Beliefs matter.

Suppose we’re riding in a car together.  The GPS messes up, your cell phone dies and I forgot mine at home, and we find ourselves traveling down an abandoned country road.

Then the car breaks down.

We get of the car and walk down the road looking for help.

We walk a long ways and about midnight we see somebody walking towards us.

Is it politically correct for us to care what this person believes?  Maybe not.  Do we care about political correctness at this moment?  Not a bit.

Beliefs are not abstract, pie-in-the-sky, accessorizing gimmicks.

Beliefs matter.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  (Colossians 2:8, NLT)

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Photograph by Guy Schmidt, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/shortfatkid/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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What is the probability that there is a God?

What is the probability I am experiencing reality right now and not a dream or illusion?

What is the probability that the people around me are thinking beings and not just robots?

What is the probability that the universe is real?

I think these questions are really impossible to answer with probability.

So far as I can see, probability only works for events that we have measured before, preferably many times.  The more something is measured, the more likely our statistics are to be accurate.

If I only flip a coin once to see if I get heads or tails, I am not get an accurate probability.  I’ll either think that the coin lands on heads 100% of the time or tails 100% of the time.  If I flip a coin 5 times, the odds are that I will have a more accurate, although it is still possible that I flipped to heads 100% of the time or tails 100% of the time.  If I flip a coin 10,000 times, the odds are overwhelming that I will have a much better probability, very close (thought probably not perfect) to 50-50.

So I don’t see how we can reasonably assign a probability to something that we can’t test even once[1].

I can say that there is a 1 in 33,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 that if I make a gingerbread cookie it will jump off the tray and run away.  The problem is . . . we have never seen a gingerbread cookie get up off a tray and run away.  So how can I establish any probability about this at all?  How do I know that a gingerbread cookie would ever jump off a tray?  What if it’s never possible?

So how can I make a probability guess about how likely it would be for the universe to come into being on its own?  I could give a number with all kinds of zeros behind it, but that doesn’t mean it’s possible.  I have never seen a universe come into being, so how could I know the probability that a universe would come into being on its own?  What if it’s never possible?

On the flip side, what is the probability that God exists?  What number can I ascribe to this?  Once again, I could string a bunch of zeroes behind a one, but that would not mean a God does or does not exist.  What if there is no chance there’s a God?  Or what if it’s not possible the universe can exist without God?

Probability-wise, I’m not getting anywhere fast on any of these questions.  Probability-wise, I’m not getting anywhere slow either.  I’m not getting anywhere at all.

Probability might be helpful when I’m rolling a die[2] but it isn’t much good at determining what occurs or has occurred outside the observable realm.

When probability doesn’t work for my most important questions . . . where will I find my answers?

I think about Elijah’s prayer:

“O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” (1 Kings 18:37, NLT)


[1] (unless, of course, a higher authority tells us the probability!)

[2] (however, only to an extent, since it can never guarantee me what I will roll, nor can it promise me that my roll is not influenced by a higher will, who could have created mathematics)

See The New Answers Book 2: Chapter 6: Can Natural Processes Explain the Origin of Life by Mark Riddle, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/natural-processes-origin-of-life

Photograph by Flare, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/75898532@N00/

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.