Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Inside the Mind of a Creationist: A Critical Analysis of Kent Hovind's "Doctoral Dissertation"

1. Meet Kent Hovind

Kent Hovind is a young-earth creationist who subscribes to a number of some of the strangest ideas to be found in the Creationist movement. Other creationist organizations and think tanks such as Answers in Genesis are aware of this, and have even made attempts to disassociate themselves from Hovind and others like him just to maintain credibility for the movement. Recently, Answers in Genesis posted a list of 29 creationist arguments on their website that they strongly encourage creationists to discard forthwith. As they put it, "Even one instance of using a faulty argument can lead someone to write off creationism as pseudoscientific and dismiss creationists as shoddy researchers—or charlatans!" [1]. Kent Hovind perfectly fits their criterion of a promoter of pseudoscience and a shoddy researcher, for he uses all of the arguments listed there.

"Dr. Dino" (Kent Hovind's nickname) used to own and operate a theme park called "Dinosaur Adventure Land" in Pensacola, Florida, before it was seized by the government to pay for the back taxes owed to them. According to Ed Brayton, a science journalist who writes for Science Blogs, this theme park was basically nothing more than Kent Hovind's backyard with a bunch of cardboard cutouts [2]. This turned out to be a surprising observation for people who were aware that this theme park existed but had not visited personally or researched it. The reason many uninformed people seemed to picture a mini Disneyland in relation to this theme park may be owing to the fact that Hovind was charged in 2006 with 45 felony counts of tax evasion and 13 other related charges. The impression exuded is of a man living in a mansion and drawing in an inordinate amount of money. To get an idea of the utter lack of quality this theme park suffered, consider that back in Hovind's heyday, the page on his website that provided information on the Dinosaur Adventure Land schedule indicated that on certain days the park would open by appointment only. It is enough to make one feel sorry for the man, but only very slightly. He is currently reduced to scratching dinosaurs in the paint on his cell wall, but he definitely deserved this fate and had it coming.

In this article, my aim is to review Kent Hovind's "doctoral dissertation," (available here) which has only just recently surfaced. This dissertation, which was written and submitted by him in May of 1991, contains views that to this day he has not strayed from or changed. The belief that lies at the heart of this dissertation is that every word in the Bible is literally true (p. 4). Upon review and analysis of this dissertation, it becomes painfully apparent just how absurd it is that he carries "Dr." before his first name. Hovind once expressed the offense he took from Reginald Finley while on a broadcast of The Infidel Guy show in which he debated evolutionary biologist Dr. Massimo Pigliucci. Finley, who moderated the debate, rightly kept referring to Hovind as "Mr," much to Hovind's dislike. At one point in the debate, Hovind demonstrated his lack of maturity by referring to his opponent as "Mr." Pigliucci. Yet in the process of doing so, he admitted that Patriot University, his alma mater, was not accredited: "I notice you're calling him 'Dr' and me 'Mr,' so I'm just making a level playing field here; I have a doctorate's degree also, although it's not from an accredited university, but I don't think that matters" [3]. He would have more credibility in my book if he had nothing more than a GED, rather than this fake "doctorate" from a diploma mill. His credibility is fractured further when he claims, as he often has throughout his career, to have taught high school science for fifteen years. What he has conveniently never mentioned is that the school wherein he taught was a fundamentalist Christian high school he founded. He has even gone so far as to claim that he taught science at the collegiate level. Nobody knows where, for there is nothing either in his resume or his writings stating where he taught. One of the skills Hovind has honed and developed over the years is making claims and not bothering to back them up.

According to biologist and popular science blogger PZ Myers, the National Center for Science Education has a copy of this dissertation that they apparently keep for bathroom reading material [4]. Having just recently acquired and read this dissertation, this makes perfect sense to me. Mr. Skip Evans, who runs a website devoted to critiquing Hovind and who has also been responsible for confirming several rumors surrounding the paper, was the one who originally acquired this dissertation from Patriot University in March 1999 after several requests. Upon receiving the document, Evans made it available only to certain people who ran in his circles. Now, more than ten years later, the document is leaked and available to the public.

In addition to reviewing Kent Hovind's dissertation, my purpose in this article is also to tear the dissertation apart as far as the informational content presented therein, as well as the many structural shortcomings. Noting that there is a multiplicity of things wrong with this paper is a large understatement. I am not even a college graduate yet, and I know that many aspects of this paper are very wrong from the outset. The reason why I think such a review and critique is worthwhile is because there are people who believe Kent Hovind and remain sympathetic to his dying cause. Prior to being sentenced to prison, he had a significant following, and currently still has a following even while in prison. It is not only his supporters who have no idea just how ridiculous his claims are, how shoddy his research is, and why his "doctorate" has no standing. The average individual who is not grounded or experienced in science and logic may be drawn in by Hovind's skilled rhetoric, as many have been.

2. Structural Criticism

It appears at first perusal as if Hovind’s dissertation was once a book that was converted into something that can no longer accurately be described as a proper book. Not only does this work look as if it was once a book, it claims to be a book (p. 1). One of the more interesting observations to be made is that it is a book without a title whose “Introduction” outlines sixteen chapters (pp. 5-6). Yet only four chapters are included in the paper. Also noticeable is that the pages comprising the paper are not even numbered, and that only every ten pages have numbers handwritten in. There is a story behind this. Upon finally receiving the paper from Patriot University, Skip Evans quickly noticed that the pages were not numbered, and so was the one who wrote them in by hand every ten pages. Despite boasts on the part of Kent Hovind that he wrote a 250-page dissertation, what Evans received from Patriot University was only 101 pages [5].

(For many who know Kent Hovind's shtick, such hyperbole has come to be a much-expected characteristic of the man. He has gained a reputation as one who routinely over-inflates and exaggerates his claims. For instance, in this dissertation (which again was written in 1991), he claims that he preaches and teaches over 400 times a year (p. 3). A few years later, he began claiming to be preaching and teaching 900 times a year [6]. When numbers are run on this figure, something about it just does not seem physically possible. If these claims are true, how is this man even alive? How did he have time for family? How did he have time to even eat and to make babies?)

One of the many structural anomalies of this paper is seen in a comparison of Chapter 2 with Chapter 3. In Chapter 3, Hovind actually plagiarizes himself. Apparently, he took full paragraphs from Chapter 2 and simply copied-and-pasted them into Chapter 3. It is enough to make readers feel as if they are on the wrong page or (if they are reading it on a computer monitor) that they scrolled up by mistake.

When it comes to references, the majority of his sources come from the Bible. Out of the 87 sources I counted, 53 of them were Bible passages. This is over 60% of all his sources. As noted above, many (if not most) of Hovind's views and interpretations of the Bible are not based on any historically-affirmed or consistent hermeneutics, but are his own idiosyncratic opinions. I cannot recall writing one college paper based completely on opinion, for that is a recipe for a failed grade. Additionally, out of the 87 sources incorporated into the paper, 15 were completely unsourced. How did a paper that is not written objectively, that is a crash-course in personal opinions, and which has sources that are not backed up get accepted as a doctorate-level dissertation?

My readers at this point may be feeling thankful that I was the one who tortured myself by reading and reviewing this. The fact that someone actually read this and accepted it is nothing short of amazingly ridiculous. Something is clearly very wrong with Patriot University's standards, and it is no exaggeration to say that a second-grader could receive a "doctorate" from their institution. This paper is a clear testament to why Patriot University is unaccredited. To take just one example, some of the many structural problems plaguing Hovind's paper may be partially attributed to the fact that Patriot had only one person on the committee reviewing the dissertation. In most or all accredited universities, the standard number of committee dissertation reviewers is three to five. It is interesting to note that, at this writing, a visit to their website shows that the title in the web browser reads "Christian Accredited (non-governmental) Bible College Degrees, Patriot Bible University" [7]. It seems they are not quite capable of full honesty. At the risk of using what some might brand an ad hominem attack, I would also point out that when one looks at a picture of the school, it bears an uncanny resemblance to a roadside diner. The entire "university" is a small trailer located in the middle of nowhere. A satellite image of the school, including a street view, is available on programs such as Google Earth.

3. Quote-Mining and Misrepresentation of Sources

Because Hovind does not include a bibliography or works cited page (meaning the sources had to be counted manually), I had to do the work of digging up a number of his sources myself in order to follow them up. As if the criticisms expressed above were not enough, a number of his quotes are pulled grossly out of context in order to make them imply what the original author(s) did not intend to convey at all. For example, he quotes a Newsweek article which discusses the challenges to Darwin's theory that have prompted some paleontologists to suggest that certain species may have evolved in random leaps [8]. The problem here is that Hovind misrepresents the point of the article by only highlighting and dwelling on the part of Adler and Carey's opening paragraph which reads,
The missing link between man and the apes, whose absence has comforted religious fundamentalists since the days of Darwin, is merely the most glamorous of a whole hierarchy of phantom creatures. The more scientists have searched for the transitional forms between species, the more they have been frustrated.
There is a very good reason why this passage comes at the opening of the article, and is not its conclusion. The authors of this Newsweek article proceed to explain the details of the debate that was then brewing between scientists who agreed that evolution occurred, but disagreed on the mechanism and process by which it occurred. The authors provide a brief but well-explained overview of the two views of evolution: one sees evolution as operating by gradual, small changes over vast spaces of time, and the other proposes that a series of specialized cases involving sudden, gross alterations through dramatic random mutations in a single generation is what best accounts for some unique and anomalous instances of evolution as observed in the fossil record. The article describes how those in the scientific community who study evolution are going about communicating, debating and synthesizing these two different theories. The article in no way portrays this particular scientific debate as one that is problematic for the theory of evolution itself, or even that discredits one or the other scientific viewpoint, which is how Hovind tries to represent it in his quote.

This debate within the scientific community over gradualism versus geologically rapid change within single allopatric generations has been a favorite source of creationist quote-miners who jump at any chance to misrepresent and distort the views held by evolutionists. Hovind does the same thing; after quoting the article by Adler and Carey, he goes on to quote paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge out of context. Hovind quotes these scientists in the following manner:
There are no transitional forms between species because that is not the way we got here. Gould and Eldridge [sic] in Paleobiography [sic] (KJV; GET TITLE) [?], said,

"At the higher level of evolutionary transition between basic morphological design, gradualism has always been in trouble. Though it remains the official position of most western evolutionists, smooth intermissions between different animals are almost impossible to construct. Even in thought experiments, there is certainly no evidence for them in the fossil record. Curious mosaics like Archaeopteryx do not count." (p. 66).
The source of this quote-mine (which Hovind does not cite) is an article entitled "Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered," published by the scholarly journal Paleobiology in 1977. In the process of searching for this source after coming across the quote in Hovind's paper, I found that the same butchered quote is found on a number of anti-evolution, creationist websites. Apparently, it is a common favorite source for misrepresentation among creationists. It is therefore highly doubtful that Hovind actually read the paper, especially since he does not even quote their words correctly. Contrary to what he wants his readers to believe, the thesis of Gould and Eldredge in this paper is not that evolution itself is in dire trouble. Rather, they describe in detail the occasional problems that can arise when evolutionists insist on a gradualist account of evolutionary change and development to the exclusion of other complementary possibilities. Their argument in this paper is that the possibility of punctuated equilibria that they propose is also perfectly capable of confirming evolution and seems to best explain certain paleontological discoveries. Their criticisms of gradualism and slow transitions as the primary feature of change over time have nothing whatsoever to do with casting doubt on evolution. Their criticisms have everything to do with encouraging their colleagues in the field of paleontology to clarify ideas and hypotheses that were left unresolved when a great many diverse fields of science synthesized their efforts at elucidating evolution. Their proposed model of evolution is put forth as a means by which the range of available concepts and data can be expanded to further support evolution. Furthermore, their thesis is not that there are no smoothly transitional fossils; they acknowledge such instances and merely suggest that those transitional forms that were absent at the time do nothing to discredit evolution, but are instead indicative of other mechanisms by which it proceeds. The Gould-Eldredge model does not in any way support Hovind's deluded notions.

What follows is the Gould-Eldredge quote, this time in context and reproduced correctly:
At the higher level of evolutionary transition between basic morphological designs, gradualism has always been in trouble, though it remains the "official" position of most Western evolutionists. Smooth intermediates between Baupläne are almost impossible to construct, even in thought experiments; there is certainly no evidence for them in the fossil record (curious mosaics like Archaeopteryx do not count). Even so convinced a gradualist as G.G. Simpson invoked quantum evolution and inadaptive phases to explain these transitions. Recently, Lovtrup and Frazzetta have written books to support a punctuational theory for the origin of new Baupläne. We believe that a coherent, punctuational theory, fully consistent with Darwinism (though not Darwin's own unnecessary preference for gradualism), will be forged from a study of the genetics of regulation, supported by the resurrection of long-neglected data on the relationship between ontogeny and phylogeny [9].
Compare this actual quote to Hovind's butchery of the same above, then ask yourself if Hovind actually read the paper, much less understood the points Gould and Eldredge were making. They are arguing in favor of the theory of "punctuated equilibrium," a hypothesis which suggests that rapid bursts of dramatic evolutionary change interjected and interrupted the slow constant change at specific intervals and points in evolutionary history. This hypothesis never states or suggests that gradual change never occurred, or that there are no transitional fossils that record change at slow rates. As the name of the hypothesis indicates, it proposes that slow and gradual change was punctuated by bursts of sudden change. It is not an a priori denial of gradual change over vast periods of time.

Because there is not a single page in this 101-page paper that does not contain several falsehoods and misrepresentations, my review and analysis is not an exhaustive point-by-point refutation. Instead, my aim is to focus on and highlight portions of the paper that are representative of the whole and which give me the opportunity to share the most important objections. Thus, without further ado, let us examine the direct quotes.

4. Hovind’s Introduction

One of the quotes I first extracted for comment says,
I am, without apology, a Bible-believing Christian. I have been saved for twenty-two years by the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son. I believe that God's Word is infallible and flawless in every detail. If the Bible says that something was created a certain way, then that is just the way it happened. (p. 4).
We know what we are dealing with right then and there. This is an open admission by Hovind that his belief in the flawlessness and infallibility of his holy book is based upon an axiom, not the end product of a reasoning process. He is not interested in proving or demonstrating his claims, he is interested in taking them for granted and proceeding to argue from that circular starting point. Methodologies involving the use of evidence and self-correcting investigation play no role whatsoever in Hovind's arguments. This open admission highlights one of Hovind's strong points, namely that he does not pull any punches. Unlike the proponents of the current Intelligent Design movement, Hovind does not try to hide or obfuscate the fact that he is religiously motivated. However, avoiding distracting tangents is not one of his strong points. Identifying exactly what his thesis is in this paper is somewhat futile, for there is no consistent line of thought or topic. But the above quote is an important one to keep in mind as we examine various noteworthy quotes throughout the rest of the paper.

Throughout the dissertation, he frequently attacks atheists and evolutionists for being close-minded, repeatedly claims that they adhere to a religion, and accuses them of seldom being honest. Yet he seems incapable of looking in the mirror. For example, at one point early in the paper he states, "Christians are often guilty of neglecting or twisting the Bible to fit their lifestyle or their preconceived ideas" (p. 3). How is Mr. Hovind himself excluded from this accusation? The idea that the earth is 6,000 years old, which is Kent Hovind's position, is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Not only is this his own interpretation, but his interpretation is not based on any original work done on his part in the study of hermeneutics. He admits as much one page later, where he writes,
I will be quick to point out that "there is nothing new under the sun." Most of my ideas are the result of the input of hundreds of Godly men and women through the years. I have attempted in this book to simply explain the things I have learned through many years of studying both science and the Bible.

In the last twenty-two years I have read hundreds of books by creationists and evolutionists alike on the subject of origins. Many great thinkers and scientists have had an influence on me. I owe much to many, but I must in the final analysis, take the blame/credit for what is written in this book. Many things I can document and verify with the "experts" (whatever an expert is). Some things in this book I couldn't prove to anyone. I only ask that you realistically look at the ideas presented and ask yourself the simple question, "does this key open the lock, does this answer the question?" If it does--it just might be right. (pp. 4-5).
Is Hovind suggesting that he does not have an original idea in this dissertation? Notice also that he even says his purpose in writing is not to set out to prove anything. Indeed, he says he cannot prove the validity of some claims found in his book. At any authentic, accredited university, trying to prove a point is mainly what is asked of those who write at the doctorate level. Doctoral dissertations normally are expected to include both an initial statement of what the author is attempting to prove, and a body that follows through with that statement by arguing strongly for the thesis. A paper that "simply explain things" or vacuously claims that "it just might be right" if it makes emotional sense to his reader has no business being considered a doctorate-level work. Hovind's paper even lacked any semblance of cohesiveness; there is no attempt to tie anything together. In the “Introduction,” Hovind also outlines a series of chapters that he originally planned to have included in the final product. Here he is found stating,
Chapter nine discusses the "best evidence" evolutionists have for evolution, that is, archaeopteryx. (p. 6).
This single thirteen-word sentence stands as easily the most astounding display of ignorance to be found in the entire paper. Is Hovind really suggesting that Archaeopteryx is the best evidence that evolutionists can find? From the vast amounts of transitional fossils to the thorough mapping of the human genome, and many more features in many separate fields of science, everything converges on and points to the validity of evolutionary theory. Saying that Archaeopteryx is the "best evidence" we have for evolution is an example of ignorance or outright dismissal on a fractal scale. Evolution would still be corroborated by multiple and independent lines of converging evidence from many divergent scientific fields if Archaeopteryx had never been found. One of the more aggravating aspects of this claim is that Hovind would most likely still argue to this day that Archaeopteryx is all evolutionists have in the way of evidence. He has earned a reputation of being a broken record, repeating claims after being corrected countless times by real scientists.

No analysis of Kent Hovind would be complete without commenting on his dinosaur fetish, which he touches on here:
In chapter thirteen we give interesting evidence that dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible. I believe that dinosaurs are not only in the Bible, but they have lived with man all through his six thousand year history. In chapter fourteen we deal with the question, "Are dinosaurs extinct?" In chapter fifteen we discuss the human and dinosaur footprints found together in Glen Rose, Texas (p. 6, emphasis mine).
Notice an automatic negative mark on any collegiate-level paper: "I believe that . . ." Also, consider the implications of what Hovind is saying: According to his scenario, Noah gathered species of dinosaurs and placed them on his ark along with the other hundred million species of animals that he gathered there as well. It does not take much scrutiny to see the absurd impossibilities of this scenario. To believe that dinosaurs have coexisted with man throughout our six thousand year history, one must also by extension believe that some of these dinosaurs are still here now. Hovind realizes this and commits intellectual suicide by arguing accordingly. His three-hour lecture entitled "Dinosaurs and the Bible" and his book Claws, Jaws & Dinosaurs [10] are both devoted to arguing that not only did dinosaurs coexist with man, but a small remnant still survive today. This explains why Hovind believes legendary creatures such as the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot actually exist. In a similar vein to this dissertation, the only "sources" to be found in the book and the lecture are legends and anecdotal reports.

One of the questions that Biblical literalists have the most difficulty resolving relates to fossil layers and stratification. If Noah's worldwide flood actually occurred, all life forms would have been mixed in amongst each other during the chaotic torrential downfall and geologic upheavals. Why is it, then, that we do not find human bones (including bones of giant humans, which I will address in a moment) intermixed with the bones of other prehistoric life forms in a uniform manner? Creationists have never been able to provide an explanation for this, and never will. Even in the extremely unlikely case that such a mixture of fossils were discovered, geology would seek first to provide explanations that are evidential and based upon observation and testability, before jumping to supernatural non-explanations.

Contrast this with Hovind's wholly unscientific attempts to prove that human and dinosaur footprints were found together in the Paluxy tracks near Glen Rose, Texas. It is useful to keep in mind that this was 1991, and he was working with a very limited amount of information. Yet today, the fact that he continues to believe the Paluxy tracks stand as valid evidence that humans and dinosaurs coexisted is much less forgivable. The fact of the matter is that many of these footprints along the Paluxy River have been severely degraded by creationists due to their overuses of sheelac and oil in attempting to highlight certain features of the tracks [11]. In many cases, deliberate or inadvertent alteration of these prints are evident, causing the once-visible indications of infilling that were present in the tracks to be obscured. Other physical processes such as erosion and mud collapse have also obscured what, upon careful cleaning, are obviously dinosaurian features in the tracks [12].

A particular piece of supposed "evidence" that Hovind often uses to support his notion that humans were giants in the pre-Flood era is deserving of mention. Hovind used to bring a photograph slide with him to his debates and lectures, showing what he claims is a replica of a six-foot long human femur bone found in Egypt. One does not need to investigate far before confirming this to be an outright lie. The replica originates from Joe Taylor of the Mt. Blanco (Creationism) Museum in Crosbyton, Texas. The source of the claim Hovind adopted has been traced to a letter from a follower of Taylor who claimed that the skeleton of a 13-foot human had been discovered in Turkey [13]. Upon receiving this letter, Taylor doubled the dimensions of a femur bone from a human female in his collection. This doubling violates several known anatomical constraints. In anatomy, every doubling of bone length requires an accompanying eight-fold increase in the cross-sectional area [14]. Both the length and the cross-sectional area were doubled by Taylor, thus displaying his lack of knowledge of anatomy. If a 13-foot woman (called a man by Mr. Hovind) were to possess such a femur, she would not have been capable of standing upright without breaking her legs.

I made the comment earlier in this review that Hovind was limited on the resources he had available to him at the time he was writing this dissertation. The fabricated story of the six-foot long human femur illustrates the extent to which he was limited, but is also suggestive of self-imposed limitation and intellectual laziness. More importantly, this illustrates the unreflective hedonism with which he grasps for any claim, however shallow and easily debunked, that he can find to buttress his pseudoscience. One can only imagine just how unrestrained this unreflective hedonism would have been if he had access to the Internet when he wrote the paper. I have little doubt he would have been thrilled at the goldmine of bad information the Internet now makes readily available to the gullible.

5. A Superstitious and Paranoid View of Evolution

In his paper, Hovind is found repeatedly ranting and raving incoherently that evolution is a religion and not a science, and therefore should be excluded from public school curriculum, which of course is ludicrous. Because he believes that evolution is a "religion," he voices his unwillingness to have his tax money directed toward the funding of evolution in public school, an unwillingness that has landed him a ten-year prison sentence. I find it humorous that on page 8 he writes, "[T]hey [people] have come up with the most dangerous, damnable doctrine every [sic] imagined, evolution." Two pages later, he claims that Satan is the one who came up with evolution: "To really understand the history of evolution, we have to understand the author. Satan is the master-mind behind this false doctrine." Which is it? The inconsistency and convolution is ridiculous. He believes that biological evolution was the driving motivation for Adam and Eve partaking of the Tree of Knowledge, and that the theory of evolution was then propagated and transmitted through the generations. On pages 14-15, he verifies his lunacy even further by describing Cain as one of the first evolutionists!

Soon after blaming Satan for founding the doctrine of evolution, Hovind proceeds to tell us what he thinks motivated Satan to do so:
I personally believe that Satan fell from heaven about a hundred years after the creation of Adam and Eve. I believe that he had watched Adam and Eve have fellowship with their creator with pride and envy in his heart. He had been God's choir director since he was created. His desire to be God was thwarted when God cast him out of heaven. (p. 11, emphasis mine).
Where does Hovind come up with this stuff, particularly the timeline he speculates upon? Notice he says "I personally believe . . ." This is a very euphemistic way of saying that he made all of this up. There are definitely some serious benefits to having a religious mindset. For those entrenched in the realm of faith and the supernatural, anything goes. And not only does anything go, but other people will believe these shared personal opinions to be fact.

Matters become even more interesting in Hovind's dogma when he goes on to imply that God did not even anticipate or expect the disastrous problems caused by Satan:
The evil in the world continued to get worse until God had to destroy the inhabitants of the earth with a flood. When the Flood was over, Satan began to work on Noah's descendants. The story of evolution continues in Gen. 9:22, "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without." Ham, instead of doing the wise thing of covering up his father's nakedness, went out and laughed about it to his two brothers, evidently. This resulted in a curse being placed upon Ham's son, Caanan [sic] (pp. 15-16).
Even slight reflection of Hovind's worldview yields devastating questions. The scenario as it plays out in Hovind's mind is as follows: God creates man out of the dust of a newly-formed earth and places him in a Garden of Eden, soon after which a woman is created out of his rib. God then makes a series of mistakes. His first mistake was to facilitate the first two humans' fatal screw-up by placing the Tree of Knowledge in the middle of the Garden of Eden, not to mention arbitrarily declaring it forbidden. His attempts to remedy this mistake came in the form of a global genocide by way of a worldwide flood, to which he subjected the world after matters only got worse following Adam and Eve's banishment. Yet this was also a misguided (not to mention immoral) attempt, because the survivors of the flood and their descendants continued to experience the same problems as their pre-Flood predecessors, thanks to Satan's meddling. The global flood left only eight people alive; these included a sorry drunk and his three sons. As related by Kent Hovind in the quote above, the drunken Noah curses one of his sons for seeing him naked and not doing anything about it, thereby condemning this son's descendants to being a slave to the other sons' descendants. This tidbit in the Bible was eventually used as the basis for justifying slavery in America and elsewhere [15]. To fix this situation, God eventually sent himself to earth to atone for humanity's shortcomings by sacrificing himself to himself as a loophole for rules that he himself created. This was a failure as well, for according to the New Testament itself, we still experience the same problems at the hands of God's Number One Antagonist. The Bible is a fictional comedy of errors of the God-character, start to finish, right up to the end where the universe in its entirety is disposed of and God starts over with a blank slate in the form of a new heaven and new earth. Of course, it is debatable how much of a "comedy" these failures actually are, if they are believed to have actually occurred. The bewildering question is this: Why is God content to treat the disease and not cure it? Why does God not kill Satan, who is allegedly the thorn in the side of humanity who inspires these shortcomings? The biblical story in its literal form makes no sense.

Fundamentalists such as Hovind routinely portray Satan as a stickler for messing with mankind. Fundamentalists are also sometimes heard claiming that Satan planted the evidence for evolution. If that was the case, why is their God so impotent to stop this "evidence-planting"? And why would God take his judgmental anger out on humans instead of the one who is allegedly tampering with the evidence and thereby leading people astray in the first place? Would this not constitute a classic case of misdirected anger? As comedian Ricky Gervais once said, "It was an accident waiting to happen, wasn't it?" Despite the comedic undertones with which Gervais approaches these questions, they do contain elements that can be considered seriously. What is the divine reasoning behind staging and choreographing situations and conditions in just such a way that disaster is predictable (even inevitable), including the placing of these people in a specific locale in close proximity to a constant temptation? This is rarely addressed by the biblical literalists and never given an explanation, at least no explanation that preserves God's powers of reasoning.

Biblical literalists are often heard offering the explanation that God cannot destroy Satan now, because he's bound by the Bible to destroy Satan at the end of time. But then the question that naturally comes next is: who do they believe wrote the Bible? What they are essentially saying is that God bound himself to refrain from incapacitating Satan, because God himself wrote the Bible which records Satan's demise at the conclusion of all things, rather than early on! Nonsensical notions such as this clearly indicate that we are in many cases dealing with people who are not merely ignorant. Ignorance is no crime, of course, and can be remedied. Many of these people are purposefully ignorant. It is almost as if they do not want to grow in knowledge, and they take pride in not growing intellectually. In the fundamentalist mindset, ignorance is a virtuous trait.

I hasten to add that this is not the case among all or even most Christians. The head-in-the-sand fundamentalist version of Christian belief is an ever-dwindling fringe, and I hesitate to lump them in with the intellectual strains of Christian theology held by intelligent thinkers. For the most part, it seems Christians will not connect the dots that reveal insane implications only because they have not thought deeply on such matters. But it is difficult to assess the motivation among those who outspokenly profess obvious absurdities as part of their belief system to continue proudly displaying their ignorance. How can such motivations and persistence make sense? How can they rationalize their God making so many mistakes and reconcile this with his allegedly perfect nature? If the fundamentalist version of Christianity were actually true, God is perhaps best conceived as a teenager who is rashly and carelessly experimenting on a cosmic scale, not fully understanding exactly what he is doing with our race. Again, this could not count as an argument against Christianity per se, only a harsh criticism of a certain narrow-minded version of the religion with which many intelligent Christians do not identify. Those Christians who have gone so far as to make certain fatal connections and yet subsequently still chose to disconnect from that apprehended reality are the ones I am contending are not intelligent. Kent Hovind is among this group, but it is worse than all that; Hovind constitutes the especially dismal case of one who has chosen to disconnect before even managing to make any logical connections that threaten his faith.

6. Hopelessly Lost in Space

An example of the basic disconnection discussed above comes later in the dissertation, where he presumes to attack what the science of modern cosmology says about the age of the earth. In the process, he attempts to explain away the distance of stars from the earth. On pages 90-91, he tells us,
Someone would say, "What about stars? We know that they are billions of light years away." I don't want to sound like a crackpot, but actually we don't know that stars are billions of years away. There are two, maybe three methods of determining how far away the stars are. One of these methods is just simple trigonometry. However, when you get to extremely minute angles, it is very difficult to measure anything less than a couple of arc-seconds accurately. You cannot measure distances accurately more than sixty to one hundred light years away. Not sixty to one hundred million light years, just sixty to one hundred light years. The other method that used [sic] is called the "Red Shift" method. We will discuss this in more detail later.
Here he states that the distances scientists have measured to distant stars and galaxies are incorrect due to faulty science. Yet he goes no farther than to give a brief overview of the methods used by scientists, and apparently forgets to support his claim. He mentions and discounts so-called "simple trigonometry," but does not even describe what that "simple trigonometry" is. He mentions “Red Shift,” only to push that to the side and discount it. Then, after saying there are three methods used by scientists to measure these distances, he drops the matter entirely and tells the reader he will explain them later in more detail. He never does. Instead, he changes gears abruptly and begins talking about oil and the moon. Completely forgotten is the indication he made that he was going to (1) mention the third method and (2) explain all three. The reader is led to believe that Hovind will return to the matter and argue why all three are false. Again, this he never does. All he has done is throw out three methods and tell us he thinks they are fallacious without telling us why. Apparently, this is not only a "book," it is an unfinished book. Hearkening back to the structural problems discussed above, it is fair to wonder what the people he thanks on the “Dedication” page were doing. What was Miss Kim Van Gundy, who "spent countless hours typing, correcting and retyping the manuscript" (p. 1) inebriated on? The humor of Hovind thanking people for editing and reviewing the work, while a multiplicity of mistakes is so grossly evident, is rather pronounced.

But the scientific illiteracy does not end there . . .

7. Hovind’s Scientific Illiteracy

Another glaring problem with this paper is Hovind's completely incorrect view of what evolution is. He tries to tie evolution to what he calls "progress," the idea that everything progresses until it reaches the stage of man. He writes,
The idea that evolutionists try to get across today is that there is a continual upward progression. They claim that everything is getting better, improving, all by itself as if there is an inner-drive toward more perfection and order. This is totally opposite of the first and second law of thermodynamics. It goes against all scientific evidence that has been accumulated. Yet, this lie is what many men believe today. We don't see it happening anywhere in our universe today. We don't see any evidence of this in the fossil record. (p. 9).
That is not even close to what evolution is. Most scientists define evolution as simply a change in allele gene frequencies within a population over time, which produces descent with modification. Hovind's fallacious belief is that everything actually tends to break down and move toward disorder. We know this is fallacious, because we live in an open universe. Things only tend to move toward disorder provided there is no external source of energy to recharge the system. The earth receives this energy source from the sun, which loses and gives off energy. The sun gradually consumes the hydrogen within its core through fusion reactions [16].

Additionally, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, every thermodynamic change that occurs in a system always involves some amount of heat being irreversibly absorbed by said system [17]. Entropy simply involves a loss of potential to do work; it is the measure of the unavailability of the energy in a given system. Entropy describes the tendency of heat to homogenize systems through the distribution of energy to the greatest number of microstates possible [18]. This is achieved by the flow of heat from hot regions to cold regions, and is what entropy actually is in action. "Disorder" is the term used very loosely to describe entropy to grade-school students and is avoided by professional physicists due to its misrepresentation of what entropy actually is. As we are seeing, Hovind heavily depends on misrepresentations of this and more egregious types.

Also, contrary to Hovind's characterization of evolution, things are not getting "better," per se. "Better" is an abstract value judgment that holds no relevance to biological development. Rather, things are simply accommodating. Consider hair for example: thanks to artificial means to warm ourselves, humans have no pressing need for hair anymore. Losing hair is not a sign of getting "better," it is just accommodation [19]. Again, Hovind has no clue what he is talking about. Evolution does not make better things; it is the mechanism through which accommodation is effected. Evolution does not progress in the linear mode represented by a ladder, as most creationists think. We do not observe complexity among all species at all times, as if they are all moving in a particular direction or trying to improve. Additionally, consider that as long as Hovind wants to talk in terms of being "better," bacteria are far more successful than humans at utilizing substrates and colonizing environments [20]. His reasoning is nonsense.

Hovind also displays a lack of understanding of the First Law of Thermodynamics in this paper. On page 8 he writes, "The first law says that matter cannot be created nor destroyed by ordinary means." Notice he distorts the scientific definition by adding the words "by ordinary means." Hovind may have been thinking ahead as he wrote this, wanting to leave open an arbitrary exception for God. In other words, he purposefully twists the first law of thermodynamics to imply it constitutes a supernatural process. To further twist the knife in the wound, Hovind conveniently omits the remainder of the law, which states that matter cannot be created nor destroyed "but can be changed from one to the other" [21]. The reason for the omission is obvious, for the creationism view does not fare well under those conditions. In short, Hovind is in desperate need of a crash course of remedial thermodynamics. As any high school science student can gather from the word itself, thermodynamics deals with the movement of heat, not matter. Succinctly, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that the increase in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of energy added by heating the system, minus the amount lost as a result of the work done by the system on its surroundings [22].

Hovind continues to display his basic misunderstanding of what evolution actually is with this statement:
When I speak of evolution, I am not referring to small minor changes that naturally occur as animals have to make some adjustments to their environment. For instance, if we released hundreds of rabbits in an area with cold winters, only the animals with the heavier fur would survive. So within a few years, the population would have a little heavier fur than the earlier populations. These small minor population shifts brought about by environment are referred to as 'micro-evolution.' There has been no change in the genetic material of the rabbit. There has only been a change in the ratio of the population. You still have the same kind of animal. If that climate were to change back to a milder climate, the population of animals would change back to having a lighter fur. (pp. 9-10).

Here, Hovind contradicts himself in one fell swoop, most likely without ever realizing it. He is pontificating upon population, reproduction, and the acquiring of new traits through this reproductive process (i.e., "heavier fur"). That is a genetic change. In the same paragraph in which he attempts to discredit evolution, he contradicts and discredits only himself.

Now, the first part makes sense: If a group of rabbits were released in a cold area, the ones with thicker fur would survive without any phylogenetic change. If the climate in that area were to become warmer over the course of a few years, the rabbits will have thinner fur. But does Hovind think they are somehow shaving themselves? The rabbits can only acquire this adaptive thinner fur through the very thing Hovind denies, namely a genetic change.

Later in this paragraph, he appears to be trying to cover himself by saying, "You still have the same kind of animal." It is almost as if he was preparing himself. The response of most, if not all, creationists to the points I made above is often that even if slight genetic variation occurs, it doesn't matter, because the organism in question is still the same "kind" of animal. Yet Hovind, along with all other creationists, have never been able to successfully define what a "kind" actually is or even come to an agreement amongst themselves. If Hovind does know what a "kind" is, he is certainly good at keeping this knowledge a secret.

Another matter on which to critique Hovind also involves definitions. Not only does he not understand what evolution is, but he has no understanding of what evolution is not. In his seminars and debates, he often brings up what he believes are the six different types of evolution: cosmic evolution, chemical evolution, stellar/planetary evolution, organic evolution, micro-evolution, and macro-evolution. What Hovind fails to grasp is that fields of science such as cosmology, astronomy and the origin of life are not fields that apply to biology, which is what evolution addresses. Biology does not address how the universe came into being or how the earth formed or how life first arose on earth. The biological theory of evolution addresses only the diversity and structure of life, not its origin and not the origins of anything else. There is much jumping back and forth on this issue in the paper; Hovind is fond of throwing in red herrings by bringing up matters that he says evolutionary biology can't explain, yet the issues he raises are those that the particular field of science he is railing against does not even address!

8. Retreat to Irrelevancy

Another tactic Kent Hovind uses in most of his debates and lectures is to straw-man evolutionary theory by accusing evolutionists of believing that "people came from rocks." What Hovind is essentially doing with this line is propagating the logical fallacy known as the "appeal to ridicule," which presents the opponent's argument in a way that appears ridiculous, often to the extent of creating a straw man of the actual argument. Disregarding the fact that evolutionary theory says no such thing, what he fails to take into account is that even if biologists were saying that people came from rocks, this is still a better argument than the Bible provides. This is essentially because the Bible paints a picture of God molding man out of dust (Genesis 2:7). Since dust is simply eroded rock, it is actually Hovind's beliefs that have humans coming from rock. The crucial difference is that the Biblical scenario completely fails Ockham's Razor if compared with the notion that "humans evolved from rock."

Hovind's appeals to ridicule are all too noticeable throughout this paper, mostly surfacing in what may amount to Freudian slips occasioned by unreflective and lengthy tirades. A good example of such a lengthy tirade accompanied by a slew of irrelevant points is found in the first section of the paper, which Hovind entitles "The History of Evolution." In this section, he spends about twenty pages just discussing a number of historical figures and what they believed, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Two passages in this section strike me as particularly odd. On page 30, while discussing the life and philosophy of Voltaire, Hovind brings up a name out of the blue just to mention that he might have been a homosexual: "Voltair [sic] had a deist friend as a young man named Abbe de Chateuneuf [sic], a bachelor and probably a homosexual." This is all he had to say about this particular individual. Nothing about what de Chateauneuf believed or how he tied into the thought at all is indicated. The ad hominems that flow out of the creationists can often be baffling.

The other odd passage that highlights Hovind's penchant for irrelevancy is found a page later, in a discussion of Erasmus Darwin:
Another man that is very important as we trace the history of evolution is Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin. He was born in 1731 and died in 1802. He was an extremely fat person. In fact, he was so fat they had to cut a curve in the dining room table so that he could get up to the table. (p. 31).
Again one may ask what this has to do with anything important.

9. Hovind’s Selective Method and Mythological Illiteracy

One of Hovind's longer tangents concerns Eastern religions, which he discusses on pages 21-24. In this discussion he claims that the adherents of the five major Eastern religions helped along the spread of evolutionary philosophies millennia before Darwin published his seminal findings. This tangent is revisited near the end of the dissertation in a single sentence that for some reason is placed in the middle of a paragraph that discusses an unrelated topic:
The hypothesis of evolution has had pre-eminence in our public teaching for about the last thirty to forty years. Darwin's book published in 1860 really started the controversy going. There have been groups teaching evolution for several thousand years. The Egyptians taught a form of evolution, saying that life evolved from the slime along the Nile River. Today we trace our modern evolutionary movement to Darwin (pp. 91-92).
First, there are a few minor points to be corrected. Evolution is not a hypothesis, but a theory. Evolution progressed from the level of a hypothesis long ago. Also, Darwin's book was published in 1859, not 1860. Those minor items having been put aside, there are significant holes in his claim that the Egyptians taught a story of life originating and evolving from river slime. For one thing, he does not provide a single reference or source for this claim. For all the reader knows, he could have made this up. Consequently, the job fell to me of digging around for scholarly resources dealing with Egyptian religion and mythology in order to confirm or falsify Hovind's claim. As far as I can determine, Hovind may be referring to the Egyptian creation myth of Nun. According to one scholar,
'Nun' in Egyptian thought was the primaevil waste of waters. An inscription of the time of the pharaoh Osorkon III, recording an inundation of the Nile of catastrophic dimensions, provides a significant insight into this conception of Nun . . . The image of the primaevil waste of waters, which this great flood had evoked, is paralleled by a passage from an Eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1350 B.C.) version of the Book of the Dead in which Atum is represented as threatening, "I shall destroy all that I have made, and this land will return unto Nun, into the floodwaters, as (in) its first state".

We see, then, that the Egyptians envisaged the primordial state ('the first time') as a watery chaos or waste. They designated this water as Nun (nn)w)), representing it generally in hieroglyphs . . . These signs are significant [23].
In what possible way can this creation myth be construed as teaching evolution? This is yet another extremely weak and ambiguous comparison. Hovind also appears to be picking-and-choosing the mythologies that he thinks stand as parallels to evolutionary principles, while ignoring clear parallels to Jewish and Christian beliefs. The mythological story of Kneph comes to mind in this regard. According to ancient Egyptian creation myths, Kneph was originally the breath of life (the meaning of his name being "soul-breath") before being assimilated into the more prominent deity Amun. According to both Plutarch and Diodorus, the word kneph was identical to the Greek word pneuma. In this context, Kneph was a spirit that bestowed form to all things living by breathing life into them. Because of Kneph's association with the soul, he was depicted as a ram, the animal which symbolized a major aspect of the Egyptian notion of the soul.

To further demonstrate Hovind's penchant to pick-and-choose, consider also the Egyptian mythology of Khnum, the deity originally associated with the source of the Nile River. The annual flooding of the Nile brought with it silt and clay, and the added element of water facilitated the growth of life in the resulting environment. Because of this, Khnum was believed to be the molder and maker of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter's wheel from the Nile's silt and clay. Interestingly enough, Khnum was often closely related to Amun, the god into which Kneph was eventually assimilated. Catholic scholar Florentine Bechtel points out that Amun (or Ammon) was "worshipped under several names with different attributes. As Ammon-Ra, he was the sun god, with his chief temple at Thebes; as Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, 'the maker of gods and men'" [24].

Both the layman and the scholar of Christian and Jewish theology will immediately recognize that these stories are very similar to the Bible's account of the creation of humans. In fact, Egyptologist and linguist A.S. Yahuda argues convincingly that the author of the Genesis account borrows directly from Egyptian mythology the concept of forming humans from clay and animating him with the breath of life. He further contends that the creation of man in the "image of God" is a typical motif of Egyptian mythology, in which the first primeval god produces children “out of his body," thus bearing his likeness [25].

Thus, Kent Hovind's attempts to draw a comparison between the theory of biological evolution and Egyptian mythology fail miserably. He first operates under the fallacious idea that a similarity to an idea or theory in ancient times somehow discredits that idea or theory by default. He then either ignores or is unaware of the clear parallels found within Egyptian mythology to his own Christian beliefs concerning origins. Even if his first underlying assumption had any validity to it, he still manages to shoot himself in the foot by overlooking such parallels, many of which were directly borrowed by the authors of his own holy book! Hovind in this way shows investigative readers exactly what it means to be fractally wrong. What he was really attempting to claim was that his favorite antagonist Satan somehow had his hand influencing early human history. Extremely sloppy scholarship is the result of attempting to stand by this claim.

10. Baseless Speculations and Uncritical Literalism

There are key words I warn people about when trying to read information and trying to figure out if something someone says is factual. When you hear key words such as "probably," "maybe," "I believe," there is something to worry about. The following quote is a great example of Hovind doing exactly that. Notice especially the statement "Let's just assume" that is dropped in:
The Flood was about 2400 B.C. which makes it about 4400 years ago. The Tower of Babel was probably built within the first three to five hundred years after the flood. Let's just assume that it was about 1900 B.C. when the Tower of Babel was built. The people were scattered from the Tower. Many of the people, in their pride, still tried to find some way to become their own god. This is the basic motive behind evolution. (p. 18, emphasis mine).
What the hell is this man talking about? Apparently, not only does he believe this cockamamie story, he expects his readers to grant the truth of the story as well. Nothing in anthropology even remotely supports the linguistic concepts Hovind describes. But again, keep in mind that he believes that "God's Word is infallible and flawless" (p. 4). This means he will believe everything contained therein without further investigation.

One of the purposes Hovind had in mind for mentioning the Tower of Babel was to make an equivocation between evolution and pride, such that he portrays them as being interchangeable. This attempt at linking evolution and pride is found throughout his paper, particularly in his discussions of Eastern religions and ancient philosophers. We have already seen an example of his fallacious idea that evolution is about becoming "better" see Section 7 above). In Hovind's mind, trying to progress and develop to a better physical or intellectual condition is the definition of evolution. As we have seen above, this connection between evolution and pride is very loose and very weak. He ties Satan in with this connection, saying that Satan's expression of pride resulted in his banishment from heaven, after which he came to earth to spread the "myth" of evolution. But once again, Hovind needs to look in a mirror. Hovind's pride has rendered him incapable of owning up to pay his taxes, after all.

One of the questions that Hovind should be confronted with more often relates to his stand on biblical literalism: How can he avoid the biblical description of the earth as being flat, or does he believe this as well? These Scriptural instances occur in, among many other passages, Revelation 7:1 and Matthew 4:8. And what are we to make of Psalms 93, Psalms 104, and Ecclesiastes 1:5, all of which describe the Earth as stationary and located at the center of the canopy universe? After all, Hovind does state in his dissertation and elsewhere that he believes that the Bible is infallible, flawless, and literally true.

Alas, while this is a good question, it is also not difficult to predict or anticipate the tired response that is typical of almost all creationists. They will often respond with the contention that reading the Bible as literally as is possible does not preclude the use of metaphor, and that the metaphors contained in the Bible are just as flawless as the literal descriptions and narratives. But such an answer is wholly unsatisfying, for it begs a crucial question. How does one determine what is literal and what is metaphor in the Bible? What exactly is the criterion that guides the discernment of such distinctions? Ultimately, there is no agreed-upon criteria, no consistent consensus among Bible-believers on this issue. In the end, those who claim to believe that the Bible contains literal truth are engaged in a picking-and-choosing exercise. However much they would like to insist that this cherry-picking is based upon some divinely-revealed method, the direct influence is the natural world as elucidated by secular science.

11. Oil Pressure, Moon Recession, and Population Growth

In the fourth and final section of his dissertation, entitled "Time--What Is It and How Old is the Earth," Kent Hovind devotes about the final 14 pages of the work to a series of rapid-fire "evidences" that the earth is very young. Rather than take each one of these several alleged evidences in their turn, I will focus my attention on critiquing three of these evidences, as they are both representative of the flawed logic applied to the others and are common claims that creationists have used for a long time. These three claims involve oil pressure, lunar recession rates, and population growth.

First, Kent Hovind puts forth the old (and overly debunked) creationist argument that oil pressure proves a young age for the earth:
The pressure in oil wells in Texas is another indication that the earth is young. I lived five years in Texas. I saw a flame shooting up in the sky one night and went over to investigate. There were some men burning off the natural gas as they were drilling an oil well. I began asking them questions, talked about the oil there in Longview, Texas, they told me that they have a blowout protector that they put about a thousand feet down in the ground in case they drilled into a pocket of pressure. I asked them what kind of pressure they were talking about, how much pressure is the oil under down there in the ground. When drilling down about 35 hundred feet, often the oil has twenty thousand pounds of pressure per square inch. If you have ever pumped up a bicycle tire to seventy or eighty pounds of pressure, you understand that it is pretty hard to do. That pressure would crack the rock in the strata because after a period of time the rock could only withstand the pressure for so long. Some scientists spent quite a bit of time studying different rock strata that oil is found in and the strata that the oil is found under, and try to determine how long the oil could withstand the intense pressure that it was under. Melvin Cook did quite a bit of study on this. The studies indicated that the oil could not have been under that pressure for more than ten thousand years. The fact that the oil is still under that pressure indicates that it has been down there less than ten thousand years. Often when they first began drilling oil wells in the early 1930's, they would hit that pocket of pressure and it would blow everything up out of the ground. The thirty or forty thousand feet of pipe would just be shot up out of the ground like spaghetti because of this intense pressure. I would like to ask the evolutionists if he has some kind of answer to the fact that if the earth is indeed million [sic] of years old, why is the oil still under such incredible pressure? Why hasn'the [sic] it dissipated into the rock, and formed cracks, and leaked out through the years? (pp. 94-96).
Apparently, despite saying he "would like to ask the evolutionists" about oil pressure, Hovind very likely never bothered to at all. The answers to his objections are very simple, and the geological principles of primary migration and geological shifts are more than sufficient to debunk what Hovind claims here. The incredible pressure found in oil wells is the result of effective trapping. If the trapping rock were leaking like a sieve, the slow accumulation of oil from the initial source area would never have a chance to build up such great pressure. Hovind's claims simply do not take into account the fact that oil migrates very often. The oil accumulated in a given reservoir may have recently migrated there from another source. Hovind also does not seem to grasp that geological shifts still occur! Geological shifts can create leakages or increase the size of existing leakages in primary oil pools. These leakages facilitate the primary migration mentioned above. The mere existence of trapping rocks that develop leaks say nothing about how long ago the oil from which they spring was contained in them.

Additionally, it is obvious that rocks are not elastic. When pressures exerted on rocks exceed the breaking point, the rock breaks apart. The rock does not wait around for a few thousand years before yielding to the pressure, as Hovind suggests; it simply disintegrates upon reaching the breaking point [26].

After reading this in Hovind's paper, I consulted Len Eisenberg, a geologist friend of mine, about these claims. The initial response was a rolling of the eyes. He then proceeded to explain why this argument is nonsense. Oil is buoyant; when oil and water are found together in permeable rock, the oil always floats on top of the water. As the source sediment undergoes more and more pressure, the water below the oil is increasingly forced out. As it turns out, the speed at which ground water moves definitively falsifies the idea that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Under conditions involving a moderate hydraulic gradient and levels of clay at sufficient values for permeability, the flow speeds of ground water are accurately calculated to be on the order of 3 to 5 million years per mile. Meanwhile, the permeability level of oil sources is calculated at only one-thousandth as great as for clays [27]. Thus, the primary migration of oil from source pools takes far longer than the mere 6,000 years Hovind and other creationists posit for the age of the earth.

If Hovind's understanding of oil pressure were accurate, there would be no need for oil companies to strategically locate their drilling operations. This is because Hovind does not take into account (or does not understand) the fact that oil migrates often, necessitating models that are meticulously planned out in order to find optimal drilling locations. As a retired international petroleum geologist who worked for Chevron, Len Eisenberg is aware of this fact and uses it as the basis for challenging young-earth creationists with a million-dollar bet. In an e-mail he forwarded to me, Eisenberg writes,
I use this argument all the time with YEC's, [Young Earth Creationists] and it is extremely effective: Just ask them...

"If, as you say, young earth creationism is backed by good scientific evidence, why don't big oil companies like Chevron, Exxon and BP use it? These companies have no political, religious or philosophical agendas, they just want to use the best model of earth history to plan and execute their multi-billion dollar exploration and development programs. None of them use young earth creationism, all of them use mainstream science. If [sic] fact, oil company geologists have been and continue to be some of the main contributors to it. Are you saying that Chevron, Exxon and BP don't know what they are doing?" [This point] goes to the heart of the matter, and exposes YEC's as nothing more than paper tigers. A couple of times I have offered to bet a YEC a million dollars if they could find a single big oil company that uses YEC models. I stand there with my hand extended and the YEC mumbles and walks away. This makes a huge impression on the audience because they see the YEC bluff has been called and their position exposed. (One needs to say 'big' oil company because some guy and his dog in Oklahoma can call himself an oil company when if [sic] fact all the [sic] do is buy and sell small leases).

We will not be able to complete [sic] with the Chinese and Indians if half our country thinks dinosaurs lived with humans on Noah's Ark. Oil companies sure don't [28].
Next, we come to Kent Hovind's discussion of lunar recession and his claim that the rate at which the moon is receding from the earth indicates its young age:
The moon is receding. As you measure the distance to the moon, it can be seen that every year the moon gets a little bit further away. If you calculate that backward in time, you should be able to calculate approximately when the moon began to leave or was captured in our orbit. I do not believe that the moon was captured. Some people say that the moon started as a part of the Pacific Ocean and was pulled out of that area. That was taught for many years and is still believe [sic] by some. They try to use that to explain all of the volcanoes in Hawaii, saying that the crust is very thin because the moon was pulled out. The rate that the moon is receding, travelling away from the earth, indicates a very young age for the earth (p. 98).
The extent to which Hovind's figures are off is truly mind-blowing. Earth's moon is about 240,000 miles away. Every year, the "little bit further away" that the moon gets is 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) a year. Let us follow Hovind's suggestion and calculate that backward in time. Going back one million years gives us a moon that was one and a half million inches closer to earth. This amounts to about 23 miles. Twenty-three miles compared to the current distance of 240,000 miles amounts to nothing at all. We can further take into account the current distance from the earth to the moon, which is 38,500,000,000 centimeters. Dividing this by 3.8 centimeters a year gives us ten billion years [29]. Thus, because the earth is only 4-5 billion years old, the moon was well above the earth for far longer than Hovind and other young-earth creationists claim the earth itself has existed. The rate at which the moon is receding indicates the very opposite of a young age for the earth. In fact, our moon has probably never been closer than 151,000 miles away from earth.

As for Hovind's comment on the theory that the moon originated as part of the Pacific Ocean and was pulled out into space, this demonstrates that he simply does not keep up with minor details in the history of scientific developments. Charles Darwin's second son, George Darwin, is the one that first proposed fission theory, which speculates that the moon broke away from the earth due to rapid rotation. He estimated that at least 56 million years would be required for the moon to have traversed to its present distance from our planet. In the nineteenth century, this estimation was a reasonable scientific exercise, given the state of scientific knowledge at the time. George Darwin himself regarded his estimations as nothing more than the lower limit, and his theory itself as little more than an educated guess [30]. In the light of current scientific knowledge on the subject, calculations of the earth’s age in these contexts are an exercise in futility. Criticizing George Darwin's proposal is therefore irrelevant and out of date.

As the dissertation draws to a close, Hovind makes the mistake of commenting on world population, a subject he obviously knows next to nothing about. He points out that if evolution were true, and if humans have been present for three to five million years, the population should have exploded to the point that there should currently be no room remaining on earth to contain everybody. In his own words:
The population of the earth today doubles regularly. If you were to draw up the population growth on a chart you would see that it goes back to zero about five thousand years ago. If man has been here millions of years like evolutionists teach, where is the population? The whole population growth can be studied by anyone and it will be found that the population of the earth dates a young age for the earth of four to five thousand years. (p. 101).
First of all, Hovind seems to think that humans somehow reproduce in exponential fashion like bacteria, which of course is ludicrous. But even exponential growth in bacteria can only be maintained so long as an excess of available nutrients is available, because the population levels off once the nutrients have been consumed [31]. As far as human populations are concerned, these did not increase rapidly until agricultural technology had sufficiently advanced to the point where the population could be supported [32]. Hovind also does not seem to understand the fact that people die! Even he should know better than to argue this way. After all, he allegedly taught high school science for fifteen years and has often boasted about how well-read he is. Does he really not know that there are well-established theories of human extinctions in the scientific literature? In fact, in order for Hovind to stand by this argument, he would necessarily have to deny events such as the Black Plague, which decimated Europe three times in recorded history. He would be forced to deny the historical fact that Smallpox decimated Native American populations as well [33]. And has he no concept of the numerous wars and plagues which have wreaked major devastating influences on population size throughout history?

One is led to wonder if Hovind's belief that people once lived to be close to 1,000 years old prior to the "Flood" plays any role in justifying this population nonsense in his mind. While it is certainly a wildly speculative stretch (nothing new to Hovind) it may be theoretically possible to achieve this, if major and dramatic tweaking of the telomerase enzyme was somehow successfully carried out, or if genes were meddled with in some hitherto unprecedented manner. But of course, the members of the bronze-age cultures who penned the book of Genesis had no understanding of science, let alone how to manipulate scientific knowledge in the form of such technological feats. Additionally, historians and mythologists are well aware of the fact that the authors of Genesis were members of early Sumer society, and as such likely participated in the common practice of deifying their ancestors by attributing extreme longevity to them. Like the Biblical timeline, the ages of the Sumerian kings written of in extra-biblical works reached realistic values as they approached the era in which these accounts were written. Once that correspondent value was reached, men were never again recorded to live to the ages of their ancestors [34].

12. The Mindset and Motivation of the Creationist

When a comparison is made between this paper and Hovind's more recent lectures and debates, the amazing observation that arises is that his arguments and the faulty information he bases them upon have changed very little or not at all. He has continued to promote much of the same misunderstandings about what the Scientific Method is and how it operates, despite being corrected countless times. To consider that a great many of his most recent arguments dates back to this 1991 document which resulted in his fake doctorate is cause for bewilderment. What can possibly motivate a person to purposefully trap himself in an anti-intellectual rut and not try to grow in knowledge? Admittedly, I find it difficult to place myself in a position where I can understand Hovind's mindset and motivation. The reason for this difficulty is simple. Even if I wanted to believe in and embrace religion, the evidence that devastates the most essential tenets of religious worldviews surrounds me as a reminder that reality is not contingent on what I or anyone else wants or feels.

One of the problems that Hovind has not quite overcome is his penchant to uncritically adopt and internalize the work done by other creationists whose influence on him is evident. This is often seen to extend even to the level of mannerisms and stylistic approaches. For example, Hovind appears to be an avid fan of Duane Gish due to his uncanny imitation of Gish's style. In his excellent book Why People Believe Weird Things, science historian and outspoken evolutionist Michael Shermer criticizes Gish for using a statically standardized presentation in debate that never adapts to the particular opponent or to varying arguments. In Shermer's description of the research he undertook in preparation for his own debate with Duane Gish in 1995, he notes that almost every aspect of Gish's debate presentations remained identical throughout his career. In Shermer's own words,
I knew Gish had a lengthy section in his presentation on the evils of atheism as a technique to destroy his opponents (who typically are atheists), so I made a point of stating in my introduction, loud and clear, that I am not an atheist. I even called the audience's attention to the man passing out anti-Christian literature, who was now sitting in the front row, and I told him that I thought he was doing more harm than good. Nonetheless, in his opening statement Gish called me an atheist and then proceeded with his automated diatribe against atheism.

The rest of Gish's presentation was his stock litany of jokes and jabs against evolution [35].
In a strikingly similar manner, Hovind employs a standardized format in discourse and debates which talks past the objections raised by his evolutionist opponents. Many of his presentations have been set on autopilot, effectively contributing to his failure to grasp the corrections to most of his views that have been provided him numerous times by real scientists. In his dissertation as well, Hovind seems to adopt a motif that has become a signature debate style of Duane Gish. In almost all of his debates with evolutionists, Gish always closes out with a variation of "I maintain that as a scientist, the best statement we can make scientifically concerning our origins is that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" [36]. Hovind ends his paper in much the same way:
These honest questions deserve an honest answer. I believe we have been lied to about the age of the earth. Satan, the father of all lies, has come up with this one to try to make a fool of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 19:4 that the creation of Adam and Eve was the beginning. I believe Jesus was right. (p. 101).
For those who have never been taught to critically analyze any piece of incoming information, abandoning the religious dogmas that people such as Hovind put forth can be a difficult task. This means that believers who have never even considered questioning their beliefs need to be approached respectfully and in an understanding manner by the secular and freethinking community if we hope to instill in them the value of questioning. On the other hand, there are the believers who compartmentalize with ease. Many deeply-devoted religious people are not ignorant at all, but simply engaged in an often-unconscious exercise of compartmentalizing what they know about science and religion. The cognitive dissonance that results causes them to never make their knowledge of both science and religion clash to see what would happen. When such an unwillingness to compare knowledge bases is conscious, the fear of their faith eroding is often the primary issue.

13. Are Creationists Worth Debating?

Kent Hovind is a public figure who reminds us that paragons of ignorance are capable of having a great deal of influence. While many who are grounded in reason and rationality may wonder just how someone with no authentic credentials can gain such influence, it is instructive to remember that having the gift of gab is often all that is needed. Hovind has a certain allure about him that interests people and makes them want to hear him out, myself included. He even possesses a distinct sense of humor that is often enjoyable, including to me. Some have argued that Kent Hovind's popularity may be the fault of those of us in the atheistic and freethinking community, that we provide him a platform by paying him too much attention and challenging him too often. Others in the active secular community contend that Hovind would have grown in popularity without our critical attention since he appeals almost exclusively to the Christian market, which currently outnumbers the secular movement in this country. I tend to side with the latter perspective. Atheist scientists such as Richard Dawkins would argue that we should, as a matter of principle, avoid debating people like Kent Hovind. Yet while I agree that we should not instill in the public psyche the impression that creationists stand on an equal playing field with evolutionists, I do think such debates would, before too long, definitively end any such illusions that may exist. Moreover, engaging in such debates may speak to fence-sitters and convince them to support valid scientific reasoning over religiously-motivated pseudoscience. The sad fact of the matter is that most of the general public is ignorant of evolutionary biology, and creationists prey upon this ignorance at every opportunity. This is why giving creationists a brief place in the public spotlight via widely-publicized debates may be a very effective method of calling their bluff and exposing their fallacies to a wider lay audience. Debates in general and on any topic usually have the most impact on fence-sitters who come with a neutral position. The function of debate, as I see it, is to serve as a resource for those who have yet to make a stand on a given issue.

Kent Hovind is very talented and experienced at using alluring rhetoric, and the same is true of Duane Gish. Neither of these men have any clue what they are talking about, but their personas are adequate for forming connections with certain people. If we in the atheist and skeptical community ignored Kent Hovind and allowed him to continue propagating his crazy ideas without challenge, he would quite likely use that against us; he is skilled at turning opposing arguments around on us (or at least he thinks he is). Choosing not to address and challenge prominent figures in the creationist movement may inspire them to gloat to their followers that they have never yet been challenged. In addition, creationists rarely have original areas of research or unique talking points. To challenge and refute even one well-known and influential creationist is to challenge and refute a wide swath of others. Therefore, we need not expend too much time or energy challenging even one creationist before discrediting many if not all others.

For example, Hovind seems to be a huge fan of the older arguments of the late Henry Morris. He preaches and writes much of the same material and adopts a great deal of the same arguments, specifically those found in Morris' books Scientific Creationism [37] and The Long War Against God [38]. Sometimes simply refuting creationist claims point-by-point in a public forum compels others to reason through the issue on their own and realize the value of originality and innovation in science. In the process of doing this, it is also important to remember that verbally beating certain irrational beliefs to the ground is seldom effective. Walking them through the questions and the facts in a manner suggestive of a desire to grow mutually and cooperatively, and not lead with leash in hand down a proverbial one-way street, is the route that more successfully makes fundamentalists willing to engage in discussion in the first place.

On the other hand, debates are little more than an art form involving clever use of rhetoric to people who have already come down on one side or another of a given issue. Rational arguments rarely get through to people who have already made up their mind on a subject, especially when that which they have settled on is of a dogmatic and/or religious nature. It does not matter how many times a scientist can explain the second law of thermodynamics, for instance. Creationists who have built an erroneous and distorted frame around this law are not going to be swayed by such explanations. A debate that took place between Massimo Pigliucci and Intelligent Design advocate Jonathan Wells in 2001 at the University of Tennessee serves to demonstrate this unfortunate fact. During this debate, Jonathan Wells stated that when he started his biology graduate work at Berkeley, he bought into the theory of Darwinian evolution but later changed his mind and objected to Darwinism after investigating the evidence. He then went on to state, "That's why I object to Darwinian evolution or descent with modification - because it doesn't fit the evidence. I have no theological qualms with it at all" [39]. Massimo Pigliucci then pointed out that Wells had written an article on the Unification Church's website entitled "Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D.," in which Wells describes his theological motivations for devoting his life to attacking evolutionary theory. This article also states that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon (referred to as "Father" in the article) paid for Wells' schooling in order to procure his services as one of the church's anti-evolution spokesman. [40].

At this point, the crowd of spectators attending the debate completely turned against Jonathan Wells. Yet it was not because of any of Pigliucci's arguments that they turned against him, and it was not because he exposed Wells as a liar. Rather, his motivational association with the Unification Church was the factor that turned the crowd against him. Wells lost favor with the audience for purely political reasons, not because of the intellectual facts with which Pigliucci destroyed his arguments. People often think in terms of the frames and biases they hold, not in terms of both supporting and defeating facts. If facts do not fit the mental structures that define the frames people identify with, it is the facts that will be dismissed in favor of the frames.

14. Concluding Thoughts

If there were ever any illusion that Patriot University is or ever was accredited, Kent Hovind's acquisition of a doctorate degree from them on account of this paper should shatter this illusion, now that this dissertation has come on the public scene. Upon reading the dissertation, it is abundantly clear to me that the school has made a terrible mistake. One is led to wonder in bewilderment what their investment in this could possibly have been. Why exactly did they give Kent Hovind a doctorate? I personally have a difficult time understanding how anyone with a semblance of intelligence could have read this, given it a passing grade, and threw a doctorate over to Kent Hovind. Even the fact that Patriot University is a diploma mill and unaccredited should be no excuse for the school board (or the one and only committee member who assessed the dissertation) lacking any semblance of intelligence. I suspect there was more behind their act of conferring the doctorate than immediately meets the eye, especially given the fact that they did not release the paper until ten years after it was written. The story behind the release of the dissertation is told by Skip Evans, who originally requested it. According to Evans, the school finally granted his request on the condition that only the latest version of the dissertation could be made public, and that no alterations can be made to the product. This condition reflects the fact that Kent Hovind has claimed in the past that the dissertation was continually being added to over time. Apparently, this was a book in the making that Hovind never received a chance to finish or publish because he found himself locked up in prison.

Overall, Kent Hovind's “dissertation” is a shoddy piece of work with very few references, and a great many empty and weak claims that are easily refuted. It is an interesting read, however. To my surprise, it is actually quite entertaining at times, and I got several good laughs from reading it. Some have suggested that this paper was an elaborate hoax by somebody, because it does seriously read like a parody. But this dissertation is no hoax. Watching Kent Hovind's lecture series is just as entertaining as reading his paper; those who have seen his seminar videos, as I have, will know upon reading his dissertation that he indeed did write the thing. I recommend Hovind's seminar videos to any who feel like kicking back with a bag of popcorn and enjoying a side-splitting comedy (minus the tasteless sexist jokes he makes and the many instances of grating stupidity). In like manner, I was tickled by the time I got to page three in his paper. But if this was written as fiction, as a clever parody, I would not have even considered devoting the time I have spent writing this lengthy review. And even those who choose to think of this writing as fiction in order to suffer through it will recognize that it is very bad fiction, and they will not be much better off.


1. http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/topic/arguments-we-dont-use.

2. Ed Brayton, “Anyone Wanna Buy a Dinosaur ‘Theme Park’?” Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Thoughts from the Interface of Science, Religion, Law and Culture, Science Blogs, 2 August 2009.

3. InfidelGuy, “Dr. Massimo Pigliucci vs Kent Hovind – Part 1,” YouTube 1 July 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj0m6GrFR3A.

4. PZ Myers, “Kent Hovind's Doctoral Dissertation” (Comment #6), Pharyngula, Science Blogs, 9 December 2009, http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/kent_hovinds_doctoral_disserta.php.

5. Ibid., Comment #110.

6. Escambia County Florida Clerk of the Circuit Court Affidavit (August 10, 2005). This is the court affidavit Hovind presented, containing his biography. Available online at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Kent_Hovind_2005_Affidavit.

7. http://www.patriotuniversity.com/PatriotUniversity.com.html.

8. Jerry Adler and John Carey, “Is Man a Subtle Accident?” Newsweek 3 Nov. 1980: 95-96.

9. S.J. Gould and N. Eldredge, “Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered,” Paleobiology 3 (1977): 147.

10. William J. Gibbons and Dr. Kent Hovind, Claws, Jaws & Dinosaurs (Pensacola, FL: Creation Science Evangelism, 1999).

11. G.J. Kuban (1986), “The Taylor Site Man Tracks,” Origins Research Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 2-10.

12. Glen Kuban (1989), “Color Distinctions and Other Curious Features of Dinosaur Tracks Near Glen Rose, Texas,” in Dinosaur Tracks and Traces, eds. David D. Gillette and Martin G. Lockley (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 427-440.

13. Joe Taylor, “Story Behind the Giant Human Femur Sculpture,” Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum, http://mtblanco.com/TourGiantArticle.htm.

14. Auburn University, Biology 3010: Comparative Anatomy. Topic 4: Form and Function (slides available at http://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/topic4ppt/file/310091).

15. Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

16. M.J. Thompson, “Solar Interior: Helioseismology and the Sun's Interior,” Astronomy & Geophysics 45 (4.21-4.25).

17. Keith J. Laidler, The World of Physical Chemistry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 106.

18. R.E. Sonntag, C. Borgnakke, G.J. Van Wylen, Fundamentals of Thermodynamics Sixth Edition (New York: Wiley, 2002).

19. Nina G. Jablonski, “The Naked Truth: Why Humans Have No Fur and How Evolving Bare Skin Led to Big Brains,” Scientific American Feb. 2010: 42-49.

20. S. Freeman and J.C. Herron, Evolutionary Analysis Fourth Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007).

21. Charles Kittel and Herbert Kroemer, Thermal Physics Second Edition (San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman Company, 1980), pp. 227-259.

22. Sonntag, et al., Fundamentals of Thermodynamics.

23. S.G.F. Brandon, M.A., D.D., Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1963), pp. 16-17.

24. Florentine Bechtel, “Ammon,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907); online at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01430d.htm.

25. A.S. Yahuda, The Accuracy of the Bible (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1935), pp. 146-7.

26. Arthur N. Strahler, Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1987), 237-8.

27. P.C. Wszolek and A.L. Burlingame, “Petroleum – Origin and Evolution,” in The Encyclopedia of Sedimentology, eds. R. Fairbridge and J. Bourgeois (Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson, and Ross, 1978), pp. 565-574.

28. Leonard Eisenberg, “Fwd: Creationism and oil companies,” e-mail message to the author, 26 Jan. 2010.

29. Kirk S. Hansen, “Secular effects of oceanic tidal dissipation on the moon's orbit and the earth's rotation,” Reviews of Geophysics and Space Physics 20 (1982): 457-480.

30. G. Brent Dalrymple, The Age of the Earth (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), pp. 47-52.

31. P.J. Jensen and K. Hammer, “Minimal Requirements for Exponential Growth of Lactococcus lactis, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 59(12) (December 1993): 4363-4366.

32. Donella H. Meadows, et al., The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind (New York: Universe Books, 1974). See also Donella H. Meadows, et al., Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004), pp. 266-269.

33. David Herlihy, The Black Death and the Transformation of the West (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

34. Claudine-Adrienne Vincente, “The Tall Leilan Recension of the Sumerian King List,” Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie 50 (1995): 234-270.

35. Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time (New York: A.W.H. Freeman/Owl Book, 2002), p. 136.

36. Duane Gish (1988), “Opening Statement for the Negative,” in Evolution vs. Creationism: The Saladin-Gish II Debate, ed. Kenneth Saladin (online at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ken_saladin/saladin-gish2/gish1.html). Kenneth Saladin, who transcribed and annotated this debate, makes the following excellent point in a footnote: “This sentence is a marvelous illustration of the fact that he [Gish] doesn't know the difference between science and theology. One may conclude that in the beginning, God created, but one must never mistake this for a scientific statement. The statement also further illustrates his fallacy of bifurcation. 'In the beginning God created' is a premise that can be entirely consistent with evolution. For all his argumentation, the best Gish can do is come up with a broad conclusion that is not at all precluded by the fact of evolution.”

37. Henry M. Morris, Scientific Creationism (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1974).

38. Henry M. Morris, The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2000).

39. The Kansas Citizens for Science summarized the debate on their webpage at http://www.sunflower.com/~jkrebs/ID/Papers/Wellsdebate.

40. Jonathan Wells, “Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D.,” written for the online essay series The Words of the Wells Family (http://www.tparents.org/library/unification/talks/wells/DARWIN.htm).

1 comment:

  1. Nathan,
    I read your paper on academia.edu. I was only going to glance at it, but it
    was engagingly written I kept going right to the end. I am writing to say
    that I appreciated the fact that you differentiated between fundamentalist
    Christians and other Christians in your paper. Unfortunately, this
    distinction is often missing.

    Scientific findings have completely invalidated Fundamentalist
    Christianity, but not Christian faith in general. It is very difficult for
    people in the scientific community and their followers to show that science
    has disproved something in the Bible, because to do that they would have to
    comment authoritatively on the Bible, and that is where such attempts
    usually go astray. The Bible is a complex work of literature and commenting
    on it in an authoritative way requires academic training (in biblical
    languages, for example) that most people who want to comment don't have
    (including most pastors). They end up addressing fundamentalist beliefs or
    the beliefs of Christians that they know, but not the Bible itself. For a
    biologist to relate scientific findings to the Bible is akin to a Christian
    theologian making claims about evolution based on their theology. Each needs to stick
    to its own area of expertise, unless they have put in the time to bring
    themselves up to speed in the other discipline.

    Regarding the topic of your paper, I would like to point out that the first
    eleven chapters of Genesis are in no way meant to be taken as a scientific
    account of the earth's origins. That is simply not the purpose of the text,
    and the original audience would never have read the text that way, because
    they were pre-scientific. Fundamentalists who try to make Genesis a science
    textbook have erred greatly, and scientists who respond to them are only
    addressing the fundamentalists' beliefs, not the Bible.

    I think a much more valid scientific critique of the Bible itself would be
    directed at such biblical events as the miracles and resurrection of Jesus, which are intended to be read scientifically or literally by the original audience.

    But what do I know?
    Thanks again for the article,

    Perry Pennington