Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pascal's Wager

Pascals wager is the famous logical fallacy proposed by the famous seventeenth century mathematician Blaise Pascal, it goes something like...

A person might as well live their lives believing in God, if there is no such being then the loss for believing is finite (for example an amount of pleasure) however if God does exist then the loss for not believing is infinite, i.e. eternity in hell.

The conclusion people often draw from this is that the chances of getting this question right or wrong is therefore 50-50. The reason it's a fallacy is that it starts from the assumption that there is only one God and only one outcome if you get it wrong, both false assumptions. Over the years humans have believed in over 20,000 different Gods possibly more, so in reality the probability of guessing the "right" one is reduced from 50-50 down to something tiny. In addition to this, the wager takes no account of the "weight" of a complete lack of evidence that there is any such thing as Gods, when all the reality checks are in place it becomes a pretty pointless bet.

For amusement the following table shows what will happen to you (after you die) according to different beliefs plotted against those same beliefs, i.e. what someone might believe in (or not); it highlights the stupidity of this wager (and the weird things people think happen to you after you die) very well.

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