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A Rebuttal to Pascal's Wager.

  In the seventeenth century the French mathematician and theologian, Blaise Pascal (1623- 1663) put forward a wager in his Pensees (Thoughts):

  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 ... you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that he is.

  Pascal's wager sounds deceptively simple. Many a religious person finds such a call attractive: one only needs to believe without considering the evidence and one would immediately be in a better position than that of the non-believer. After all, they say, if I believe and then it turns out to be true I get to enjoy heavenly bliss; but if my belief turns out to be false, and there is no God, then when I die, I lose nothing. An atheist, the religious person may continue, if he turns out to be wrong will suffer an eternity of torment. If the atheist turns out to be right then it is only equal to the believer's "worst case." Obviously then, the believer will say, you must wager on the side of belief.

  But Pascal's argument is seriously flawed. First, let us look at the more obvious possibilities we know of today - possibilities that were either unknown to, or ignored by, Pascal. In the Calvinistic theological doctrine of predestination, it makes no difference what one chooses to believe since, in the final analysis, who actually gets rewarded is an arbitrary choice of God. Not only is the choice not possible by any individual but the choice has already been made therefore the wager is way too late and superfluous.

  Second, the religious environment that Pascal lived in was simple. Belief and disbelief only boiled down to two choices: Roman Catholicism and atheism. With a finite choice, his argument may be sound. But, on Pascal's own premise that God is infinitely incomprehensible, then in theory, there would be an infinite number of possible theologies about God, all of which are equally probable. Today we know of many more gods of many different religions, all of which have different schemes of rewards and punishments. Given that there are more than 2,500 gods known to man, and given Pascal's own assumptions that one cannot comprehend God (or gods), then it follows that, even the best case scenario (i.e. that God exists and that one of the known Gods and theologies happen to be the correct one) the chances of making a successful choice is less than one in 2,500.

  Third, Pascal's negative theology does not exclude the possibility that the true God and true theology is not one that is currently known to the world. For instance it is possible to think of a God who rewards, say, only those who purposely step on sidewalk cracks. This sounds absurd, but given the premise that we cannot understand God, this possible theology cannot be dismissed. In such a case, the choice of what God to believe would be irrelevant, as one would be rewarded on a premise totally distinct from what one actually believes. Furthermore as many atheist philosophers have pointed out, it is also possible to conceive of a deity who rewards intellectual honesty, a God who rewards atheists with eternal bliss simply because they dared to follow where the evidence leads - that given the available evidence, no God exists! Finally we should also note that, given Pascal's premise, it is possible to conceive of a God who is evil and who punishes the good and rewards the evil.

  Forth, Pascal's wager is just rank intimidation. His implication that you gain nothing but lose all if you choose he is not is an empty threat. Believers use this scare tactic with success when attacking the minds of inexperienced and unsuspecting children. To terrify the intellectually immature is easy therefore believers think they can use the same tactic on mature adults with equal success. It is amazing to see how bewildered and frustrated they become when they cannot terrorize you with their boogey-man. They are so lost in their own world they fail to grasp a very simple fact: those who do not believe in a creature that lives up in the sky equally do not believe in one that lives underground.

  Fifth, Pascal's call for us not to consider the evidence but to simply believe on prudential grounds fails. As the atheist philosopher, J.L. Mackie wrote:

  Once the full range of such possibilities is taken into account, Pascal's argument from comparative expectations falls to the ground. The cultivation of non-rational belief is not even practically reasonable.

  Any evidence must include proof of the alternative reality in which their postulated god (or gods, goddesses and devils) exist. They must provide this because they are the ones offering the wager and setting its criteria of gain or loss. Not even the slightest credible evidence has ever been offered, let alone proven, for such an alternative reality. Therefore, the offered wager is not one out-of two: belief or non-belief. Given that the evidence before us offers only ONE objective reality = this one = the atheist odds of being correct is one out-of one. Whereas, until their alternative reality is substantiated, the believers odds of being correct are as infinite as the stars in the sky, or, say, one in a billion.

 

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  Atheist Eve

 

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  While we are on the subject of rebutal:

  (William) Paley invited us to suppose that while walking across a patch of ground we stumble upon a watch. If we open it up and examine its interior structure we cannot but conclude that it is the product of intelligent design. Analogously we should be able to reason that the even more intricate order in natural phenomena, especially the adaptive design of living things, points toward the world's creation by an intelligent designer.

  Nonsense! Finding a working watch today the only thing a rational person would conclude is that someone had lost his or her watch. I doubt anyone would give any thought to what engineer designed that particular brand of watch. It would be illogical and irrational to conclude that the company engineer, who designed that particular brand of watch, therefore designed everything in the universe.

  However, there can be no doubt that the intricate workings of clocks and watches have evolved over the centuries from their rudimentary wooden beginnings to the advanced technological multifunctional devises we have today. A "watch" taken out of time can be misused to explain all sorts of nonsensical creation theories. But, a watch placed in its chronological order with all other watches and clocks in history presents a more enlightened perspective.

  We live only a few years whereas the "..more intricate order in natural phenomena, especially the adaptive design of living things.." have reached their present state of being after millions of years. We cannot see the end result of environment, climate or human impact on "natural phenomena" and "living things" to see what they may be in another million years in the future. Natural phenomena, like the watch, taken out of their historical place can be misunderstood and misused to mislead those that also lack an expansive perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Sundials such as this one were believed to have been un use in Babylon at least 4000 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The great obelisks told time for the pharaohs in Egypt between 3000 and 4000 years ago. This one was in honor of Hatshepsut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The earliest known record of hourglasses dates from the 14th century.

 

 

 

 

  Clocks with gears were made of wood in the Middle Ages. This one is a more modern version.

 

 

 

  Watches such as this one that need to be opened were the ones Paley was speaking of.

  They worked with a spring and had to be hand wound. They are not much in use today.

 

Today's multi-functional electric watches are amazing as to vast the number of things they can do.