Climate change and Pascal’s wager

By Steve Outing

It’s interesting (and amusing) to see some bloggers attack me for my recent Editor & Publisher Online column about press coverage of global warming/climate change.

I don’t intend to turn my blog into a venue for debating political issues. (I do wonder why the debate over human influence of climate change has become a political issue; it should be a scientific one, leaving out the absurdity of people trying to convince us that the climate scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.) I’ll stick mostly to where I have expertise, which is new media. But I do want to express one (I hope last) thought to follow up my previous blog item.

If you look at why people believe in “God,” an argument you often hear is: “No, i can’t prove that there is a God, but I’d rather place my bet that there is and worship that God. There’s too much to lose — I could go to hell — if I decide not to believe, then discover at the end of this earthly life that I was wrong.” It’s too much of a gamble — there’s too much at stake — to not believe in and worship God, and if you do believe and it turns out you’re wrong, there’s no penalty, their argument goes. (This is otherwise known as Pascal’s wager.)

Personally I don’t buy that, yet I do take a similar view when it comes to taking action to alleviate climate change. If we listened to the skeptics and did nothing because we thought the climate scientists wrong or alarmist, we’d be taking a huge gamble with truly dire consequences for future generations if we lost. To keep buying SUVs, not change our lifestyles, and otherwise continue as usual to my mind is immoral.

I’m willing to bet that some of the global warming skeptics criticizing me are religious people, who have taken Pascal’s wager on God. Why they would choose to not apply that approach to doing something about climate change is beyond my comprehension.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!