Dawkins' Scale of Theistic Probabilities

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Seek3R's picture
Dawkins' Scale of Theistic Probabilities

Hey guys,

It's been a long time. I was away in order to understand things better and I feel much healthier now (mentally). I bought this book, The God Delusion, last week out of the intention of gaining more knowledge and strengthening the current one but after reading about a 100 pages, some things confused me and I'd like to ask them here.

1) Ask on atheist republic about scale of probabilities and Dawkin's statement that god is undisprovable
Is it not ridiculous to remain in a position of assumption/chance that Jesus/Allah or any god (deist included) may or may not exist and that you are doomed if he did (suppose he's sadistic)?

2) Ask what exactly does Dawkins mean when he says that you cannot know for certain neither that god exists or does not exist.
What exactly does "knowing certain" refer to here? Is having evidence of evolution and natural selection not certain enough?
What about the atrocious mistakes in all the holy books of today and the non-existence of miracles, is this not knowledge enough to know for certain that god doesn't exist?
Or does "certainty" imply to something like a direct evidence? Like since god is considered omnipresent in monotheistic religions, we can't know that he does not exist unless we ourselves are omnipresent?

3) Where would you place yourself on Dawkins' Scale of Probabilities? If you are placing yourself on 6, then could you explain what witholds you from going on step further and being on 7? The scale is below:

*****Dawkins' Scale of Theistic Probabilities*****

1.Strong theist. 100% 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%. "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% but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."

4.Completely impartial. Exactly 50%. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."

5.Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50% 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."

4) What evidence do you think scientists require which would compel them to admit that a god exists? Let's assume that the god in this case is a deistic god who created the universe and then retired off to let the world go on as it wants.
What would prove or disprove such a god?

5) Richard Dawkins also writes that it's okay to be agnostic about things which science has not comprehended yet in terms of evidence. Things like extraterrestrial intelligence, life on other planets, aliens and fairies.
Do you think this is a sensible position to be in i.e. agnosticism about such things rather than denying them straight away on the basis of logic? I mean seriously, aliens and fairies?


So, I pretty much feel quite lost right now because of the word "probabilities" and that that's how one of the world's greatest thinkers alive considers the appropriate position for atheists. This has caused me a lot of uncertainty too about what to believe anymore!

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Kataclismic's picture
Everything we do/think is

Everything we do/think is based on probabilities. The only way you know that something does NOT exist is via the principles of deduction, which itself is based on probabilities. The probability that evolution explains how humans got here is what determines what probability there is left for the idea that magic dust played a role. The probability that evolution is true is based on the inductive principles of evidence gathering but again, it just counters a story about magic dust. It doesn't actually tell us anything about the existence of a god, only an action that somebody might attribute to it.

I think the jump from 6 to 7 is only prohibited by how you view things that are unexplained. If I say something weird happened and I can't explain it but it could just be swamp gas, then I have actually attributed something to it. If you say something happened and you can't explain it but it could be god, then that's just your preference for attributing things. However, your preferences can be easily based upon your emotional attachment to people around you (or grew up with) and not necessarily on logical reasoning.

Personally, I have no preference to support unsupported claims, but I can easily see the motivation.

Cognostic's picture

First, Richard Dawkins is a biologist and not a philosopher or even theologian. He is equally not a historian. When it comes to biology the man is tops in his field. When it comes to arguing with theists, he really isn't one of the strongest voices out there.

A probability is the extent to which something is probable. Probability quantifies as a number between 0 and 1. The probability of life occurring in the universe is 1. The probability of a god existing is 0. We have life in the universe. We have no god in the universe and no evidence for a god. We have no reason at all to suspect there is anything called a god. However, we must admit that we don't know everything and that as far as we actually do know, nothing is ever known with 100% accuracy. So for me, I drop the probability down to 99.9%. NOTE: I do not have to believe in the non-existence of a god, (though I do) to take this position. There is no reason to believe there is a god.

"knowing certain" refer to here?
When I think of knowing something, I am speaking of Justified True Belief. Belief that is backed with facts and evidence. In Science and in Philosophy, nothing is ever known for certain. Belief is allocated to the degree of the evidence provided.

7.Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one."

Step 7 is a fallacious belief. Yes it is held by some atheists. We refer to them as anti-theists or angry atheists at times. What is important here is to understand that Atheism is a "RESPONSE" to god claims. There are some Gods (Calling the God of the Bible or Allah a god of peace.) that are just obviously non-existent.
Calling either of these "PEACEFUL" gods existent is just insanity. The stronger you hold onto the belief, the more insane you appear in the light of all the evidence stacked against you. These gods can be known to not exist 100%

Amorphous gods are more difficult to pin down. There is no evidence for or against the, Ex: ( "You have not turned over every rock in the universe so how could you possibly know some superior being that we would call god, created the universe and then went away.") Well, we have no evidence to debunk this claim. We have no miracles to debunk. We have no prayers to debunk. What we have is an assertion or an utterly useless god. What's the point? It is not possible to take position 7 against this god logically (With facts and evidence.) The utter lack of evidence leads us to position 6 and 6 is sufficient. There is no need to go to 7.

4) What evidence do you think scientists require which would compel them to admit that a god exists?

This is not the problem of scientists. Scientists do not run around debunking every stupid idea people have. If they did that, there would be no time for science. The statement you have uttered is known as "Shifting the burden of proof." If I tell you there is a magical invisible,non-corporal dragon living in my back yard, your position should be to disbelieve me until you have sufficient proof of my claim. It would be up to me to provide that proof. So I show you a hole that the dragon dug. (People can dig holes.) I show you the dragons water dish that needs to be refilled occasionally. (Water evaporates.) I show you a broken fence that the dragon sat on. (Fences get old and fall over. Kids climb over fences to get balls and break them.) There are rational reasons for all I show you. What I don't show you is the dragon. What I don't show you is magic first hand. THERE IS NOTHING TO INVESTIGATE BY SCIENCE. The facts do not add up. If you want science to investigate something, you have got to show them an enigma. When actual evidence does appear, it is easily debunked. When apologists use arguments like the ontological, teleological, cosmological, minimal facts or Pascal's wager, the fallacies in their assertions are easily pointed out. There is nothing here to spur a scientific investigation.
With that said the efficacy of prayer was recently studied and found to be woefully lacking. Cancer patients recovered at a rate no better than chance when prayed for. And cancer patients who knew they were being prayed for did significantly worse. (Tempelton Foundation Research Study). When claims are made they can be tested. They have always failed.

Do you think this is a sensible position to be in i.e. agnosticism about such things rather than denying them straight away. How can you deny them without evidence for that denial. Again you are stuck on 6 no 7.

The Hypothesis: "God does not exist. " Is a positive claim. It requires the support of facts and evidence. If you can not prove the claim, you would be stupid to take it. We are all agnostic about the existence of gods and aliens. (With the exception of those of us who have some sort of personal knowledge.)

You do understand that agnosticism is about "KNOWLEDGE" and not belief. If you believe aliens exist without any facts or evidence or (knowledge), you might as well just say that you believe based on faith. Knowledge is a subcategory of belief.


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Sapporo's picture
If a god cannot exist by

If a god cannot exist by definition, due to being ascribed properties that are contradictory, then I am a 7 on the scale.

If a god is defined in a way that is not phenomenal and thus has no meaningful effect on reality, then for all practical purposes, I am a 7 on the scale.

Otherwise, I would say that it would be a waste of time to ascribe a ranking on that scale to something which does not even qualify as a valid hypothesis.

chimp3's picture
I agree with Sapporo. There

I agree with Sapporo. There are no descriptions of any god that warrant ascribing probabilities to.

Sheldon's picture


"Is it not ridiculous to remain in a position of assumption/chance that Jesus/Allah or any god (deist included) may or may not exist "

Yes, that''s why as an atheist I make no such assumption, simply withholding belief in the existence of any deity, if or until someone can demonstrate any, or ideally sufficient, objective evidence to support the claim.

What exactly does "knowing certain" refer to here? Is having evidence of evolution and natural selection not certain enough?

All scientific facts, even thought they are established with a weight of objective evidence (like evolution), placing them beyond any reasonable doubt, MUST remain tentative. Any human method for understanding reality that could not admit of a mistake, will cling to that error and be unable to correct it, just as religions do with their (now) risible creation myths.

"What evidence do you think scientists require which would compel them to admit that a god exists? "

Exactly, and I mean exactly, the same evidence science requires for all other claims.

You seem to be confusing agnosticism with belief, agnosticism (in this context) means nothing is known, or can be known about the nature or existence of a deity. Do you normally believe claims you can know nothing about, and which no one can demonstrate any objective evidence for? How many times must this be explained?

No one can demonstrate any objective evidence, or make any rational argument that a deity, or anything supernatural, is even possible, so speculating about the probability is meaningless. How probable are invisible unicorns?

chimp3's picture
I think we can conclude that

I think we can conclude that there are no large apes native to North America. There is enough evidence to conclude "No Big Foot" . No god has ever been described in as much detail as Big Foot.

arakish's picture
I am a 7. Provide objective

I am a 7. Provide objective hard empirical evidence of its existence; otherwise my razor: NO EVIDENCE = NO EXISTENCE.


Calilasseia's picture
One of my posts elsewhere in

One of my posts elsewhere in the forums may be of import here, for those who haven't read the requisite thread.

Seek3R's picture
Thanks for the replies

Thanks for the replies everyone, it's immensely helpful to me in understanding things from a logical perspective. As you all know, I'm still a 1 year old atheist (not even a year has completed) and I am rising from pretty much a fucked up mess of antidepressants, religious tensions and the fact that I live in a country where freedom of speech is not very appreciated.

What I've understood from all the replies above is the following (correct me even if a single point is wrong, dumb or illogical, the gists of each point are enclosed within the asterisks)

1) ***Everything we think or know about something is a probability*** because we do not know any one thing as a 100% certainty ***unless it is something super obvious*** e.g. when we jump, the gravity will pull us back and we'll fall instead of drifting away into the space. As for the former, you may or may not know if it will rain tomorrow, but since suppose the meteorological departments have all unanimously predicted and analyzed the situation, there's NO REASON to believe that it will NOT RAIN because the burden of proof lies on those who believe that it will not rain, in spite of the scientific analysis against the claim, rather than us who believe that it will rain.

2) Since there is no provable and verifiable empirical evidence for the belief that one knows for certain that there is a God (any), why even resort to a scale of probabilities when the single opposite of the claim can also fill in all the gaps of the doubts, as Arakish put is, NO EVIDENCE = NO EXISTENCE.

3) This is gonna sound extremely dumb from my side but I don't know I thought the Dawkins' Scale of Theistic Probabilities is some sort of a an explanation that can be accepted globally. I mean, an atheist can find the right spot to put himself/herself on it, the most extremist of religious men can do it and so can the agnostics, deists or anyone. However, it was my dumb stupidity to forget what if we don't even require the probabilities at the first place because as I can conclude from what Sheldon has said, EVERYTHING we have or have gathered since the beginning of time is SUPPORTING THE NON-EXISTENCE OF GOD BY DEFAULT so there's no reason to believe in the contrary.

4) Dawkins says that God (any) is disprovable but it's a scientific question and one day may be answered. Anyways he contradicts himself here but my point is, why on earth do we even have to be on the "disprovable" side of group when nobody has ever been able to prove the opinion that God is provable. So there's every need to say that God does not exist for 100% certainty because no man has ever been able to satisfy anyone by an argument to suggest that God is provable. As for some of the unanswered questions about beginning of life and etc, I am very certain we will uncover their answers. But asserting the "God is disprovable" claim because something is yet to be discovered and making an unnecessary affiliation between that phenomenon and the existence of God is completely irrational and unnecessary.

By the way, the reason why I've written "any" in the brackets is because he does mention at the start of his book that he'll not be attacking any one single god of today or the ancient times but rather referring to any supernatural intelligence as God. Since every major god, monotheistic, deistic or polytheistic falls in this category, he pretty much is referring to every God.


I really look forward to your comments on my points. Have I understood the concepts correctly? And, I don't know if possible but IF it is, can any of you make a comment if I have become more logical since the last time I posted a question here? (The last question was about dreams and my stuck belief that all dreams are from God. I realized after 5 months dreams are nothing but a product of our own brains). This may already be sounding childish but you guys are the only like-minded people I have in my life (pretty much like a second family) and considering that I'm very young and new in atheism (I'm 19), it's important for me to have your corroboration of my understandings.

Thanks in advance!

Sheldon's picture
You need to understand that

You need to understand that certainty is something of a misnomer, as epistemology makes 100% certainty impossible.

When we talk of certainty we are talking about the highest degree of certainty epistemology allows. However, as in the scientific method even that MUST remain tentative.

This would include all scientific facts for example. For something like evolution to be completely reversed now is incomprehensible given the amount of objective evidence amassed to support it over 160 years of intense global scientific study.

However science would still follow the evidence even if it unimaginably reversed the last 160 years and all that evidence.

Religions and the religious are above all else closed minded to any and all evidence, and argument that falsify their core belief.

For example 6 days can somehow ludicriusly be interpreted to mean over 13 billion years in order to to distort it's obvious and original meaning to conform with facts that otherwise would destroy their religion's core claims. There's no arguing against a level of closed minded bias that would distort facts to that extent.

Cognostic's picture
@Seek3R3) This is gonna

@Seek3R3) This is gonna sound extremely dumb from my side but I don't know I thought the Dawkins' Scale.....

Don't worry about the Dawkins scale. If you do not believe in god or gods, you are an atheist. There are different ways to be an atheist. I tend to shift positions depending on who I am talking to or what God we are talking about. In the end, it is always the theist who mus provide evidence. If you think he presents a god that is easily debunked and you know how to do it, shift into anti-theist mode. If not, just being an atheist and asking for evidence is enough to debunk every Christian claim out there.

chimp3's picture
Atheism is not a philosophy

Atheism is not a philosophy or a way of thought. It is simply a lack of belief in god(s). Dawkin's scale is not a requirement.

Kafei's picture
I really like Steve McRae's

I really like Steve McRae's critique of Dawkins' theistic scale. It's on point.

adamusa's picture
The view of God's existence

The view of God's existence depends on the religious, philosophical and personal conception of each person. Therefore, it is not possible to accurately conclude about the existence of God. https://mapquestdirections.org

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