Saturday, August 25, 2007

Does God Play With Dice in the Universe?

Well, thought it was time to bring back an old thing I had a while back. It's been about a year. But I should probably update it, since the Randi challenge has gotten more specific in who they'll accept, so that they don't have to feel compelled to test every obscure loon. Just the ones with media coverage.

So anyway, I've got a brick of 36 dice, and I'll use them to test the existence of the deity for up to six people who apply. Requirements for entry: Your deity or deities must be willing and able to manipulate a massive dice roll in an effort to convince me of their existence.

Each entrant picks out a number 1 through 6 for their deity. If, for example, Zeus gets picked for the number 2, and all the dice come up 2s in two sequential rolls, I'll believe in Zeus. The six entrants will be pitting their deities against each other, and against my atheism.

Here's the catch, and probably the real test of your faith: Everyone has to abide by the results: If the dice don't come up with the same number, you have to accept that A) none of the six deities exist, B) they don't care about converting me, or C) they don't have the power to control dice.

So, any takers? Legitimate criticism of the challenge?


Anonymous said...

Not a single person's going to take this for the reason that "testing" a god is considered evil. A "who are you to put GOD to the test, expect things from He that is Holy" sort of thing. Mind you, I can answer that. Someone who doubts that being exists, and since when is asking for evidence an affront?

Laser Potato said...

The real question is, how can you play dice in zero-gravity?

Anonymous said...

There're a couple things you're missing. A mixed result could be the result of random chance, or (albeit far less likely) an indication that all of the competing deities exist and have approximately equal influence, or that another, more powerful being is influencing the roll toward a seemingly-random outcome with its many Noodly Appendages.

Anonymous said...

I'd take this challenge for Loki, on the theory that if gods actually existed, the nature of reality seems to indicate they enjoy f*cking with us.

And since there's no way all 36 dice are coming up Loki, so to speak, I'd just argue that Loki wants you to think he doesn't exist.

Tom Foss said...

Anonymous: Yeah, that's a convenient contention, too. Strange that when God was walking around in a human suit, he had no problem proving his abilities in order to win followers. he'd calm storms, walk on water...and yet he says it's a sin to test God.

Unknown said...

I call fives for Eris!
Not that I expect to win, but, on the off chance that you DO get 36 fives, I want Eris to get the credit.

O'Brien said...

I have some criticism of the challange.

Suppose all the dice show the same result. The odds are rather highly against it (how many dice were you using again?), but it's understood as a physically possible result. Would Occam's Razor prefer assuming a god over assuming blind luck?

Also, if I came up to you and told you that I could roll ninety sixes in a row by using God's power and proceeded to roll said number of sixes in a machine to prevent all possibility of cheating, it still wouldn't prove that God exists. Perhaps I have psychokenetic powers and merely assumed that God was responsible for my feats because I was raised in a culture that told me God performed miracles for the faithful. Assuming that the dice test would, if successful, demonstrate the existence of the tested god is absurd; it is the height of credulous and unscientific thinking to assume that an unexplained phenomenon must be caused by a specific god that has otherwise never been seen simply because a lot of people believe in that god or because a subject in the experiment believes that such a god is involved. A successful dice test that can be repeated under varying circumstances would revolutionize science completely, but the only reason to assume that Yahweh/Jehova/Jesus was behind it is because most people believe that said being(s) exist and have those powers, which is a very poor reason.

The dice test is just one example of what I like to call the "test by miracles." No test by miracles is sufficient to establish the existence of a god; the premise behind a test by miracles is that a sufficiently revolutionary scientific discovery is sufficient reason to believe in the specific god that people already believe in simply because it was unlikely or removed from what we know.

As for evidence that would truly convince me of the existence of a god? I can't really think of much offhand short of a personal audience. Hey, extraordinary claims, babe!

Bronze Dog said...

There's somewhat of blind luck involved in testing any hypothesis. Testing medicine, for example, can produce certain results as a result of dumb luck, rather than actual efficacy. It's just very unlikely.

That's just being very quick about my response.

We're pretty much talking about 1 out of 6^71 or so, so I'm not too worried, at least on a practical level.

O'Brien said...

I still maintain that a "test of miracles" is a bad way to test for a god. (I would concede the first point about the odds, but I'm a person of great doublethink; admitting I'm wrong is not in my nature. Big Brother said it, I believe it, that settles it.)

Dikkii said...

Re the testing God is bad thing: Didn't Elijah put God to the test frequently?

I don't see anything wrong with this test.

And if it goes some way to providing evidence for psycho-kinetic behaviour, I'm all for that as well.

I just think that, yeah, if we can call it dumb luck the first time around, why not replicate it?

I call 6 for Satan by the way - yeah he's supposedly not a god, but are you going to take God's word for that?

Tom Foss said...

The problem with the test is that it is physically possible. Given extremely long periods of time with continuous rolling, you'd end up getting all 36 dice to hit the same number eventually.

The methodology of the test mitigates this somewhat: first, the dice have to come up the same on two consecutive rolls, which further decreases the likelihood, and second, the rolls have to achieve this unlikely effect on command: BD is rolling precisely twice at some pre-determined time, and not ad nauseam for geologically-long timeframes.

Altogether, we're approaching "lightning strike in a submarine" levels of likelihood. It may be compelling evidence for the existence of a particular deity, but I would say not convincing in and of itself. I'm reading some Hume right now, so I'm a little stuck on the idea of the "greater miracle."

Mechalith said...

I'd argue the best way to proceed would be to roll all 36d6s a number of times. (twenty sound good?) If the results come out the same, every time, in favor of a particular result I'd be pretty convinced that something unusual was happening.

The trouble is that while this is a good rhetorical device, it would take a good deal more than just a massive statistical anomaly to make me believe in a particular god. Personally, I'm holding out for a talking column of fire or a being made of light or some such.

TheBrummell said...

The real question is, how can you play dice in zero-gravity?

1. Magnetic dice. Make the dice out of iron, nickel, cobalt or some alloy of one or more of those metals, and roll them by tossing them through space (a meter or so inside your spacecraft should be sufficient) putting uncontrolled spins on the dice. Throw them towards a large, plate-shaped magnet.

2. It's "micro-gravity" not "zero-gravity". Thus, there is a small, long-term directional trend in movement; BD didn't specify how long this particular test would take. Ten years ought to be sufficient for the action of gravity inside a spacecraft in a slowly decaying orbit.

JackalMage said...

I'll take 1 for evidence of the Great Pudding. It's the only god that's made sense to me since I was a child.