Are you smarter than a Hovind?

The proof of god is that without god you can’t know anything. You either have to know everything in order to say you know anything, or you have to have somebody who knows everything tell you what’s true. That’s Eric Hovind’s argument, in response to a question from a sixth grader who seems to be about ten times as smart as a Hovind.

It seems to me that if we have any other method than divine authority that allows us to know anything, Hovind’s assertion is proven false and his premise crumbles.


  1. Bernard Bumner says

    I made it as far as hearing him claim that admitting to not knowing everything is giving up knowledge.

    I’m not sure whether to label that arrogance or stupidity, or simply to assume that it is the desperate ramblings of man not used being challenged by children.

  2. Sastra says

    Eric Hovind is deliberately conflating empirical knowledge with analytical knowledge. He says “We all deal in the realm of certainty” and then brings up that we know that 2+2 = 4 with absolute certainty as if this conflicts with the fact that we can’t know everything. But we know that! Ergo, God.

    No, we do NOT all deal in the realm of certainty. Analytical truths are true because we set up the system and the rules. Math is a language without ambiguity which expresses necessary relationships. But empirical knowledge has to have an element of uncertainty because we have not set up the system and the rules. And even if God DID set up the system and the rules, our knowledge of God would be empirical too — and thus uncertain.

    Unless, of course, we set up the system and rules about God. Which Eric Hovind is evidently doing.

    Where the hell does the “rule” that God cannot lie come from? And why is God obligated to follow it? Insisting that it’s God’s nature confines God to our knowledge of God. Big no-no.

    I was impressed by that 11-year-old kid. “So if I don’t know everything I can’t know anything at all?” “Yes.” And he knew that was stupid.

    Hovind is appealing to the mindset of a 3-year-old. Believe what Daddy tells you. But first believe that Daddy exists because there has to be a Daddy to tell you things. Pure drivel.

  3. Don Quijote says

    Later, Hovind high-fives with his students. “See how I beat that little bugger with my superior mind and logic.”

  4. says

    Because the Greeks and scholastics went so far deriving all knowledge from a few “knowns” (axioms, postulates), while the Enlightenment’s reliance upon empirical knowledge has merely given us electricity, computers, rockets, and a few other assorted trinkets.

    Unfortunately for a useless Hovind (or fortunately, if scamming–deliberate or via mere stupidity–is your aim), dealing with the uncompletely known is the only way to knowledge. Hence, we gain knowledge, while he just repeats his circular “certainties” and, of course, never learns how discovery is made.

    Glen Davidson

  5. Rodney Nelson says

    I’ve seen Hovind send his minions here to attempt the widout gawd ya cain’t kno nuffin’ argument. I’ve also seen how easily this argument is refuted.

  6. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Hovind is appealing to the mindset of a 3-year-old. Believe what Daddy tells you. But first believe that Daddy exists because there has to be a Daddy to tell you things. Pure drivel.

    Its all pretend that Hovind is the authority you should listen to. So a quick bit of inane sophistry and the message “you should listen to me, my delusions say so” comes out. Unfortunately, there are mindless folks out there who fall for that as they find anything other than pure parroting of slogans hard.

  7. says

    As dull as Hovind’s “argument” is, how does he account for, say, atheist mathematicians, say, in the former Soviet Union? I mean seriously, I suspect that he has some nonsense to cover for that.

    So what is it? Is it that God reveals “absolute truth” to atheists somehow? But if that’s so, that clearly doesn’t differ from 2+2=4 being an empirical “truth,” available to all, yet apparently not as certain as it’s supposed to be.

    It seems for Eric it all boils down to authoritarianism, that everything requires a god-like figure to tell you “truth”–namely, Eric or Kent. Obviously, anyone a bit smarter than to believe him should be able to recognize the fallacy of relying upon an authority that hasn’t been vetted (and even after, there’s no certainty in said reliance), and that one must test the authority against empirical knowledge.

    Glen Davidson

  8. gworroll says

    I expected your comment on what Hovind said to be an interpretation. I expected a reasonable interpretation, but I didn’t expect Hovind to have actually and directly said that. HOLY CRAP.

    Big hole in the argument- how do you know that this God knows what he’s talking about? I don’t necessarily expect people to verify each individual piece of information God gives them, that would take a ridiculous amount of time. But you’d have to independently verify at least some of it to establish God as a generally trustworthy and competent individual.

    Then of course you get to the question of whether God exists at all. Even if he does, you have to ask if it would be better to cut out the middle man, come up with ideas, verify them as you would revelations, and just get on with things on your own schedule.

  9. anteprepro says

    “God exists because if God didn’t exist, you wouldn’t KNOW ™ that God doesn’t exist. Because you can only KNOW ™ what an omniscient creature is telling you. Aside from KNOWING ™ that that omniscient creature is a reliable source of information. QED.”

    Gotta love that the best evidence for an all-powerful, benevolent, interventionist creator deity’s existence is a snake-oil salesman’s favored brand of Logic Pretzels.

  10. steve84 says

    Of course he using “2+2=4”. Nothing is true unless Big Brother in the sky telepathically tells you so. And if he tells you that “2+2=5” (or that the Earth is 6000 years old) then that is what you have to believe, no matter how wrong it is.

  11. beccamauch says

    When the young man was challenged he should have said, “I need proof to accept god. You have not at present provided it and I imagine that the likelihood that you will do so in the future is extremely remote.”

  12. says

    Hovind actually says (about 2+2=4)

    If I know everything and there’s a rule that I can’t lie and I tell you blahblahblah

    Well, he’s of course talking about God here but the question should be: “Who told you there’s the rule?”. And obviously the answer is God… God tells you he don’t lie, he swear.

    Good for the kid!

  13. DLC says

    Do you, Eric Hovind, know everything ?
    If not, then you know nothing, by your own argument.
    If you know nothing, why do you claim the existence of a supreme being ? Not just any supreme being, but the Deity of the Abrahamic tradition. If you cannot know anything if you do not know everything, then how can you possibly claim the existence of an all-knowing being. You aren’t just indulging in argument from authority, argument from ignorance and presupposition, you’re claiming to be the authority based on some half-ancient book of fables. This itself makes your beliefs unbelievable.

  14. Sastra says

    Presupp arguments are big on justification — and equivocate. How do you justify your belief that X? Go back and back and back, until you’re asked to justify something intrinsic to the concept of justification itself, in which case you can’t justify it without assuming it and they go GOTCHA! You have nothing to “justify” your faith (in logic, or induction, or in direct sensory experience) — so you need an Authority to give you permission to believe. That’s the switch — from rational justification to authorization.

    How would Hovind explain Soviet mathematicians? As self-contradictory. Remember, Hovind and his presupp ilk are framing atheists who say “there is no God” as being like postmodernists gone wild who say “nothing is ever true” or “all beliefs are completely relative” or “reason is pointless.” But if you apply those statements to themselves, then you have to reject them.

    Presupps actually translate atheism into pomo-gone-wild. They think atheists refute themselves by assuming what they deny. God = the justification for truth, reason, logic. Because these things can’t be relied on unless someone reliable makes them reliable.

  15. No One says

    “If you don’t know everything then you can’t know that god exists.”

    The “young man” had him right there. Hovind realizes he is unfamiliar waters at that point. Just watch his body language. He stutters and starts talking about something else, and never answers the question.

    What a cheap fucking used car salesman.

  16. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    My doorstop is smarter than a Hovind.

    And at the end of the day, is helping humankind to progress compared to Hovind…

  17. robro says

    Rey — If god doesn’t exist, then god doesn’t lie in the Bible or anywhere else. It’s more accurate to say that people lie, they just say god said it. People do this all the time even now, of course.

  18. says

    Circular argument is circular. Hovind tries to borrow God’s omniscience through God’s omnipotence, not realising that in order to do so he must be able to recognise the difference between a true revelation and the illusion of one. Since Hovind is not God, (by his own standard) he has no way of telling the difference, thus he winds up back where he started.

    I still remember Eric completely missing the point when he tried to comprehend the objection as I put it to him. What a hack apologist!

  19. says

    Eric Hovind is deliberately conflating empirical knowledge with analytical knowledge.

    Deliberately is a very strong word. I remember when he tried that apologetics track on me, and he was very confused when I made the distinction between various forms of knowledge. I’d wager that Hovind doesn’t have much understanding of the various issues surrounding his apologetic, as what he has is a defeater argument against atheism. And while he’s arguing on the all-or-nothing approach on a topic he knows the answer to, I wouldn’t expect Hovind to sit down and give a serious reflection on the argument.

  20. AlanMac says

    What would a omnipotent god need to know? That implies an underlying reality that the “god” must deal with and obey. That’s not a god, a very clever alien maybe, but not a god. Gods are not only unnecessary, Hovid’s definition makes them impossible.

  21. nohellbelowus says

    Eric Hovind’s day in class

    Hovind: If you don’t know everything, you can’t know anything.
    Kid: Do you know everything, Mr. Hovind?
    Hovind: No. Of course not.
    Kid: Then how do you know your first statement is true?

    (Hovind grimaces as apoptosis begins in his cerebral cortex… an odor of seared neurons beings wafting through the room.)

    Hovind: Uhhhh…. Because God exists, and He knows everything.
    Kid: Okay, how do you know that?
    Hovind: Because I know what’s written in the bible is true.
    Kid: Erm… how can you know what’s written in the bible is true?

    (Smoke begins billowing from Hovind’s reddening ears…)

    Hovind: Because God told the authors of the bible what to write.
    Kid:  Huh? Wait… but that’s circular reasoning!
    Hovind: How do you know that, you little urchin?
    Kid: Sorry… what?
    Hovind: How do you know my reasoning is circular?
    Kid: Because you said that God exists because of the bible, and then you said the bible exists because of God.
    Hovind: Yes, but how do you know it’s circular? Do you know everything? What, are you God, or something?

    (Hovind begins giggling uncontrollably, and stares around the room triumphantly. The students sit frozen; several being weeping silently.)

    Kid: Um… I have to pee.

    (Twenty minutes later, as Hovind is being strapped down to a gurney by paramedics…)

    Paramedic: Please try to remain calm, Mr. Hovind. We’ll be at the hospital soon.

    (Fade to black.)

  22. kantalope says

    If I recall though – god lies and on the first page…ok second page…depends on how big your pages are I guess:

    Genesis 2: 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
    17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    That dude didn’t die so that command was maybe a titch over the truth line. Now what does one claiming truth for a tricksie god do?

  23. chrislawson says

    It’s a bloody ridiculous argument. “If I know everything and I’m not allowed to lie…” should automatically raise the question of how I am supposed to know that (i) this god knows everything and (ii) is not allowed to lie. And as far as I can see, the only way I can know that is to empirically test some of this god’s statements. Even then, I can’t know that *everything* the god says is true until I’ve asked and tested every possible question. Which means I already have to know everything before I can judge whether anyone else knows everything. And if I already know everything, then why would I need to listen to anyone else about what’s true?

  24. chrislawson says

    kantalope et al,

    It’s worse than just the errors and failed promises throughout the Bible. From

    1 Kings 22:23
    Now, therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.

    2 Chronicles 18:22
    Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets.

    Jeremiah 4:10
    Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people.

    Jeremiah 20:7
    O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived.

    Ezekiel 14:9
    And if a prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet.

    2 Thessalonians 2:11
    For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.

    To be fair, the Jeremiah verses could be seen as Jeremiah’s misunderstanding of God’s intent (which still places them in the false promise category). But the other verses are flat-out, unambiguous pronouncements that God has deceived people and made them lie in His name.

  25. peterh says

    @ #31:

    In large measure, Kings & Chronicles are overlays of one another. Possibly they written by the Bronze-Age Department of Redundancy Department.

    Additionally, it’s people like Hovind who give stupid a bad name.

  26. slatham says

    Poorly quoting the idiot (because I don’t want to waste time listening to him again):
    “If someone knew everything (1), that would be god (2), and there was a rule that he could never deceive you (3), then accepting his word would give you perfectly certain knowledge (4).”

    The kid’s answer was, “I know 2+2 is 4 — I can believe it because I understand it and know it to be true.” Good answer. I wish that he’d said, “How do you know your imaginary friend knows everything? How do you know that only God could know everything? How do you know there is a rule that he can’t deceive you? If you couldn’t be certain about (1) or (3), especially (3), then you’d never arrive at (4).

    Doesn’t Hovind bring this all into question regarding evidence for an older Earth? According to them, somebody is deceiving us about how old the Earth appears. Is it god?

  27. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    The shit-encrusted sock that my dog just shat out is smarter than a Hovind.

  28. Menyambal --- in flagrante delicto says

    The kid was good, and Hovind seemed rattled. But if Hovind could realize how badly wrong he is, he’d be in a different line. As is was, he tried to bluff and puff his way through. I do sometimes wonder if he believes his own bullshit—Hovind is smarter than his followers, but not as smart as he thinks he is.

    Oddly, Hovind’s argument for a god who knows everything and who cannot lie, is very similar to science’s attitude toward reality. Everything is real, and there is no magic creature lying to us. (Or something like that. I’ll work on that when I’m not sleepy.)

  29. says

    Hovind appears to be trying to use the same ‘proof’ Descartes used in his Meditations, and it’s about as effective as the original if less intelligently rationalized.

    Originally Descartes reduced what we can know to the famous phrase: “I think therefore I am”, because the only thing we could not possibly be deceived about was that we, the individual ‘meditator’, exist (if we did not exist, how could we question our existence at all?). But we could not know anything with 100% surety beyond that.

    Descartes then basically took a leap of faith and said that a all-knowing god who could not lie was needed for us to know anything else for sure. The second part he needed because in the first meditation he had established that an all-powerful being who could lie could deceive all we believed anyway, except the one thing we know.

    Problem was, while Descartes conclusion that we can’t know anything for sure is probably right, that alone doesn’t prove a god exists by itself. It just proves we can’t be 100% sure about anything, which I’m pretty sure most scientists and atheists believe anyway. Creationist are normally the one’s who claim that they know things with 100% surety

    Later on, Bertrand Russel offered the best rebuttal to the whole ‘what if everything is an illusion?’ suggestion any way, which was essentially that we can’t do anything about it if it is, so why even bother wondering about it.

    P.S. Russel’s own: “What if it’s all a lie?” argument itself was pretty creative: ‘…there is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that “remembered” a wholly unreal past’

  30. says

    “So if I don’t know everything in the world then I don’t know that you exist?”
    “Unless you have revelation from someone who does know everything”

    Anyone here had a ‘revelation’ about Hovind?

  31. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Presupps often express their key claim by asking whether an omnipotent, omniscient* and honest god could give them certain knowledge – expecting, of course, the answer “yes”. But the right answer is “no”, for the same reason as an omnipotent being can’t make a stone so heavy it can’t lift it: the specified task is logically impossible. Of course, such a god could make them psychologically certain of something, but so could a merely powerful external agent, or a dishonest one, or their own psychological processes – and regardless of whether what they were certain of was true or false. But what is required is justified certainty, which is just not possible for anything other than an omniscient agent, since it is always possible any other agent is being deceived.

    *Some people claim omnipotence and omniscience are logically incompatible; I don’t agree but the point doesn’t matter here. Others claim omnipotence in itself is impossible because of tests of omnipotence like making a stone so heavy it can’t lift it; but this difficulty disappears if you define omnipotence as capability to do anything logically possible.

  32. says

    “If I told you I knew everything, and that I couldn’t lie…” …I still couldn’t be sure you weren’t lying anyway. It’s really not complicated.

  33. peterh says

    “Hovind tries to borrow God’s omniscience through God’s omnipotence, not realising that in order to do so he must be able to recognise the difference between a true revelation and the illusion of one.”

    Makes Hovoind a Poe, eh, what?

  34. texasaggie says

    I wonder if he really thinks that he was making any sense. I would bet the kids thought he wasn’t.

  35. Gregory Greenwood says

    Having read nohellbelowus’ excellent post @ 28, I must confess that a somewhat darkly amusing thought occurred to me.

    Imagine the scene where Hovind, injured in an accident, stumbles into a hospital, only to find that the medical staff there share his view of the requirements that must be met before one has knowledge…

    Hovind; *Staggers through the hospital reception area, bleeding from his injuries, and spies a doctor* “Thank god I found you doctor. I’m hurt bad.”

    Doctor; *Stares at Hovind quizzically* “But how do you know that?”

    Hovind; “What are you talking about! I’m bleeding all over the floor here!”

    Doctor; “But how do you know that?”

    Hovind; *Sarcastically* “Last time I checked, I still needed blood to live…”

    Doctor; “But how do you know that?”

    Hovind; *Staggers slightly* “Woah – I’m getting light headed here. I think I need to sit down.”

    Doctor; But how do yo…

    Hovind; “Because god made humans that way! Ha! Got you there!”

    Doctor; “Really? Were you there?”

    Hovind; Well.. no, but…

    Doctor; “Then how do you know that?”

    Hovind; “We have no time for this! Don’t you see I’m dying here!”

    Doctor; “But how do you know that?”

    Hovind; *Collapses* “Gurgle..flarblegarble…”

    Doctor; “But how do you know that?”

  36. Grumps says

    A kid to be proud of. Right at the end Hovind thinks he’s got him with “I don’t think your dad would take the exact same position.”

    Kid answers “I don’t care”.

    Hell yeah!

  37. says

    There’s one particular point where, if I had been that smart little boy, I would’ve honed in at. Where Hovind sets up the premise that he knows everything and asks the 2+2 question, I would’ve responded with:

    “Would I have known about arithmetic before meeting you?”
    lets say he said yes:
    “So you’re just reaffirming what’s already been known. So if you’re just reaffirming what’s already known, that doesn’t necessarily lead to you knowing everything.”

    Now lets say he said no:
    “Okay, tell me how you came to this conclusion. Now how does being right about this lead to you knowing about everything? How did you come to know everything? Y’know what, why should I believe you? I’m going to go over here and hit rocks with a hammer because it makes sparks and leaves chalk on the driveway and it entertains me.”

    That’s just me, of course.