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Discussion 4 to Talk Back 73
On probabilities

by: Sandy M

To add to this discussion (or any other,) please use the Contact form. This exchange of views has been continued.

I genuflect to JT's greater knowledge of etymology here, I accept and find it fascinating that "atheism" entered the language earlier than "theism".  I actually don't care what I am referred to. Non-believer or Agnostic is fine by me.

The key point of my earlier response was not about language, I was taking issue with Thomas' comments that in the absence of evidence we can conclude that the probability of god's existence is 50%.  It is not. 

To determine the probability of an explanation of an observable effect it is necessary to consider the set of all other possible explanations; the Universal set.  The sum of the probabilities of all these explanations must sum to one (the effect is observable).  Evidence allows for weighting, If you have no evidence, then an argument can be made that we should treat all explanations as equally likely.[1] 

If we accept that argument and also consider that there are only two explanations for the observable universe, say "The Big Bang" and "God Did It" then, fair enough, both their probabilities must be 50%.  However, if you can posit any other explanations (and remember, you don't need evidence) then this probability reduces.  Since it is theoretically possible to posit a very large number of distinguishable explanations, the probability of each is very small.

In our world, a huge and unjustified weighting is given to "god did it". 

God might have done it, so I am not an atheist by the originial Greek Definition.  But nor am I a theist.  May I be allowed to negate this by prefixing a "non"?



  1. Editor's comment: As an alternative view to the idea that in the absence of evidence, all explanations must be treated as equally likely, we can consider applying the tools of logic and philosophy to the various explanations. For example, the application of Occam's Razor could very well move a person's view away from giving equal weight to each alternative. Logic won't provide a definitive answer about a deity in the absence of evidence, but it can move the subjective probabilities. And it is questionable whether there are objective probabilities in this case.