Uncommon Sense

February 23, 2018

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
Tags: , ,

If you haven’t heard of Blaise Pascal’s (1623–1662) famous wager (published posthumously in his book Pensées), here it is in short:

Mr. Pascal

l. God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.
2. A Game is being played … where heads or tails will turn up.
3. You must wager (it is not optional).
4. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
5. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
6. But some cannot believe. They should then “at least learn your inability to believe …” and “Endeavour then to convince” themselves.

Many holes can be shot into this argument and if you are interested in the flaws of this argument, a simple Google search will provide you with many examples. Pascal was polite enough to not point out that if you wager wrongly (that his god is not): there is nothing to gain and you face an infinite period of excruciating torture. Also if you choose that “God is not” you will face persecution and torture from those who bet otherwise. Small details but the erudite reader could fill in these between the lines.

What Pascal did not include in his famous wager is a justification for “you must wager,” since he was embedded in a very Christian culture, this was assumed to be a premise that would be recognized to be “true.” Also not justified, for the same reasons, was that there was but one god. We now know different.

So, let us update Pascal’s Wager a little.

Pascal’s Wager 2.0

l. God is, or God is not. The same can be said for all of the other gods. Reason cannot decide between the many alternatives.
2. A Game is being played … where dozens of dice are tossed and a combination of their results will turn up for you.
3. You might want to wager (it is optional).
4. Let us weigh the gains and the losses in wagering that any one of these many gods is. Let us estimate all these chances. If you wager correctly, you gain all; if you lose, you lose everything. The number of choices is large, so the odds you will choose correctly are small.
5. Do not wager, then, that your choice is correct as the odds of losing everything are much too great. There is an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain if one is very, very lucky, but only one chance of gain against a large number of chances of loss and so our proposition is of simple force, when there is a game where there are small risks of gain and large ones of loss, and infinite pain when losing.

Pascal’s Wager, the original one, only makes some sense when it has been proven that there is but one god (there is not, even the Bible says this) and that you must choose. Pascal made this argument being aware of the Crusades and the Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation and various religious wars. There could be no fence sitters in his world.

In other words, Pascal’s Wager only makes sense when the game is rigged (and it is).

 

 

 

 

 

9 Comments »

  1. Brilliant!

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    Comment by jim- — February 23, 2018 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

  2. Very interesting. However, I have had this small plaque since circa 1960. I saw it at a gift shop in SoCal back then and had to have it. I think it may have cost me a whole $1.00 at the time. It is titled “Why Worry?”
    There are only two things to worry about- either you are well or you are sick. If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you are sick, there are two things to worry about. Either you will get well or you will die. If you get well there is nothing to worry about. If you die there are only two things to worry about- either you will go th Heaven or Hell. If you go to Heaven there is nothing to worry about. But if you go to Hell, you’ll be so busy shaking hands with friends, you won’t have time to worry.
    The punctuation is exactly as it appears on the original plaque. Also, being an old, broken down SOB, I’d never use a capital “H” for either heaven or hell. Old Pascal just needed a better sense of humor. If he’d had such, he could have just come up with this and not bothered about his casino game. Yeah, I know, picking on a long dead guy doesn’t take loads of smarts, but it can still be fun. Some times you need to go after the low hanging fruit, just to keep in practice.

    Like

    Comment by Walter Kronkat — February 23, 2018 @ 9:51 pm | Reply

    • Well, I work with some older Brits who still capitalize most nouns, as is done in German and was done, obviously in English. I wonder if the Brits just weren’t able to strip the capitals of of references to their god as was done with most non-proper names (names of people, cities, but not ordinary things).

      I saw that joke a long time ago also and appreciated it as you did and still do. At first I thought you were quoting Alfred E, Newman, but his tag was “What, me worry?”

      All I am doing with these posts is filling in some blanks. Apologists make a hand-waving argument, as when they prove their god exists, but nobody stops to put up a counter argument or a similar argument that comes up with a different conclusion, because of confirmation bias. When we hear something that confirms our own biases, we nod our heads at the perceived wisdom and feel a warm glow, but we don’t do any thinking.

      We all effed up.

      The nice thing about blogging is that we get to interact with others as effed up as we are. We are, as they say, fellow travelers. (I hope you don’t find this insulting as there was no intention to do so.)

      On Fri, Feb 23, 2018 at 9:51 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

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      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 24, 2018 @ 8:51 am | Reply

  3. Aha! So, I am a fellow traveler? OK by me. I did not find your comment insulting in any way.
    On my blogs, yes, I have had more than the current one, I had very few rules. The main rule was that no comment was to be insulting to others who posted a comment to my blog. The second rule was that nobody was to ever apologize to me. See, I feel I cannot be insulted. I enlisted in the Marines in April 1968, not exactly the brightest bulb on the old xmas tree. Also, Dad used to say he didn’t care what others called him as long as it wasn’t later for dinner. When I got back to his house after my time in the damn fool Vietnam war, I told him I’d beat him, big time. I told him I’d been called everything under the sun, including late for dinner, more than once. He laughed about that one and told me I should have joined the Army as he did in 1940. Actually, he was selected for Army service and woe to any who tried to tell him he was drafted. He had been selected, end of story. Me, I actually enlisted, hey I was 19 and an idiot. Insulting me? LOL, you’d have better luck trying to insult a brick wall.

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    Comment by Walter Kronkat — February 24, 2018 @ 2:41 pm | Reply

    • Such apologies are more about me than others. If I am insulting someone I want it to be deliberate. ;o)

      You went to Nam in 1968, I on the other hand was a winner in the first draft lottery. My lottery number was 205 and the lottery stopped in September that year in the 190s. I think that was 1970. I am fairly sure that if I had made it into combat, I would have done something stupid and gotten myself killed; worse I would have gotten others killed.

      My best friend ended up with #5 in the draft lottery and immediately joined the Marines. He survived but didn’t enjoy the experience, captaining a forward artillery battery.

      I have a problem with stupid wars, not the just ones, just the stupid ones. Vietnam was a stupid war. We had no real reason to be there, no plan to win, and Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex forgotten (the Pentagon being a wholly-owned subsidiary of said complex). I am sorry you had to pay the price for our stupidity. I never blame soldiers for the stupidity of the damned politicians. It always seem to be rich, white guys who think that a war is a good idea, but not for their sons and their friend’s sons. It is okay for blank and brown and poor people, teaches them some discipline.

      On Sat, Feb 24, 2018 at 2:41 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 25, 2018 @ 11:17 am | Reply

      • I have a problem with stupid wars, — like the one that tRumpsky wants to start with No. Korea? If he truly goes forward with his threats, I wonder how long any of us will be around to post our thoughts about his stupidity.

        Like

        Comment by Nan — February 25, 2018 @ 11:43 am | Reply

        • Anything Trump recommends is monumentally stupid, only truly stupid politicians could support them, e.g fight a war with NK, arm teachers to ward of school shooters, etc. (You will have notice that Trump didn’t recommend arming church employees to prevent in church shootings.)

          On Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 11:43 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

          >

          Like

          Comment by Steve Ruis — February 25, 2018 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

          • HA! Excellent observation. Think we should point that out to him? 😝

            Like

            Comment by Nan — February 25, 2018 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

            • Naw, he’s to stupid to get the message. (He really is stupid. (He does have a spleen and an ego but I think his intellect was left out.)

              Like

              Comment by Steve Ruis — February 25, 2018 @ 8:27 pm | Reply


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