Mr. Hovind's $10,000 "challenge"

Creationist Kent Hovind has issued what should be no problem for scientists:  a challenge to prove what we consider a fact through empirical evidence.  But, no one has stepped up to take the money.  What's wrong?  Are scientists unable to provide support for the theory?  Do they acknowledge that they accept evolution as a matter of religious faith (accepting the truth of things in the absence of physical evidence)?

So, what's the problem?  Has Mr. Hovind dealt the "death blow" to evolution?  Not hardly.

The so-called challenge is nothing more than a set of unanswerable, non-empirical statements that are completely unreasonable, and merely creationist hype.  And after reading this page, I'm sure you will agree with me.

Here is his challenge.  My comments are in blue bold.
 


I have a standing offer of $10,000 to anyone who can give any empirical evidence (scientific proof) for evolution.
My $10,000 offer demonstrates that the hypothesis of evolution is nothing more than a religious belief.

No, his challenge demonstrates his lack of understanding about science.  It shows he does not know what constitutes evidence, nor what a theory is.
 
        Observed phenomena:

        Most thinking people will agree that--
        1. A highly ordered universe exists.
        2. At least one planet in this complex universe contains an amazing variety of life forms.
        3. Man appears to be the most advanced form of life on this planet.

In #1, the word "ordered" is a topic of debate.  Complex is a word I would agree with, but not ordered, which implies something else to me.

        Known options:

        Choices of how the observed phenomena came into being--
        1. The universe was created by God.
        2. The universe always existed.
        3. The universe came into being by itself by purely natural processes (known as evolution) so
        that no appeal to the supernatural is needed.

Both 2 and 3 represent naturalistic explanations.  Also, the theory of evolution does not exclude the possibility of any of the above 3 points!  That is a serious mis-representation of evolution.

        Evolution has been acclaimed as being the only process capable of causing the observed
        phenomena.

No, evolution represents the only plausible scientific explanation, and therefore the only explanation that can be offered in public school science classrooms.

        Evolution is presented in our public school textbooks as a process that:

        1. Brought time, space, and matter into existence from nothing.
        2. Organized that matter into the galaxies, stars, and at least nine planets around the sun. (This
        process is often referred to as cosmic evolution.)
        3. Created the life that exists on at least one of those planets from nonliving matter (chemical
        evolution).
        4. Caused the living creatures to be capable of and interested in reproducing themselves.
        5. Caused that first life form to spontaneously diversify into different forms of living things, such
        as the plants and animals on the earth today (biological evolution).
 

These 5 points represent his collosal misunderstanding of the theory of evolution.  The first three points have nothing to do with any theory of evolution as first proposed by Charles Darwin.  Evolution has to do with natural selection, environments and genetics, and therefore only #4 and #5 deal with evolution.
#1 is a cosmology statement, and a very misleading one. Click here
#2 is an astrophysics question.
#3 is a question answered by abiogenesis, the scientific disipline that concerns itself with the origin of life from non-living matter, and has nothing to do with natural selection.

        People believe in evolution; they do not know that it is true.

That is merely Mr. Hovind's opinion.  I, for one, have no faith in evolution.  It either stands or falls by the strength of the evidence.  And right now, it is standing firm, regardless of the baseless attacks of creationists.

        While beliefs are certainly fine to
        have, it is not fair to force on the students in our public school system the teaching of one belief,
        at taxpayers’ expense. It is my contention that evolutionism is a religious worldview that is not
        supported by science, Scripture, popular opinion, or common sense. The exclusive teaching of
        this dangerous, mind-altering philosophy in tax-supported schools, parks, museums, etc., is also
        a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Here is the clincher... since creationists have failed at every attempt to get evolution outlawed, and they have failed to force their own Christian Fundamentalist Non-scientific Biblical Genesis story into public school science classrooms, they are now attempting to show that the theory of biological evolution by natural selection is a religious belief.

Even though it requires no deity.
Even though a person can hold any religious belief and accept evolution, including Christianity.
Even though faith is not the basis of accepting the truth of evolution.

He would have you believe that evolution is another "conspiracy theory", one in which nearly all the scientists on earth, even though they hold diverse religious beliefs and represent dozens of different countries, are all participating in the deception and trying to bring about the downfall of Christianity.

Why go through all this?  Because they feel that widespread acceptance of evolution is a threat to their religious ideology, which is based on a literal intrepretation of the bible.  Their fear goes something like this:  if evolution is true, then there was no Adam and Eve, and if there was no Adam and Eve, the whole scenario in the Garden of Eden with the serpent never happened.   If that never happened, then there was no Original Sin.  If there was no Original Sin, there is no need for Salvation.  If no one needs to be saved, then there is no need for Christianity.

The way to resolve this is to accept that the bible's account of creation is metaphorical.  Many, perhaps most, Christians, realize that the bible is a work of metaphors.  Mr. Hovind obviously represents those Christians who do not.
 
        How to collect the $10,000:

        Prove beyond reasonable doubt that the process of evolution (option 3 below) is the only
        possible way the observed phenomena could have come into existence.

No respectable scientist on earth would ever say such a thing.  It would be unscientific to claim that any one option is the only possible explanation.  What they would say is that evolution by natural selection represents the best current explanation that is supported by the evidence.  This is not a flaw with the theory, it is the Scientific Method.  The above statement demonstrates a lack of understanding of scientific thinking, in my opinion.

        Only empirical evidence
        is acceptable. Persons wishing to collect the $10,000 may submit their evidence in writing or
        schedule time for a public presentation. A committee of trained scientists will provide peer review
        of the evidence offered and, to the best of their ability, will be fair and honest in their evaluation
        and judgment as to the validity of the evidence presented.

The committee of "trained scientists" would be comprised, no doubt, of creationists, who usually have little or no scientific training- so much for a fair and honest evaluation.  This challenge would be like me insisting that Mr. Hovind provide empirical evidence that God created the earth exactly as described in Genesis.  Empirical evidence is solid evidence that you can hold in your hand, and something that is unambiguous- and could not be interpreted in any other way.

Here is evidence for evolution that is empirical... yet I'm sure he or his committee would find a way to discount it.

        If you are convinced that evolution is an indisputable fact, may I suggest that you offer $10,000
        for any empirical or historical evidence against the general theory of evolution. This might include
        the following:

        1. The earth is not billions of years old (thus destroying the possibility of evolution having
        happened as it is being taught).
        2. No animal has ever been observed changing into any fundamentally different kind of animal.
        3. No one has ever observed life spontaneously arising from nonliving matter.
        4. Matter cannot make itself out of nothing.

Notice the insertion of the word "historical".  The problem is that creation "science" is nothing more than throwing up objections to evolution- not an attempt to advance the creationist version of origins.    He might as well add "Disprove the existence of Santa Claus" to the list.  The amount could be a million dollars, and it would make no difference.

Instead of his version of our challenge, it might be better like this:

Please provide empirical evidence in support of your biblical creationist hypothesis of the origin of the earth and life.  (You cannot quote the bible, sorry).

I don't have $10,000 right now, but I will offer you something should you be able to provide a single shred of empirical evidence in support of your claims:  respect.
 
        My suggestion:

        Proponents of the theory of evolution would do well to admit that they believe in evolution, but
        they do not know that it happened the way they teach. They should call evolution their "faith" or
        "religion," and stop including it in books of science.

I do not believe in evolution.  I accept the findings of science.  I know that a global conspiracy involving biologists, genenticists, paleontologists, marine biologists, geologists, paleobotanists, astronomers, cosmologists, etc., is unlikely in the extreme.

        Give up faith in the silly religion of evolutionism,

It is neither a religion nor silly.

        and trust the God of the Bible (who is the Creator of this universe and will be your
        Judge one day soon) to forgive you and to save you from the coming judgment on man’s sin.

My suggestion:

Stop your catagorical rejection of mainstream science based on your outdated insistance on an absolutely literal intrepretation of the bible.  It makes you look like those theocrats who persecuted Galileo for teaching that the earth rotates around the sun... history laughs those who resist that which we know to be true.  Get with the program... join the majority of Christians who find that there is no conflict between their faith and science/evolution.  Stop trying to drag this country back into the Dark Ages, when the religious worldview was a theocracy.

Here is a statement from a Evangelical Christian who is an evolutionary scientist.
Here is a list of religious organizations who accept evolution.



 

          Response from Ed Brayton, taken from talk.origins feedback section:
=======================================================

          Hovind's web site and credibility

            Speaking only for myself, I have seen Hovind's web page. I have also attended his seminar,
            read most of the material and viewed many hours of videotape put out by his organization.
            I have also had the unfortunate experience of trying to arrange a debate with Mr. Hovind,
            one that he initially challenged me to participate in, and then found several reasons to back
            out himself. Let's deal with one claim at a time.

            First, to the issue of Mr. Hovind's $10,000 challenge for anyone who can "give any
            empirical evidence (scientific proof) for evolution". There are many such challenges
            that circulate among creationists; all are cleverly worded so as to avoid any possibility of
            having the challenge met. Of all of the monetary challenges of this sort I have seen,
            Hovind's is the most blatantly unmeetable. To begin with, he defines "empirical" as "relying
            or based solely on experiment and observation rather than theory". And rather than
            defining evolution as biologists define it, he adds several superfluous and even irrelevant
            statements to the definition. He ends up with the following definition of evolution:

            1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves. 2. Matter created life
            by itself. 3. Early life forms learned to reproduce themselves. 4. Major changes
            occurred between these diverse life forms

            It is clearly impossible to offer empirical evidence - that is an expirement or observation -
            that shows that "time, space and matter came into existence by themselves" or that "matter
            created itself out of nothing". The event is over and cannot be observed, nor can the
            creation of matter be reproduced in a laboratory expirement. Historical science rests on
            inference, not direct observation. To make things worse, Hovind sets up an incredibly
            absurd standard by which to judge such evidence even if it could be offered. He says that
            in order to collect the $10,000, one must "prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that
            the process of evolution (option 3 below) is the only possible way the observed
            phenomena could have come into existence." He reinforces this in his challenge when he
            states, "As in any fair court of law, the accuser must also rule out any other possible
            explanations." So not only must one show evidence for this invalid definition of evolution,
            one must prove that this is the ONLY POSSIBLE way it could have happened. I would
            suggest that there is no statement that could be made about any historical event whatsoever
            that could even hypothetically meet such an inflated and nonsensical standard of proof.
            Gravity cannot be shown to be the "only possible" way that the planets stay in their orbits -
            it is of course possible that they are held in their orbits by angels, devils or invisible orange
            leprauchans. There is ALWAYS a hypothetical alternative that can be offered to any
            proposition. Lastly, he provides no details on who the "committee of trained scientists" are
            that would judge this pointless effort should someone be foolish enough to take him up on
            it. In short, Hovind's money is quite safe - he designed the challenge to insure that this
            would be the case. I would gladly make a one million dollar challenge to Mr. Hovind if he
            could prove ANY historical claim within the boundaries of such criteria.

            Now, as to your claim that Hovind has a "doctrine degree in archeology". I assume you
            mean a doctorate degree. In point of fact, Mr. Hovind holds a D. Min. in education from
            Patriot University. Patriot University is a school in Colorado with no faculty and no real
            academic standards. It is accredited only by the American Accrediting Association of
            Theological Institutions, an accreditation mill that will accredit any school for $100. The
            Christian Distance Learning Directory (http://training.loyola.edu/cdld/nifi12.html) lists
            Patriot as a diploma mill. Frankly, Hovind's degree is a fraud. It isn't worth the paper it's
            printed on. It should also be noted that if Mr. Hovind held the degree that you believe he
            holds, it would not make his claims regarding the age of the earth or evolution any more
            credible. Even Nobel prize winners must still support their claims. The fact would still
            remain that Hovind's claims, especially in the area of archaeology, are absurd and
            unsupportable.

            You thirdly claim that Mr. Hovind has had 27 debates against "highly respected scientists"
            and has lost none. I am curious to know on what basis you could make such a claim, since
            it is unlikely that you have seen more than one or two of these debates yourself. Mr.
            Hovind claims not to have lost any of them, of course, but then Mr. Hovind also claims that
            the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by either Adam and Enoch or Noah and Shem and
            that AIDS was invented in a laboratory in Maryland. The fact that Hovind claims something
            to be true does not exactly fill one with confidence in the claim. I myself had the experience
            of trying to arrange a debate with Hovind last year. I had initially contacted him via e-mail,
            asking some questions about several of his proofs that the earth is only a few thousand
            years old and his defense of flood geology. He replied that he did not participate in written
            exchanges, but would be glad to debate me in public on the subject. After a few weeks, I
            accepted his offer and proposed a time, place and format for the debate. He agreed to all
            three, but wanted me to defend the statement "There is convincing scientific evidence that
            matter can create itself from nothing, life can come from non-living material." Since that
            statement does not reflect my position on the matter, I refused to defend it. I then offered
            to have the debate formatted in such a way that both of us would have positive statements
            to defend, thereby providing an equal burden of proof, and I insisted on sticking to the
            narrow subjects of the age of the earth and flood geology, the subjects on which I had
            originally questioned him and he had originally challenged me to debate. We then held
            several phone conversations, during which he came up with a list of various reasons not to
            hold the debate. The first was that he should not debate against me because I do not hold
            an advanced degree in a scientific field; I reminded him that neither did he. I finally got fed
            up and sent him one last message outlining a place, format and two proposed times (both
            when he would be in my home state). I even offered to pay his expenses. He responded
            that our debate didn't fit into his schedule, but he would be willing to send someone else
            from his office in his place. Frankly, I don't know why he did so. He had initially agreed to
            either the last week of June or the last week of September, as he would be in my home
            state both those times. Suddenly, it didn't fit into his schedule. For the record, I would still
            be very interested in holding a debate with Mr. Hovind on the subjects that he initially
            challenged me to debate, the age of the earth and flood geology. Mr. Hovind is a good
            speaker and is very polished in his presentation, but his positions, especially regarding the
            two areas on which I initially questioned him, simply cannot be defended.
 

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