God of Chance

God of Chance (the “Book”) is being made available in electronic format for download by the author, David Bartholomew, who continues to hold and retain full copyright on all versions.. Persons wishing to download a copy of this Book, or parts thereof, for their own personal use, are hereby given permission to do so. Please see the Legal Notice.


God of Chance was published by the SCM Press in 1984. It was written partly in response to the claims of scientists like Jacques Monod, made in his book Chance and Necessity, that the whole of the evolutionary process could be accounted for by those two things; chance and necessity. Although his was a scientific book written by a scientist its tone was distinctly anti-theistic. In opposition to such scientists there were also theologians who argued fiercely that to allow chance into the description of the world was tantamount to embracing atheism. My book was well received and since it went out of print I have had numerous enquiries about how copies could be obtained or about whether I was planning a second edition. So much has happened in the 20 and more years since publication that something more than a new edition would be required now. I am, in fact, working on a new book on the same theme which will take full account of the great deal of progress that has been made since 1984. However, much in the original book has a continuing value and I was therefore pleased to respond positively to the suggestion of Burke Brown that the text be made freely available on the Web.

The central message of God of Chance is, I believe, still as valid today as it was in 1984. This is that chance has to be seen as within the Providence of God. It is not something which requires the abolition of theism nor is it an illusion. We increasingly use chance as a tool in scientific work and it would surely be surprising if God had not got there before us.

Much of the historical and biblical material in the book remains of continuing interest as and I do not intend repeat it in any new book.

The chief developments have been on the scientific front. William Dembski, for example, has published an enormous amount on the theme of intelligent design. He proposes a programme for eliminating chance as an explanation of the created world. In doing so he uses ideas which are essentially those of statistical inference which were discussed at some length in God of Chance. Stuart Kauffman has also published extensively on complexity and has explored the extent to which order might arise out of chaos. Both of these developments, among others, will need to be taken account of in future work. For example, if natural selection is so effective in nature we might expect it to be equally useful to us and this has given rise to genetic algorithms where, by mimicking nature, we can hope to produce new designs of some complexity.

Some related themes have been developed in my book Uncertain Belief, published by the Oxford University Press (hbk 1996, pbk 2000) details of which may be obtained via this Web site. Probability ideas are still relatively unfamiliar to the general public and this fact somewhat confuses the debate which ought to take place on issues raised in these books. I hope that readers will still find God of Chance interesting and useful after a quarter of a century.

David Bartholomew
August 2005