Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Blaise

Today in 1623 Blaise Pascal was born in Clermont, France. He was a mathematician and physicist, and made a lot of contributions to both areas of study, especially in probability theory. He had some kind of mystical experience at the age of thirty, and spent the next nine years - the last of his short life - attempting to convert skeptics to Christianity. He's the author of a much-quoted gambit that bears his name, Pascal's wager, which essentially says that if there is no god, you lose nothing by believing, but if there is, you lose all by not. (The wager is, of course, fatally flawed in several places, but you still hear it...)

But he also said, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

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