Gamblers come in all shapes and sizes, I read only yesterday that the highly successful TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire has finally come to the end of its productive life. At one point, apparently 19 million people in the UK were watching the show, recently however, and because of the present economic climate, it seems that the contestants are unwilling to gamble losing the relatively small amounts of money they win by answering the first few questions correctly, even if there is the possibility of going away with much more by gambling their easily won stake. The audiences may politely clap when a contestant opts to walk away with £32,000 but the low risk take the money and run gambling strategy doesn’t make for good entertainment whcih is why the show is being axed.
But what about the British as a whole? Since 1994 millions of Brits may have spent a pound or more each week on the National Lottery, the brain child of the last Labour Government; but this is small fry compared to the numbers who are gambling on the fate of their eternal destiny.
Blaise Pascal the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician is probably best remembered for Pascal’s Wager. Ironically, Pascal didn’t publish his philosophical argument whilst alive, but its application has never been more relevant than for the people of 21st-century Britain.
Simply put, the following are a series of logical statements:-
- God is or He is not
- A Game is being played … where heads or tails will turn up. (there are only 2 outcomes)
- According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
- You must bet on one of the outcomes, (it’s not optional).
- Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
- Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.
I imagine that Monsieur Pascal ‘practised what he preached’.