Monday, February 01, 2010

Pascal's Wager and the Superbowl

[I'm not planning on getting any real teaching done on Friday, so I'm going to try to trick my students into learning about Pascal's Wager.  Here is the little intro to the lesson I will be using.  I'm posting via email, so I hope that all the formating will remain the same.]
 
 

You are a gambling man and a New Orleans Saints fan.  The Superbowl is quickly approaching and you have a decision to make.  Two choices are before you.  Choice number one is to bet on the saint to win.  Choice number two is to place no bet at all as being both a gambler and even more of a Saints fan leads you to the inability to bet on the opposing team.  Which will you choose?  Ultimately you have two things to lose: the money you bet and your pride; and two things at stake: your reason and your happiness; and your nature has two things to avoid: being wrong and being miserable.

Because you are both a Saints fan and a gambler you must choose.  Your reason is no more offensive if you choose one decision over the other.   But what is at stake is your happiness, your pride, and your money.

So let us examine the decisions and weigh them against each other and see what is gained and lost depending upon your choice. 

1.        If you believe the saints to win, and you bet on the saints to win, and they do win then you have shown your reason to be right, and you have gained the money that you bet plus your winnings and in turn have lost nothing.  In addition to financial gain, you will also gain a high level of happiness.

2.       If you believe the saints to win and in turn the Saints actually lose, then you have lost the money you have bet on the team and have gained some humility and wisdom in the process (two helpful things to have in life)

3.       Let us propose that you, because you are a Saints fan and cannot bet on the opposing team, believe that the Saint will not win.  However, the game is played, and the Saints do win.  In turn you have gained nothing, but feel foolish and miserable for not betting on the Saints and letting your doubts over power your reason, and you have lost nothing because you did not risk anything in the betting scheme and only feel even more stupid for not taking the chance.

4.       The final is that you believe that the Saints will not win and the Saints do not win.  You have lost nothing, but you have not gained anything other than your neighbors calling you a negative nay-saying Nancy for not cheering for the Saints.  In fact, your lack of belief is blamed for the loss.

You might be asking, how much am I wagering?  What do I win?  Let us say that you have the possibility, due to the Vegas Odds, with only a marginal wager to win as much money as needed to live comfortably for the remainder of your life.  Certainly the 'safe' bet, if you define 'safe' to mean not acting and not losing anything, is to not bet and pray that the Saints do not win.  But in Scripture it states that the man who horded his talent had his talent taken from him where as the men who risked their talent were only rewarded. 

So the real question is, which option promises gains and which one does not?  In the world of economics, it is a simple answer, you bet on the saints to win over not betting at all, for if you do not win money you will in turn at least win character that is necessary and highly praised in the world today.  Betting on the Saints is the sure action, the safe action, the reasonable action.

 

 

Saints Win

Saints do not win

 

 

I believe the Saints to Win and bet on the Saints.

Gain:

Money for comfortable living,

Happiness

 

Lose:

Nothing

Gain:

Humility and Wisdom

 

 

Lose:

Your marginal wager

 

 

I believe the saints to lose and do not bet on the Saints.

Gain:

Foolishness and misery

Nothing

 

 

Lose:

Nothing

Gain:

Nothing (but scorn from your neighbors)

 

 

Lose:

Nothing

 

 

For more info on Pascal's Wager see Dr. Kreeft's article "Argument from Pascan's Wager."

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