Is Theism a Simple, and hence Probable, Explanation for the Universe?

  • J Ostrowick
Keywords: Richard Swinburne, the Existence of God, theism, Bayes, Bayesianism, Materialism, cosmology, the universe, multiple universes


Richard Swinburne, in his The Existence of God (2004), presents a cosmological argument in defence of theism (Swinburne 1991: 119, 135). God, Swinburne argues, is more likely to bring about an ordered universe than other states (ibid.: 144, 299). To defend this view, Swinburne presents the following arguments: (1) That this ordered universe is a priori improbable (2004: 49, 150, 1991: 304 et seq.), given the stringent requirements for life (cf. also Leslie 2000: 12), and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Giancoli 1990: 396); (2) That it seems as if this ordered universe can be explained by theism; (3) A theistic explanation for the universe is more probable because it is a simple explanation. To this end, Swinburne makes use of Bayes’ Theorem. Symbolically, this claim can be represented as (e) for the evidence of the existence of a complex universe, and (h) for a hypothesis. Swinburne’s argument is that theism has a higher prior probability, P(htheism) > P(hmaterialism), since theism is simpler than materialism. He concludes that P(e|htheism) > P(e|hmaterialism). In this paper I will address only this argument (3) above, and defend the view that it is false: theism is not simpler than materialism, nor it is more probably true. I conclude that theism
is less probable than materialism, expressed by P(htheism) < P(hmaterialism) : 2/N(2n+1) < 1/n, where N is the number of possible universes and n the number of entities in existence.

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