Just Above Sunset
March 14, 2004 - God in the Spreadsheet
Kevin Drum over at CalPundit.com led me to this.
A scientist has calculated that there is a 67% chance that God exists.
Factors that were considered included recognition of goodness, which Dr Unwin said makes the existence of God more likely, countered by things like the existence of natural evil - including earthquakes and cancer.
Wait a minute, Steve! “Goodness” makes the existence of God more likely?
It seems one could argue
equally well that goodness proves that God doesn’t exist at all, or if God exists, He (or She or It) isn’t particularly
effective. This God business has indeed caused a lot of pain and suffering, and
I’m not sure pain and suffering are inherently good.
The assumption here
is that God is inherently good. Inherently?
The unusual workings - which even take into account the existence of miracles - are set out in his new book, which includes a spreadsheet of the data used so that anyone can make the calculation themselves should they doubt its validity. The book, The Probability of God: A simple calculation that proves the ultimate truth, will be published later this month.
Why am I reminded of Douglas
Adams and the question at the core of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where, of course, the answer
the meaning of everything turns out to be… forty-two?
"On arriving in America I was exposed to certain religious outlooks that were somewhat of an
assault upon my sensibilities - outlooks in which religion actually competes with science as an explanation of the world,"
Yeah, well, Unwin, we all
have our issues.
Rick Brown, one of my regular readers – the “news guy” – has a reaction.
Wait! Did you say this guy "works as a risk assessor in Ohio"? Hey, he's in the (pardon the expression) goddam insurance business! What's he trying to do, put some statistical bite into all those "Act of God" clauses?
But forget God, right now. I need Dr Unwin to run the numbers on the probability of the existence of the Tooth Fairy! My son lost another tooth today, and he just now put it under his pillow and is not nearly ready to doze off just yet. So with me having nothing smaller than a twenty in my wallet, not to mention really wanting to "sleep in" tomorrow morning, an actual real live Tooth Fairy, preferably one carrying cash money in small denominations and her own supply of number-ten envelopes, would really come in handy right now!
Five will get you ten, though, that Dr Unwin won't give the Tooth Fairy that generous 50/50 head start he grants to God.
Not a bad strategy, when you think about it, since without that handicap, God would come in at a pretty paltry and unimpressive 17% (that's 67% minus 50%), which is less than one chance in five! I'd imagine this could really piss off just about any Supreme Being, at least enough to doom Dr Unwin to an eternity of calculating actuarial tables in Hell using a broken crayola instead of a spreadsheet program.
All things considered, crossing your maker (assuming he exists, even if there's really only a 17% chance of it) could end up being very much worse than dissing some whoosy Tooth Fairy, so it's probably best to play it safe.
Then again, I'd bet if there's one thing this "risk assessor" guy is trained to do, it's how to play it safe.
Yes, one is reminded of "Pascal's Wager." Pascal essentially argues that to believe in God is the best bet because if God exists, you'll go to heaven and avoid hell. If you don't believe in God, you might lose all this. If God does not exist, you'll have nothing to lose. So it's better to believe in God than not to.
I’m not sure that’s very comforting.
This issue updated and published on...
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