Playing Chess with Pigeons?

Playing Chess with Pigeons is the weblog of Troy Britain.

It can get messy

The title comes from a very amusing description of what it is like to debate creationists about evolution by Scott D. Weitzenhoffer*, given in a comment on regarding Eugenie Scotts’ 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.

The pro-creationist reviewers of this book clearly demonstrate this to be true.

Man, have I been there. It’s not just that creationists 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 creationist or responding to their claims that I would have to take time to explain their own arguments to them.

“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 actually based on a peccary tooth.”

Is it so much to ask for that if you’re going to try and use Piltdown Man against us that you at least know what the hell it was, and that you get your own arguments against it straight?

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

If there is a particular point that I wish to drive home again and again on this blog, it is that professional creationists—those who populated the various institutes and ministries and who make their livings promulgating antievolution, anti-science, rhetoric—regularly misrepresent the empirical evidence, the nature of science and the work and words of scientists, in such a manner and to such an extent, that it can only be attributed to grossly incompetent scholarship, rank intellectual dishonest or serious delusion. Or perhaps some combination of these. 

My hope being that—in addition to supplying further ammunition to my fellow defenders of science and science education—I might convince intellectually honest, thoughtful, religious antievolutionists out there to question the advisability of attempting to shore up their faith with the “goods” these people are selling them.

[You can buy a “playing chess with pigeons” quote T-shirt at Evo-T’s.]

* Mr. Weitzenhoffer has since taken to espousing what I consider to be some rather extreme rhetoric on social media with regards to those with whom he has political disagreement, for that reason I feel compelled to state that my use of his quote does not represent any necessary agreement with him on anything beyond his joke about creationists made in his comment on