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Posted by on Aug 2, 2008 in sinner ministries' "proof of the existence of god" | 12 comments

Sye’s “but you don’t believe that” move

Sye, you have repeatedly made a certain sort of move. Here’s an example.

I say, “Sye, not only have you not got a good argument for logic being underpinned by a deity, why your particular deity – the Christian God – rather than another deity that I might find more plausible?”

You say – “But you don’t believe in any other Gods either, so why should we even consider them?”

Here’s why this doesn’t wash with me.

You are not just arguing that a deity is required to underpin logic; you are arguing for a very specific deity – the Judeo-Christian God. Now, even if I could be persuaded that some deity is required, your particular deity would still, I think, be one of the least reasonable to invoke.

So it’s entirely relevant for me to ask – even if you could show a deity is required, why this one?

Here’s an analogy. Five go on holiday on a deserted island. Bert, one of the five, dies apparently alone in a boating accident. Now I, as prosecutor, claim that this was no accident and Bill, one of the other four, murdered Bert.

Trouble is, not only have I not yet produced any good evidence that Bert was murdered, Bill, unlike the others, has a particularly good alibi (being on the phone at the time of the death – the phone being miles from the death).

Now, as Bill’s defence, you do not believe Bert was murdered. You start by pointing out there is, as yet, no evidence he was.

And then you add, “But in any case, even if Bert was murdered, why should we suppose Bill is the guilty party? Where’s your evidence that it wasn’t one of the other three?”

Would it be fair for me to respond, “But you don’t believe any of the others murdered Bert either, do you? Because you don’t think he was murdered. So you see – we don’t even need to consider the others!”

This would be an entirely unfair move, would it not?

If I, as prosecutor, want rightly to convince my audience that Bill did it, I do have to rule the other three out, whether my audience happens to believe any of the other three guilty or not. If I now whipped out conclusive evidence Bert was indeed murdered, and then got Bill convicted by means of such logic, that would be a grave miscarriage of justice.

My prosecutor’s move is just a rhetorical ploy, with no justification.

Ditto your move, of course.


  1. Stephen – haven’t you got your “Bills” and “Berts” mixed up here? Not surprising, really….Maybe you should redraft the prosecution’s case?

  2. I’m not so sure that it’s an unfair move or anything like that – rather, it’s a completely unrelated move. Your criticisms still stand, and he still has to answer them.For the record, I believe in the “god” of Eth more than any other “god” – he’s far more likely in this suffering-filled, craptacular world.

  3. This whole debate has reminded me of some of the virtues of chess compared to debating.In chess, you agree the rules and if you comprehensively outplay your opponent they have no wriggle room, no grounds to dispute the victory because they have signed up to the same rules.Can you imagine somebody saying: ‘You say I am in checkmate, but only I can account for the laws of chess by my direct telephone call to the president of FIDE, you might play very well but you cannot account for it. By what standard do you say I am in checkmate? You have not telephoned the president of FIDE so how do you account for the laws of chess?’….and so on…And yes I realise there are flaws in the analogy, I just don’t care.

  4. I’m a big-time chess player, and I like the analogy for its cuteness, at least. 🙂

  5. Psiomniac,the analogy fails because there is a FIDE (unless there is no president of it).Anyway, it was close. 🙂I cannot let you claim checkmate because you cannot account for the absolute, immaterial, abstract, invariant rules of chess. Only my worldview can account for these rules.But, but, that does not make sense!By which rules of chess does that not make sense? Are those rules absolute? If so, how do you account for those rules?But chess was played in India before it was played in California!I am not interested in how other people accounted for the rules of chess, how do YOU account for them?… and so on ad infinitum.Anyway, I failed too, but we are close, and I love the analogy even if it fails on some details.G.E.

  6. Stephen,I am starting to suspect that you are not human. That kind of patience is not humanly possible. :-)G.E.

  7. For the record, I believe in the “god” of Eth more than any other “god” – he’s far more likely…Hmm – should we add the God of Eth to the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorn? It would be mixing their philosophical points up a bit, but would it not be fun to worship the super bad-ass GOD OF ETH?!!!Of course, He would need specific superpowers, not just this lame omnipotence thing…All in favour raise their hands…

  8. anticant – oops yes, got em mudled. fixed it now.

  9. kyle pI’m a big-time chess player, and I like the analogy for its cuteness, at least. 🙂Thanks. I really like the game, probably a little more after reading through these threads.the analogy fails because there is a FIDE (unless there is no president of it).Yes that is one of the flaws. But it captured what I wanted to say anyway I think. The last president of FIDE that I remember hearing about before the great chess schism was called Florencio Campomanes I think. But that was ages ago.

  10. Just for your info, the president is now Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. He is a shill and a money-grubbing jerk – though admittedly he does put a lot of his own money into the game. Quite a lot, in fact. Campo had been found to be a criminal also, so he resigned (I think), and Kirsan was voted in (again, I think).Indeed! I think we should add the God of Eth to the big two other philosophical gods. Notice, I even used capitalized God to refer to his evilness.His super-power: Pretastenition – he can taste food before putting it in his mouth.

  11. Hello Stephen,Sorry, but your analogy is insufficient. What I am saying is, in effect, Bill is the murderer, here is the evidence… If you claim that someone else is the murderer, it’s up to you to disprove my evidence, or prove that someone else did it.I’ll try to keep my posts to the last thread, to keep things more manageable.

  12. Well my analogy deals indeed with the move I was discussing.Now you are making a different one.Of course we are looking forward to seeing this proof!

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