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Unmasking the False Prophet of Creationism
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).[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).[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).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.
AcknowledgmentsThe author thanks Ed Brayton, Skip Evans, and Karen Bartelt for assistance in gathering information for the letter and the article.
ReferencesHovind 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.