Category Archives: Random

Pascal’s Wager

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century mathematician and physicist, who also lends his name to a [somewhat] unfortunate programing language.  Aside from the scientific realm, he also played a bit in the area of religion.

Pascal postulated that while the supernatural nature of God could not always be explained with reason, a reasonable  person could come to believe in God based on reason alone.  This is the basic idea behind the “Pascal Wager”:

Everyone must choose whether or not God exists, there is no neutral stance.  Because one must choose, it is only logical to weigh the pros and cons of each possibility.  If you choose to believe that God exists, then there are two possible outcomes:  1) God exists and because you believe you will spend eternity in bliss, and 2) God does not exist and death is the end (your belief had no positive or negative gains).  If you choose not to believe in God there are two possible outcomes:  1) God exists and you are eternally damned, and 2) God does not exist and death is the end (your disbelief has no positive or negative gains).  The two outcomes for belief in God are a net gain, and the two outcomes for not believing in God are a net loss.  Therefore, it is only reasonable to wager/bet on a belief in God.

Growing up in the Bible belt, I heard a similar argument from my fellow Christians on a regular basis.  They would explain to people who did not share their belief that “if I am wrong, then I’m still going to be ok; if you are wrong, you are going to hell.”  While I understand (and agree) with the logic here, I always had some pretty serious problems with this line of reasoning.

There is a difference in stating belief and actual belief (or faith).  Simply because a person says they believe in God does not make it so.  Pascal said that even someone that did not believe in God should live as if they did believe, and through their actions they would eventually come to true belief.  I personally believe that this idea is a bit nieve; and that simply willing yourself into belief is an oversimplification of supernatural aspects of faith in a god.

The second issue I have with this line of thinking is that it places the emphasis on a belief in God on a fear of eternal damnation.  I have always had a big issue with theologies that place the primary motivating factor for a belief in God to be a fear of going to hell.  It always seemed to me that while hell might be a consequence of not believing, it should not be the reason to believe.

Pascal’s wager is the prefect example of what happens when you attempt to explain the supernatural complexities of God with human understanding.  God cannot always be placed in the little box of logic and reason we’d like to place Him in.  The very definition of something supernatural is that it is outside of the natural order and understanding of our universe.

i am the only one left

Every time someone brings up Facebook (which is pretty much constantly), I feel like I’m in that Star Trek TNG episode where everyone becomes addicted to that game that rewards the player with a “pleasurable sensation”. I’ve come to the conclusion that new status updates from friends must have the same orgasmic effect on people. Not passing judgement, just sharing an observation :)

I’m not completely spotless though. See, I once had the addiction too, but I’ve been clean for a little over a year.

It’s not that I’m better than any of you really … I just choose to extend my geeky social awkwardness to the interwebs too.

gear for sale update…

I listed some stuff I’m selling here.  I’ve got to move it pretty quickly, so it looks like I’m going to let it go to a third party reseller.  As such, I’ve had to drop how much I’m asking.

Anyway, just listing one last time here before it all goes away.

  • Behringer JM150 amp w/J3 footswitch:  $200
  • 1999 Epiphone G-400 Custom (triple humbuckers, hardshell case): $175
  • 1997 Series Danelectro Pedals (DC-1, DD-1, DE-1, and D0-1): $15 each
  • Shure SM58:  $30
  • Behringer B-1 Condenser Mic (with case, shockmount, and windscreen): $30
  • Johnson J-Station amp modeler:  $45
  • Yahama DGX-500 88-key keyboard w/Stand:  $100
  • Carvin XP2 Vocal DSP (1u rack):  $30
  • Behringer 12 channel mixer:  $35
  • Behringer Autocom Compressor:  $30
  • Behringer FCB1010 MIDI foot controller:  $45

If you’re so inclined, you can have it all for $700.

 

numbers

The human brain’s ability to recall things from memory (without you even knowing) is remarkable.

I just walked out to my car to get something I left there earlier, and on my way back into the office I typed in the code to the cipher lock on the door and went on my way.  I didn’t think about or try to remember a combination; I just typed it in and opened the door.

As I walked back down the hall, I started to think about all the numbers I have memorized:  phones, ATMs, lock combinations, online passwords, smart card pins, security codes at work/home, etc.  I attempted to make a mental list and put all the codes/passwords to the right application, but it just started to get confusing.

It’s really a miracle that I can walk up to an ATM or go to a web site and enter the proper credentials without conscience effort.  I can dial my wife’s phone number without a second thought, but if you asked me to tell you her number I’m probably stumble through it.

We are amazing machines.