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The Pascal’s Wager Insurance Company

[Just to end the week on a light note, here's a post from the old blog, originally published January 12, 2010.]

I was just thinking: suppose we made financial decisions the way some people would have us make decisions about our souls…

Monday

[Phone ringing]

Hello?

Hi, my name is Morgan, and I’m from the Pascal’s Wager Insurance Company. Do you believe in giant tarantulas 30 feet tall?

Well, no, not really.

What about 50, or even 60 feet tall?

Never really thought about it, actu—

Ever think what one of those things would do if it stepped on your house?

Oh, I don’t

How much would you say your house is worth right now? Just roughly, including all the contents and valuables and other things that would be DESTROYED if they got stepped on by a 60-foot-tall giant tarantula. Don’t forget the car or cars in your garage, too. Would you say about $200,000? $400,000? Half a million dollars? Imagine what it would take to replace your valuable house and possessions if they were stepped on by a giant tarantula. Could you afford to replace it all, instantly?

But there’s no such thing as—

Sir, sir, let’s be honest, nobody knows everything, right?

Well, I—

YOU PERSONALLY do not know everything, right?

Heh, no, not hardly. But I—

In this vast universe of ours, there could be countless worlds we would never see or hear about where giant tarantulas might exist.

Well, if you put it that way, I suppose it might be—

So there MIGHT be giant tarantulas that you don’t know about, right?

I suppose there COULD be some kind of alien—

So giant tarangulas COULD exist. Now sir, all I’m asking you to do is to make a simple risk assessment. Even though you don’t believe there are giant tarantulas, the cost to you if they DO exist could be very high. Hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of dollars. Money you don’t have and can’t afford to lose. That’s why we’re offering, right now, for only $75 a month, our very special Stepped On By Giant Tarantulas homeowner’s policy.

Well, I

That’s only $75 a month. Practically nothing at all. If I’m wrong, and no giant tarantula ever steps on your home, then you won’t even miss it. But if I’m right, and your house DOES get stepped on, you could be facing financial disaster. Financial ruin! And living out of a cardboard box, too! A crushed cardboard box, with spider footprints on it. What do you say, sir? Will you do the prudent thing and accept one of our policies?

Well, it IS practically nothing, and the consequences if I’m wrong… [shudder]. How do I sign up?

[boring business discussion snipped.]

Thank you so much, sir. You’ll never be sorry as long as you remember what the risks are, and how much protection you’re getting for practically nothing. Have a nice day.

Thanks, you too.

[*click*]

Tuesday

[Phone ringing]

Hello?

Hello again, sir. It’s Morgan from Pascal’s Wager Insurance Company. Do you believe in giant, carnivorous underground worms more than 100 feet long?

Uhhhhhh…

Comments

  1. hoverfrog says

    Wouldn’t spiders that big collapse under their own weight? How would they process oxygen at that size? Their circulatory systems aren’t efficient enough to sustain a creature of this size. Furthermore if a spider that big existed then it stepping on my house would seem to be the least of my problems. I mean what does it feed on? The Goliath Bird Eater tarantula survives on birds. After liquidating the preys innards it sucks them up to digest them. That would mean that we’d have a planet populated with 60′ birds or maybe 60′ rodents. Hey, maybe they’ve evolved to eat those 100′ worms.

    Anyway Pascal’s wager is just silly as your example clearly demonstrates. Why some people still insist that it is actually a valid and interesting argument escapes me.

    • Randomap says

      No, their legs would also be proportionate to the rest of their body. Meaning, their legs, being as big as the rest of their body, would be made specifically to hold that kind of weight. Think about it, it would be no different other than the size but the weight ratios would stay the same.

  2. marko says

    I would have preferred the giant, carnivorous underground worms in the first pitch. My risk assessment would make me worry much more about those, since they could, for all I know, be borrowing around under my house right now. The tarantulas would need to make some kind of space journey, although I may be more tempted by this product after accepting the worm proposal.

  3. michael says

    Is that Morgan from the Pascal’s Wager Insurance Company?

    Yes.

    Can you insure me against meteor strikes?

    Yes

    Rampaging buddhist monks?

    Yes

    An attack by a flock of enraged chickens?

    Yes

    What about a flood?

    No

    Why not?

    Well you might get a flood.

  4. Robert says

    Just for the record, make sure you have at least an HO-3 policy to protect your home and you’ll have protection against it being stepped on by a giant tarantula AND giant carnivorous worms.

    However, if the worms merely tunnel beneath your home causing the ground to shift, you’re shit out of luck.

    Glad to be helpful!

  5. The Lorax says

    … hate to break it to you, but that’s preeeetty much how insurance companies work already… it’s all just a question of where you draw the line between “likely enough to happen to be worth paying for it” and “dude, what’re you smoking?”

    Example: I get my insurance through my work, of course. One of the options I can sign up for is accidental death or dismemberment.

    … I work in an office cubicle, typing on a computer. If I get accidentally killed or dismembered, I will turn to religion before I turn to insurance.

  6. inflection says

    Whenever a creationist tells me “evolution is just a theory,” I point out that the theory of gravity is a theory too, and offer to sell them insurance for their belongings against sudden localized gravitational failure hurling their worldly goods into interplanetary space.

    Have yet to be taken up on it for some reason…

    • Donnie says

      The difference between a theory and a law, scientifically speaking, is that a theory has an explanation of how it happens. We don’t really have a good enough understanding of how gravity works to form a scientific theory about it yet, so I’d say that the case for evolution is in fact stronger than the case for gravity… Who knows, maybe once we understand why gravity works the way it does we’ll come across some cases where it _doesn’t_ work.

  7. sunsangnim says

    Using pascal’s wager as a reason to believe in god is like saying you’re not sure if he exists, but if he does exist, he’s most certainly an asshole.

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