a world without meaning

We labor for our children and our children's children, but someday, in the remote future or, even sooner, as a result of man's fearful capacity to destroy himself, there will be no more children. That our earth will one day be wholly unfit for the continuation of our enterprise is as certain as any of our predictions can be.

Some day, if our present judgments are at all correct, the works of man will be as though they had never been. An earth as cold and lifeless as the moon will revolve around a dying sun.

What difference will it then make whether the Hungarians were courageous in the face of cruel invasion and whether hungry men, in concentration camps, shared their poor food with still hungrier and sicker prisoners?

What difference will it then make whether we now try to be intellectually honest, to face the negative evidence along with the positive, and whether we strive to make our world a scene of just peace?

Duty and love will be meaningless when there is no one to love and none to remember.

Elton Trueblood, Philosophy of Religion

Game Theory

Pascal’s argument (written in the 1600’s) went like this: Suppose you concede that you don’t know whether or not God exists and therefore assign a 50 percent chance to either proposition How should you weight these odds when decided whether to lead a pious life? If you act piously and God exists, Pascal argued, your gain – eternal happiness - is infinite. If, on the other hand, God does not exist, your loss, or negative return, is small – the sacrifices of piety. To weigh these possible gains and losses, Pascal proposed, you multiply the probability of each possible outcomes by its payoff and add them all up, forming a kind of average or expected payoff.

In other words, the mathematical expectation of your return on piety is one-half infinity (your gain if God exists) minus one-half a small number (your loss if he does not exist). Pascal knew enough about infinity to know that the answer to this calculation is infinite, and thus the expected return on piety is infinitely positive. Every reasonable person, Pascal concluded, should therefore follow the laws of God. Today this argument is know as Pascal’s wager.

Pascal’s wager is often considered the founding of the mathematical discipline of game theory, the quantitative study of optimal decision strategies in games.

Leonard Mlodinow The Drunkard's Walk, How Randomness Rules Our Lives

Wagering Your Life

Sometimes we make decisions on the basis of past experience, out of experiments we or others have conducted in the course of our lifetime. But we cannot conduct experiments that will prove either the existence or the absence of God. Our only alternative is to explore the future consequences of believing in God or rejecting God. Nor can we avert the issue, for by the mere act of living we are force to play this game.

Pascal explained that belief in God is not a decision. You cannot awaken one morning and declare “Today I think I will decide to believe in God. You believe or you do not believe. The decision, therefore, is whether to choose to act in a manner that will lead to believing in God, like living with pious people and following a life of “holy water and sacraments”. The person who follows these precepts is wagering that God is. The person who cannot be bothered with that kind of thing is wagering that God is not.

If God is not, whether you lead your life piously or sinfully is immaterial. But suppose that God is. Then if you bet against the existence of God by refusing to live a life of piety and sacraments you run the risk of eternal damnation; the winner of the bet that God exists has the possibility of salvation. As salvation is clearly preferable to external damnation, the correct decision is to act on the basis that God is. “Which way should we incline?” The answer was obvious to Pascal.

Peter L Bernstein, Against The Gods