You can't play chess with a pigeon

A Buddhist cannot debate a Physicalist/Materialist Atheist. Why? A human being needs to play chess with a human being. If one plays chess with a pigeon, regardless of how well one plays, the pigeon will just knock the pieces off and defecate on the board. To both the ‘Buddhist’, and the ‘Atheist’ alike, the other is, functionally, the pigeon, because both sides can’t even agree on how to debate, before the debate begins.

Both sides can’t even agree on the rules of chess, or what chess is, before they start to play.

Concerning the above: is this true? The labelling of the “other” as subhuman (a pigeon), what does this say about human identities, epistemologies based on those identities, and their intersection of disagreement with the other and dehumanization of that other?

I think assuming that comparing someone to a pigeon is making them subhuman is speciesist and terms like dehumanization are anthropocentric and should be phased out eventually. Pigeons are cool, may they be happy.

Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet and able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates. The pigeon has also been found to pass the ‘mirror test’ (being able to recognise its reflection in a mirror) and is one of only 6 species, and the only non-mammal, that has this ability. The pigeon can also recognise all 26 letters of the English language as well as being able to conceptualise. In scientific tests pigeons have been found to be able to differentiate between photographs and even differentiate between two different human beings in a photograph when rewarded with food for doing so. Amazing Pigeon Facts # 21

Also see: Pigeon Intelligence

As for whether physicalists and traditional buddhists will agree to debate under the same terms of engagement, that is something to be determined case by case, universal generalizations asserting otherwise are fallacious.


I rather say a Pigeon can differentiate 26 patterns.

Atheists are humans. Pigeons aren’t.

I think if you go into any discussion with the inference that “the other person” isn’t of equal worth you are probably destined not to have a productive conversation to say the least :confused:


At the same time, two parties actually need to agree quite a bit before debate is even remotely possible.

I used the example of the pigeon playing chess because it is very popular in New Atheist circles in reference to the religious.

For instance, have you ever had someone try to convince you God exists? It ends with them determining that you just don’t ‘get it’. In my experience, at least.

Simply put, the fundamental disagreement is about what constitutes ‘good reasons’ and ‘evidence’ and so on. Is this thread supposed to be about that, or is this just going to be a criticism of a meme?

1 Like

It can be whatever you want it to be about, I am not particular, and already posted my OP.

First of all pigeons are actually very smart, as PolarBear has shown. Second, materialist do not debate, they usually run away from debates. From my experience on buddhist forums, I have noticed materialist are actually the most dogmatic and most closed minded people out there.

I live in a country that is in top 5 most religious on earth, with only 0.02% atheist. I expected that the atheist I will find on the internet to be open-minded, free thinkers, eager to debate, etc. - people that are in a honest search for the truth.

…But what I’ve found are people who refuse to debate and who simply do not care about the truth. It is a kind of religion based on the idea that “I am smart and you are a stupid religious bigot dooh” and that is just all there is to it. If you try to bring up arguments, try to question these materialist beliefs, they will just run away on you.

I get the impression that this thread is going to be very abrasive.

:running_man: ( <— not a physicalist :wink: )

In my experience, Atheists love debate as much as Christians or Buddhists. And much like like Christians and Buddhists, Atheists generally leave a debate believing that they have won it.

I really don’t understand the point. I don’t think Buddhists have different rules for debate compared to others. All human beings reason logically and appreciate the weight of evidence in more or less the same ways.

1 Like

It depends upon what they are debating. If they are debating creation of the universe myths, how life on earth evolved, etc, I believe the atheist and Buddhist will find lots of common grounds. There no doubt could be more topics they will also find common ground; on dukkha, maybe even the origins of dukkha, but probably not so much on the Path out of dukkha.

If they are debating rebirth, then you’re right, each side will most likely see the other side as too stubborn (or worse, bird-brained, as you say). The atheist will say something like “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and you can’t provide any for rebirth.” The Buddhist would say something like “even if the most concrete proof were provided, detailing events that could never have been known before, you, as an atheist will still reject it simply because it is a religious concept.”

1 Like

You’ve compared an atheist asking for the Buddhist to meet their burden of proof, with the Buddhist engaging in an ad hom attack. So, that’s not really an even-handed model.

The Buddhist response, as I’ve been pointing out recently, will reduce to & settle on faith. As I said, that’s the problem that all the rest of these things come from: for a Buddhist in general, faith is taken up as valid. For others, it is not.




1 Like

Yes, that was the point of the OP, which I was just confirming. The atheist cannot understand or accept the use of faith and the Buddhist cannot accept that the atheist needs materialist proof; all of which confirms they are not operating on the same “chess board” so to speak, and each see each other as bird-brained.

Atheism is not materialism… the OP confused those terms as well. I get the point trying to be made, though we should avoid sloppy heuristics like the above confusion of terms.

Some people have space for faith in their epistemological arsenal, and others don’t. The discussion between pro-faith and con-faith can occur, it just has to start with epistemology.

1 Like

Not all atheists are materialists, but many (most?) are. Not all materialists are atheists, but virtually all of them are. Perhaps more appropriate for a different topic…

Why would they want to? What’s the point? Nobody ever gets convinced, not it debates on beliefs and faith. Let others believe pink unicorns, personally I couldn’t care much less… in the end, debating about beliefs is just endless frustration, same stuff, over and over again.


Why would they want to? What’s the point? Nobody ever gets convinced, not it debates on beliefs and faith. Let others believe pink unicorns, personally I couldn’t care much less… in the end, debating about beliefs is just endless frustration, same stuff, over and over again.

If that was the case, then there would be no chance for people to ever traverse the jungle of views. It is only through debate that a person can change his views, not through force or torture or other kind of methods.

As for materialist - the problem they have is running away when asked about the fundamental thesis of their philosophy: The idea that consciousness comes from matter. They just take this idea on blind faith and run away when asked about it in a debate, or when shown scientific evidence that the conditionality they believe in does not work that way

Unlike pastafarianism (the spagghete monster religion), materialism is a philosophy that can be confirmed or refuted through scientific discoveries. And, guess what, it has been refuted on numerous grounds. Believing in it is like believing that the world is flat.

Leaving aside the consciousness problems, we have the quantum physics problems where only through believing in the many-worlds-theory one can defend materialism. Few materialist out there even know that they are supposed to believe in that theory to maintain their beliefs. This shows that, as I’ve said, most materialist are not really serious about their believs. They just believe in them and that’s it, no need for too much investigation.

The simple fact that most materialist don’t even know that they’re supposed to believe in the many-worlds-theory confirms what I have said about them in my first message. They just aren’t taking things seriously, they’re not really interested in finding out the truth.

As I pointed out before, there are other viable interpretations and research programs in the foundations of quantum mechanics besides the many-worlds interpretation.