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Probability

Probability

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. John 6:47

Contrary to what you may have heard in advertising or political debate or what you may believe about science, real scientists don’t “prove” anything. Rather they hypothesize and test and develop theories and models that best explain data. And throughout all this activity, they work with probabilities, demonstrating that, given the conditions X, there is a high probability that Y is likely to happen ( or little probability, whatever the case may be ). OK, if nothing else, perhaps scientists have “proved” that everything in science is open for debate. Take gravity for example. All of us experience it every day.

Isaac Newton presented the universal law of gravitation to the Royal Society in 1686, a model that has worked wonderfully to describe attractions between bodies, so much so that we use his laws to calculate the orbits of space objects even today. So it’s settled….right? Wrong. Physicists are still trying to figure out exactly how gravitation works. So even the universal law of gravitation is still being debated.

A French mathematician and philosopher who did much to refine and mature probability theory was Blaise Pascal, a child prodigy and inventor of the mechanical calculator. In his Pensées, a collection of notes published after his death, Pascal wrote about the existence of God and how to think about it. He believed that God is incomprehensible-that we simply cannot know much about Him. Reason, he wrote, was not adequate to determine whether God does or does not exist. So in note 233 of his Pensées, he suggested the following logic to make a decision.

There are only two possibilities. God either exists or He does not. You must make a choice to believe or not believe-you don’t have an option. If you choose to believe in Him, that leads to only two outcomes. If He does exist, then you have won it all. But if He doesn’t exist, you have lost nothing. Think of the alternative now. Say you choose not to believe in God. Again there are two-and only two-outcomes. If God does exist, you lose it all, but if He does not, you lose nothing. Given the possibility  then of losing all if you don’t believe and gaining all if you do believe, Pascal decided that it was a philosophical no-brainer. One should choose to believe in God. This logic about the existence of God is known as Pascal’s Wager.

Fortunately, we have words from Jesus Himself. “Most assuredly” means “without doubt”. It is not a gamble or a game of probability, but a sure thing.
Lord, I choose to believe in You as my God.

This passage is the thought for 20 October 2013 from the daily devotional book titled:”God Of Wonders” by David Steen. He is a professor of Biology and the chair of the Biology Department at Andrews University.

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