Kent Hovind thinks he’s going to win a half billion dollars in a lawsuit

As you know, I’m not impressed with the American legal system — it has built-in deep injustices and biases, and also, while I benefit from many of them as a white man, it also has loopholes that allow every crank and bad actor to manipulate the system, shaking it as if it’s a piggy-bank to harass people and dream of getting rich. Wouldn’t you know it, Kent Hovind is one of those delusional manipulators who wants his money. He was in jail for 9 years for his money schemes — Dinosaur Adventure Land wasn’t just a tool to evangelize, but an illegal money-making operation for the Hovinds to get rich off of — and was legally convicted of his crimes, and also lost an appeal. Now he and his crackpot lawyers have convinced themselves that there was an error, a technicality, that will allow them to invalidate his conviction and sue the federal government for $500 million. It’s a fantasy. He was caught playing games with his money to avoid taxation, and he can’t deny that. What he is now claiming is that the federal government needed a “verified complaint” to even begin action against him, and therefore the entire trial should be thrown out.

As Peter Reilly explains, it’s a nonsensical complaint. What triggered his arrest, trial, and conviction was a grand jury indictment that evaluated the evidence at the time, and concluded that there was cause to pursue the matter further. Hovind is making yet another Sovereign Citizen style argument based on Imaginary Law. He’s not going to clean up and get rich with this lawsuit, but is only going to pour more money down a legal rabbit hole. I guess I can’t complain about that.

I am a little concerned about Reilly’s analysis, though.

Robert Baty alerted me to the filing. I think there are others involved but he seems to be the prime mover behind Nightmare. Kent has a tendency to refer to his critics, other than those who have deserted him, as atheists. Baty is not an atheist, but rather a Christian who has a problem with Young Earth Creationism.

Baty is a retired IRS agent and Kent maintains that Baty has been called out of retirement to “get Hovind”. I find that accusation highly implausible. My evaluation of Robert Baty is that you should never underestimate a cranky old man with a couple of obsessions, an internet connection and time on his hands when he is not watching the grandchildren.

<gasp> I feel seen!

By the way, Kent Hovind posted another comment in my latest video.

How can you BELIEVE the amazingly complex genetic code in ANY form of life happened by random chance over billions of years? How can you teach the silly evolution religion to students and still sleep at night? Call 855-big dino ext 3 to schedule a debate on the very best three evidences you have for evolution. I’ll post the debate unedited (unless profanity needs bleeped) on my kenthovindofficial YouTube channel where my rebuttal of your position was posted a few weeks ago. Come visit our Dinosaur Adventure Land REAL Science Center in Lenox, Alabama and I’ll give you a tour. :) Kent Hovind

I don’t believe organisms evolved entirely by random chance, so as usual, his criticisms are not based on reality. I’ve informed him, though, that my fee for wasting my time in debate with idiots has risen to $7000/day, a special rate just for him. Maybe when he wins his absurd lawsuit, he’ll be able to afford my rates. Unlike him, though, I’m not counting on the windfall, ever.

Hoo boy, the Discovery Institute is pathetic

Everyone seems to be “pivoting to video”, including the creationists, so I might as well join in the fun. The Discovery Institute put out a quasi-animated video with a young hipster narrator to promote science denialism — they want to claim that the whale transitional series is bogus, and that all those fossils are just a random jumble of unconnected species that somehow just appeared, and none of them are really intermediates. So I had to expose the flaws in their thinking. Unstylishly, of course.

If I look a little bit squinky-eyed, it’s because I only noticed after recording it that the sun was glaring in through the window to one side. Next time I do one of these, I’d better draw the blinds.

Bad science tries to drip its way into everything

You want to read a really good take-down of a bad science paper? Here you go. It’s a plea to Elsevier to retract a paper published in Personality and Individual Differences because…well, it’s racist garbage, frequently cited by racists who don’t understand the science but love the garbage interpretation. It really is a sign that we need better reviewers to catch this crap.

The paper is by Rushton, who polluted the scientific literature for decades, and Templer, published in 2012. It’s titled “Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?”, and you can tell what it’s trying to do: it’s trying to claim there is a genetic linkage between skin color and sexual behavior and violence, justifying it with an appeal to biology. It fails, because the authors don’t understand biology or genetics.

They’re advocating something called the pleiotropy hypothesis, which is the idea that every gene has multiple effects (this is true!), and that therefore every phenotype has effects that ripple across to every other phenotype (partially, probably mostly true), so that seeing one aspect of a phenotype means you can make valid predictions about other aspects of the phenotype (mostly not at all true). This allows them to abuse a study in other mammals to claim that human outcomes are identical. Here’s the key graf:

The basis of the pleiotropy hypothesis presented by Rushton and Templer hinges on a citation from Ducrest et al. (2008), which posits ‘pleiotropic effects of the melanocortins might account for the widespread covariance between melanin-based coloration and other phenotypic traits in vertebrates.’ However, Rushton and Templer misrepresent this work by extending it to humans, even though Ducrest et al. (2008) explicitly state, ‘these predictions hold only when variation in melanin-based coloration is mediated by variation in the level of the agonists at MC1R… [conversely] there should be no consistent association between melanin-based coloration and other phenotypic traits when variation in coloration is due to mutations at effectors of melanogenesis such as MC1R [as is the case in humans].’ Ducrest et al. continue, ‘variation in melanin-based coloration between human populations is primarily due to mutations at, for example, MC1R, TYR, MATP and SLC24A5 [29,30] and that human populations are therefore not expected to consistently exhibit the associations between melanin-based coloration and the physiological and behavioural traits reported in our study’ [emphasis mine]. Rushton and Templer ignore this critical passage, saying only ‘Ducrest et al. (2008) [caution that], because of genetic mutations, melanin-based coloration may not exhibit these traits consistently across human populations.’ This is misleading. The issue is not that genetic mutations will make melanin-based pleiotropy inconsistent across human populations, but that the genes responsible for skin pigmentation in humans are completely different to the genes Ducrest et al. describe.

To translate…developmental biologists and geneticists are familiar with the concept of an epistatic pathway, that is, of genes affecting the expression of other genes. So, for instance, Gene A might switch on Gene B which switches on Gene C, in an oversimplified pattern of regulation.

Nothing is ever that simple, we know. Gene A might also switch on Gene Delta and Gene Gamma — this is called pleiotropy, where one gene has multiple effects. And Gene Gamma might also activate Gene B, and Gene B might feed back on Gene A, and B might have pleiotropic effects on Gene Beta and Gene E and Gene C.

This stuff gets delightfully tangled, and is one of the reasons I love developmental biology. Everything is one big complex network of interactions.

What does this have to do with Rushton & Templer’s faulty interpretation? They looked at a study that identified mutations in a highly pleiotropic component of the pigmentation pathway — basically, they’re discussing Gene A in my cartoon — and equating that to a terminal gene in humans, equivalent to Gene C in my diagram. Human variations in skin color are mostly due to mutations in effector genes at the end of the pathway, like MC1R. It will have limited pleiotropic effects compared to genes higher up in the epistatic hierarchy, like the ones Ducrest et al. described. Worst of all, Ducrest et al. explicitly discussed how the kind of comparison Rushton & Templer would make is invalid! They had to willfully edit the conclusions to make their argument, which is more than a little dishonest.

It reminds me of another recent disclosure of a creationist paper that also misrepresented its results. This paper, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, openly declared that it had evidence for creationism.

In the paper, Kuznetsov reportedly identified an mRNA from one vole species that blocked protein synthesis in a related vole species. That same mRNA, however, did not block translation in the original vole species or another species that was more distantly related. The finding, Kuznetsov wrote in his report, supported “the general creationist concept on the problems of the origin of boundless multitudes of different and harmonically functioning forms of life.”

I vaguely remember reading that paper and rolling my eyes at how weak and sloppy the data was — it was never taken seriously by anyone but creationists. I don’t recall the details, though, because it was published 30 years ago, and is only now being retracted, after decades of the author fabricating data and being so obvious about it that he was fired as editor of two journals in 2013. The guy had a reputation, shall we say. Yet he managed to maintain this academic facade for years.

Phillipe Rushton had similarly managed to keep up the pretense of being a serious academic for an awfully long time, right up until his death in 2012. He used his reputation to spray all kinds of fecal nonsense into the scientific literature, and that’s why you have to maintain a skeptical perspective even when reading prestigious journals.

I don’t understand it, therefore nobody does

We’re going to see a wave of ignorance prompted by David Gelernter’s profession of foolishness, aren’t we? Every fool in the world who hears that guy’s nonsense is now inspired to spew out some nonsense of their own.

One example is Barbara Kay, who I’ve never heard of before, pontificating in the National Post that “there’s one mystery we still can’t explain”. Only one? I can think of lots. But the fact that there are still questions in the world does not mean that all the answers we have are wrong.

Her point is especially bad, because she singles out one thing that she thinks is false, and she is wrong about it.

The human brain and the power of speech put humans way beyond the boundaries of Darwin’s own three critical criteria for natural selection, which; i) may expand an animal’s power only to a point where it has survival advantage — and no further; ii) cannot produce changes that are “injurious” to the animal; and iii) cannot produce a “specially developed organ” that is useless to an animal at the time it develops. If a Neanderthal brain three times the size of any primate’s and a unique capacity for speech do not constitute “specially developed organs,” what does?

OK. Start with Darwin: he’s not our infallible prophet. He got a lot wrong, and remember, he was writing 150 years ago. You can demonstrate Darwin’s errors all you want, and modern scientists will just shrug and say, “So?”

Kay’s second error, though, is that she overlooked the meaning of her subject, natural selection. Evolution is not synonymous with natural selection, and showing that something could not have evolved by natural selection does not refute the idea that it evolved by some other mechanism. Even if we take those three points as given, it does not negate the idea of evolution.

Third error: she has not demonstrated that point (i) means natural selection could not have occurred. Where does the survival advantage of speech stop? It seems to me that the initiation of speech with grunts and crude vocalizations could only be improved, and improved continuously, by natural selection. Speech that enabled better hunting could lead to speech that is used for love poetry, or describing geography, or telling scary stories around the campfire, or expressing philosophical thoughts. She has not demonstrated any barrier which would impede the action of natural selection.

Fourth error: The brain isn’t that special (ii). All animals have one (well, we could call sponges and jellyfish exceptions). Our ancestors had one that could visualize the environment and the future, allow for sophisticated socialization, and permitted all kinds of communication shy of speech. Speech capability builds on structures that are already present in a multitude of animals.

Fifth error: brains that could process information in a complex way before speech evolved were not useless to our ancestors (iii), even if they couldn’t speak.

Sixth and biggest, most common error in creationists: the failure of their imaginations and ignorance of the evidence does not support their claim that the science is wrong. I can’t imagine how Barbara Kay manages to type words on a machine, but I think it’s clear that she did. Probably. I can’t rule out the possibility that an editor filtered the output of a monkey pounding on a keyboard, but it’s more likely that her essay was produced by a human being who simply knows nothing about biology.

I’ve been saying this for decades!

As Matthew Herron points out,

The intelligent design blogs I read, when they’re not busy vilifying “Darwinists”, spend much of their time extolling the super-duper complexity of life, but here’s the thing: no one is arguing that life isn’t complex. To my knowledge, no biologist has ever argued that, and if they have, they’re wrong. As Strassmann and Queller point out, Darwin and Paley both proposed explanations for complexity, and one of those explanations turned out to be right. As much as its advocates want it to be, complexity is not evidence for intelligent design.

When Intelligent Design creationists play at being scientists (Hi, Stephen Meyer, you boring fraud you), this is all they do, parrot articles that explain the bewildering complexity of the cell, as if that means it must have been designed. That’s all Behe does, is natter on about how complicated biology is, and then make an unfounded leap from “it’s too complex for me to understand” to “therefore, the god who designed it must be really smart”, not addressing the issue at hand…was it designed at all?

Then all of their fans chime in at any criticism of the ID argument with repetitions of the “It’s really complex” claim, which is totally fucking irrelevant. It seems to impress the rubes, though.

We Believe in Dinosaurs

It’s unfortunate that I don’t think we’ll ever get a showing of this documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs, in Morris — it’s too narrow a niche for our little community. The reviews make it sound pretty good, though.

Adding to that discussion is Monica Long Ross and Clayton Brown’s documentary “We Believe in Dinosaurs.” Attempting to portray both sides even-handedly (though a principal figure presumably refused to be interviewed), it offers not so much a critique as a slightly bemused observation of the Ark Encounter, a Biblical theme park-style attraction in Kentucky designed to promote a creationist rather than scientific view of Earth’s history — which spans about 6,000 years, in this reckoning.

The peculiar brand of pseudoscience utilized to provide supporting “evidence” is controversial, needless to say. So is the “separation of church and state” breach many view in such projects getting de facto governmental approval. Often amusing, but never condescending towards either Ark proponents or their equally vocal opponents, this feature should attract interest from various exhibition channels — perhaps particularly abroad, where admittedly it will not do Americans’ current popular image any favors.

An even-handed approach to both sides is a good idea, as long as you don’t lose sight of the truth. Show that the creationists are sincere, but also be unambiguous in pointing out that they’re peddling pseudoscience. It sounds like they take that approach.

…we get a good look not only at the world of “Young Earth creationists” and their logic (which extends to quasi-scientific academic conferences), but at individual players on both sides of the fight. Lead designer Patrick Marsh and artisan Doug Henderson are among the affable personnel who found their “dream job” creating a facsimile of Noah’s Ark, which requires some interesting imaginative leaps not found in the Bible.

Not least among those leaps is the depiction of dinosaurs and other extinct (as well as some murkily confabulated) creatures as passengers, since it’s the belief of creationists that fossil-record species simply died during, or shortly after, the Flood. It is also interesting to see the attraction’s PG-13 diorama of the decadence that triggered God’s watery wrath. There are even animatronic figures used to address such philosophical quandaries as, “Why does a loving God allow so much death and suffering?”

On the other side of the divide are people like paleontologist Dan Phelps (who points out that roadside Kentucky shale offers ample proof of Earth’s great age) and David MacMillan, a teenage evangelical and Creation Museum charter member who now runs an anti-Creationist website. He sees no conflict between his continued Christian beliefs and acquired trust in science, resenting that faulty creationist “evidence” gets shoved down many a gullible schoolchild’s throat. Farther out among the opposition are members of the Tri-State Free Thinkers, atheists who (not without humor) claim the Biblical story of Noah promotes “genocide and incest.”

I do have reservations, though. Does “fair and balanced” work? The documentary’s conclusion is deeply depressing, and while it’s good to show both sides, does it do a proper job of refuting the creationists? I don’t know.

Without laying on any overt message, “We Believe in Dinosaurs” does definitely suggest that this eccentric collision between faith and secularism, commerce and politics — one that might have seemed wholly outlandish not long ago—is kinda-sorta the direction in which our republic is now headed. Politicians increasingly bend to accommodate religious causes, with judiciary right behind them. Science denial is a trend, whether the motivation is Biblical literalism or simple capitalist greed.

We see Ken Ham (who presumably refused to be interviewed by the filmmakers) selling his wares every which way, using whatever terminology will gain acceptance with a particular audience, but always advancing the creationist cause. That the wind is blowing in his direction is underlined by a closing-credits compilation of recent American politicos publicly distancing themselves from (or outright decrying) evolutionary theory.

I guess I’ll have to wait for a streaming service to pick it up so I can see it for myself, but that last bit is something that might be encouraging to creationists, rather than as discouraging as I see it.

“Why I am a creationist”

The things I do to try and comprehend the mental workings of creationists…I wasted 16 minutes on a video of Andrew Snelling explaining why he is a creationist. To make a too-long story short and cut right to the main point, he doesn’t. Not at all. I sat there waiting for him to get to the point and explain how he got to that point, but he doesn’t. Or maybe he does right at the beginning — he was brought up in a very religious family, was thoroughly indoctrinated into Christianity, and then discovered how neat-o rocks are on a family vacation, so he tried to force-fit geology into his young-earth, biblical “literalist” point of view. When he commits to studying geology, starting a geology club in high school, he seems to approach it from a stamp-collecting point of view, completely dismissing the idea of mechanisms behind geology.

When he discovers Whitcomb & Morris’s The Genesis Flood, he thinks all the questions have been resolved and is done. I remember stumbling across that book in high school, reading the first chapter, and shoving it back on the library shelf with contempt. It’s a garbage book. The very first sentence is In harmony with our conviction that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, verbally inspired in the original autographs, we begin our investigation of the geographical extent of the Flood with seven Biblical arguments in favor of its universality. Basically, they’re claiming that they’re going to demonstrate the validity of their premises by reciting a statement of their premises. Even a teenager should be able to see the problem with that approach, and they only fail if they’re blinded by their own priors.

Snelling isn’t capable of thinking that way. He’s just soaking in dogma.

I wish Michael Behe would get as tired of his nonsense as I am

Michael Behe has this new book out, Darwin Devolves. I haven’t been able to muster enough enthusiasm to even want to try and dissect it — that man has been shitting on science for at least 20 years now, and having picked through his fecal piles before, I know what to expect, and am tired of it. He is tediously predictable.

Fortunately, Gregory Lang and Amber Rice have the willingness to do the dirty work and dive right in and sift through the shit in this excellent review, Evolution unscathed: Darwin Devolves argues on weak reasoning that unguided evolution is a destructive force, incapable of innovation. They discover that Behe cherry-picks his evidence, ignoring, or worse, being completely ignorant of, vast orchards of information that directly refute his premise, which Lang and Rice cite and summarize. It’s an informative review. Go read it, I won’t rehash it. You’ll learn a lot from it.

I will mention the conclusion, which discusses the peculiar tension at the heart of the evolution/creation argument. I did highlight one sentence.

Without a hint of irony, Darwin Devolves cautions us that “[t]he academic ideas of nutty professors don’t always stay confined to ivory towers. They sometimes seep out into the wider world with devastating results (p257).”

Scientists—by nature or by training—are skeptics. Even the most time-honored theories are reevaluated as new data come to light. There is active debate, for example, on the relative importance of changes to regulatory versus coding sequence in evolution (Hoekstra and Coyne 2007; Stern and Orgogozo 2008), the role of neutral processes in evolution (Kern and Hahn 2018; Jensen et al. 2019), and the extent to which evolutionary paths are contingent on chance events (Blount et al. 2018). Vigorous debate is part and parcel of the scientific process, lest our field stagnate. Behe, however, belabors the lack of consensus on relatively minor matters to proclaim that evolutionary biology as a whole is on shaky ground.

By reviewing Behe’s latest book, we run the risk of drawing attention—or worse, giving credibility—to his ideas. Books like Darwin Devolves, however, must be openly challenged and refuted, even if it risks giving publicity to misbegotten views. Science benefits from public support. Largely funded by federal grants, scientists have a moral responsibility (if not a financial obligation) to ensure that the core concepts of our respective fields are communicated effectively and accurately to the public and to our trainees. This is particularly important in evolutionary biology, where—over 150 years after On the Origin of Species—less than 20% of Americans accept that humans evolved by natural and unguided processes (Gallup 2014). It is hard to think of any other discipline where mainstream acceptance of its core paradigm is more at odds with the scientific consensus.

Why evolution by natural selection is difficult for so many to accept is beyond the scope of this review; however, it is not for a lack of evidence: the data (only some of which we present here) are more than sufficient to convince any open-minded skeptic that unguided evolution is capable of generating complex systems. A combination of social and historical factors creates a welcoming environment for an academic voice that questions the scientific consensus. Darwin Devolves was designed to fit this niche.

Creationists like to pretend that there is still a legitimate debate here, and their absurd confidence does seem to be effective in swaying, as they mention, about 80% of the population. In response to their ignorance, responsible scientists are expected to invest a great deal of effort in reacting to stupidity. It is ten thousand times harder to master the science behind evolutionary biology than it is to read a few bible verses and some clueless apologetics and decide that the science is all wrong. Behe, and people like him, are ridiculous crackpots, and we’re saddled with the obligation to refute them.

And yet we do. Or Lang and Rice do. I’m sitting this one out, which makes me immensely grateful that more scientists are joining in the battle.

Antivax, chemtrails, and creationism


Kent Hovind is getting divorced from Jo Hovind. I guess this isn’t surprising — maybe his former wife is smarter than he is (a hurdle easily cleared), and saw through all the BS and manipulation and realized it was time to get out.

He’s also remarrying, to an anti-vax crank named Mary Tocco. He’s made a video announcement of his engagement, and it’s another bit of obnoxious lunacy. He spends half of it blaming his ex-wife completely for the divorce — I guess he had absolutely nothing to do with it, despite getting the two of them arrested and imprisoned with demented legal advice — and the other half reassuring everyone that he checked with a whole bunch of fellow ministers, ranging in age from 60 to 85, and 15 out of 16 assured him that it was perfectly OK, and then he mumbles on about how this opens up whole new options for his ministry, allowing him to understand all those divorced people out there at last.

I predicted that there would be interesting times ahead for Hovind’s Creation Science Evangelism once he got out of jail — he’d left management of the creationist organization in the hands of his son, Eric, and I kind of figured it would not be an easy transition once he got out and tried to take back the ministry he’d run into the ground with his tax fraud. And it was so. Hovind is claiming that Jo and Eric conspired to steal all the assets of CSE out from under him. It’s gotten very ugly and confusing.

When Kent originally announced that his divorce, he claimed that Eric had stolen from him and would not let him have the web domain “”. He claimed Eric sold himself over two-million dollars worth of equipment and supplies. He mentioned a couple of four-wheelers, a copy machine and a fork-lift. Deana Holmes, a non-practicing attorney, who has been following the Hovind story speculated that he was way off on his valuation and that a lot of the supplies were old T-Shirts, VHS tapes, DVD’s and CD’s of Kent’s old non-copyrighted videos which are all on YouTube. I don’t normally take Kent’s public word as fact, but assuming that we have a couple of old four-wheelers, a fork-lift, some office furniture, plus, the material that Deana mentioned, the price that Eric paid for this is probably about right. Deana pointed out that these accusations were pretty stupid in the light of his tax-liabilities and legal problems they could cause for his son. Kent said in court and in public that he took a vow of poverty and owned nothing. Then turned around and claimed publically that Eric and his mother conspired to take everything away from him. Which one is the truth Kent? Did you own nothing? Or did you own two-million dollars worth of items that Eric stole from you? Just like all of Kent’s statements that seem to change to fit the circumstance.

Eric has stuffed his ministry into a shiny new dumpster, called “God’s Quest”, while Kent seems to be trying to set up a place of his own in a gravel pit in Lenox, Alabama, where he’ll build a brand new Dinosaur Adventure Land. I’m sure this marriage with Mary Tocco will bring order out of chaos. After all, look at her credentials.

Mary is co-founder of the American Chiropractic Autism Board (ACAB) 2006, helped manage Hope For Autism, (HFA) a training program for physicians who want to help children with autism recover and is the Vice President of the Foundation for Pediatric Health. She is also the Director of Vaccine Research and Education for Michigan for Vaccine Choice, a non-profit (501c) watchdog group, insuring vaccine choice in Michigan. Mary Tocco is on the Board of Directors for WAVE, World Association for Vaccine Education (

Wait. The American…Chiropractic…Autism…Board? Those words do not belong together.

Once again, the Hovinds — every one of them — set the standard for creationist inanity.

Weird creationist meme

This is apparently intended to be a criticism of evolution posted by a Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t quite get it.

Yes. Everything died. Every individual between the current extant cohort and the last common ancestor died. It’s what organisms do. Is this so hard to understand? But that does not imply that every possible intermediate form existed and died. They may also be confusing individuals with populations, but I find it very difficult to read the minds of creationists.

Here’s a tree branch.


There is a twig at A (call it humans), and there is a twig at B (chimps), and there is an ancestral branch point 6 million years ago. A population of cells at the “ancestor” point divided multiple times and split into two extending meristems that produced the branch leading to A and the branch leading to B. I think our creationist is assuming that there had to have been a solid sheet of wood filling the space between A and B, that the space of all possible positions for twigs had to be filled, and that it was somehow pruned back selectively to create just the two twigs.

But that would make no sense, wouldn’t fit our understanding of how branches form, and would be really stupid. They can’t possibly think that, can they?