Monday, April 12, 2004

An excellent piece in today's TOI editorial:

Gamble on God

Toss a coin to see if God exists? Why not? That's what was suggested by Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher in the 1600s. Pascal, who co-developed the theory of probability and whose later theological writings contain frequent applications of such calculations, argued that faith in a Creator was an unbeatable wager.

He maintained that although no one could actually prove the existence or non-existence of God, the advantages of believing in Him, if in fact He existed, far outweighed the harm of such a belief if it was in fact false. On the basis of this logic he even proposed - Pascal's wager as it famously came to be called later - that one should be willing to bet all in favour of God's existence because, as he put it, it was a safe gamble. Meaning, if one believes in God and this turns out to be incorrect, one has lost nothing; but if one doesn't believe in God and that turns out to be incorrect, one could end up getting the stick. So betting on God's non-existence is a draw-lose proposal: Either one finishes with nothing like all the other players, or one suffers eternal damnation. In other words, it's foolish to be an atheist and belief is the superior choice from a wagering perspective at least.

Since the mid-seventeenth century when it was first formulated, the wager has continued to be viciously targeted by atheists for appearing only as a superficially strong and compelling argument for theism. However, it now appears that these people may have been hedging their bets all along and Pascal could be partially right after all.

The reason is because a British physicist has recently calculated that the mathematical probability of God existing is two to one in favour. Using a 200-year-old probability formula called Bayes Theorem, Dr Stephen Unwin weighed the existence of evil and suffering against natural miracles and those that occur when prayers are answered, simultaneously factoring in free will, altruism and morality along with the various philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God and came up with a medium-high 67 per cent chance He existed. Confronted by such impeccable methodology, God obviously has only three choices left. Either He emerges from these details to become a semi-towering two-thirds majority Creator - thereby crushing the null-set vision of non-believers and tipping the precariously balanced 50-50 world of agnostics in the process. Or He vanishes into the remaining minority statistic and jolts believers by having a third of their faith suddenly diluted. Or He cont! ! !
inues existing as if nothing had happened. Which, in more senses than one, would be entirely true.


Post a Comment

<< Home