Saturday, September 5, 2009

Taking Pascal's wager to the horse races

Came across this unique response to Pascal's Wager in a thread at Pharyngula, authored by BrentH.

I first encountered the "What if you're wrong?/Pascal's wager" nugget while an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky when confronted by a recruiter from Campus Crusade for Christ. Having misspent much of my youth skipping from Catholic high school to go to Keeneland and Churchill Downs, I gave my opinion of Pascal's wager to him from a handicappers perspective.

It's as if every world religion has a horse (i.e. god) in a race. Each religion is a first time owner and has never raced a horse before, but that's OK because each owner is guided by advice and strategy from his omniscient talking horse. There are no independently verified and published past prefomances of the horses in an equivalent of the Daily Racing Form - just self published hype in esoteric scriptures. The race is a very long and the winner takes all. The losers and their backers are tormented and tortured for all eternity after the race. The wagers can only be Win bets, there is no Place, Show or exotic (e.g perfecta, trifexta, quinella, etc.) wagering. The bets aren't placed with the track in a pari mutuel pool, they are placed with the owners of the horses. And the wagers aren't just one time bets. Each owner specifies how much the wager costs and requires you to continually add to your bet through tithing, demands on your time and prayers to the horse for the rest of your life. Some owners even control the diets of their bettors. All of the owners promise tremendous payoffs and they brag about previous bettors who have won big, but they can't verify this.

The most hyped horse in this race is the one (actually some say it has the power of three horses) owned by the Christians, which is a quarrelsome consortium of owners that can't agree on the jockey or the strategy of the race. These contentious owners can't even agree on the price of the bet or the payoff. There is a young horse owned by the Muslims, who are very demanding and cruel to their backers. They are specially intolerant of any criticism of their jockey, Mohammed. Another young horse is owned by the Mormons, who say their horse is a clone of the horse owned by the Christians. They also say if I win, I can become a horse in a future race. There is an old horse in the race owned by another consortium known as the Jews. To complicate the handicapping, this horse sired the colts owned by the Christians and the Muslims and possibly the one owned by the Mormons. Some owners such as the Hindus, Vikings, Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans have many horses in the race, but these owners (except the Hindus) have few bettors. There is a whole field of other horses owned by eclectic groups such as the Scientologists, Zoroastrians, Bahais, Sikhs, Rastafarians, etc. All these owners have extremely strange betting schemes and also very few backers. There are a few fillies in the race , but they have all scratched except the one owned by the Wiccans. There is even a horse owned by the Buddhists, but they admit upon further questioning they really don't have horse in the race at all and if I win, I can bet again after being reincarnated.

Oh! and I forgot the most important part, most owners say they will not pay (but rather punish for all eternity) any backer who strays from the demanding betting scheme or who are disingenuous and only feigning his/her support.

There is no way I would ever place a bet in this race. Even if an amateurish handicapper who fails to see that there is no race and the horses are imaginary, would see this wagering sytem is unregulated and corrupt. All owners just keep the obscenely large purses extorted from thier bettors.

Pascal's wager is a childish analogy and fundamantalists that use it as a recruiting tool are fools. Do they not realize it distills their belief and god down to a poorly analyzed probability?


  1. To follow your analogy (or more correctly, the one you quote) you just made a bet. And you also are assuming you see the whole race and all the players. You are saying that you have the viewpoint to see the truth...something which you condemn in all the other racers. Hmmmm...does this sound at all hypocritical to you? It does to me.

  2. So Dan you see religion as the equivalent of the Game? (

    Count the logical fallacies