"Sue" -- T. rex skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum; photo by Ingrid Shafer   
"Sue" -- ca. 67 million year-old T. rex skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum (photographed May 2, 2004)

Debating Dr. Dino?
March 19, 2005
Ingrid H. Shafer

A few days ago I had the opportunity of reading a paper on Creation and Evolution by one of Dr. Magrath’s students. I was especially struck by the following parenthetic comment:

None of the professors here at USAO would debate Dr. Kent Hovind in the debate I tried to schedule. I think it is really sad that teachers will teach things to kids, but when an educated person challenges their beliefs no one will take a stand. The teachers just say, "That's not really science," or "debates make the creationist look [sic] like they [sic] won the argument." If a teacher or professor believes something to be true, then they should have no problem standing up for it publicly. I take risks for standing up .for my beliefs. March 22nd Dr. Hovind will be here to do a seminar so students can get some more information to make an informed decision. (C.C.)

Here is my public response:

I am embarrassed by the invitation by anyone in any way associated with USAO to Kent Horvind, a “young-earth creationist” who calls himself “Dr. Dino.” I am proud of the fact that no one at USAO accepted the “challenge” to engage him in a debate. Allowing oneself to be drawn into a debate with someone who claims to be a scientist but argues that the earth is 6000 years old gives a stamp of legitimacy to the promulgation of nonsense and is as absurd as offering a platform to a member of the Flat Earth society. I believe that legitimate cases can be made both for an accidental origin of the universe and a so-called “intelligent design,” and that listening to Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker) or Stephen Gould and Carl Sagan – were they still alive – debate John Barrow and Frank Tipler (The Anthropic Principle), or Paul Davies (The Mind of God) would be a valuable learning experience. I am also convinced that evolution need not be viewed as incompatible with creation (why should God not be considered capable of creating through natural processes???). I have published articles on the compatibility of evolution and Christianity both in the U.S. and in Germany, and have lectured at the Zygon Center for Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

Ken Hovind, alas, is neither a scientist nor a scripture scholar. He bases his hypotheses concerning the origin of the cosmos and life on earth not on anthropology, astronomy, chaos theory, microbiology, paleontology, quantum physics, or the study of mitochondrial DNA but on a literal interpretation of the account presented in the Judeo-Christian Book of Genesis which reflects a common-sense pre-scientific paradigm of interpreting observed phenomena and explaining the unknown in terms of inferred supernatural agency. By accepting the a priori TRUTH of that which he is trying to establish and arranging data to support the biblical account, his argument becomes circular and hence, fallacious. I am tempted to point to Galileo who cited the astute observation of the sixteenth century cardinal and church historian Cesare Baronius that "the Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." Clearly, some four hundred years ago, Baronius would have rejected Hovind’s approach. He understood, even then, that scripture is not a science text!

In addition, Hovind, and the “young-earthers” in general are not even accepted by other representatives of so-called “creation science” (often, alas, not in fact, a science, but an attempt to pass religious dogma off as science), because they are so devoid of professional scientific integrity that they make even academically legitimate attempts to reconcile scripture and contemporary cosmology suspect.

I agree with Karen Bartelt’s conclusions in her “Review of Kent Hovind's Thesis”:

There is NO EVIDENCE that Kent Hovind has more than a college sophomore level of course work in ANY science. There is NO EVIDENCE from his thesis that he is widely-read in the areas of evolution, astronomy, geology, paleontology or even the history of science beyond what is written in a few young-Earth creationist books. There is ABUNDANT EVIDENCE that the requirements for a Ph.D. degree from Patriot University fall far below those of typical secular or religious institutions. Ask yourself whether you would visit a medical doctor, an auto mechanic, a plumber, or an investment counsellor with similar dubious credentials. If so, then Hovind is your science guy! Or see him for what he is, the snake-oil salesman, peddling salvation and pseudo science in the late 20th century and even unto the 21st century (Link to archived dissertation).

If you are still tempted to take Kent Hovind seriously, please, at least carefully read the material in the following webpages in order to come closer to making a truly “informed decision."

Dave Matson, “How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments? A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims” (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hovind/howgood-dr.html).

Joshua Zorn, “The Testimony of a Formerly Young Earth Missionary” (written by an evangelical Christian, this essay includes an excellent bibliography. Note that The American Scientific Affiliation [ASA] is described on their wesbite as “a fellowship of men and women in science and disciplines that relate to science who share a common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science.") (http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/zorn.html)

Let me close with one of my all-time favorite statements, one I first discovered around 1970.on an Episcopalian poster attached to a wall on the first floor of Troutt Hall. The words were printed below a picture of Jesus: "He came to take away our sins, not our minds."

Ingrid Shafer, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy and Religion
Mary Jo Ragan Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

"Sue" -- T. rex skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum; photo by Ingrid Shafer
"Sue" -- greeting visitors

"Sue" -- T. rex skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum; photo by Ingrid Shafer
                                                                                                 "Sue" -- another view

Ammonites; photo by Ingrid Shafer
                                                        180 million year-old ammonites I purchased in 1972 in Switzerland

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Webpage Editor: Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.
e-mail address:ihs@ionet.net
Posted 19 March 2005
Last revised 19 March 2005
Copyright © 2005 Ingrid H. Shafer