- Odds on that God exists, says scientist
From the Guardian Newspaper site
Stewart Maclean, Catherine Bolsover and Polly Curtis
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
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 and
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 his existence."
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 of Canterbury.
"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 that, though."