Kent Hovind's doctoral dissertations
|The divine comedy
Kent Hovind promotes himself as Dr. Kent Hovind or Dr. Dino. Prior to his 58 felony convictions and ten-year prison sentence, Hovind received a Ph.D. from Patriot Bible University, an unaccredited Christian college. Because of Hovind's use of the title of "Doctor" based on a degree from an unaccredited institution, legitimate scientists have closely examined his bona fides, including the work he submitted to fulfill the requirements for a doctorate.
This has proved difficult, because unlike common academic practice, Patriot does not make its students' dissertations available to the academic community.
On December 9, 2009, WikiLeaks released Hovind's dissertation in Christian Education. Usually, legitimate scholars are thrilled to find that people want to read their dissertations, but legitimate scholars don't get their degrees from diploma mills like Patriot Bible University. Bloggers and forum participants have widely linked to Hovind's dissertation, since it contains a heady mixture of scientific inaccuracy, incoherent writing, frequent spelling errors, shoddy scholarship, and other things which make the skeptical community giggle with glee.
In 2013, Hovind claimed to have four doctorates, in (Christian) Education, Theology, Biblical Ministry, and Divinity (Honorary).:4 This article focuses on the first and makes brief mention of the third. Evidence of the supposed degree in Theology has not as yet been found, nor are any details available on the "honorary" doctorate in Divinity. There are actually accredited seminaries and theological colleges that offer master's and doctoral degrees in Christian Education.
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D, derived from the Latin philosophiæ doctor, lit. "teacher of philosophy") is the highest degree attainable in science and the arts. Completing a PhD takes an average of 8.2 years in full-time postgraduate research, which culminates in the production of an original contribution to scholarship. Dissertations are the final product of this research and are supervised by a committee of academics in the relevant field, usually consisting of between three to five scholars. Upon completion of a final draft, a defense is held where the public is invited and the candidate defends his or her work in front of the committee, who ask questions and make comments. If approved, the committee signs off on the work at the defense and it is required to be stored in that university's library. Like any other publication in a library, dissertations are available to anyone who wants to read them.
This is not the case for Hovind's dissertation. Firstly, Hovind's dissertation was not publicly available. Hovind claims to have lost his copy of the dissertation, while Patriot Bible University does not make dissertations available. A copy of Hovind's 1991 dissertation was obtained by Skip Evans, who "receive[d] the original document, complete with a taped-in clipping from a magazine." A copy is currently in the possession of the National Center for Science Education and was reviewed by Karen Bartelt. Bartelt's review was the only online analysis of the dissertation before Wikileaks made the copy available. She found Hovind's dissertation makes no useful contribution to scholarship, except perhaps as an example of how not to write one. Hovind's alma mater is not accredited by any U.S. Department of Education-recognised body, and his degrees are not granted any status in the academic or scientific mainstream. Hovind's dissertation is approved by only one person: Dr. Wayne Knight, who later fled from Colorado to Texas after pleading guilty to crimes relating to child molestation at a related business/religious school.
Those who have completed a Ph.D are allowed to prefix their name with "Dr". However, many choose not to do so out of modesty or so their expertise in nuclear physics, history, or philosophy doesn't get mistaken when a medical doctor is actually required. Even if not in modesty, not having the title "Dr." in front of one's name in a phone book keeps one from midnight calls asking for medical assistance on how to deal with some medical ailment. Hovind, needless to say, has no such modesty and refers to himself as Dr. Kent Hovind or Dr. Dino. In fact, he even used the prefix in Pensacola, Florida's phone book. This is common among those with doctorates from diploma mills, such as
Dr Gillian McKeith Ph.D vs Ben Goldacre. For example, Hovind publicly insisted on the title, saying, "I notice you're calling him ‘Dr’ and me ‘Mr,’ so I'm just making a level playing field here; I have a doctorate's degree also, although it's not from an accredited university, but I don't think that matters."
Intellectual quality (???)
Even his first paragraph contains a dangling modifier, a grammatical error against which high-school guides to composition warn:
"As an evangelist, God has given me the opportunity to teach and preach the wonderful story of His wonderful creation..." Hovind is the evangelist, and "God" isn't, but such is not how the sentence parses. Instead, it reads as if he's calling himself an evangelist. ("As an evangelist, I have been given this opportunity by God" would have made much more sense.) It is not enough to simply reject capitalization of an attribute to distinguish God from oneself in so clumsy a sentence. It would not pass a copy-editor at a publisher attentive to quality, let alone a doctoral committee at a genuine college or university. The intellectual quality does not improve.
Misreadings of history, philosophy, science, and damn near everything else
Hovind attempts to provide a genealogy of evolution that starts with Satan himself (of course) before he was cast out of heaven, then to God striking down the Tower of Babel. He traces this through ancient Greek philosophy, eastern religions, and the Church Fathers. He gets large chunks of this ancient history wrong, and what little bits of truth do sneak in are surrounded by oceans of irrelevance and idiocy.
Socrates, Hovind tells us, didn't write "many" books. Technically true: Socrates didn't write any books, and is infamous for asserting that one shouldn't write books! Hovind describes Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as being "pantheists," and thus attempts to understand in modern terms a religious system that does not easily match modern expectations and categories. If you want to apply a modern label, polytheism catches the spirit a lot better than pantheism. (There are some ancient philosophers you can describe as holding broadly pantheistic ideas: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Zeno, and Heraclitus among the Greeks, and Marcus Aurelius and Plotinus among the Romans.)
Hovind fails when he attempts to understand Plato and Socrates, ascribing positions to them that are held by participants in Platonic dialogues, most of which feature Socrates as a character, but only some of the dialogues can be thought of as containing the Socrates of history, while the others have Socrates as a literary tool that Plato can use.
Hovind asserts that Democrates is the founder of Atomism, rather than Democritus.
"Zoroaster" is the name given to the religion (Zoroaster is, in fact, the founder of Zoroastrianism), a blunder similar to writing "Christ" when you mean "Christianity" or "Muhammad" when you mean "Islam." Hovind claims Zoroastrianism was founded around 600 BCE. Most scholars actually state it was much earlier, around 1000 BCE. He completely misunderstands Zoroastrian beliefs, claiming that the essence of it is that "Satan and God are equally powerful." In fact, Zoroastrians believe that Ahura Mazda (the "God" character) will banish Angra Mainyu (the "Satan" character) and bring about the end times, and then a savior figure will come along and raise up the dead. According to Hovind, in Zoroastrianism "a lack of importance [is] placed on God." Apparently, despite being a Middle Eastern monotheistic religion with a number of broadly equivalent traits to Judaism and Christianity, "Zoroasterism" (as Hovind also refers to Zoroastrianism) is actually the bearer of the flame of evolutionism, as it has been carried from the Fall of Man through Satan and then through the works of the Greek philosophers.
Which is fine, except for the fact that if the ancient Greeks, Zoroastrians, and eastern mystics were all budding proto-Darwinists, you might expect some historians and philosophers who study the ancients to have spotted it – and that the work of Darwin and Wallace in the nineteenth century might have been a bit less revolutionary and surprising than it actually was. Ditto with the Comte de Buffon, who supposedly "was very influential in spreading the doctrine of evolution around the world", this after a long paragraph discussing "Voltair".
Hovind claims that Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, which all are really evolution cults in disguise, made it easy for Communism to take over in China. (How this is possible is not known. Evolution was not initially researched till the 1800s.) On the same note, Communism has spread really well in Iranian Zoroastrian communities and in India, where Hinduism and Buddhism are prevalent. This hypothesis also explains the resistance to Chinese Communism by the Tibetan Buddhist monks really well, and the religious history of Russia and Cuba. In reality, the survival of the fittest found in Capitalist market economics has more to do with natural selection than the Communist ideal of "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."
Hovind also claims that "the Islam religion[sic] accepts evolution very readily", conveniently ignoring Islamic creationists like Harun Yahya. He also makes some pretty silly remarks about the Church Fathers which are backed up with the same sort of evidence as everything else in the dissertation – that is, about the same quality and quantity as you get in a Chick tract or the Weekly World News.
The following are quotes found in Kent Hovind's thesis.
|As I was thinking on this subject, I wrote a poem to try to explain this, comparing blind men and atheists.
Two blind men argued well into the night
about the great question, "Is there really sight?"
Said one to the other (and quite fervently)
"There cannot be colors or else we could see!"
[edit: snip 48 lines]
To deny His existence is really absurd.
You’ll have to believe Him and trust in His Word.
|In keeping with the age-old (but apparently forgotten) academic tradition of including 50+ lines of doggerel in each and every dissertation, Kent has conjured up this gem. Someone notify MIT that they'll start gaining credibility if they include more poetry in their papers.
|Satan, in the form of the serpent, brought the doctrine of evolution to the Garden of Eden
|Amazing that Adam would latch onto a complete theory of evolution and pass it down to the next thousands of generations.
|The Bible has never been proven wrong yet, and I believe it never will be
|Like any good academic work, Kent's deals in unprovable absolutes.
|For instance, Communism is a direct offshoot of evolution
|The final sentence in a paragraph speaking of
|Bring back a Mars rock or a Jupiter rock, I'll eat it or lick it. Life doesn't evolve.
|Comment is superfluous. Also non sequitur. And
|The faulty teaching of evolution is hindering scientific progress.
|He actually got this one right, in an unintentional stopped-clock moment, since evolution is often taught rather poorly, hindering the public's understanding of it and encouraging resistance to the idea.
Using the text from the OCR version of "Dr." Hovind's dissertation, Google Docs gives the following metrics:
(Note: These metrics are derived from the text starting with "INTRODUCTION" and continuing until the sentence "I believe Jesus was right.")
- Word: 25,546
- Paragraphs: 401
- Sentences: 1,951
- Average sentences per paragraph: 4.87
- Average words per sentence: 13.09
- Flesch Reading Ease: 69.44
- Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 7.00
- Automated Readability Index: 7.00
According to the Wikipedia page on Flesch Reading Ease, a Flesch Reading Ease score of 69.44 would correspond to being "easily understandable to 13- to 15-year-old students." The lower the index, the harder the piece is to read. The Wikipedia page states that the average 11-year-old student's written assignment has a "Reading Ease" of 60–70, which would indicate that the writing style of Kent's supposed PhD-level paper is on par with that of a pre-pubescent student.
Similarly, the "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level" indicates the approximate number of years of education needed to understand a piece of writing. According to these metrics, a student in the 7th grade should be able to fully understand Kent's "doctoral research". Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level has a higher calculated grade-level than Kent's Doctoral Dissertation, at 12.5.
The Automated Readability Index is another way of calculating the approximate grade required for a student to fully understand a piece of written work. Once again, the average 7th-grade student (approximately 12–13 years old) should be able to fully comprehend Kent's new research.
None of these metrics are damning in and of themselves; all else being equal, being able to express one's ideas in simple and accessible language is a good thing. However, there is a difference between expressing complex ideas in simple language and merely having simplistic ideas. Taken in the context of the thesis's other flaws, it becomes clear that complexity of thought was never among Hovind's issues.
While Hovind was in federal prison, he wrote another dissertation for a Doctor of Ministry degree from Patriot.:4 According to Hovind:
In this unusual book I will try to give the reader THE BIG PICTURE of the history of the world and explain what is about to happen, based on The Book that has given thousands of predictions and prophecies and has never been wrong even one time yet!
Unlike his first dissertation, this one was written without chapters (it does have seven appendices). In 2013, it was published as an ebook titled What on Earth is about to happen.. for Heaven's sake?: A Dissertation on End Times According to the Bible and it argues that Jesus will appear on Earth in 2028.:239
Hovind appears to have copied some sort of standard format for the front matter of his 'dissertation': at the bottom of the title page, a feather-like logo with the text "Publisher logo" can be found. Presumably, this is a placeholder for a real publisher logo – but Kent completely forgot about this. The verso of the title page (which normally contains the publishing data, such as ISBN, catalogue data, and the publisher's address) has a similar flaw, showing the text
Copyright © 2013 Kent Hovind All Rights Reserved
[Publishing Information Here]
Manufactured in the United States of America
ISBN 978-0-xxxxx-xxx-x (paper)
ISBN 978-0- xxxxx-xxx-x (e-book)
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hovind Kent. What On Earth Is About To Happen For Heavens Sake;
ISBN 978-0-xxxxx-xxx-x (paper)
ISBN 978-0- xxxxx-xxx-x (e-book).
In real books and dissertations, the "xxxxx-xxx-x" sequence is replaced by a proper ISBN number. Also note that "Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data" normally also contains a few keywords about the book (in this case, "Christianity" and "Eschatology" would be the most likely, though "complete BS" would also not be wrong).
Hovind claims to have spent four years on this 'dissertation', but looked at this page and failed to see that something was missing. He even managed to misspell the dissertation's title: "For Heavens Sake" instead of "For Heaven's Sake".
- Young-earth creationist Kent Hovind's doctoral dissertation
- Inside the Mind of a Creationist: A Critical Analysis of Kent Hovind's “Doctoral Dissertation” by Nathan Dickey
- The Dissertation Kent Hovind Doesn't Want You to Read, A Review of Kent Hovind's Thesis by Karen Bartelt, Ph.D
- Pharyngula - Kent Hovind’s Doctoral Dissertation
- Patriot University's hilarious rebuttal of the copy on Wikileaks (which it notably mislabels as an extension of Wikipedia).
- What on Earth is about to happen.. for Heaven's sake Kent Hovind's 2013 dissertation
- Kent Hovind's doctoral dissertation. Mirrored from the original posting on WikiLeaks.
- Hovind, K.E. (2013). What On Earth Is About To Happen... For Heaven's Sake?: A Dissertation on End Times According to the Bible.
- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers a Master of Arts (M.A) degree in Christian Education.
- O'Shaughnessy, L. (10 July 2012). 10 reasons not to get a PhD. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- Bartelt, K. (2000). The Dissertation Kent Hovind Doesn't Want You to Read. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
- National Center for Science Education (2 August 2012). Skip Evans dies Retrieved 21 November 2015.
- "The former church leader and superintendent of Hilltop Baptist Church in Colorado Springs entered a guilty plea in exchange for several charges being dropped by prosecutors." from Arrested Pastor Takes Plea Deal In Child Abuse Case, 7News, Feb 28, 2012
- Teacher Pleads Guilty To Sex Assault Charges, KKTV, Jan 31, 2013
- Inside the Mind of a Creationist: A Critical Analysis of Kent Hovind's “Doctoral Dissertation”
- Plato’s Argument Against Writing
- See Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test at Wikipedia
- "When is The Lord Coming Back?," and claims: "During the feast of Trumpets in 2028."