Pascal’s Wager

Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662 A.D.) was a French mathematician, scientist and Christian theologian. As a teenage prodigy, Pascal developed a series of mechanical calculators.

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Pascal’s mechanical calculator

Later he would invent the hydraulic press and an updated model of the syringe. His study of hydrostatic pressures lead to his developing Pascal’s Law and the units of fluid pressure measurement known in Standard Units as “pascals.”

Upon his conversion in his early thirties, Pascal essentially abandoned all scientific enterprises and dedicated his life to the study of Christian principles and philosophy. An unfinished collection of this philosophical journey was post humously published as “Thoughts” (“Pensées” in french).  Within his Christian work, perhaps the most famous and enduring argument for the rationality of choosing the Christian life is “Pascal’s Wager.”

The Wager

The argument essentially goes as follows:

  1. God either exists or He does not.
  2. Even if we ignore the evidence for His existence, we can make a case that believing in Him is better than not believing in Him.
  3. If God does NOT exist and you erroneously believe in Him, you will only lose this finite life. But you will not actually lose it because you still get to live this life. And Christians live upright and moral lives. So all you have to lose is… a well lived life! (psst!, that’s a win, not a loss)
  4. If God DOES exist yet you fail to believe in Him, you will not only lose out on an upright, moral life in the here and now, but you will lose Eternal Life and be permanently damned.

Therefor, Pascal concluded, even if we could only be given 50/50 odds that God existed (remember that Pascal offered multiple arguments in favour of God’s existence and therefore did not believe the odds were 50/50, he only offered those odds to show that even in the absence of proof, it would still be a better bet to put your chips on God’s existence) it makes perfect sense to bet on God, given what is  at stake.

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