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The Probability of God

September 6, 2012

What is more likely: That the laws of nature have been suspended in your favor, and in a way that you approve, or that you’ve made a mistake?

Christopher Hitchens

I chose this quote by Hitchens, utilizing a portion of David Hume’s quote when discussing the probability of miracles, because I think it does a really good job of expelling the idea that miracles, or God, is more likely in any occasion. This belief in actual miracles is sadly a very popular one. People seem to have this notion that if things are really difficult to explain, then the most logical conclusion is to put it into the hands of God. What I plan to do here is show that this in fact makes matters worse for those who do not like the idea of things being “too complex.”

Before looking at some of the most “convincing” arguments that theists believe they have when attempting to prove that God is the more logical answer to the more difficult questions of life (primarily, our existence). I would like to turn to the widely known, Pascal’s Wager.

Pascal’s Wager

For many theists, Pascal’s wager can be one’s strongest argument. At a glance, the argument appears logical, looking at the different avenues one can take, weighing the pro’s and cons, and finally coming to the conclusion that God is clearly the best decision to make. I believe that the logical mirage attracts many theists because if it makes logical sense to them, then they think that it will appeal to skeptics, or at least leave us speechless. Both assumptions are incorrect.

Let’s look at the wager now before moving on;

Pascal’s Wager:

1. God is, or He is not.

2. You must wager, it is not optional.

3. Let us weigh the gain and the loss of wagering that God is. If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing.

4. Wager then, without hesitation, that He is. There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and loss, and the infinite to gain.

As I hope people can quickly see, there are some obvious missteps in logic here, and off the cusp, I do not direct my critical thoughts towards Blaise Pascal, as I can see how in his time, one could be limited to a world view that would make this argument logically air tight. I am critical of those today that choose this argument. I hope in my proving this wager illogical, and therefore irrelevant, that it will inspire those who believe they have other strong arguments to be truly critical of their arguments because in the end, we will all be better off.

Let me begin the “disproof” here. God is, or He is not. This statement is true, but not completely. I will return to it soon.

You must wager. This statement is also true. In fact, it is probably the only 100% true statement.

The wager goes on to say: Let us weigh the gain and the loss of wagering that God is. If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. This is where everything needs to be stopped as everything crashes down on this wager. What is the gain if God is? Well, assuming you not only wagered that God is, but you wagered that the correct God is. We cannot forget that there have been thousands of God’s in history. One could even eliminate the majority leaving us with the God of the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. But wait a minute, all of these God’s are kind of the same one as they all branch off from Abraham in the old testament. And now it is all the more complex. You may wager on the correct God, but even then, you must be on the same page as this God (i.e. being Christian doesn’t help if God is a Muslim, and vice versa). And then we can look at the different sects of Christianity (and be aware that this is just Christianity). Some of these sects claim that if you aren’t part of their version of Christianity, you might as well be an atheist – in that you’re going to hell. This is why the first statement of the wager is not completely true. One does not simply have a 50-50 shot but in some cases, the odds of selecting the correct God is as likely as winning the lottery. In a quick search I made, it can be argued that your odds are at best somewhere in the ballpark of 1 in 102,000,000,000. Now, imagine that you have chosen the correct God. With the points I have made above, one can relate this to choosing the correct lottery numbers and going to collect your winnings, only to find out that the numbers are not in the correct font. That is the kind of situation that we are setting when wagering for or against God.

So if one wishes to take those odds on, what is the loss if you are wrong? To say nothing is absurdly incorrect. One will most certainly lose the opportunity to experience reality to the fullest. They will lose the opportunity to live this life as though it is the only one they will ever have in the infinity of everything. And I must add that of the infinity, our existence is but a spec of a spec of a spec. I believe that without this belief, one cannot fully experience love, beauty, happiness, passion, or a life anywhere near its full potential; Thereby rendering the fourth statement irrelevant. For if you choose that there is a God, and there is not, you have lost the only life you will ever have in the infinity of everything.

The Beauty of the World

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

Douglas Adams

One of the primary reasons that people believe in God is that when they look out at everything around them, they see so much beauty that they believe that there must be a God behind the beauty. This extends out into the night sky. When one looks at the stars, the beauty can take one’s breath away. This almost becomes an illusion of a painting, as though they begin to believe that God painted the night sky, or everything beautiful around them, for they themselves. This is merely a sign of ignorance.

People tend not to enjoy studying the findings of science, especially the religious, and what this leads to is a narrow view of everything around them. From here, when in search of answers to what they observe, their conclusions are, perhaps as should be expected, simple, but above all, incorrect. This leads me to the next argument that any theist may use when discussing the likelihood of God, which is that everything on this earth and out into the universe is so beautiful and orderly, and therefore complex, that there must have been some intelligence behind it. Again, this is an argument that was not completely thought out.

It appears to me when I look at this argument, that theists once again show a poor habit of coming up with an idea, and if this idea fits into the reality in which they wish to live, they make the mistake of assuming it correct, and from there, critical analysis of the idea lies dormant. What the theist does not realize that they are saying is, “This universe is so complex, that it could not have come from nothing. God must have created the universe and everything within it.” This confuses me. Too complex? Okay then, if this is too complex then one certainly cannot believe in God.

If you believe that the universe is too complex to come from nothing, then how can you believe that an all-knowing, all-powerful being can come from nothing? You have made things even harder on yourself. If the retort is that God is outside of space and time, that is simply a cop-out statement because you obviously don’t understand what space and time is if you are going to say that.

Lastly, the scientific explanation actually follows your wish of being less complex. We see the universe go from complete anarchy, to being somewhat more stable. This all occurs simply through the laws of physics. Some hobby-level studying of the beginnings of the universe is not hard to come by. And if you are someone who has used this argument before, there is obviously enough interest there to research a little bit more. And thanks to the brilliant theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, one can read a very well written book on how in fact a universe can come from nothing.

Anthropic Principle

The anthropic principle is probably the strongest argument I’ve ever heard when in discussions with theists concerning the probability of God. This argument tends to involve the most numbers, which gives the illusion of being scientific, and at first glance can appear to discredit any ideas of a universe without the help of God.

The idea of the anthropic principle argument is that the fundamental constants of the universe appear to be perfectly fine tuned for life. The proposal then is, either nature happened to fall into this narrow range of constants, or an intelligent creator set these constants in order for life to flourish. In order to boast the side of God, numbers are given of the incredibly low probability of these constants being what they are by chance. From here, this fine tuning is implied to be evidence for God. This argument is strong in the sense that there are only a couple of things wrong with it. These incorrect points however, are critical to the argument being worth its weight.

Perhaps the biggest problem is the conclusion. What makes this problem worse is that from there, the argument can be deconstructed to nothing.

The claim that the fine tuning is evidence for God is completely incorrect. In a discussion I had with my brother, who has his degree in physics, we discussed what constitutes as evidence. Evidence, as we all should know, must be falsifiable. The constants are not falsifiable, and not testable, therefore not evidence. I can be more critical about this. When we observe something in nature, we make a hypothesis about what we observe and then test predictions that are made by the hypothesis. When one claims that the fine tuning is evidence for God, they are wrong in this claim, because the fine tuning is not a specific prediction of the hypothesis that a creator is responsible for our existence. The reason why this is not a specific prediction is because the fact that we are all here means that there must be a “fine tuning”. God does not determine the fine tuning, our existence implies the fine tuning, and because we exist, this fine tuning could never be falsified. And the fact that the fine tuning cannot be evidence for God pulls away the foundation for the entire argument, rendering it worthless when trying to prove God’s existence.

Conclusion

I hope that I have shown that when discussing the probability of God, there is no longer a debate. God is an ancient idea that has been recreated over and over again by an ignorant past that lacked the resources that technological advancement, and brilliant minds have granted us. We need not be shackled by the words of the ignorant. There is a beautiful, awe-inspiring reality waiting to be discovered by each and every one of us. Looking at the probability, there probably is no God, and that is a great thing.

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From → Religion

8 Comments
  1. Kevin M permalink

    This blog does a great job of showing the logical errors in the arguments for gods existence. Although it seems that bad logic isn’t even the biggest mistake made by those who endorse these arguments! The biggest mistake actually seems to be the LACK of further thought about these arguments! (e.g. This is too complex –> Therefore God must have done it. Versus further thought which asks how the complex thing works in order to come to a better understanding of it yielding an answer that is much more likely to be true.) Good job showing the logical errors and then showing what can be found if someone holding these views were to take their thoughts one step further.

    • Thank you for your insights. As I was writing this article, it became more apparent to me how little thought is put into each argument. I found myself having to explain, in depth, things that wouldn’t need explaining if only critical thinking were a more aspired attribute in people’s lives.

  2. Excellent article my friend which I enjoyed reading. Funnily enough, I had a comment from somebody called ‘god’ earlier. I asked if it was the God or just a god but haven’t been told yet 🙂
    Also a Catholic Christian liked one of my posts which is amazing and shows they haven’t read the others. I checked her site and found the most recent article claimed Christian’s were the world’s most persecuted minority. The math was weak but the arguments were weaker still 🙂 I’m sure she would have just loved your post…

    • Haha! I wonder what beneficial insights ‘god’ has for all of us. I may have to read this persons blog just to see how “profound” it is.

      I have heard people try to argue that Christians are the most persecuted minority. I believe it shows how spoiled they truly are. It is one thing to say that you have received a little flack for your beliefs, but to make a claim like that, one must be truly unaware of the power that they undeservedly hold. Today, a Christian can walk into almost any room, proclaim their faith, and then be received with the utmost respect. That’s one of many undeserved powers the faithful hold. Thank you for your comment 🙂

      • Exactly my feelings. Also, it wasn’t long ago that they were burning witches and torturing folk who got the story slightly wrong 😦
        If you look at the history of the church, they never mentioned love much until recently – about the swinging 60s I’d guess. They were more about God-fearing etc.
        There’s a evangelical church by me and they’re telling impressionable folk they can cure cancer and incurable diseases. Of course, they make collections on the strength of this and get members to give a tenth (tithe) of their earnings to the organisation. I know this because I’ve got an incurable disease and one of their flock ( a good word for sheep, but humans?) told me I could be cured at the church. It shows how lacking in awareness the guy was as I’m probably the last person to try that shit on. If they knew about my novel they’d probably think I was the Devil incarnate 🙂
        Glad we’re saying the same thing. Regards, Dave

      • It’s a sad thing to see people being swindled like that. If anyone truly has a life threatening disease, their hopes will rise even higher only to be shattered by the ignorance of faith. I am happy to see we are again on the same page on another issue. 🙂

      • Yes, I think these things are linked. People need to wake up and start being critical – but the education system doesn’t teach that, the media covers stuff up so not to embarrass its owners and the churches lie and steal while claiming to tell the eternal truth.
        It’s a good job not everybody sees the Emperor’s Beautiful New Clothes… 🙂

  3. Haha, indeed! You are touching a little bit on a subject that I plan to write about in the future. We can see all this corruption, and mental laziness, resting on a foundation of lies. I have come to the conclusion that lies are the root of all evil. People coddle their insecurities with lies, they lie for power… Oh the list goes on and on… Haha… And we have religion, the biggest lie. I will enjoy writing about it. 🙂 I will also plug another book I enjoyed on the subject. It can be read in one sitting very quickly. “Lying” by Sam Harris

    http://www.amazon.com/Lying-Kindle-Single-ebook/dp/B005N0KL5G

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