Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Real Value of Pascal's Wager

A disclaimer: This is not a rehash of a seventeenth century theological view, but rather an argument regarding decision-making in hypothetical situations.

Basically, Pascal's Wager is the argument that, assuming uncertainty as to the existence of God, it's prudent to live your life assuming he does exist, because the rewards of having made that choice are great, versus the adverse consequences of not making that choice, and being wrong.

Pascal's Wager has even been satirized with regard to beliefs in unicorns:  http://www.pixton.com/comic/zz1u6c0l

Now it seems that there are two elements to consider in real-life wagering circumstances: (a) the likelihood of making the correct choice; (b) the payoff versus loss of making a particular decision.

Blaise Pascal was basically arguing where you should place your money in a wager, given unknown probabilities but understandable costs versus gains. In other words, bet on the favorite; but buy a place or show ticket rather than a win. And, especially, buying a lottery ticket is a good idea. Buying a hundred is not.


MarkD60 said...

Good theory on the lottery, you can't win if you don't play. You probably won't win, but you might.
Humans cannot understand the concept of God, we are not capable.

Bilbo said...

Great post! I'm not betting against Mr Pascal.

TexWisGirl said...

living with a safety net of sorts. :)

Duckbutt said...

Picking the favorite to show is definitely not taking much of a chance.

Mike said...

I should have bought a lottery ticket. But since I didn't I consider myself to have won a dollar today.

Cloudia said...

Your clear thinking thrills me

ALOHA from Honolulu