Thursday, December 08, 2016

Pascal's wager and climate change

Many people have heard of Pascal's wager, but not many know it under this name. Pascal's argument goes as follows (my poor synopsis):

I have two choices: Whether to believe in God or not to believe in God.
  • If I believe in God and live life accordingly, and the Christian God exists, I go to heaven and win.
  • If I believe in God and live life accordingly, and the Christian God does not exist, I neither win nor lose.
  • If I do not believe in God and live life accordingly, and the Christian God exists, I lose because I go to hell.
  • If I do not believe in God and live life accordingly, and the Christian God does not exist, I neither win nor lose.
Thus, argues Pascal, it's better to believe in God and live life accordingly, because that way you will possibly win and not lose.

Some have argued that recognizing the science of climate change is the same way. To wit:
  • If we recognize the science of climate change and act accordingly, and the science is correct, we avoid its possible drastic consequences.
  • If we recognize the science of climate change and act accordingly, and the science is incorrect, we neither win nor lose.
  • If we do not believe the science of climate change and act accordingly, and the science is correct, we lose because the planet devolves into a hellish nightmare.
  • If we do not believe the science of climate change and act accordingly, and the science is incorrect, we neither win nor lose.
Of course, those who believe that climate change science is bunk have argued against this line of reasoning. But then, as Vox Verax has said time and again, belief is too often stronger than evidence-based logic: It's one of the conundrums of human nature.

— LP

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