Odds on that
God exists, says scientist
Stewart Maclean, Catherine Bolsover and
Monday March 8, 2004
A scientist has calculated that there
is a 67% chance that God exists.
Dr Stephen Unwin has used a 200-year-old
formula to calculate the probability of the existence
of an omnipotent being. Bayes' Theory is usually used
to work out the likelihood of events, such as nuclear
power failure, by balancing the various factors that
could affect a situation.
The Manchester University graduate, who
now works as a risk assessor in Ohio, said the theory
starts from the assumption that God has a 50/50 chance
of existing, and then factors in the evidence both for
and against the notion of a higher being.
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
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.
Dr Unwin said he was interested in bridging
the gap between science and religion. He argues that
rather than being a theological issue, the question
of God's existence is simply a matter of statistics.
"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," he said.
"While I could not be sure, having
slept through most of the cathedral services I had attended
during secondary school, this did not seem like the
version of faith I had remembered. In many ways, this
project was for me a journey home - a reconciliation
of my faith and education."
Despite his findings, Dr Unwin maintains
that he is personally around 95% certain that God exists.
However, Graham Sharp, media relations
director at William Hill, said there were technical
problems with giving odds on the existence of God. "The
problem is how you confirm the existence of God. With
the Loch Ness monster we require confirmation from the
Natural History Museum to pay out, but who are we going
to ask about God? The church would definitely confirm
Mr Sharp said William Hill does take bets
on the second coming, which currently stand at 1,000/1.
For this confirmation is needed from the Archbishop
"We do take bets on the second coming,
whether that confirms the existence of God is up to
the theologians to argue, most people wouldn't believe