In a major biography of Blaise Pascal, James Connor explores both the intellectual giant whose theory of probability paved the way for modernity and the devout religious mystic who dared apply probability to faith.
Is there a God? Are you willing to bet your eternal soul on your answer? This essentially is what has become known as Pascal's Wager, a bare-bones approach to challenging the folly of unbelief. Blaise Pascal (1623 1662) is widely regarded as a brilliant mathematician, but he is less well-known as a deep student of religion and the Bible. He and his father were devoted Jansenists, schismatic Roman Catholics seeking to revive Augustine's stern views of judgment, predestination and radical orthodoxy. Connor, professor of English at Kean University in New Jersey and author of Kepler's Witch and Silent Fire, believes that this passion, along with Pascal's insatiable curiosity and his father's deep love for learning, produced the prodigy who would change the way we view both God and the sciences. Driven by the tumultuous events of 17th-century France (vividly recreated by Connor), and meeting resistance not only from fellow mathematicians like Ren Descartes but from such powerhouses as the Jesuits, young Pascal repeatedly proved himself more than just a "spoiled son of a controlling father," rising above the challenges of his youth and diminutive stature. Written for a general audience, this biography is a compelling and readable study of one of the most influential thinkers in religious history.