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The Probability of God by Stephen D. Unwin

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If John Derbyshire picked a difficult task (attempting to explain the “World’s Greatest Unsolved Math Problem”) then Stephen Unwin has chose a Herculean one. Unwin, a physicist and risk management consultant and author of The Probability of God, set as his objective “to calculate the numerical probability that God exists.” Not satisfied with that task he also hopes to “determine the relationship between this probability and the notion of religious faith.” To attempt to accomplish all this in less than 250 pages is no mean feat.

The question is of course is did he do it? Well, yes and no. He certainly produces a number and he discusses the relationship between this number and faith. Along the way he shows his work and explains each step, but whether you accept his answer depends heavily on whether you approve of his process. In the end, I think Unwin outlines a rational process whereby one can attempt to attribute a probability to the proposition that God exists. He ends up with a number that is north of 50% but getting there is not simple or with controversy. In playing out this unique experiments, however, he provides useful insights into math, science, and faith. This may not be “proving” God’s existence but it is valuable nonetheless.

In order to proceed with his proposition intelligently Unwin must first define some terms. The first is the most important one, “God.” What exactly does he mean by God? Unwin does not get into complicated theology. Instead, he simply narrows the definition down to the “person-God” of the major monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Unwin’s God is a personal and interactive God not simply a prime mover or a pantheistic god of nature. He also takes a little side trip to discuss another controversial attempt to make belief in God rational, Intelligent Design. Unwin, however, rejects the current Watchmaker theory arguments based on the anthropic principle; i.e. only an ordered universe can be observed.

Having tackled what he means by God, Unwin moves onto to explicate what he means by probability. The simply answer is Bayes Theorem. He distinguishes Bayesian approach to probability from a frequentist one. The frequentist approach is best described by the coin flip. From this perspective we expect the coin to land heads 50% of the time so its probability is 50%. Roll a six-sided die and the probability of any side coming up is 16.7 or one-sixth. In contrast, Unwin asserts that in “the Bayesian world, a probability is an expression of a degree of belief.” Using his background in quantum physics, he uses the following example:

When the statement is made by the physicist that there is a 5 percent probability neutrinos are massless, she means that on a scale of 0 to 100, her degree of belief that the said particles are massless is 5.

Unwin does a good job of laying out the Bayesian approach and any attempt on my part to replicate that explanation would be redundant and inelegant. The basic idea, however, is to take the evidence one has and to convert the “data” into a mathematical formula and thus a probability. Like the scientist with the neutrinos, Unwin attempts to arrive at a numerical probability. Instead of sub-atomic particles, the subject is God’s existence.

Unwin starts with the proposition that he is neutral on God’s existence. In other words the starting point is 50/50 on God’s existence. This is the a priori probability from a neutral perspective but he goes further. To inform his formula Unwin uses six evidentiary areas that affect the probability that God exists. They are:
1. The recognition of goodness.
2. The existence of moral evil.

3. The existence of natural evil.
4. Intra-natural miracles.
5. Extra-natural miracles.
6. Religious experiences.
As you can see from the titles, these are common areas of disagreement but oft-sited vindication for the existence, or lack thereof, of God. Unwin goes through each evidentiary area and assigns it a numeric factor or scale that he can then plug into his formula. The more a area increases the probability that God exists the higher the factor. The factors are limited to 10 (much more likely), 2 (moderately more likely), 1 (neutral), 1/2 (moderately more unlikely), and 1/10 (much more unlikely). Again, I don’t want to spoil the meat of the book so I won’t outline Unwin’s math but what is useful is his honesty. He straightforwardly and pragmatically outlines his thoughts on these subjects. You might not agree with him but you can follow his arguments and his math. In fact, as an appendix Unwin provides a simple way to plug the formula into a spreadsheet so you can do the math yourself, experimenting with the scale according to your own beliefs.

Without spoiling the conclusion, I can tell you that Unwin places the probability that God exists north of the 50% he started with. The end result is that Unwin thinks that belief in God is an eminently reasonable position given the evidence. To further reinforce this view, he takes a look at Pascal’s Wager and probabilistic decision theory in light of both his newfound probability and the logic of math. Unwin uses this as a stepping-stone to a discussion on faith itself. He ponders the definition of faith. Is faith a leap in the dark from the end of logic and rationality to a belief in God? Is it simply an extension of ones rational belief? It is a complicated issue and Unwin provides a fascinating discussion. In the end, he compares faith and reason as complimentary but not wholly separate things:

faith reflects an experiential belief rather than a reasoned belief in a mundane proposition of statistics, logic, or concrete fact. Perhaps probability can be viewed as a snapshot taken in the cold light of logic, whereas faith is more like the exhilaration of experiencing great music. Yet, as we discussed, faith can be attached to the proposition with which the more conventional meaning of “true” (or “false”) can be associated.

Unwin uses a formula to explain: Belief in God = the probability of God + Faith in God. He asserts that a proper balance is necessary for faith to have meaning. If faith simply picks up the tab for whatever reason can’t cover then the more you know the less faith you have. This would put reason at odds with faith and vice versa. Unwin believes that humans use both the cold logic of probability and the more existential trust to combine in a belief in God. In this way, belief in God’s existence is rational even though God can’t be proven by mathematical formula and yet faith is still an integral part of that belief.

If this subject interests you I would recommend you read the book for yourself. Unwin’s tone is lighthearted and jovial with being mocking. He covers issues of math, science, and faith in a way that the laymen can understand and yet the ideas remain challenging. I doubt that this book will, in and of itself, convince anyone that God exists who previously discounted that possibility. But it does provide and interesting and thought provoking way of looking at the issues involved. I think that he makes a solid case for the rationality of a belief in God. In a climate where religion is often mocked as irrational or even psychotic, this is a valuable accomplishment. People will be hard pressed to write Unwin off as a religious fanatic or unscientific rube. Nor can they attack him as a closed minded fundamentalist given that he avoids most controversial theological issues. You might disagree with his ideas and assumptions but you will have to deal with them head on.

If you have an interest in issues of faith and science, or simply like to explore ideas, I recommend you read the book yourself. It is an easy and interesting read and less than 250 pages to boot. It is not everyday you have the opportunity to learn the basics of an important and useful mathematical subject, explore the nature of faith, and stretch your imagination at the same time.

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  • http://www.communistvampires.com Thomas M. Sipos

    Sci-fi writer J. Neil Schulman attempts to logically prove God’s existence at this url: J. Neil Schulman’s Mind Meld With God

    I think these are interesting thought experiments, but of course, either way, you can never know for sure.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thought-provoking and interesting if using logic to prove faith, which is no more conclusive than using faith to prove logic. Thanks Kevin!

  • zeki

    formul thankyou

  • Alexei ARSENTYEV

    To: Stephen Unwin
    copy: to anyone, who can comprehend the subject.
    From: Alexei ARSENTYEV, P.O. Box 93112, NL-1090 BC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

    “perpendicular ‘reality’ and artefact of Pi”
    An extract from the article “Balled Vision” by Alexei ARSENTYEV

    1) “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his
    height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about” – 1 Kings 7:23 and again
    in 2 Chronicles 4:2. [1]
    2) “Ubi materia – ubi geometria” – Johannes Kepler.
    3) “Thus, the task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought,
    about that which everybody sees” Erwin Schrodinger
    4) “This is not a spoon what bends, it is only yourself” – bald wiz-kid from “The Matrix” movie.

    Pi is one of the most fundamental constants we know. It is by definition the ratio between the length
    of a circumference and its diameter. It doesn’t matter how big or small any circle is – the ratio stands.
    Because of this universality Pi is used in calculations of all scales: from formula’s describing celestial
    bodies’ orbital movements in astronomy to determination of electronic orbits in atoms in quantum physics
    and chemistry. From early school days we remember that Pi is irrational number and it is approximately
    3,14159265358 … ad infinitum. Exact value of Pi is theoretically incalculable so modern mathematicians
    are competing for more accuracy which on practice means obtaining ever more digits after the comma.
    Noticeably Mr. Yasumasa Kanada at Computer Centre from Tokyo University [2] has managed to score
    about half of existing records on Pi-calculation field. The current official record is way above couple of
    hundred billion digits. Unofficial records go even higher, to few trillion. It seems the more computer power
    mathematicians have got the deeper they intend to dig after the comma. Is there gonna be a point in all this?
    Well, there has been one distinguished challenge to Pi=3,14159265358…ad infinitum and it comes
    from the quite prominent source. Attentive Bible readers have been pointing at the text in 1 Kings 7:23
    and 2 Chronicles 4:2 [1] which if taken literally gives us value for Pi as 3 sharp [3]. Pretty comfortable
    for such an important constant, isn’t it? Temptation is obviously there. Assuming Pi=3,00000000…etc then
    “with this Pi we can do calculations quite a few”. So shell we take this episode of the Biblical text seriously
    or ignore it as a minor glitch, an inaccuracy or even a copyist’s personal note slipped into the Holy Book?
    First of all anyone can argue that for quite wide audience The Bible (or Torah) is neither a study book of
    geometry nor it is Holy to other religions outside Judaism or Christianity. However not so many people
    will try to deny the fact that The Bible is at least an important historical document. For whatever reason
    we don t have that many other documents that old, worshiped that much and considered as Holy. Besides
    there is a phenomenon known as “The Bible code” and it only strengths this view.
    It has being claimed by co-researchers Dr. Eliyahu Rips, Doron Witztum who were later joined by Yoav
    Rosenberg that the Torah in general and the Book of Genesis in specific contains a wealth of information
    in cryptic form. This information is encoded in a number of different ways. One of the ways mentioned is
    ELS (Equidistant Letters Sequences) which is commonly referred as “The Bible Code” [4]. Since we live
    in the World were for every proponent there is at least one opponent no wonder that skeptical voice is
    adequately loud. Without going into discussion in this particular article whether “The Sign of God” is there
    or not let’s discuss Biblical ‘Pi-hint’ from geometrical point of view. The explanation expressed below
    might interest You for the variety of reasons. I would like to call it “Balled Vision”.
    Everything in The Universe is built on principle of rotation. The Planets in our Solar system rotate
    around the Sun while Moon rotates around the Earth together with men-made satellites. The whole Solar
    system rotates around the center of our Galaxy; electrons rotate around the nucleus in atoms etc. The only
    difference is in scale and in speed. Most of us are aware of that fact. Yet we all have been taught at school
    on geometry lessons the postulates of so called “Euclidean geometry” as undoubtedly most simplistic and
    quite obvious (then and it seems today as well) point of view. Any 2-Dimentional figures (circles, squares,
    triangles etc) a priori belong to ‘truly’ flat not even slightly bent Euclidean plane. Perception of 3D-version
    of the Euclidean space effectively means cubic-style structures manifesting itself via ever perpendicular axis
    X,Y,Z of Descartes coordinates. It is widely assumed today that at the dawn of our civilization people thought
    our Planet was flat and resembled a coin or even (according to some believe) a square. With the time we have
    learned that the Earth looked like a gigantic ball rather then a coin. And this “balled perception” of the Planet
    has become widely accepted today.
    But it seems that some flatness in our minds has managed to remain untouched. This is perhaps due to the fact
    that almost everything hand-made around us appears to be flat, square and cubic. In continues effort to
    comprehend The Universe we use flat geographical maps, look upon 2 Dimensional images on flat TV’s and
    PC’s screens, build up and live in cubic buildings while peeping out through flat and mainly square windows.
    And good old cylinder-shaped bottle of milk has been recently replaced by far more practical “Tetra Brik”.
    It is practical no doubt about it. But such ‘practicality’ also shapes our mind. Every second, day by day, year
    by year cubic mind-frame is being passed from generation to generation. Using the terms such as “square root”,
    “square” and “cubic meter” in both scientific literature and every day language we only fooling ourselves by
    subconsciously visualizing square or a cube to measure area of some surface or volume of a vessel. No wonder
    that many people envisage the structure of the Universe to have that characteristic 3 Dimensional perpendicular
    structure. We have failed to upgrade all levels of our mind to the understanding that perpendicular ‘reality’ with
    its absolute straight lines, perfectly square angles and its ideally flat surfaces exist only as OUR IMAGINATION
    or on limited scale. As ‘room temperature’ exist only inside a room perpendicular ‘reality’ is product of our
    trapped imagination. I can foresee that most of you, my Dear Readers, are passionately arguing at this point that
    he/she never thought about Our Planet as huge cube. And she/he was always convinced that the closest star
    (the Sun) isn’t a pyramid and the Moon on clear nights doesn’t appear rhombic-shaped. And almost everybody
    from scintific world would tell us that we all should remember that the Euclidean geometry is only a
    mathematical model and as in any model we don’t need a reference to the ‘real’ world, gravitational forces of
    the Universe or the shape of the Earth or another planets. Having that all in mind tell me then are we living in
    the ‘real’ world or inside some cubic space where all lines of forces (gravitational, electromagnetic etc) are
    truly flat? PLEASE EXPLAIN ME HOW COME WE HAVE BEEN USING FLAT value of Pi for every day
    ‘REAL’ LIFE CALCULATIONS for so long ??? Specially in astronomy! Let’s not forget that “room temperature”
    exists only inside a room providing all doors and windows are closed. And on limited Earth scale we have
    the temperature range roughly from minus fifty to plus fifty Celsius only because there is the atmoSPHERE
    around our Planet. Take the edge of the Solar system and it is pretty cold out there. Even on the Moon.
    We should be considering our Universe and space around us to have spherical structure. Any points,
    lines, circles, triangles, squares and other geometrical figures ought to be envisaged as laying on (imaginary
    /invisible) spherical surfaces of various diameters. One obvious example of such sphere (although visible
    and quite big) is the surface of our own Planet. Another is the surface of an ordinary apple. What was Sir
    Isaac Newton thinking about when the famous apple hit him? Oh ya, gravitation,not geometry. How about
    Adam and Eve? What was their thoughts about? Obviously an apple (as fruit) have played an important
    part in human history. When I am looking at an apple fruit I think Apple should start making apple-shaped
    computers with spherical monitors. M-m-m, what a good idea. Shell I write them a letter?
    Coming back to geometry. Thus diameter of a non-Euclidean circle (not circumference!) is not a straight
    segment belonging to ‘truly’ flat plane containing circumference. When we talk about “a circle” we have to
    include into consideration the surface contained, locked within by circumference in question. Let’s be
    accurate with terms and distinguish between “a circle” and “a circumference”.
    “A circumference” is 1 Dimensional creature. It is an infinite loop. Undoubtedly the most perfect of them
    all but merely a ring, a hoop, a coil, a thin (blue?) line marking the edge of a circle. While any circle
    (Euclidean or not) is 2 Dimensional figure with a surface. Euclidean circle resembles a CD-ROM,
    non-Euclidean looks like contact lens. Keeping that in mind we will have no problem of understanding
    that diameter of non-Euclidean circle is slightly bend segment which belongs to some ‘invisible’ sphere of
    ‘unknown’ diameter. Naturally, if we make a circle (again, not circumference!) on the ground with let’s say
    3 meter in diameter then degree of curvature of such surface is trifling considering the size of our Planet.
    But if we imagine a circle as big as my native Russia; draw 3 meter circle on the wall in the famous round
    Chamber “La Salle Pi” (Palais de la Decouverte in Paris); paint one on the wall of the Oval Office in the
    White House or merely outline a coin on any apple fruit then in all those cases surface’s curvature will
    become obvious. I expect that geographers and astronomers will be among the first one who understand
    what I mean. Perhaps the only case when we can speak about surface with truly ideal flatness arises
    if we make a section of a ball by surface going through its center. Considering this scenario let me ask:
    “Are we still living on a flat pizza-like Planet in the center of the Universe?” Then viva la Ptolemy!
    To those who doubt the idea of spherical Universe being expressed here I would offer to explain the
    following facts using ever prevailing ‘cubic’ point of view. Let me repeat: “cubic point”. A pixel? Just
    look at us. What have we come to! So far we have agreed upon the following facts.
    1) we live on a surface of a big ball (not a cube or a pyramid) rotating around much bigger one we call
    “the Sun”.
    2) As we observe drops of liquid in free fall we always see that those drops form balls and not cubes,
    cylinders, pyramids etc.
    3) When astronauts on space-station occasionally or otherwise spill some liquid it doesn’t form little
    pyramids, cylinders, dodecahedrons etc.
    4) Throw a little stone into a lake on a quite day and waves on a water surface will always be shaped as
    concentric circles, not triangles or squares. Have anyone ever seen concentric square waves on a water
    surface? Are you convinced yet? No? OK, let me continue. Why do we prefer round stadiums or concert
    halls to those which are square? Because the seats in round football arena’s are spread in much more ‘justice’
    manner: any seat in the same row gives the same view of the stage. Ancient Coliseum in Rome is pretty
    graphic example. And to make all the rows equal we have to place the stage in the center of a … sphere.
    Would you prefer to seat or to stand in a corner? Do you remember this cruel punishment from the childhood?
    This is where it all begins. Starting from cubic toys including “Game Cube”.
    So do we see cubic apple fruits growing on threes with square boles under sunlight blazing from the rhombic
    Sun? When was the last time you saw the rainbow in full glory? Was it perfectly straight line? I think I have
    made the point.
    Why it is so and not otherwise? It is merely a feature of our space and it originates from the principle
    of rotation. Even if we rotate any cube, pyramid or even a cylinder we will end up with a ball anyway
    but with noticeable gradient of density. Ball is the most perfect shape in 3D-world we know just because
    ball has infinite number of planes and axles of symmetry. After all who would dare to say that an atom
    shaped like a little brick? Have electrons orbits become square or cubic? Halloo, Mr. Schrodinger!
    How are you? Could you foresee this with your Psi-function? Whom are we kidding by ignoring the obvious?
    The whole Universe is built on the same principle of rotation. The only difference is scale and speed.
    The most adequate model of matter structuring should be the most natural one. An onion-like structure where
    bigger sphere contains smaller one. So called “matrёshka”. Back to the USSR! Mathematically it can be
    described by tensors using Riemman (not Lobachevsky!) mathematical spaces, containing one another.
    It easily combines with the quite popular “sandwich-theory” of the Universe but “sandwich” layers aren’t
    flat at all! Meaning: on the scale of the Universe light travels on bent and not on absolutely straight trajectories.
    So despite using appropriate mathematical tool (tensors) the one of the postulates of the famous
    Relativity Theory is only relatively correct. Sorry, Mr. Einstein. But Happy Birthday anyway!
    Size of such Universal layers may very. On smaller scale onion-like model would perfectly
    describe a single atom with electronic clouds having different energy levels. Below you will find
    the famous 3 (among others) axioms of incidence for the flat space and one additional axiom formulated by
    yours truly for the spherical state of mind. Here are the 3 “Axioms of Incidence” for the Euclidean,
    truly flat, cubic-like space:
    * via 1 point we can draw infinite number of straight lines through which we are able to draw infinite
    number of planes. (So far so good from spherical point of view).
    **For every two points A and B there exits a straight line that contains each of the points A, B.
    Meaning: via any 2 points we can draw only 1 straight line (but plenty of curved ones!) through
    which we are able to draw infinite number of planes.
    *** There exist at least 3 points that do not lie on a line. Otherwise: via any 3 points (in general case)
    we can not draw any straight line (but at least one circle!) and one and only one plane. Or in more
    traditional reading: For any three points A, B, C that do not lie on one and the same straight line [but they
    can belong to the same circle!] there exists no more than one plane that contains each of the three points A, B, C.
    ****When it comes to 4 points it is postulated: “There exist at least four points which do not lie in a plane”.

    Usually we learn this stuff at school but we don t really think about it at the later stage. Only when I have
    grown up it struck me one day: they may belong to a sphere! For that particular case I have formulated an
    additional axiom for the spherical space (and mind!) which should read as following: Through 4 points
    (in general case) we cannot draw any straight line or any plane, but one and only sphere. So hereby I am
    expressing my “Balled Vision” by stating that currently Pi=3. Why currently? Because continuing to use
    the abovementioned logic we should come to the conclusion that for any hemi-sphere Pi (as ratio) between
    its diameter and length of circumference) equals 2. In case of hemi-sphere its diameter is the line (once
    again: it is not straight segment!) connecting 0 and 180 degree points of the Equator going through the Pole.
    And Pi (again, as ratio) of complete sphere is equal to one! “The Ratio” of a point or complete sphere =1.
    So we have got the full spectrum of Pi quantities where sharp values Pi=3, Pi=2 and Pi=1 are representing
    a step, a “quantum jump” from one state of mind (and therefore matter) into another. This is a perfect example
    of so called “artefact”. In this case the value of mathematical constant is changing in correlation with the
    state of experimenter s mind and the shape and size of surface in question. On a physical level the current
    shift from flat Pi= 3,14159265358… to 3 sharp can be interpreted as change of the space curvature around
    us according to gravitational gradient. That is another question “what is causing it?” It also could mean that
    the Universe has made at least 1/6 of the complete rotation and some of us already feel it by expressing as Pi=3.
    One particularly interesting case is someone’s car registration plate in Maryland, USA reading “pi is 3″.
    I wonder who the owner is. In order to distinguish the different sharp values of the famous ratio from the
    actual flat value of pi=3,1415…which has already become very chrestomathy I would like to name the
    Biblical conditions under which length of a circumference contains exactly 3 diameters as “equilibrium”.
    So let me letter the ratio between the length of a circumference and its diameter in equilibrium as E.
    Then equality will look like E=3. And You, Dear Reader, are very welcome to make your suggestions in
    naming the famous ratio for hemi-spherical and spherical conditions. Let me just emphasize that the point of
    view where the ratio equals to 1 is the point of complete spherical state of mind. It represents the vision
    of human or other being (call such being God if you wish) who covers and feels the whole Universe at once,
    by one thought. Don’t look at me that way I don t feel the whole Universe just yet. But by adopting “Balled Vision”
    we all will feel and think as OneBeing effectively getting closer to “The Day we all can glean an inkling of
    God’s mean”. Until (and beyond) of such Magic Day I remain Yours Truly Alexei ARSENTYEV.

    By the way: flat Pi^3 =31,0062766803…Surprise but I have never seen any references to this “cubic root from 31″
    as ancient way to calculate Flat Pi in any Pi-historic articles. Here are few sources which helped me to shape my mind.
    Quite literally.

    [1] The Holy Bible, The Books of the Old and New Testament, 1 Kings 7:23 ; 2 Chronicles 4:2.
    [2] Mr Y.Kanada and his record calculations at
    [3] “Does the Bible say pi equals 3.0?” Russell M. Grigg
    [4] “The Bible Code” explained at

    As you may have already guessed English is not my native language. So I apologize for occasional mixture
    of articles (a/the), confusing past tenses with present perfect ones and using present continuous tense instead
    of present simple and any other possible grammar mistakes. You are very welcome to send your comments
    (preferably in traditional mail) to: Alexei ARSENTYEV, P.O. Box 93112, NL-1090 BC, Amsterdam,
    The Netherlands or via contemporary means of communication such as e-mail: .
    For those who wish to comment on non-grammatical mistakes I have typed a short epilogue.

    Epilogue.

    Michael Stifel, German mathematician (1487- 1567) said back in 1544 : “Flustra laborant quotquot se
    calculationibus fatigant pro inventione quadraturae circuli”. In English it will be close to: “Futile is the
    labor of those who fatigue themselves with calculations to square the circle”. I only can add to this wise
    saying that: ” IT IS DIFFICULT”. I know it from my personal experience. No, not to imagine matreshka-like
    Universe with spherical onion layers. Not that. It is difficult to admit that despite of so many obvious hints
    surrounding us all the time we have been blind (or blinded?) for so long. It is difficult to admit of giving
    lack of proper consideration to such an important ratio which resulted in something what looks like the
    oldest mistake in the human history. There is a difference between “pride” and “arrogance”. Synonymous
    to “arrogance” is “stubborn”. Antonymous to “pride” is “shame”. It is no shame in making a mistake.
    Nobody is exempt from it since nobody is perfect on this Planet. There is just a degree of perfection.
    From black to white, from pride via arrogance passing stubbornness to blunt stupidity. So what we call
    today “a mistake” yesterday was just a step on The Evolutionary Ladder. And anyone should be proud of
    being able to upgrade itself to the higher degree of understanding where (looking back from the next level)
    there is no shame to say: “that was just another step, the previous version”. But is it arrogant not to look
    around, it is stubborn to hold on outdated visions despite plenty of facts being available and it is dangerously
    stupid to be that stubborn and arrogant to deny the obvious. It holds the process of evolution by adding
    “another brick in The Wall” .
    There is a difference between “pride” and “arrogance”. Probably the same as between “circle” and “circumference”.
    And for some of us that difference is not visible while for others it is clearly there despite being thin. Very thin.
    Deadly thin. Thin as any ‘straight’ or ‘bent’ line; ‘truly flat’ or curved surface in Geometry. But it is there.
    To those who wish to free their mind I would strongly recommend to watch “The Matrix” movie (part one).
    There is an episode where Morpheus is saying to Neo: “I didn’t say it would be easy ” and later
    “We have a rule: we never free a mind once it’s reached the certain age, the mind has a trouble if letting it go”.
    So let “it” go while your mind is flexible enough. I know it is difficult. Difficult to shake off the cliches and difficult to admit. Difficult to be taught and preached by ‘a stranger’ what to do. Our arrogance makes it difficult.
    That is why it was proclaimed as “deadly sin”. Because those who don’t except the words from a ‘stranger’ marking ANY unsolict information as “spam” are walking on thin ice. There are no strangers. We are all God’s creatures. We just being played against each other by those who benefit from it. With 100% chance that one day The Creator will be kind enough to explain it to them. Personally. You do know what it means. Don’t let it happen to you. A.A.

  • Dan

    many minerals in pure specimen form manifest as cubes, such as fluorite, calcite etc.

    I once had a friend who memorized Pi to about 40 digits. I thought that was an odd thing to do.

    I vaguely remember a geometry teacher who taught us that even though the exact circumference of a circle can not be expressed numerically because of Pi being a irrational number, an exact length can be determined by rolling a circle on a plane. The distance of an exact starting point to where it touches the plane a second time is an exact measurement that has some usefull application.

  • John Rafferty

    Reviewer Holtsberry says: “Unwin starts with the proposition that he is neutral on God’s existence. In other words the starting point is 50/50 on God’s existence.” But such a “starting point” stacks the deck in favor of the yes-there-is-a-god conclusion. Since there is no tangible evidence of the existence of any god, how can Unwin justify starting with a 50% probability rather than, most logically, 0%. Would he start at 50% if the subject was Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?

  • http://www.collectedmiscellany.com Kevin Holtsberry

    John,
    Unwin uses the mathamatical equivalent of neutral. He doesn’t stack the favor either way. He is building an equation to determine probability and thuse he starts out neutral. What you wanted was to stack it against God. Your reference to Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny are only relevant because people already assume they don’t really exist. Our beliefs toward them are already stacked heavily against because we assume them to be mere literary or culture creations.

    If by tangible evidence you mean scientific evidence, I suppose you are right but that is not the argument Unwin is concerned with. It might help if you actually read the book.

  • Duane

    …Unwin thinks that belief in God is an eminently reasonable position given the evidence.

    There is no evidence. It is naive to ascribe things we cannot now explain to the supernatural, although Unwin is clever enough to know how to snow people with some ad hoc mathematical nonsense that supposedly supports this approach. Unwin is abusing his credentials as a physicist by ruling that, for example, the recognition of goodness constitutes evidence for a higher power. That is a philosophical question that cannot now be embodied in a mathematical formula.

    It has always been the case. Religion and the Supernatural give way to Science and the Natural. For example, people once attributed rainbows to the workings of God, but modern physics now provides a complete and naturalistic explanation. As the centuries pass, humankind will resolve more and more puzzles and mysteries, to the point that there will be no need to invoke supernatural explanations for things we don’t understand. People do not seem to want to acknowledge that the answers to the Big Questions take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to discover. Just because we don’t understand something on May 18, 2004, doesn’t mean that we won’t understand it on May 18, 2104, and it doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up and say, “Well, there must be a God, because I just can’t understand this.” Some recognition of history helps.

  • http://www.collectedmiscellany.com Kevin Holtsberry

    Duane,
    I would take the time to discuss the issue with you but it is clear from your comments that you aren’t really interested in debate or discussion. Your mind is made up and it is just matter of time before the world becomes 100% materialistc.

    The rest of us might enjoy thinking about things from a new persepctive. Don’t worry, I am sure eventually the millions and millions of people who believe in God will eventually disapear or come to their senses and then men of science like yourself can rest assured that everyone thinks like you do.

  • duane

    Kevin, I apologize for anything I’ve written that might have inspired your undertone of hostility. I simply contributed an initial foray to this discussion, which should imply to you that I am indeed interested in discussing it. Don’t give up so easily.

    …just matter of time before the world becomes 100% materialistc.

    Is that a bad thing? For example, we can now immunize against many diseeases that were killing off kids by the thousands 100 years ago, thanks to “materialistic” scientists.

    …that everyone thinks like you do.

    I have no interest in seeing that everybody thinks as I do. Viva le difference, as they say.

    The rest of us might enjoy thinking about things from a new persepctive.

    Your perspective, that God must exist, is an OLD perspective. Understanding the Universe from a naturalistic perspective is comparatively NEW, at least when viewed on the timescale of civilization. Moreover, it is perfectly fine to “enjoy” thinking about different perspectives. I enjoy thinking about the possible existence of ghosts, but I’m not willing to ignore alternative, simpler explanations for ghostly phenomena, just because it would be really cool if there were ghosts wandering about.

  • http://www.collectedmiscellany.com Kevin Holtsberry

    Duane,
    The reason for my annoyance is the clear tone of your comments idicates that you dismiss Unwin’s argument without really understanding it:
    – “There is no evidence.”
    – Unwin is seeking “snow people” with “ad hoc nonsense.”
    – “to the point that there will be no need to invoke supernatural explanations for things we don’t understand.”

    These statements are not about debate they are a rejection of the concept of God’s existence. They only make sense if you have already determined that God doesn’t exist. For you science is truth and it will slowly remvoe other truth claims that are based on ignorance or naiviete.

    Again, your dismissive language about ghosts reveals your perspective. We all know ghosts aren’t real so we dismiss them, religious belief is seen in the same light. You seem unable to recognize the Unwin is not talking about physical explanations or proofs for God’s existence but rather a rational way to compare our experiences and think through a probability based on those criteria. Can you offer a physical explanation for love? Will physics someday solve the “problem of evil?”

    You may be interested in debate but you don’t seem to take the other side very seriously.

  • duane

    That’s the spirit!

    …your dismissive language about ghosts reveals your perspective.

    Au contraire. Here’s a surprise for you. I believe in ghosts. Or, more precisely, I have had direct experience with what would commonly be called a poltergeist. I cannot explain that. I do not dismiss it, since the experience was stretched out over a two-week duration, and I was fully awake, and not on medications. I would hesitate to try to explain the phenomena in terms of spirits of the dead, but my mind is open enough to recognize that something apparently supernatural occurred in my presence.

    I’ll address your other comments later.

  • duane

    To Alexei,

    I can’t say that I understood how you can quantize pi, but here are a few comments (that have nothing to do with God):

    First, planetary orbits are not circles, they are ellipses. A circle is only a special case of an ellipse, where the eccentricity is equal to zero. Thus you might view ellipses as more fundamental conic sections than circles. Moreover, when you consider gravitational perturbations from other planets, the orbits become precessing ellipses. Then, when you consider general relativity, there is an additional precession (read up on the classical tests of GR).

    Relativity Theory is only relatively correct.

    No, as far as is currently known, it is exactly correct. Einstein himself was well aware of the local nature of “flatness,” which led him from Special Relativity to General Relativity, the theory of a curved spacetime, in which, as you mention, Riemannian geometry comes into play.

    On smaller scale onion-like model would perfectly describe a single atom with electronic clouds having different energy levels.

    No, the psi function for s-orbitals is spherical, but p-orbitals, d-orbitals, and every other higher angular momentum orbital is not spherical. (See solutions to Schrodinger’s Equation for more.)

    One obvious example of such sphere is the surface of our own Planet.

    The Earth is not a perfect sphere, even ignoring the obvious topographical irregularities. Neither is the Sun a perfect sphere. In fact, the rotation that you frequently cite in your piece causes deviations from a sphere. The shape of the Sun, or any other rotating star is better described as a Maclaurin spheroid.

    Finally, I must add that pi is pi. It is well known that in curved spaces that the ratio of circumference to radius is not pi, but that doesn’t mean you get to redefine pi. You may as well try to redefine all the trigonometric functions. And its numerical value is certainly not 3.0. If it were, we couldn’t control the orbit of a satellite, just for an example.

  • duane

    To Kevin,

    …you dismiss Unwin’s argument without really understanding it.

    That’s true.

    Can you offer a physical explanation for love?

    Well, I get this funny feeling in my stomach, and then I get kinda tingly, and then … oh, sorry. I suppose you mean “love” in a more general sense, like the love that a parent might have for a child. And by “physical,” you probably don’t mean physiological, but something physics-based. Well, first of all, whoa! Here you have introduced one of the Big Questions. I could respond in a number of ways. I’m not an expert on brain physiology, but I hear once in awhile that such and such mental disorder can be traced to a chemical malfunction in the brain. This might lead one to think that a lot of our emotions and behaviors are governed by Chemistry, which itself is governed by Physics. So, although a mechanistic explanation for love is not currently in hand, it’s not inconceivable that such a theory could arise in the future. What do you think?

    Will physics someday solve the “problem of evil?

    There are many a thing in the realm of human affairs that are currently outside the scope of physics, and this is one of them. Does the delineation of physics and the other sciences force an acceptance of a supernatural being? What is the chain of reasoning that leads you there? Or is it necessary to abandon your reason?

    You may be interested in debate but you don’t seem to take the other side very seriously.

    By my replies, you should see that this is manifestly false. I, myself, a “man of science,” as you put it, have indulged in various rituals of a spiritual nature, including Christianity. I take it very seriously.

  • http://collectedmiscellany.com kevin holtsberry

    Duane,
    Clearly the tone of your early comments led me to a false sense of your perspective. I think you dismissed Unwin’s arguments and ideas far too quickly.

    As to the larger questions I think your belief in science as the path to truth is a dead end. I won’t get into it here but I find it difficult to value inductive reasoning outside of a non-marterialist worldview. If biology and physics are all there is, why does truth or reality even matter? Why should we trust inductive reasoning and logic, the building blocks of the scientific method, anyways?

  • Ygyuj

    What is the value of pi to 1 quadrillion digits?