TRUE TRUTH: "UNTRUMPABLE: HOW BETTING AGAINST THEISM IS A FOOLS BET OR WHAT PASCAL SHOULD HAVE SAID"
The cards have been dealt and the stakes are high – God, hope, afterlife, and everything that matters to you is in the kitty. The game could be rigged and all the players bluffing, but all real indications are that you’re holding a Royal Flush that’s worth betting on – you have to make a decision, even if you walk away with nothing. Kevin Moore asked MoonDog to review his work for social media -- and I am obliged to offer my opinion .
Kevin Moore dedicates his new book Untrumpable: How Betting Against Theism Is A Fool’s Bet or What Pascal Should Have Said to “the Godfather of theistic apologetics” Alvin Plantinga, which captured my silly imagination at the onset. Even before I dug in to read, I imagined Professor Plantinga lecturing as Marlon Brando playing Don Corleone -- “He (God) can’t give creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so.”
After walking around the house impersonating The Godfather saying “maximal great being” I settled-in to read.
Moore, a Christian, ponders how one begins to believe in theism, why one believes, why you might feel like you need understand, and why certain arguments are considered rational, compelling or not. He says, “I must admit that I think that this is a very strange practice, namely, having to defend our beliefs, for we should only ever defend a thing to the degree for which we are responsible for it.”
He contemplates whether one is directly responsible for a belief by “trying”, “wanting”, and “imagining” -- and that “…while it may be within our power to make it such that some belief is either formed or not formed in us (by creating an event) it is not within our power to just, at will, form a belief or prevent a belief being formed.” Moore’s book seems to circle around The Godfather’s [Alvin Plantinga] epistemology of the idea that belief in God is a “properly basic belief”, no less reliable than our 5-senses, and that the ontological truth of something is true whether or not you know it – and there’s no need to know how you know. Thus starting the infinite regress spoken of often by William Lane Craig of “how do you know that you know” and “how do you know you need to know”, and “how do you know that?” Enough already!
Kevin makes the point that we have certain “involuntary beliefs” – and that we’re no more responsible for our belief in God than we are our belief that we are functioning in a real world. He calls “wisdom” and “the nature of wisdom” an Untrumpable Method for evaluating “voluntary actions” like putting a gorilla in your living room, so that it's true we believe that there's a gorilla in the living room. He says “wisdom” is “maximally inclusive” in our metric of evaluating actions and “it is always able to get our interests right, whatever they are.” I find it an interesting thought that wisdom is always able to do such a thing, but I'd need to hear a little more of his thoughts concerning the genesis and power of wisdom.
The foundational argument of this book is that (i) voluntary actions are the appropriate objects of our evaluating judgments and (ii) that the metric of wisdom is an untrumpable standard for evaluating such objects.
Kevin asks “what are the earmarks of truth…for actuality?” According to him there are no “global” earmarks for our ability to know the truth and that our world could be very different than our beliefs. Again I see this as him moving between ontology and epistemology – and what he calls “the problem of our evidential gap” or “the problem of uncertainty.” He says “…we all have the necessary sufficient ingredients for something that is quite possibly very significant for our ultimate well-being: we have room for betting, wagering or gambling on the afterlife.” Was that just me or did you hear Don Corleone whisper “Warranted Christian Belief” in background. Moore says that “wagering” or choosing not to do anything is just how we are all forced to “bet” or respond to “uncertainty, especially in regard to the afterlife.” And that all we can really do is our best.
“The best we can do is wager wisely” with the assumption that we can trust our senses – knowing that “we can afford for things to work out in our favor, but not always so against it.”
His “wisdom decision theory” explores the cost analysis for bet-hedging or risk minimization and “foolish and non-foolish bets.”
According to Kevin More the gamble is whether or not “the possibility of an afterlife possesses any serious threat or expose us to any potential risk that could be detrimental to an interest that we can’t not value, that is, an unshakeable interest. And, second it depends upon whether we either have enough information or could be found blameworthy for not having enough information, despite all our uncertainty, in order to know how we should wager on the afterlife by dint of our voluntary actions.”
Moore discusses “our standard of judgment” as well as certainty and uncertainty of consequences and knowledge of consequences -- “…we really only need to fear a justly retributed afterlife.” To him that is key to assessing the wisdom of such an afterlife gamble.
His book is about the common-sense argument that we can only be held responsible for our “voluntary actions and inactions.” I agree since our involuntary actions like sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste are for all intents and purposes built into the hardware -- there's no apparent reason to question it. His second point that wisdom is the metric to measure and evaluate these actions also seems to follow logically as a self-protection method. In his card game of life there are four things significant to bets we make on our lives and ultimate well-being: (1) uncertainty (2) voluntary actions, (3) interests worth protecting and (4) enough knowledge about our world, despite our uncertainty, to know which actions are riskier to our interest than others. In his words “all the ingredients for gambling are present…and we are in control and responsible for the wellbeing of our interests.”
Moore discusses whether or not the possibility of an afterlife exposes us to any risk that we have reason to worry about. Also, do we have enough information to wager wisely? Moore lays his cards on the table with a “wise fear” trump. He also presents a compelling Defensive Case For Theism, Christianity, and presents some alternatives – acknowledging that it’s impractical, if not impossible to hedge against “alternate universes”, “many gods” and “multiple afterlife” beliefs. Exercising his own “wisdom decision theory”, he seems to wisely know when to hold them and know when to fold them -- embraces the game as real and meaningful -- and makes his bet.
In conclusion Kevin Moore deals from the top of the deck – portraying God as our hope of eternal life -- untrumpably good and worthy of our allegiance. Now, “that’s an offer you can’t refuse."