Pascal's Wager (also known as Pascal's Gambit) is Blaise Pascal's application of decision theory to the belief in God. It is one of three 'wagers' which appear in his Pensées, a collection of notes for an unfinished treatise on Christian apologetics. Pascal argues that it is always a better "bet" to believe in God, because the expected value to be gained from believing in God is always greater than the expected value resulting from non-belief. Note that this is not an argument for the existence of God, but rather one for the belief in God. Pascal specifically aimed the argument at such persons who were not convinced by traditional arguments for the existence of God. With his wager he sought to demonstrate that believing in God is advantageous to not believing, and hoped that this would convert those who rejected previous theological arguments.
It states that if you were to analyse your options in regard to belief in Pascal's God carefully (or belief in any other religious system with a similar reward and punishment scheme), you would come out with the following possibilities:
- You may believe in God, and God exists, in which case you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
- You may believe in God, and God doesn't exist, in which case your loss is finite and therefore negligible.
- You may not believe in God, and God doesn't exist, in which case your gain is finite and therefore negligible.
- You may not believe in God, and God exists, in which case you will go to hell: your loss is infinite.
From these possibilities, and the principles of statistics, Pascal deduced that it would be better to believe in God unconditionally. It is a classic application of "game theory" to itemize options and payoffs and is valid within its assumptions."
Intellectual vacuity is not a term I've heard used in relation to anything ever put forth by a mind such as Blaise Pascal, albeit paraphrased by a somewhat lesser mind, no doubt, in this particular case.
More at Wikipedia:
"The Wager posits that it is a better "bet" to believe that God exists than not to believe, because the expected value of believing (which Pascal assessed as infinite) is always greater than the expected value of not believing. In Pascal's assessment, it is inexcusable not to investigate this issue:
I have no further comment to add, especially in regard to the preference of the Christian God to any other concept of God. I am aware of many of the criticisms of the Wager, but none that I consider wholly valid as counterpoints to the bare bones of the argument itself.
Before entering into the proofs of the Christian religion, I find it necessary to point out the sinfulness of those men who live in indifference to the search for truth in a matter which is so important to them, and which touches them so nearly.."