The Hovind-Till Debate The Hovind-Till Debate Dr. Karen Bartelt On September 11, 1993, Ken
The Hovind-Till Debate
The Hovind-Till Debate
Dr. Karen Bartelt
On September 11, 1993, Kent Hovind, a "creation-scientist"
evangelist from Pensacola, 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
Hovind's rebuttal was to put God in the same bracket as electrons
and gravity--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,
because, 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 antediluvian 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 bottoms. 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 article) 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
reference 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 irritated 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.
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 mailing. 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
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank