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Creationist Dishonesty and a Follow Up to Previous Entries

Archaeopteryx - Berlin SpecimenThe other day browsing through the channel guide, I wandered into the religious channels and saw a show on creationism. I recorded it and just watched it this past weekend.* It was part of the Creation Series by Kent Hovind. Now, if you follow the creationism/evolution 'debate' at all, you'll probably recognize that name. Hovind is rather infamous, not just for the poor quality of his arguments, but also for his questionable ethics, such as getting his bachelor's degree from a non-accredited university, his doctorate from a diploma mill, and then his tax evasion that landed him a 10 year prison sentence (he should be released in 2015). But despite his infamy, I have to admit to never having watched any of Hovind's videos before. So I figured, why not give it a shot and see how bad it could be.

It was horrible. Hovind fully deserves the bad reputation that he spent so many years building. I couldn't believe the amount of falsehoods he kept spewing, and the amount of applause it generated from the audience.

About two thirds of the way through the episode, something really caught my attention. It all seemed very, very familiar. And I realized, I'd seen all this before on another site in the article, Are Dinosaurs Alive Today As Birds?: Refuting Archaeopteryx as "Evidence" for Evolution. If you've been following this (my) blog, you'll recognize that link. I had a lengthy discussion with the writer, R. K. Sepetjian, in the comments section of his blog, which spawned several entries on this site (see below for links).

I haven't yet found a link to the video I watched, but Hovind has given variations of the same speech numerous times. Here's one version that addresses the section I'm going to discuss in this entry, Kent Hovind cse 103 class 2 (part 3 of 7). And here's another version where the audio doesn't seem to work, but which includes more of the slides, Archaeopteryx.

I went back and checked Sepetjian's page just to make sure that I hadn't missed a reference to Hovind. But no, there was no such reference to be found. R. K. Sepetjian presented that article as if he had come up with it. Granting him the benefit of the doubt, he may be one of those people who thinks it's not plagiarism if you're not copying and pasting directly. At least compared to the version of Hovind's presentation that I watched, Sepetjian re-wrote everything and changed the wording a bit here and there, but the similarities were obvious. Had I tried something like that in college and gotten caught, I would have faced some hefty disciplinary action (Academic Integrity and You, UMD).

Just how similar was it? Here are excerpts from each to illustrate. Please note that the transcript of Hovind's words was completed by me, so I apologize if I've made any mistakes, but I tried to be careful.

Kent Hovind R. K. Sepetjian
Well, kids, in case you don't know, there are a few differences between a dinosaur and a bird. Okay.

You don't just put a few feathers on 'em and say, 'Come on man, give it a try. It won't hurt too bad.'
It may have escaped your attention, but there are a few differences between a dinosaur and a bird.

You don't just put a few feathers on them on and say "Come on man, give it a try. It won't hurt too badly."
So, if his front legs are gonna change to wings, ah, somewhere along the line they're gonna be half leg and half wing, which means on that particular day, he can't run anymore, and he still can't fly yet, so he's got a real problem. A serious problem. If dinosaurs turned into birds, somewhere along the line, when his front legs were developing into wings they're going to be half-leg / half-wing-which means he can't run and he can't yet fly.
Archaeopteryx means 'ancient wing', and he had claws on his wings.

Well, that's kind of unusual, okay, but twelve birds today have claws on their wings. The swan, the ibis, the hoatzin. Well, several birds have claws.
Archaeopteryx means "ancient wing"

They say, "See boys and girls? He has claws on his wings!"

Yeah, so?

12 birds today have claws on their wings including the ostrich, swan, hoatzin, emu, and ibis.
They say, 'Well, he had teeth in his beak.' Well, not many birds have teeth. Some do. There's a hummingbird has teeth in his beak. But most birds don't have teeth, I agree.

Actually, some mammals have teeth. Some don't.

Some birds have teeth. Some don't.

Some fish have teeth. Some don't.

Some of you have teeth. Some don't. Okay.
They say, "Look children, he's got teeth in his beak. That proves he has reptilian features."

Now wait a minute.

Some reptiles have teeth. Some don't.

Some mammals have teeth. Some don't.

Some fish have teeth. Some don't.

Some of you have teeth. Some don't.
So, it's true feathers and scales are both made of keratin. Same building block. That's true. But that's where the similarity stops. Okay. They say bird feathers evolved from scales.

A. They come from different genes on the chromosome.

B. They develop totally differently

C. A scale is a hard wrinkle in the skin--a feather is not a wrinkle of skin.

D. They attach to the skin very differently

E. Feathers are incredibly complex and unbelievably complicated.

They are both made from the same protein, Keratin and there is where the similarity stops.

But that's not where the similarities stop between Sepetjian's entry and Hovind's presentation. The above table only compares what Sepetjian wrote to Hovind's spoken words, not other aspects of the presentation. For example, here was Sepetjian's opening to his entry:

"Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth bound feathered dinosaur. But it's not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of 'paleobabble' is going to change that." Alan Feduccia - a world authority on birds from UNC Chapel Hill, quoted in "Archaeopteryx: Early Bird Catches a Can of Worms," Science Feb. 5, 1994, p. 764-5.

Here was one of Hovind's slides from his presentation:

Hovind Feduccia quote

If you're using a text only browser, I'll save you the mystery. The excerpt from Sepetjian is a direct quote of the Hovind slide.

Here was another quote Sepetjian had in his article:

"Strahl adds that some ornithologists call the hoatzin 'primitive' because of its archaeopteryx-like claws; but he prefers to think of it as 'high;y specialized.' Swans, ibis and many other birds, he notes have wing claws; they just never make use of them." ("What's a Hoatzin?" Scientific American, vol. 261 December 1989, p. 30)

I'm sure you know what's coming next:

Hovind Strahl quote

Sepetjian didn't limit his copying to just text, either. Here are a few pictures from Hovind's presentation and Sepetjian's article.

Kent Hovind R. K. Sepetjian
Hovind's Flying Sauropod Slide Sepetjian's Flying Sauropod Image
Hovind's Archaeopteryx Teeth Slide Sepetjian's Archaeopteryx Teeth Image
Hovind's Toothless Old Lady Slide Sepetjian's Toothless Old Man Image

Granted, that last image is only stealing the concept, not the exact image, but that's still a form of stealing, especially when you don't credit the original source for the inspiration. And those first two, if you look at them closely on Sepetjian's site, look like they were actually photographs taken off of a screen or monitor.

---

I'm no longer shocked by dishonesty on the part of Christians, particularly creationists, but it's disappointing to learn that I devoted so much time to a sincere discussion with someone so dishonest. This did add some understanding to that discussion with R. K. Sepetjian. I had assumed that he had come up with all the arguments he presented on his page, but it seems that he was merely parroting what he'd heard someone else say. That may explain why he was so reluctant to actually discuss the evidence or the interpretation of it.

Stay tuned. In an upcoming entry in the next week or so, I plan to address the actual claims from Hovind.

Update: The new entry is now online:
Response to Kent Hovind Video - Bird Evolution


*Actually, there were a few shows I recorded and watched, none of which was particularly convincing. But if I spent my time responding to every single piece of information I disagreed with, I'd never have time to do anything else. I only responded to this particular video because of my prior experience with R. K. Sepetjian.

If you're interested, here are my previous entries dealing with Sepetjian.

Updated 2014-01-29: Corrected a few minor typos and made a few minor revisions.

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