The Instigator
Maya9
Pro (for)
Winning
22 Points
The Contender
ThePostmaster
Con (against)
Losing
21 Points

Pascal's Wager is not logically valid

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/16/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 993 times Debate No: 5036
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (9)

 

Maya9

Pro

It is my contention that the argument in favor in the belief of God known as "Pascal's Wager" is not logically valid. I will start with a brief summary of Pascal's Wager from Wikipedia, though I assume that my opponent will be at least somewhat familiar with it.

Pascal's Wager: Pascal begins with the premise that the existence or non-existence of God is not provable by human reason, since the essence of God is "infinitely incomprehensible". Since reason cannot decide the question, one must "wager", either by guessing or making a leap of faith. Agnosticism on this point is not possible, in Pascal's view, for we are already "embarked", effectively living out our choice.

We only have two things to stake, our "reason" and our "happiness". Pascal considers that there is "equal risk of loss and gain", a coin toss, since human reason is powerless to address the question of God's existence. That being the case, we then must decide it according to our happiness... by weighing the gain and loss in believing that God exists. He contends the wise decision is to wager that God exists, since "If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing", meaning one can gain eternal life if God exists, but if not, one will be no worse off in death than if one had not believed.

Pascal recognizes that the wagerer is risking something, namely his life on earth, by devoting it to one cause or another, but here he uses probabilistic analysis to show that it would be a wise wager even if one were to gain only three lives at the risk of losing one. Considering that everyone is forced to wager and the potential gain is actually infinite life, it would be acting "stupidly" not to wager that God exists.

The problem with this argument is largely one of false premises. First, it assumes that human reason cannot address the question of God's existence. In fact, human understanding of logic is sufficient to address this issue. If we have premises concerning God (which humans have in abundance), we can create arguments for or against his existence.

Disregarding the first false premise, we have the second false premise: that the belief in God results in a net gain. It assumes that the belief in God does not result in any harm to one's life on earth. However, it can be argued that it most certainly does. When a person believes that God is always watching and judging him, he is bound to try not to indulge in certain pleasurable behaviors that have been deemed sinful. If God does not exist, he has denied himself these pleasures for nothing and has irrevocably lessened the experience of his life.

Furthermore, Pascal fails to adequately address the odds of this wager. He assumes that the odds are in the favor of the existence of God, even though he has also assumed that reason cannot address this issue.

This argument also assumes that the correct god is worshipped with the correct method. There are innumerable gods that have been created by humanity. Furthermore, there have religions created that technically worship the same deity, but have different methods and variations in theology. An example of this is Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The correct god and religion is either one in particular or not known to humanity at all. If one believes in one god and religion, but not the right one, the argument cannot be applied.

This argument also assumes that God, if he exists, rewards belief. It is entirely possible that God is indifferent to belief. Since it is assumed that God would be infinitely incomprehensible, it cannot be simultaneously assumed that we can know how he feels about human belief.
ThePostmaster

Con

Here is the deal, you argue that human reason is enough to know whether knowledge of God (or on the other hand his nonexistence) is possible or impossible. Here is the problem. Nobody thusfar has any proof or disproof of God, at least nothing they can prove. Some have claimed to have had mystical experiences with God but that lies on their experience alone. I have had two out of body experiences in my lifetime, but I don't expect anybody to believe it because it is based on what I have felt alone, the only way is to get into my head. All we know is that God, if he exists, it invisible to our naked eye and if he does not exist then there cannot possibly be any card that comes down from the sky with the words "God does not exist" written upon it.

Now, many religions claim to know of the existence of God, but it is a basis of acceptance of faith. They also often claim that their revelations show that God could punish us for refusing to accept his existence and his rule of this world. Maybe it isn't true, but it could very well be.

Here is how Pascal's wager comes in.

First of all, God might not exist. You can argue that human reason could possibly prove or disprove this, but you can't be 100% sure.

The same is with his existence, you can't be 100% sure until you see him.

If he does then you can't be 100% he won't punish you for disbelief.

So in the end there are many situations that could be true but in the end there is always the chance, the possibility that there is a God out there who will punish you for disbelief. The only way to be sure that you will avoid this is to acknowledge him. Maybe Pascal's wager isn't the only bet, and maybe it is not even good, but it is the way you can be closest to 100% sure that you will not be sent to Hell or punished by God, whether they exist or not.
Debate Round No. 1
Maya9

Pro

All I can say is that I extend my arguments. You didn't actually refute any of my arguments. I accept that it is possible (in the most literal sense of the word) that there is a deity out there who rewards belief and punishes disbelief. I was never arguing the mere possibility of this. I was arguing against the conclusion made by Pascal's Wager that NO MATTER WHAT, it is always better to believe in God.
ThePostmaster

Con

So now you argue that Pascal's wager applies only if it is better to believe in God NO MATTER WHAT.

So what is NO MATTER WHAT?

If it is 51% sure that you will got to Hell if you don't and 49% sure that you won't even if you don't?

So what. If it is 95% sure you won't got to Hell even without Pascal's wager, then how does it hurt to believe and be 99.9% sure. I think the real question here is "What do you lose?" when you agree to believe in God. Pascal's wager only applies to belief in God and does not neccesarily insist that you take up practice of any specific religion. Now if this was arguing that an atheist had to change his ways and become a Christian and live a lifestyle in which all is focused on God, then maybe it would not be logical in every situation, but this simply says, "Should you BELIEVE in God or should you not?" Pascal's wager implies no physical exertion other than belief. Now, this belief places you a little bit more sure that you will not be punished for disbelief. The physical exertion taken in belief is so miniscule that it is certainly worth it to believe and place yourself a bit more surely to the idea that you won't be punished than it is not to believe and risk being punished in the next life.
Debate Round No. 2
Maya9

Pro

The whole point of Pascal's Wager is that it is better to believe in God regardless of whether or not he exists. Obviously, you missed that point.

What do you lose? Well, I already addressed that. First of all, Pascal does imply that simple belief is not all that he is concerned with.

From Pascal's "Pens´┐Żes": "Now, what harm will befall you in taking this side? You will be faithful, honest, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful."

Obviously, such qualities could not stem simply from a belief in God. This statement implies the following of a religion that extolls these virtues, or at least the belief that God wants you to behave in a certain way. The idea of how God wants you to behave is still inevitably going to come from a religion. But in following these religions, you will end up losing the greatest pleasures of life for an afterlife that may very well not exist. We know that our current life exists. We can observe it directly. However, we have zero evidence for an afterlife. Wagering on something for which we have no evidence of existence versus something that we know exists is clearly foolish.

Furthermore, in any one single belief, there is no such thing as 99.9%. You either do believe, or you don't. Even a shred of doubt in your mind amounts to a lack of belief. You may accept the possibility that this thing exists, and you may even believe it to be probable. However, belief is %100. If it isn't, it isn't belief.

And you still have yet to address Pascal's faulty assumptions that either a)the correct methods have been used to worship God or b) that God needs only belief and not worship or c) that any worship is fine with God. To say what he did, Pascal must have been assuming one of these things, yet he presents proof for none. You also didn't address the fact that he assumed without proof that God rewards belief at all.
ThePostmaster

Con

ThePostmaster forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Maya9

Pro

Hmm... I guess my opponent has either lost interest or realized that pursuing this argument is futile.
ThePostmaster

Con

ThePostmaster forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by PoeJoe 8 years ago
PoeJoe
http://www.debate.org...

Read my comment (first one).
Posted by Maya9 8 years ago
Maya9
Considering how many religious people there are out there, that might actually work.
Posted by sarsin 8 years ago
sarsin
I want to find someone like that on the street.

"I have a box. There is definitely, probably, maybe a chance that there is a million dollar check in it. You should give me $5000 for the box just in case."
Posted by Rezzealaux 8 years ago
Rezzealaux
"So in the end there are many situations that could be true but in the end there is always the chance, the possibility that there is a God out there who will punish you for disbelief."

You do realize that your argument applies to everything else that's hokey in the world from leprechauns to the Invisible Pink Unicorn, right? Tell me you realize that.
Posted by Maya9 8 years ago
Maya9
Damn, I was hoping for a decent opponent. This guy doesn't even have a bad argument. So far, there is no argument at all.
Posted by sarsin 8 years ago
sarsin
I love Pascal's Wager; I had a Christian pull that on me once trying to convert me while I was at the mall (of all places). The reason I like it is the "logic" of it can be applied to anything you cannot prove.

How do you know that Thor doesn't exist? Or UFOs? Maybe you should do what they want too to cover your bases.
Posted by Puck 8 years ago
Puck
Not sure four rounds is necessary. :D
Posted by Rezzealaux 8 years ago
Rezzealaux
If you forfeit I will cry.
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by theitalianstallion 8 years ago
theitalianstallion
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Vote Placed by The_Devils_Advocate 8 years ago
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