Pwager Ewert’s Safe Bet (A Prologue)

Disclaimer: There’s been a rather major revelation (no pun intended) in the time between when this was written and when it’s being posted. Suffice to say, he’s dug himself a very deep hole that spells out the word “shallow” when viewed from above. There are more entries in this series, but they’re needing practically top to bottom rewrites.

Welcome, one and all, to another exciting installment on the “Pascal’s Wager is Stupid Pants” blog, the blog where we keep saying we’re not going to talk about Pascal’s Wager anymore but we keep getting pulled back because some people never learn.

In my defense (this time), the issue isn’t whether or not Pascal’s Wager is a compelling argument to devote yourself to one single religion out of a deluge that could drown all the babies of the world born at this very second a thousand times over and still have time to go drunk streaking afterwards. The issue is the way the wager gets repackaged in an effort to disguise an agenda that’s totally not religious except when it is but it’s totally not religious because he never mentioned religion until he did.

My rule is that if I can boil someone’s position down to either An Argument From Ignorance/Incredulity or Pascal’s Wager, I don’t owe them any more of my time because I can refer them to a host of information showing them why they’re wrong. As I said, though, that’s not what we’re going to be addressing.

The question in full and removed from any context is:

Why not take a chance on faith?

By a show of hands, do you think he’s talking about religion? Okay, keep that answer in mind and we’ll come back to it.

For the sake of fair play and giving the benefit of the doubt, I’ll start by answering the question as he claims to intend it to be addressed despite his actions to the contrary.

People take chances on trust all the time. Some take large risks, while others take small ones. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. That is, the bigger they are, the harder they fall, while we can only see farther by standing on the shoulders of giants. No one can ever know the full possible extent of taking these chances, but because of our ability to reason, we can take educated guesses while hopefully understanding the ensuing responsibilities of the pursuit. Trust is an investment like any other, in that you should never put in more than you are willing to lose. Also like any other investment, the best approach is to start small and then build your way up over time. Just like wealth, trust is earned. Sure, you can win it overnight in a big payout, but you can also lose it just as easily, and it will hurt just as much, if not more. Everyone assesses risk differently, informed by both experiences and intuition, in radically different ratios from person to person.

Now that I’ve cured your insomnia with that Human Condition 101 white noise, you can either skip ahead to the main body when the link is active or keep reading to hear a funny story about enunciation and legal proceedings.

If there’s one aspect to the English language I absolutely despise above all others, it’s the way certain words can be adopted and used to have connotations so distant from their original and/or more common definition that they become practically meaningless. In fact, we might as well say literally meaningless.

Take the word “honest” for example. When I hear the phrase, “To be honest with you.” I take it to mean that what I’m about to be told is a harsh truth, that there will be no more dancing around the tough subject or otherwise attempting to spare my feelings. Legal experts like to advise their clients to avoid this phrase when they give answers in depositions or in court. The reason is simple, “honest” doesn’t mean a certain type of truth delivered in a direct and unambiguous way. Rather, it means to be free of untruthfulness, to be sincere, and lacking deceit. Well, if that’s what honest means, what does truth mean? If truth is the state of being true, and furthermore true means to be in accordance with fact or reality, then what does it mean to be honest if not precisely what it means to tell the truth?

To put it another way that’s more in line with how that aforementioned counsel will, when you say “to be honest with you” preceding your statement, you have cast doubt on everything you said before. After all, in a court of law, perjury carries a stiff penalty. Truth is the default. Ergo, when you say, “to be honest with you” you’re implying that anything you said before that point, that possibly everything said by anyone else up to that point, may or may not have been truthful. That sure is a hefty accusation you didn’t mean to throw out there, isn’t it?

I got a lesson in culture shock once, a stark and unapologetic view of how English sounds to non-native speakers. A customer had a charge on his bill that he denied, that he went over his minutes and was subsequently charged overages (what dark, dark times those were). I can still hear his words to this day, tinged with desperation, “TO BE HONEST WITH YOU… I did not make those calls.” Touching back on what we established about what the common usage of that phrase is, this is not a situation that requires sugar-coating or the sparing of feelings. I’m only a customer service representative and it does not hurt my feelings to be told that you are upset by your bill. I explained that looking over his usage, he hit his limit rather early in his cycle and accrued a fair amount of overages. His response, with the same emphasis, “TO BE HONEST WITH YOU! I did not make those calls!”
“You mean you weren’t being honest before?”
No more questions, your honor.

If there’s a 2 to make the punchline to that story a 1-2, it was a misunderstanding over the word “facts.” I told this customer for the umpteenth time that his activity showed going over his minutes with nothing out of the ordinary (all calls were to the same handful of numbers for a few minutes at a time with no standout aberrations). To try and bring the discussion to an end, I explained that in order to do my job and see about possibly overturning those charges, I needed certain facts, and those facts were not here.
Intrigued at what he could possibly show me, I asked, “Really?”
“What is the number?”
“Which number?”
“The number to send fax. You said you need fax to do your job.”

Ba-Dum-Tish, everybody. See you soon.

1 thought on “Pwager Ewert’s Safe Bet (A Prologue)”

  1. […] Previously, I outlined my rules for engaging with theists or apologists or whatever term they may or may not want to be identified by. To bring you up to speed, if I can boil the position or argument down to one of two generalizations, I don’t owe that person any more of my time, the reason being that bad arguments are bad arguments no matter how many times you make them. […]


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