Pascal's Wager
Posted: 28 April 2005 02:58 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Blaise Pascal with his argument from generalized expectations (Pascal's Wager) has been dubbed "the first well-understood contribution to decision theory"

Basically, it uses a probablilty equation to conclude that rationality requires us to wager for the existence of god.

If I were a christian I would use this as an arguing tool. I think we can all agree that rationality requires us to perform the act of maximizing our utility. Apparently, the rationalization of the probability of god existing only has to be greater than 0. So even if the probability is rationalized to be ie. 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001%, our expected utility of wagering for god is still infinite.

Of course, there are arguments against the wager. The main one being the rationalization of the probablilty of god existing is undefined or 0.
Anyone have any feedback?

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Posted: 28 April 2005 03:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Guess that didn’t work. Here’s the URL

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/#4

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Posted: 28 April 2005 03:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“fencesitter”]Basically, it uses a probability equation to conclude that rationality requires us to wager for the existence of god.

Which god should I wager on?

Should I diversify and spread my bets around like a giant roulette wheel?

Black you win, red you lose?

Some on Christianity, some on Islam, some on Zeus, some on cows…

——————
Virtue is its own punishment. - Aneurin Bevan

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Posted: 28 April 2005 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Which god should I wager on?

Should I diversify and spread my bets around like a giant roulette wheel?

Black you win, red you lose?

Some on Christianity, some on Islam, some on Zeus, some on cows…

I suppose you could wager on all of them as you seek to maximize your utility, but what about god as the COTU?

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Posted: 28 April 2005 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“Anonymous”]I suppose you could wager on all of them as you seek to maximize your utility, but what about god as the COTU?

What if the COTU wants to be scorned?

What if the COTU wants me to kill everyone in order please her? Even though the likelihood is very low, can I afford to take that chance?


My point is that your expected outcome is built upon specious assumptions.

———————-
A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.—William James

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Posted: 28 April 2005 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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My point is that your expected outcome is built upon specious assumptions.

very good, guess that bit of wool couldn’t be pulled over your eyes :wink:

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Posted: 04 May 2005 10:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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The analysis in Pascal’s wager is wrong. It ignores the simple fact that there is a cost attached to belief in god. Once we introduce the cost of belief, the equation becomes more of a trade off, as follows:

We should believe in god f the benefit outweights the cost. The benefit is the probability of god’s existence times the value of eternal life. The cost is the probabilty of incurring the cost (basically 100%) times the cost of belief.

The cost of belief is made up of the following:

1. The cumulative time wasted during one’s life in observing religion
2. The psychological damage done by having to suspend rational thinking for a major part of one’s life
3. The death and destruction caused by fighting over which god is the right one.

If the probability of god’s existence is seen to be low (less than 1%), then the rational course of action would be to not believe, as the probability-weighted cost would outweigh the probability-weighted benefit.  I am amazed that Pascal missed this obvious point.

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Posted: 05 May 2005 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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If the probability of god’s existence is seen to be low (less than 1%), then the rational course of action would be to not believe, as the probability-weighted cost would outweigh the probability-weighted benefit.  I am amazed that Pascal missed this obvious point.

Maybe it was because it was concluded that there is no eternal component to earthly life, so the cost of belief could never be greater then the benefit of belief as the benefit would extend to eternity.

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Posted: 05 May 2005 11:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Fencesitter,

Perhaps you are right, but as far as I can remember there was never any explicit discussion of this in Pascal’s wager.

In any case, one would presumably have to use a Net Present Value approach, on the grounds that immediate gratification or pain is more ‘valuable’ than the delayed variety. On this basis, since the cost of belief is immediate, it would not be heavily discounted. Since the benefit of eternal life is delayed (ultimately into infinity), it’s present value would be haevily discounted (in the same way that 20-year investment payback is not worth as much in today’s terms).

I’d still conclude that the only rational basis for believing in god is to believe that the probablity of god’s existence is fairly high (and not the payoff for that belief, as Pascal implies). Since there is no evidence for estimating this probablity, it is difficult to assign it a high value.

Therefore, mathematically, belief in god is irrational.

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Posted: 06 May 2005 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Therefore, mathematically, belief in god is irrational.

I tend to agree, however, I can’t get this COTU out of my head. I’d like to hear more about it. Bulldog has mentioned it quite often, and the rationale seems, well, somewhat rational. Though I would never think that the COTU requires anything of us but to live, and definitely not for us to worship it, let alone believe in its existence. If I was the COTU, or even God for that matter. Worship would definitely not be a requirement, but that’s just a feeling, and again I digress :(

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Posted: 30 May 2005 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Pascal was a fool.  His wager was dumb.

A man has only one life.  There is no afterlife. How do we know? Because there is no evidence to prove there is an afterlife.  In logic, there is no burden to prove a negative.  Religion has never proven the positive.

Thus, it is pointless to waste the one life one has on the delusions of a fraudulent religion, worshipping a non-existent god, killing others who believe in a different fraudulent religion, worshipping a different non-existent god—and so on. 

If mankind would reject the empty promises of religion and concentrate on improving life on earth, the one life each man has would be worth living.  Giving one’s life and beliefs to a religion means living a lie. 

Voltaire wrote: Make your garden grow.  He got it right.

Pascal’s Wager was the worst bet in history. He lost it all.

Mark Starr

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Posted: 30 May 2005 08:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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... and there was another hidden cost for Pascal, another one he didn’t think of at the time.

It is that his reputation as a logician and mathematician has been sullied as a result of this ill-advised wager. There’s no point is blaming the culture of his time - the whole point of philosophy is to see past the haze of popular culture, to discern what is real. Pascal fell victim to the popularity of religion and he his reputation as a thinker suffers as a result.

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