For those who are tuning in a bit late, Blaise Pascal came up with the believer’s so-called ‘rational’ argument for believing (or trying to believe) in a god. The argument goes something like :-
- God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives
- A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up
- You must wager (it is 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. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
- But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.
Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Of course it does – Pascal has used logic here even though he is coming to an irrational conclusion; the key is logic.
However there is only one small area where Pascal’s wager makes any kind of sense – if believers burn atheists at the stake (which did happen during Pascal’s lifetime) then it makes perfect sense to pretend to believe to protect oneself.
However it does make two rather large assumptions :-
- That this god isn’t able to determine the difference between believing and pretending to believe. Which kind of invalidates the notion of an omniscient god.
- Which god? Given the childish jealousy that most gods exhibit, pick the wrong one and you’re in just a bad a position as someone who doesn’t pick at all.
And the very first statement – that reason cannot determine whether god exists or not, is completely wrong. Reason requires evidence for the existence of something, and the best evidence for the existence of god is the belief of the believers which isn’t evidence at all.
To be plain, I’m not a vegan; I’m a vegetarian and have been for over 30 years now. Somebody has to eat all that surplus cheese, and what else am I going to put on my morning muesli? Navy-strength rum? It’s a nice idea, but I doubt my employer would be too impressed.
The old joke goes: “How do you know if someone is vegan? They’ll tell you.”. And somebody always makes it every time veganism is mentioned.
Here’s a few thought on that …
First of all, how do you know that all vegans will tell you and preach? The existence of noisy ones doesn’t provide you any information about quiet ones – you (and I) don’t know whether it is 1% of vegans being quiet, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 99%. From my experience of vegetarianism, the ones most inclined to make a noise about it are the newly converted … and vegans have been around for ages. I even know a few that have been vegan for longer than I’ve been a vegetarian.
Secondly, I know from my own experience that eating out with a bunch of relative strangers (co-workers, sales critters, and the like) is likely to result in being questioned on your menu selection: “Why are you eating that bloody rabbit food?”. It’s kind of hard to avoid the topic when you’re being interrogated all meal long about it.
Finally, I think that ‘normals’ overlook just how much pressure there is to conform to the standard carnivorous diet – from the restaurant menu that sticks vegetarian/vegan choices in the ‘restricted diet’ section, through to jokes about a steak is overdone if it doesn’t “moo” when you stick a fork in it.
Is it any wonder vegans are in your face?
Lastly, with the exception of a certain Twitter exchange, vegans have never been in my face.