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Jun 12 2013

Kiwis and chickens

This is a very nice video that has a metaphor that I quite liked for different kinds of pseudoscience.

So some kinds of pseudoscience are so dotty and foundationless that they’re like kiwis: they are so wrong that they never get off the ground, and they don’t even try. Religion, for instance, is a total kiwi.

Chickens, on the other hand, try to flap mightily and might get airborne for a little bit, but can’t sustain themselves for the duration. These are pseudoscientific ideas that borrow a bit from real science and get it wrong.

I’ve noticed that some skeptics like to set aside kiwis as a special case that is exempt from criticism. I’d like to point out that neither kiwis nor chickens are able to soar.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    Charly

    The (not) funny thing is, that both kiwis and chicken “feal in their heart” that they are the eagels, the true rulers of the sky and their inability to soar does not bother them at all.

  2. 2
    chrislawson

    Chickens can too soar! I saw them in Chicken Run!

  3. 3
    Holms

    I uh can’t commend you on your analogy, PZ.
    :(

  4. 4
    jackcowie

    Unfortunately, religion is not nearly as endangered as kiwis are. :(

  5. 5
    wyst

    Not really relevant to the discussion of pseudoscience, but I have to note that when I was a kid, I had a chicken that was quite good at flying. We kept her as a pet, and she hung around because we fed her.

  6. 6
    Ichthyic

    I uh can’t commend you on your analogy, PZ.

    seconded.

    :P

  7. 7
    Rob

    Good video, but as a kiwi I felt… slighted.

  8. 8
    philhoenig

    I think the kiwi analogy works in some ways. Why did kiwis lose the ability to fly? Flying’s expensive and they found themselves in an “easy” predatorless environment where it wasn’t required to survive…

  9. 9
    Rob

    ^ Unnecessarily I know, but still.

  10. 10
    JohnnieCanuck

    @ 3&6:

    You did notice that PZ was summarising the video author’s analogy rather than making it himself, right? Wouldn’t want to get things bassackwards or downsideup, now would we?

  11. 11
    Azuma Hazuki

    And here I thought he meant kiwis as in the fruit. Though as Pratchett has observed, they are both small, brown, fuzzy, and flightless, but one is green when you cut it open =P

    Interesting analogy though. Reminds me of “not even wrong.”

  12. 12
    Ragutis

    Knock off the Kiwi bashing. At least they don’t try to shag your head.

  13. 13
    Ragutis

    Oops!

    Sorry, my bad!

    What did I do wrong? I’ve linked to tons of vids here without embedding them. Did I screw up or did something change in the coding/magic/alchemy that makes the site run? It was the hocus-pocus, wasn’t it? I said hocus-pocus when I should have said abracadabra. Damn!

  14. 14
    David Pearce

    Another kiwi here,but not offended. Reminded me of this, which funnily enough is pretty relevant and a fair metaphor in the discussion, except that at the end this kiwi is self aware of its deception

  15. 15
  16. 16
    PZ Myers

    I’ve got small flightless birds reading my blog? Who knew?

  17. 17
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    small flightless birds

    Ms Molly, reading over my shoulder, is rather intrigued by this thread.

  18. 18
    Caveat Imperator

    I’ve got small flightless birds reading my blog? Who knew?

    On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. Or a small flightless bird. Or a sour green fruit with furry skin.

  19. 19
    Quodlibet

    Chickens, on the other hand, try to flap mightily and might get airborne for a little bit, but can’t sustain themselves for the duration.

    Most chickens kept for meat and/or eggs have been bred for heavy pectoral muscles, etc., making flight difficult. Most have also had their wings clipped, rendering them unable to sustain flight for any distance. They can fly up to roosts, take short flights to escape pecking coop-mates, etc.

    But their un-clipped gallinaceous wild cousins are able fliers. The Junglefowl, from which our domestic chickens are descended, flies well. In North America, our wild turkeys roost high in the trees. They are able to sustain flight over distances up to a mile, at speeds up to 60mph.

    Grouse and partridge are famous for their explosive flight.

  20. 20
    myeck waters

    Poor grouse and partridge!

  21. 21
    Akira MacKenzie

    I can’t think of kiwis the same way ever since I saw the animated version of “A Wish For Wings That Work” where a uncredited Robin Williams ( affecting a New Zealand accen, of courset) provides the voice for a member of Opus’ flightless bird support group who is constantly yelling about the “AL-BA-TROSS” who ran off with his wife.

  22. 22
    ChasCPeterson

    In North America, our wild turkeys roost high in the trees. They are able to sustain flight over distances up to a mile, at speeds up to 60mph.

    of course, that’s a pretty unimpressive bar for a bird.

  23. 23
    anchor

    For sheer powered airworthiness and fine-control: hummingbird.

  24. 24
    unclefrogy

    setting aside what the truth of both pseudoscience and religion.
    What is the attraction? What is it that gives it the strength to persist regardless of evidence of the fundamental errors and almost total lack of veracity?
    Why are people so attached to them that they will ignore the death and suffering that they inevitably enable if not as in religion encourage?

    uncle frogy

  25. 25
    Blobulon

    David Pierce, try this one:
    http://m.youtube .com/ watch?feature=related&v=SnGHcfqGxqw
    But without the spaces. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to link properly here.

  26. 26
    Blobulon

    Crap. Apologies for the misspelling.

  27. 27
    David Marjanović

    What did I do wrong? I’ve linked to tons of vids here without embedding them.

    Posting the naked url of anything at http://www.youtube embeds it automatically. Using an <a> tag, or linking to m.youtube, does not do this.

  28. 28
    David Marjanović

    Interesting. I did not type the “http://” part. The software here manipulates naked URLs…

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