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Kent Hovind is an old fashioned fire and brimstone operator who tours the nation tirelessly giving Young Earth Creationism pep talks and offering to debate scientists who support evolution, in a manner disturbingly similar to traveling evangelical revival-n-heal'n schemes. His distortions of science and his underhanded tactics are legendary, even among his fellow Young Earthers.

Ken Ham of the Young Earth Creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) has published a point-by-point critique of Hovind, where Ham goes on to conclude that fellow creationists should avoid using Hovind's arguments as they're riddled with errors and/or dishonesty. Allow me to put that into proper context: AiG is building a museum which depicts men and women living side by side in harmony with dinosaurs "Flintstones style" 6000 years ago, and has built several large dioramas of the Ark at considerable cost as part of their research into how Noah got all them critters on one boat ... So if Ken Ham is advising people that Hovind's claims are of dubious scientific value, can you imagine how far beyond the pale Hovind must be? Lots more below ...

Mr. Hovind routinely brags that he holds a Doctorate and his thesis is allegedly on the dangers of teaching evolution to kids (He is actually listed in the phone book as DR Kent Hovind). A Ph.D. requires a dissertation of course, an original bit of research reviewed by a committee of professors, and once approved it is usually published in a peer reviewed journal and kept in the library of the school where the student earned their doctorate. Hovind's dissertation on the other hand, was in his words 'lost when I moved'. A copy was eventually rounded up after significant leg work; you can read a full fisking of the resulting travesty to Ph. D's here. But some of the funnier points; the pages are not numbered; there is no title; of sixteen or so chapters in the index only the first four are finished; misspellings are rampant ("Immerged" for emerged and "epic" for epoch just as a couple of examples); and the single illustration was apparently cut out of a science book with scissors and fastened to the thesis with glue or tape.

You're probably wondering what kind of school would accept that kind of crap? Mister Hovind's alma mater is called Patriot University, pictured below.

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Patriot University, impressive eh? PU is actually a distance learning Bible College restricted to granting religious degrees only. Hovind's response when someone challenges the value of his 'doctorate'  alternates between saying it was located somewhere else when he attended and complaining it's an ad hominem attack leveled by folks who can't refute the substance of his many colorful claims

Hovind rejects the age of the earth, the field of astronomy, denies the entire field of geology, and is utterly confused by physics and/or radiometric dating (Or more likely, purposely distorting all those fields). He has a dismal grasp of pretty much every field of scientific study, and apparently little to no concern for factual accuracy. Just one tiny example among far too many to list: Hovind argues against 'evolution' by trying to discredit the Big Bang. In one such diatribe, known affectionately as Mister Hovind and the Professor, he explains that the Big Bang violates the conservation of angular momentum because [paraphrasing] "If everything came from a tiny spinning dot that blew up then everything would spin in the same direction ... since some planets and moons in our solar system exhibit retrograde motion/rotation ... this disproves the Big Bang ... so evolution is impossible".

For those of you familiar with the relationship between the Big Bang and the solar system, you understand the stunning conflation and dishonesty in that statement. For those who are not, basically it's about as accurate as saying something like "The atomic bomb was a tiny spinning dot that blew up, and since it was spinning in one direction, the debris produced had to spin the same way ... so global warming is impossible"

Among the more comical claims attributed to Hovind are that The Trail of Tears was a result of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, even though Darwin didn't publish until 1859 and the Cherokee tragedy happened in 1838 [Link], that vaccinations are from Satan [Link], and that his commercial enterprises needn't file with the IRS in anyway or abide by legally issued warrants from same--even as a tax free organization in the unlikely event they qualify. On the latter, Hovind claimed that as a minister of God everything he has in his possession belongs to "The Lord" and he is not subject to paying taxes to the United States on the money he received for doing The Lord's Work (citing US tax code §508(c)(1)(a)) [Link]. The court ordered him to pay the money anyway and supported the IRS position that Hovind's claim "was filed in bad faith for the sole purpose of avoiding payment of federal income taxes." In the ruling, the judge called Hovind's arguments "patently absurd"[Link].

Hovind sells a comprehensive line of books, videotapes of his talks, 'teacher resources', and motivational products. He also operates a kiddy-park called "Dino Adventureland" near his home in Pensacola geared towards the Christian community. The entire park--and by "park" I mean Hovind's back yard essentially-- is so painfully, shabby in my view, that any parent who trucks their family to it, instead of taking their kids Disney World or Busch Gardens just a few hours away, should at least have their children taken by the Department of Human Services on grounds of gross cruelty. And possibly suffer a stout lashing in the public square to boot.

Mr. Hovind's biggest claim to fame is his $250,000 offer to anyone who ostensibly offers convincing evidence for evolution. Even a casual reading of the fine print however reveals a protocol so bizarre, that my old friend Ed Brayton once summed it up with, "Using the same criteria Hovind uses, I'll wager my entire networth that no one can provide convincing evidence that decapitation is usually fatal". Ed BTW has a standing offer of one-million clams if Hovind can prove any empirical statement using the same standards he used for his $250,000 "challenge", and has further offered Hovind a written debate at any time. To my knowledge Hovind has never responded to either invitation.  

Hovind may have the credibility of Maxwell Smart and Baghdad Bob combined, at least as far as the scientific community goes, and it's tempting therefore to write him off as a harmless nut. In fact, several times while writing this I was laughing so hard I got cramps. But all this absurdity has paid off handsomely for Mr. Hovind who reportedly took in over one million dollars in 2003 alone.

In all seriousness and sad to say, the influence he has on the laypublic is quite significant. Hovind speaks at hundreds of churches and revivals a year. He delivers his mangled pseudoscientific bullshit with a charming, professional flare. Hovind is a polished public speaker and his spiel is often coming from the pulpit or spoken as he stands beside the local pastor, elders looking on nodding in approval, and his material is heard uncritically by the congregation. Many of whom are ignorant, young, or simply extending the benefit of the doubt to someone they perceive as their fellow in Christ. The result is a lot of well-meaning people believe this crap, it acquires a life of its own, and it gets endlessly recycled back into the grass roots discourse on evolution Vs creationism as if it was part of the accepted scientific consensus.

While the official cover and the primary political threat to science education comes in the form of an Old Earth oriented Intelligent Design Creationism wrapper these days, it is by and large the same 'ole Young Earth Creationist claptrap that fuels the fire and drives the monetary contributions into the coffers of the IDCists. And out of all the Young Earth Creationists who are quietly working this lucrative sideline--unconcerned that they leave their Christian victims looking like knuckle dragging dopes--Kent Hovind is arguably the most effective, the most successful, and the most productive such agent in America today.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Dec 31, 2005 at 05:02 AM PST.

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