RNCSE 19 (5)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September-October
Articles available online are listed below.

Another View from Kansas

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Another View from Kansas
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
4
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The address of Chancellor Robert Hemenway to the 1999 University of Kansas Opening Fall Convocation included these remarks:

The third theme of our Strategic Plan, "Building Premier Learning Communities," seems particularly important given the recent actions of the Kansas State Board of Education. The Board's actions raise for us the question of what constitutes an excellent curriculum for the study of science.

In case you have been stranded on a Pacific Island without contact with the outer world this summer, let me briefly summarize what the Kansas Board of Education has done.

The Board voted 6-4 not to include evolution, as it has been commonly defined, in science standards recommended to Kansas Public Schools. The Board also removed from the proposed set of science standards references to radioactive aging of rocks, continental drift, and the "big bang theory" of the origin of the universe, apparently because some people have religious beliefs which hold that the universe is only about 10 000 years old, rather than the billions of years which seem to be confirmed by the geological evidence.

The Board's action grew out of an earlier attempt by three board members to re-write the set of science standards requested by the Board from a group of 27 board appointed science teachers and science professionals. This rewritten version became an alternative document which included numerous explicit references to "creationism" and "intelligent design" and also made the claim that since both evolution and gravity were only scientific theories, neither should be taught as fact.

This alternative document was eventually abandoned however, [and] [t]he science standards which were finally adopted by the 6-4 vote, made references to evolution in terms of "micro evolution - minor genetic changes observed in a population over time - but eliminated references to evolution as scientists normally understand and define it, and certainly as the accumulated empirical evidence of the past 2 centuries would seem to support it.

...We live in an exceedingly complex world shaped in many ways by scientific knowledge. As citizens we have to form opinions about scientific issues. If we don't, we fail in our responsibility to be contributing members to the democratic discourse that ultimately determines the nature and quality of our society. Whether it is the environment, medical care, or highways, science affects our life. ...Being able to understand these debates is becoming as important to you as being able to read. You must become scientifically literate."

... Scientific literacy as I define it here means quite simply, a sufficient understanding of science to understand and contribute meaningfully to debate on public issues. Scientific literacy is not "doing science." Only highly educated professionals "do science." A scientifically literate person "uses" a knowledge of science to understand the ways that scientific discoveries will affect one's life and change one's society. For example, science literacy is not the ability to sequence DNA, but an ability to understand and comprehend the ways in which the mapping of DNA in the human genome project will affect the practice of medicine, and consequently, one's health care.

I suspect that there are many, both within the state, and nationally, who will be willing to help us if we move ahead. They know that what has happened in Kansas could happen in other states. Of one thing I am certain, there is a need for scientific literacy everywhere in the country, not just in Kansas. If those who were shocked by the Board of Education's decision really care about young people learning science ... or the people of Kansas, they should be the first to enlist in our cause.

Oklahoma Textbook Committee Adopts Evolution Disclaimer

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Oklahoma Textbook Committee Adopts Evolution Disclaimer
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
7–8
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On Friday, November 5, the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee, which is charged with approving textbooks for the state's 540 school districts, voted to require publishers to affix a disclaimer to any science book that discusses the theory of evolution. The committee's decision is not subject to review by any other state agency, including the State Board of Education, and the only way individual districts could avoid using the sticker would be to purchase textbooks without state assistance.

The text of the disclaimer is identical to that adopted by the Alabama State Board of Education in 1996.

According to news reports,
Committee member John Dickmann, who introduced the disclaimer, said it was added because biology texts do not give enough attention to alternate explanations of the development of life.

"Some of us on the committee wanted to send a strong statement to the publishers that we are fed up with textbooks that only present one side of the story," said Dickmann, a Broken Arrow Central Middle School teacher. "I'm not just picking on science, either. I have concerns in other subjects, too." (Associated Press, 1999)
The Committee currently consists of eleven members appointed directly by the governor (there are positions for twelve members); 7 of the eleven members belong to the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators (APOE), an organization only a few years old whose members represent only a fraction of the state's teachers, most of whom belong to the Oklahoma Education Association (Cooper, 1999). Speaking for the Governor's office, Mike Brake told the Tulsa World, "We asked if they knew people in the district who follow the governor's point of view on education. It's no surprise they are members of [the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators ]", and added , "The governor hasn't selected members on the basis of teacher organization," Brake said. "We look for philosophy first." (Cooper, 1999).

While there seem to be no statements about evolution at the APOE website, the links page, which consists primarily of links to "Alternatives to the NEA [National Education Association] in other states" and to educational policy organizations, also contains a link to the conservative "Family Research Council" (FRC). An FRC policy paper declares:
It was in the 19th century that America's Judeo-Christian foundation started to erode. One contributing factor was Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which began to replace the theory of intelligent design as the accepted explanation for the origin and purpose of the universe and life. America's intellectual elites concluded that God was a myth and that the universe, life, and society had evolved on their own - a conclusion most Americans dispute. The intelligentsia's acceptance of this explanation resulted in the replacement of the Judeo-Christian worldview with humanism's shifting moral and legal standards. (Hoeft, 1999)
Early reactions to the Committee's decision seem mixed. State legislators have said they do not intend to address the issue (Ervin, 1999).While , "State schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett expressed deep annoyance and said, 'We are concerned with this action and are looking into it further'... Education Secretary Floyd Coppedege expressed some sympathy for the committee's opinion but said such decisions 'should have been left to the local textbook committees."such decisions 'should have been left to the local textbook committees'"(AP, 1999 ). The Executive Director of a national civil liberties group sent a later to state officials that read in part, "I am writing today to let you know that this action raises serious constitutional concerns and that failure to reverse it could result in a lawsuit" (AU, 1999).

Scientists and interfaith groups in Oklahoma are organizing to oppose the Textbook Committee's action, and have turned to NCSE for information on the history and legality of evolution disclaimers. NCSE will continue informing Oklahoma members of opportunities to support evolution education, and keep RNCSE readers informed of further developments.

References

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), Americans uUnited urges Oklahoma education officials to block textbook committee's anti-evolution CRUSADE http://www.au.org/pr111199.htm

AP Wire, Evolution disclaimer added to textbooks, November 11, 1999 [while this date appears in search of Associated Press archives, Oklahoma members report that the article appeared in The Oklahoman on November 10).

Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators (APOE), "Professional Organizations and Educational Links", May 15, 1999 http://www.apoe.com/page10.htm

Cooper, Scott, Conservatives fill textbook panel. Tulsa World, November 11, 1999 http://search.tulsaworld.com/archivesearch/default.asp?WCI=DisplayStory&ID=991110_Ne_a1conse

Ervin, Chuck, Lawmakers avoid textbook issue/ Tulsa World, November 11, 1999 http://search.tulsaworld.com/archivesearch/default.asp?WCI=DisplayStory&ID=991111_Ne_a10lawma

Hoeft, Kevin, The ten commandments belong in schools. Family Research Council Perspective http://www.frc.org/perspective/pv99i1ed.html

Dr Dino Does 'Delphia

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Dr Dino Does 'Delphia
Author(s): 
Andrew Petto, Stephen Meyers, Bob Leipold
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
20, 25–27
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

The Setting

Kent Hovind, aka Dr Dino, presented a "Creation Seminar" at Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia on May 7–8, 1999. Flyers advertising the event were distributed throughout the area, but we might have missed it entirely if someone hadn't sent out a mailing addressed generically to "Science Teacher" at a number of local schools and colleges. It was because one science teacher (AP) received a flyer that we were able to rouse an NCSE contingent to attend. We took in the presentation in overlapping shifts and compiled this report from the combined notes from the weekend.

The flyer advertising the event asked, "Is the World a Product of Random Chance?" It also promised answers to the burning questions:

  • Does Science Contradict the Bible?
  • Did you know that Dinosaurs are Mentioned in the Bible?
  • Is there a Political Reason Evolution is Being Promoted in the Public Schools?

The central image in the flyer depicts a human, a theropod dinosaur, and a wooly mammoth eyeing each other warily while an indeterminate flying reptile glides over the banner "CREATION SCIENCE EVANGELISM". With this information and the fact that the event would be held in a conservative nondenominational Christian church, we expected a strong religious component to the presentation.

Philadelphia's Calvary Chapel is a large facility with a worship area, classrooms, and meeting facilities. There is an elementary school affiliated with the church and a number of other social and educational programs. The main sanctuary where Hovind made his presentation is a large room arranged like an amphitheater with a capacity for about 1000 persons. The sloping floor of the hall puts the speaker on a level above the heads of those in the first several rows. In the middle of the hall is a large media area from which technicians can control lighting, sound, and recording equipment. The crowd for Hovind's presentation was far below the capacity for the facility, though there were easily several hundred people in attendance.

Style and Format

Hovind's presentation was animated and entertaining. The format was an illustrated lecture - almost a multimedia performance; Hovind used presentation software to project images, partial quotations from the scientific literature and biblical references. However, the presentation was purely expositional; there was no relationship to a seminar in which the participants are supposed to provide some of the intellectual content and critical analysis. Hovind talked and showed his illustrations; everyone else listened.

The high-quality graphics made for some interesting viewing. Now that the images and the text being presented were easier to see, the viewing angles were more "creative". For example, when using quotes out of the scientific literature, these were scanned in at an angle. This may just be an attempt at an "esthetic" presentation of boring old quotes, but scanning at an angle solves two problems at once. First, Hovind can say that he didn't quote out of context, because, after all, there is the quote right there on the page with the rest of the text. Second, the angle of the view made it difficult to see what the rest of the text really said, because it contains partial segments of a number of sentences - some quite complex. To someone familiar with scientific writing, however, it was clear that a proper reading of the text did not agree with Hovind's interpretation.

The content of the presentation came directly from the materials in Hovind's videos and web site (http://www.drdino.com), though in a much abridged presentation. Indeed it was almost an antiphonal phrase repeated at intervals: There isn't enough time for me to go into this in detail, but you'll find the details in my videos and other materials for sale out in the corridor. Because this presentation was made in a church and before a sympathetic crowd, the connections between the "science" and the Bible were made explicitly and often. As if to underscore the point, Hovind often capped his "scientific" tidbits with a Bible verse.

In the beginning, Hovind listed his objectives for the seminar:

A. Strengthen people's faith in the Bible
B. If you're not saved, I'll try and get you saved
C. If you are saved and not busy for the Lord, I will try to make you uncomfortable.
These are reproduced on his web site (http://www.drdino.com, last accessed Dec 11, 1999).

The "scientific" presentation was a string of summary statements stated out of context and in the most absurd way possible. Hovind followed this by a "Now, isn't that ridiculous?" or "how could they be so silly?" Then, he would give his own interpretation of the data: that the world was created in 6 days about 10 000 years ago — a chant he repeated often throughout the program and had the audience repeating along with him by the end of the first evening's presentation.

Much of the presentation focused on the "political" reasons why biblical creationism is not taught in the schools — after all, Hovind's presentation "proved" that true science supports the accuracy of the Bible as a literal scientific and historical document. Most of these reasons revolve around an international conspiracy Hovind called "The New World Order" (NWO) consisting of Ted Turner (and his wife, "Hanoi" Jane, of course), the British Royal Family, the State of Israel, the ACLU, and a smattering of former and present US government officials, business leaders, and social activists (particularly those advocating population control) — shades of the Trilateral Commission.

What is most remarkable is that Hovind predicted that the "target date" for the implementation of the NWO's world-domination plan was May 5, 2000 — not coincidentally, Hovind noted, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel. This is also the date, according to Hovind, by which the NWO wished to reduce the world's population to no more than 500 million people (less than 10% of the current population). This claim was so remarkable that Skip Evans added a counter on his "Hovind" web page which shows the number of days before the NWO target date (see http://www.mindspring.com/~tallulah/hovind/).

Hovind's "Science"

Throughout the course of the "seminar" were a number of remarkable claims and citations of research. Most, of course, had to do with the "anomalies" and "inconsistencies" in the scientific literature, such as inconsistent radiometric dates and mathematical approximations which turn out not to be correct — ice cores, Mt St Helens, and the "many failures of science" figure prominently here.

The presentation begins pretty much with standard literalist anti-evolutionary fare: micro- versus macro-evolution, the second law of thermodynamics (stated incompletely, of course), and the correlation between teaching evolution and the rise in crime rates, divorce, and venereal diseases with the decrease in "moral values", SAT scores, and IQ — though none of these is documented. Finally, Hovind gave the "evolution fairy tale" — the frog that turns into a prince.

He uses supposed evidence from studies on population growth, star evolution, cometary travels, the decay in the speed of light, oil fields, fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field, the saltiness of the ocean, the young age of the Sahara Desert, geological erosion rates, and more to prove that the earth cannot be older than about 10 000 years old. The details of his "logic" are burdensome, but one example is that of the oldest tree. Hovind argues that since the oldest tree is no more than a few thousand years old, how could the earth be any older? Interested readers can find (and now hear an audio version of) these arguments and "evidence" on Hovind's web site (http://www.drdino.com/SeminarAudio/Part1/index.htm, last accessed Dec 11, 1999).

Briefly, here are the major points covered by Hovind in his May 7–8, 1999 presentation at Calvary Chapel.

On Evolution and Paleontology


Darwin has been disproved at http://www.darwindisproved.com. Unfortunately for Hovind, this site was an April Fool's joke, which would have been obvious to anyone who was scientifically literate.

Dinosaurs are alive and well on planet earth! Someone saw a yellow dinosaur with a beard. There are many reports of Pterodactyls flying around Papua, New Guinea (this information came from Carl Baugh who has been there!). A fisherman caught a small dinosaur in Lake Erie near Lakewood OH which is now on display in Carl Baugh's museum in Texas.

ICA stones from Peru show clear drawings of dinosaurs indicating that man and dinosaurs live together. See the web site http://www.darwindisproved.com.

Leviathan mentioned in the Bible is a fire breathing dragon

In ancient literature what were called "dragons" where actually dinosaurs. The way the ancients killed these dragons (for example, Tyrannosaurus rex) was to pull off their small forearms and let them bleed to death.

We don't see sea monsters (dinosaurs) now, in contrast to many such tales from early sea-farers, because modern ships engines make too much noise and scare them off.

Human and dinosaur footprints were found together in the Paluxy River bed in Waco TX. NOVA filmed a creationist named Baugh and an unnamed evolutionist during this dig, but would not document the findings. The evolutionist refused to examine the evidence.

A clay doll was found in rocks dated at 12 million years old in Nampa ID.

Fossilized insects and animals were of enormous size before the flood; reptiles never stopped growing.

How did Noah get all those animals on the ark? He took 2 of each kind, not necessarily 2 of each species. He also took baby animals because they (1) were smaller, (2) ate less, and (3) had a longer life span to reproduce

All species were vegetarians before the flood, so animals had no fear of humans

On Geology and Earth Science


There was no continental drift. No Pangaea!

Radiometric dating is wrong because the moon rocks have different dates (see http://www.jpdawson.com). Carbon 14 dating is inaccurate because two bones from the same Mammoth date 22 000 and 40 000 years old.

On Health


Hovind has discovered a cure for cancer. A vitamin B17 deficiency causes cancer just like vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. Taking B17 plus C will cure your cancer. See http://www.canceranswer.com or http://www.worldwithoutcancer.com.

"The whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead" because white bread lacks vitamin E and lecithin. Cancer incidence increased when vitamin E and lecithin were removed from breads to make white bread.

One reason Adam and Eve lived so long (more than 900 years) is because they were vegetarians. The average life span of humans before the flood was 912 years. Noah was 600 years old when he built the ark.

A hyperbaric chamber can heal you and grow giants like before Noah's flood where there was twice the current levels of oxygen and atmospheric pressure. This is confirmed by scientists who studied the air bubbles in amber (see Time 1987 Nov 9;p 82). Under these conditions, Dr Mori in Japan grew a tomato plant 40 feet high yielding 15 000 tomatoes.

On Society and Government


We should not have any public schools. See http://www.exodus2000.org.

According to the 10th amendment to the US constitution, the federal government should get out of education.

Democracy, which always leads to a dictatorship, is an illegitimate form of government in that rights are conferred by man. In a constitutional republic like the US, rights are conferred by the creator.

Oral Tradition

Following the presentation, one of us (SM) managed to contact Hovind and ask some specific questions about the sources of his claims. For many of them he seemed to accept at face value the claims of anyone who (a) was a Christian of the same stripe as he, and (b) who seemed (to Hovind) like a reliable source. When asked specifically about certain claims, he replied that he felt no need to investigate.

For example, he thinks B17 is the cure for cancer because people are convinced that they have been cured from cancer after taking B17. Repeatedly, he used testimonies and people's phone numbers as proof positive. Time magazine was the only reference in his seminar.

With regard to the "yellow dinosaur with a beard", he said that is what someone said. When asked if he investigated any of these stories, he replied that takes them at face value and gave more phone numbers of people to call for proof.

He said that the supposed plesiosaur (see RNCSE 1997; 3) is not is not a basking shark because the testing (of the protein sequences in the cartilage) showed only a 97% match to basking shark samples. After all, he said, human and monkey [sic] DNA show the same 97% match. Since no one knows the DNA of a plesiosaur, why would there not be a 97% match between these and a basking shark?

He said that someone told him the morning of his presentation about http://www.darwindisproved.com so he added it to his presentation. Later that day he discovered it was a hoax and removed it (though we have to wonder how much later, since he was still using that example at 9:30 on Friday evening). One would think it would be wise to check out a web site before recommending it to a large audience.

Lastly, we defended his claim about the side-by-side dinosaur and human tracks in the Paluxy River. These had long ago been discredited and disavowed by anti-evolutionists. The president of Philadelphia's Institute for Bible Studies and Science was present at the excavation of a supposed human footprint. He made a cast of it and took it to an expert who said it definitely was not a human foot print. We offered the phone number of the witness as "proof".

He Just Keeps On ...

An important part of the program is Hovind's reminder that it is "perfectly legal" to teach "creation science in schools. The US Supreme Court, he claims, has said so and it is the conspiracy of the NWO which is preventing it. There is now, he claims, an "approved" Bible curriculum for public schools which can be adopted for use; of course he neglects to mention that this curriculum has failed to overcome constitutional challenges to its implementation in the public schools.

Hovind is also undaunted by challenges to his interpretation of the Scripture. He relies on the King James Version as the authoritative text, even when biblical scholars point out to him the different ways in which passages are rendered in prior versions, in particular in Hebrew versions. Hovind replied in a phone conversation (with SM) that he would consider this, but there is no evidence on his web site that there has been any significant change in his evaluation of the specific objections to his interpretations nor any acknowledgment that he has considered any of them.

Hovind returned to the area in mid-November. His presentation was held at Limerick Chapel in Limerick PA. Limerick Chapel is a big church with a big school. In keeping with the suggestions of Barbara Forrest and Pierre Stromberg (see RNCSE 1998) one of our members wrote to the pastor to warn him about Hovind. There was no reply before the scheduled appearance.

While in the area, however, Hovind did manage to make at least one appearance on a radio talk show. When a local NCSE member requested a chance to go on the air at a later date to refute the religious aspects of Hovind's presentation, the producer demurred, saying that they wouldn't do another show on this topic for at least several weeks.

Hovind's next scheduled visit to Pennsylvania will be Nov 4-6, 2000. However, if you want to see when Hovind will visit your area, just connect to http://www.drdino.com/itinerary.htm for all the latest. You will be amazed!
About the Author(s): 

Authors' Address:
c/o NCSE Editorial Office
Division of Liberal Arts
University of the Arts
320 S Broad St
Philadelphia PA 19102-4994

Unmasking the False Prophet of Creationism

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Unmasking the False Prophet of Creationism
Author(s): 
Barbara Forrest
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
28–30
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The headline in the October 16, 1998, Daily Star, "$10,000 to prove him wrong," told me immediately that the article in my local newspaper was about Kent Hovind, an itinerant creationist who presented a "seminar" at Immanuel Baptist Church in Hammond, Louisiana. (Hammond is in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, where the school board is involved in an ongoing court case involving its evolution disclaimer.) To many interested in teaching evolution in public schools, Hovind is familiar, but as an expert at self-promotion rather than evolution. His true agenda, which he shares with other members of the Religious Right, is undermining public schools by attacking the teaching of evolution. It was essential to expose Hovind locally, so I sent the newspaper a letter which was published after his visit. Hovind's lack of scientific training makes it impossible to engage him on a professional level, so I decided to inform the public of some of his most preposterous ideas, juvenile rhetorical tactics, lack of credentials, and anti-public school agenda. This strategy may be useful to others. (The letter is on Ken Harding's web site. http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Temple/9917/evolution/barb_forrest.html)

Rather than describing Hovind's message, I let him speak through selections from his book, Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution. The following are some of the most egregious, and therefore most effective, quotes (the bracketed insertions are mine):
The Smithsonian Institute [sic] has 33,000 sets of human remains in their basement ... Many of them were taken while the people were still alive. They were so desperate to find missing links, so desperate to prove their theory that they murdered people to prove it. It was the philosophy of evolution that drove them (Hovind, Ch 4).

Five billion people [yes, he says billion] could drown in Loch Ness, and no one would show above the surface. It is a big lake. . . . As of the 1960s, there were over 9,000 sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Today, there have been over 11,000 such sightings (Hovind, Ch 2).

The Trail of Tears was where the Cherokee Indians were driven out of the Chattanooga area all the way to Oklahoma. ... Evolution is responsible for what happened to the Indians. How any Indian can believe in evolution just blows my mind. ... [T]he evolution theory is what destroyed them (Hovind, Ch 4).
[This quotes exposes Hovind's historical as well as scientific ignorance. The Trail of Tears occurred in America in the 1830s. Darwin's The Origin of Species was not published in England until 1859.]
I believe the Great Pyramid was built to be the Bible in stone. The Egyptians did not build it. (Hovind, Ch 6).

Adam and Eve probably had hundreds of children. They lived 800 years, and one could have a lot of children in 800 years (Hovind, Ch 6).

There has been research that indicates nearly all homosexuals come from families that have a weak father figure, and a dominant mother ... research shows that there is a social link where the children are raised to be wimps or whatever (Hovind, Ch 6).
[The connection in Hovind's mind between homosexuality and evolution is unclear, but this quote demonstrates Hovind's mean-spirited, flippant stereotyping of homosexuals and their families.]
My first question [to God, after Hovind goes to heaven], believe it or not, will be, 'Did Adam and Eve have a belly button?' I don't know why, but that has bothered me for years (Hovind, Ch 6).

The only book that I have read that really struck home with me giving a possible explanation for UFOs was . . .The Cosmic Conspiracy by Stan Deyo. . . . Deyo, a Christian, is a genius who wrote the book way over my head. . . . He says that Satan has always used that mode of transportation to get around because the devil can only be at one place at one time . . . I do not know if it is true, but it is an interesting theory (Hovind, Ch 6).
I ended the quotes with a selection from Hovind's web site, reflecting paranoid ideas common in far-right movements:
Microchips may play an important part in the mark of the beast. One example of technology is the UPC, or bar code. . . . the two skinny lines at the beginning, middle, and end of every barcode stand for '6' in binary code: 666 [the mark of the beast]. . . . four people have called me from Arkansas and Missouri to report seeing customers at the grocery store pay for purchases by scanning their hand (Hovind, FAQ's, http://www.drdino.com).
I offered a final gem from his video series (which he usually sells at his seminars). In Part Four of "Dinosaurs, Creation, Evolution: A Creation Seminar," Hovind shows a slide of a bird hatching from an alligator's egg: "Maybe a reptile laid an egg and a bird hatched out." Hovind's use of this absurd explanation of punctuated equilibrium demonstrates his strategy of discrediting evolution with ridicule. (Readers can download an example of his rhetorical technique in an audio clip, "November 13, 1998, Tuesday, Kent Hovind — 'Evolution, Check Your Brains At The Door.'" http://www.audiocentral.com/rshows/missler/archives.html Accessed January 25, 1999.)

In case my audience was still unconvinced of Hovind's scientific incompetence, I included information about his credentials. Hovind says on his "drdino" web site that he graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in Michigan in education and Bible and received his master's and doctoral degrees in education from Patriot University, "a small Christian University in Colorado." (http://www.drdino.com/FAQs/FAQmisc.htm#Q: Where did you get your degree?). In Part One of his videotape seminar, he boasts a "PhD in education." A little research about these credentials is enlightening.

MBC offers little science instruction, and it is saturated with religious doctrine; the objective of the MBC Department of Education is to train students "for teaching in Christian schools" (http://www.midwesternbaptist.edu/school/courseeducation.htm. The Division of Science offers only 4 undergraduate courses (one is "Creation Science"), all slanted toward Biblical literalism (http://www.midwesternbaptist.edu/school/coursescience.htm. The objective of the sole science education course offered by the MBC Department. of Education is to learn "to present to an elementary class the universe which God has marvelously created" (http://www.midwesternbaptist.edu/school/courseeducation.htm). Hovind's education at MBC would never qualify him to teach in any school with a legitimate science curriculum.

Hovind's credentials from Patriot University are even less substantial. PU was formerly in Colorado Springs CO, but is now in Alamos CO, in a house near the College Heights Baptist Church The street address ["External Studies Department Bulletin," Fall 1997] is the residential address of PU's Executive Director of External Studies, Dr Lonnie Skinner (http://www.anywho.com.) The Bulletin indicates how a university could simply relocate to another town: There is no faculty, and credit is offered for "life experience and ministry evaluation". The courses, workbooks, audiotapes, and videotapes can be completed in 2–4 weeks. Tuition is a voluntary, monthly "freewill offering". The only graduate science course is "SC 701 — Biblical Basis of Modern Science". The DMin is offered in Biblical Studies, Pastoral Studies, Evangelism and Missions, Christian Education, and Christian Counseling.

When I e-mailed Skinner to inquire whether Patriot offered a PhD and whether Hovind had received one, the unsigned reply stated that "Kent Hovind did receive a PhD in Christian Education from Patriot in 1991. I think that may have been the last year Patriot awarded the PhD" (personal communication, January 21, 1999). Patriot is accredited only by the American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions, which Steve Levicoff in Name It and Frame It classifies as an "accrediting mill" (Levicoff, Chapter 12). The US Dept of Education does not recognize AAATI as an accrediting agency (US Dept of Education, September 1998, p 28). Hovind's PhD clearly does not meet even minimally respectable academic standards.

Finally, my letter addressed Hovind's true agenda: attacking public schools for teaching evolution. Hovind clearly favors eliminating public schools: "Should we have a public school system? ... I believe if the government was out of the education business ... many other problems would be eliminated." He urges parents to remove their children from public schools to deprive them of funds: "Transfer your child from public school to private or home school. Public schools lose funding when enrollment drops" (Hovind, FAQ's).

In Part One of his video series he also instructs public school students to ask an impertinent question during lessons on evolution: "Excuse me, teacher, but were you there?" (I advised local teachers to be ready for this.) Hovind's attitude toward teaching evolution was revealed in a remark he made during a debate with Dr Karen Bartelt, a professor of organic chemistry at Eureka College, who debated him in Fall 1998 and provided me with an account. According to Bartelt, Hovind asserted that anyone teaching evolution to children will go to hell.

Concerned citizens should be alert for local churches' booking his "seminars," which sometimes attract hundreds. More ominously, he also claims in his video series to visit public schools. His itinerary is on his web site but sometimes changes, so local newspapers should be watched. In fact, not only should local papers be watched for announcements of his visits, but for their content. Local reporters can be deceived by his promotional propaganda. Prior to his Hammond seminar, the Daily Star portrayed him as a biblical and scientific authority:
"The Rev. Lonnie Wascom, Immanuel's pastor, said Hovind's seminars are fact-filled, exciting and informative causing even the most devout evolutionist to sit up and take notice. ... Hovind is considered one of the foremost authorities on science and the Bible. He has debated evolutionists across America and is dedicated to proclaiming factual scientific evidence supporting the Biblical record of creation and the history of the world. " (Daily Star, October 16,1998, Hammond, LA)
Flabbergasted at this misleading representation, I found during my research that the wording was taken virtually verbatim from the web site containing Hovind's book (http://www.hsv.tis.net/~ke4vol/evolve/introng.html). The newspaper did not reference the source, probably obtaining it directly from the pastor.

Hovind presents to gullible audiences neither real science nor intelligent religious doctrine, but a juvenile attack on evolution, which he does not understand. Exposing Hovind in letters to newspapers can counteract his damage. On the afternoon my letter appeared, I received an e-mail message from an Immanuel member who thanked me, saying he had wondered during the seminar about Hovind's credentials (personal communication, October 30, 1998). He has since related that there was a "big discussion" at the church subsequent to my expose. Writing letters can make a difference.

Acknowledgments

The author thanks Ed Brayton, Skip Evans, and Karen Bartelt for assistance in gathering information for the letter and the article.

References

Hovind K. Dinosaurs, Creation, Evolution: A Creation Seminar. [Videotape], nd.

Hovind K. Evolution, Check Your Brains at the Door. [Audio clip]. http://www.audiocentral.com/rshows/missler/archives.html, accessed January 25, 1999.

Hovind K. FAQ's. http://www.drdino.com, accessed January 8, 1999.

Hovind K. Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution. http://www.hsv.tis.net/~ke4vol/evolve/cover.html, accessed January 8, 1999.

US Department of Education. Current List of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies and the Criteria for Recognition by the US Secretary of Education. September 1998. PDF Format. http://ifap.ed.gov/dev_csb\new\agency.nsf/ALL/, accessed January 8, 1999.

Levicoff S. Name It and Frame It: New Opportunities in Adult Education and How to Avoid Being Ripped Off by 'Christian' Degree Mills, 4th ed 1995. , accessed January 8,1999.

About the Author(s): 

Barbara Forrest, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Southeastern Louisiana University
E-mail: bforrest@selu.edu

A Scientist Responds to Behe's "Black Box"

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
A Scientist Responds to Behe's "Black Box"
Author(s): 
Karen Bartelt, Eureka College
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
34–35
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Dr Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, appeared recently at Lincoln Christian Seminary in Lincoln, IL. In Darwin's Black Box Behe proposes that certain cellular structures are "irreducibly complex" — that all parts must be functional for the structure to work. His main assertion is that gradual Darwinian evolution does a poor job of explaining these features, therefore, there must be an "intelligent designer".

Prior to his appearance, Behe was the subject of a large article by the Michael Miller, religion editor of the Peoria Journal Star. Piqued by what Behe might have to say to a receptive, but nonscientific, audience, I attended 2 of the 3 lectures. What follows are my responses — as a scientist — to Behe's lectures at the seminary and his October 3, 1999 interview in the Peoria Journal Star (PJS).

In his PJS interview, Behe described 3 lines of criticism from scientists. First, he said that scientists consider his findings to be of a religious rather than scientific nature. Since the standard definition of science tends to be something like "the systematic study of the natural world", it is hardly unfair, then, for scientists to respond in this manner! Behe went beyond this in his talk at Lincoln, however, saying (supposedly to mimic scientists), "That Behe fellow is a known Christian.... Therefore design is a religious idea." This is a ridiculous assertion. Some of Behe's most vehement critics are also "known Christians", and never has the idea of design been rejected because it comes from a particular religious group; it is rejected by the bulk of the scientific community because there is absolutely no evidential support.

But what about the evidence that Behe put forward — all of those wonderful examples of irreducible complexity (IC) in Darwin's Black Box? Behe used many of them at Lincoln. They have all been soundly refuted in scientific journals and on the web. Behe proposed that a mousetrap is irreducibly complex (all parts must be there for it to function) and therefore a good metaphor for IC in biological systems. On PBS' Firing Line in 1997, evolutionary biologist and "known Christian" Kenneth Miller demonstrated how that analogy fails. There is a more basic flaw in Behe's assertion, however — that a molecular machine must perform a specific task, or it is useless to the organism. Just as a mousetrap without a critical part might function as a great paperclip or a very interesting earring, a mutated flagellum or enzyme might lead to all manner of interesting innovations. That's basic evolutionary biology.

This brings me to Behe's second allegation: scientists say that he "isn't the proper type of scientist to be discussing evolution". From my reading of many reviews, the criticisms tend to center around the fact that Behe is either selectively ignorant of the evolutionary literature that exists, or that he just doesn't know how to do a computer search! For example, at Lincoln he said that if one looks in the scientific literature for evidence of Darwinian evolution, this literature "is absent." In Darwin's Black Box (p179) he is even more emphatic: "There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on the details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems." How, then could John Catalano have done a keyword search of the word "evolution" and come up with 13 000 hits http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html — articles describing the evolution of the immune system, cilium, flagellum, blood-clotting system, eyes, and so on — articles that Behe says do not exist! Perhaps Behe could be forgiven for being sloppy in 1996 when his book came out, but to make this statement in 1999 indicates either continuing ignorance or arrogance. Scientists have penetrated the "black box" to a much greater extent than Behe would have audiences believe!

Behe's purported third area of criticism from the scientific community is that he hasn't published enough in scientific journals on this topic. Behe agreed, saying later that he wants to see "real laboratory research on the question of intelligent design". Well, so would the rest of us scientists, and then perhaps intelligent design (ID) would be taken seriously! A recent keyword search of the words "intelligent design" turned up exactly one article, and it was about robots! This small well-funded (by the Discovery Institute) cadre of ID proponents is great at attending and hosting conferences, traveling and giving speeches (usually to general, not scientific, audiences), and writing apologetic books. Their own journal, Origins & Design, which I read regularly, should be brimming with research articles on "intelligent design". Instead, there are theological arguments and critiques, articles that address the design issue in general but do not detail any original research that supports intelligent design, book reviews, reports from conferences, and advertising for ID books, videos, tapes, and study kits.

Perhaps part of Behe's publishing dilemma is that neither he nor anyone else in the ID movement can come up with a definition of design that differentiates designs done by their proposed "designer" from products of natural selection. (Elsewhere, fellow ID proponent William Dembski admits this, saying, "In principle, an evolutionary process can exhibit such 'marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." [Dembski, 1998]). At Lincoln, Behe relied upon a particularly egregious "folk-science" definition of design: Using a Far Side cartoon showing a person swept into the air and impaled by a jungle trap, Behe said, "You look and realize that the trap was designed. Just look at how the parts interact." In other words, You just know design when you see it!

In fact, humans are not always able to discern real design from apparent design and tend to impose design when it is not there; hence the "face on Mars", and the sightings of the Virgin Mary on the side of a building or the face of Jesus in a tortilla. Furthermore, if we assume that Behe is correct, and that humans can discern design, then I submit that they can also discern poor design (we sue companies for this all the time!).

In Darwin's Black Box, Behe refers to design as the "purposeful arrangement of parts". What about when the "parts" aren't purposeful, by any standard engineering criteria? When confronted with the "All-Thumbs Designer" — whoever designed the human spine, birth canal, prostate gland, and the back of the throat, and so on — Behe and the ID people retreat into theology. At Lincoln, Behe rebuffed one of his critics who pointed out (referring to biochemical systems) that "no Creator would have designed such a circuitous and contrived system" (Doolittle 1998). Behe accused Doolittle of defending evolution on theological grounds, (also saying that God could do whatever God wanted) but in fact, Doolittle was asking nothing but that an "intelligent designer" design intelligently! This is a big problem for ID proponents, as they admit elsewhere: "Charles Darwin...saw the existence of what he regarded as poor biological engineering (suboptimality)...as prima facie evidence that God could have not directly created the world. This viewpoint continues to undergird much evolutionary reasoning in our own day, and poses a difficult challenge to theories of intelligent design" (Anonymous 1999).

Behe has set himself (and the other intelligent design proponents) up as Davids-with-slingshots against the intractable Goliath of science. In the PJS article, Behe stated that "the scientific community resists such unorthodox ideas as intelligent design," and "I guess every profession has its codes, unwritten or written, and anybody who speaks out, especially in the field of biology, and especially in the field of intelligent design, risks some consequences to their [sic] career." In answer to a question at one of the lectures, Behe stated that though there really is "no place to go", scientists hold to Darwinian theory because they are confirmed atheists and materialists.

Scientists are conservative and don't support new ideas, he continued, noting that the chemiosmotic hypothesis was not supported initially, and the person who came up with the idea committed suicide. It is the height of arrogance for Behe to misrepresent this information so completely! Peter Mitchell proposed the chemiosmotic theory in the 1960's. It did meet with resistance at first, but was well-accepted by the 1970's.
br> Behe also (conveniently?) left out a few little teensy facts: Mitchell was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize for this theory — a nice monetary vindication! And Mitchell died in 1992. I don't know whether he committed suicide, but his demise occurred 14 years after basking in the glow of a Nobel Prize. This subtle demonization of the orthodox scientific community is important to the ID proponents. Since they have no data to support their hypotheses, they must rely solely upon casting doubts on well-established theories like evolution, and one way to do so is to make science look like a closed union shop unable to respond to new ideas.

So what to make of Behe and ID in general? Rather than the "shockwave in the scientific community", as one of the introductory speakers at Lincoln described Darwin's Black Box, it's really kind of a yawn. Behe and others are attempting to bring back the "argument from design", which goes back at least to the mid 1800s and William Paley. This argument was repudiated in that century, and Behe offers nothing new. Behe is welcome to attempt to resuscitate this dead horse, but he had better do so by taking an honest and complete look at the literature before he eliminates natural selection as an agent of apparent design. He should stop using his Christianity as a crutch to prop up his dubious science, get back into the laboratory, and start producing some results that support his premises.

New ideas in science are treated with skepticism — not only Peter Mitchell, but Barbara McClintock, Mitoo Kimura, and Sewall Wright went through periods where their ideas were thoroughly scrutinized and criticized. Why have they prevailed and their ideas become cornerstones of biology? Because they were able to support their ideas with evidence and a productive research program. Ten years after ID was first proposed in the book Of Pandas and People, we are still waiting for its proponents to produce either one.

References

[Anonymous.] From the Editors. Origin and Design. Winter 1999; 4.

Behe M. Darwin's Black Box. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Catalano, J. Publish or Perish — Some Published Works on Biochemical Evolution. Available from http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html. Accessed January 20, 1999.

Dembski W. The Intelligent Design Movement. Cosmic Pursuit 1998; Spring. http://www.origins.org/offices/dembski/docs/bd-idesign.html. Accessed July 29, 1999.

Doolittle R. A Delicate Balance. Boston Review 1998. http://www-polisci.mit.edu/bostonreview/BR22.1/doolittle.html

About the Author(s): 
Dr. Karen Bartelt is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Eureka College

Review: Mystery of Mysteries

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Year: 
1999
Issue: 
5
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
43–44
Reviewer: 
Matt Cartmill
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction?
Author(s): 
Michael Ruse
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. 320 pages.
The philosophy of social constructionism claims that the "nature" that scientists pretend to study is a fiction cooked up by the scientists themselves — that, as Bruno Latour puts it, natural objects are "the consequence of scientific work rather than its cause". In this view, the ultimate purpose of scientists' theories and experiments is not to understand or control an imagined "nature", but to provide objective-sounding justifications for exerting power over other people. As social constructionists see it, science is an imposing but hollow Trojan horse that conceals some rather nasty storm troopers in its belly.

Over the past decade, this hostile picture of science has become the conventional wisdom in many academic circles. In this book, the Canadian philosopher and historian Michael Ruse offers an empirical test of these doctrines. If social constructionism is true, he argues, then the political and moral content of a science should remain more or less constant throughout its history. If social constructionism is false, then these "cultural values" should be increasingly shouldered aside in favor of what he calls the "epistemic values" of science itself — predictive accuracy, internal coherence, consistency with other scientific theories, fertility, simplicity, and unifying power.

The example that Ruse chooses for his test is evolutionary theory, which is his special province as a historian. After surveying the works of 10 successive writers on evolution, Ruse concludes that epistemic values have advanced markedly at the expense of the cultural values. Back in the 1790s, the evolutionism of Erasmus Darwin (Charles's grandfather) was mainly a rhetorical prop for his Whig politics and Deism. Two centuries later, Ruse has to strain hard to squeeze a few drops of ideological content out of such recent work as Geoffrey Parker's studies of sexual selection in dung flies and Jack Sepkoski's analyses of the statistics of extinction rates.

Does this prove that the social constructionists are mistaken? Well, yes and no. "Science is special," Ruse concludes, "and this is because of its standards; the critics [of science] were wrong in arguing otherwise. But it is also true that science is not special, and this is because of its culture; the defenders were wrong in arguing otherwise." Even though explicit moral and political values gradually get pushed out of a maturing science, Ruse thinks that science remains saturated with other elements drawn from the surrounding culture. Scientific language, he argues, has to make use of metaphors, which drag in cultural themes and assumptions having nothing to do with science as such. For instance, scientists diagram evolutionary relationships as trees; "trees in our culture are associated with upward striving"; our culture associates the direction "up" with improvement — and therefore we tend to think of evolutionary change as progressive, tending always to make living things higher, better, or more advanced than their ancestors (p 239). And so on.

We can all agree that cultural themes commonly influence scientific thought. But I wasn't persuaded that they always do so, or that metaphors are as pervasive and important in science as Ruse thinks they are. In the particular case mentioned above, I doubt that the tree metaphor prompts us to think of evolution as progressive. After all, we also say that organisms are "descended" from their ancestors; but that metaphor doesn't tempt us to think of evolution as a downhill slide. It seems to me that the historical progressivism of evolutionary thought is just one aspect of a general post-Enlightenment optimism about the future. This optimism has more to do with erosion of belief in the Apocalypse than with the fact that trees grow upward.

Despite the book's subtitle, Ruse doesn't come to grips with the central question here: did evolution really occur? If it did, then there must be something profoundly wrong with social constructionism. I don't see how one can seriously contend that the world is a human construct if we concede that people evolved from nonhuman animals. Unlike the theories of non-historical, experiment-centered sciences like physics and chemistry, evolutionary theory seems fundamentally at odds with social constructionism. This might be why some prominent social-constructionist academics favor bringing creation science into the public schools.

Although Ruse is disappointingly inconclusive about his main topic, anyone who is interested in the "science wars" controversy or in the history of evolutionary thought will find this book fascinating and rewarding. The prose is masterful — relaxed, colloquial, rich in information, and suffused with flashes of malicious wit and delicious historical tidbits. (I will never again think of Erasmus Darwin without recalling Ruse's observation that he had a semicircular notch cut into his dining table, so that he could belly up to his food.) Ruse displays a marvelous gift for capturing the gist and importance of complicated scientific and philosophical arguments in a few words. His first chapter, an even-handed summary and critique of Popper's and Kuhn's conflicting views of science, is surely the best thing ever written on this subject in 24 pages. Taken together, Ruse's sketches of the ideas and careers of his 10 exemplars — the 2 Darwins, Julian Huxley, Dobzhansky, Dawkins, Gould, Lewontin, EO Wilson, Parker and Sepkoski — provide an entertaining outline of evolutionary thought, which touches on the works of a lot of other leading evolutionists and fits them into their historical and cultural context.

One caveat: Ruse is surprisingly harsh towards authors who wrote books for popular audiences, which he treats as a defect in their work. I can see his point where Julian Huxley is concerned, but I think he is unfair to Stephen Gould. Ruse's disdain for popularizers seems odd in a book that is itself so deft and ingratiating in making all these complicated issues accessible to the general reader.