God as a Chess Master in Creation

I like the chess master analogy too! Notice that he does not specify the precise details of his opponents moves. How do you make sense of that @Eddie?

I think it is compatible with much of the way the Bible describes God’s interactions with human beings. There are also, of course, some celebrated Biblical statements which seem to imply a more mechanical role for human beings, as cogs in the wheel of God’s plan. I think Jon Garvey would say that there is no contradiction between the different presentations, when each is properly understood in context. Certainly systematic theology has to attempt to show the harmony of all Biblical statements. I respect the attempts of the theologians of the various Christian denominations and schools to do this. I’m not certain, however, that the type of literature that the Bible is will allow for the tightness of system that one would find in a book by Spinoza or Aquinas or Calvin. There may always be some loose ends that Christians just have to leave unresolved.

Of course, all of this that I’ve just said is about God-human interactions, and not at all about evolutionary pool shots that move the universe from the Big Bang to man. Behe’s image of the pool shot calls to mind the old ideal of Laplacean mechanism, whereas a chess game between two players who choose their own moves doesn’t do that.


@eddie doesn’t the chess game analogy work for evolution too?

Also I’m seeing more why you think God’s ongoing involvement is important. You can’t just leave a chess game on autopilot.

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It might, if organisms are conceived of as players rather than as billiard balls being bounced around by prior evolutionary “collisions.” But then the question would arise who the Master Chess Player is that is interacting with the organisms, and where he is leading them. :slight_smile:

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This is a model to explore further. I like it because it seems to accommodate theology we both think is important, and that is not an easy task.

It seems we both are resistant to the hyper-determinism that the pool shot analogy requires. If you like this model instead, it is not hard to see how it could be entirely consistent with mainstream science.

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It is not hard to answer these question from a Christian point of view.

No, it’s not hard, but if the interactions are conceived of as real-time interactions (like the interactions between two chess players), I don’t think the idea would over well with a good many of your scientific colleagues – not even with all of the Christian ones. A lot of Christians who endorse evolution prefer to describe all the interactions in evolution in impersonal scientific terms and to reserve God-talk for discussion only of the meaning or significance of evolution. But if God is actually interacting with organisms over the course of evolution, the way a superior chess player interacts with inferior ones in a game, then God isn’t merely an interpretive gloss expressing the significance of evolution in religious terms for the Christian; God is an active cause in giving the evolution the particular course that it takes.

I think Jon Garvey once commented on the chess player analogy, and maybe he has some more ideas on how it might bridge the gap between the language of science and the language of the Bible.

If you disconnect it from ID, I’m not sure what the problem would be. It sounds very much like how Darrel Falk describes his model. Though, he uses the langauge of parent and child.


I dont see how your last sentence matters at all… if it is God doing the Chess Mastering…

@eddie & @swamidass

A Chess Master Scenario integrated into a Pool Shot Scenario is a THEOLOGICAL model. It would not be included in a scientific article by Joshua for a science journal.

Remove the Chess Master component… and it becomes pure science…

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I have no idea what you mean by bridging the gap.

The Chess Master is a psychological model… and if the Chess Master is God… then it is a THEOLIGICAL model about psychology.

There is no way valid way to being a metaphysical chess master to the science community.

Well, a parent and child interact within the same world, each affecting the other. Is that the relationship between God and living organisms? Or is God only a transcendent cause of nature, who does not interact directly with it (before the arrival of man, I mean), but leaves nature to develop itself through evolution? If the parent-child model is a real analogy, then it would put God in a sense in the world, and in personal interaction with it – even before the arrival of man. I have seen Falk, Ken Miller and others use this analogy, but they gut it of real meaning, because when they say God is like a loving parent and nature is like his child, they don’t mean that God interacts with nature the way parents do with children in a family setting. They mean that God “sets nature free” (the way a parent finally lets his older teenagers go free to make their own creative choices) – and therefore that God is not actually involved personally in the evolutionary process, but has allowed nature to develop itself, out of respect for its autonomy. But that seems to be just a pretty way of describing a Deistic evolutionary process in which God gives nature certain powers at the beginning, and using those powers, without God’s help, nature generates galaxies, planets, oxygen, water, life, multicellular life, vertebrates, primates, and man. So I think the parent-child analogy there is pretty vacuous. I like the Chess Master analogy better, because then God is actually making definite moves which influence the outcome of the game.

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Evolutionary Game Theory is a thing.