What Are the Odds That God Exists?

‘The eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself. He alone is Creator. … The totality of what exists depends on the One who gives it being.’ (CCC 290)

‘Royal Flush’
‘Royal Flush’ (photo: Volodymyr White / Shutterstock)

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of performing in Uppsala, Sweden, at a Nordic Magic Convention. I was asked to perform a mentalist trick I invented called “Impossible.” Imagine a room of perceptive and skeptical magicians encircling four volunteers seated at a regulation poker table, which had been examined thoroughly by a committee trained to distrust other magicians. These are people who wouldn’t believe me if I insisted that the sun were shining at noon.

I asked them if they knew the rules of poker. They said they did. I made a perfunctory Jedi-like wave over the deck and asked them to agree as to who would cut the deck and who would deal four hands, one to each player. The cards were dealt and the volunteer behind whom I stood, miraculously, won the hand with a Royal Flush. I did this five times in a row, standing behind each volunteer in turn.

For those unfamiliar with the odds of producing a Royal Flush, I offer the following probabilities (with poker hands in bold):

  • High Card - 2 to 1 odds against
  • One Pair - 2.37 to 1
  • Two Pair - 21.04 to 1
  • Three of a Kind - 47.33 to 1
  • Giving Birth to Fraternal Twins - 90 to 1
  • Straight - 254.8 to 1
  • Giving Birth to Identical Twins - 285 to 1
  • Dying on Your Own Birthday - 365.25 to 1
  • Flush - 508.8 to 1
  • Full House - 694.17 to 1
  • Hitting the Jackpot on a Slot Machine - 889 to 1
  • Four of a Kind - 4,165 to 1
  • Giving Birth to Triplets - 8,100 to 1
  • Getting Hit by Lightning - 15,300 to 1
  • Having the Same Birthday and Year as Any Other Random Person - 29,293 to 1
  • Getting a Hole-in-One on Any Given Hole - 33,000 to 1
  • Straight Flush - 64,974 to 1
  • Royal Flush - 649,740 to 1
  • Giving Birth to Quadruplets - 729,000 to 1
  • Dying from Falling Out of Bed - 2,000,000 to 1
  • Being Killed by a Snake - 3,000,000 to 1
  • Making 27 Straight Passes (Wins) with Dice at Craps - 12,467,890 to 1
  • Giving Birth to Quintuplets - 65,610,000 to 1
  • Winning a State Lottery - 83,000,000 to 1
  • 2 Royal Flushes in a Row - 422,162,067,600 to 1
  • Being Killed by a Meteorite - 10,000,000,000,000 to 1
  • 3 Royal Flushes in a Row - 274,295,581,802,424,000 to 1
  • 4 Royal Flushes in a Row - 178,220,811,320,306,969,760,000 to 1
  • 5 Royal Flushes in a Row - 115,797,189,947,256,250,531,862,400,000 to 1

So the chances of winning five continuous hands of poker with a Royal Flush at the same sitting with an honest, untampered with deck is a mere 115,797,189,947,256,250,531,862,400,000 to 1.

So where would the odds of our existence itself rank on this list? John Lennox (an Oxford University mathematician) cites Roger Penrose (an Oxford University mathematical physicist) on this subject:

His calculations lead him to the remarkable conclusion that the ‘Creator’s aim’ must have been accurate to 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123, that is 1 followed by 10 to the 123rd power zeros.

In other words 10,000,000,000^123 (one chance in 1.23 googols).

I don’t believe in such coincidences but atheists are eager to bet the farm that the universe accidently defied these odds to arrange itself as it has — without a Creator.

In other words, 13.8 billion years ago, when there was nothing at all — a timeless and dimensionless nothingness — suddenly, and without ceremony, there suddenly appeared an immensely-hot, disordered, chaotic form of nothingness, the size of a soccer ball — redolent with 1,090 types of particles, antiparticles and quanta of radiation — and nothing else.

It filled the entire universe because there was nothing else other than itself. Bidden by God, it exploded and by an impossible-to-conceive inflation wave, grew at a ludicrous speed to become an anthropically-hospitable sphere of matter and energy 92 billion light-years in diameter — creating time and space and naturally given to self-destructive entropy — in which humanity, 13.8 billion years later, would ultimately appear with minds sporting a vast capacity for thought, capable of understanding the very mathematical and scientific laws by which the universe is structured — though no materialistic explanation can show the connection between the two. (Atheists claim it is yet another coincidence that we can understand logic and math.)

Oddly, humans possess three other things that are can’t to exist in a materialistic universe — free will and morality and human consciousness. None of these things can be found in nature and thus poses a problem for materialists, who insist that all of this is by “accident.”

But what is the “accident” here? The starting of the universe? An impossibility without a direct cause that just so happened, inexplicably, unbidden and unwanted? And that universe was so finely-tuned, to such an exact degree, that if even a single one of the 127 mandatory events or precise measurements — such as the Cosmological Constant — that define the structure of the universe were to change, human life would be snuffed out?

Think about it. One chance in 1.23 googols — more than the total sum of atoms in the known universe. This is what mathematicians and logicians call a “huge number.”

In other words, there’s no way this universe could have happened by accident. Because if you were so hapless as to believe in such impossible, inconceivable odds ... I’d like to invite you to my next poker game.