Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Pot Odds of the Existence of God

First, put your headphones on and start this... 

According to Wikipedia, "In pokerpot odds are the ratio of the current size of the pot to the cost of a contemplated call. Pot odds are often compared to the probability of winning a hand with a future card in order to estimate the call's expected value."

I was learning about some poker strategies when listening to Radiolab today. For reasons that I won't get into, playing competitive poker can be lucrative as long as you win 1 in every 4 games (basically you make enough in the 4th game to break even, even if you lost your buy-in money from the previous 3 games). So taking your chances with the possibility of losing has a higher pay off than not taking your chances and definitely not winning. Which is "duh" logic, but not always smart when it comes to gambling. 

This logic bled into an idea about God that I thought I had figured out on my own, but apparently Blaise Pascal beat me to (which didn't make me feel too shabby, actually, but Jonas says everyone already knows this "theory"). In essence, he wanted to use math to explain faith, which isn't very romantic, perhaps not even "faith", but, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Let us start with the premise that the existence of God is scientifically unable to be proven, and furthermore that God doesn't make sense. He can't be explained by human logic, and we do not generally accept that something can come from nothing in nature. On some level, only faith can allow you to accept the Bible's account of the way things are. 

I believe in the existence of God, and in Christ as my savior, but I also think there is a scientific chance that I could live my life on a false premise. There's no way to prove or disprove that God is real and that there is a Heaven or a Hell, and I've wondered before what it would be like to find out at the end that it was all made up. I don't believe that will happen, but Pascal's reasoning makes it okay, even if that were to happen. 

Basically, if I believe in God and it turns out to all be real, the payoff is infinitely good. If I had chosen not to believe and God turned out to be real, the consequences would be infinitely terrible. If I chose to believe or disbelieve and God wasn't real, I've lost nothing. To me, the pot-odds for the existence of God make believing the most obvious and worthy gamble imaginable

I wouldn't say that poker logic is why I believe in God, but I do think it provides logic in an illogical situation. 

Image by Philipp Igumnov

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