Jan 18, 2023
Pascal’s Wager for extraordinary claims
Ship It Post #
Jun 6, 2022
This was a response I gave to a Christian in a YouTube comments section. He claimed that Pascal’s Wager for God’s existence should be considered by a rational person, because “it is the most important question with the most important effect and results a person is likely to ever have.”
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
If your friend Scott claims to have gotten a dog, there is a lot of knowledge you already have that is baked into that. You have a history with Scott to know how reliable his claims are. You have observed other humans own pet dogs. You have likely heard other friends and family claim they got a dog, and then later directly confirmed it during a visit. You may even have personal experience of owning a dog. Owning a dog is a common occurrence and an ordinary claim to make. You can rationally accept it with very high probability without requiring faith. (Of course, there is always the possibility that Scott is joking or lying, so you can't be absolutely 100% certain.)
Let's say I make the claim: there is an invisible unicorn roaming around stabbing its ethereal horn into people's chests. It's a test to see if that person believes in its existence. If they don't believe, they have a heart attack. If they do believe, their lifetime will be extended with a healthier heart. According to Pascal's wager, you should believe my claim. As the logic goes: If it is real and you believe in it, then you'll get a nice rejuvenation bonus to your life. If the unicorn is not real, then nothing happens whether you believe or not, so no harm done. But if it is real and you don't believe, you'll have a surprise heart attack that could be fatal. So it's better to believe, right?
If that doesn't sufficiently illustrate the absurdity of Pascal's Wager for extraordinary claims, then my question to you is: out of the thousands of candidate gods that humans have ever believed in, which one are you wagering on? Muslims use the same argument for why you should believe in AII-h. By choosing the Christian God, you'd risk Islamic hell. And not just that one. You probably haven't even seriously considered Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva to see whether any of them are better candidates.
Galileo said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." If there is a God, I would wager on one that wants people to use the brains they were given, and not rely on hope or faith for assessing reality, or believing things without sufficient evidence. Perhaps... this God is purposefully keeping itself hidden, so no one could know of its existence. Then anyone who's silly enough to make up their own Gods, or believe in millennia-old Middle-Eastern myths about made-up Gods, they would be cast into a tickle torture chamber temporarily before ceasing to exist, while those who did their best to live a rational life would be rewarded a short vacation in paradise and then reincarnated... Of course, I don't believe in such a God. But if this God was real, it would be for the best to not believe in any God.
You are already atheistic towards thousands of candidate gods (most of which you've never heard of). I just go one god further to be rationally consistent.