Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pascal's Wager

This is a supplementary post of my breakdown of the book "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist." Related posts can be found by clicking here.

   Pascal's Wager is often presented to atheists by Christians (even if the don't know there is a name for it). It's a lousy argument for belief. The basics of the argument are as follows:
Pascal's a suggestion posed by...Blaise Pascal that since the existence of God cannot be proved (or disproved) through reason, but since in his view there was much to be gained from wagering that God exists (and little to be gained from wagering that God doesn't exist), a rational person should simply wager that God exists (and live accordingly).
And the logic breaks down as follows:
  1. "God is, or He is not"
  2. A Game is being played... where heads or tails will turn up.
  3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
  4. You must wager. (It's not optional.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
   I can go ahead and grant the first four premises for the sake of argument, as it is the fifth premise that is deeply flawed. Pascal is assuming that, if God exists, (1) you will be rewarded with an infinite afterlife if you wager that God exists and (2) you get nothing if you wager that God does not exist. It is interesting because he claims that God is unknowable, yet he assumes he knows the results for believing. This is absurd. Atheists, therefore, have been known to suggest that if a god exists, it rewards people for being skeptical over being gullible; in other words, there is reward for wagering that God does not exists but not for wagering that God does exist. Just changing that assumption reverses the recommended wager. This is why Pascal's Wager is ultimately useless in regards to the existence of a god.

No comments:

Post a Comment