Blaise Pascal was a world-famous mathematician, scientist, inventor, philosopher, and author who believed in the Creator.
(This post continues the discussion begun in
9. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Is a Creationist.)
Pascal was a major contributor in mathematics, science, and philosophy.
While still a teenager he invented a mechanical calculating machine. Near the end of his life he invented Paris’ first bus transportation system.
Major contributions in fluid dynamics included the discovery of Pascal’s Law on fluid pressure and the invention of the hydraulic press to mechanically multiply pressure. Important applications of Pascal’s Law include automobile braking systems, siphons, hydraulic jacks, and hydraulic presses.
The unit of pressure (force per unit area) was named for Pascal in 1971.
1 pascal (Pa) = 1 Newton per square meter.
A kilopascal (1000 Pa) is about 1% of atmospheric pressure. 1 psi = 6,895 Pa
Kilopascals (kPa) have replaced psi as the common unit of pressure in most of the world.
Pascal was the first to demonstrate the existence of a vacuum, despite the almost unanimous belief by other scientists of the time that vacuums could not exist.
Pascal developed two completely separate fields of mathematics, projective geometry and probability theory. He developed the theory of conic sections to divert himself from the pain of an illness.
Pascal’s development of probability theory in response to gambling questions was his most influential mathematical work. He collaborated with Pierre de Fermat in developing it. Probability theory is essential in actuarial mathematics, risk assessment, economics, statistics, and micro- and macro- decision making.
Pascal later applied probability arguments to argue for belief in God in Pascal’s Wager in the Pensees (see below). This was the first time mathematical arguments were applied to theological issues.
Pascal’s Triangle, shown at the right, has many interesting numerical properties. For example, the nth row gives the binomial coefficients of (x + y)n, with the rows numbered starting with 0 at the top. The coefficient of the term xn-k yk is also the number of combinations of n things taken k at a time, which is important in probability theory.
This triangle of numbers was known before Pascal, but he was the first to develop many uses and organize all the information in his 1653 paper on the Arithmetic Triangle.
Pascal is famous for literary and philosophical reasons as well as for mathematical and scientific ones. He recorded notes for a comprehensive analysis and defense of the Christian faith to be titled Apologie de la Religion Chrétienne (Defense of the Christian Religion), but he died before completion. These notes were published posthumously as the Pensees (Thoughts). The work is widely recognized as a major classic of French literature.
Pascal’s most famous argument from the Pensees is known as Pascal’s Wager.
Pascal argues that there is more to be gained from betting on the existence of God than from betting that God does not exist. He says that a rational person should live as though God exists, even if he is not certain. Pascal applies probability theory to argue that the atheistic position is not rational.
The wager is laid out in Pensee 233. Here is the essence of Pascal’s Wager argument.
1. Either God exists or God does not exist. One of the two options must be true.
2. You must wager your life on one of the choices. You do not have the option to abstain.
3. Consider the gain or loss in wagering that God exists. If you win, you win everything. If you lose (God does not exist, but you have wagered (lived as if) He did exist), you lose very little. You have still lived an honorable life and have only missed some passing pleasures of sin and the accompanying consequences.
4. Consider the gain or loss in wagering that God does not exist. If you win, you win nothing. If you lose (He does exist), then you lose everything (and spend eternity in hell according to the Bible).
5. Therefore the rational wager is to risk a finite stake (your life) to gain an infinite reward (eternal life) by betting that God exists. The irrational wager is to risk a finite stake to gain nothing by betting God does not exist.
Pascal argued that the decision whether or not to believe in God could be made based on the consequences of each choice. The greatest “expected value” is to wager that God exists.
Here are several more excerpts from the Pensees showing Pascal’s belief in the Creator of the Bible.
The creation and the deluge being past, and God no longer requiring to destroy the world, nor to create it anew, nor to give such great signs of Himself, He began to establish a people on the earth, purposely formed, who were to last until the coming of the people whom the Messiah should fashion by His spirit. (From Pensee 620.)
The creation of the world beginning to be distant, God provided a single contemporary historian, and appointed a whole people as guardians of this book, in order that this history might be the most authentic in the world, and that all men might thereby learn a fact so necessary to know, and which could only be known through that means.
(From Pensee 621.)
There are two truths of faith equally certain: the one, that man, in the state of creation, or in that of grace, is raised above all nature, made like unto God and sharing in His divinity; the other, that in the state of corruption and sin, he is fallen from this state and made like unto the beasts. (From Pensee 434.)
The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.
(From Pensee 555.)
Lift your eyes to God … see Him whom you resemble, and who has created you to worship Him. (From Pensee 431.)
The heart has its reasons that reason does not know. (From Pensee 277.)
Blaise Pascal was one of the greatest mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, and authors of the 17th century, and he was convinced of a Creator. The arrogance and hubris of today where man thinks he’s so advanced and despises the wisdom of previous generations regarding the existence of a Creator is foolish.
Belief in a Creator is common sense based on looking at what has been created, just as the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:18-23), President Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, John Calvin, Dr. Werner von Braun, George Washington Carver, Johann Kepler, Blaise Pascal, and innumerable others have argued. The vast majority of mankind throughout history has known that there must be a Creator.
Pascal believed in the Creator. Today’s intellectuals would do well to pay heed to one whose scientific discoveries far exceed those of most scientists today. Pascal’s mathematical, scientific, philosophical, and literary work has earned credibility for his opinions.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the tenth installment in the Famous Thinkers series highlighting great men of the past who believed in the Creator.
Read the prequels:
1. Famous Thinkers – Former U.S. President Supports Intelligent Design
2. Famous Thinkers – Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
3. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Supports Intelligent Design
4. Famous Thinkers – Theologian Testifies for Creation
5. Famous Thinkers – Rocket Scientist Supports Intelligent Design
6. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation 1
7. Famous Thinkers – Botanist Supports Creation 2
8. Famous Thinkers – Astronomer Is a Creationist
9. Famous Thinkers – Mathematician Is a Creationist 1
Read the sequel:
11. Famous Thinkers – Chemist Is a Creationist 1
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday September 19, 2012 A.D.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23)