Tag Archives: Blaise Pascal

A Logic Question

Tom Friedman is not a favorite columnist of mine–although I often agree with him, he often seems a bit too smug, a bit too self-satisfied with his own superior analytical skills. But today, he hit one out of the ballpark. After asking “Is It Weird Enough Yet,” he eviscerates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry for their insistence that climate change is just a hoax, perpetrated by research scientists to generate funding. Not only does Friedman explain (in language that even Rick Perry should be able to understand) how the extreme weather we are experiencing is a consequence of global climate change, he explains what is necessary if so-called “green jobs” are to generate real economic growth.

But let’s say you still aren’t convinced.

Ever hear of “Pascal’s wager”? The philosopher Blaise Pascal was dubious about the existence of God, but he reasoned that–since one could not know for certain–the logical course of action was to act as though he did.  If it turned out that God was real, great. If not, you would have lived a good life. In other words, by acting as though you believe even if you don’t, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Global climate change invites a similar logic. If we decide to act on the advice of the 98% of scientists whose research supports the finding, and climate change is real, we’ll save the planet. If it turns out that our fears are ill-founded or exaggerated, we’ll end up doing a lot of things we need to do anyway–recycle, use energy more efficiently, etc.

When we have everything to gain by a particular course of action, and nothing to lose, refusing to take that action is more than weird. It’s self-destructive.