Richard Dawkins and the Probability of God`s Existence

In the beginning I would like to say that I highly respect Richard Dawkins for his extensive biological knowledge. However, I do not intend to write here about biological details. I`m just interested in the meaning of the word he uses very often, namely probability.

Repeated use of this term in my text will probably be a little bit annoying, but there is no way of avoiding it.

Probability is an excellent example of a double-edged (s)word, especially in philosophical debates. It could be dangerous as well as useful (or perhaps even more).

It would be difficult even to explain what it means that the probability of getting a head in a coin flip is ½. This outcome is equiprobable with getting a tail, but what does it mean?  One could expect that many attempts would result in total numbers of both outcomes being more or less equal, but this is just the most probable situation. And I`ve returned to the starting point.

What does it mean that my friend told me he would probably visit me today? I really do not know, but I`m going to buy an apple cake, and some decent tea, just in case.

According to Richard Dawkins, “the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other” (*). He claims that the probability of God`s existence is extraordinary small. This British „pope of atheism” managed to convince a lot of people that his declarations are not only reasonable, but simply obvious. On the contrary, many of his adversaries think, that God`s existence is almost certain.

I would like to point out that the phrase “the probability of God`s existence” has no meaning at all, neither in science, nor in philosophy.

In which way could a scientist (biologist, physicist, or maybe chemist?) assess this special value? In which experiment? How could it be calculated theoretically?

How could it be seriously estimated by philosophers or theologians?

From the perceived order of the Universe? From the astonishing diversity and complexity of life on Earth?

Maybe there were a lot of different chaotic and lifeless worlds in the past? We simply don`t know this. We should also keep in mind that we can discuss these matters only in life-friendly cosmic environment. The Existence of our extremely complicated bodies proves only that they could exist, that`s all, it says nothing about the probability of Creator`s existence.

And the very most important question: how on earth would any announced probability value of the God`s existence be of real meaning?

According to R. Dawkins, the probability of God`s existence is extremely small, so he claims that God is almost unlikely to exist, but this is only another way of expressing the previous sentence; that`s why it is hopelessly devoid of any explicable meaning.

Many theists and atheists alike are not quite eager to admit the idleness of this discussion, as they think that it`s not in favor of their standpoints.

Only once I saw a discussion in which R. Dawkins almost lost his famous self-confidence. It happened when he was being interviewed by Ben Stein. Unfortunately, B. Stein didn`t inquire further about the probability of God`s existence.


(*) R. Dawkins, The God Delusion, paperback edition, London 2007, p. 72.

3 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins and the Probability of God`s Existence

  1. Probability is a scientific expression — outlining the likely outcome to an equation without unlimited data, in essence, a variable of dynamic definition. Evidence: a coin toss has equal probability in resulting heads verses tails. Or, the high probability the universe is older than 6000 years is based on telescopes showing galaxies 13 billion light-years away.


  2. “Likely outcome” is just another way of saying: “probable outcome”, nothing more.
    The term “probability” is commonly used by scientists (despite some interpretational problems), and there`s nothing wrong with that, but the phrase “the probability of God`s existence” has no meaning at all.


  3. Prof. Alset, a follower of Dawkins, is one of the characters of my novel, Philosopher`s Crystal. Philip and Julia discuss with him concepts presented by this British biologist, nevertheless, the question about meaning of the phrase: “probability of God`s existence” is asked only after leaving professor`s house. A few years ago I wrote a letter to R. Dawkins, and asked him to explain the abovementioned phrase. However, I didn`t get any answer, so in my book I didn`t ascribe to him the words he had never said.


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