Pascal’s Wager and The Weird Objection
“Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God [exists]… if you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is” (Pensées sec. 233 p.2).
Pascal’s argument assumes that God rewards all and only those who believe in him with an eternity of unimaginable bliss. But, for all we know, there might exist a Strange God: a God that rewards all and only those who DO NOT believe in him with an eternity of unimaginable bliss. Does this undermine Pascal’s Argument? Why or why not?
The weird God Objection successfully undermines Pascal’s Wager. According to Pascal, believing in God is rational. Pascal’s position is based on the premise that believing in God has a higher expected value than not believing in God and that it’s always rational to take the option open to you with the highest expected value. Primarily through a subtle reductio ad absurdum arguments, I will support the position that the weird God objection does, in fact, debunk, demystify and deconstruct the position of this pious gambler (a.k.a. Blaise Pascal). If “debunk”, “demystify”, and “deconstruct” seam distractive, let me simplify this alliteration and offer a conclusion followed by supporting premises. My conclusion is simple; the weird God objection reduces Pascal’s Wager to absurdity, making the overall argument not only unsound but also invalid. Further supported by a perspective of probability and logic, my conclusions are based on the following.
In logic, an argument is valid if and only if it takes a form that makes it impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion nevertheless to be false. Pascal’s first premise states, “It is always rational for you to take the option open to you with the highest expected value.”. I disagree with the soundness of Pascal’s first premise as it applies to his conclusion. However, I must concede that, with one glaringly obvious exception, the validity of this statement is logical and therefore appears to be true. Consider a situation where the individual takes the option of lower expected value. In nature, we don’t always choose the path of greater expected value, altruistic actions and delayed gratification and past events are three mechanisms for violating the logic outlined in premise one. Essentially it’s not an outright violation because perceived value can contaminate altruism as well as frame long-term expectations not to mention the human species has an unreliable sense of memory perception. Overall, Pascal’s first premise is vague because of its subjectivity and remains open to situation interpretation. Ethics is at the forefront of this argument especially when we introduce the concept of a weird God. How can something be true with an exception? Exceptions are possible if the situations are isolatable. Newtonian Physics is invalid in certain circumstances found in the extremes of space and time, in many, many situations Newtonian Physics is a valid theory. Consider the truth of Newtonian Physics versus Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity didn’t disprove Newtonian Physics, it made it better. In literary terms, we call this Gilding the Lily. I am not making claims that contradict with the general consensus of the scientific community so I will not defend these claims, only present them as circumstantial evidence defending my claim that the weird God objection makes Pascal’s wager invalid and unsound. Let me summarize this point, we can make the claim that (in certain situations) God’s offering of an eternity of bliss is not of higher perceived value. Consider yourself in the state of eternal bliss where you aware of earthly activities, aware of your loved ones and the obstacles that they must face. For me, no promise of eternal bliss would be truthful if I maintained a continual awareness of earthly harm and suffering. Having no awareness is also a non sequitur and results in a violation of eternal blissfulness. Pascal argues that the ephemeral love, joy and bliss experienced in this world is greater than the potential of nothingness. Pascal reduces this perspective to the status of inconsequential for the ungrounded, unjustified upside potential of a God.
For me, the second premise has a lower expected value than not believing in God. Entropy, or the second law of thermodynamics, runs counterfactual to order in the universe. Order is obtained through the process and praxis of presenting evidence and validating truth claims. From a Socratic perspective, ancient Greece gave us evidence through abstraction, and it reasons that if no evidence is presented, a NULL value should be assigned to the corresponding outcome. Essentially this negates the infinite upside of God’s unlikely existence. Statistically speaking, the probability of an entity violating the fundamental laws of the universe must have taken place at or before the Big Bang in the space of time less than the Planck time (i.e. approximately 5.39 × 10 −44 s.). This is a probability that is beyond comprehension. Rather than quantifying an infinite upside for the possibility of an eternity of bliss, not all infinities are created equal. A weird God argument showcases the absurd position of organized religion. The weird God argument highlights an incompatibility with our understanding of God versus the reality of God. Religion contradicts itself with the dogma it spreads and the contradictions it voices in the, “it’s God’s will”, response. A weird God objection highlights our complete lack of understanding and comprehension of God as a conceivable, all-powerful, deity.
My wager, my bet is on statistics and probabilities. As I have shown, logic also fails with Pascal’s argument prior to presenting the weird God argument. Nonetheless, this failure of logic is relevant to any and all discussions about God because it is he or she that offers eternal bliss. If we can’t possibly conceptualize heaven or hell without the framework of our earthly reasoning then it follows that we can not define any deity, weird or otherwise. The entire wager is an exercise in the absurd. Pascal, if he were alive today would agree, I bet.