Playing Chess with Pigeons

Playing chess with pigeons

I found a good blog called Playing Chess with Pigeons, by Troy Britain. He mostly focusses on evolution and creationism. He has a lot of good articles. You should check it out.

What really caught my fancy was his explanation of the blog’s title. I’m going to reprint most of it here, with my comments:

The title comes (apparently) from a very amusing description of what it is like to debate creationists about evolution Scott D. Weitzenhoffer made in a comment on regarding Eugenie Scott’s book Evolution Vs. Creationism: An introduction (2004):

Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.

I love it! That’s a great description. My blog has received its share of creationists, and the metaphor is pretty accurate. Troy continues:

Man, have I been there. It’s not just that antievolutionists are often completely ignorant of evolutionary theory, the state of the evidence, and the history of science. There have also been numerous times where I have been debating an antievolutionist or responding to their claims that I would have to take time to explain their own arguments to them. [emphasis added]

“No, you meant to say ‘Piltdown Man’ was based on a human skull and an orangutan jaw, not on a pig’s tooth. That was ‘Nebraska Man’ and it was based on a peccary tooth.”

That sure sounds familiar! Not only do they get it wrong, but they all seem to get it wrong in the same way!

Troy finishes with:

Add to this their constantly moving goal-posts, their tendency towards scatter-shot (keep throwing stuff against the wall and hope that something sticks) mode of argument, their constant digressions to irrelevancies, non sequiturs and other logical fallacies, and it gets pretty breathtaking.

I was going to flag a few examples of that from my blog, but that pretty much covers every creationist who visits us.

12 Responses to “Playing Chess with Pigeons”

  1. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Alert! Alert! Resident bird lover must dispute the “flies back to its flock to claim victory” part. Surely the pigeon is just SOOooo advanced that he doesn’t want to play your simple minded human games. Victory is the pigeons, indeed. Who is the one getting free food in the park, eh?

  2. ericsan Says:

    Comparing a pigeon to a creationist is unfair. One is filthy and has a brain the size of a pea, and the other is a lovely, peaceful, feathered animal.

  3. George Says:

    Not only do they get it wrong, but they all seem to get it wrong in the same way!

    That’s because none of them have any idea of what they’re talking about, and can only repeat (“parrot”, to keep with the bird analogy) the crap they hear on conservative talk radio or the 700 Club.

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    Are the nimrods on the radio the ones who are getting it wrong (e.g., Piltdown Man was a hoax created from a pig tooth)? I would think that those folks would have at least a tiny bit of knowledge and get it right. I thought it’s when it goes into the fundie brain to be processed that it comes out wrong.

  5. Sarah Says:

    I have to disagree with ericsan. The pigeons where I live pretty much fit the fundie-mold.

    Too bad their heads don’t explode when you feed them raw rice though…T-T

  6. Chuck Says:

    Comparing a pigeon to a creationist is unfair. One is filthy and has a brain the size of a pea, and the other is a lovely, peaceful, feathered animal.

    Um…creationists are peaceful? False. Creationists are rabidly Zionist, and make up the majority of the supporters left of the illegal American invasion of Iraq – even though we all now know that all of the justifications for going to war (other than that the Bush family knows how to hold a grudge) were exposed as fabrications.
    Peaceful warmongers? cf. oxymoron

  7. Hooton Hears a Whor Says:

    Thinking about all the crap that creationists do to try to disprove evolution, it seems like it would be much easier and less time-consuming to just accept it.

  8. Jason Failes Says:

  9. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Oh, Chuck.

  10. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Hooton – Easier, maybe. But doing the right thing is many times not the easier path.

  11. Brian Says:


    Embracing the rational conclusions of evolutionary biology is the last thing a fundie will ever do, regardless of the mental gymnastics required, because doing so would mean part of their precious goddamned bible is wrong, and we can’t have that because……well, we just can’t.

    Christian theology is hugely dependent on the Genesis fable, because without it there is no original sin for all of us to be born with, and without original sin, there is no need for Jesus. Fundies may be aware of this, somewhere deep down in their troubled, addled minds, and as a result fight so viciously against what science has to offer.

    The Genesis story also conveniently justifies centuries of male-dominated sexism by blaming Eve for the fall in the garden, so you can see how a good number of fundies would be reluctant to have this particular apple cart upset.

    Finally, the story of Genesis represents human narcissism at its worst. It tries to tell us that the entire universe exists for our benefit, and we are supposedly even made in the image of god. The history of our evolution tells a very different story, one that requires no supernatural hocus-pocus and puts our place in the biohistory of this planet in proper context.

    Given how fundies usually prattle on about how humble and modest they are, it certainly requires an astounding level of arrogance to conclude that you are the product of an omnipotent, omniscient force, and that that force wants you to spend eternity with it, and that during your life on Earth it will occasionally suspend the laws of nature on your behalf so that you’re annoying headache goes away, or you get a primo parking space at the mall. The delusions of fundies know no bounds, Hooton, and their addiction to religion guarantees that cold, hard reason will never replace ridiculous but comforting fantasies.

  12. Sarah Says:


    It also has to do with upbringing and the human desire for stability. Most of these people are being taught from birth about the Bible, Jesus, Holy Spirit, etc and as most logical people know: our youth is when we are most open to outside influences.

    It’s like a blank sheet of paper in a sense…but once it’s drawn on, it’s very hard to get rid of what was originally there. Sometimes the artist hasn’t had time to properly ink it so you can erase most of the image (Usually there are still those annoying eraser marks though), but most of the time you are too late and you either just end up smearing the ink or it’s already dried and you can’t do anything about it. Once the page is inked, you can either alter the drawing a bit, scribble all over it, or just white out certain parts.

    It sounds simple in the terms of a drawing…too bad people are a lot more difficult to deal with.

    The next problem which that leads into is stability or pattern. All humans crave some form of it in their lives (laws, standards, marriage), etc…because those kinds of patterns are what we can turn to in crisis (even if they are bad for us)

    What we as science-lovers are doing is attempting to white out, scribble over, or alter the ink in the picture. We are telling these people who really don’t know any better that they have been wrong for years and that the stories they grew up to believe as the truth were false the whole time.

    Now I’m not saying that we should stop (Just because someone is in denial doesn’t mean the whole world should stop turning while they mentally pick up the pieces of their shattered reality) but I still feel that this point should also be brought up for Hooton.

    It’s pathetically stupid, but true…we humans very much are creatures of habit.