Stalemate -- Eric R. Pianka


© Eric R. Pianka

"A tie is like kissing your sister"

A Chess game can end in several ways. Sometimes, especially among weaker players, a game is played out to the bitter end, which occurs when one player is able to capture the other's king. Better players foresee an impending checkmate and resign. If two players have more or less equal strength but neither can find a way to checkmate, they can agree to a draw, but this seldom happens. The sourest ending occurs when both players are down to just a few pieces and one player has enough to win but boxes the other player's king into a position where the only move possible is to move into check. This deadlocked situation is known as a stalemate. It leaves a sour taste in the potential winner's mouth because it is a draw, but not one mutually agreed upon and most unsatisfactory for the person who could have won. When a stalemate occurs in Chess, the proponents usually set up the pieces and play a new game. Recognizing the innate undesirability of a tie, some sports disallow tied games, and rules dictate that players must play in overtime until one team wins.

People have become polarized along the unfortunate rational-mystical divide. I remain amazed by how vehement religious fundamentalists have become (tribalism at its worst). Americans are polarized, locked into opposing positions on many issues. We have reached a political impasse with almost exactly half of us voting Democratic and the other half Republican. Conservatives have managed to turn the very term liberal into a bad word. Another example of the stalemate is the pro-life versus pro-choice debate. Environmentalists are called tree huggers and accused of caring more about waterfalls and butterflies than other people. They clash with other people who are pro-development and "pro-people." An astute reader will note cross correlations among people adopting these various opinions. Republicans are pro-life religious conservatives, whereas most Democrats are pro-choice and not so conservative. Unfortunately, we are also engaged in such a standoff between religion and science. Die-hard creationists adamantly oppose evolution, and as we have just seen, some are, foolishly, actually anti-science. Claiming that evolution is "just another belief system", creationists have attempted to force public schools to provide "equal time" to alternative ideas especially their so-called "intelligent design," which is merely occultism pseudo-science. In such standoffs, neither side will give an inch, and nobody can change anyone else's mind. We live in a culture gap. We don't have the sense to start a new game like Chess players, but the stalemate endures indefinitely. Such impasses impede change and progress and paralyze our society.

We are never going to reach total agreement, but to exchange ideas and information, we must communicate with those who disagree. To get out of this stalemate, we must change minds -- this is our real challenge. Convincing people to think when politicians, religious leaders, and the government are telling them to keep their heads buried in the sand and pretend everything's OK isn't going to be easy. Our leaders are lying to us, and too many people just accept it.

Last updated 12 September 2014 by Eric R. Pianka