The Instigator
Mogget
Pro (for)
Winning
25 Points
The Contender
beem0r
Con (against)
Losing
23 Points

Pascal's Wager should not be followed, it is flawed.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/25/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,088 times Debate No: 4196
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (19)
Votes (12)

 

Mogget

Pro

Pascal wagered that should one not be able to confirm whether a god truly exists or not then it would be wise to believe anyways as infinite happiness is on the line.

I believe this principle to be flawed.
beem0r

Con

I know this is suicide, but bear with me on this.

Pascal's wager, since my opponenet did not clearly define it, is as follows:

If one is uncertain about a religion that promises eternal bliss if followed, one should follow that religion, rather than simply ignoring it until sufficient evidence is provided.

Some people can willfully believe in something like a religion, and most certainly people can follow a religion's teachings willfully, even if there is uncertainty.

Here's my line of reasoning.

I. We [should] make decisions to maximize benefit for ourselves.

II. The benefit of a thing can sometimes not be determined before the thing occurs. Religion is an example of this. In this case, one should predict the outcomes and their likelihoods, and place the average gain value as the gain value of doing the thing. Here's an example:

Decision: Do I eat a watermelon, or don't I?

Good things about eating a watermelon:
1. It might satisfy my hunger. [50% chance, +5 motivation if true]
2. It might taste good. [95% chance, +10 motivation if true]
3. People will think I'm cool because I'm eating watermelon. [1% chance, +5 motivation if true]

Bad things about eating a watermelon:
1. I will not be able to spend this time doing X, Y, or Z. [-4 motivation]
2. I might get sick. [10% chance, -30 motivation if true]
3. People might think I'm less cool because I'm eating watermelon. [1% chance, -5 motivation if true]

Now there might be a few other variables I'm not considering, but I'm sure you get the point. Anyway, I will now explain the most reasonable way to approach this situation.

By multiplying the chance of each thing by the motivation if true, we get the predicted value of motivation [benefit]. We then get the following:

+2.5 because it might satisfy hunger
+9.5 because it might taste good
+.05 because it might make me seem cooler.
-4 because I could potentially gain 4 motivation doing X, Y, or Z instead.
-3 because it might make me sick
-.05 because it might make me seem less cool
=+5

We see from this that it is indeed the most rational decision for me to eat a watermelon at this time.

Notice that the motivation numbers I assigned are fairly arbitrary. They would vary based on what you value as a person.

However, it is clear that this is the most rational way to make decisions when uncertainty is involved [by multiplying the benefit/loss by the chance of it happening].

Also, rather than couinting the opportunity cost in the equation, we can omit it, and rather than choosing to do anything that's positive, we will simply choose the highest-valued combination of choices. This way it would look like this:

+2.5 because it might satisfy hunger
+9.5 because it might taste good
+.05 because it might make me seem cooler.
-3 because it might make me sick
-.05 because it might make me seem less cool
=+9

The best thing I could do with the time I'd be eating the watermelon would be +4 benefit [this is the X, Y, or Z, whatever other choices I have]. Since 9 is higher than 4, I choose to eat the watermelon.

III. Deciding to follow a religion you are uncertain about is a rational choice [Given that eternal rewards are promised].

I'll do the same thing I did with the watermelon decision, but this time, it'll be about following a religion.

Decision: Do I follow religion X?

Good things about following religion X:
1. People from religion X will like me better/I'll be part of a new community [+10 motivation]
2. I might have eternal bliss. [1% chance, +Infinite motivation if true]

Bad things about following religion X:
1. People from other religions will like me less/I'll be alientated from some communities. [-10 motivation]
2. I won't be able to spend as much time and/or money doing other things [-1,000,000,000,000,000,000 motivation*]

So here we get:
+10 because of new communities
+infinite because it might lead to eternal bliss
-10 because of damaged communities
-1,000,000,000,000,000,000 because I could potentially gain that much benefit doing other things.
=+infinite

Therefore, we should do it.

You'll notice I made an asterisk next to the opportunity cost line. That is because it is quite possible that there will be an infinite opportunity cost [not being able to follow another religion, for example].

In this case, the religion whose probability times benefit is larger will win. For example: Religion X and Religion Y each offer eternal bliss if followed, but cannot both be followed simultaneously. Religion X promises an eternal bliss half as good as Religion Y, but it seems about 3 times as likely as Religion Y to be true. Thus, Religion X would win, since its infinite component is 1.5 times as great as Religion Y's. [The infinite compononet ends up being the only meaningful one]. It may not seem as intuitive doing math with infinite numbers, but it can conceptually be done if a person is capable of placing relative levels of probability and benefit to each religion and its promised eternal bliss.

These things are up to each individual to place relative benefit levels on, but it is a very premise of Pascal's wager that we're talking about a religion that does promise infinite reward if we follow it.

Thus, based on I, II, and III, Pascal's Wager is not flawed. I await my opponent's rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 1
Mogget

Pro

Premise one is agreed with by myself in the majority of situations. I feel it is a good idea to make decisions that maximize benefits. There are some exclusions obviously. If perhaps my beneficial decision hurt others then I would not agree. Or perhaps if the outcome of said decision was a very negligible benefit then I would also not agree as the work required to acquire such outcome would outweigh the minor benefit. An example of this situation would be myself walking down the street, if I walk 20 feet to my right I will be shielded by a building that will allow for minor wind reduction which will make my walking slightly easier. However the benefit is so minor that making this decision in itself is not worth my time. Conclusion: I generally agree with Beem0r, there are times I would disagree though. If Beem0r attempts to twist this into one of those instances then I will argue this point further, until then.....

Premise two, I also agree with the structure of this one. Though, I do not think the logic being attached to it is necessarily correct. It is a good idea if you don't know what the outcomes will be to weigh the possible outcomes. Example, since I don't know what the outcome of buying a lottery ticket will be I should decide on the possible outcome. I can calculate that the chances of me winning are 1:1,000,000,000 therefor I can also deduce that buying the ticket will probably receive me a bad net benefit. Conclusion don't buy the ticket.

The problem with Beem0r's case is that we don't actually know what the probability is. Not only is it impossible for myself to determine the benefit but it is equally impossible to determine the probable benefit.

There is absolutely not guarantee that the religion one is attempting to settle with actually will put forth infinite happiness. Not only is there this lack of a guarantee but there is absolutely no definite probability from which we can derive an equation from which we may determine probable benefit.

What are the chances that LaVeyan Satanism if followed will actually give the disciple eternal happiness on death?

Anyone?

There is absolutely no way to determine the probability. Not of LaVeyan Satanism or of any other religion. It is IMPOSSIBLE to determine the likely benefit under Beem0r's model.

Premise three I obviously do not agree with at all. Here is the text:

"Deciding to follow a religion you are uncertain about is a rational choice [Given that eternal rewards are promised]."

Let me propose some counter examples that would work under this logic.

a. I walk up to a little kid, I look that kid in the eye, I state, "You should cut off your arm, if you do so you might have eternal salvation."

Analysis:

-50 Arm cutting off hurts.
-20 Relationship points from people who think a missing arm is unattractive.
-20 Physical points from disabilities to participate in many sports.
-10 Depression might occur.
+ 10,000,000,000,000,000 Eternal salvation might happen.

Conclusion: Obviously at this point it would be a good idea for the little kid to chop off his or her arm. (Disclaimer: Honestly, it's not, please don't do this.)

b. I read in a magazine that some experts believe that if Atlantis existed then it would have been an infinitely wealthy city. Perhaps I should attempt to discover it?

Analysis:

-100 I will become a laughing stock among professional treasure hunters and the scientific community.
-20 Will cost a great deal of money.
-10 Will take a great deal of time.
+ 9999999999999 Infinite riches!

Conclusion: Let's do it!

Here's the point. In both of these situations I am using Beem0r's model. The problem with the model stems from the fact that there is no way for myself or anyone to determine the likelihood of locating the eternal reward. There is no way to find the probable benefit. Under Beem0r's model you SHOULD follow every path that MIGHT lead to eternal salvation, no matter how ludicrous, how unlikely, or how detrimental to yourself. As long as the detriment does not outweigh the infinite salvation. This logic is flawed, this is not a reason to waste one's time devoting to a cause.

Other problem's with Pascal's wager.

A. Which religion.....? There are so many aren't there? How are you going to know which one. You could try choosing them all, but most of them say something to the effect of, "I am jealous god!" So that doesn't quite work...

Well I suppose you could just pick one and hope it is the right one, at least you'll have a bit of a chance right? Nay, many religions also state, "worship no false idol". It would be better to be undecided in most religions eyes than to be worshiping the wrong god. Imagine if you were god, two groups of people are before you. The first group is worshiping a random false idol something you specifically tell them not to do in your holy book. The other group isn't worshiping anyone, they are just confused and sad. Who do you like more? Obvious choice.

B. Choosing to follow a religion on Pascal's Wager is a sham. If you are simply following the religion in the hopes that you will achieve eternal salvation then you won't. If a god truly exists and you somehow chose the right religion to follow then that omnipotent god will be able to see your mind. It will see that you are simply following that religion for the point of eternal salvation. Following a religion simply because one desires eternal salvation is not truly following a religion at all. The individual who does such has no true faith. The individual is simply a gambler who will be punished as any other non-believer.

C. If a god truly wanted us to follow it. Truly wanted us to know that it had created us, then it would just simply tell us so. I challenge Beem0r to explain one legitimate reason a god would not just simply come to us and tell us what had happened.
beem0r

Con

I. Decisions should be made based on maximizing self-benefit.
My opponent made no objections to this premise.

II. When there is uncertainty about A> whether a thing will happen, or B> how much benefit there will be on average if it does happen, the product of perceived probability and percieved average benefit if true is the best approximation of the benefit for decision-making purposes.

My opponent apparently makes an objection here, but here's what he says: "There is absolutely not guarantee that the religion one is attempting to settle with actually will put forth infinite happiness. Not only is there this lack of a guarantee but there is absolutely no definite probability from which we can derive an equation from which we may determine probable benefit."

Notice that in my example in premise III, I assigned the probability of Religion X being true to 1%, not 100%. My opponent is warping my own position, then attacking the position he's warped rather than attacking my actual position. I am not claiming that there is an absolute guarantee that a religion is true.

To show his point, my opponent brings up LaVeyan Satanism. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, Pascal's wager does not apply to EVERY religion. IT applies to religions that A> Offer infinite rewards if you follow them, and B> the person is UNSURE about. MY opponent deliberately chose such an off-the-wall religion because he knows the audience has no appreciable uncertainty about the religion. If anyone reading this has even CONSIDERED LeVayan Satanism, I would be shocked.

Pascal's wager applies only to religions a person is uncertain about. It does not apply equally to all religions, and to some people, it does not even apply at all.

III. Following a religion is a better decision than not following it based on I and II.

Let me provide a re-analysis of my opponent's scenarios, which once again are completely void of the probablity factor.

a. "Cut off your arm, kid. If you do, you might get eternal salvation."

Benefits:
1. You might get eternal salvation [0% chance, +infinte motivation if true].

Losses:
1. You won't have an arm [-100 motivation]
2. It'll hurt [-10 motivation]
3. It might give you depression [50% chance, -100 motivation if true]

Thus, we get:

+0 for possibility of eternal salvation. [0% x infinite motivation]
-100 for not having an arm [100% x -100]
-10 for it hurting [100% x -10]
-50 for possible depression [50% x -100]

Because there is no reason AT ALL, for a person to believe this guy who just told us to cut our arm off, we can safely place the perceived possibility for his claims at 0%. Since 0% is truly 0%, not some infinitesimal, 0% x infinite ends up being 0 as well. Thus, since we have no reason to consider the possiblity of his statement, we should not be swayed by the 'possible' rewards.

The same princeiple holds true for the next example.

b. "Find Atlantis, get wealth from it."

First, let's consider how likely it is that we'll find this wealth. First, the probability that we'll actually find atlantis. We'll call it 1%, even though it's smaller. Next, we need to decide how much wealth. While some guy said it was infinite, it's clear that that's impossible. However, it's clear that there would be a great deal of wealth involved in actually finding Atlantis. We'll say 100 million dollars.
We'll say we're going to spend a combination of time and money that's worth 5 million into this project. [we'd have to put in much more to have a 1% chance of success, probably].

Benefits:
Might get wealth. [1% chance, +100,000,000 motivation if true]
Might get highly praised. [1% chance, +10,000,000 motivation if true]

Losses:
Will cost a lot of time and effort. [-5,000,000 motivation]
Might be a laughingstock. [99% chance, -1000 motivation]

So we get:

+1,000,000 for potential riches.
+100,000 for petential praise.
-5,000,000 for putting in a bunch of man-hours and money.
-990 for potential laughingstock-ness.

= -3900990 motivation
Decision: Don't bother

As we see, when we consider the probabilities of these things, they don't end up being worth it.
The same is true for gambling. Since the odds are always stacked against you, it's always a bad idea... UNLESS you ENJOY it enough that that benefit alone overcomes the average loss of money.

So once again, by not considering probability in his arguments against me, my opponent is not attacking my position, he is only attacking a position that he himself has twisted from my own. My argument relies on
(perceived probability) x (perceived average benefit IF true) = estimated average benefit

Responding to "Other Problems"

A. "Which religion" was already addressed in my R1. I'll tell you again.

"For example: Religion X and Religion Y each offer eternal bliss if followed, but cannot both be followed simultaneously. Religion X promises an eternal bliss half as good as Religion Y, but it seems about 3 times as likely as Religion Y to be true. Thus, Religion X would win, since its infinite component is 1.5 times as great as Religion Y's." -Me

So basically, whichever has a greater (perceived probability) x (perceived benefit if true).

Perceieved probability can usually be based on prophecies, etc.

B. "You're a sham, Edgeworth!"

My opponent's argument here is that only people who follow a religion irrespective of Pascal's wager are considered true followers. Let's say it's 100 times more likely that god will only reward these "true" followers. This only reduces the probability of the infinite reward, it does not eliminate it. Let's say the perceived probability was 0.0000001% before. Now, it's 0.000000001. It still works the same, due to the infinite benefit.

C. "I challenge Beem0r to explain one legitimate reason a god would not just simply come to us and tell us what had happened."

Maybe he wants us to figure it out on our own. Watching the uncertainty in us is probably fun for him.

Also, what if God wants to intervene in human affairs as little as possible? Coming down to us and having a chat would sort of go against this.

Basically, what if he just doesn't want to? That's very legitimate.
Debate Round No. 2
Mogget

Pro

Beem0r has completely and utterly missed my entire point. I stated,

"There is absolutely not guarantee that the religion one is attempting to settle with actually will put forth infinite happiness. Not only is there this lack of a guarantee but there is absolutely no definite probability from which we can derive an equation from which we may determine probable benefit."

In other words there is no way to determine a probability for a religion being true or not. There is no way to determine the validity of a religion when compared to any other religion. To say something like,

"This religion has 3x the chance of being true."

makes absolutely no sense, there is no way to determine such a thing.

Once again let's look at my example. If I tell the kid to cut off his arm because there is a small chance he might get eternal salvation; there is still that small chance. Small chance x infinity = infinite benefit. Under Beem0r's own logic the kid should cut off his or her arm. There is no way to say for sure that the small chance = 0%; likewise there is no way to prove that any religion has a specific percent chance of being true.

Which brings me to:

A. Once again, there is no way to determine the perceived probability. Beem0r states,

"Perceieved probability can usually be based on prophecies, etc."

What how? There is no way to prove the prophesy or the text is even legit in most cases. There isn't a way to do this.

And of course my original argument went completely dropped so I'm going to repost that for viewing pleasure,

"Well I suppose you could just pick one and hope it is the right one, at least you'll have a bit of a chance right? Nay, many religions also state, "worship no false idol". It would be better to be undecided in most religions eyes than to be worshiping the wrong god. Imagine if you were god, two groups of people are before you. The first group is worshiping a random false idol something you specifically tell them not to do in your holy book. The other group isn't worshiping anyone, they are just confused and sad. Who do you like more? Obvious choice."

Obviously the better idea is to follow no religion at all under this paradigm.

B. Actually the majority of religious texts are pretty big on the whole if you're not a true worshiper then you won't be accepted thing. It is rather safe to assume that the omnipotent, omniscience god put forth by most religions would be able to see through this shame. Hence it is also a safe assumption to assume that the probability is 0 and not "0.000000001".

A god will be able to see through this.

C. None of these reasons make any sense at all. What motive would he/she/it have for any of that?

Anyways, considering Beem0r dropped my entire case excluding an attack on me using Satanism as an example (something by the way I am fine with withdrawing, feel free to interchange that with any other religion, it does not hurt my case) I can only urge for a vote in my favor.
beem0r

Con

I realize that there is no way to determine an exact probability of a thing like a religion being true.

This is why I said "Perceived probability" many times in my case. If I tihnk religion X is 0.1% likely, then that's the likelihood I should use for it being true.

I could PERCIEVE religion X to be 3x as likely as religion Y. Just because there isn't some solid equation doesn't mean I can't perceive probabilities. People do it all the time, for both religion and other things.

In my opponent's first analogy, the kid should indeed chop his arm off... IF he recognized the real possiblity of getting an infinite reward. However, most people would not even acknowledge this possiblity, making it either infinitesimal or 0, in which case they should usually not cut their arms off.

PERCEIVED probability can indeed be based on prophecies. Let's say I think a prophecy from religion X gives the religion some merit, and makes it likely that religion X is true. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. It does not mean that this prophecy is undeniable proof that the religion is true, nor does it mean that there is some nice equation we can plug this into. I was simply showing that the existence of fulfilled prophecies, etc. can make people think one religion is likely and/or more likely than others.

I already addressed the fact that multiple religions exist. The person should choose the religion whose benefit if true x probability is higher. If a person thinks Christianity is twice as likely as Islam, but thinks Islam's possible benefit is 3 times as much, then they should follow Islam [assuming there are no other religions with a higher (benefit if true) x (probability)]

And many religions stating that worshipping false idols is bad is no issue, since these same religions state that one must follow said religion to gain any benefit anyway. A worshipper of false idols suffers the same punishmnet any other unbelieve suffers.

Plus, a worshipper of a false god is at least acknowledging that we should worship our creator, something a non-worshipper is not doing.

I already stated a motive for God to not place the answer squarely in front of his face. I said it's probably FUN for him to see us figure it out on our own.

So, uh, vote CON.
Debate Round No. 3
19 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
True indeed, my dear friend mogget.
Posted by Mogget 8 years ago
Mogget
Dear Beem0r, So I herd u liek mudkipz?

Is this true?
Posted by joze14rock 8 years ago
joze14rock
Ahh, it's all good. I understand
Posted by Mogget 8 years ago
Mogget
Actually I have just been very busy in real life. I haven't been paying attention to any of my debates. I find myself once again with only one day to respond to your debate. Gah!!!
Posted by joze14rock 8 years ago
joze14rock
So this is what you've been cheating on me with Mogget!?
lol
How about next time you and I go at it with Pascal's Wager?
Though it's going to have to wait till next month cause I got Air Force boot camp next week
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
Mogget: we don't make decisions based on what's actually true, we make decisions based on what we THINK is true.

And what made me realize my lack of thorough reading was the fact that I had completely missed one of your R2 arguments. Must have been late at night. I don't think I should win this debate, since I unfairly waited until R3 to address that argument.
Posted by Rezzealaux 8 years ago
Rezzealaux
"I can quite literally perceive anything, that doesn't make it true."

Welcome to the Matrix.
Posted by Derek.Gunn 8 years ago
Derek.Gunn
Well done Mogget.
The multiple religions idea closes it.
Do I risk falling out with God? Do I risk falling out with Satan?
That "Fire Insurance" argument of Pascal's only really works when there's a choice of heaven, hell or nothing.
Posted by Mogget 8 years ago
Mogget
As a side note I don't think your case actually helps your side.

I can quite literally perceive anything, that doesn't make it true.
Posted by Mogget 8 years ago
Mogget
What made you realize that?
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