Spectrum of theistic probability


Spectrum of theistic probability

Popularized by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, the spectrum of theistic probability is a way of categorizing one's belief regarding the probability of the existence of a deity.

Contents

Atheism, theism, and agnosticism

Jack Smart argues that the distinction between atheism and agnosticism is unclear, and many people who have passionately described themselves as agnostics were in fact atheists. He writes that this mischaracterization is based on an unreasonable philosophical skepticism that would not allow us to make any claims to knowledge about the world.[1] He proposes instead the following analysis:

Let us consider the appropriateness or otherwise of someone (call him 'Philo') describing himself as a theist, atheist or agnostic. I would suggest that if Philo estimates the various plausibilities to be such that on the evidence before him the probability of theism comes out near to one he should describe himself as a theist and if it comes out near zero he should call himself an atheist, and if it comes out somewhere in the middle he should call himself an agnostic. There are no strict rules about this classification because the borderlines are vague. If need be, like a middle-aged man who is not sure whether to call himself bald or not bald, he should explain himself more fully.[1]

Dawkins's formulation

Richard Dawkins

Dawkins posits that "the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other." He goes on to propose a continuous "spectrum of probabilities" between two extremes of opposite certainty, which can be represented by seven "milestones". Dawkins suggests definitive statements to summarize one's place along the spectrum of theistic probability. These "milestones" are:[2]

  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
  2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."
  3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."
  4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."
  5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."
  6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
  7. Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one."

Dawkins argues that while there appear to be plenty of individuals that would place themselves as "1", no thinking atheist would consider themselves "7", as atheism arises from a lack of evidence and evidence can always change a thinking person's mind. In print, Dawkins self-identified as a '6', though when interviewed by Bill Maher, he suggested he might be '6.9'[3].

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Smart, Jack (2004). "Atheism and Agnosticism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  2. ^ Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Bantam Books. pp. 50. ISBN 0-618-68000-4. 
  3. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fUYUvvJiW0

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Existence of God — Part of a series on God General conceptions …   Wikipedia

  • Christianity — /kris chee an i tee/, n., pl. Christianities. 1. the Christian religion, including the Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox churches. 2. Christian beliefs or practices; Christian quality or character: Christianity mixed with pagan elements; …   Universalium

  • Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church — The position of the Catholic Church on the theory of evolution has moved over the last two centuries from a large period of no official mention, to a statement of neutrality in the 1950s, to a more explicit acceptance in recent years. Today, the… …   Wikipedia

  • History of creationism — The history of creationism is tied to the history of religions. The term creationism in its broad sense covers a wide range of beliefs and interpretations, and was not in common use before the late 19th century. Following the spread of… …   Wikipedia

  • Evolution — This article is about evolution in biology. For other uses, see Evolution (disambiguation). For a generally accessible and less technical introduction to the topic, see Introduction to evolution. Part of a series on …   Wikipedia

  • Individualism — Part of a series on Individualism …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.