Continuing my content exchange with a Mormon friend, I now give a review to the video found here (100 Reasons Why Evolution Is STUPID! – Kent Hovind)
High level summary of my response
This video was tedious and painful to watch. It basically illustrated everything that is wrong with America and religion. I laughed at all the parts I wasn’t supposed to laugh, and facepalmed at all the parts at which the audience laughed.
The downhill journey of this one really starts right from the beginning, when Hovind says “I believe the Bible is the infallible, inspired, inerrant word of the living God. I believe it from cover to cover.”
Well, there’s your first major problem right there buddy!
I was wondering if Kent Hovind is really an idiot or just plain dishonest. So I decided to do some additional background reading on him.
Hilariously, it turns out Hovind spend several years in prison for tax fraud — really confirming his claim in the video to not want his tax dollars to be dedicated to evolutionary science! It also shows grounds for believing he leans to the dishonest side.
The guy’s a nutter. But because sincere people will hear his arguments and be convinced by them, I will shift focus to the arguments themselves after a few comments — because almost regardless of who is making them, arguments can be considered on their own merit (or lack thereof).
Element of Dishonest Debate: Straw-manning
The first thing to point out is that Hovind is a master straw-manner.
“Straw-manning” is a particular form of logical fallacy.
There’s a really nice poster here that goes over multiple forms of logical fallacy.
This is how it explains a strawman:
In this video Hovind frequently misrepresents the actual science, setting it up into a strawman that he can easily attack. This is evident and obvious to anyone who is relatively familiar with the sciences that he’s talking about (which it turns out I am). This misrepresentation takes many forms, from oversimplification, to inaccurate caricatures of the science, to unnecessary or inappropriate magnification of what we don’t know. He really uses a whole box of poor argument and strawman tricks.
Responses to the arguments themselves
Thankfully, at least one person has taken the time to write out a more thorough response to the actual arguments in the original post.
First, I will link to this comprehensive response, then I will select a few of his specific arguments to respond to myself (the ones I find interesting, or the ones where it’s genuinely easy to misunderstand the science and need more explanation).
This is the most comprehensive response I found for this video: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread887742/pg1 — of course, the fact remains that each and every individual argument he makes can and has been responded to in various places as the debates have raged on, but it’s a different thing to compile a response to one specific presentation that puts them all together.
OK, so let’s begin.
The Big Bang evidence
“There is no evidence whatsoever for that (The Big Bang / Cosmic Evolution) 3:20
Even as a non-professional scientist (who has studied some astronomy and cosmology) I can think of two very obvious, basic types of evidence for the big bang. I’m not going to sit and explain what these are in great detail because there’s a lot to explain, but I’ll give a brief summary and link to further reading.
Redshifted distant galaxies
When we look far out into the sky we see many galaxies. The further away the galaxies are, the more red the colours of the galaxies appear. Why?
The Doppler effect. Specifically redshift. The galaxies are moving away from us. And the further they are away from us, the faster they are moving away from us. You can extrapolate backwards to see that there was a time when everything was extremely close together, and then it started heading outwards.
Specifically, (and I’ll talk about that in a minute), space-time expanded rapidly, and continues to expand.
Cosmic microwave background
Due to the limit of the speed of light, when we look further out in the universe we are looking backwards in time.
When we look back even further, we see something interesting in the universe. In every direction we look, if we look far enough, we see a very dim light in the microwave spectrum. This is called the cosmic microwave background. It’s almost completely isotropic (the same intensity and wavelength) from all directions, and it’s not associated with any other object.
In 1978 astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson won the Nobel price for discovering it. It was a massive and exciting step forward for modern cosmology. Of course, we already knew about the Big Bang before then, this was just additional evidence.
Where did heavier elements come from?
Supernovae. This is an extremely well understood and interesting area of astronomy.
Take a big ball of hydrogen and gravity. As you make the ball bigger, eventually the pressure on the atoms in the centre (from gravity) is high enough to force nuclear fusion to begin.
When Hydrogen fuses, it becomes Helium and releases energy. (This is where the energy of stars comes from.) When Helium fuses with Hydrogen and other Helium it produces heavier elements. Each reaction releases energy, until it hits iron. Iron is different because it doesn’t release energy, but indeed takes energy to fuse. This causes different reactions in the centre of stars. Eventually the explosive force isn’t high enough to maintain the integrity of stars and a chain reaction occurs. This leads to a supernova explosion. The enriched heavier elements in the centre of the star are scattered into surrounding space. This coalesce to form the next generation of stars and planets.
Hence, our bodies are made of “star stuff”. The elements within your body were once in a star. It’s incredible and beatiful. Indeed Neil Tyson did a video about it:
Where do new stars come from?
A good article to describe the process. Of course we’ve seen stars “forming”, but it takes a long time compared to the lifetime of a human! !
Imagine if I only had one day to observe the entire humankind. I say “I’ve never seen a human growing up, growing old and dying!” but you can see humans in all of their phases in one day. So we see stars forming, but it takes a long time.
Really, the timescales of these things are huge. Beyond human comprehension (hence we use mathematics).
Angular momentum challenge
This one was silly. The universe is far larger than the merry-go round. The analogy doesn’t carry. It’s simply much more complicated than that on the scales we’re talking about.
And even non-scientific people know that if you spin a merry-go round eventually the spin decays.
OK enough about the astronomy.
The Evolutionary stuff
Gosh, this is genuinely tedious.
It would take me a very, very long essay to respond to each of these points. I’m honestly not bothered to. The more comprehensive response goes through some of it. But I’ll pick up one interesting point.
Macro evolution IS Micro evolution, just zoom out!
The funny thing here is admitting micro-evolution. It’s hilarious because micro-evolution IS macro-evolution, on small time scales. There is literally no difference between the two.
Think about it, if a species splits into two groups, and both groups inter-breed and have “micro-evolutions” taking place, eventually the two species diverge and become different. Eventually they can’t cross breed. Welcome to evolutionary biology 101. That’s how you get the idea of a “common ancestor”.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”
It just seems to not get into this guys head, evolution is on very long term scales. We’re talking millions of years here. It really does take so long.
All of his other stuff has been debunked in various places. Moving on…
Who can you trust?
The real question to ask here is who can you trust to be a reliable source of information?
Can you trust your local church? Can you trust your local university?
Really, ultimately this comes down to a question of which methodology can you trust?
Science works using empirical evidence and reason. Religion works in faith.
Science tells us “we can test, we can challenge, and the truth will emerge”. — that’s where all the scientific theories come from, evidence and reason.
Religion tells us “just belief what this book says”. “Take this book to the ultimate source of truth”. “accept the authority of the prophets”, etc.
I echo the words of Carl Sagan: