PASCAL’S WAGER ARGUMENT
None of the traditional arguments for the existence of God have compelling force, though they may strongly suggest the existence of God. Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher, mathematician, and inventor, knew this.
He therefore developed a new argument which did not so much prove the existence of God, as prove the saying in the Psalms, that the fool in his heart would say there is no God.
Here follows the main text of Pascal’s argument:
*… let us say: ‘Either God is or he is not.’ But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails. How will you wager? Reason cannot make you choose either, reason cannot prove either wrong. . . Yes, but you must wager. There is no choice, you are already committed. Which will you choose then? . . . Let us weigh up the gain and the loss involved in calling heads that God exists. Let us assess the two cases: if you win you win everything, if you lose you lose nothing. Do not hesitate then; wager that he does exist. . . . And thus, since you are obliged to play, you must be renouncing reason if you hoard your life rather than risk it for an infinite gain, just as likely to occur as a loss amounting to nothing… Thus our argument carries infinite weight, when the stakes are finite in a game where there are even chances of winning and losing and an infinite prize to be won.*I
I have yet to hear a successful refutation of Pascal’s argument, though many have been offered. Even the great agnostic logician Bertrand Russell, so far as I have been able to determine, leaves the argument alone. One would have thought he would try his hand at it if he thought it was refutable.