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Richard Dawkins’s Roll of the Dice

In an informal dialogue with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard Dawkins surprised his audience by disclaiming the title of “atheist” — as in World’s Most Famous Atheist, as he’s been universally known up till now — in favor of “agnostic.” This prompted one Christian email correspondent of ours to speculate longingly on whether Dawkins could emerge as a sort of latter-day St. Paul, eventually seeing the light and embracing religious belief.

Don’t hold your breath on that one, though Dawkins’s listeners were undestandably startled at his backing away from “atheism” in favor of the more modest descriptor, “agnosticism.” He explained that he can’t know with certainty that God doesn’t exist but on a scale of 1 to 7, (with a nervous laugh) he rates himself a 6.9.

Well, that would work out to 98.57 percent confidence. I happen to have a ten-sided dice handy — used in a game I play with my 10-year-old son — with which, by rolling twice, you can conveniently generate random numbers between 1 and 100. Let’s see how long it takes me to beat the odds against God.

You are witnessing a real-time scientific trial. (And they say intelligent-design advocates don’t do those!) Here we go: 68, 10, 27, 40, 64, 36, 77, 96, and…99.

That took 9 attempts and about 30 seconds. Dawkins said, “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low.” Yet even at 98.57 percent, the odds were not that bad. I would be somewhat reluctant to bet a hundred bucks on that basis. If I were Richard Dawkins it sure does seem like, rather than continue a campaign of mockery against religion, the better-advised course would be to continue on my course of enhanced modesty and just be quiet.