Wait – what?

It is 97 per cent certain that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead – based on sheer logic and mathematics, not faith – according to Oxford professor Richard Swinburne…This conclusion was reached after a complex series of calculations. In simplified terms, it began with a single proposition: the probability was one in two that God exists. Next, if God exists, the probability was one in two that he became incarnate.

A single proposition – that the probability is one in two that God exists. Um.

We talked (or wrangled) about this last year, when this article on a similar but not identical theme appeared.

A scientist has calculated that there is a 67% chance that God exists. Dr Stephen Unwin has used a 200-year-old formula to calculate the probability of the existence of an omnipotent being. Bayes’ Theory is usually used to work out the likelihood of events, such as nuclear power failure, by balancing the various factors that could affect a situation. The Manchester University graduate, who now works as a risk assessor in Ohio, said the theory starts from the assumption that God has a 50/50 chance of existing, and then factors in the evidence both for and against the notion of a higher being. Factors that were considered included recognition of goodness, which Dr Unwin said makes the existence of God more likely, countered by things like the existence of natural evil – including earthquakes and cancer.

Big assumption to start from, as we said at the time. A commenter knowledgeable (at least apparently, and as far as I could tell) about probability, said yes, it’s quite reasonable to take as a starting point a 50/50 shot of God, or the Easter Bunny, Spider-man, Attila the Hun, or anything else, existing if you don’t know better. If you don’t know better. If you start from zero, with no idea either way of the likelihood that the Easter Bunny does or does not exist. But we’re not starting from there, are we. So – why should the probability be one in two that ‘God’ exists? (Not to mention what exactly Swinburne means by ‘God’ in this, er, equation.) No doubt Swinburne says why in his book, but the probablity is 492 in 493 that I would be unconvinced. And then the business about becoming incarnate – please.

“Does he have reason to become incarnate? Yes, to make atonement, identify with our suffering and to teach us things, ” Professor Swinburne said. Even Jesus’ life is not enough proof, he said. God’s signature was needed, which the resurrection was, showing his approval of Jesus’ teaching.

Bollocks. He has reason to become incarnate so that he can have sex, and go hang-gliding, and eat peach ice cream, and get a new hairdo and a sweatshirt with the B&W logo on it. ‘To teach us things’ – well is it working? I’m not so sure. I think we must need somebody cleverer to teach us things, because the things we know seem to get us into some bad places. So skate off back to disincarnateland, Goddy baby, and let someone else take over.

Another item from the ‘Yes religion is mandatory, why do you ask?’ file.

The next big debate for Democrats concerns the r-word: Do they need to get — or at least start talking about — religion? A progressive evangelist and an aggressive secularist have at it.

Perfect, isn’t it? A ‘progressive’ evangelist and an ‘aggressive’ secularist. Good job, American Prospect! Don’t tip your hand or anything.

Absurdity and manipulation – whatever it takes to win, eh.

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