Religion: Sudoku Edition June 28, 2011

Religion: Sudoku Edition

If there’s a better explanation of the difference between religion and science, I’d like to see it…

Science figures things out, piece by piece. It’s not always easy, but you’ll occasionally have a breakthrough that allows you to fill in more pieces. The bigger picture ultimately becomes clear, even if the details aren’t complete.

Religion just assigns an automatic explanation to everything. There’s no need to question. Nothing to figure out. Just accept it, move along, don’t bother putting any thought into it.

(via jnethery at Reddit)

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  • That God one isn’t quite right. There is an error on the 3rd and 5th rows.

  • Gordon

    Wait, the religious Sudoku needs more gaps to put god into.

  • An important point you’ve missed – and I mean this in all seriousness – 72 of the squares in the religion box are provably wrong. Not just because I say so – but by the definition of the puzzle, they must be the wrong answer.

  • I actually don’t find the “God” solution all that threatening. If people want to be ignorant, that is their problem. I view a larger problem is when self appointed theologians from long ago wrote scripture that tried to provide solutions to “Sudoko puzzles” about human nature, origins, and the supernatural. These religiously inspired “Sudoku solutions” are not real solutions at all. They are just codified bigotry, superstition, and wishful thinking with ALL the squares filled out where some of the rows and colums may “have the right number” but most do not. Then the believers insist on passing laws based on their particular religious “Sudoku solution”.

    Translation, I don’t mind Deists. But when they start adding details and specific attributes to God, that is when the problems start.

  • Luther

    The one on the left is a god awful mess. Very realistic.

  • Very clever. Of course, the metaphor fails to convey the bigotry and deviltry that goes one when people play Religion’s game.

  • The religion one has just repeated the same answer for all the questions without providing one iota of useful information. I think it sums it up perfectly.

  • Jenny Wren

    I have hyper-Christian friends who would fully embrace this cartoon as representative of their feelings on the matter. Because they are sheeple and they want all the answers up front with no effort on their part. :\

  • Kevin S.

    Sad note of the day – I got distracted from the rest of.the trying to solve that Sudoku puzzle.

  • bLaKouT

    When I was a young child, I asked my mother what made it rain. She told me God made it rain. I replied that my teacher had told me that the clouds made it rain. She replied “who do you think made the clouds?”. That kind of argument can be taken back as far as you like to go. You can’t argue someone out of faith, and I don’t try. For whatever reason, they need it. The only point I can see to cartoons like the one above is to mock someone’s belief system and feel superior to them. What does that accomplish? I also remember asking a cousin of mine relatively recently if he thought that there might be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. He talked in circles for a while and ended with “I don’t need there to be.” It wasn’t an answer to my question, but it gave me an answer to God: I don’t need there to be one.

  • Luther

    When I was a young child, I asked my mother what made it rain. She told me God made it rain. I replied that my teacher had told me that the clouds made it rain. She replied “who do you think made the clouds?”. That kind of argument can be taken back as far as you like to go.

    You could end it by asking “Who made God” and risk getting your mouth washed out with soap.

  • I’m afraid you’re not looking at the relevant context. If you were willing to look at the puzzle from the perspective of a believer, you would realize that, in the relevant context, none of the answers are true duplicates.

    Nobody should take your petty attack seriously until you can show that you’ve read and understood (and, inevitably, accepted) the sophisticated and venerable traditions of God-doku interpretation.

    Do you seriously think that millions of people, over thousands of years, could have been playing this puzzle wrong?

    The atheistic Sci-doku approach may satisfy your limited reductionist mindset, but only the God-doku approach can tap into what the human heart really yearns for in this puzzle. Doesn’t that suggest to you that God-doku is the true form of this puzzle?

    God-doku and Sci-doku are really non-overlapping puzzles. The fact that the God-doku solution and the Sci-doku solution use completely incompatible sets of rules and produce answers that cannot be simultaneously true doesn’t mean that they God-doku and Sci-doku are incompatible.

    Your constant criticism of the God-doku approach seems to betray an insecurity. I think that perceptive readers will see that it is just a way of avoiding the difficult questions that people are beginning to pose about the gaps in Sci-doku.

    The fact that you can reason through the Sci-doku at all points to an underlying solution with God in every cell. Sci-doku depends on God-doku.

    Why do you hate God-doku? What harm ever came from filling in every cell with “God”? Did someone tease you for playing God-doku when you were little?


  • DaveP

    I am such a math nerd I had to solve the puzzle.

    8 6 3 9 2 5 7 4 1
    4 1 2 7 8 6 3 5 9
    7 5 9 4 1 3 2 8 6
    9 7 1 2 6 4 8 3 5
    3 4 6 8 5 7 9 1 2
    2 8 5 3 9 1 4 6 7
    1 9 8 6 3 2 5 7 4
    5 2 4 1 7 8 6 9 3
    6 3 7 5 4 9 1 2 8

  • Rich Wilson

    Along the same lines, if you’ve never seen it, check out Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Perimeter of Ignorance” essay or various youtube versions of it.

  • Rieux

    It’s an interesting sudoku. You can get most of the way with ordinary pins (rows/columns/boxes that have only one place available for a 6, etc.) and the occasional intersection. Then, though, thanks in large part to the lack of 1s in the digits provided, you end up having to use slightly subtler logic to deal with a grid that still has numerous possible positions for 1, 3, and 4 and a few (just enough) for 2 and 9.

    At that point it only takes a single inference (“you’ll occasionally have a breakthrough” indeed)—for me it was establishing the 1 at column 3, row 4—and the final 28 digits come tumbling in.

  • (Hope to get this through)

    The thing I like most about this illustration isn’t merely that the God-doku is showing how one can fill in the blanks with God, but how all the blanks are already filled IN with God. I would doubt anyone came to God through rationality and reasoning, but already having the answers given to them. If the God-doku weren’t already all filled out, people might question whether God belonged in this specific spot or whether there’s another answer in another one. Logic and reason are the enemies of dogma.

    @Timothy Mills:

    I almost started believing you were the genuine article. Good Poe.

  • DaveP


    That’s how I did it too.

  • Rich Wilson

    The real difference isn’t in the solution, but in the process. It’s much more rare that you use an eraser with God.

    Analogy breaking aside-
    My approach to Sudoku was to write a program to assist me by giving me possible solutions to a square. Extending the program to do a complete solution was just the next natural small step. Now that I’ve done that, even without the program at hand, Sudoku has lost its fun for me.

  • I so need to print the right hand one out and fill it in – I’m addicted to Sudoku!

  • PCE

    Not many all Christians are this close-minded. Influential christian writer A.W. Tozer says this:

    “Science has done much for us; but it is a poor science that would hide from us the great deep sacred infinitude of Nescience, whither we can never penetrate, on which all science swims as a mere superficial film. This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.”

    I’m sure there are many here who would disagree with him and say that science does in fact explain everything, but talk to a physicist and he will tell you that the most basic ideas in physics: the concept of gravity is not completely understood. Even though we have known about it and studied it for hundreds of years, there are still aspects of it that we don’t understand. It is still one of the largest areas of study in physics. Though science can explain things, we shouldn’t think that it already has explained EVEYTHING. Never assume we are done figuring things out.

    All that to say: christian or atheist, we should marvel at the world around us and never be so silly as to think we have everything figured out.

  • @PCE:

    I’m sure there are many here who would disagree with him and say that science does in fact explain everything

    I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone on this blog who agrees with this.

  • ACN

    How on earth does your quote from Tozer back-up your claim that christians are not this close-minded?

    It’s a bag of presuppositional nonsense that does nothing other than reinforce a god-of-the-gaps.

  • All that to say: christian or atheist, we should marvel at the world around us and never be so silly as to think we have everything figured out.

    Such as claiming gods and goddesses are real? Theists are the ones making positive assertions here. They’re the ones who are assuming that supernatural entities exist in the first place. They’re the ones who seem to think they have everything figured out.

  • Kevin S.

    It’s a strawman to claim we say science explains everything. We’re plenty willing to admit there is stuff we don’t know about. We are not, however, willing to blindly attribute the unknown to the divine. That’s been proven false countless times as science topples the barriers to knowledge.

  • Patrick M

    Just as it’s a strawman to suggest that Deists think God is the answer to everything. Plenty of us LOVE science and think that it’s doing a FABULOUS job of explaining the universe.

    Just saying – try not to keep your vision too narrow.

  • Edmond

    Kakuro is better.

  • Kevin S.

    Patrick – who suggested deists think that?

  • Vystrix Nexoth

    I was stuck in solving the puzzle, with the lack of 1s, 3s and 4s. I ultimately wound up having to flat-out guess. I had narrowed the lower-right corner of the center block to 1 or 4, and tried putting 1 there and solving. Turned out to be right (I tried again with 4 and it failed).

    If you don’t know the answer, make an educated guess and see whether it pans out. That’s how science works.

    The religious approach would be to decide “Well, I think it looks nicer and more symbolic with a ‘1’ there, because then all the corner cells of that block will go 1-2-3-4!” regardless of whether it produces a valid answer.

    Someone upthread said they know a Christian who would agree with the image/comparison as a defense of their view. To that, I’d say: Even if the God-doku puzzle is correct, it’s not very useful. It only says how things are, but doesn’t allow for innovations that make things better.

    Such as an Internet on which to say such things!

  • NC

    Fun as it is to claim the moral high-ground and reduce one’s opponents to a strawman as simplistic this, it seems to me to betray a lack of both nuanced and critical thinking. Not a single comment here sought to question the blanket assertion that every theist (ironically) questions nothing and simply sees everything as explicable by god and therefore not worthy of their inquiry.

    There are two reasons why this caricature is so appealing. Firstly, it’s in harmony with what you expect religion and science to give. Theoretically, with a god as the first cause and ability to intervene in the laws of nature, curiosity about the world should be a waste of time. Science, as we all know, prides itself on its present ignorance and a constant struggle against the same.

    In reality, whilst some fundamentalists (I talked to one the other day) may think like this, and some of the nuttier flavours of Christian are happy with the cognitive dissonance of putting some things down to god’s interference and others not, most Christians don’t think like this at all; the real world intervenes. Indeed, as the long and tortured tradition of theology should indicate, these people aren’t even sure exactly what ‘god’ means. There’s the Protestant strand of seeing humanity as mired in darkness and ignorance (e.g. Gentili). Or take Palmerston who, in response to some morons looking to counter a cholera epidemic by prayer, admonished that god ‘has established certain laws of nature’, so science was the way to find the answers.

    Popular atheism needs to find a more nuanced view of religion. These kind of caricatures are not merely fairly tedious and clash with most of our experiences with the moderately religious, but also smack of the same kind of arrogant bigotry that it is so keen to criticise.

  • Tom Bourque

    That reminds me of the The People’s Cube (communist rubik’s cube). XD

  • PCE


    “It’s a bag of presuppositional nonsense that does nothing other than reinforce a god-of-the-gaps.”

    You may be right, but my point is that he’s admitting he doesn’t have all the answers. At least he’s not claiming to know how everything works.

    Also, please show me a person–atheist or theist–who works without presuppositions. They don’t exist (though agnostics come pretty close).

  • ACN

    Claiming not to know something, and claiming that a large class of things are intrinsically unknowable because they’re inherently miraculous are not at all the same. Scientists freely do the former. Your quote is doing the latter.

    The presuppositions I was talking about were presuppositions about the existence of god, not all presuppositions in general. Science, for example, has 2 (or 3 depending on how you break them up) presuppositions, that there is an observable reality and that this reality is governed by natural laws which can be discovered. It’s presuppositions are supported by parsimony. Parsimony is not kind to the god axiom.

    I suggest we stop going down the “everybody has presuppositions” path because it inevitably leads to “what if we’re all brains in jars”. I’m uninterested in playing that particular game.

  • PCE


    Fair enough, but you said,

    The presuppositions I was talking about were presuppositions about the existence of god, not all presuppositions in general.

    Your presuppositions are about an essential element of the discussion between theists and non-theists. They are not simply general presuppositions. It seems that you are unwilling to pursue an intelligent discussion without them. I am sorry to hear that. That is the same kind of close-mindedness that you are criticizing theists for. I agree with you that it can tedious, but it is important if you ever want to do anything beyond a petty blog.

  • Uchitrakar

                                                        God of the gaps
                       I will begin this article with two postulates: 1) God has created this universe, 2) He has brought man in this universe with some purpose.
             I am not claiming here that these two postulates are true, or that I can prove them to be true. But I want to show here that if these two postulates are true, then God will always be the God of the gaps. Anyone who will be reading this article should not forget that there is an “if” clause in the last sentence.
              Now I will begin with the supposition that God has created this universe. If God has created this universe, then He could have created it in four different ways: 1) He created it in such a way that there was no necessity for Him to intervene in it after creation, 2) After creation He intervened in it, but these interventions were a bare minimum, that is, He intervened only when these were absolutely necessary. In order to clarify my point here, I will say that He intervened only when He found that without His intervention the universe would come to a standstill, 3) He created the universe in such a way that in order to keep it going He had to make very frequent interventions in it, 4) God’s total intervention after creation.
             If it was the purpose of God to keep mankind crippled in every possible way, then He would have adopted either the third or the fourth way while creating the universe. This is because in these two cases man, in spite of his having sufficient intelligence and reasoning power, will fail to unveil the secrets of nature, because in almost every phenomenon of nature that he will decide to study he will ultimately find that there always remains an unknown factor, for which he will have no explanation. For him the book of nature will thus remain closed forever. But if it were God’s purpose that man be master of His creation, then it is quite natural for Him that He would try to keep the book of nature as much open to him as possible, so that with the little intelligence he has been endowed with man will be able to decipher the language of nature, and with that acquired knowledge he will also be able to improve the material conditions of his life. In that case God will try to adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal from His creation. He will create the universe in such a way that without His intervention the created world will be able to unfold itself. However that does not mean that He will never intervene. He will definitely intervene when without His intervention the created world would become stagnant. In such a scenario man will be able to give an explanation of almost all physical events in scientific language. But in those cases where God has actually intervened, he will fail to do so.
        So I think there is no reason for us to be ashamed of the “God of the gaps” hypothesis. Yes, if God has created the universe, and if God’s purpose was that man be master of His creation, then He would try to keep as little gap in His creation as possible. But the minimum gap that would be ultimately left can never be bridged by any sort of scientific explanation. God will also reside in that gap. Why should we be ashamed of that?
          The whole matter can be seen from another angle. Those who strongly believe that God has created this universe also believe that He has created it alone. Now is it believable that a God, who is capable of creating such a vast universe alone, is not capable enough to keep a proof of His existence in the created world? So I think it is more reasonable to believe that while creating the universe God has also kept a proof of His existence in something created. This proof is open to us all, but we have not found it, because we have not searched for it. So even if it is the case that God has never intervened in the created world after its creation, still then there will be a gap in this natural world, purposefully left by God, for which science will find no explanation. This will be the ultimate gap that can only be filled up by invoking God.
                     Therefore, I can conclude this article in this way: If God created this universe, and if God wanted man to be the master of His creation, then God would willingly choose to be “God of the gaps”.
              A theistic God will always prefer to be the God of the gaps.      

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