Class Warfare Blog

April 8, 2014

Pascal’s Wager Applied to Climate Change

Filed under: Philosophy,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:52 am
Tags: , , ,

It is clear that the discussion over climate change is wrongly focused. Most people think it is about ignorance: if the people opposing climate change were only to see more evidence, they would be convinced. This is clearly wrong. More likely this is simple confirmation bias: we ignore information that contradicts what we believe and conservative myth-mongers got to the plate first with the “Climate Change is a liberal hoax” meme. Once they got their supporters to commit to this falsehood, then evidence no longer matters. Things that bolster one’s belief are latched upon; things that oppose that belief are ignored. It is a done deal.

“ It doesn’t matter whether you think it is real or not, the odds are way better if you believe. ”

Allow me to offer another approach, one based upon Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, offered the following apologetic for belief in God (paraphrased for modern eyes):

Either God is or is not.
If you believe he is not, and are right, you gain nothing, but if you are wrong, you lose everything (you burn in Hell forever).
If you believe he is, and are right, you gain everything (it’s Heaven, baby), but if you are wrong, you lose nothing.

Consequently believing in God is the only prudent path, it is heaven or nothing. Unbelievers face either nothing or Hell. What kind of idiot would choose that path?

Now, let’s apply this to Climate Change. This is a bit more difficult because the differences between eternity in Heaven and eternity Hell are rather stark while the repercussion of Climate Change are much less so, but nothing ventured, noting gained:

Either Climate Change is real or it is not.
If you believe it is not real, and you are right, you have gained nothing, but if you are wrong … the repercussions will be dramatic: submerged coastlines (where most major cities are), unpredictable weather patterns that make agriculture quite problematic, violent storms that wreak havoc, etc.
If you believe it is real, and you are right, all of the preparations you have made will offset some of the negative effects of climate change (how beneficial this will be depends upon how effective the measures taken are, so this is hard to estimate), but if you are wrong you will have spent money developing new sources of energy that might not be needed now but you also will have preserved in the ground vast resources of carbon fuels that will be available longer into the future (many of which are more valuable being converted into other chemicals that as fuels). And since the history of mankind is rife with the development of new sources of energy, this can hardly be considered a negative, especially since carbon-based fuels are finite, limited resources.

Consequently, believing Climate Change is real is the more prudent course.

It doesn’t matter whether you think it is real or not, the odds are way better if you believe.

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10 Comments »

  1. Excellent take on this Steve. One that brings up this climate denier cartoon that says essentially the same thing

    Comment by lbwoodgate — April 8, 2014 @ 11:26 am | Reply

    • LOL, I remeber seeing this, so maybe it affected by thinking. And, then, I am a *word* guy . . . (in case you hadn’t noticed).

      On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 11:26 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 8, 2014 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

  2. Pascal’s wager is very, very approximate model (for example, by believing, you don’t actually lose “nothing”, you lose the ability to life your life as you see fit, and there is a possibility of a multiple mutually excluding gods). And if the wager doesn’t work on most atheists who don’t convert to a Church just because of it, it won’t, unfortunately, work with climate change deniers either.

    Comment by List of X — April 8, 2014 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

    • Whoa, I just rode Pascal’s horse because I wanted to attract people who thought it was logical. I am not a fan. The biggest flaw is: how do you choose to believe something. I am reminded of a quote of Alex P. Keaton “Now, sincerity, when you can fake that, you’ve got something.”

      On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 12:42 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 8, 2014 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

      • Well, with religion, choosing is not that hard, because you can’t conclusively disprove the existence of a god (any god).

        Comment by List of X — April 8, 2014 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

        • So, if I gave you $100 to do so, could you sincerely believe in the tooth fairy?

          Much if not most religious belief is fueled by “going along to get along” with your neighbors and not some heartfelt, convinced belief (although there is plenty of that).

          On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 12:52 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

          >

          Comment by Steve Ruis — April 8, 2014 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

          • It would cost much more than $100 to make me believe in tooth fairy. 🙂 And it would still be nearly impossible, because I’ve only learned about the tooth fairies when I was already an adult. But I could give you a really good deal on the UFO’s. 🙂

            Comment by List of X — April 8, 2014 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

  3. Oh, I like this! Use the religious rights tools against them! Clever 🙂

    Comment by john zande — April 8, 2014 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

    • See, brilliant I tells yuh, brilliant!

      On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 2:34 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 8, 2014 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  4. Unfortunately, if one is to believe in climate change, one must also support the requirement of preparing for it. That, I believe, is the underlying issue with climate change deniers–the funds required to prepare for climate change would come from the “job creators” and give it to the “takers,” those that would do the actual work of preparing.

    Comment by Robert — April 8, 2014 @ 5:52 pm | Reply


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