Sunday, June 1, 2014

I presented the "Fallacy of the Excluded Middle" to an interactive audience of over 50 at The Villages Philosophy Club on 30 May. If you would like a copy of my animated Powerpoint slides send an email to me: (my attempts to upload the slides to my Google site have been unsuccessful so far).

"Pascal's Wager" as to the existence of God is an early example of how the rhetorical FALLACY OF THE EXCLUDED MIDDLE may be used to push an unsuspecting audience to unwittingly accept an argument that is lacking in basic logic. Blaise Pascal, 1623–1662, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, yet even he was taken in by this fallacy! He argues as follows:

God is, or He is not. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is.

Wager, [that God] is ... There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, … against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.

And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

(Source:'s Wager Based on Pensées, part III, §233)

This argument seems reasonable at first glance, particularly if you are motivated to want to believe in God. Our life here on Earth is difficult, short, and FINITE while our potential life in Heaven after our Earthly existence passes is INFINITE in length and high in quality.

Reason alone cannot answer the question as to God's existence, so we should assume a 50% chance either way.

As the decision matrix above shows, existence of God is either FALSE (TOP ROW) or TRUE (BOTTOM ROW),  and we can take ACTION to CHOOSE TO BELIEVE IN GOD (COLUMN A) or CHOOSE NOT TO BELIEVE (COLUMN B).  We have no control over the rows, but we do have control over the columns.

If we pick COLUMN B (NOT TO BELIEVE) if we have chosen rightly we get "nothing lost, nothing gained" OR, if God exists and we have chosen wrongly, we get damned for disbelief in Eternal Hell.

On the other hand, if we pick COLUMN A (BELIEF IN GOD) if we have chosen wrongly we get to do some unnecessary prayer ritual and curbing of some pleasures OR, if God exists and we have chosen rightly, we get the ultimate reward of Eternal Life in Heaven!

On balance, it is clear that COLUMN A (BELIEF IN GOD) is the better wager by far.


So, what is wrong "Pascal's Wager" argument?

The LOGICAL fault is that we have EXCLUDED a bunch of possibilities that lie between GOD is FALSE and GOD is TRUE.

For example, assuming God exists, WHICH GOD should we choose to believe in? The KIND, LOVING, and FORGIVING GOD of many branches of major religions, or the STRICT, VENAL, and UNFORGIVING GOD of, for example, the Spanish Inquisition or the Islamic Jihad?

If your answer is the KIND GOD, I invite you to set up a decision matrix where the rows are KIND GOD and VENAL GOD and the columns are belief in the VENAL GOD or belief in the Kind GOD. If you follow the logic, you will determine that your best bet is belief in the VENAL GOD! (My Powerpoint charts give the details, but, in short, the KIND GOD is more likely to forgive you if you happen to wrongly choose to believe in the venal God, while the venal God will not forgive you if you happen to choose wrongly!).


In an earlier posting (here) I showed how "One Guy With a Marker" DID NOT  MAKE "the Global Warming Debate Completely Obsolete".

The decision matrix below shows what he wrote in each box (in Black) and my comments (in Red).


Let us review the boxes (again with his writing in BLACK and mine in Red:

  1. L GLOBAL DEPRESSION: This box is included to make it appear he is being “fair” to Skeptics. He assumes that taking Action to stop GCC will be so costly that, if it turns out to have been unnecessary, the result will be a “Global Depression”. Certainly, maximum environmental spending will damage the world-wide economy, but I doubt that type of spending, alone, will trigger a “Global Depression”. When we get to box #3 we will see that he doesn’t really think so either! HIGHLY UNLIKELY
  2. J SMILEY FACE: GCC is “False”, we take No Action, so all is well! But, is it? Does his “GCC” include NATURAL PROCESSES and CYCLES that have caused Global Warming (and Cooling), Floods (and Droughts), and Violent Storms (and Blessed Rain) prior to the advent of Humans on Earth, and before we Humans had the capability to affect the climate? Apparently not, else “GCC” could not be totally “False”. Therefore, by “GCC” he is referring ONLY to the HUMAN-CAUSED variety, totally ignoring the evidence from the geological, ice-core, and historical records of NATURAL Global Climate Change and some Catastrophes. WHAT ABOUT -- NATURAL -- GCC ?
  3. J SMILEY FACE: This box is totally inconsistent with box #1! If Action to stop Human-Caused Global Warming is so costly as to cause a Global Depression in the first box, would it not also cause such a Global Depression in this box? So, why the Happy Face? Realistically, even if we in the US and other nations in the Developed World take maximum Action to reduce our CO2 emissions, it is totally unrealistic to expect those in the Developing World to do the same. Indeed, China, India, and other countries will continue to build power plants, nearly all of them coal-fired. CO2 levels are bound to continue their rapid increase for at least the coming several decades, no matter what we do. CONTRADICTS BOX #1 (GLOBAL DEPRESSION)
  4. L GLOBAL DEPRESSION:  This box is filled with terrible consequences and is intended to scare us into taking maximum Action. He assumes the worst-case Global Warming of several degrees predicted by Climate Models despite the failure of those Climate Models to predict the past 17 years of absolutely no net Global Warming. (The most realistic prediction is continued moderate change in Global Temperatures, mostly NATURAL but some small part HUMAN-CAUSED. As standards of living continue to improve world-wide, populations will stabilize which will allow reasonable action to be taken to moderate CO2 emissions, and Human Civilization will ADAPT to inevitable Natural and Human-Caused Climate Change as we have throughout history.) BASED ON -- FAILED -- CLIMATE MODELS

The following chart of Warming Predictions vs the Real World traces temperatures from 1979 (when satellite-based global temperatures first became available) to the present. It shows how badly these THEORETICAL Climate Models have failed to agree with the REAL WORLD measurements.



The black and green wiggly lines are ACTUAL measurements. Over some 34 years, they show a net Global Warming of less than 0.2° C (about 0.3° F), and a "PAUSE", since 1997, of 17 years with no net Global Warming at all.

The red line is the AVERAGE of 102 OFFICIAL IPCC CLIMATE MODELS. Note that it predicts Global Warming of more than 0.8° C (about 1.5° F), OVER-ESTIMATED by more than 400% !

NONE of the 102 models predicted the "PAUSE" ! The model that predicted the least Global Warming was about 100% high, and the one that predicted the most Global Warming was about 1000% wrong! Please note that during the entire 34 year period, CO2 (carbon dioxide), which Global Warming activists say is the major cause of temperature increase, has continued to rise rapidly!

ABSOLUTE DICHOTOMIES: All or nothing … Camelot or Catastrophe 
EMOTIONAL: Powerful in political rhetoric, but dangerous in science
HIDDEN ASSUMPTIONS: Each choice is perfectly TRUE or FALSE, Action is totally YES or NO 
NOT LOGICAL: The real world is mostly shades of


As long as we understand that almost all measurements are continuous and our classifications are made for convenience, dichotomies can be useful.

For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator divides all humans into some 16 different "Personality" types, using four dichotomies (


As the graphic illustrates (according to Jung as interpreted by Myers-Briggs) each of us is somewhere along a continuum between:
  • Being an EXTROVERT (outward-turning) or being an INTROVERT (inward-turning), 
  • INTUITING (viewing information in an abstract, theoretical way) or SENSING (viewing information in a tangible, concrete, present way)  
  • THINKING (in a detatched, logical, reasonable way) or FEELING (in an empathizing way seeking hamony) and  
(added by Myers-Briggs)
  • JUDGING (Detailed thinking or feeling) or PERCEIVING (Contextual sensing or intuition )

  • When I was tested I was married, with children and a successful career. I scored as an Extrovert, but close to the border with being an Introvert. Had I been tested while in college, I would probably have tested as an Introvert.
  • I scored as rather solidly iNtuiting (rather than Sensing, and solidly Thinking rather than Feeling, and would probably have scored about the same while in college.
  • Finally, I scored as slightly more Perceiving than Judging, and I am not sure how I would have scored on this dichotomy while in college.

One of my favorite graduate school professors, the late Walter Lowen, wrote a wonderful book about "Dichotomies of the Mind", where he utilized and adapted the Myers-Briggs methodology, and added his own spin to it. (See and

As the graphic indicates, while I score as an ENTP (which is called an "Inventor" by Myers-Briggs or a "Suspector" by Lowen), my personality extends a bit on all sides, particularly to the INTP ("architect" or "theoretician"),  ENTJ ("General" or "Analyst"), ENFP ("Journalist" or "Perceiver"), and ESTP ("Promoter" or "Operator") categories.

Bottom Line: Dichotomies are OK to use for convenience and for compacting lots of information into a single package (like a "Personality type") as long as we recognize that we are not really confined into a single discrete box!

Ira Glickstein

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