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Monday, July 28, 2008

Pascal's Wager Fallacy

Pascal made the following argument for why you should obey the church and be a good Christian. Suppose that Christianity is true. In that case, by being a good Christian, your gain is infinite. If Christianity is false, then your loss by following Christianity is negligible. Therefore, you should be a good Christian.

However, "be a good Christian" frequently means "be a good/willing slave".

You only get one life. Suppose that, by strictly following Christianity, my life is "x" amount worse. That's a strict loss of x, because I only get to live once. "Christianity is true" is something that cannot possibly be determined. It's possible that Christianity is the product of a mass brainwashing campaign. It's possible that all its claims are 100% correct. I can't possibly determine what happens after I die. Anyone else who claims to know is lying or mistaken.

Based on "Bayesian Reasoning", I estimate "Christianity is the product of a mass brainwashing campaign" to be probably true. In that case, Pascal's wager is false. I should not accept any lower quality of life by following any religion.

When the odds are infinite/infinitesimal, and the uncertainty range is infinite, you can't make a valid calculation. "Christianity is the One True Religion" is a statement that's completely unknowable. Is Christianity 100% true? Is it the product of a mass brainwashing campaign? It's impossible to be definitively certain.

Pascal's calculation is invalid, because of the infinite uncertainties involved. When choosing to follow a religion, you can't validly base your decisions on any expectation of what will happen after you die. Your religion choice should be what maximizes the quality of your actual life.

For example, Science has some validity as a religion. By following scientific principles, you can actually build useful things. Science is a religion that has concrete practical applications.

Statism and Christianity have practical applications, only to the extent that you avoid being kidnapped and tortured if you obey their principles.


Anonymous said...

FSK Pascal's Wager is described by Pascal as a form of arbitrage. Arbitrage has three components:
No investment (doesn't involve a cost)
No risk (doesn't invole a loss)
Chance of Positive Return (e.g. Eternal Life Bliss Etc. as an infinite reward)

Strict Christianity:
-Does not invole a cost (all you must do is believe in Jesus not to die - the John 3:16 "gospel in one verse". That is precieved low or no cost for most people.)
-Does not involve a loss (same arguement as above if strictly interpreted.)
-Has a chance of positive return. (E.g. eternal life.)

Now whether or not this was a carefully constructed story which brainwashed a large amount of humanity very rapidly, or whether it has some other substance to it; is irrelevant. That is the outcome of the bet. What matters is not the outcome in this case since the cost and risk is nonexistent; but the payoff which is infinite to believers.

I understand your arguement which says there is a cost or a loss, but that is not Pascal's view, that is yours.

Read Taleb - you may be comitting more of a folly by paying attention to reason which has less of a payoff ratio.

By personal belief is that the Concept is to brilliant and empirically successful for any human to create. So like everyone else I bring a bias - but if it makes me a "happy slave to God" in the very worst case then what do I lose?

Anonymous said...

You may consider sacrificing one's intellectual integrity to = "no cost", but I certainly do not

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