Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Hovind in Dover

Kent Hovind performed (and I use that term intentionally) his seminar in Dover, Pennsylvania over the last few days. The York Daily Record has a report on the event. Included is this quote which demonstrates quite well why oral debates with Hovind are not only a waste of time, they’re detrimental:

According to several in the crowd of more than 600, Hovind’s charisma and humor got his message across: “The universe was created by God.”

“Everybody’s fighting over it,” Frysinger, a 13-year-old who attends Dover’s intermediate school, said of evolution versus creation.

“Actually, what he’s saying is true,” his brother, Chris Frysinger, 15, said of Hovind’s lecture. “He knows what he’s talking about. You can hear it in his voice.”

Myriah Hartzell, 11, recently stopped attending a Christian school and enrolled in Dover Area School District’s North Salem Elementary School because she wanted to be in a larger school that has a football team. She came to Hovind’s seminar with her parents and younger brother and said she brought a book along expecting to be bored by the lecture. But she said Hovind was very funny and held her attention.

A perfect illustration of the futility of such “debates”. Most of the audience simply doesn’t care about what is true or false and couldn’t distinguish between them if they tried. All they care about is that the guy who supports their previously held position sounds credible, and Hovind does. He’s charismatic, well spoken, and on the surface he’s a fountain of facts. Only those with a decent education in the issue know that he’s a fraud and a con man. And that is only a tiny portion of the audience at such an event.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave S.
    March 21, 2006

    “Actually, what he’s saying is true,” his brother, Chris Frysinger, 15, said of Hovind’s lecture. “He knows what he’s talking about. You can hear it in his voice.”

    Yes Chris, that’s why they call them confidence artists. They’re supposed to get your confidence. Considering he’s been saying the same dreck for many years unchanged its no small wonder it sounds like he knows it!

  2. #2 pough
    March 21, 2006

    I’ve never taken any kind of debating classes, so I don’t know what the deal is with debate. It seems to be the domain of politicians and lawyers, which doesn’t argue for it being a great way to discern what’s factual or true. In debate clubs, do people have the feeling that the winner of a debate was right and the loser wrong?

    Also, having just an hour or two to back up a foundation of knowledge that has taken thousands (millions?) of very smart people decades (centuries?) to amass just seems silly to me.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    March 21, 2006

    pough wrote:

    In debate clubs, do people have the feeling that the winner of a debate was right and the loser wrong?

    No, competitive debate has virtually nothing to do with which position is true and which is false. It’s purely a game to see who can argue the best.

  4. #4 wheatdogg
    March 21, 2006

    Like courtroom arguments.

  5. #5 mark
    March 21, 2006

    Meanwhile, in today’s York Dispatch, Ex-school board member William Buckingham says “I did not lie under oath”–and that he was not trying to push religion or creationism on anyone. So, if you can believe “Dr.” Dino, maybe you can believe where-did-the-money-come-from Buckingham as well.

  6. #6 Scott Simmons
    March 21, 2006

    I’m going to take issue with this:

    “Only those with a decent education in the issue know that he’s a fraud and a con man.”

    My lovely wife has never studied biology, formally or informally. About a year ago, she was subjected to one of Hovind’s videos at a church event. When she mentioned it to me, I cautiously asked what she thought about it. She thought for a moment, then said (and I quote), “Con-artist.”

    So, perhaps one can get by with some native intelligence, understanding of human nature, and common sense. All of which she definitely has …

  7. #7 Scott Simmons
    March 21, 2006

    “No, competitive debate has virtually nothing to do with which position is true and which is false. It’s purely a game to see who can argue the best.”

    Indeed. I think I’ve posted this story in comments at PT in the past, but a brief version is worth re-iterating. I made the shocking discovery in the autumn of my senior year in high school that one of my AP Science classmates was a creationist. (I had no idea that there were educated people who didn’t accept evolution-sheltered childhood, I guess.) After some back-and-forth, we agreed to debate the issue for our 1st semester class project … Long story short, consensus was that me & Chuck Darwin won that one. But reflecting on the reasons why the listeners thought that, led me to realize that they had little to do with the facts, and more to do with my superior debating technique. That may well have been one of the most important things I learned in science class that year: debates are completely useless for determining scientific fact …

  8. #8 Gerry L
    March 21, 2006

    The thing that struck me about that article was the comment by young Myriah: Hovind was “funny.” Okay, she is only 11 years old, but being entertained is so important nowadays. (She left her christian school so she could go to a school with a football team?!? Hmmm. Maybe if science teachers had a football team…?)

  9. #9 AdamIerymenko
    March 22, 2006

    I’ve thought this for a long time: that debate is (and this is my own admittedly rather extreme view) a borderline deceptive enterprise. It’s the art of, rhetorically, putting lipstick on pigs. I think that the dominance of this glorified strutting contest in decision making arenas such as politics, law, business, etc. is a gigantic systemic flaw in our society.

    I can see how debate has some value to the debaters themselves as intellectual sparring matches. I have certainly learned things before by participating in friendly debates. But what debates have to teach debaters is more about criticial thinking and seeing holes in arguments. I don’t think they have very much value to the audience.

    There’s no correlation between being a good debater and being right.

    Another problem with debate, especially time-limited live debate, is that it biases the argument toward sound-bites. Often, the truth requires background information that is difficult to explain. This is especially true with something like biology where much of the subject matter is way outside of normal everyday experience.

    I’ll never forget… when I was at the University of Cincinnati years ago I took a critical thinking class where the professor opened the class by trying to convince us that Smurfs were real and were from Mars. He sounded pretty good, but I have to admit that Kent Hovind is better. If I didn’t know better, he could convince me that Adam and Eve really existed and they walked around with dinosaurs. Wow…

  10. #10 sdanielmorgan
    March 22, 2006

    Dr. Dino was actually exposed for more than his pseudoscience in the other YDR article on Hovind (published the day before). It did not go into detail about his Jewish conspiracy theories, or anti-government general attitude (especially about paying taxes). But, importantly, it linked to the SPLC, which has three great articles that do detail Hovind’s tax troubles and even this comment, “Democracy is evil and runs contrary to God’s law.” There you have it, folks. Good ol’ fascism mishmashed together with pseudoscience, what more can you want? Is it illegal/slander/libel to send an email with links to these articles to the people Kent is going to go con? If you don’t say anything in addition to, “you ought to read these”?

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