All Chickens Look Alike

Chickens scrounging for bugs in our yard.


We raise chickens for eggs and meat.  We occasionally give some away to help people start their own chicken colony.  Today friends came over to pick out 5 of our 30 birds to start their own little farm.  They were amazed when my 8-year-old daughter ran around tell them the names of each chicken.  The couple puzzled, “How do you tell the difference between all these birds?  They all look the same to us?”  To which my daughter quickly responded, rather baffled, “It is easy, they are all different!”

A crowd of Japanese folks


Flash back 20 years: I am in a Japanese movie theater watching an American film dubbed in Japanese with a good Japanese friend.  He kept asking me who was who throughout the film.  I kept reminding him but after a while I grew impatient and said, “Look, I just told you two minutes ago who that was!”  He replied shyly, “Sorry, I don’t mean to be offensive, but all you white people look the same to me.”  I smiled with irony.

Atheists & Christians

We can easily see the differences among our familiars.  Generalizing about those outside of our group comes natural.  I visit many blog sites where Christians generalize about Atheists and Atheist generalize about Christians.  Heck, I have to fight the tendency in myself all the time.  We are all susceptible to the same silly biases!


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12 responses to “All Chickens Look Alike

  1. ian

    Nice post! Amen.

  2. I love how self-aware you are about your susceptibilities! If only we could all acknowledge so lucidly and willingly!

  3. It would be very unchristian-like for me not to try viewing and treating atheists as distinct individuals.

  4. Temaskian

    True, true. I’ve noticed that too, how Chinese can’t tell one Hollywood actor from another.

    Another example is how people say your child looks like you, but you yourself don’t see it.

  5. Hermes

    Agreed, in general. Just as I can tell the difference between people of different races, I realize that each person has different beliefs and I hold to that firmly.

    Unfortunately, many Christians do insist that I must know exactly what they mean when they use general religious terms. So, when I ask for them to clarify what they as individuals mean, they tend to get really annoyed. If I didn’t, though, they would rightly chastise me for making incorrect assumptions about what it is they believe. Brains, unlike skin and faces, are not open to inspection passively.

  6. It is far easier to hate and be cruel to those we don’t know and understand. For many groups who choose a sort of tribal identity, this simple element of human nature is quite convenient and at times very useful.

    @ Hermes. Christians expect attacks from those who are not Christian so they probably perceive the question as a challenge. This is unfortunate for all around because you lose the opportunity of understanding them and they lose the chance to work through concepts that they probably have just blankly accepted. I think people of faith are sometimes afraid of such conversations precisely because they haven’t been required to actually think about and understand what they are saying.

  7. DaCheese

    I think another aspect of it is that many Christians are “whole package” thinkers (referencing a previous blog entry), and they tend to assume that everyone else is the same way. Thus they expect an “atheist” to conform to some single set of beliefs, just as they try to do in their religious faith.

    And they’re especially uncomfortable when you force them to define their own belief-set in detail, as doing so might reveal that they aren’t in perfect conformance with others in their group. They like to believe that their community’s dogma is the One Truth, so they don’t want to know that their beliefs are actually different from the guy in the next pew. And they certainly don’t want to be revealed as having misunderstood something they were taught.

  8. Sabio, you better be careful, cause it sounds like you’re preaching and i’m singing in that choir! RAWK!


  9. I agree Sabio, generalization and bias happen all the time and it just isn’t fair for any of us to do. I think we are finding as humans that 6 billion + can be pretty unique.

  10. Generalizations have served useful purposes.
    Biases have served useful purposes.

    Indeed they do come ‘naturally’ as you suggest, S. The fun thing now is we are coming to a point where we can actually choose our natures, or at least be aware of their consequences.

    The challenge is the length of time involved in changing. And maybe the motivation to change.

    But heck, if honest Christian parents can (almost) deliberately raise Atheists these days to show their willingness to change for the future, then maybe there is hope for the world after all…

    Oh wait. Have I got that right? …

  11. CRL

    My personal hypothesis for why we make such generalizations: the simplicity which we reduce people to when we make descriptions. When I describe someone physically, I generally say nothing more than race, height, hairstyle, and one or two distinguishing characteristics. Leading to quite a few conversations along the lines of “Asian, average-ish height, long hair and…uh…glasses.” “Caitlin, you just described half the school.” And yet, this is the format of most descriptions I hear.

    The same goes for our descriptions of people’s religious beliefs. We find it more convenient to use labels such as “atheist”, “Catholic”, “Buddhist”, “Jewish”, “Christian”, etc. than to talk in detail of what people actually believe. Thus we tend to think that there is no diversity in any group except our own.

  12. Earnest

    Enjoyed this.

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