Pascal's Empty Wager.

Discussion in 'Religion & Philosophy' started by breathilizer, Aug 29, 2006.

  1. breathilizer

    breathilizer Resident Ass-Kisser

    First, I would like to state my stance in this thread, and that stance is that Pascal's Wager is a bunk argument for believing in God.

    For information regarding Pascal's Wager, visit this link:

    Of all the objections spelled out on that site, one is missing that is the most easily expressed, clear, and simple of all.

    That objection, my friends, is that given the fact that none of us know anything about God, should he exist, we do not know that believers would go to Heaven.

    Every possibility begins as equally likely.

    Only believers go to Heaven
    Everyone goes to Heaven
    No one goes to Heaven
    Only atheists go to Heaven

    We take it for granted that if God exists, he must favor those who believe in him. You can't take things like that for granted. Thus, Pascal's Wager fails.

  2. Mecha

    Mecha Guest

    Well, if there is a real deity, then chances are he would have made his existence known (thus making a religion). Then, a religion would have more of logical chance of being true than a theoretical stance on religion that is absent from all religions, ie the only atheists go to religion.

  3. SenatorB

    SenatorB J.S.P.S

    If you're a believer, it's likely that you also believe that the holy scripts of your religion tell us true things about god, and in most holy scripts it lays out that only believers go to heaven. Nothing exists stating any divine inspirating supporting any of the other three options... therefore by sheer probability you're better served to believe.
  4. Gryf

    Gryf Guest

    The founder of Judaism was the rebellious, discarded son of a pharoah, and his flight was probably due to a failed attempt at an armed revolution. Besides, a lot of cults (and backstabbings) were used in attempts to subvert the old religion, one of which was that of King Tut's daddy (the most likely reason for Tut's demise). Chances are at least equal that the "Hebrews" were deceived by a clever fraud. Besides, Christianity is a relatively new religion that doesn't even agree particularly well with the old book. Philosophically, it depends almost wholly on old Cartesian philosophy, and, let's face it, Descartes was an ass who pirated a bunch of other people's work uncredited on the claim that he was looking at the subjects "as if nobody had ever written on these matters before." His work licks balls in ways that balls have never to this day have been licked before, okay?

    Anyway, what the OP and the second response to the OP mainly do, together, is return us to the original argument about the extent to which the writings of Christianity should be trusted, how reliable "The Book" actually is, etc. In other words, instead of playing gambling games, put your money where your mouth is, and give us an actual reason to believe your shit.
  5. SenatorB

    SenatorB J.S.P.S

    Woah woah woah... where are you getting that from? You need to brush up on your religious history. I assume you're talking about Moses... Moses 1) was not the founder of Judaism by any means, 2) was not the son of a pharoah (the pharoah, in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people, ordered that all male children of the Jews be killed; Moses was placed in a basket on the river by his mother in an attempt to save him, where he was found by the pharoah's daughter and was raised by the egyptians), 3) did not attempt an armed revolution and even warned the pharoah before each of the plagues of what would happen if the pharoah did not allow the Jews to leave peacefully.
    Are you just making shit up or do you have any real point to make?
  6. Gryf

    Gryf Guest

    Using the Bible to prove the Bible is inherently tautological, thus inherently useless. Also, mind you, claiming that I need to "brush up on religious history" after I have introduced you to new information about religious history, however you feel about its veracity, hovers dangerously close to character assassination.

    For one thing, the Pharoah was a doddering, old man at that point and too old and dull to care. He'd been bestowed with the dubious honor of a Pharoah who'd lived long enough and acheived enough to become something like a god, basically meaning all he had to do was show up in public and be covered in adoration while other people did all the THINKING for him. The more likely sender of the troops was one his heirs. Red Sea? More like an area of marshland nearby, which is the more likely point of crossing. Imagine ill-clad and widely dispersed troops crossing light-footedly over a reed and debris-covered landscape. Then imagine the cover parting under the stress of the more concentrated, heavily armoured, and disciplined troops of the Egyptians, sending them to their doom. It's derived from some old confusion in translation that still persists and, really, is still debated on.

    I do not have an Internet reference for you. This is information that I came upon elsewhere. You introduced the topic of the Christian religion, and I stated my distrust of it, giving you a few reasons. I'm not trying to persuade you of anything, particularly considering that my experience has given me no reason to assume that a religious person would take the word of an atheist, in whom he is taught never to invest any trust at all, over what he was taught to believe as an impressionable child.

    Therefore, you may convince yourself that I am a dishonest man to your heart's content, but the fact remains that I am convinced that the evidence I have at hand directs me to believe that the religion is a false one, which brings me back to my original point:

    For your argument to work, Senator, I would have to be convinced that Christianity is more likely to be divine truth than that it is false. I am more convinced that the religion is complete rubbish, so Breathilizer's argument holds. Pascal's Wager is an empty and worthless argument, simply because the subject of it is infinitely variable. In other words, to Pascal's Wager, I can say merely that the same can be reversed. Therefore, we are left persuading each other on matters of religion the old-fashioned way.

    Just to be perfectly clear, the veracity of my claims is irrelevant here. This is a philosophical debate, and I will not further discuss matters of any particular religion unless it is relevant to the actual subject of discussion.
  7. SenatorB

    SenatorB J.S.P.S

    While you may not be able to prove the bible using the bible, your assumption that something being tautological equating to uselessness is not true. Just because something is repetitious and roundabout does not mean that at its heart it does not contain a valid point.

    You cannot make unsupported claims that go against all supported knowledge of a subject and expect to be taken seriously. If you research the history of the Jewish people, you'll find that your claims are not valid. Therefore, should you wish to continue to make claims, I suggest you brush up on your history or your claims will continue to be false.

    This point proves nothing. Whether it was the pharoah himself or one of his heirs sending the troops, the rest of the story remains the same and unchanged.

    Again, this proves nothing. Perhaps (assuming that what you say is true, and you can no more prove that it is true than anyone can prove the miracle is true) it dispells the idea that there was a miracle of parting of waters, but that still changes no other parts of the story, and does not support your previous inaccurate claims.

    If it's still debated on, then your point is no more valid than any other.

    Anyone can find information elsewhere, and anyone can make things up, and the only thing that makes a distinction between the two is if you can prove it in some way. If you can quote from a textbook and cite it, feel free, or if you can get an internet source, feel free... but just making unlikely sounding claims on the strength of an unknown other source isn't particularly sound.

    Perhaps you misread my post, as I in no way mentioned the Christian religion (and you responded about Judaism to a theoretical Christian religion comment?), mentioning belief in general, something applicable to all religions.

    You make assumptions, but I'll let it slide given that you're new here so you won't have been around the other time's I've mentioned this... I'm not religious. However, I do know a fair bit about religion, so when you make what seems to be an entirely off the wall statement about a religion it behooves me to call you on it and see where it came from and correct you in the case that you were wrong.

    I think you are a dishonest man, not because you are an atheist, but because you have made statements which go against all religious study I have ever had, all religious research I have ever made, and have not supported your claims in any way shape or form. Your supposed evidence is not backed up by anything, and thus falls flat.

    Again, I'm not sure where you pulled Christianity from my statement...

    You have missed my point completely. I am saying that there are four options as presented by Breath. Were none of them to have any evidence leading anyone to believe that one is more likely than the other, then as you say everything is equal and the argument is empty. However, despite the fact that the support of all the world's religions may be dubious, it means that the option of "only believers go to heaven" is more heavily weighted than the other three. It is not merely that it can't hurt to believe, but it can't hurt not to believe, because there is support towards one and none towards the other. Therefore, by probability, it is the better choice.

    You were the only one to bring up any matter of any particular religion in this discussion. If you are going to use a specific religion to prove a point as you have, your facts on it better be true, or your point is false.
  8. Gryf

    Gryf Guest

    Yes it does. That's exactly what it means. If I were to write a wholly fictional book prefaced by the claim that the events described in it were real, it would still be fiction, no matter how many times someone repeated the tautological fact that the preface claims the contrary.

    I am very brushed up on my history, sir. You, however, don't seem to have the foggiest idea what we're actually debating about. Perhaps you should brush up on the subject of debate. You see, I'd guess that anyone with any amount of background on the subject (or, for that matter, has actually been paying close attention) probably thinks that you're getting your rear handed to you. No matter their religious beliefs.

    There's always a difference between what you believe and what is actually so, based upon the assumption that Man is, by nature, fallible. You see, in this little universe I have in my head--just tell me if I'm repeating anything--magical leprechauns wrote the entire Bible, start to finish, and not a whit of it has the least grounding in fact. Now, no matter how much of a fool this would make me to the average person, all that I would be required to do in order to turn Pascal's Wager in my favor would be to modify the variables. It's as easy as pie.

    On the subject of whether or not you choose to take me for my word, I would, If you were to pull up an article on the subject, be quite justified in choosing not to believe the statements of the person who wrote it. You see, really effective discussion requires consent and cooperation. Otherwise you're politicking, which really doesn't get us anywhere. The sources are useless unless we're agree they're reliable. If we can't agree on the facts and can't agree on who and who not to trust, we'll get nowhere. I am as good as any other chap, as sources, go, and, by the same token that you believe or disbelieve what you read in the news, you either believe or disbelieve me. Easy, isn't it?

    Now, below, you turn the subject away from the tangential subject of old Moses (probably about a teenager at the time the story took place, actually), and actually take us to the topic of discussion, which is a whole nother banana.

    And you are absolutely wrong. See, one of the amusing things about this sort of debate is that the theist usually runs away from any particular religion once the atheist has him under his paw. I'm not going to let you go that easily.

    Now, either a religion is true, or a religion is false. This is a tautology. The one I've chosen, for this debate, is Christianity. Now, since it doesn't matter a whit what you believe in this little land we're about to create for the purposes of our discussion, I'm going to have my little atheist guy believe that the Bible was wholly written, from beginning to end, by magical leprechauns and is not a single whit true. Now, what he needs to decide, in the case of Pascal's Wager, is which he has more certainty of.

    The atheist who believes in leprechauns is kind of like me in one sense. You see, I believe firmly that the Bible is a product of Mankind, rather than some divine spirit or other, and that the events therein can be explained simply by natural phenomena if they weren't all-out confabulations. Now, while I am not one-hundred percent certain of this, I don't think I can leave much for it having been designed by a divine creator.

    Now, the question wasn't about whether there's some philosophically derived superentity floating about the place. Nevermind that Cartesian philosophy is flawed and stupid, when we were talking about Christianity, my theory won in the numbers. At least for me; what you choose to believe is a whole other story.
  9. Hoosier_Daddy

    Hoosier_Daddy Registered Member

    "Wagering for God superdominates wagering against God: the worst outcome associated with wagering for God (status quo) is at least as good as the best outcome associated with wagering against God (status quo); and if God exists, the result of wagering for God is strictly better that the result of wagering against God. (The fact that the result is much better does not matter yet.) Pascal draws the conclusion at this point that rationality requires you to wager for God."

    I like it. If the worst than can happen is you break even by believing, or at least striving to believe, then it's a good bet.

  10. SenatorB

    SenatorB J.S.P.S

    Your example makes no sense... a tautology would be would be if the preface said "this book is either based on real events, or it is not." A book saying it is based on reality, while actually being fictional is just a lie. Additionally, if you examine each individual part of the tautology, you'll find that individually they each are true or false (based on the situation) and are only empty when combined with an "or".

    You have stated a conclusion based on a false premise (argumentum ad logicam). Here is proof against your premise (I can quite easily find more if you'd like, or if you disagree with the validity of these sources), you have already declined to provide any proof supporting it: Moses.html
    Your conclusion is fallacious, and therefore it is not valid.

    Fallible: Capable of making an error. Always: At all times; invariably (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition). Just because humans are CAPABLE of making errors (perhaps even likely to make errors) does not mean we ALWAYS make errors. It is quite possible that despite some human's fallible nature, they are correct in their beliefs.

    I can pull up over a hundred thousand versions of the story of Moses, and they will all support my facts and be contrary to your facts. You refuse to provide even a single source supporting your facts. Now does that mean my facts are guaranteed to be right? Of course not, it's perfectly possible that they're all wrong. However, it certainly lends my facts a great deal of credibility whereas yours have none. Even if all my sources are wrong, I'm still at a level with you, because you have not proven yourself right, you've simply made an unbacked statement.

    No, you're actually not. I'd say that there are many sources out there by people who have spent lifetimes studying the subject and researching, and that they're considerably better than you in this regard. If a news story presents information and documents how it got that information, I will be FAR more inclined to believe it than a newspaper which merely states supposed facts.

    "Just tell me if I'm repeating anything" but I'm not a theist as you would like to believe.

    Wow, you actually used the word correctly. Does it prove a point? Still no. Just because it is a tautology does not mean that it is not true. It means that it might be true OR it might be false, so unless you can break away from the tautology and prove that it IS false, you have shown nothing.

    And here is where my point gains its validity. You are not 100% sure that the bible (since you insist on sticking with Christianity even though I have not mentioned my point in terms of specific beliefs) is false. If you can be 100% sure that it is false, then Pascal's Wager does indeed fail, as the bible holds no credibility at all, and thus the statements it makes do not increase the probability of that outcome... all four outcomes are equal, and therefore no one can be chosen over another. However, if you hold even a shred of possibility that the bible holds any form of truth (as you have said you do, albeit small), then the outcome stated in the bible is more likely than the other three outcomes, and is thus the better choice by probability. As Hoosier said... "it's a good bet."

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