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Author Topic:   Pascal's Wager - Any Way to Live a Life
iceage 
Suspended Member (Idle past 3989 days)
Posts: 1024
From: Pacific Northwest
Joined: 09-08-2003


Message 1 of 126 (432698)
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


Last night driving home from work I was listening to a Christian radio station and it was one of those right-wing nut job talk shows. Not sure what talk show it was but the guest was Dinesh D'Souza and the discussion was concerning a debate between Dinesh-Hitchen's at Kings College. They played sound bites of Christopher Hitchen's of which I found interesting, insightful and truthful (however their intent was the opposite).

The topic came around to Pascal's Wager. Both the female Talk Show Host and Dinesh and following callers were all in strong agreement of the wisdom behind Pascal's Wager and they used C.S. Lewis and Pascal himself as an appeal to intellectual authority on its validity.

I often hear this argument within Christian circles and have notice Christians here such as ICANT, NJ and others employ Pascal's Wager in defense of their faith.

Laying aside the fallacy of Pascals Wager itself (hey maybe theist are punished in the end as some cosmic plot twist). This brings me to my question: is employing Pascal's Wager in your approach to life an authentic and intellectually honest way to live!?


Replies to this message:
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AdminPhat
Administrator
Posts: 1907
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-03-2004


Message 2 of 126 (432736)
11-07-2007 11:45 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Phat
Member
Posts: 12159
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 3 of 126 (432742)
11-08-2007 12:12 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by iceage
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


Clarification of Pascals infamous Wager
I promoted your topic because it seemed interesting, but in order to get the ball rolling, lets clarify exactly what Pascals Wager is, for the peanut gallery! :D

Wikipedia writes:

The Wager posits that it is a better "bet" to believe that God exists than not to believe, because the expected value of believing (which Pascal assessed as infinite) is always greater than the expected value of not believing.

Personally, as a man who has had issues with gambling in the past, I find it ludicrous to "bet" on God. God is not some form of philosophical "gaming"! :mad:
Wiki writes:

The Wager is described by Pascal in the Pensées this way:[2]

If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is....

..."God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.


Of course, some wag will always pipe up and say that it is up to the Theist do establish a positive truth claim to begin with, so the ebtire idea of the wager is itself irrelevant.

Jars infamous construct makes more sense:(Paraphrased) IF God exists, she exists despite any and all evidence that says she does not exist.
If God does not exist, He does not exist despite any and all arguments or evidence attempting to prove that It does exist.

So what is my conclusion?

Forget the Wagers......Either believe or don't.


This message is a reply to:
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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 126 (432743)
11-08-2007 12:15 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by iceage
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


The Rascal's Wager
This brings me to my question: is employing Pascal's Wager in your approach to life an authentic and intellectually honest way to live!?

Not to mention - honest to God? Like, He's not going to notice that you're going through the motions of a faith you don't believe in just to hedge your bets?

It's no surprise that Dinesh D'Loser fell for it, though. There's no argument he won't make in favor of theocracy.


This message is a reply to:
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Rrhain
Member
Posts: 6349
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 5 of 126 (432754)
11-08-2007 1:36 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by iceage
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


iceage writes:

quote:
Laying aside the fallacy of Pascals Wager itself (hey maybe theist are punished in the end as some cosmic plot twist). This brings me to my question: is employing Pascal's Wager in your approach to life an authentic and intellectually honest way to live!?

Um, I'm a bit confused: How can one conclude if the Wager is "authentic and intellectually honest" if one does not examine if the Wager is fallacious?

You've touched on just one of the many problems with the Wager: The assumption that we understand god's intentions. There are others. For example, let's assume that we do understand god's intentions and belief is what gets you into heaven:

Which god are you going to believe in? There are plenty of gods out there and they have mutually contradictory restrictions on how you're supposed to believe. It is logically impossible to be a good believer across all conceptualizations of god. This turns your shot at being a good believer into nothing more than the lottery, which we all know is a fool's game.

Too, and connected, isn't it interesting that the god you will typically believe in is the one your community believes in? It isn't like you're treating all the various conceptualizations of god equally. Your sincerity is not in doubt, but the fault is that you were raised in the wrong one. This is especially important when understanding the history of the Wager...Pascal was arguing not just for the belief in god but specifically in the belief in the Catholic god.


Rrhain

Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by a jury of seventh graders so that they could look for balance and to allow them to make up their own minds. We are sorry to say that they found your paper "bogus," specifically describing the section on the laboratory work "boring." We regret that we will be unable to publish your work at this time.
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Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 1672 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 6 of 126 (432758)
11-08-2007 1:50 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by iceage
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


you bet
Great question, iceage.

For the good of the order, here's an article on Pascal's Wager:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/

As the article notes, Pascal gets a lot of credit historically for making his case on pragmatic rather than a priori grounds. It's a refreshing approach in context. And honest, insofar as Pascal admits up front that he can't logically prove the existence of God.

In practice, though, the wager barters away that gain in honesty by taking for granted the premise of voluntarism--the idea that belief is an act of will.

I've never seen a compelling case made, or even attempted, for willed belief. People certainly can and do will ignorance in order to protect cherished beliefs. But the very reason they build this hedge is because they recognize that belief is involuntary. They sense, correctly, that new information could affect their perspective in ways they don't control. The only place they can control this process is at the gate. So they throw the bolt.

As a way of life I'd say the wager isn't honest at all. Any omniscient deity worthy of the description would surely spot the difference between belief and 'belief.' I think people who invoke the wager are either (1) theists who believe on other grounds and use the wager to rationalize that faith, or (2) agnostics.

Can belief be willed? I'd be interested in hearing anyone who assumes this premise make a rational case for it. If it can't, we're left with the fact that Pascal's wager is not about belief. It is a probability discussion.

__________

Edited by Archer Opterix, : html.

Edited by Archer Opterix, : typo repair.


This message is a reply to:
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Rrhain
Member
Posts: 6349
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 7 of 126 (432760)
11-08-2007 2:08 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Archer Opteryx
11-08-2007 1:50 AM


Re: you bet
Archer Opterix writes:

quote:
Can belief be willed?

As has been referenced elsewhere, yes. If you put someone in a room with other people, all of whom are insisting that a certain event happened, he'll start to convince himself it actually did, creating "memories" of the event.

Now, is this "will"? I'd say yes. Our will to be one of the crowd and not stand out is what does it.

And let's not forget, this entire concept is what "the Secret" is all about: You will yourself to believe that things will happen to you...and they do! (yeah...right...and pay me another $35.99 for the next book that shows you how you failed at the plan put forward in the first book.) People actually do this: They will themselves into a state of belief.

Are you saying you've never talked yourself into something?


Rrhain

Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by a jury of seventh graders so that they could look for balance and to allow them to make up their own minds. We are sorry to say that they found your paper "bogus," specifically describing the section on the laboratory work "boring." We regret that we will be unable to publish your work at this time.
This message is a reply to:
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dwise1
Member
Posts: 3308
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.7


Message 8 of 126 (432761)
11-08-2007 2:09 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by iceage
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


No, of course not! But then, I apparently know more about religion than the religious types do.

They're stuck in their theology, so they make the same mistaken assumptions as creationists do. They assume it's a question of their god vs no gods at all. Not true. There are many different gods to choose from, so if it's a question of picking the right god, then picking theirs has a very low probability of being the right choice.

Plus, they assume that choosing "God" means choosing their own particular theology. Pascal was a Catholic so he was talking about choosing to be Catholic; those fools you heard on the radio are damned for being heretic Protestants! They chose wrong and lost their wager and they don't even know it! Plus they're trying to damn everybody they proselytize to with this worthless wager.

Nor does it cost you nothing to believe. What if your religion forbids you to pursue your dream profession? Or marry your true love? And what about some religions' requirement for you to hide fearfully from the truth? Or forebad you to provide medical treatment for a treatable disease?

About 15 years ago, I was only familiar with Pascal's Wager academically. A creationist hit me with it presented as a car insurance analogy and my response is reported on my "after-life insurance" page at http://members.aol.com/dwise1/cre_ev/wager.html:

quote:
So I told my after-life insurance salesman that his after-life insurance was a rotten deal (unfortunately, I didn't think of that name for it until the next day, but that poor guy was already hurting too much). We had to pay an exorbinant price for a policy that would only pay in the most restricted and oddest of circumstances. By the car insurance analogy, it would only pay if you were hit by a green Edsel -- on the northbound side of the Santa Ana Freeway -- while it was exceeding the speed limit -- backing up -- at night -- with its lights off -- being driven by a one-armed Lithuanian midget.

And here's a take on it as a crooked casino that promises sure winnings but instead takes everything from its victims:
"Pascal's Casinos Under Fire" at http://www.catalaw.com/detox/reverse/18.shtml


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iceage 
Suspended Member (Idle past 3989 days)
Posts: 1024
From: Pacific Northwest
Joined: 09-08-2003


Message 9 of 126 (432764)
11-08-2007 2:50 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Rrhain
11-08-2007 1:36 AM


Rrhain writes:

Um, I'm a bit confused: How can one conclude if the Wager is "authentic and intellectually honest" if one does not examine if the Wager is fallacious?

I probably should have been clearer. One could acknowledge the Fallacy of Pascal's Wager on one level but still cowardly and nervously cling to the wager because of the potential infinite/nothing gain ratio that involves a world view that they are already committed to for reasons other than logic. Also, the wager has a built-in defense mechanism - regardless how improbable there is always this small chance to win infinite.

Whenever I hear people using this Wager I note that they are really admitting that God, far from a loving God, is one evil SOB by organizing a universe where the only point is one cosmic crap shoot with ultimate stakes.


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 14747
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 10 of 126 (432765)
11-08-2007 2:50 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by iceage
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


By definition Pascal's Wager requires an act of intellectual dishonesty. It requires that you should abandon an honest assessment of the evidence in favour of acquiring a particular belief in the hope that it will directly or indirectly bring rewards.

The most popular forms, where the belief itself is important, even assume an unjust God for this very reason. Yet how can you possibly trust an unjust God to pay up ? Indeed how can you know that God won't punish those who implicltly accuse Him of injustice, by using or believing the argument ? Or that the wager is not a trap set by God for those who value the reward over honesty ? It seems that sticking to honesty is a safer course. A just God would never punish that in itself.


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Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 1672 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 11 of 126 (432770)
11-08-2007 5:43 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Rrhain
11-08-2007 2:08 AM


Re: you bet
Rrhain:

If you put someone in a room with other people, all of whom are insisting that a certain event happened, he'll start to convince himself it actually did, creating "memories" of the event.

I've heard of these studies and it's all very interesting. But I still don't understand how the researchers distinguish personal conviction from singing for one's supper.

What criteria do they use?

Now, is this "will"? I'd say yes. Our will to be one of the crowd and not stand out is what does it.

Will, sure. But is it belief?

It looks like the real belief is that one should fit in with the crowd. The rest is tactics and pretend.

How do the researchers distinguish the difference for the purposes of the study?

___________

Edited by Archer Opterix, : replacing lost text.

Edited by Archer Opterix, : clarity.

Edited by Archer Opterix, : brev.


This message is a reply to:
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Rrhain
Member
Posts: 6349
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 12 of 126 (432773)
11-08-2007 6:31 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by Archer Opteryx
11-08-2007 5:43 AM


Re: you bet
Archer Opterix responds to me:

quote:
I've heard of these studies and it's all very interesting. But I still don't understand how the researchers distinguish personal conviction from singing for one's supper.

I'm not sure what you mean. Are you asking how the researchers determined that the subjects weren't lying about having experienced the non-event? You'd have to read the writeups for the full details. Unless you're suggesting the researchers were fools, do you have any particular reason that they would be unable to make such a determination?

For example, interrogation techniques can determine when people are making things up. One example is to have them repeat the story multiple times to ensure that it maintains consistency. When you make the incident up, it is difficult to stick to the same story. Now, I don't know how they made the determination...again, you'd have to read the study.


Rrhain

Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by a jury of seventh graders so that they could look for balance and to allow them to make up their own minds. We are sorry to say that they found your paper "bogus," specifically describing the section on the laboratory work "boring." We regret that we will be unable to publish your work at this time.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Archer Opteryx, posted 11-08-2007 5:43 AM Archer Opteryx has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 26 by Archer Opteryx, posted 11-09-2007 5:20 AM Rrhain has responded

    
Jon
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 126 (432782)
11-08-2007 7:17 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Rrhain
11-08-2007 1:36 AM


Which god are you going to believe in?

The only one there can be.

There are plenty of gods out there...

Nope. Can be only one.

Too, and connected, isn't it interesting that the god you will typically believe in is the one your community believes in?

Is it?

It isn't like you're treating all the various conceptualizations of god equally.

At the same time, it isn't like doing so is impossible.

How can one conclude if the Wager is "authentic and intellectually honest" if one does not examine if the Wager is fallacious?

You've touched on just one of the many problems with the Wager: The assumption that we understand god's intentions. There are others.

The primary one being that any real God would not give mind to whether or not a handful of mollusks clinging to a measly rock acknowledged its existence.

Jon


In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist... might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. - Charles Darwin On the Origin of Species
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

En el mundo hay multitud de idiomas, y cada uno tiene su propio significado. - I Corintios 14:10
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A devout people with its back to the wall can be pushed deeper and deeper into hardening religious nativism, in the end even preferring national suicide to religious compromise. - Colin Wells Sailing from Byzantium
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ ____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

[Philosophy] stands behind everything. It is the loom behind the fabric, the place you arrive when you trace the threads back to their source. It is where you question everything you think you know and seek every truth to be had. - Archer Opterix The Shape of the Fabric (Message 210)


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bernerbits
Member (Idle past 4019 days)
Posts: 73
Joined: 10-09-2007


Message 14 of 126 (432850)
11-08-2007 4:57 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Jon
11-08-2007 7:17 AM


Which god are you going to believe in?
The only one there can be.
There are plenty of gods out there...
Nope. Can be only one.

OK, but which one can there only be? YHWH? Jesus? Zeus? Odin? And why can't there be more than one? Are you prepared to make a case for your a priori monotheism? And anyway what does this post have to do with the intellectual honesty of Pascal's Wager?
This message is a reply to:
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bernerbits
Member (Idle past 4019 days)
Posts: 73
Joined: 10-09-2007


Message 15 of 126 (432851)
11-08-2007 5:02 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by iceage
11-07-2007 8:18 PM


Back when I was a Bible-Believing Christian(TM), I was scared to death that I was going to hell because on some level I knew there was a part of me that didn't believe it. As soon as I learned of Pascal's Wager, I was convinced that I could use it to prove to myself that I truly believed. Basically, I used Pascal's Wager as a means of arriving at that belief and quashing that nagging voice. Not the disbelief one, the I'm going to hell one. Pascal's Wager kept me hanging onto my Christian faith long after I stopped actively practicing.

The moment I stopped and examined Pascal's Wager, I realized how flimsy it was. So I stopped using it and decided to finally be honest about what I believe, and declared myself agnostic. But at face value, it's pretty appealing to anyone who already believes, and not necessarily easy to deconstruct on command unless you've already heard about it.

Edited by bernerbits, : No reason given.


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