Guest Post: I Remember Hovey

This is a guest post written by Skip Evans. Skip is a dear friend I have known for many years. He worked for some time for the National Center for Science Education and now owns a web development company called Big Sky Penguin. This is the sordid tale of his repeated dealings with the infamous creationist Kent Hovind. Perhaps I'll add my own story to it at the end.

I Remember Hovey

With the news of Kent Hovind's arrest, I began reflecting on my past interactions with the man I regard as the nuttiest cookie in the jar of creationism. I mean, this is a guy that even fruit loops like Ken Ham distance themselves from.

It was sometime in 1996, if I recall. (Geez, I sound like Grandpa Simpson). I was living in Atlanta at the time, and putting in a stint as the president of that city's chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It must have been because of this high-profile, prestigious position that I received an anonymous package in the mail. This was long before the days of anthrax scares, so instead of fearing a terrorist plot I opened the package without much thought. It contained six videotapes.

They came accompanied with a note saying something about the "Truth," so I thought "Cool, someone has sent the complete works of Pat Paulson on the Smother's Brothers television show!" But my hopes of being politically, if belatedly, enlightened were dashed. No, on the tapes were twelve hours of Kent Hovind.

I was fascinated, for this was truly, and I can find no other words to describe it so the easily offended should skip now to the next paragraph, the most fucked up person I have ever heard open his or her mouth. I mean, I kept saying aloud over and over, this has got to be a joke... this man is completely insane... no, no one actually believes that, do they?

Back then I was pretty new to young earth creationism, so maybe I was pretty easy to amaze, but more than that, Hovind's paranoid, xenophobic politics were amazing. I don't want to make this post a litany of Hovind's household YEC wackiness, which you can find all over the web, but some of his socio-political stuff may have escaped a few of you over the years, so I just want to cite an example or two.

On one video, Hovind claims to have been told by a guy, and he says it as if he truly believes it, that those wires cities and towns put underneath the road to count the number of cars that pass serve a double purpose. Sure they count cars now, but when the US government surrenders to the One World Government they will turn into high-power devices to zap the electronic ignitions of automobiles, rendering them immobile. This, "Dr. Dino" tells us, will make it easier for United Nations troops to round up Americans and haul them off to the concentration camps.
He also shows a photograph of the back of a highway sign with a worn and faded orange sticker on the back. This is a secret signal to tell the U.N. tanks which way to go, presumably to blow away Americans. They're on the back of signs because one of the first orders of the OWG will be to reverse all traffic, thereby confusing us and giving the U.N. tanks the upper hand. Hovind is a major league nut-job.

Incidentally, Hovind never titles his videos with dates or locations, a move I believe is deliberate.

Later I learned he claimed a PhD from some place called Patriot University. I don't remember exactly the sequence of events, or exactly how communication went, but right about then a picture appeared on the Internet of a split-level house that also shared the same address as Patriot University. Hovind got his doctorate from a classic degree mill; of this we can be certain. However, Hovind did claim that when he earned his "credentials" the "university" resided in the basement of a church. One day it probably decided the neighborhood was going bad so it packed up and moved into the house.

I became more curious about his degree, emailed PU and asked for a copy of his dissertation. I got an email back saying that the person who handled that "department" was out of town, but they would attempt to locate a copy when his wife got back from the mother-in-law's.

A few weeks later a document arrived in my mail and in it was simply the worst thing ever put on paper. You might say, "Now Skip, remember, there is paper in your bathroom, and some pretty bad stuff gets put on that too," to which I would reply, "Yes, I knew that."

It was awful. Printed with a dot-matrix printer, and opening with the line "Hello, my name is Kent Hovind," it was as well- qualified as a legitimate doctoral dissertation as I am for the Indianapolis 500 in my 1981 Subaru wagon (in reverse).

The writing, and I am not just throwing rotten fruit here, would have been soaked in red ink if submitted in a 7th grade English class. Childish mistakes like misuse of "their" and "there" and "its" and "it's" were common. Whole sentences made no grammatical sense, and all this in addition to the obvious fact the document contains nothing original at all, but simply rehashes old creationist canards along with Hovind's strange blend of conspiracy and religiously fueled paranoia. In the original document that I received there was a color graph of the electromagnetic spectrum cut out of a magazine and fixed to one page with transparent tape.

For years people have challenged Hovind to written debates to be posted on the Internet and he has always declined. I once personally heard him refuse just such a request with the excuse that he couldn't type very fast.
I am certain the real reason Hovind declines such challenges is that the moment his own words were seen in print the whole world would know the man is borderline illiterate. And yet he still has the gall to skulk around the country slamming public education. If he really wanted to do serious damage to public education he should hold himself up as an example.

I had a few email exchanges with Kent not long after receiving the dissertation, mostly regarding my request to post it on the Internet. He refused to give me permission, so the document mostly languished around my apartment, giving off a strange greenish glow at night - wilting fresh flowers I brought from Prospect Park - and causing my old dog Roadkill to avoid an entire half of the apartment.

In 2001, after a few years in New York City and then a stint on a small island in the Florida panhandle, incidentally probably less than an hour's drive from Hovey's home and backyard theme park, Dinosaur Adventure Land, I went to California to serve as NCSE's Network Project Director. For the next three years I was immersed full-time in the creationism/evolution controversy, and learned a lot of really strange things. But Genie Scott's Satanic rituals, human sacrifices and concocting of evil potions is a topic for another post. (I think I just heard William Dembski shout, "I knew it!" Down Bill, down. Some day doctors will find a way to implant you with a sense of humor.)

When I heard Hovind was coming to speak at Berkeley I could hardly contain myself. Glenn Branch, NCSE's Deputy Director, would look at me as if he was ready to call for a straight-jacket each time I broke out in uncontrollable giggles. As the event approached a group of Berkeley science majors came to the NCSE office to gather information on Hovind. I filled them in on some of his loopier claims and they printed material to hand out before the event.

When the day of the talk rolled around, I came out of the office bathroom to find the man himself standing right in front of me. Kent's host, Paul Abramson, had offered some time earlier to treat Genie to lunch with Kent, but she was traveling at the time. Apparently they decided to just drop by anyway. (Later when told of the visit, and how she had just missed being cornered into a meal with Dr. Dino, Genie made a face like someone being forced to eat a poop sandwich.)

Being just too shocked and appalled, I went back upstairs to my loft area to hide out. A few moments later Glenn's voice boomed out over the speaker on my phone loud enough to reverberate off the walls and from his cubicle downstairs. "Skip, Kent Hovind is here. Why don't you come down and say hello?"

I stood up and headed toward the stairs muttering under my breath, "Worms, buddy, you're getting worms for Christmas!"

After an utterly useless conversation, which any conversation with Hovind regarding anything but the weather would have to be, he left and I closed my eyes, mentally transporting my deputy director into a pool of starving great white sharks.

Hovind's first of three talks, each one itself lasting three hours, took place Friday night at one of the larger auditoriums on the Berkeley campus. The place was filling up fast, and many people were perusing the handouts the students who had visited our office had compiled. The mere fact that people were distributing literature exposing Hovind's foolishness was enough to fluster Abramson. He came out before the talk, visibly nervous and rambled a bit about everyone's right to express themselves, including nut-jobs who think Adam and Eve rode around on the back of dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

This struck me as odd, since no one there was in the least bit attempting to interfere with Hovind's right to speak. Heck, the man is more entertaining than a lot of stand-up comics I've seen, and more educational than any freak show I've ever read about.

Hovind served up his usual shtick for about an hour and fifteen minutes and then opened the floor for questions. I was the first one at the microphone, and in my hand held a copy of the infamous Jack Chick evangelical comic book "Big Daddy" - which Hovind's posse were distributing to the audience.

I first asked Kent if he had assisted Chick in updating the tract in 2000 and he acknowledged that he had. I then read from one of the pages that states "[n]early all experts agree that Lucy [the australopithicene] was just a three foot tall chimpanzee."

I asked Hovind to name any of these experts who think the australopithicenes were chimpanzees. He instantly reached for his laptop and Power Point slides and tried to steer the discussion away from my question and into a tangent about a favorite old creationist canard concerning "Lucy's knee." But I was having none of that. I asked Kent to please stick to the topic and answer the question. He dodged again. Again I asked for any experts who agreed with his assertion and before long a large part of the audience was shouting "answer the question."

One lesson I've learned from Q&A sessions with creationists is that you must never let them dodge your question. Keep insisting on an answer. The best strategy is to nail them good on one of their absurd claims, make them stick to the subject, and as soon as you have demonstrated their inability to respond walk away the victor.

Once the audience was shouting at Kent, and it was clear he was caught red-handed in just another one of his pathetic lies I ended it there. I said, "There are a lot of people here who want to ask questions, so I don't want to take up any more time." I walked back to my seat to, I must say, rather thunderous applause.

[Incidentally, on this visit to Berkeley Kent spoke three times: that Friday night, the following day, and then that Sunday morning. I attended all three sessions, nine hours of Hovind in less then forty eight hours. Baby, you don't know what pain is!]

Now admittedly, catching someone on Hovind's level in bald-faced lies is no challenge. But I do think it is important that when they speak at places like the Berkeley campus (let them have their audience in the churches) where science majors are in the audience, the students be shown just how easy it is to shoot these clowns down.

I actually am happy that Hovind speaks at colleges and universities and wish he would speak there more than in front of his choir in the churches. We who defend good science education have often criticized scientists for not getting more involved (although I think there is less and less justification for that), but in the past that was largely due to their lack of understanding about creationism.

If Hovind, AiG, Dembski, Wells and their fellow creationists would speak more at college campuses than at meetings for fundamentalist Christian youth groups we'd be growing up a whole new crop of scientists who would be well-equipped to deal with their nonsense.

Skip Evans


I should perhaps add some of my own recollections. I have an even longer history with Hovind. The first time I saw him speak was around 1988 or so. I was in college at the time and a friend, who thought he was credible, took me to see one of his shows (and that's exactly what it is) at a church in Grand Ledge, Michigan. Though I was familiar with Henry Morris, Duane Gish and the folks from the Institute for Creation Research, I had never heard of Hovind. I sat in this church for a good two hours, my jaw agape in utter disbelief at the astonishingly stupid claims he was reeling off, one after the other.

I didn't really get involved again in the creation/evolution issue until several years later, after I stopped doing stand up comedy and settled down in one place, around 1994. At some point I came across an online book called Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution, which was nothing more than Hovind's seminar in book form. I had the same reaction to it then that I had when watching his performance years earlier - total astonishment that A) anyone could peddle such ridiculous drivel; and B) that anyone could possibly be ignorant enough to believe it. A few examples:

He claimed that the Trail of Tears, where so many Indians died, was to be blamed on evolution. Never mind that the Trail of Tears took place two decades before Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species. He claimed that the great pyramid of Giza was built either by Adam and Enoch before the flood or by Noah and Shem after the flood (!). He used arguments that had long been debunked even by his fellow creationists (for which the creationist group Answers in Genesis also took him to task a few years ago).

For instance, he still used the discredited "moon dust" argument, and even invented lots of silly new details. For instance, he claimed that NASA was worried that the landing module and the astronauts would sink into the many feet ot dust on the moon's surface. Uh, no. There had been several unmanned landers on the moon already that sent back data. We knew exactly how much dust there was on the surface of the moon long before Neil Armstrong ever took flight.

He claimed that UFOs were used to transport Satan from place to place. He claimed that the Smithsonian had murdered over 30,000 people to use their skulls to find the "missing link". And much more. The book is no longer available on the internet, but Barbara Forrest wrote an article that quoted many of those claims (with some research help from me, Skip and Karen Bartelt).

At some point around 10 years ago, I decided to email Hovind with some of the really obvious mistakes and falsehoods in his seminar, curious to see how he would respond. He responded by challenging me to a debate, and we spoke on the phone and exchanged many emails negotiating the terms of that debate. I insisted that we would debate a fairly narrow subject area, in order to avoid the Gish Gallop (now known as the Hovind Hustle), and he agreed. We would debate specifically the age of the earth and flood geology, which was more than broad enough. I arranged for a local Unitarian church to host the event in Kalamazoo (where I lived at the time) and we agreed on time and place, which would fit into his schedule when he would be in the state. A few weeks later, he pulled out of the debate without explanation, and instead he debated a professor from Wayne State on the day he was supposed to debate me.

After that, I became involved with the TalkOrigins Archive and began answering feedback sent to the site. Since I had become sort of the local expert on Hovind, I was usually the one to answer the many emails we got every month that said, "If you're so smart and evolution is so true, why don't you take Kent Hovind up on his $250,000 challenge and take his money?" Here's one example of such a letter (scroll down or search for my name). I would explain, again and again, that Hovind's challenge is completely fraudulent. Here's what I wrote that particular day:

There are many such challenges that circulate among creationists; all are cleverly worded so as to avoid any possibility of having the challenge met. Of all of the monetary challenges of this sort I have seen, Hovind's is the most blatantly unmeetable. To begin with, he defines "empirical" as "relying or based solely on experiment and observation rather than theory". And rather than defining evolution as biologists define it, he adds several superfluous and even irrelevant statements to the definition. He ends up with the following definition of evolution:

1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves. 2. Matter created life by itself. 3. Early life forms learned to reproduce themselves. 4. Major changes occurred between these diverse life forms

It is clearly impossible to offer empirical evidence - that is an expirement or observation - that shows that "time, space and matter came into existence by themselves" or that "matter created itself out of nothing". The event is over and cannot be observed, nor can the creation of matter be reproduced in a laboratory expirement. Historical science rests on inference, not direct observation. To make things worse, Hovind sets up an incredibly absurd standard by which to judge such evidence even if it could be offered. He says that in order to collect the $250,000, one must "prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the process of evolution (option 3 below) is the only possible way the observed phenomena could have come into existence." He reinforces this in his challenge when he states, "As in any fair court of law, the accuser must also rule out any other possible explanations." So not only must one show evidence for this invalid definition of evolution, one must prove that this is the ONLY POSSIBLE way it could have happened. I would suggest that there is no statement that could be made about any historical event whatsoever that could even hypothetically meet such an inflated and nonsensical standard of proof. Gravity cannot be shown to be the "only possible" way that the planets stay in their orbits - it is of course possible that they are held in their orbits by angels, devils or invisible orange leprauchans. There is ALWAYS a hypothetical alternative that can be offered to any proposition. Lastly, he provides no details on who the "committee of trained scientists" are that would judge this pointless effort should someone be foolish enough to take him up on it. In short, Hovind's money is quite safe - he designed the challenge to insure that this would be the case. I would gladly make a one million dollar challenge to Mr. Hovind if he could prove ANY historical claim within the boundaries of such criteria.

I have made that counter-offer many times; Hovind, of course, has never taken me up on it because he knows he would lose. Basically, Hovind is a total fraud, a pure con man fleecing the ignorant and the credulous.

More like this

The number of people who fall for the Hovind-style nonsense does nothing to decrease my cynicism. Thanks to both of you for fighting such garbage. I hope you derived some entertainment from the process; such situations tend to be "laugh so I do not cry" moments.

By Irrational Entity (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

Gentlemen, thanks for the great post and the link to Barbara Forrest's article.

By Jeff Rients (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

"I had a few email exchanges with Kent not long after receiving the dissertation, mostly regarding my request to post it on the Internet. He refused to give me permission."

Does he really need permission? If it's posted on a non-profit website, surely it would be fair use.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

I was told that Kent held the copyright, and therefore it could not legally be posted.

Incidentally, PU has reportedly received instructions to not distribute copies of Hovind's "dissertation", and I strongly suspect that this is because it is such an embarrassment to both PU and Hovind. (Although how either of these clowns could be embarrassed by anything is beyone me.)

I am certain the real reason Hovind declines such challenges is that the moment his own words were seen in print the whole world would know the man is borderline illiterate. And yet he still has the gall to skulk around the country slamming public education.

The cynical among us might suggest that he slams public education precisely because it might give young people the mental tools to see through his act.

Skip - Thanks for the insight, and also the AIG v Hovind link, and yes, it was very entertaining - Hovind is such a tool that I almost felt sorry for the AIG people. After reading Ed's other Hovind post about the WA ruling however, I think that we can put paid to Dr. Dino's dream of defrauding the IRS and bilking citizens of their cash. Couldn't happen to a better guy. What an idiot!

YEah, I am a creationist and even I think there is a lot of weird claims by that ministry. Hovind is very entertaining to watch, and some of the things he says are very intriguing (if left to non-research pondering), but I can't say I would suggest anyone who is interested in either creationism or evolution.

Does the evolutionary camp have any crazies? Could we pit them against each other? It would be a humorous fight.


Skip, you have an original copy of Hovind's PhD paper! That simply MUST be made available on the internet.

Oh, I know it would be illegal for you to post it, so I'm not suggesting that. I'm just saying suppose one day you get tired of hanging onto the thing and toss it into the trash. Then later that night, unbeknownst to you, your trash is ransacked. And to add insult to injury, the anonymous thief posts Hovind's dissertation on the internet without your knowledge or consent. Surely you couldn't be held accountable in those circumstances, right?

By H. Humbert (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

I think it's the original of Hovind's thesis. After all, it had a picture scotch-taped on to the page. It's not likely that he submitted more than one copy with the same picture out of a magazine taped on the page.

Kent Hovind silly doctoral thesis for the insane was once available on the internet, and was taken off due to Kent's insistence that it was copyright. I can't remember the woman's name who critique it, and it was on her web site, she was a PhD Chemist, but her story of it is still on the net. I read the whole thing and was astonished how terrible it was - A 5th grader could write it.

Skip, Keep in mind that unfiled copyrights are only good for 5 years after initial publication. That assumes that submitting it for dissertation comprises "publishing," of course. I don't see anything wrong with putting it online. Of course, I didn't make an A in Intellectual Property, so you might want a second opinion. :D

Hexene, That was Dr Karen Bartelt. Google Bartelt Hovind dissertation.

Yes, the critique was done by Karen Bartelt, who helped Skip, Barbara and me when we were working on the subject many years ago. It was published originally on John Stear's No Answers in Genesis website, I believe.

If anyone can get me a credible opinion that it is okay for the documented to be posted on the Internet the Hovind Dissertation Project will launch immediately.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!

I wonder what the status of copyright for pictures cut out of a magazine is...

By Sam Garret (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

Pardon the follow-up - but in the Bartelt description, she describes the cut out as:

The single illustration, the electromagnetic spectrum, is cut out of a science textbook and taped on; it does not fit the page.

...which almost certainly violates copyright in itself if used without attribution or permission

By Sam Garret (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

the last part above after the ellipse is mine. Messed up my tags. Sorry.

By Sam Garret (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

Just out of curiosity, what exactly does the electromagnetic spectrum have to do with his thesis anyway? The only thing I can come up with is isotopic identification of astronomical bodies and dating the Universe. But what does that have to do with evolution??

P.S. a link to any information regarding the content of Hovind's dissertation (over and above the examples provided in Forrest's article) would be appreciated.

totally totally totally. in a real-time debate creationists must be nailed down on a single point. the scattergun approach is for people who aren't selling truth, pretending that volume suffices for accuracy. too many scientists try to respond with their own copious display of knowledge, and to the lay audience the two presentations are indistinguishable.

By snaxalotl (not verified) on 10 Aug 2006 #permalink

That assumes that submitting it for dissertation comprises "publishing," of course.

At universities awarding meaningful degrees, one has the option of obtaining a copyright on a submitted dissertation; I have no idea if that's the case at diploma mills. So the question seems to be whether Hovind actually copyrighted it.

Just out of curiosity, what exactly does the electromagnetic spectrum have to do with his thesis anyway? The only thing I can come up with is isotopic identification of astronomical bodies and dating the Universe. But what does that have to do with evolution??

Karen Bartelt wrote:

A further digression talks about the electromagnetic spectrum (hence the textbook cut-out of the electromagnetic spectrum), and an explanation of the fact that there are other "colors" that the eye can't see; yet that does not mean that these colors don't exist. The conclusion is that just as a blind person accepts that there are colors by faith, we who have limited senses also admit by faith that God exists. The makings of a philosophical argument, perhaps, but not germane to the age of the Earth.

Incidentally, when Mr. Hovind says evolution, what he usually has in mind is what he calls the "general theory of evolution". That includes six types of evolution: cosmic evolution, chemical evolution, stellar and planetary evolution, organic evolution, macroevolution, microevolution, silly walks.

Rev. Dr. Kent Hovind, PhD., Esq. wrote:

Even a quick review of a typical public school textbook will show that students are being deceived into thinking all six types of evolution above have been proven because evidence is given for minor variations called micro-evolution. The first five are smuggled in when no one is watching.

My own thesis, published in 1991, contains the following:

The author reserves other publication rights, and neither the thesis nor extensive extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's written permission.

The author attests that permission has been obtained for the use of any copyrighted material appearing in this thesis (other than brief excerpts requiring only proper acknowledgment in scholarly writing) and that all such use is clearly acknowledged.

The word "other" in the first paragraph refers to the fact that I had to allow the university to publish the thesis (for non-commercial purposes) and give it to individuals or institutions that requested it.

What's with the reference to Hovey? Did Hovind change his name at one time??

Hovey is just a cute little pet name. Skip didn't mention that the two of them were lovers for a brief but tumultuous time and that was his name for Hovind. (/sarcasm)

Ed, my revenge will be slow and painful, and when you least expect it. Live in fear and dread my friend, fear and dread.


Uh oh. I should have known better than to poke fun at a guy living in a cabin in Montana. I'm not opening any mail packages that tick in the near future.

What's with the reference to Hovey? Did Hovind change his name at one time??

IIRC, his name used to be Rev. Dr. Kent Cuckoo! Tootswhistle Hovind, Ph.D. but he had to drop the "Cuckoo! Tootswhistle" because that made his name look too silly.

If you want a glimpse of someone who is so totally zombified by Hovind's misinformation, go check out Annie in the comments of the last three posts at Matt's blog.

It's sad and scary.

Mother of god, that is the single stupidest person I have ever seen. And much like the toilet paper reference above- Yes, I know. There are a lot of stupid people out there. She actually said "according to evolution we had a big bang". LOL! You weren't kidding about the zombification.

Funny! Has anyone clicked the link to AIG? Yes, I know Ed pasted his original letter! I clicked and scrolled. I found Ed's name more than once. Ed is so smart that when asked a question about circular reasoning (most evolutionists laugh at this question)he gave a link to someone else's answer! I am tired and quite afraid to click that link in fear of "linking" all night in search of a simple answer.
The internet is so wonderful, stupid people wasting time posting back and forth. If only the government would pay us for this. We are "dumbing" ourselves down by the minute and we didn't even get started on evolution!