Odds on that God exists, says scientist

Preliminary information

Time: 45-50 minutes??

Level: Upper intermediate up

To give extensive & intensive reading practice
Review/introduce & practice the language of probability
To give freer speaking practice

That the stds will be interested in the content of the text.
That the language in the text should not be challenging.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Teachers might be uncomfortable about how to introduce the theme without stepping on people's beliefs - choose the group carefully & below the intro is through the title which makes it a smooth introduction.
Some vocabulary in the text may need pre-teaching.
Phonological & form problems with the exponents of probability that you choose.

The article from the Guardian Online


Stage 1 - Intro to the theme
5 mins tch<>stds
1. Put the title of the article on the board - stds predict the content. Explain 'odds on' & might be useful to delve into the lexical set - to bet, gamble, gambler, predictions, long odds, odds on favourite..etc..Elicit from the stds what odds they would give on God existing.

Stage 2 - Reading
15 mins tch<>stds, stds
1. Handout the articles & stds read quickly to see if their predictions were correct. Give 30 seconds - to help them speed up their extensive reading skills.
2. Feedback
3. More intensive reading - handout the questions below. Stds read individually.

Find the answers to the following questions:

1. Why is Stephen Unwin qualified to carry out this study?

2. What kind of things did he take into account in the study?

3. Why did he become interested in finding out the odds?

4. What he personally think about the existence of God?

5. What does the betting organisation say about the findings?

4. Compare with another std & the general feedback.

Stage 3 - language focus - probability
25 mins tch<>stds, stds<>stds
1. Elicit the probability of God existing, according to both the study & to Stephen Unwin personally - 67% & 95%.
2. Elicit ways of expressing these - There's a good chance that.../ It's almost certain that ....
3. In pairs, ask stds to work out the range of probability - from 0% >> 100% - stds write their expressions down.
4. Get the stds to compare with each other, adding more ways down.
5. Prepare a chart of the ways of expressing probability that you want to review/introduce. Handout & stds compare with their own lists.
6. Prepare a list of things that would have varying probabilities for the stds. Give it out to the stds - they work out individually the probability of these things happening to them.

God existing
Your favourite sports team winning the league this year
Changing jobs/studies this year
Going on holiday somewhere war next summer
Becoming involved in a new romantic relationship
Spending a large amount of money soon


7. Focus on phonology - tell the stds your predictions - & as you do, drill them on the exponents they will find difficult, in the third person 'You will almost certainly change jobs' - chorus >> individual drill.
8. Stds then mingle to find out about each others probabilities& see if they have anything in common.
9. Feedback - any similarities & also feedback on how they used the lang. of probability.

Odds on that God exists, says scientist

Stewart Maclean, Catherine Bolsover and Polly Curtis
Monday March 8, 2004

A scientist has calculated that there is a 67% chance that God exists.

Dr Stephen Unwin has used a 200-year-old formula to calculate the probability of the existence of an omnipotent being. Bayes' Theory is usually used to work out the likelihood of events, such as nuclear power failure, by balancing the various factors that could affect a situation.

The Manchester University graduate, who now works as a risk assessor in Ohio, said the theory starts from the assumption that God has a 50/50 chance of existing, and then factors in the evidence both for and against the notion of a higher being.

Factors that were considered included recognition of goodness, which Dr Unwin said makes the existence of God more likely, countered by things like the existence of natural evil - including earthquakes and cancer.

The unusual workings - which even take into account the existence of miracles - are set out in his new book, which includes a spreadsheet of the data used so that anyone can make the calculation themselves should they doubt its validity. The book, The Probability of God: A simple calculation that proves the ultimate truth, will be published later this month.

Dr Unwin said he was interested in bridging the gap between science and religion. He argues that rather than being a theological issue, the question of God's existence is simply a matter of statistics.

"On arriving in America I was exposed to certain religious outlooks that were somewhat of an assault upon my sensibilities - outlooks in which religion actually competes with science as an explanation of the world," he said.

"While I could not be sure, having slept through most of the cathedral services I had attended during secondary school, this did not seem like the version of faith I had remembered. In many ways, this project was for me a journey home - a reconciliation of my faith and education."

Despite his findings, Dr Unwin maintains that he is personally around 95% certain that God exists.

However, Graham Sharp, media relations director at William Hill, said there were technical problems with giving odds on the existence of God. "The problem is how you confirm the existence of God. With the Loch Ness monster we require confirmation from the Natural History Museum to pay out, but who are we going to ask about God? The church would definitely confirm his existence."

Mr Sharp said William Hill does take bets on the second coming, which currently stand at 1,000/1. For this confirmation is needed from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"We do take bets on the second coming, whether that confirms the existence of God is up to the theologians to argue, most people wouldn't believe that, though.

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