The Hovind-Till Debate
Dr. Karen Bartelt
On September 11, 1993, Kent Hovind, a "creation-scientist" evangelist from Pensa-
cola, Florida, and TSR editor Farrell Till met in public debate at the Faith Baptist Church
in Pekin, Illinois. Although the topic of the debate was "The Genesis story of the flood is
scientifically accurate in all details," Hovind distributed to the audience a handout that was
a generalized attack on evolution. The paper warned the audience to watch for "desperate
measures" and "illogical ideas" that the evolutionist side could be expected to use during
the debate. Among other things, the paper listed ad hominem arguments, ridicule and
scorn, citation of majority opinion, and various appeals to scholarship.
The debate was supposed to be comprised of a 30-minute opening statement each,
20 minutes of rebuttal each, and a question-and-answer period (questions sent in by the
audience), but Hovind's opening statement was nothing but his well-travelled (and poor
quality, I might add) slide show. He opened by stating that all evolutionists believe anyone
who is a Bible-believing Christian is ignorant. Some other highlights: an 11-foot skeleton
has been found in a coal mine in West Virginia, proof positive that preflood humans were
bigger (so where is this skeleton now, Kent?); the geologic column doesn't exist anywhere
in the world; Noah's ark contained only babies and only single "kinds." And a relatively
new twist: the 23.5 degree tilt of the earth happened during the flood. A giant "ice meteor"
that, because of its low temperature was magnetic, banged into the north pole and dropped
mammoths in their tracks, the vapor canopy collapsed, and the earth was flooded to a
depth of 12,000 feet. As Dave Barry says, "I am not making this up." The presentation was
rapid fire, leaving no time for the audience to digest a topic before the next slide was
flashed. Indeed, for someone who does the show 700 times a year, the presentation was
unpolished, and the slides were of poor quality.
Farrell Till defined science as being outside the realm of the supernatural. He spoke
of the polystrate Specimen Ridge trees and attacked the seaworthiness of the ark. The
audience was asked to consider how probable it was for a lone man or small group to build
a huge ark sans modern tools. All wooden ships have a maximum length far below the
purported length of the ark, and the audience was encouraged to search the references Till
provided concerning shipbuilding. Till asked if such a ship did manage to stay afloat, how
did the cargo survive the rough seas described by other creationists? Finally, if, as Hovind
asserted, only a few "kinds" were present on the ark, then Hovind must also admit that all
forms of bovids, from bison to cattle to deer, evolved rapidly after the flood-- something no
evolutionist would ever state.
Hovind's rebuttal was to put God in the same bracket as electrons and gravi-
ty--natural forces/particles that cannot be seen either! He stated, without proof, that
humans "back then" were not only bigger and longer-lived but had higher IQ's. Thus they
could build the pyramids, a feat we humans of today could never accomplish. (Something
just occurred to me here: the pyramids had to be postflood; they date roughly from the time
of Moses... another boo boo.) He stated that the Specimen Ridge trees have no roots (flatly
false by my geology books). God brought the animals to Noah and took care of all the little
incidentals (like tons of manure). Hovind encouraged the audience to be polite to Till, be-
cause, after all, "He is not the enemy; he just works for him." Hovind admitted he couldn't
prove most of his assertions but that Till could not prove his either. Refer to the topic of
Till pressed the issue that since there were seven pairs of each type of clean animal
on the ark, that meant 14 giraffes slopping about the ark on stormy seas, like it or not.
How did they survive? He pointed out that the largest pyramids are in the Americas, not
Egypt. He closed by pointing out that Hovind's assumptions--a vapor canopy, a level antedi-
luvian earth, smarter people--were not supported by evidence.
About half a dozen questions followed. I wrote two of the ones that were chosen by
the moderator/minister. Briefly....
Concerning a question on missing links, Hovind stated that Lucy was a chimp and
was assembled from bones found at sites miles apart. He said, "I wish I could have seen the
train that hit that chimp." Of course, it is well known that Lucy was recovered over about
50 square meters of ground.
I asked what the anteaters ate the day the ark landed. Hovind said that they were
vegetarians, preflood and immediately postflood, and that special diets were not necessary
then or now. "Pandas don't just eat bamboo today; they love meat. Ask any zoo keeper."
Perhaps that is why pandas are doing so well in the wild right now! Till replied that you
can't have generalist animals on the one hand, and then, on the other hand, argue that the
pronuba moth and yucca plant were obviously created for each other.
Till pointed out that it was a creationist anachronism that the ark would have been
sealed with pitch, because this is obviously a coal (postflood) by-product. Hovind stated the
word pitch could have meant any oil--corn oil, for instance. I will have to pass this new use
for corn oil on to the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Let's grease up those boat bot-
toms. Till stood by the translation of the Hebrew word; it had to be a petroleum product.
Hovind was taken aback by my question (derived from the Soroka and Nelson arti-
cle) on the amount of heat that would have been released by 40 days and 40 nights of rain.
He talked about craters as evidence for an "ice meteor" and said that this was all on faith.
As I see it, 40 days/nights of rain still releases beaucoup de joules. He simply failed to
address it, but Till, who had the article in hand, expanded the problem and made the refer-
ence available to the audience.
Was anyone swayed? Unlikely. The bulk of the audience was clearly unable to
understand how science differs from the supernatural. They became defensive and irritat-
ed whenever Till said, "... but it's just not science." They were for the most part quiet,
although a few choruses of "Amens" resounded when they felt Hovind had made a point.
The moderator/minister is to be complimented. He was polite to both parties and clearly
kept a lid on what could have been a volatile situation.
(Dr. Bartelt is an assistant professor of chemistry at Eureka College. Her address is
22740 Grosenbach, Washington, IL 61571.)
Video Tape of the Debate
The Hovind-Till debate on the Genesis flood story was video taped and is available
for viewing via the library-loan system announced for the Till-Dobbs debate in the Autumn
1993 issue of TSR. To receive a tape on two-week loan, send $1 to cover the cost of mail-
ing. We ask that borrowed tapes be returned within two weeks so that they will be available
for others to use.
Since the tape is not copyrighted, we can make your own copy for $6.
This debate has been shown on local-access TV in Central Illinois and could be so
used in localities where "creation science" is a public issue. The tape will provide viewers
with addresses where information to combat "creation science" can be obtained.