STEPHEN EDELSTEIN TOULMIN 1922-1909 a philosophical giant

obit from stephen grimes of the ny times


reprinted in global debate blog at

Toulmin was a great yet unknown and unheralded philosopher and writer of great academic and widespread influence in many circles.

He was an epistemologist and also influenced the modern revival of practical argumentation theory, also known as the new rhetoric, with a small book he published in 1958 known as “the uses of argument”, which is still a classic today.

Toulmin’s argumentation theories, which were refined over the course of many  more articles and books, resulted in what was known as a Toulmin argument, to quot from the wikipedia article on Toulmin;

Toulmin believed that a good argument can succeed in providing good justification for a claim that will stand up to criticism and earn a favourable verdict. In The Uses of Argument (1958), Toulmin proposed a layout containing six interrelated components for analyzing arguments:

A conclusion whose merit must be established. For example, if a person tries to convince a listener that he is a British citizen, the claim would be “I am a British citizen.” (1)
Evidence (Data)
A fact one appeals to as a foundation for the claim. For example, the person introduced in 1 can support his claim with the supporting data “I was born in Bermuda.” (2)
A statement authorizing movement from the data to the claim. In order to move from the data established in 2, “I was born in Bermuda,” to the claim in 1, “I am a British citizen,” the person must supply a warrant to bridge the gap between 1 and 2 with the statement “A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen.” (3)
Credentials designed to certify the statement expressed in the warrant; backing must be introduced when the warrant itself is not convincing enough to the readers or the listeners. For example, if the listener does not deem the warrant in 3 as credible, the speaker will supply the legal provisions as backing statement to show that it is true that “A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen.”
Statements recognizing the restrictions which may legitimately be applied to the claim. The rebuttal is exemplified as follows: “A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen, unless he has betrayed Britain and has become a spy of another country.”
Words or phrases expressing the speaker’s degree of force or certainty concerning the claim. Such words or phrases include “probably,” “possible,” “impossible,” “certainly,” “presumably,” “as far as the evidence goes,” and “necessarily.” The claim “I am definitely a British citizen” has a greater degree of force than the claim “I am a British citizen, presumably.”

The first three elements, “claim,” “data,” and “warrant,” are considered as the essential components of practical arguments, while the second triad, “qualifier,” “backing,” and “rebuttal,” may not be needed in some arguments.

When Toulmin first proposed it, this layout of argumentation was based on legal arguments and intended to be used to analyze the rationality of arguments typically found in the courtroom. Toulmin did not realize that this layout could be applicable to the field of rhetoric and communication until his works were introduced to rhetoricians by Wayne Brockriede and Douglas Ehninger. Only after Toulmin published Introduction to Reasoning (1979) were the rhetorical applications of this layout mentioned in his works.

Toulmin’s argument model has inspired research on, for example, argument maps and associated software.

Toulmin arguments are therefore routinely used in modern legal argumentation, in law schools, in oratory and rhetoric, and have formed the foundation of modern college and high school debating, especially lincoln-douglas debating which has become the preferred form of debate in recent years.

Toulmin arguments are used in many other ways and in many other contexts.  His work will be studied and debated for many years to come.  His work is illuminating and inspires one to further considerations of the subject matter.  Finally, Toulmin had a fond regard for the ancient greeks and their original traditions of epistemology, rhetoric and oratory, and their practical uses of same vs. their scientific uses of same.  He was always careful to draw the distinction between empirical use of language and persuasive use of language, and in this, he succeeded admirably.  By doing so, he revived the modern notion of argument and managed to win a small victory over the british analytic school which denied even the possibility of metaphysics in a modern world.

–art kyriazis, december 22, 2009

Prof. Richard Dawkins was it again in yet another publication, arguing for the indefensible proposition, Atheism. As History has demonstrated, perhaps more than any other “ism”, including Communism, Nationalism Nihilism, Anarchism, Fascism and Nazism, Atheism is very likely the worst “ism” of them all, because Atheism lies at the heart of all of the other “isms”. And, making this ever worse is the fact that Prof. Dawkins is a respected Biology Professor, that he writes to undergraduates and graduate students, and that he should really know better.

Prof. Dawkins’ argument this time was framed and cloaked in scientific syllogism and enthymeme, to wit, that the scientific laws of physics and evolution (1) explain everything, and there (2) leave no room, according to Dawkins, for the actions of God, ergo, (3) God does not exist. A broad and sweeping argument, to be sure, but does it stand up under any sort of critical analysis?

We’ll examine the deeper logical argument of whether this is a proof of God’s non-existence in a moment, but first let’s examine whether this is a proof at all of anything.


Initially, are there “laws” of physics or “laws” of evolution? Here, Dawkins has problems right off the bat. Modern scientific epistemology is sort of torn between two schools—the Thomas Kuhn school of paradigms and the Karl Popper-Carnap school of incremental advance of science. Dawkins seems to be resurrecting the Popper-Carnap school of epistemology—and yet right now, the Kuhnian school is ascendant.

What Kuhn basically says is that all scientific laws amount to is a reigning paradigm, and that science is a social process among scientists—meaning that scientific laws are not laws at all, but simply the best available paradigms which meet the approval of the current scientific community. This of course is a terrible oversimplication of Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) and subsequent editions, but let’s assume for the moment that you’ve read Kuhn, or been forced to read Kuhn. If you’re familiar with Kuhn, you would not make a statement such as was made by Dawkins about “scientific laws” proving that “God does not” and “cannot exist” because in Kuhn’s model of scientific induction and epistemology, men make scientific laws, and not particularly accurately all the time.

But let’s assume for a moment you’re a Popper-Carnap style epistemologist of science, and you believe in the intrinsic accuracy of the scientific laws. Even then, Popper and Carnap et al., accept Hume’s causality arguments and attacks on scientific “laws”, to wit, scientific law cannot explain “causation” but only a sort of probability tending towards a value between 0 and 1; or as Popper would put it, if I drop a ball five thousand times, it will fall to earth each time, tending to prove the “law” of gravity, but I still can’t be one hundred per cent certain that it will fall to earth the five thousand and first time, because of the causal arguments of Hume. All I have done is prove an increasingly likely probability of that causal association such that I might term it a scientific “law,” but what is termed a scientific “law” is really a correlation coefficient with a high degree of associative character, a high degree of probability, according to epistemologists like Popper and/or Carnap.

Likewise, if I have risen from bead a thousand times and seen the sun rise, that is tending to a probability of one that the sun is at the center of the solar system, but does not guarantee that I will rise to see the sun on the thousand and first day, because there is still not a causal relation, only an associative one. This is readily conceded by even the most formal of scientific epistemologists like Popper and/or Carnap.

Consequently, Dawkin’s notion of scientific “laws” fails because of the underlying failure of scientific epistemology. And yet Dawkins breezes over both the Kuhnian problem of paradigms and the Humeian problem of causation in violently asserting the overarching and complete validity of scientific laws, in spite of the fact that nearly all philosophers and historians of science and all scientists themselves are nearly unanimous in believing that there are no such things as immutable “laws” of science.

The fact is, just as there was no reality in the Matrix, there is nothing valid or solid about scientific laws. Scientific “laws,” including the vaunted “laws” of physics and “laws” of evolution asserted by Dawkins, are subject to constant and considerable subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) revision by scientists, and subject to paradigm change every 25-30 years or so as Kuhn describes. The late Stephen Jay Gould advocated a theory of not-so-incremental not-so-Darwinian evolution, which would have represented a major paradigm shift in the so-called “laws” of evolution, and increasingly, many empirical findings dispute the original theories and paradigms advanced by Darwin, who was, after all, just a good 19th century naturalist, albeit a brilliant one.

In many respects it is Galton, the statististician and cousin of Darwin, who has proven to be the better scientist in certain respects, of our time, since it was he who coined the phrase “regression,” a phrase without which social science itself would hardly exist today. Nor should we forget Mendel, whose observations were the foundations of modern genetics. It is not Darwin only who was the founder of modern molecular biology; there were many founders, and while Darwin might have been necessary, he was not sufficient.

Moreover, all scientific laws are subject to incremental change in light of empirical data, and all scientific laws are not really laws at all in light of the causal issues raised by the Humeian critique.

So are there laws of physics and of evolution which leave “no room for God?” Of course there aren’t. Just to take one example, the Darwinian paradigm of evolution was that evolution was gradualist. Darwin rejected sudden changes, and also rejected Lamarckianism. But both of these paradigms are and have been in the process of being assailed and replaced in the face of modern scientific evidence and new theory making by new groups of scientists. First, sudden catastrophic evolutionary change has gained a great deal of currency, c.f. Stephen Jay Gould, supra. The theory of sudden events such as asteroids plunging to earth and causing mass extinctions, and the notion that there have been five mass extinctions in earth’s evolutionary history, has gained real traction among scientists. And even more recently, changes in somatic dna and living animals have been re-evaluated in light of better understanding of molecular biology, prompting a re-evaluation of the paradigm on Lamarckian evolution.

As for the “laws” of physics, string theory is still controversial, no one has yet attained fusion in any controlled conditions dozens and dozens of years after it was predicted to be able to be done, scientists don’t know if the earth is warming or cooling, and if it is warming, whether humans or climate change cycles are to blame, there is still controversy over what the fundamental particles are, civilian use of nuclear power has run up against a stone wall in the united states (putting most physicists out of work), and nuclear proliferation has become a worldwide problem, perhaps proving that physics is yet to be the messenger of Armageddon and the doom of the planet through worldwide thermonuclear war.

So basically, the claims asserted by Dawkins about the laws of physics and the laws of evolution are wrong, wrong as to scope, wrong as to paradigm, and wrong even as to the claim that there are laws qua laws.


Secondly, do Dawkins assertions about the laws of physics and the laws of nature, e.g. that they “explain everything” and “leave no room for God”, carry any weight?

The obvious answer is, in light of this line of reasoning, a clear no. First, it’s obvious that the laws of physics and the laws of nature, in their current states, don’t explain “everything,” or anything close to “everything.” What they currently do is what all scientific laws do—they explain what’s obvious and well-settled, which is about the 20% of science you find in undergraduate textbooks—and the more advanced stuff is continuously debated among grad students, professors and advanced institute people at science conferences on a constant basis, over the internet, in academic journals, etc. as the scientific process is an ongoing continuous process.

A scientist who is arrogant and believes he already knows all the answers is no scientist at all. Such a man could not be a scientist, because a true scientist never believes the scientific laws are settled, never believes that all the scientific questions are answered, or that all the scientific issues have been explained.

Were that all true, as Prof. Dawkins erroneously suggests, then there would be no need to continue to experiment or for NIH or any other world or international scientific group to continue with biology or physics experiements. If we already know everything, why bother with seeking new knowledge?

The answer, the obvious answer is, we DON’T know everything, and we need to know a great deal more. We actually know very little. What little we do know we know pretty well, maybe with a probability of .80 or so, maybe .90, but as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the Pauli exclusion principle, molecular orbital bonding theory, the Church-Turing thesis and Godel’s theorem famously remind us, there are also things we can’t know within the framework of science and that we have to take on scientific faith.

Just to take an example from freshman chemistry—the notion of an electron cloud, electron shell, electron atomic orbital or electron molecular orbital. A “smear” of electron energy. The notion of electron “tunneling”. We really don’t know where the electron is, we can only guess where it is. Quantum mechanics, wave version and matrix version. Elegant mathematics, but still, electron electron, where is the electron?

For all that we know, we don’t know where the electron is, or where the electrons are, except that we know what region they’re in within a 99% region of probability. Or so approximately. That’s a far cry from a scientific “law” of physics. If Dirac and Heisenberg and Born and all their famous brethren were here, right now, none of them would claim that quantum mechanics or even quantum electrodynamics were scientific “laws” of a certainty sufficient to exclude the existence of God.

To the contrary, these theories were advanced modestly and no grand claims were made for them, as anyone reading the original papers (they’re available in historical reprints and online) would know. The authors were humble and careful in their work. This applies to almost all of the so-called “new physics” of the 20th century, going back to the original great three papers of Einstein of 1905.


So to return to the initial question of this essay, is Prof. Dawkins argument a proof of the non-existence of God?

The answer is clearly no, because Dawkins is committing the logical fallacies of either Denying the Antecedent and/or Denying the Consequent. His arguments consist of an he implied syllogism and an enthymeme as follows;

(1) The scientific laws explain everything in physics & evolution.
(2) Since everything in physics and evolution is explained by sciene, God explains nothing in physics and evolution
(3) Since God explains nothing in physics & evolution, God does not exist.

It should be relatively clear, once we reduce Prof. Dawkins’ argument to atomistic syllogism/enthymeme, that it is clearly flawed, and commits logical fallacy, but let’s examine the logical fallacies further.

Imagine if the argument was stated this way:

(1) Physics & Evolution are remarkable.
(2) Physics & Evolution are unexplainable.
(3) If there is a God, God can explain the unexplainable.
(4) God can explain Physics and Evolution.
(5) Therefore there is a God.

I believe this accurately fills in the blanks of the “straw man” enthymeme that Dawkins is attempting to set up.

Now let’s take some converses and contrapositives. Let’s say Physics and Evolution ARE explainable, as Dawkins claims.

Dawkins argument there is as follows;

(1) Physics & Evolution are remarkable
(2) Physics & Evolution are fully explainable by the Laws of Physics and the Laws of Evolution.
(3) If there is a God, God can explain the unexplainable.
(4) God cannot explain Physics and Evolution.
(5) God cannot explain one or more instances of the unexplainable.
(6) Therefore there is no God.

We should immediately recognize the logical fallacy of denying the antecedent/denying the consequent here. The converse/contrapositive of changing physics and evolution to negations and God explaining same to not explaining same does not negate god’s ability to explain the unexplainable, or God’s UNIVERSAL existence.

There are several flaws in the logic here.

First is the instantiative assertoric error committed by Dawkins. To the extent that he states that “God exists” or “God Does not Exist,” he concedes, at least in some schools of thought, the existence of God qua God, via the assertoric and instantiative schools of philosophic thought. These basically assert if I state “a unicorn is blue” that unicorns must exist, somewhere in some potential universe, because I have conceived of unicorns in my mind and named them, e.g. given them a class appellation and attributes.

While there is controversy as to assertoric and non-assertoric logics, the fact remains that Dawkins was not careful to set forth whether his argument was one or the other, consequently, the old medieval Aristotelian argument that God exists because he named God, conceived of God and gave God attributes in his argument, means that he cannot turn around and then argue that God does not exist, because by stating or implying God’s existence, he concedes the fact of God’s existence by instantiative and assertoric principles.

In making this argument, it is important to distinguish between the statements “God is God,” “God exists” and “God has attributes.” Note the first is ontological, the second ontological-metaphysical, and the third is lexical and goes to class definitions. But in all three cases, Dawkins falls into logical error, because by merely naming God, he implies that God is God, God exists, and that God has attributes. Dawkins falls into the trap of assertoric discourse, because somewhere, in some religion, in some world, in some universe, there is a God, because he has conceived of one and named him, and given him attributes, and attempted to negate him universally, which cannot be done by definition. Moreover, God may even control physics and biology in those other worlds or universes or existences, since Dawkins’ arguments don’t address those worlds, universes or possible existences.

Second, Dawkins’s conclusion of a universal negation of God’s existence, is proceeding illogically and fallaciously, from an antecedent of God’s inability to explain some unexplainable particular events, when all that is claimed for God is God’s particular ability to explain some unexplainable particular events. The fact that God cannot explain a subset of “some unexplainable particular events” such as the laws of physics and the laws of evolution, in this world, in this universe, in Dawkin’s religion, does not result in the negation of the proposition that God can still explain some other unexplainable particular events in any or all religions in any or all worlds, etc. One cannot refute and effect negation of a “some x is y” statement by a “some x is not z” statement.

This would be clearer using first order predicate logic and the universal and particular quantifiers—I’ll get to that in a second—but let’s stick to Aristotelian logic for the moment.

Let’s see why dawkins is wrong:

(1) Physics & Evolution are remarkable
(2) Physics & Evolution are fully explainable by the Laws of Physics and the Laws of Evolution.
(3) If there is a God, God can explain the unexplainable.
(4) God can explain the unexplainable for some things in any and all possible religions in any and all possible worlds in any and all possible universes and in any and all possible realities.
(5) God transcends and is outside the explanation of, the laws of Physics, Evolution and Science.
(6) God cannot explain Physics and Evolution in this world in this universe and in this reality.
(7) God can explain the unexplainable for some things in any and all possible religions in any and all possible worlds in any and all possible universes and in any and all possible realities, except for and other than, Physics and Evolution in this world and in this reality and in Dawkins’ religion.
(8) Dawkins claims there is therefore not a God.
(9) However, Logic says there still is a God, since there are still events etc. that God still can explain other than physics and evolution in this world, etc.
(10) Dawkins argument does not invalidate the universal particular “God can explain the unexplainable” etc.set forth in argument (4) because it does not negate it for all instances of substitution value for “God can explain the unexplainable, etc.” set forth in argument (4) and thus commits the dual fallacies of denying the antecedent/denying the consequent as well as committing a logical fallacy of erroneous invalidation of a universal particular in first order predicate logic.

Notice what’s changed here, and feel free to draw your own Venn Diagram.

Argument 3 states that God can explain some unexplainables for all possible things for all possible religions for all possible worlds in all possible universes and in all possible realities.

Whereas Arguments 6 and 7 are particular existential instantiators—they quantify only as to God’s ability to explain physics and evolution. Negating them only negates some of the class of unexplainables which God can explain. It’s a subset of what God explains, not all of what God explains. Consequently, negation of them is not invalidity of God, God’s existence, God is God, or God’s attributes.

Here it is held that God can still explain some other unexplainable for all possible things, in all possible religions, in all possible worlds, in all possible universes, in all possible realities. Dawkins’ negation argument is fatally flawed, because in order to invalidate a particular universal, you have to show it’s false for ALL substitution instances of the particular universal. Dawkins fails to do this, and consequently his argument is a fatal instance of logical fallacy of denying the antecedent/denying the consequent, one of the oldest and best known logical fallacies.

Third, and note this, carefully, the thrust of this essay, is that Dawkins has actually failed to prove propositions (2), (6) and (7). So really, he’s failed to prove his premises as well, and if the premises fail, the syllogism also fails because if the premises are false, so are the conclusions.

So to summarize;

1) God exists on instantiative, assertoric grounds;
2) God exists because Dawkins fails to prove God’s existential invalidity and commits logical fallacies of denying the antecedent/denying the consequent; and
3) God exists because Dawkins fails to prove the truth of the premises of his argument and therefore the conclusions fail.


Of course, it would be a miracle if atheists like Dawkins were to make a logical argument in favor of their conclusions. People like Dawkins like to get to the conclusion first, and then make strained and illogical arguments full of logical and illogical fallacies in order to get to their ridiculous conclusions. That’s why their arguments seem so silly and so contrived.

In addition to all the foregoing, Dawkins commits the fallacy of the appeal to authority—he claims that because science—physics and biology in this case, and in particular the laws of physics and biology—are so accurate and their scientists so wonderfully supreme—that we should give up going to church and instead worship physicists and biologists.

Of course, this argument, when put in this form, is utterly ridiculous. Let’s atomize it;

1) Currently, you worship God.
2) God has great authority.
3) The Laws of Physics and the Laws of Evolution have Great Authority, as do the Physicists and Biologists.
4) The Physicists and Biologists are always right, and God is Always Wrong, when it comes to Physics and Biology.
5) Physicists and Biologists are Therefore Great Men.
6) Therefore, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, you should Stop Worshipping God, and God’s Laws, and instead Worship Physicists and Biologists, and the Laws of Physics and Biology Instead.

Now when atomized in this fashion, you can see what a silly, foolish, ridiculous appeal to authority Dawkins’ argument really is.

In fact, it’s really no different than Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar or Caesar Augustus Octavian claiming that they were not merely men, but Gods walking the earth, and therefore men should worship them, because they were great, and they were always right about everything they did, because they had conquered the known world.

It’s precisely the same syllogism/enthymeme. Dawkins’ argument for worshipping science over God is the same argument that oriental kings have used for centuries for their divinity. It’s called the “appeal to authority.”

It goes something like this: “I’m in charge, I’m always right, therefore, worship me.” Notably, the early Christians rejected this argument wholesale and never, ever bowed down to either oriental or Roman monarchs, until the Roman Emperor became a Christian himself, and prostrated himself before God and Jesus every Sunday with the conversion of St. Constantine and his victory with the cross—“in this sign I shall conquer” (“nika”).

I seriously doubt that any clear thinking individual, including a scientist, wants to stop going to religious services and start bowing down to another scientist in lieu of God.

Maybe Dawkins wanted to be an oriental king in a former life.


Perhaps a couple of more points are in order.

First, faith in God is not a matter of rational or logical argument. Kantians and neo-Kantians, and many moral philosophers, have been influenced to a large degree by Protestantism, and especially the brand of Pietism which Kant himself espoused, all of which emphasize a close personal relationship between God and Man, unmediated by the Church or the clergy. This has led to the mistaken modern view that morality and even religion must be justified, somehow, by logical, rational or reasonable grounds.

This inference, which is highly Kantian (or neo-Kantian), only makes sense if you aren’t Catholic or Eastern Roman Orthodox; however, one billion people are Catholic and another 500 million are Eastern Orthodox, and all of those Christians believe in God because the Church tells them to, and salvation is through the Church and its sacraments, not through God or any personal relationship to God. God doesn’t talk to people in the Catholic or Orthodox churches, unless you happen to have been a saint or a prophet. And reasoning about God’s existence is entirely and totally unnecessary if you are Catholic or Orthodox, because God of course exists—why else would there be St. Sophia, the Eastern Roman Empire until 1453, or the Pope, or the Patriarch, or Constantinople, or the Crusades, or the Catholic Church, or the Seven Sacraments, or Communion, or Transubstantiation?

Likewise, if you are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, etc., you don’t need to think too much about whether there is a God either—it’s pretty much implicit with the territory. It’s a peculiarity of Protestant thought that we sit around thinking whether there is a God or not. Frankly, I have better things to do in Church on a Sunday morning than to think about whether God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit exist or not. Like remembering where I parked my car, or when the next church festival is.

Especially apt is that every year we have religious holidays, like Yom Kippur, Christmas, Easter, the Jewish New Year, Passover, that everyone respects with dignity and honor.

Those who are atheists shower disrespect and dishonor on those who would worship freely.

The founders of the USA put freedom of worship in the first amendment. They were silent as to freedom not to believe in god, and they never intended for atheism or lack of religion to be protected by the constitution, notwithstanding any court decisions of any kind to the contrary. theories of hla hart and decisions of church and state to the contrary, faith is a big element of socializing our youth to right and wrong, and i join those who call for a return of prayer to schools, and those who want faith-based programs for our troubled youth. crime rates are very high and a little prayer and a little church or services have been shown to be the only thing that can help troubled youth, as Prof. DiIulio has shown many times over.

Point being, belief is a matter of faith, God a big mystery, and really none of it has much to do with science at all. On top of which, the vast majority of people believe in God and go to church, and the vast majority of scientists, including famous scientists like Einstein, Newton, Pascal, to name but a few, believed in God and attended services. Even Galileo in the end was more worried about his mortal soul than his scientific theories, and ended up recanting before the church. It’s a modern conceit to see him as some kind of champion against the church. Galileo was a perfectly good catholic.


Finally, atheism has the most destructive of social movements in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. First advocated by the French proletariat during the French Revolution, it resulted initially in the French Terror and the killing of innocent tens of thousands and endless rivers of blood by means of the guillotine in the 1790s by the Directory, as famously described by Sir Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. The French Aristocracy was either killed or sent into hiding, and tens of thousands of intellectuals were needlessly and thoughtlessly butchered. Churches and clergy were shuttered and church properties seized.

But worse was yet to come under Napoleon. Even though one has to admire Napoleon as a military figure, Napoleon’s policies regarding the churches set in motion a series of consequences which were to have long-lasting and far-reaching effects. First were the hundreds of thousands if not millions who died in the Napoleonic Wars, the first true “World Wars” if you will. Second, Napoleon effectively dis-established the French Catholic Church and clergy; destroyed the Spanish Inquisition and seized the best lands of the Spanish Catholic Church, rendering that church impotent; hurt the Catholic Church badly all over Europe; and incited Nationalism of a secular character all over Europe, particularly in Italy, Germany and the Balkans.

Napoleon destroyed the settled character of the Catholic Church in Spain, France, Italy and many smaller countries, and left those countries in permanent political and social turmoil as a consequent result, turmoil that has persisted to the present day. France has been through five or six governmental and constitutional changes since the Revolution and lost her colonies and three different wars including the two world wars; Spain has been through a civil war and many political instabilities; Italy despite the Risorgimento remains a politically fractured country, albeit an economically sound one; and many smaller catholic countries remain marginal in the European sphere.

The orbit of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Balkan States have been particularly unstable, leading to World War One due to Bosnian nationalism, and fractures between orthodox and catholic partisans in Croatia/Serbia and Ukraine/Russia during World War II which the Nazis exploited, along with fractures between catholics and jews with the Nazis exploited during World War II in Poland and other lands.

Atheism and nationalism were at the root of these difficulties; had the pre-1800 regime stayed in place, unaffected by the atheistic, nationalistic whirlwind of Napoleon, it is doubtful that a Bismarck or a Hitler, a Lenin or a Stalin, could ever have risen up from the ashes. Atheism was the spawning ground of dictators and communism, and of modern world war and of modern genocides.

In some places, nationalism was a good thing, such as the Lower Balkans, where Greece and Serbia and Bulgaria liberated themselves from the Ottoman Turk, but in Germany, secular atheistic nationalism eventually resulted in German military imperialism and the rise of the German military state, and, eventually, Adolf Hitler, who was himself quite the atheist at heart.

Atheism and disestablishment of religion weakened the German and Austrian churches and paved the way for the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the onset of World War I, and the Russian Revolution. The so-called secular states of Turkey and Iran, which for many years engaged in brutal internal repressions of their own peoples as well as ethnic progroms, were also based in part on the atheism and nationalism of the Napoleonic era and Russian Communistic era.

As we now know, the Iranian secular regime was swept under by a religious theocratic muslim regime in 1979, which has influenced many other Middle Eastern regimes in the same direction since then, and the Turkish regime is under heavy internal pressure to do the same, become expressly religious, muslim and theocratic again. But these are false theocracies manned by leaders trained for centuries in secular, atheistic violence and bloodshed, and not true religious leaders at all.

Soviet Communism was based on atheism, and hundreds of millions died under this regime, as documented by Solzhenitzyn in his Gulag Archipelago works. In 1937 & 1938 alone 500,000 priests were killed for the crime of being Russian orthodox priests.

More modernly, Chinse Communist atheism has resulted in the destruction of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhist shrines in the takeover and occupation of a sovereign nation since 1958, and the destruction of a religious nation and its thousand year old religious shrines, and the exodus of its highly respected religious leader, the Dalai Lama. The atheist Communist Chinese show no respect whatsoever for religion. They destroy religious relics in their own state as well, have destroyed the thousands’ year old cult of Confucianism in their own country, and do not tolerate the many catholics, Nestorians and other Christians and protestants attempting to worship God in their midst. Tens if not hundreds of millions have died in China, Tibet and other occupied regions over the issue of religion.

In short, Atheism has been responsible for the deaths of nearly a billion people on this planet since it was first officially sanctioned by the French Revolution in early 1789. It is a hideous doctrine and once in place, one responsible for moral indifference to the point of recklessness to human death and suffering.


One may wonder, why is Atheism responsible for the loss of morality, amorality and immoral conduct on such a vast scale as this? The reasons are fairly simple.

The moral philosopher or neo-Kantian may think it an easy matter to prove why the Holcaust or why a genocide or why the killing of an entire Church and its clergy is morally wrong and indefensible. Perhaps a lawyer may say it is a violation of international law. All of these words are nice words—but they are mere words.

And aren’t there always debates about this? Don’t the French deny killing anyone? And don’t the Turks deny an Armenian Holocaust? And the Germans admit a Holocaust, but never seem to do enough? And the Russians never seem to admit all their wrongs? And the Chinese say they’ve done nothing wrong in Tibet?

Morality and seeing right from wrong, it seems to me, cannot be a matter for moral philosophy, ethics boards or international legal commissions.

What is needed, in the end, are religious views to determine right from wrong. We know in our hearts what is right from wrong because we have a religious sense of things. No one is going to sit and read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and achieve some transcendental state of pure moral reasoning in the internet age; but it’s easy enough to go to mass or services and hear a sermon and let a priest or deacon explain with a story from the bible why this or that thing is wrong.

It would be my contention that without religion, without the Church and the Bible as frames of reference, we would not know, and I mean really know, that the Holocaust, Genocide, Extermination of entire churches and peoples and religions, are wrong and crimes against God and not merely crimes against humanity or laws.

The German people as a people made Nazism and state-sponsored atheism their religion for more than a dozen years, and consequently, amorality, immorality, and finally mass killing and genocide, seemed acceptable to them, first by degrees and eventually on a grand scale.

But this was not unprecedented. The same thing had happened before—in Revolutionary France—in Communist Russia—in Secular Turkey—anywhere that traditional religion was swept aside, a wave of butchery, savagery and killing swept the land, and the people forgot their first and foremost rule, thou shalt not kill.

The atheist has no moral compass. The atheist doesn’t believe in the ten commandments. The atheist kills one or many and feels the same about both. That is the bottom line. Atheism results inevitably in moral chaos and an utter loss of morality, leading to evil on a grand scale. All of the great killing sprees of modern history have been effected by godless states—atheistic states if you will.

Atheism is the worst ism of them all, because atheism is at the heart of communism, Nazism, socialism, fascism, all the other isms.

Religion tells us in Black and White, without shading, that these killings, these acts, these things are wrong.

Only the Atheist is capable of moral relativism in these matters.

Only the Atheist makes sophistical refutation of claims that he is a mass murderer.


Compare these claims of moral relativism and legal defenses of state-sanctioned mass murder in atheistic states to what the Bible says;

Deuteronomy 53

1. And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them.
2. Jehovah our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.
3. Jehovah made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.
4. Jehovah spake with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire,
5. (I stood between Jehovah and you at that time, to show you the word of Jehovah: for ye were afraid because of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying,
6. I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
7. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
8. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
9. thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I, Jehovah, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me;
10. and showing lovingkindness unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
11. Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain: for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
12. Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Jehovah thy God commanded thee.
13. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;
14. but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou.
15. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
16. Honor thy father and thy mother, as Jehovah thy God commanded thee; that thy days may be long, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee.
17. Thou shalt not kill.
18. Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
19. Neither shalt thou steal.
20. Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor.
21. Neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s wife; neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor’s house, his field, or his man-servant, or his maid-servant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is thy neighbor’s.
22. These words Jehovah spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them unto me.
23. And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders;
24. and ye said, Behold, Jehovah our God hath showed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth speak with man, and he liveth.
25. Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of Jehovah our God any more, then we shall die.
26. For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?
27. Go thou near, and hear all that Jehovah our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that Jehovah our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it.
28. And Jehovah heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and Jehovah said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken.
29. Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
30. Go say to them, Return ye to your tents.
31. But as for thee, stand thou here by me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.
32. Ye shall observe to do therefore as Jehovah your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
33. Ye shall walk in all the way which Jehovah your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.

Note that the existence of God is proven beyond all doubt by the express words of Deuteronomy. This passage was dramatized several times in movies, most notably with Charlton Heston playing Moses in the 1950s Cecil B DeMille version of the Ten Commandments.

I’m inclined on faith to believe in it, and certainly more likely to believe in Deuteronomy and the Ten Commandments, and the word of the Lord God and Moses, than in anything Richard Dawkins writes down or brings down from his burning bush or his mountaintop.

Compare this to what Isaiah says in the Bible:

ISAIAH 2:4. And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Compare this to Matthew 5:21-22:

Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22. but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment;

Compare this to what St. Paul says in the Bible:

Romans 6

1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2. God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?
3. Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4. We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
5. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection;
6. knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin;
7. for he that hath died is justified from sin.
8. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him;
9. knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over him.
10. For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.
12. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof:
13. neither present your members unto sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.
15. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? God forbid.
16. Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteouness?
17. But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered;
18. and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.
19. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.
20. For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness.
21. What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22. But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.
23. For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


–art kyriazis philly
home of the world champion Philadelphia Phillies
Monday 9/28/09

I wanted to wish a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover to all.

There’s an old joke, that goes something like this. A liberal is arguing with a conservative about the death penalty. Finally, exasperated, the conservative says to the liberal, “of course I’m in favor of the death penalty–without the death penalty, there’d be no Easter and no Easter Bunny!”

While this is an awful joke, it does remain true that in the two major capital punishment trials that we know about in history, Socrates and Jesus, as best we know, both were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. I won’t even get to the OJ trial, although as we all know, the glove didn’t fit and they had to acquit.

Obviously Socrates and Jesus could have used Johnny Cochran as their lawyer.

Socrates on dying, was reputed to have said something like, I die, you live, god knows who is going to the better place. Those of us who are religious of course believe that death brings us closer to a better place indeed, but Socrates provides a flash of insight that this short life is not the only one, that there is a spiritual and inner life that transcends death. Religion ministers to the soul, or at least to our conception of the soul, and consequently it is a vital part of our lives.

The Passover story about Moses leading the chosen people out of bondage and out of Egypt is a great story, as well as being an integral part of the old testament. “Exodus” is actually ancient greek for “Exothos” or “Exit” or “Leaving”. It’s the title of the book from the Ancient Greek Septuagint. The entire point of Exodus is the story of the Chosen People Leaving, “Exothos”, from Egypt and their bondage. God frees them from slavery and bondage through Moses and a series of miracles, each one greater than the last, which are celebrated each and every Passover.

It is such an important story because it gives hope to every oppressed peoples that God will redeem every one in bondage, free them and lead them to their own Promised Land. When Martin Luther King spoke of reaching the Promised Land, it was the Passover Story he was referring to. He didn’t need to explain that to his listeners, many of whom were careful Bible readers. The African-Americans of this country understood about bondage, redemption, and being led out of bondage and to the Promised Land.

On this Passover, we should think about these matters in considering President Obama, a man who has the potential to unite many different elements of society, and perhaps finally lead a people to the Promised Land. All oppressed peoples the world over hearken to the story of Exodus.

I’ve always had a strong faith in God and I don’t doubt God’s existence. Recently there’s been a spate of books and articles by respected scholars advocating atheism and the non-existence of God. I find this to be an awful waste of scholarly time, and especially of taxpayer and endowment money. Isn’t there something important these guys should be doing on our nickel?

Richard Dawkins, who once wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene,” is one of these. He used to teach at Harvard, now teaches in England, and appears to enjoy bashing God and religion in his books. Dawkins used to be a capable biologist. In his old age, he’s turned into a menacing crank who hates old ladies who go to church and pray to the saints and God for the memories of their dead husbands.

How mean can you possible get?

You might call him “The Selfish Dean” because he really seems only to care about himself. Is this what tenure breeds? Idiotic books about atheism? Pushed on us by editors and publishing houses?

Belief in God is a personal matter, but it also means a commitment to others, and to doing things for others, without considering the personal benefit to yourself. Sitting around the table at Easter, at Seder, at any family gathering, we give thanks to our creator and Lord for family, for health, for happiness. I can’t imagine a life without God or without prayer, a life without church or without friends from church or the church community.

I’ve looked at Dawkins’ books on atheism. They are poorly written, poorly argued, and basically are rants.

It’s not a careful argument.

A careful argument, for example, would be Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, or Martin Luther’s 95 Theses against the Catholic Church, or John Calvin’s immense work of theology criticizing the Roman Catholic Church and setting forth the tenets of Calvinism.

Those are careful and thoughtful books, which make their cases carefully, point by point.

Dawkins’ books by contrast are awful and poorly researched and poorly written. It’s embarassing to see a professor publish such awful work. Especially when he was able while younger to write such a good book on biology as “The Selfish Gene.” It’s readily apparent Dawkins’ writing and intellectual skills have sharply declined with age.

But assuming that Dawkins (and any of these other atheists) has/have any rational or reasonable points to make, I’d like to refute them with Pascal’s Wager, for one. I think Dawkins is already refuted by the Transcendental a priori arguments of Kant for God’s existence, but Blaise Pascal made a classic probability argument which is, in fact, irrefutable on mathematical and utility grounds, for God’s existence.

Pascal said you should believe in God, because if you did, even if there was only a 1 in a million chance of his existence, the benefits would be eternal salvation, whereas if you denied Him, the possible harm would be eternal damnation.

Consequently, it’s a lot like the nuclear calculus–the benefits are so great, that even if there’s only a slight chance of God existing, it’s worth going all in on God. If you win, you get eternal salvation forever. (the nukes argument goes like, if there’s a one in a million chance of starting World War III, the harm is so great, you have to avoid it, because it’s nuclear winter and the death of mankind, so the policy can’t be adopted).

If you lose the wager, you burn in hell forever. I kind of envision Dawkins burning in a really hot part of hell, by the way. The part where they keep Bernie Madoff, child molesters, child molesting catholic priests and every single convicted defendant whose story was the real basis for the plot line of a LAW AND ORDER:SVU episode. Those stories are really pretty awful. This is a digression, but it’s hard to believe that’s Jayne Mansfield’s daughter in that show, by the way. Mariska Hargitay, emmy winning actress, now approximately in her mid-40s, and still very beautiful, is the daughter of Mickey Hargitay (a former Mr. Universe) and Jayne Mansfield, the 1950s starlet/sex bomb. I think you’d have to say that Mariska Hargitay has really had a solid acting career.

As for all of those who doubt God’s existence or lack faith in God, I give you an extended discusion of Pascal’s Wager from the Stanford Encylopaedia of Philosophy.

Pascal’s Wager
By Alan Hajek, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single paragraph of his Pensées, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a ‘wager’ — it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as “Pascal’s Wager”. We find in it the extraordinary confluence of several strands in intellectual thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity.

We will begin with some brief stage-setting: some historical background, some of the basics of decision theory, and some of the exegetical problems that the Pensées pose. Then we will follow the text to extract three main arguments. The bulk of the literature addresses the third of these arguments, as will the bulk of our discussion here. Some of the more technical and scholarly aspects of our discussion will be relegated to lengthy footnotes, to which there are links for the interested reader. All quotations are from §233 of Pensées (1910, Trotter translation), the ‘thought’ whose heading is “Infinite—nothing”.
• 1. Background
• 2. The Argument from Superdominance
• 3. The Argument from Expectation
• 4. The Argument from Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
• 5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
• Bibliography
• Other Internet Resources
• Related Entries

1. Background
It is important to contrast Pascal’s argument with various putative ‘proofs’ of the existence of God that had come before it. Anselm’s ontological argument, Aquinas’ ‘five ways’, Descartes’ ontological and cosmological arguments, and so on, purport to give a priori demonstrations that God exists. Pascal is apparently unimpressed by such attempted justifications of theism: “Endeavour … to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God…” Indeed, he concedes that “we do not know if He is …”. Pascal’s project, then, is radically different: he seeks to provide prudential reasons for believing in God. To put it crudely, we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet. Ryan 1994 finds precursors to this line of reasoning in the writings of Plato, Arnobius, Lactantius, and others; we might add Ghazali to his list — see Palacios 1920. But what is distinctive is Pascal’s explicitly decision theoretic formulation of the reasoning. In fact, Hacking 1975 describes the Wager as “the first well-understood contribution to decision theory” (viii). Thus, we should pause briefly to review some of the basics of that theory.

In any decision problem, the way the world is, and what an agent does, together determine an outcome for the agent. We may assign utilities to such outcomes, numbers that represent the degree to which the agent values them. It is typical to present these numbers in a decision matrix, with the columns corresponding to the various relevant states of the world, and the rows corresponding to the various possible actions that the agent can perform.

In decisions under uncertainty, nothing more is given — in particular, the agent does not assign subjective probabilities to the states of the world. Still, sometimes rationality dictates a unique decision nonetheless. Consider, for example, a case that will be particularly relevant here. Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1’s outcome is strictly better than A2’s. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality surely requires you to perform A1.

In decisions under risk, the agent assigns subjective probabilities to the various states of the world. Assume that the states of the world are independent of what the agent does. A figure of merit called the expected utility, or the expectation of a given action can be calculated by a simple formula: for each state, multiply the utility that the action produces in that state by the state’s probability; then, add these numbers. According to decision theory, rationality requires you to perform the action of maximum expected utility (if there is one).

Example. Suppose that the utility of money is linear in number of dollars: you value money at exactly its face value. Suppose that you have the option of paying a dollar to play a game in which there is an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning three dollars. The expectation of the game itself is

0*(1/2) + 3*(1/2) = 1.5,

so the expectation of paying a dollar for certain, then playing, is

-1 + 1.5 = 0.5.

This exceeds the expectation of not playing (namely 0), so you should play. On the other hand, if the game gave an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning two dollars, then its expectation would be:

0*(1/2) + 2*(1/2) = 1.

Then consistent with decision theory, you could either pay the dollar to play, or refuse to

play, for either way your overall expectation would be 0.

Considerations such as these will play a crucial role in Pascal’s arguments. It should be admitted that there are certain exegetical problems in presenting these arguments. Pascal never finished the Pensées, but rather left them in the form of notes of various sizes pinned together. Hacking 1972 describes the “Infinite—nothing” as consisting of “two pieces of paper covered on both sides by handwriting going in all directions, full of erasures, corrections, insertions, and afterthoughts” (24).[1] This may explain why certain passages are notoriously difficult to interpret, as we will see. Furthermore, our formulation of the arguments in the parlance of modern Bayesian decision theory might appear somewhat anachronistic. For example, Pascal did not distinguish between what we would now call objective and subjective probability, although it is clear that it is the latter that is relevant to his arguments. To some extent, “Pascal’s Wager” now has a life of its own, and our presentation of it here is perfectly standard. Still, we will closely follow Pascal’s text, supporting our reading of his arguments as much as possible.

There is the further problem of dividing the Infinite-nothing into separate arguments. We will locate three arguments that each conclude that rationality requires you to wager for God, although they interleave in the text.[2] Finally, there is some disagreement over just what “wagering for God” involves — is it believing in God, or merely trying to? We will conclude with a discussion of what Pascal meant by this.

2. The Argument from Superdominance
Pascal maintains that we are incapable of knowing whether God exists or not, yet we must “wager” one way or the other. Reason cannot settle which way we should incline, but a consideration of the relevant outcomes supposedly can. Here is the first key passage:

“God is, or He is not.”

But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, you knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

There are exegetical problems already here, partly because Pascal appears to contradict himself. He speaks of “the true” as something that you can “lose”, and “error” as something “to shun”. Yet he goes on to claim that if you lose the wager that God is, then “you lose nothing”. Surely in that case you “lose the true”, which is just to say that you have made an error. Pascal believes, of course, that the existence of God is “the true” — but that is not something that he can appeal to in this argument. Moreover, it is not because “you must of necessity choose” that “your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other”. Rather, by Pascal’s own account, it is because “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (If it could, then it might well be shocked — namely, if you chose in a way contrary to it.)

Following McClennen 1994, Pascal’s argument seems to be best captured as presenting the following decision matrix:
God exists God does not exist
Wager for God Gain all Status quo
Wager against God Misery Status quo

Wagering for God superdominates wagering against God: the worst outcome associated with wagering for God (status quo) is at least as good as the best outcome associated with wagering against God (status quo); and if God exists, the result of wagering for God is strictly better that the result of wagering against God.

(The fact that the result is much better does not matter yet.) Pascal draws the conclusion at this point that rationality requires you to wager for God.

Without any assumption about your probability assignment to God’s existence, the argument is invalid. Rationality does not require you to wager for God if you assign probability 0 to God existing. And Pascal does not explicitly rule this possibility out until a later passage, when he assumes that you assign positive probability to God’s existence; yet this argument is presented as if it is self-contained. His claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here” may suggest that Pascal regards this as a decision under uncertainty, which is to assume that you do not assign probability at all to God’s existence. If that is a further premise, then the argument is valid; but that premise contradicts his subsequent assumption that you assign positive probability. See McClennen for a reading of this argument as a decision under uncertainty.

Pascal appears to be aware of a further objection to this argument, for he immediately imagines an opponent replying:

“That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.”

The thought seems to be that if I wager for God, and God does not exist, then I really do lose something. In fact, Pascal himself speaks of staking something when one wagers for God, which presumably one loses if God does not exist. (We have already mentioned ‘the true’ as one such thing; Pascal also seems to regard one’s worldly life as another.) In other words, the matrix is mistaken in presenting the two outcomes under ‘God does not exist’ as if they were the same, and we do not have a case of superdominance after all.
Pascal addresses this at once in his second argument, which we will discuss only briefly, as it can be thought of as just a prelude to the main argument.

3. The Argument From Expectation
He continues:

Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness.

His hypothetically speaking of “two lives” and “three lives” may strike one as odd. It is helpful to bear in mind Pascal’s interest in gambling (which after all provided the initial motivation for his study of probability) and to take the gambling model quite seriously here. Recall our calculation of the expectations of the two dollar and three dollar gambles. Pascal apparently assumes now that utility is linear in number of lives, that wagering for God costs “one life”, and then reasons analogously to the way we did! This is, as it were, a warm-up. Since wagering for God is rationally required even in the hypothetical case in which one of the prizes is three lives, then all the more it is rationally required in the actual case, in which one of the prizes is eternal life (salvation).

So Pascal has now made two striking assumptions:

(1) The probability of God’s existence is 1/2.

(2) Wagering for God brings infinite reward if God exists.

Morris 1994 is sympathetic to (1), while Hacking 1972 finds it “a monstrous premiss”. It apparently derives from the classical interpretation of probability, according to which all possibilities are given equal weight. Of course, unless more is said, the interpretation yields implausible, and even contradictory results. (You have a one-in-a-million chance of winning the lottery; but either you win the lottery or you don’t, so each of these possibilities has probability 1/2?!) Pascal’s best argument for (1) is presumably that “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (In the lottery ticket case, reason can decide something.) But it is not clear that complete ignorance should be modeled as sharp indifference. In any case, it is clear that there are people in Pascal’s audience who do not assign probability 1/2 to God’s existence. This argument, then, does not speak to them.
However, Pascal realizes that the value of 1/2 actually plays no real role in the argument, thanks to (2). This brings us to the third, and by far the most important, of his arguments.

4. The Argument From Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
We continue the quotation.

But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But 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. It is all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all…

Again this passage is difficult to understand completely. Pascal’s talk of winning two, or three, lives is at best misleading. By his own decision theoretic lights, you would not act stupidly “by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you”—in fact, you should not stake more than an infinitesimal amount in that case (an amount that is bigger than 0, but smaller than every positive real number). The point, rather, is that the prospective prize is “an infinity of an infinitely happy life”.

In short, if God exists, then wagering for God results in infinite utility.

What about the utilities for the other possible outcomes? There is some dispute over the utility of “misery”. Hacking interprets this as “damnation”, and Pascal does later speak of “hell” as the outcome in this case. Martin 1983 among others assigns this a value of negative infinity. Sobel 1996, on the other hand, is one author who takes this value to be finite. There is some textual support for this reading: “The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice to the outcast is less vast … than mercy towards the elect”.

As for the utilities of the outcomes associated with God’s non-existence, Pascal tells us that “what you stake is finite”. This suggests that whatever these values are, they are finite.
Pascal’s guiding insight is that the argument from expectation goes through equally well whatever your probability for God’s existence is, provided that it is non-zero and finite (non-infinitesimal) — “a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss”.[3]

With Pascal’s assumptions about utilities and probabilities in place, he is now in a position to calculate the relevant expectations. He explains how the calculations should proceed:
… the uncertainty of the gain is proportioned to the certainty of the stake according to the proportion of the chances of gain and loss… [4]

Let us now gather together all of these points into a single argument. We can think of Pascal’s Wager as having three premises: the first concerns the decision matrix of rewards, the second concerns the probability that you should give to God’s existence, and the third is a maxim about rational decision-making. Specifically:
1. Either God exists or God does not exist, and you can either wager for God or wager against God. The utilities of the relevant possible outcomes are as follows, where f1, f2, and f3 are numbers whose values are not specified beyond the requirement that they be finite:

God exists God does not exist
Wager for God ∞ f1
Wager against God f2 f3

2. Rationality requires the probability that you assign to God existing to be positive, and not infinitesimal.

3. Rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one).

4. Conclusion 1. Rationality requires you to wager for God.

5. Conclusion 2. You should wager for God.

We have a decision under risk, with probabilities assigned to the relevant ways the world could be, and utilities assigned to the relevant outcomes. The conclusion seems straightforwardly to follow from the usual calculations of expected utility (where p is your positive, non-infinitesimal probability for God’s existence):

E(wager for God) = ∞*p + f1*(1 − p) = ∞

That is, your expected utility of belief in God is infinite — as Pascal puts it, “our proposition is of infinite force”. On the other hand, your expected utility of wagering against God is

E(wager against God) = f2*p + f3*(1 − p)

This is finite.[5] By premise 3, rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility.

Therefore, rationality requires you to wager for God.

We now survey some of the main objections to the argument.

5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
Premise 1: The Decision Matrix
Here the objections are manifold. Most of them can be stated quickly, but we will give special attention to what has generally been regarded as the most important of them, ‘the many Gods objection’ (see also the link to footnote 7).

1. Different matrices for different people.
The argument assumes that the same decision matrix applies to everybody. However, perhaps the relevant rewards are different for different people. Perhaps, for example, there is a predestined infinite reward for the Chosen, whatever they do, and finite utility for the rest, as Mackie 1982 suggests. Or maybe the prospect of salvation appeals more to some people than to others, as Swinburne 1969 has noted.
Even granting that a single 2 x 2 matrix applies to everybody, one might dispute the values that enter into it. This brings us to the next two objections.

2. The utility of salvation could not be infinite.
One might argue that the very notion of infinite utility is suspect — see for example Jeffrey 1983 and McClennen 1994.[6] Hence, the objection continues, whatever the utility of salvation might be, it must be finite. Strict finitists, who are chary of the notion of infinity in general, will agree — see Dummett 1978 and Wright 1987. Or perhaps the notion of infinite utility makes sense, but an infinite reward could only be finitely appreciated by a human being.

3. There should be more than one infinity in the matrix.
There are also critics of the Wager who, far from objecting to infinite utilities, want to see more of them in the matrix. For example, it might be thought that a forgiving God would bestow infinite utility upon wagerers-for and wagerers-against alike — Rescher 1985 is one author who entertains this possibility. Or it might be thought that, on the contrary, wagering against an existent God results in negative infinite utility. (As we have noted, some authors read Pascal himself as saying as much.) Either way, f2 is not really finite at all, but ∞ or -∞ as the case may be. And perhaps f1 and f3 could be ∞ or -∞. Suppose, for instance, that God does not exist, but that we are reincarnated ad infinitum, and that the total utility we receive is an infinite sum that does not converge.

4. The matrix should have more rows.
Perhaps there is more than one way to wager for God, and the rewards that God bestows vary accordingly. For instance, God might not reward infinitely those who strive to believe in Him only for the very mercenary reasons that Pascal gives, as James 1956 has observed. One could also imagine distinguishing belief based on faith from belief based on evidential reasons, and posit different rewards in each case.

6. The matrix should have more columns: the many Gods objection.
If Pascal is really right that reason can decide nothing here, then it would seem that various other theistic hypotheses are also live options. Pascal presumably had in mind the Catholic conception of God — let us suppose that this is the God who either ‘exists’ or ‘does not exist’. By excluded middle, this is a partition. The objection, then, is that the partition is not sufficiently fine-grained, and the ‘(Catholic) God does not exist’ column really subdivides into various other theistic hypotheses. The objection could equally run that Pascal’s argument ‘proves too much’: by parallel reasoning we can ‘show’ that rationality requires believing in various incompatible theistic hypotheses. As Diderot 1875-77 puts the point: “An Imam could reason just as well this way”.[7]

Since then, the point has been represented and refined in various ways. Mackie 1982 writes, “the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome, but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or the Mormons or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshippers of Kali or of Odin” (203). Cargile 1966 shows just how easy it is to multiply theistic hypotheses: for each real number x, consider the God who prefers contemplating x more than any other activity. It seems, then, that such ‘alternative gods’ are a dime a dozen — or aleph one, for that matter.

Premise 2: The Probability Assigned to God’s Existence
There are four sorts of problem for this premise. The first two are straightforward; the second two are more technical, and can be found by following the link to footnote 8.
1. Undefined probability for God’s existence. Premise 1 presupposes that you should have a probability for God’s existence in the first place. However, perhaps you could rationally fail to assign it a probability — your probability that God exists could remain undefined. We cannot enter here into the thorny issues concerning the attribution of probabilities to agents. But there is some support for this response even in Pascal’s own text, again at the pivotal claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up…” The thought could be that any probability assignment is inconsistent with a state of “epistemic nullity” (in Morris’ 1986 phrase): to assign a probability at all — even 1/2 — to God’s existence is to feign having evidence that one in fact totally lacks. For unlike a coin that we know to be fair, this metaphorical ‘coin’ is ‘infinitely far’ from us, hence apparently completely unknown to us. Perhaps, then, rationality actually requires us to refrain from assigning a probability to God’s existence (in which case at least the Argument from Superdominance would be valid). Or perhaps rationality does not require it, but at least permits it. Either way, the Wager would not even get off the ground.

2. Zero probability for God’s existence. Strict atheists may insist on the rationality of a probability assignment of 0, as Oppy 1990 among others points out. For example, they may contend that reason alone can settle that God does not exist, perhaps by arguing that the very notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is contradictory. Or a Bayesian might hold that rationality places no constraint on probabilistic judgments beyond coherence (or conformity to the probability calculus). Then as long as the strict atheist assigns probability 1 to God’s non-existence alongside his or her assignment of 0 to God’s existence, no norm of rationality has been violated.
Furthermore, an assignment of p = 0 would clearly block the route to Pascal’s conclusion. For then the expectation calculations become:

E(wager for God) = ∞*0 + f1*(1 − 0) = f1

E(wager against God) = f2*0 + f3*(1 − 0) = f3

And nothing in the argument implies that f1 > f3. (Indeed, this inequality is questionable, as even Pascal seems to allow.) In short, Pascal’s wager has no pull on strict atheists.[8]

Premise 3: Rationality Requires Maximizing Expected Etility
Finally, one could question Pascal’s decision theoretic assumption that rationality requires one to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one). Now perhaps this is an analytic truth, in which case we could grant it to Pascal without further discussion — perhaps it is constitutive of rationality to maximize expectation, as some might say. But this premise has met serious objections. The Allais 1953 and Ellsberg 1961 paradoxes, for example, are said to show that maximizing expectation can lead one to perform intuitively sub-optimal actions. So too the St. Petersburg paradox, in which it is supposedly absurd that one should be prepared to pay any finite amount to play a game with infinite expectation. (That paradox is particularly apposite here.)[9]

Finally, one might distinguish between practical rationality and theoretical rationality. One could then concede that practical rationality requires you to maximize expected utility, while insisting that theoretical rationality might require something else of you — say, proportioning belief to the amount of evidence available. This objection is especially relevant, since Pascal admits that perhaps you “must renounce reason” in order to follow his advice. But when these two sides of rationality pull in opposite directions, as they apparently can here, it is not obvious that practical rationality should take precedence. (For a discussion of pragmatic, as opposed to theoretical, reasons for belief, see Foley 1994.)

Is the Argument Valid?

A number of authors who have been otherwise critical of the Wager have explicitly conceded that the Wager is valid — e.g. Mackie 1982, Rescher 1985, Mougin and Sober 1994, and most emphatically, Hacking 1972. That is, these authors agree with Pascal that wagering for God really is rationally mandated by Pascal’s decision matrix in tandem with positive probability for God’s existence, and the decision theoretic account of rational action.

However, Duff 1986 and Hájek 2001 argue that the argument is in fact invalid. Their point is that there are strategies besides wagering for God that also have infinite expectation — namely, mixed strategies, whereby you do not wager for or against God outright, but rather choose which of these actions to perform on the basis of the outcome of some chance device. Consider the mixed strategy: “Toss a fair coin: heads, you wager for God; tails, you wager against God”. By Pascal’s lights, with probability 1/2 your expectation will be infinite, and with probability 1/2 it will be finite. The expectation of the entire strategy is:

1/2*∞ + 1/2[f2*p + f3*(1 − p)] = ∞

That is, the ‘coin toss’ strategy has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. But the probability 1/2 was incidental to the result. Any mixed strategy that gives positive and finite probability to wagering for God will likewise have infinite expectation: “wager for God iff a fair die lands 6”, “wager for God iff your lottery ticket wins”, “wager for God iff a meteor quantum tunnels its way through the side of your house”, and so on.

The problem is still worse than this, though, for there is a sense in which anything that you do might be regarded as a mixed strategy between wagering for God, and wagering against God, with suitable probability weights given to each. Suppose that you choose to ignore the Wager, and to go and have a hamburger instead. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your winding up wagering for God nonetheless; and this probability multiplied by infinity again gives infinity. So ignoring the Wager and having a hamburger has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. Even worse, suppose that you focus all your energy into avoiding belief in God. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your efforts failing, with the result that you wager for God nonetheless. In that case again, your expectation is infinite again. So even if rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility when there is one, here there isn’t one. Rather, there is a many-way tie for first place, as it were.[10]

Moral Objections to Wagering for God

Let us grant Pascal’s conclusion for the sake of the argument: rationality requires you to wager for God. It still does not obviously follow that you should wager for God. All that we have granted is that one norm — the norm of rationality — prescribes wagering for God. For all that has been said, some other norm might prescribe wagering against God. And unless we can show that the rationality norm trumps the others, we have not settled what we should actually do.

There are several arguments to the effect that morality requires you to wager against God. Pascal himself appears to be aware of one such argument. He admits that if you do not believe in God, his recommended course of action will “deaden your acuteness.” One way of putting the argument is that wagering for God may require you to corrupt yourself, thus violating a Kantian duty to yourself. Clifford 1986 argues that an individual’s believing something on insufficient evidence harms society by promoting credulity. Penelhum 1971 contends that the putative divine plan is itself immoral, condemning as it does honest non-believers to loss of eternal happiness, when such unbelief is in no way culpable; and that to adopt the relevant belief is to be complicit to this immoral plan. See Quinn 1994 for replies to these arguments. For example, against Penelhum he argues that as long as God treats non-believers justly, there is nothing immoral about him bestowing special favor on believers, more perhaps than they deserve. (Note, however, that Pascal leaves open in the Wager whether the payoff for non-believers is just, even though as far as his argument goes, it may be extremely poor.)

Finally, Voltaire protests that there is something unseemly about the whole Wager. He suggests that Pascal’s calculations, and his appeal to self-interest, are unworthy of the gravity of the subject of theistic belief. This does not so much support wagering against God, as dismissing all talk of ‘wagerings’ altogether.

What Does It Mean to “Wager for God”?

Let us now grant Pascal that, all things considered (rationality and morality included), you should wager for God. What exactly does this involve?

A number of authors read Pascal as arguing that you should believe in God — see e.g. Quinn 1994, and Jordan 1994a. But perhaps one cannot simply believe in God at will; and rationality cannot require the impossible. Pascal is well aware of this objection: “[I] am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?”, says his imaginary interlocutor. However, he contends that one can take steps to cultivate such belief:

You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc…

But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

We find two main pieces of advice to the non-believer here: act like a believer, and suppress those passions that are obstacles to becoming a believer. And these are actions that one can perform at will.
Believing in God is presumably one way to wager for God. This passage suggests that even the non-believer can wager for God, by striving to become a believer. Critics may question the psychology of belief formation that Pascal presupposes, pointing out that one could strive to believe (perhaps by following exactly Pascal’s prescription), yet fail. To this, a follower of Pascal might reply that the act of genuine striving already displays a pureness of heart that God would fully reward; or even that genuine striving in this case is itself a form of believing.

Pascal’s Wager vies with Anselm’s Ontological Argument for being the most famous argument in the philosophy of religion. As we have seen, it is also a great deal more besides.


• Allais, Maurice. 1953. “Le Comportment de l’Homme Rationnel Devant la Risque: Critique des Postulats et Axiomes de l’École Américaine”, Econometrica 21: 503-546.
• Broome, John. 1995. “The Two-Envelope Paradox”, Analysis 55: 1, 6-11.
• Brown, Geoffrey. 1984. “A Defence of Pascal’s Wager”, Religious Studies 20: 465-79.
• Cain, James. 1995. “Infinite Utility”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 3, 401-404.
• Cargile, James. 1966. “Pascal’s Wager”, Philosophy, 35: 250-7.
• Castell, Paul and Diderik Batens. 1994. “The Two-Envelope Paradox: the Infinite Case”, Analysis 54: 46-49.
• Chalmers, David. 1997. “The Two-Envelope Paradox: A Complete Analysis?”, manuscript, (and
• Clifford, William K. 1986. “The Ethics of Belief”, The Ethics of Belief Debate, ed. Gerald D. McCarthy, Scholars Press.
• Conway, John. 1976. On Numbers and Games, Academic Press.
• Cutland, Nigel, ed. 1988. Nonstandard Analysis and its Applications, London Mathematical Society, Student Texts 10.
• Diderot, Denis. 1875-1877. Pensées Philosophiques, LIX, Oeuvres, ed. J. Assézat, Vol. I.
• Duff, Antony. 1986. “Pascal’s Wager and Infinite Utilities”, Analysis 46: 107-9. n
• Dummett, Michael. 1978. “Wang’s Paradox”, in Truth and Other Enigmas, Harvard University Press.
• Ellsberg, D.. 1961. “Risk, Ambiguity and the Savage Axioms”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 25: 643-669.
• Feller, William. 1971. An Introduction to Probability Theory and its Applications, Vol. II, 2nd edition, Wiley.
• Flew, Anthony. 1960. “Is Pascal’s Wager the Only Safe Bet?”, The Rationalist Annual, 76: 21-25.
• Foley, Richard. 1994. “Pragmatic Reasons for Belief”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Hacking, Ian. 1972. “The Logic of Pascal’s Wager”, American Philosophical Quarterly 9/2, 186-92. Reprinted in Jordan 1994b.
• Hacking, Ian. 1975. The Emergence of Probability, Cambridge University Press.
• Hájek, Alan. 1997a. “Review of Gambling on God” (Jordan 1994b), Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 75, No. 1, March 1997, 119-122.
• Hájek, Alan. 1997b. “The Illogic of Pascal’s Wager”, Proceedings of the 10th Logica International Symposium, Liblice, ed. T. Childers et al, 239-249.
• Hájek, Alan. 2000. “Objecting Vaguely to Pascal’s Wager”, Philosophical Studies, vol. 82.
• Hájek, Alan. 2001. “Waging War on Pascal’s Wager: Infinite Decision Theory and Belief in God”, manuscript.
• Jackson, Frank, Peter Menzies and Graham Oppy. 1994. “The Two Envelope ‘Paradox’”, Analysis 54: 46-49.
• James, William. 1956. “The Will to Believe”, in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, Dover Publications.
• Jeffrey, Richard C.. 1983. The Logic of Decision, 2nd edition, University of Chicago Press.
• Jordan, Jeff. 1994a. “The Many Gods Objection”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Jordan, Jeff, ed.. 1994b. Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s Wager, Rowman & Littlefield.
• Lewis, David. 1981. “Causal Decision Theory”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 59, 5-30; reprinted in Philosophical Papers, Volume II, Oxford University Press, 1986.
• Lindstrom, Tom. 1988. “Invitation to Non-Standard Analysis”, in Cutland 1988.
• Mackie, J. L.. 1982. The Miracle of Theism, Oxford.
• Martin, Michael. 1983. “Pascal’s Wager as an Argument for Not Believing in God”, Religious Studies 19: 57-64.
• Martin, Michael. 1990. Atheism: a Philosophical Justification, Temple University Press.
• McClennen, Edward. 1994. “Finite Decision Theory”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Morris, T. V. 1986. “Pascalian Wagering”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16, 437-54.
• Morris, Thomas V. 1994. “Wagering and the Evidence”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Mougin, Gregory, and Elliot Sober. 1994. “Betting Against Pascal’s Wager”, Nous XXVIII: 382-395.
• Nalebuff, B. 1989. “Puzzles: The Other Person’s Envelope is Always Greener”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 3: 171-91.
• Nelson, Edward. 1987. Radically Elementary Probability Theory, Annals of Mathematics Studies, Princeton University Press.
• Nelson, Mark T.. 1991. “Utilitarian Eschatology”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 339-347.
• Ng, Yew-Kwang. 1995. “Infinite Utility and Van Liedekerke’s Impossibility: A Solution”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 73: 408-411.
• Oppy, Graham. 1990. “On Rescher on Pascal’s Wager”, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 30: 159-68.
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• Pascal, Blaise. 1910. Pascal’s Pensées, translated by W. F. Trotter.
• Penelhum, Terence. 1971. Religion and Rationality, Random House.
• Rescher, Nicholas. 1985. Pascal’s Wager, Notre Dame.
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• Ryan, John. 1945. “The Wager in Pascal and Others”, New Scholasticism 19/3, 233-50. Reprinted in Jordan 1994 b.
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• Schlesinger, George. 1994. “A Central Theistic Argument”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Skalia, H. J.. 1975. Non-Archimedean Utility Theory, D. Reidel.
• Sobel, Howard. 1994. “Two Envelopes”, Theory and Decision, 69-96.
• Sobel, Howard. 1996. “Pascalian Wagers”, Synthese 108: 11-61.
• Sorensen, Roy. 1994. “Infinite Decision Theory”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Swinburne, R. G.. 1969. “The Christian Wager”, Religious Studies 4: 217-28.
• Vallentyne, Peter. 1993. “Utilitarianism and Infinite Utility”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71: 212-217.
• Vallentyne, Peter. 1995. “Infinite Utility: Anonymity and Person-Centredness”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73: 413-420.
• Vallentyne, Peter and Shelly Kagan. 1997. “Infinite Value and Finitely Additive Value Theory”, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XCIV, 1: 5-27
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• Wright, Crispin. 1987. “Strict Finitism”, in Realism, Meaning and Truth, Blackwell.

Copyright © 1998, 2001
Alan Hájek

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

See also, Stephen R. Welch’s page on Pascal’s Wager

The clash between Eagles head coach Andy Reid and his former assistant coach (and now Minnesota Head Coach) and good friend Brad Childress in the playoffs yesterday highlights a new trend in the NFL—the Philadelphia Eagles family of coaches in the NFL. First, there are the Buddy Ryan assistant coaches—Jon Gruden, formerly of Oakland (where he went to the Super Bowl) and now of Tampa Bay (where he also went to the Super Bowl, and narrowly missed the playoffs this year) and Jeff Fischer of Tennessee, the NFL’s longest tenured coach, who is the AFC’s top seeded team this year, a regular playoff contender, and a former Super Bowl coach and AFC champion. Former Eagles head coach and Buddy Ryan assistant coach Ray Rhodes continues to work as an assistant coach in the league. Buddy Ryan’s two sons now are assistant coaches in the league. Second, there are the ex-Eagles—such as Herm Edwards of Kansas City, and former head coach Dick Vermeil, who used to coach at St. Louis, and won a Super Bowl there. Ex-Eagle John Bunting was a college head coach at North Carolina. And then you have the Andy Reid connections–Harbaugh at Baltimore, who used to coach special teams with the Eagles, and all the connections of Reid through Green Bay as well as Philly like Childress at Minnesota and Holmgren in Seattle.

There are probably many more connections to the Eagles that could be found, but it certainly is illuminating how many coaches and assistant coaches in the NFL (and in the college ranks) now have philly ties. And we used to think this was a college hoops town with a lot of college and pro hoops coaches everywhere. Who knew we were a spawning ground for college coaches. Guess it’s a spawning ground of football coaches as well for the NFL.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies
Happy New Year 2009

The Economic Crisis unfortunately heralds an enormous economic crisis in 2009 for Biotechnology, the major sector I work in, in at least three major facets, all of which are inter-related:

1) The collapse of the investment banks, and indeed, of the banking and lending industries generally, means that the major sources of capital for most biotechnology companies that are currently operating at a loss or “burn” rate while continuing to research or develop pipeline products, drugs or devices that are still several years away from FDA approval (or approval in any market here or abroad), in turn will collectively lead to a major liquidity crunch for biotechnology companies coming due shortly.

BIO, the major lobbying group for the Biotechnology Industry, currently estimates that there may be as many as one hundred publicly traded biotechnology companies that have nine months or less of cash left on hand with which to operate, and very few sources of liquidity to draw upon for operations thereafter, due to the fact that they currently do not have drugs in the pipeline or are not currently operating profitably, e.g. they are currently on a burn rate and are losing money.

We may therefore see the end or termination of operations of many publicly traded biotechnology companies in the next six to nine months. In addition, pharmaceutical companies (or other buyers) will be able to purchase these companies at fire sale prices if they simply wait a little while longer.

2) Venture Capital money is down at least fifty per cent, and whatever VC money is left is very, very picky right now. IPOs have come to a complete standstill, and numerous biotechs have canceled their planned IPOs. Consequently, infusions of cash from investment banks, regular banks, VCs or IPOs are currently not as viable as they were six months ago.

3) Angel investors are being besieged with three times the requests for much more money than usual as a consequence of all this top down need for liquidity, and they (reasonably so) are seeking to be more picky as well in what they invest in.

The consequence of all three of these factors is that we will see a massive shakeout of the Biotechnology Sector in 2009. Many existing companies will be bought up by existing Pharmaceutical companies or biotechnology companies that are currently cash rich or have mortar and brick assets. Companies that want to diversify into biotechnology, this is your chance to buy up patent portfolios and intangible assets on the cheap. Biotech companies will look to be acquired, look to get cash at all costs, and look to accelerate their timetables to get products to market.

It may be at the end, that only thirty to forty per cent of the existing privately and publicly held biotech companies will be standing at the end of 2009. There will be massive consolidation.

Driving this at the other end is the fact that big pharma has expiring patents, is facing increasing competition from generics, is looking to invest in biologics, which cannot be imitated by generics, and finally big pharma is facing the possibility of increased regulation and lower profit margins under the Obama Administration. This will drive and accelerate the consolidation of biotech assets and companies into the hands of big pharma, which will increasingly resemble biotech companies in terms of their R & D and patent portfolios.

These will be troubled and difficult times for Biotechnology and in some related sense, also for Big Pharma.

–dr. arthur kyriazis,, molecular biologist,
consultant to the biotechnology industry

According to website reports, the remains and final resting place of Polish Scientist and Astronomer Copernicus, have been located in Poland.

Copernicus, as we all remember, was the renaissance source of the heliocentric theory of the solar system which was further developed and confirmed experimentally by Galileo, Kepler and Newton.

quotation from website:

WARSAW, Poland — Researchers said Thursday they have identified the remains of Nicolaus Copernicus by comparing DNA from a skeleton and hair retrieved from one of the 16th-century astronomer’s books. The findings could put an end to centuries of speculation about the exact resting spot of Copernicus, a priest and astronomer whose theories identified the Sun, not the Earth, as the center of the universe.

Polish archaeologist Jerzy Gassowski told a news conference that forensic facial reconstruction of the skull, missing the lower jaw, his team found in 2005 buried in a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Frombork, Poland, bears striking resemblance to existing portraits of Copernicus.

(end quotation).

Well, you have to really dig that discovery! kind of sent me into orbit…
Not to be confused with “”…

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey