Like father, like son


Eric Hovind gave a talk at a public high school in Georgia. He titled it “Critical Thinking”, and tried to claim that it wasn’t an out-and-out creationist talk.

He lied.

I suppose I could take one of my old biology talks, slap the title “High Finance” on it, and try to bamboozle Wall Street into giving me one of those $25,000 speaking gigs, and that would be as dishonest and stupid as what Hovind did.

Hovind’s powerpoint file is available online, so you can judge for yourself. It’s the standard bunk, with a non-geologist, non-biologist, non-scientist presenting scattered facts, and then announcing his uninformed Biblical explanation for them. It’s embarrassingly bad, just like his father’s talks.

But I want to point out just one thing about that powerpoint.

It’s 116 slides long, and apparently he preceded it with several minutes of video. If it was a typical one hour presentation, he was flipping through that thing at two slides per minute. Which is nuts. That’s the Gish Gallop made manifest — it’s the opposite of critical thinking. It forces students to sit there and consume images.

Just for perspective, a typical one hour talk for me uses 20-30 powerpoint slides, and I often feel that that is excessive. My best talks have been about 15 slides long. As my grad school advisor would often tell me, if you’re going to the effort of creating that image and showing it to the audience, why are you only taking seconds to discuss it? Work the slide! And if there isn’t enough information on it for you to spend even three minutes talking about it, cut it.

But then, Hovind is just following in his daddy’s footsteps. I was at one of Kent Hovind’s talks, where he ripped through 700 slides in two painful hours. Eric is going to have to at least double his rate of babble to catch up.


  1. Saad says

    Ugh, at a public school no less. Why, Georgia, why?!

    If I had known about it, I would have gone for the Q&A. On second thought, I’m guessing he probably doesn’t stay for questions.

  2. anteprepro says

    When you become a right-wing ideologue, paid to be a glib idiot, using smarm to lend false credibility to stupid ideas, things like being honest and informative are no longer the focus. The focus is on all on the FPM: Fails per Minute. If your FPM is not at least at 4 or 5, you are not doing your job. You would have no career as a pundit, politician, or preacher with that. If you aren’t causing the intellectually honest in your audience to facepalm often enough and intensely enough that they will need to be hospitalized by the end of the hour, you are not making the cut among the wingnuts.

  3. buddhabuck says

    There is a legitimate presentation style out there which presents 20 slides each for 20 seconds, for a total presentation length of 6m40s. This is clearly too fast for a collegiate lecture, but it is good for public awareness and outreach. A friend recently used the style for a “history of light” from big bang to present 10 minute talk (using the extra time for Q&A) that went over well.

    So 2 slides/minute is not unheard of for speed.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    That’s the Gish Gallop made manifest — it’s the opposite of critical thinking. It forces students to sit there and consume images.

    I’m pretty sure Eric would consider that a feature, not a bug.

  5. numerobis says

    I usually use more than one slide per minute. But I’m usually talking about processes; a single picture that explains a process would end up being very noisy.

  6. ironflange says

    Having sat through almost all of that ppt (yes, I really did, and will probably be sorry later) it’s clear that it has nothing to do with critical thinking and everything to do with the same old creationist horse shit. Way to go, Georgia high school.

  7. says

    Yeah, that style is called Pecha Kucha — and it really can only be sustained for about 20 minutes, and it’s intended specifically as a format to limit discursiveness. The importance is the structure, not the number of slides.

    I do something similar in my communications class: they have to present data from a paper, and I tell them they get one intro slide to present the background, one conclusion slide to wrap up the story, and in between, two data slides…and they have ten minutes. It forces them to be selective in their use of slides, and pick carefully, rather than the usual bang-bang-bang rattle off a series. They also have to explain each slide carefully.

  8. Numenaster says

    There is a similar limitation on slide set counts for one of our internal-only technical conferences at my work, which has iron-clad time presenter time limits. There is also a minimum font size, chosen so that the slides displayed on the giant screen will be readable from the back row of the chosen venue. If you hold to both restrictions, your slides will be very clean but make no sense unaccompanied by the spoken commentary. This is a feature as far as the conference is concerned, but a bug if you ever want to reuse the slides in another forum.

  9. lorn says

    Hovind is going to discover that flipping through slides rapidly he has created moving pictures. Next up: Hovind claims he invented movies.

    Creation science, always on the cutting edge of technology.

  10. LicoriceAllsort says

    For talks to audiences who are not acquainted with my field (whether layperson or another scientific discipline), I’ve found that the move to quick slides slides that are almost entirely big pictures with short titles keeps the audience’s interest and improves understanding better than the usual science format of nested bullet points. However, even within this format I slow down to thoroughly explain complicated figures and keep the number of complicated figures to just essential ones. I now average about 1.5 slides/min. For presentations to colleagues within my field, I do a hybrid approach of quick slides for introduction and slower slides (including complicated figures or limited bullet points) for results and discussion.

    I tend to get good talk reviews, so there’s some external measure of how well the approach works. I learned the style from landscape architecture and think it could be used successfully within the sciences, too, but I could see how it would require a cultural shift.

  11. peterh says

    Hovind is to critical thinking as snake oil is to water. Ed Brayton covers the same incident and includes a letter from the school effusing smarmily over Hovind’s intellectual travesty.

  12. numerobis says

    I try to keep complicated figures at zero. It’s basically impossible during a presentation to get the audience to think hard about a complicated figure: they’re either listening to me talk or they’re reading the slide, not both. If I have both available, I lose both halves of the room.

    Adopting a conversational style I tend to be at a whiteboard, because it’s too hard to write on the slides during a discussion. Once in a blue moon I can swing having both whiteboard and slides, and then I can do one complicated slide up for reference, plus discussion.

    As a pedagogical tool to force students to stop relying on the crutch of powerpoint, I wholeheartedly agree with PZ’s approach. Imposing a minimum font size is also important or you end up with ten slides crammed into one. I’ve heard “half the age of the oldest person in the room” as a guideline, so a 32-pt minimum generally works well.

  13. Lofty says

    Well it only takes a few seconds for the essence of bullshit to infuse your target’s mind, facts take waaay longer.

  14. firstapproximation says

    I suppose I could take one of my old biology talks, slap the title “High Finance” on it, and try to bamboozle Wall Street into giving me one of those $25,000 speaking gigs, and that would be as dishonest and stupid as what Hovind did.

    Chad Hovind did something like this, though more with a sermon than with a biology talk:

    Throughout Godonomics, Chad Hovind explores God’s principles, His teachings, and His directions for living a life of Liberty, Prosperity, and Generosity. Chad presents a Biblical case for free-market enterprise, and offers God’s perspective for the economic decisions of an individual, a family, and even a nation.

    Geez, that family….

  15. says


    at one of Kent Hovind’s talks…he ripped through 700 slides in two painful hours.

    Good lard. So, just over ten seconds a slide, on average. It staggers me that someone would prepare a two-hour presentation with that many visual aids, an undertaking of dozens of hours even if you phone it in, and then flick through it like some slick hustler selling a car that he knows is a lemon (an apt analogy if you’ve ever seen the guy talk).

    Oh well, I guess they’re not there to convince anyone or convey new information; they’re there to reassure the customer base that their decision to buy will at some point be vindicated. Also, Kent’s slides were probably prepared with the same attention to detail as your average memebase meme.

  16. twas brillig (stevem) says

    Gak that pptx is example par excellence of: “Can’t dazzle with brilliance? baffle with bullshit”.
    That pptx is one farkload of BS. I couldn’t go through all the slides, but the first bit about Grand Canyon raised my ire. The common misconception of the Canyon is “the river carved its way down, to form the Canyon”. WRONG! The river was there and the ground raised, while the river prevented it, so the canyon rose up around the river. Hovind just plays with this to bamboozle the class into disbelieving the evidence of the canyon’s formation (and accept his creation BS), with all that nonsense about snowlines proving it was a dam holding back the flood waters.
    I saw so much BS on every slide I just couldn’t take any more and had to go wash my hands.

  17. Lithified Detritus says

    I looked at a couple of dozen before it hung up and wouldn’t load any more. The usual tired BS about why the Colorado River could not possibly have carved the Grand Canyon. And after pontificating about why “perception” should not be presented as “fact,” he presents his perception as fact. I’m sure the rest of it is more of the same. I’m glad my browser spared my brain cells.

  18. Rich Woods says

    Slides per hour? I’m happy if I can sketch something on a sheet of A4 and pass it around the table before I run out of words or someone falls asleep.

  19. twas brillig (stevem) says

    oh I see why he called this “Critical Thinking”
    it’s a hidden, surprise quiz, to test the students on how quickly they see the flaws in his “balanced” presentation of “other ways” to interpret these “mysteries”.
    ~~ “Here’s what “scientists” say, here’s what the BBBBBIBLE says, who you gonna BELIEVE?”
    And that’s why he needs so many slides: to flip through them so fast, no one can actually read&digest them, to actually “ponder” the implications they present.
    So glad I did not attend this, my eyes would have been spinning so fast from astonishment at the astounding volume of bombardment by BS.

  20. wcorvi says

    @twas brillig (#23) – forming the Canyon wasn’t quite that simple. My friend Wayne Ranney wrote a book on it, in 2nd edition. He favors the ancestral Colorado River flowing west out of the Kaibab Uplift, and capturing the Little Colorado River which flowed northward.

    But he includes the bible story, along with other myths such as Paul Bunyon dropping and dragging his axe as he walked west.

  21. says

    And after pontificating about why “perception” should not be presented as “fact,” he presents his perception as fact.

    And these are people who think “relativism” is a dirty word.