This I believe

By Penn Jillette

“Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I’m not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it’s everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I’m raising now is enough that I don’t need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day. “

Atheists are often accused of being arrogant, which is rather strange when you think about it.

Asking Her Out: A Game Theory Analysis

Since it’s getting to be that time of the year for summer romances, I want to write something about the subject. I’m calling this a Game Theory Analysis, though I know very little about the subject, and am probably greatly misusing the term, and am not really doing Game Theory at all. But I’m going to stick my neck out and just go with it, and we’ll see what happens.

There is a specific sort of situation that I want to analyze, and this is for you guys out there that have a hard time asking out those great treasures of humanity – women. Let’s assume that you are friends with this girl, but you’re also strongly attracted to her, and would like to explore say, a more romantic approach. But there is a nagging fear that asking her out might ruin even your friendship, and your left off worse than before. So let’s see if we can setup a matrix that models this basic situation:

Ask Don’t Ask

Ok, let me explain what we have so far. Basically, the guy has the top choices, or strategies, either to Ask her out or to Not Ask her out. The girl as the choices on the left, Yes or No. A yes would indicate that she is interested in pursuing a more romantic approach as well, and a no would indicate that she’s not interested in you.

The next trick is assigning values to each of these boxes. There will be two values in each box, one of each of the participants. In this matrix, the one of the left will be for the girl, and the one on the right will be for the guy:

Ask Don’t Ask
Yes +10 | +10 -10 | -10
No 0 | -3 0 | -10

Ok, now I’ve filled out a few values, and we can see what our best strategy might be. However, any conclusions would only be as good as the values I put in, so I need to explain those first. Obviously, the best possible outcome is if you ask and she is aggreable. So I put +10 to both to represent this. The others are perhaps a little trickier.

If you ask and she is not agreeable, then I give her a zero, and you a -3. Even though it seems hard at the time, a momentary rejection is relatively easy to get over in the long run. The friendship might suffer a bump in the road, but if it’s a true friendship, it ought to last. You might argue that the girl should recieve a negative amount here as well, but that is a judgement to make in your own situation.

The next possible outcome is if you don’t ask, and she is agreeable. Then you both lose out with neither taking the risk. The final possible out come is if you don’t ask and she isn’t agreeable, then she loses nothing, but you lose as you wonder ‘what might have been.’

Ok, so there are the explanations for the values. You might change them around however you want, but I’m going to jump right into the analysis now.

If we look at the over-all picture, we can see something interesting. The best you can possibly do by Not Asking is a -10, while the worse you can do by asking is a -3. If you don’t ask, there is absolutely nothing to gain, but if you do ask, you have the possibilty of gaining quite a bit. Obviously, for you, the best strategy is to always Ask. The same is true if you look at the situation from her perspective. The best outcome for her is your asking, and the worse outcome possible from from you not asking. In the middle, she neither gains nor loses, so it’s a pretty clean cut deal.

Of course, this is probably over-simplistic, not to mention the nearly arbitrary nature of the values for the matrix, but I think it is ‘reasonable enough’ to get your gears going.

The bottom line, guys, you should always ask her out. Quit pansying around and just do it.

Planet Earth (BBC)

Well, I’ve wrapped up my viewing of the Planet Earth series from the BBC, narrated by David Attenborough. Only one word is needed to describe the experience: WOW! If you have not seen this yet, you will not be disappointed. And for only $55 at amazon, there is no excuse not to have it as a part of your DVD collection.

The series is marked by the footage of things that have never been captured on film before (and in some cases, never even seen before), incredible camera work to capture the scenery, and jaw-dropping scale. The first time I saw the footage of Angel Falls was nearly overwhelming.

One thing the film really brings to my attention, and something I’ve been loath to think about in the past, is the knife edge we are now walking in reference to our global environment. Some of the things they caught on film is likely to never be seen again; the animals will be gone. After seeing these on screen, the disaster that would be their loss is really driven home. Sadly, in some cases, it might be too late.

So check it out! As I said, you won’t be disappointed.