Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thinking Like a Theist

 
This figure is making the rounds with the title "When a theist starts a debate with an atheist." It's funny because it mocks the average theist who thinks that they have an overwhelming case for the existence of God. For some strange reason, theists don't think it's funny.

Brandon appears to be one of those theists. He's a Roman Catholic philosopher with a blog called Siris and he recently posted a rejoinder called When Atheists Try to Be Clever... .

Brandon noticed that the board has no kings. (Aren't those philosophers clever?) It also doesn't have any bishops but he doesn't mention that. In spite of the fact that the board is missing a few pieces, Brandon thinks that the standard rules of chess should apply ...
... it nonetheless ends up backfiring because ... it is logically and mathematically impossible, given any standard rules of chess, for either side to win this game. The rules of chess require an automatic draw if there is an impossibility of checkmate -- once it is established that no legal series of moves can reach checkmate, the game is over and both sides tie. A game with no kings has no possible checkmate, and so is an immediate draw. In trying to depict with a chessboard how much better their arguments are, a task in which they had perfect freedom to choose any possible chess set-up, they still managed to give themselves an unwinnable board. In other words, the atheist player doesn't know what he's getting into: the board is rigged so that the theist, with nothing but pawns, can guarantee a draw no matter how many queens the atheist has. Diabolically clever theist, getting atheist hopes up while making it impossible for them to win! That's on standard rules. And, of course, if the rules are supposed to be nonstandard, it is impossible to know what this board even means.
Looking at the board, you can can imagine that the contest will end when all the pawns have been wiped out and there are 15 queens left. At this point the theists will declare a draw because an imaginary, nonexistent, king has not been captured. Yep, that certainly sounds like an argument from a theist.

It also—for some strange reason— reminds me of The Black Knight. ("Right, we'll call it a draw.")

John Wilkins, who is also a philosopher, thought Brandon's "rejoinder" was clever enough to deserve a mention on his own blog [Agnostic versus atheist chess]. I guess you don't have to be a theist to believe in imaginary, nonexistent, chess pieces.


19 comments :

  1. It's a ridiculous objection to the diagram. The board clearly doesn't represent an actual game of chess. Variants of chess without a king have been played for hundreds of years. It looks to me like someone is desperate to have "gotcha" moment.

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  2. "a Roman Catholic philosopher with a blog called Siris"

    Why would an RC philosopher choose to name his blog after a Mesopotamian goddess? Doesn't he know he is breaking the third commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods [or goddesses] before me.

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  3. I can see the funny side; especially if black screws it up so badly that he loses against white! Any one for a debate with William Lane Craig? ...going...going.... ah!...the gentleman at the back flinched...what's your name? Peter Atkins? Any more offers?.....Gone!

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. (darn Blogger ate my comment, now I gotta retype it)

    He is unfortunately right, though. After the atheist's arguments have completely devastated those of the theist, not leaving a single pawn on the board, the atheist still won't have won, because the theist's king, faith, hasn't been put in checkmate. In fact, its absence from the board makes a lot of sense, because religious faith is by definition irrational, and cannot be captured by reasonable arguments.

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  6. Why would an RC philosopher choose to name his blog after a Mesopotamian goddess?

    Maybe because biblical mythology is based at least partially on babilonian/mesopotamian mythology? ;)
    You may be interested in this and this.

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  7. Tell the Roman Catholic gentleman that just because he can't see, hear, touch, taste, smell and lacks any logical basis or practical reason to believe the King is there doesn't mean it isn't.

    They fall for that shit.

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  8. Just think of it: There must be an infinite number of universes out there where the pawn player clears the board every time. Peter Atkins has hitched a ride on the wrong universe.

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  9. Timothy,

    Played as a suicide chess variant this might make one of the most tedious games of suicide chess in a while.

    Imagine, the queens would have to line up in front of the pawns to try force them to capture them.

    There must be an analogy for a theist-theist "debate" in there somewhere!

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  10. @Anonymous They fall for that shit.

    They love shovelling it out, not so thrilled when the theological turds are flung back at them, especially when they stick.

    Welcome to the (religious) Monkey House.

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  11. I thought the point of the figure was that atheists are all [drama] queens... while theists are all pawns in somebody's political games.

    And Larry, you missed the straight line I handed you: agnostics don't know what their pieces are, but they make assertions anyway!

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  12. John Wilkins

    agnostics don't know what their pieces are, but they make assertions anyway!

    Oh, we all do that. It's just that my assertions are correct.

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  13. Is life a chess game? Can you win? All paths seem to lead to the grave.

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  14. Grant said:

    There must be an analogy for a theist-theist "debate" in there somewhere!

    ..unlikely since that’s admitting some theists start with a full set of queens – an admission that's going to go down like a feather sandwich on this blog. In any case many theists might find queens…well…rather too gay; they’re going to want a solid double wall of bishops. Pretty scary really, but perhaps not as scary as William Lane Craig.

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  15. Can you win?

    You can certainly piss away the only life you have believing bronze age mythology.

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  16. steve oberski

    Can you win?

    You can certainly piss away the only life you have believing bronze age mythology.


    One can piss away a fair chunk just talking science with those who do!

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  17. Timothy,

    There's meant to be an ‘a’ in one of those ‘theist’s. Sorry - typo.

    In any event my thoughts lay with the suicide chess aspect of it, not who hold what pieces, but never mind the thing has moved on.

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  18. There's nothing more satisfying than a good piss (speaking as a middle aged male whose intelligently designed prostate has a strangle hold on my urethra).

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  19. Any of you geniuses ever read Marx? That is what post-theology is all about. Marxism taking over the churches. Been happening in UCC for over a hundred years. Marxism is hate, masquerading as love. Read Thomas Dean's book "Post-Theistic Thinking."

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