The odds on god

This is my first philosophy post. I have tried to be as thorough, accurate and clear as possible. Hopefully its a decent thread and sparks some debate, but if not, I welcome constructive criticism!

Complex: (adj) consisting of many different and connecting parts; not easy to analyse or understand, complicated or intricate; mathematics (of a number) containing both a real and an imaginary part.

1.) If any form of intelligence designed the universe, then they would be more complex then the universe.
2.) The more complex something is, the less likely it is to exist.
3.) God is therefore more improbable then the universe.

If any form of intelligence designed the universe, then they would be more complex then the universe.
(Any form of intelligence will hereafter be referred to as ‘god’)
To be able to comprehend every aspect of and to then create the universe (especially for it to exist in a sense of order), god would have to be more complex then the universe. To safely harness nuclear energy, a scientist must understand how nuclear fission works, how to control such a powerful reaction, and how to collect the energy given off. Trying to do so without the understanding is obviously very dangerous. Once he understands this all properly, then he has become more complicated then the reaction as he can use the process to benefit himself however he wishes.

The more complex something is, the less likely it is to exist.
Earth is an example of an incredibly complex object. A planet that can sustain life is termed habitable, even if life did not originate there. The Earth provides the (currently understood) requisite conditions of liquid water, an environment where complex organic molecules can assemble, and sufficient energy to sustain metabolism. The distance of the Earth from the Sun, as well as its orbital eccentricity, rate of rotation, axial tilt, geological history, sustaining atmosphere and protective magnetic field all contribute to the conditions necessary to originate and sustain life on this planet. All these characteristics exist in an incredibly fine equilibrium, which together make it possible for life to exist. Making Earth incredibly complex.
It is estimated that there are 7x10^22 (70 sextillion) stars in the observable universe. We only know of approximately 17,000 star systems that conceivably could have habitable planets (0.00000000000000000242%). Making the odds of another earth’ incredibly small.

God is therefore more improbable then the universe.
We are not nearly complex enough to understand the planet on which we live. A planet that has itself, almost no chance of existing. Then for a god to exist that has the complexity to be able to conceive of, plan, and create an entire universe, has to be as near to impossible as you get.

So considering the odds, I’ll take my collection money and play the lotto…

If a god created the universe, that would just raise the question what created that god. If a person is willing to accept the idea of infinite existence without a beginning, I don’t see why they need to believe in a god.

I think the existence of a god is about as possible as us all living in the matrix. I think it is just as likely that we live in the matrix as it is that there is a god.

Hi Skeniver,

Good post, welcome to the boards.

Well, we know the universe exists, so the universe isn’t probable or improbable, it just is. What may be considered improbable though, with regards to the universe, is that it should firstly be stable with regards to physical laws and constants, and secondly that these physical laws and constants should be of such values to support intelligent life, so that we may ask such questions.

Now, if we are trying to compare the complexity of a creator, to the complexity of a naturalistic explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe, then that is the interesting question. You have probably heard of the amazing sensitivity that the physical laws have to ensure the development of life, and indeed the stability to allow life to continue. If not, type in “fine-tuning of the universe” and you will probably find the relevant info.

The multi-verse theory is probably the most commonly used naturalistic explanation for universal “fine-tuning”. That theory states that there are a practically infinite number of universes, all with different physical constants such as the cosmological constant, and therefore our universe is simply one of these. However, this theory raises other massive questions. Firstly, are these universes also created i.e. from some random universe generator (which also needs to be explained), or static? How closely are universes related in terms of physical constants? Are such physical constants bounded, or can they take any value from +infinity to -infinity? If not, how are they bounded? Are all the physical constants stable at all times within each universe, or can they vary at different (infinite amount of) times? If stable, why are they stable? The list goes on

As you can see, the information contained in a multi-verse theorem may well approach infinite complexity. So if one wants to ask the question, why is the universe so well suited to our existence, and use Ockhams razor to argue, you can see that very strong definitions of complexity must be established when facing off God and naturalistic explanations.

Hope all that made sense.

Hi, Skeniver. Welcome.

I’m surprised you didn’t mention it, and I’m sure you’ve heard of it before, but I think this is probably the right place to mention that the idea of explicitly combining faith and probability is at least as old as Pascal’s wager – just the idea that if God exists, then the reward for believing would be eternal and the penalty for not believing would be severe, whereas if God doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t matter either way. This of course is a statement where it is somewhat dependent on a Judeo-christian logic of judgment and a static afterlife, but with the necessary changes being made we can use this logic of a ‘wager’ to justify any religious belief whatsoever, purely on the basis of the promise they make that, more or less, “belief makes blessed.”

I find myself considering how much a belief in God is often oriented towards, even consumed by self-praise. This is a shallow faith, and a bad trait for priests (cf. the priestly class of Jews, the Pharisees, in the old testament. Jesus let’s 'em have it for glorifying themselves before God.)

Also, these sorts of arguments to compel faith also ignore (or presuppose) the purely social pressure to express acceptance of a certain doxa, or ‘common sense’ understanding of cultural experience. Whether or not you believe God exists, Christianity certainly does. And it may very well be the greatest calamity ever to befall man. But what if this calamity had to occur for man to overcome God, and have his greatest triumph?

Then, I guess, we’d no longer really be ‘men,’ as in mortal creatures. Beyond the deity, there are infinite routes to eternity.

Pascal’s point, it seems to me, is that joy is deeper than doubt. I feel his wager really rests upon this ‘gut’ feeling that heaven is more likely than nothing. The logic of “It can’t hurt to believe” is awful tempting, especially when it seems like the opposite (that it will, in fact, be very pleasant to wrap oneself up in a warm blanket of inspiring beliefs, and so forth.)

Interesing Idea here’s my take on the points

1.) If any form of intelligence designed the universe, then they would be more complex then the universe.

This certainly feels like it should be true :slight_smile: certainly with human experience its is.

It becomes apparent when you add the property of “omniscience” to “god” If the creative intelliegence was trully aware of not only the current state of infomation in the universe, like direction and velocity of every fundemental particle, but of every state that “ever was and ever will be” the information storage needs would be behond comprehension.

To put it another way. To be aware of a snapshot of the universe at any given moment would require a storage capacity as large as the universe itself. For all time would require “information size of the universe * the count of moments in all time.”

2.) The more complex something is, the less likely it is to exist.

Hard thing to prove :slight_smile:. Experience does tell us though that there are a lot more simple things than there are complex ones.

3.) God is therefore more improbable then the universe.

I guess this conclusion does follow from the 2 premises


As NoelyG alluded to you can’t forget the Anthropic principle. Ie the liklehood of a particular event is irrelevent if that event has happened. Ie you can’t argue the universe does not exist because it was unlikely, because it does exists and we’re standing in it :slight_smile:

By the same token you cannot argue that god does not exist because he is unlikely. At the same time because god has not been observed it would seem silly to believe in such an unlikely entity.

RE NoelyG and the comparative complexities of “natural” explanations and “divine” explanations. Natural ones are a lot simpler because they describe a process and not an enitity.

A process can be simply stated even though the effects of applying the process to entities can be extremly complex. The process has the advantage of not needing the contain the information on which it operates. While entities do. Ie if an entity chooses to affect another one it must know that it exists and they ways that it can be affected.

Another point I would like to make is this. In the world in which we live complex things are all derived from simple processes the term for this is “emergence”. The way the rules of atomic physics (electron joins atom, electron leaves atom) “create” the complexity of chemistry. There is nothing in the “rules” that specifically says that the chemical reactions we observe “have” to be that way. Only when those rules are applied to atoms that have come together into differing stable configurations (that we call chemicals) does this behaviour ensue.

Hey Noely

Indeed the universe does exist, so god may also exist. I am agnostic athiest. So while I may not believe in god, I don’t think its not possible. We just have no way of being able to prove either way. The only point I was trying to make is that seeing how intricately the universe is ‘planned’/operates, the odds of such a creator existing are very slim.

I am, Joe, familiar with Pascal’s wager, and yes it makes sense, if one were worried about ones eternal existence, believing in god does seem a safe bet. I think my after life consists of worms eating my rotting corpse (or being stuffed in an urn. not decided yet), so I see no point is spending my time here on earth, worshiping a god.

I am not claiming to either prove or disprove gods existence. Just seems like a long shot… :laughing:

What a waste :astonished: You should leave your body to science or go on a compost heap. Give something back to the world when you die :smiley:

Re Pascals wager

Does it stand up if you apply sort sort of game theory to it.

Worship god , god exists → Good outcome, go to heaven
Worship god, god does not exist → bad outcome, time wasted
No worship, god does not exist → good outcome, no time wasted
No worship, god exists → Indeterminite outcome possibly bad ie “go to hell”, possibly good “god sees that you were a good person, go to heaven”

not worshipping is better because there is only a 1/4 chance of a bad outcome. :slight_smile:


Well it depends on how you define complexity and simplicity. In information theory, the level of complexity is quantified by the minimum amount of (binary) information needed to describe something. So if we wanted to describe alternative to “How the universe is so sensitively “tuned” to suite our life?”, we could perhaps think of it in those terms. Now, the problem is, the multi-verse theorem isn’t actually well defined as far as I know, in other words, all the questions that I posed previously need to be answered before it can be adequetely described. If you would like to propose a multi-verse theory that addresses all those problems, go ahead and then we can look at it from an information perspective.

As far as describing God, well I think it can be done in quite a small amount of information, as we are describing it inevitably to another person. In a few words I think I could capture most of what is needed to explain God as a fine-tuning creator:

“We live in a fine-tuned universe because there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator, who is person-like, whose essence is to exist, that created the universe for us so that he could experience love (that’s a motive I’m assuming)”.

Now, that’s not a lot information and probably more is needed, but I think that explains quite a lot of it. The kicker here is the “person-like” attribute, as that makes sense to anyone we want to communicate to, and therefore drastically reduces the amount of information needed to describe the scenario. All the complexity in the universe can (theoretically at least) emerge from such a scenario, due to omnipotence, omniscience, time and process (God).


Fair enough, I don’t think the existence of God is “provable” in the strictest sense of the word either, but I think there are good arguments that make a strong case for it.

Well again you’ll have to think hard about “odds” and what you mean exactly here. Are you talking about odds as related to complexity again? If so, then see my first post as to why a naturalistic explanation may not be any less complex than a creator.

To be honest I wouldn’t want to postulate a muti-verse theory at all. I personally prefer the “life imperitive” idea. I.e. Life, or other persistant phenomena, will generally arrise out of stable systems. I don’t think life is actually any more special than chemistry say. To put it another way life “as we know it” arises out of the universe as it stands, but in another universe who is to say that life would still not arise, in a completley different form.

As you say the “kicker” is that personhood there is a lot of implicit imformation there that is being sytactically hidden.

Also, as I alluded to before the property of omniscience is a fine example. To describe god in information theory we would also have to describe everthing that “he” knows, including the full state of every fundamental particle of the material substrate for all time :astonished: This is obviously more information than the universe itself can contain.

Another example take the phrase “The Universe”. This is an extremely simple description of every single thing that exists. The amount of information needed to describe “the universe” properly though is as large as the universe itself.

Also I’m not sure how you justify calling god a process. Proccesses cannot have personhood. They describe the interaction between entities while not being entities themselves.

the difference between God and the Universe is time. God also created time, so he is more “complex” than time? No… it’s not even comparable.

God is infinite. You cannot compare a finite thing (the universe) to an infinite timeless existence aka God. apples to oranges ya know.

Isn’t part of the problem that any description of God as creator places such an entity outside the universe as well as inside? Once outside, then we can project any attributes we wish - and we’ve managed to do a lot of that…

I think it’s certainly true that God is less likely to exist than the universe- after all, everybody believes in the universe by definition, and most theists will admit to some level of doubt about the existence of God.

That may be true of those with education who have had the luxury of time and the curiosity to examine their beliefs, but that is but the smallest number among those who profess religious faith. There are roughly 3.5 billion believers between Christians and Muslims (200 million orthodox) and if public pronouncement is any indicator, the vast majority have few if any doubts. They may squabble over attributes, but God is a given to the true believers.

Ah, well I stand corrected then. The odds of God and the Universe existing are about the same.

:laughing: Nice try. Actually, Most of 'em just want someone to organize bingo nite. :laughing:

The odds on God?

About the same as the odds on the #1.


Fair enough

Well from our current understanding of cosmological evolution, very small changes in constants such as the cosmological constant, or the strength of the nuclear strong force, would result in massive changes to the universal form, such as unabated expansion (no clustering of matter) or the absence of stars and therefore heat energy. It’s hard to imagine life forming under such conditions i.e. temperatures at absolute zero and matter dispersed infinitely far apart. In any case, with such a belief you would still be required to describe how life arises out of stable systems as compared to other alternatives.

It’s not being syntactically “hidden”, it’s just taking into account who we would be describing the scenario to i.e. persons. Who else could we describe anything to?

Well firstly, if we are already describing the entire universe, it takes very little extra information to add an omniscient God to the mix, we don’t have to repeat all that information as that information is redundant. We could just say “Everything in the universe (all states at all times etc.) God knows” if we have already given information about “Everything in the universe”.

Secondly, you’re not holding God to the same standards as you are holding a naturalistic explanation. It depends on what question we are asking. Are we describing the universe as it is, or are we asking the question why does the universe seem so fine-tuned to our existence? If we are simply describing the universe as it is, then any talk about the odds of God is meaningless as God need not be present in any such audit (though it is my belief that God would need to be included to explain certain events i.e. miracles etc.). To talk of odds we must talk of mutually exclusive options, and the only meaningful question that produces such options as I see it is the question “How did the universe come to be, and why is it so suited to life?”. By considering that question, a naturalistic explanation must include information as to why the universe so sensitively suites us.

No it’s not, if you can describe the unchanging laws and how they behave with respect to time, then every single piece of information about the universe at every instance in time is redundant information, as all that information is theoretically included in the description of laws and some initial conditions. But as I said above, describing simply how the universe is, doesn’t include anything about the “odds of God”.

The actions of God are a process, subject to the interaction between the entities which are his attributes. In other words, his creating of the universe which is suitable for our life is a process which comes about through the interaction between his will for creating life and this omnipotence and omniscience. Would you not call me hammering a nail into a broken table a process which is an interaction between my knowledge of fixing tables and my desire to fix a broken table?

All of this supposes that A god would be an entity. Reconfigure the situation if a god was pure energy.

Okay, we’ll call energy God from now on. Why do so many assume this energy experiences love, is personal, etc.?

Because we experience “love”, and because we relate to other things according to how we (see ourselves, and other things) are personal.

“God”/energy feels love, and is personal, through the functioning of a (perceived as) individual human being/homo sapien.