Imagine a hypothetical universe where 1 million days have gone by.

Imagine another where 1 billion days have gone by.

Assume that in each case, one has found no direct evidence of god operating in the world. Is this longer period of time of absence further evidence against god?

Should one feel more confident in god’s non existence in the second compared to the first scenario?

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    Has one been looking for evidence ? I could spend my whole life rightfully claiming i have never found evidence the sky is blue if i never go out to check. Also, a million days is about 3000 years and a billion 3000000 years. At these time spans you have to consider the way evidence is recorded about what happened before the few decades of life you have to make your mind up. Depending on your means to check testimonies from before your birth, 3000 years or 3000000 might not make a big difference.
    – armand
    Aug 28 at 1:10
  • No. Absence of evidence (e.g. God exists, but takes care of not leaving traces) is not evidence of absence (the fact that we don't find the traces he took care of avoiding does not prove he doesn't exist).
    – RodolfoAP
    Aug 29 at 10:15
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    I am paraphrasing from memory. A quote from the book: Zen and The Ways. People want proof of the Buddha-heart! But the very heart is Buddha! The heart; the Buddha! If this heart is not Buddha then what would be proof? People who experience God in the heart (imagination) cannot prove the existence of God to those who have no such experience. Aug 29 at 20:03
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    "Assume that in each case, one has found no direct evidence of god operating in the world. " some would say that the existence of the universe was direct evidence of God operating. You need to agree about what constitutes direct evidence. Aug 30 at 8:54
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    One can claim that X is evidence of Y, but one must show why. If one cannot, I fail to see how X can be evidence Aug 30 at 9:11

5 Answers 5


It is impossible to provide a meaningful answer to your question without first having a clearer hypothesis about the nature of god and especially about the nature of god's interaction with the Universe. It is possible, for example, that having made the Universe, god decided to have nothing more to do with it, so you can wait as long as you like and never find evidence. Or perhaps god set a timer to remind him/her to check on the Universe every 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years, so your propose intervals are too short to make a difference. Or perhaps god always acts in stealth mode, making interventions that are faultlessly disguised as natural causes. And so on ad nauseam. So the relationship between time and probability depends upon one's underlying assumptions about god.

If your hypothesis was that god reveals herself to the peoples of the Earth by appearing in a fiery chariot every million years, then you could build a probability distribution which determined the likelihood of it being true as a function of time. The likelihood would have dwindled to zero after a million and one years if god had not appeared beforehand.

  • What is the half-life of visits by God, ha ha! Still, an atom could not decay for a long time and yet be radioactive. Maybe God forgot to set the visit timer and got distracted by other universes and stuff? Must be very busy, managing everything. We should give Him the benefit of the doubt. Or get busy ourselves with something that actually affects something.
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 30 at 10:37

Well, to try out my math skills (I need practice, a helluva lotta practice), let's define the function F(t) as taking the input time elapsed (t) since some arbitrary point on the timeline and giving the output the probability of truth (about anything) being discovered and let us suppose the function F describes a direct proportionality relationship between t and F(t).

So, F(1 billion years) > F(1 million years) i.e. the probability of discovering the truth about God (whether he exists/not) should be greater for 1 billion years than 1 million years.

My worry/concern is the nature of a possible intermediary function G(t) we need to work out such that F(G(t)) is our composite function linking the probability of discovering the truth to time elapsed.

Me two sikkas.

  • Right. In this case I think G=0 for all t. Time for breakfast.
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 30 at 10:43
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    😄 Then the OP's claim is, per my approach, F(0) for all time t. Aug 30 at 12:24

Let H be the hypothesis that God exists and ~H the negation of that hypothesis. A Bayesian would say that the probability of H being true is given by Bayes rule:

P(H|X) = P(X|H)P(H)/P(X) = P(X|H)P(H)/[P(X|H)P(H) + P(X|~H)P(~H)]

where P(H) is your prior belief in the existence of God and X represents our observations of God. However, we will instead look at the odds ratio - the ratio of the probability of God's existence and non-existence,

P(H|X)/P(~H|X) = P(X|H)P(H)/[P(X|~H)P(~H)] = P(X|H)/P(X|~H) * P(H)/P(~H)

The second term in the final expression is called the Bayes factor and it basically tells us how much the observations affect our relative belief in the existence and non-existence of God.

If it describes a God that regularly makes appearances - say "Q" in Star Trek the Next Generation, then P(X|H) and P(X|~H) will be very different and not observing "Q" (at least once a series) will give reasonable evidence that "Q" doesn't exist. In this case, the Bayes factor will be substantially less than one. In this case, absence of evidence is to some degree evidence of absence.

Now, if our hypothesis of God describes a God that rarely makes an appearance then P(X|H) and P(X|~H) are going to be very similar in the case of the absence of evidence and the Bayes factor will be close to 1. In this case, our posterior belief in God is basically just a restatement of our prior beliefs and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

For most theological beliefs, we will be in the latter case, and pretty much all evidence based arguments for and against the existence of God will be just restating our prior beliefs, and probably not a good use of time.

This is essentially formalising @MarcoOcram's answer (+1)

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    Agreed, but just one single 'appearance' of God would be enough, and all the rest without it would never be sufficient. We want knowledge, not speculation, yes? This is why I stopped studying Philosophy in college. "Where's the beef?"
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 30 at 10:31
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    In principle, unfortunately I think there are many who's prior belief is so strong that they would rationalise an appearance of God as some sort of mental abberation, simply because that is the most consistent position given their priors. We can have knowledge, as long as we are happy with it being uncertain (which is why I find probability more satisfying than a lot of philosophy). Aug 30 at 10:57
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    "He who doubts from what he sees will ne'er believe, do what you please." - William Blake
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 30 at 11:00
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    oddly enough, this is pretty similar to the answer given to another question from the author of the OP philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/97997/… Aug 30 at 15:02

Wonderful question, thanks. If you believe God performs miracles (and hasn't politely withdrawn from the world), then absolutely, the lack of miracles for a long time would amount to better evidence He does not exist.

If I claimed to be able to walk on water (or recite pi to ten places) but haven't yet today vs forty years, the latter is better evidence that I am wrong, especially if people keep asking me to.

I don't know what besides miracles would class as evidence, rather than arguments, for God.


There is no evidence for the absence of God. It is logically impossible to prove a negative.

The burden of proof is on the theist side. The absence of God is the default assumption until the presence of God is proven.

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    It is not always impossible to prove a negative. I can trivially prove that there are no even prime numbers greater than or equal to 3. Aug 29 at 22:50
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    I agree that the proof of an assertion lies with the assert-er. Otherwise I could keep everyone busy forever saying ludicrous things. Wait, that is what I do...
    – Scott Rowe
    Aug 30 at 10:41

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