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Economists use probability theory to predict how people will spend money. Actuaries use it to figure how high someone’s insurance premium will be.

In 2002, Richard Swinburne, who is a professor of philosophy at Oxford University, used a formula known as Baye’s theorem to calculate the probability of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Mr. Swinburne spoke to an audience of more than 100 philosophers who had convened at Yale University in April for a conference on ethics and belief. Mr. Swinburne, an imposing presence with white hair, evaluated the evidence for and against the Resurrection. He assigned values to factors like the probability that God exists, the nature of Jesus behavior while he was alive, and the quality of witness testimony after his death.

He plugged it all into a dense thicket of letters and symbols and did the math. "Given e and k, h is true if and only if c is true," he said. "The probability of h given e and k is .97"

“In plain English, this means that, by Mr. Swinburne’s calculations, the probability of the Resurrection comes out to be a whopping 97 percent.”

SOURCE: SermonCentral PRO. Citation: Emily Eakin in "So God’s Really in the Details?" The New York Times, May 11, 2002.

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