Anyone who has ever tried to engage a creationist in meaningful debate knows just how difficult that can be. It's as though the normal meaning of words like 'evidence', 'reason', 'logic', 'fact', 'science' and 'integrity' have been temporarily suspended and replaced with something resembling exactly the opposite.
If you've never done it, imagine playing a game of tennis with someone who demands the net be lowered to the ground whenever the ball is in their court, but wants it raised to an impossible hight when in yours, and of course, the boundary lines can change at will, and points will be declared won without regard to the normal rules of the game, and normally just after you've served an ace or they've double-faulted yet again.
So, it was with some anticipation that I came across this little spat between two well-known creationist frauds over which 'arguments' should still be used and which were too embarrassing even for them. It dates from 2002.
It came about after Ken Ham's creationist marketing organisation, Answersingenesis, had begun to lose credibility with so many obvious frauds and blatantly bad science being laughed at in media such as the old Compuserve Religion and History Forums so they tried to look more respectable by issuing a fatwa instructing their followers not to use the more embarrassing ones. (It's surprising how many ctreationists ignored the fatwa and still use them, but that's another issue).
However, another fraud who, at the time of writing, is part-way through a ten year prison term for tax evasion, had relied heavily on many of these and had written books about them. He even used them in his lectures. He was, of course, 'Dr' Kent Hovind, who objected to his frauds being exposed as such by his main source of material and sent off a long desperate whinge to AiG.
Clearly this had become a battle for market share.
They replied. This is a sample of the exchange; the full set can be read here.
Ouch! You can almost see the scratch marks![KENT H]: To my knowledge, no one on earth has been assigned by God to police all of His children. Each of us must stand before God to give an account.[AiG]: This is certainly true for moral issues. It becomes a more dubious argument if it is meant to imply that ‘anything goes’ in creation apologetics. The nature of the comments suggests that AiG’s ‘Don’t Use’ article has ‘stung’ somewhat...
For 'far from accurate', read 'lie'.[KENT H]: Since some of the items AiG had on their list are used in my seminar [and the seminars done by others] and many have asked me why I still use them, or what my reaction was, I thought a response was needed. My [Kent Hovind] comments are embedded in AiG's list below.[AiG]: It’s also important to note that ‘AiG’ in Hovind’s response does NOT necessarily mean what AiG actually says, but Hovind’s attempt to summarize what we say. Sadly, this is sometimes far from accurate, as a cursory glance at our ‘Don’t Use’ page would show.
Note the failure by AiG to point out the basic dishonesty of using an argument as though it has been proved because 'it has certainly not been proved wrong'. Nice to see they realised that making false claims and claims intended to deceive is tantamount to bearing false witness, though. It's a shame they seem to have forgotten that in the intervening years, in the battle for ever less discerning markets and garbage sales.[KENT H]: I do not use the moon dust argument in my seminar except during Q&A but I think the argument is still valid. It has certainly not been proven wrong.[AiG]: We invite anyone to check the TJ article in question. Note that the data do not prove an old moon either by any means. But they firmly indicate by straightforward logic that the argument ‘should not be used’ in the way it has, which is quite different from saying it has ‘not been proven wrong’. To use it in a way which talks of current influx rate ‘x’ (i.e. without any numbers, implying that x is large enough that there should be a huge thickness after 4.5 billion years) is a form of bearing false witness. It verges on the painful to have to point out such simple, straightforward matters.
[KENT H]: The Castenedolo and Calaveras human remains in old strata invalidate the geologic column[AiG]: This is a classic example of a ‘Clayton’s refutation’—i.e. the refutation you make when you’re not making a refutation, but still giving the impression that you have the higher ground. Let us ignore for the moment the issue of the geological column and the accuracy or otherwise of the various other ‘human remains and artifacts’ claims. (Many creationist researchers of substance say that the general notion of a column sequence is demanded by field data, without implying millions of years, and is explainable via the Flood, but we are deliberately leaving that aside here.)
AiG: These remains are not natural burials.
KENT H: Moot point. The geologic column has been invalidated many ways. The entire geologic column is a house of cards. Human remains and artifacts have been found in most layers of the earth. I cover much on this topic in Lies in the Textbooks and the Question and Answer Session.
AiG’s point was/is that these two particular examples are dubious. Kent Hovind has not even engaged with this clear position, except by way of a dismissive comment and then immediately switching topics, in effect. Note that in reference to the other items in the AiG list, he has gone to great pains to say that he does or does not use the various arguments, but here there is silence. We are not actually concerned with whether his seminars have or have not used these particular arguments; the point is that he, along with other creation apologists, should now be aware that these are dubious examples to use. Our aim was a public service, not a tearing down.
Hovind's argument was that, so he claims, 'entire geologic column is a house of cards. Human remains and artifacts have been found in most layers of the earth' so it doesn't matter if we tell lies to discredit it. AiG apparently see nothing wrong with this defence and are merely concerned about the lie being spotted and so discrediting creationism.
At last! Hovind is picked up for using an argument because 'it has certainly not been proven that it was not [a plesiosaur]'.[KENT H]: The Japanese trawler Zuiyo Maru caught a dead plesiosaur near New Zealand[AiG]: Once again, even granting that he were right, why should anyone think it’s effective to use an argument merely because it hadn’t been disproven?
AiG: Although it is impossible to make a 100% watertight evaluation of any creature based solely on a few photographs, an interpretative sketch and eye witness reports of the decomposing remains, the evidence collected so far overwhelming favours the basking shark identity for the Zuiyo-maru carcass.
KENT H: I disagree. The similarity of protein structure between the carcass and shark protein was about 96%.
No one has ever seen plesiosaur protein to know what it is supposed to look like and human and chimp DNA is 98.6% similar yet they are very different in hundreds of ways. I do not know for sure if the carcass was a plesiosaur but it has certainly not been proven that it was not.
Again, there is Hovind arguing that it's okay to use a claim because 'it has not been proven that it was not' and AiG's argument is merely that this is illogical. No concern for the morality of lying by claiming something as a fact when it has not been established as such. The only problem is that someone might see through the 'logic' of the argument.[KENT H]: Earth’s axis was vertical before the Flood[AiG]: Our comment ‘there is no basis for this claim’ means exactly that: that there is no reason to believe that it was vertical. It does not mean that it can be proven that it was not. In a similar vein, it is logically possible that the core of Pluto is made of green cheese, but there is no reason to believe that it is. Thus we stand by our statement that it is not an argument that one would recommend at this point in time — unless such a reason were forthcoming.
AiG: There is no basis for this claim.
KENT H: I don’t think it is possible to know the truth of this one but it has not been proven that it was not. I address the possibility in The Hovind Theory.
And lastly, though there are many more exchanges:
[KENT H]: Paluxy tracks prove that humans and dinosaurs co-existed[AiG]: The repeated use of this approach (defending against something that was not stated, is beside the point, and equivocates on definitions) is hopefully not deliberate. Our point was simply that this particular line of evidence should not be used in its present condition of weakness.
AiG: Some of the allegedly human tracks may be artifacts of erosion of dinosaur tracks obscuring the claw marks.
KENT H: I disagree. 1. We do not need to find tracks together since, A. There is ample evidence from many sources that man and dinosaurs coexisted.
[KENT H]: B. The Bible says all things were made in six days.[AiG]: We agree, of course, but how does this add anything to the argument?
[KENT H]: C. No one has ever found human and chicken footprints in the same rock.[AiG]: Ditto here again. It is as if we were evolutionists, and we were saying that, because the Paluxy tracks evidence is shaky (which is true), one should abandon Genesis creation (which is not our position at all, as anyone with even a passing understanding of our materials would realize). This wording of his may inflame some less-than-careful readers of this piece, which is a great pity, as it is inappropriate.
[KENT H]: With that said, I have been to the Paluxy four times and have seen the evidence first hand.[AiG]: So have several of AiG’s researchers. The evidence of genuine tracks is not in dispute. Where we urge great caution is in using this evidence as proof that they are of human origin.
[KENT H]: There is ample evidence that the tracks [except for a few known and obvious frauds] are genuine. Many intelligent and godly people have devoted hundreds of hours to this study and disagree with AiG here.[AiG]: Sadly, the implication here is that AiG’s position somehow impugns the intelligence or, worse still, the godliness, of the people who have come to this conclusion. It is not a question of godly vs. ungodly.
[KENT H]: It appears that AiG may have been taken in by the computer programmer Glen Kuban who poses as a creationist. He has been thoroughly discredited on www.omniology.com. I cover this topic in The Garden of Eden and Dinosaurs and the Bible.[AiG]: Again, false. AiG researchers, along with almost every other creationist researcher who is taken seriously in creationist science circles, have concluded in favour of extreme caution re Paluxy tracks because of reasons which have nothing to do with Glen Kuban, and none of us have ever thought that Kuban is a creationist. His Web site makes it clear that he is not, as does his alliance with the atheistic organization pretentiously calling itself ‘The National Center for Science Education’.
Those researchers who were previously enthusiastic about the Paluxy tracks and have now withdrawn their unqualified support include such creationist notables as John Morris (who even wrote a book about them, but had the courage to publicly withdraw) and Paul Taylor (head of Films for Christ, which made the famous film Footprints in Stone). It cannot be said of either of these people that they did not personally study the trails in great depth, nor that they had a motive for not wanting them to be human tracks—quite the opposite. Taylor had the courage to withdraw his popular film because he had seen enough evidence, even in the famous ‘Taylor trail’, to have to say that one should not use them anymore. I.e. he went from open enthusiasm to extreme caution, which is our view. It seems some quarters in creationism are stuck in somewhat of a time warp in this matter. We take no pleasure in the conflicts that arise from our sticking to a rigorous standard in evaluating these tracks, as was the case for a Creation Research Society team which some time back evaluated the whole matter of what they called ‘quasi-human ichnofossils’. For Hovind to blame some masquerading computer programmer is, frankly, a bizarre caricature. Once again, if new evidence should turn up, the whole matter of the Paluxy tracks may take on new significance. We repeat that TJ, the Creation Research Society Quarterly, and the ICC are all available as platforms to get such new evidence (should it arise) proper peer acceptance.
Love that Hovind lie that Glen Kuban poses as a creationist. Even AiG seemed bemused by it. See 'How Creationists Lie To Us - The Paluxy Hoax'
Also love that pretentious AiG 'wannabe a real scientist!' claim to have a peer-review process which is, of course, merely editorial control to make sure that none of the contributors has, even inadvertently, broken their oath to never reach a conclusion which isn't in full accord with the Christian Genesis myth.
The rest of the exchange can be read here.
You know, by judicious use of the refutations which AiG use against Hovind, it should be possible to put creationists into an infinite loop of cognitive dissonance...
Don't laugh. It's not nice...