Thursday, March 22, 2012


Richard Dawkins proposes a "spectrum of probabilities" for answering the question, "How much — or how little — do you believe in God?":

1.0   Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God.
2.0   De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent.
3.0   Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high.
4.0   Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent.
5.0   Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low.
6.0   De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero.
7.0   Strong atheist.

So like the Fahrenheit scale and Celsius scale, there is the Dawkins scale. (As you notice, it goes up from total belief to total unbelief, so it's really the measure "How high is your unbelief in God?") One can translate one's place in his spectrum into degrees Dawkins: 5.0 could be 50° Dawkins, etc. When someone asks you the question, you would answer with a simple number in degrees, e.g. I'm 57° Dawkins, and that's that. Dawkins himself has said he's at 6.9: So Dawkins himself is 69° Dawkins.

Philosophers muddle over the distinctions between belief and knowledge, agnosticism and atheism. But it's really just a lot of language that confuses. The Dawkins scale just makes simple what should be a simple thing to express.

W.V. Quine wrote that all of our conceptual world is a web of beliefs — a network of beliefs connected by logical dependencies — and beliefs can be revised within this web in such a way as the whole settles into some acceptable state that we live with. And degrees of beliefs are common in expressing the strength and weakness of beliefs in this web. Beliefs then propagate their values throughout the web updating the values of other beliefs.

Some people are averse to being completely absolute either way (10° or 70° in the Dawkins scale). So many atheists may just be like Dawkins (69°). After all, there are some things even more unbelievable than God: like Republicans' supply-side economics!

What's your temperature?

This post is the fourth in a series of seven for the 7 Day Blogging Challenge for Bloggers from +Jenson Taylor.