Monday, May 18, 2009

Hedge Your Bet

I remember back in grad school studying about the campaign contribution system in American politics. In most instances, particular individuals, groups or companies favor one political party over others and their campaign contributions flow in the preferred direction. However, in some cases, campaign contributions were given to all the candidates with a chance of winning. The preferred candidate received the largest chunk, but any other candidate, thought to have a decent chance of winning, received a sizable contribution too.

Some individuals, groups and companies spread the money around in order to hedge their bet. They wanted to be in a position to curry favor with whoever won the contest. So, by betting on all sides, their strategy was to guard against a potential loss.

This same kind of strategy is employed by some people at horse races. Small bets are placed on every horse in the race in the hope that the winner, place and show will net enough money to cover all the bets AND bring the bettor a profit too.

I suppose this strategy might work in the areas of politics or horse racing, but it doesn't apply as well in other areas. One area in which I think hedging one's bet is not applicable is in religion.

From time to time on blogs frequented by non-believers and Christians, discussions can get fairly intense. There's a lot of back and forth with little common ground. It's not altogether infrequent for an exasperated Christian to blurt out, "What if you turn out to be wrong? Is it going to hurt you to believe in God?"

I call this the "hedge your bet" argument. The inferred suggestion is that a person can hold onto their non-believing ways while, concurrently, believing just enough to guard against being wrong on "Judgment Day" or they should believe in a half-ass way.

But, if there is a God, don't you think he would see through this wanton subterfuge? Don't you think he could not easily identify those who were "hedging their bets"? Me thinks he actually would go easier on the strict non-believers than he would on the fake believers because at least the former were being true to themselves.

So, here's a heads up to you devout believers: Quit utilizing that stupid argument! By encouraging others to hedge their bets, you are encouraging others to be deceitful and this one act could seal YOUR fate on Judgment Day. Instead of enjoying your seat at the heavenly table, this one act could reserve you a seat next to the fiery imp himself.

1 comment:

  1. IIRC, this is the Pascalian Wager. But I think Pascal argues that if you really *act* like you believe (if you go to Church regularly, go through the motions, take Mass, pray, confess, etc.), then eventually you actually *will* believe. I have to say I got that secondhand from Philosophy 101; I've not read any Pascal directly.


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