org/messages/ProbabilityOfGod.xls
All of these calculations appear to be based more on the probability that a person will believe in God versus whether God exists.
I think that my question has been answered. We cannot empiracally calculate the probability of the existence of God. We can subjectively calculate the probablility of whether someone will believe in God. However, I do not think we can place an absolute number on His existence. (Thanks for all of your help in bringing my long forgotten statistics back to my memory.)
I believe there are only two possibilities. Either God exists or He does not exist. I also believe there is evidence for the existence of God. I look at the expanse of the universe, I look at the design of even a simple cell, I look at the morality that is within all of us, and I look at how limited and constrained our thoughts are in this physical world that we find ourselves in, and I see evidence that God exists.
Based upon this evidence, I would estimate the probability that God exists at very, very close to 100%. I would even say infinitely close.
Thanks for your input

 This message is a reply to: Message 12 by Rahvin, posted 04-24-2008 1:59 PM Rahvin has replied

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ICANT
Member (Idle past 155 days)
Posts: 6769
From: SSC
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 (1)
 Message 14 of 219 (464284) 04-24-2008 2:42 PM Reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini04-23-2008 8:20 AM

Hi Wumpini,
Welcome to EvC.
Wumpini writes:
Is there a chance that God exists? If there is a chance, what is it?
Can we assign a probability to the existence of God?
Being this is faith and belief and I don't have to give a scientific answer I will respond. But I must qualify what I am talking about.
If you are talking about The God of the Bible (I use the KJV as it is the best English version), there is a chance God exists.
You ask, what is the chance? My answer, 100%.
You ask, Can we assign a probability to the existence of God? Again if you are talking about the God of the Bible (KJV)? Yes.
You ask what is the probability? My answer 100%
You ask how can you be so sure?
August will be the 68 Th. anniversary of my meeting Jesus and receiving Him as my personal savior. I put my life in His hands and He has never failed me. I have everything that a man could desire. I have peace, joy, happiness, and contentment. Things that money, fame and fortune can not buy.
I have the Word of God that I can read. I also have the Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me in all Truth.
Besides these, I walk and talk with God everyday.
God Bless,

"John 5:39 (KJS) Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."

 This message is a reply to: Message 1 by Wumpini, posted 04-23-2008 8:20 AM Wumpini has replied

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Rahvin
Member (Idle past 99 days)
Posts: 4046
Joined: 07-01-2005

 Message 15 of 219 (464287) 04-24-2008 3:48 PM Reply to: Message 13 by Wumpini04-24-2008 2:34 PM

Re: As I said, I am not a scientist or a mathmetician
I think that my question has been answered. We cannot empiracally calculate the probability of the existence of God. We can subjectively calculate the probablility of whether someone will believe in God. However, I do not think we can place an absolute number on His existence. (Thanks for all of your help in bringing my long forgotten statistics back to my memory.)
Correct. But we can determine that there is no reason to believe a deity does exist. Absense of evidence is evidence of a likelihood of absence.
I believe there are only two possibilities. Either God exists or He does not exist.
I believe there are only two possibilities: either fairies exist or they do not exist.
You see how this looks? You're actively disengaging rational thought and giving "god" a free pass, while you agree wih me on the likeihood of fairies existing even though the same amount of evidence exists for both.
I also believe there is evidence for the existence of God. I look at the expanse of the universe, I look at the design of even a simple cell, I look at the morality that is within all of us, and I look at how limited and constrained our thoughts are in this physical world that we find ourselves in, and I see evidence that God exists.
You could just as easily attribute all of those things to fairies. You have no, and in fact cannot provide any sort of conclusing link between the existence of the Unvierse, the complexity of life, and human life and the existence of your specific deity. You're making an irrational leap in logic of the highest order.
Based upon this evidence, I would estimate the probability that God exists at very, very close to 100%. I would even say infinitely close.
You presuppose that your examples must have been casued by your deity. If that were true, you would be right - but it's not. There are many other possible explanations for morality, complexity, and simple existence that range from other deities, various religions with no deities, and naturalistic explanations.
To make another analogy, you have a dead body, and before examining it at all, with no information whatsoever other than that the body is dead and has a "wound," you are claiming the victim was stabbed. You're claiming the existence of a "wound" proves that the victim was stabbed, even though there are many explanations possible for a "wound." It's an unfounded logical leap.
So once again, you have no objective evidence for the existence of a deity. You have only your subjective opinion...which is exactly the same as the evidence in favor of fairies, trolls, and goblins.
To remain logically consistent, you must apply the same rationale that causes you to not believe in fairies to the existence of "god." If you do not, you are purposely giving your deity a "free pass" and bypassing rational thought.
So, in order to remain consistent, you must either accept that:
a) the probability of god existing, like the probability of fairies existing and any other entity ever imagined for which there is no basis in objective evidence, is near-zero becasue there is no evidence to suggest that they do exist
OR
b) the probability of god existing and fairies existing and any other seemingly binary choice regarding the existence of any entity ever imagined for which there is no basis in objective evidence is 50/50, since they all rely on the same objective evidence and assumptions
OR
c) the probability of god existing and fairies existing and any other entity ever imagined for which there is no basis in objective evidence is near-100%, sicne they all rely on the same objective evidence and assumptions.
You seem to be taking choice C), which I find both interesting and amusing. If you insist that "god" has a near-100% probability of existing but agree that fairies do not likely exist, then you are logically inconsistent, and your argument is destroyed.

 This message is a reply to: Message 13 by Wumpini, posted 04-24-2008 2:34 PM Wumpini has not replied

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