I spend what most would probably consider an unhealthy amount of time discussing and arguing in favor of (and mostly learning about) evolution at the RichardDawkins.net forums. Because it’s a pretty high-profile site, a lot of creationists try to argue their “case” as well. This is fine, of course, and I actually came to anticipate them, as they provide good practice for arguing the unassailable side of science. As I read the creationists’ posts, however, and saw the same tired misunderstandings of science and the same egregious quotemines of respectable scientists, I came up with the idea for a method of objectively categorizing just how scientifically inaccurate, just how mendacious, just how wrong creationist arguments are. I came up with the idea for the Hovind Scale. (You may need a membership at the forum to see it there.) It’s named of course, for Kent Hovind, and for scales.
I’ll stress right now that while I proposed the Hovind Scale, others did pretty much all the work in development, and so I deserve very little of the credit. Mad props to PJG, cyberguy, electricwhiteboy, and everyone who posted in that thread.
I’ll also stress, before posting the scale and the instructions for using it, that the Hovind Scale is designed to be used with creationist statements, not creationists themselves. It is not for personal attacks, but for quantifying the overall wrongness of individual statements.
Without much ado, then, here it is (as copied from the thread,
Hovind Factor = (X + s + i + p) x (m + 1)
Belief in scripture – “X”
0 – No doctrinal belief required
1 – Metaphorical use of Biblical/Qu’ranic quotation
2 – Belief in scripture as the infallible word of God. Timeless, inerrant and absolute. (AiG/The flud etc.)
Scientific Illiteracy – “s”
0 – Full understanding of detailed, advanced scientific principles
1 – Overall grasp of principles with some understanding of specific area being discussed
2 – Vague understanding of general principle but with poor grasp of many details
3 – No understanding or knowledge of area being discussed
4 – Rejection of basic scientific facts/laws/robust theories and/or denial of any evidence that contradicts scripture
5 – Ray Comfort (Extreme, moronic and puerile level of 4 above)
The idiocy scale – “i”
0 – no discernible stupidity
1 – slightly silly, but understandable
2 – foolish
3 – daft
4 – rather funny in a slightly worrying sort of way
5 – very funny in a very worrying way
6 – scary stuff
7 – very scary
8 – unlikely to be accepted by anyone with more than two functioning neurons
9 – Moronic. Stark-bollock-naked, off-the-wall, wing-nut
10 – Kirk Cameron or VenomFangX
Paradox – “p”
0 = Statement is logical and self-consistent
1 = Statement acknowledges slight flaw in internal logic but glosses over it with babble.
2 = Statement relies on an assumed divine intervention to explain self contradiction.
3 = Self contradiction invalidates statement completely, and is left unaddressed.
Mendacity – “m”
0 – Total honesty
1 – Statement maker knows they are telling enough of a porkie to try to mislead a generally credulous audience
2 – Statement maker knows they are lying enough to try to mislead an educated audience, or they are repeating a lie that they have previously been corrected on.
3 – Whopper! Including Plagiarism, or fabrication of their own “facts” to cover woeful lack of knowledge.
4 – Complete, burn-in-Hell, perjury grade, super-lie – Including deliberate attempts to confuse with incoherently applied high level concepts. Chewbacca Defence.
Using this formula, a completely honest statement of scientific merit would score a Hovind Factor of zero.
The maximum Hovind Factor, HFmax, is a completely insane statement which contradicts all scientific evidence but adheres totally to religious doctrine and which the person making the claim knows to be untrue – while at the same time the statement also completely contradicts itself – would score (2 + 5 + 10 + 3) x (4 + 1) = 100.
There it is! Obviously judgments on the approporiate values of each variable are subjective, but different people should alight at least on similar values. You will also notice that mendacity is weighted heavily. I think this is appropriate, as a lying creationist is far more dangerous than an honest one.
As an example of the scale in action, consider this rather common YEC statement: “Geological strata were deposited during the Flood.”
For this statement, the X-factor is 2, because belief in the literal truth of the Bible is a general prerequisite to belief in the Flood.
The S-factor, similiarly, would be 5, because belief in a global Flood also requires staggering ignorance of science.
The i-factor in this case, though, should be somewhat lower than the maximum. The statement is pretty idiotic, but the grammar is good, which is more than can be said for a lot of creationist statements on the Internet. I’ll assign a 7, for “very scary.”
The p-factor will be zero, because as laughable as the statement is, it is not internally inconsistent.
Finally, the mendacity factor. This sometimes must be determined from the context of the statement, since one cannot always know another’s motives. If the statement contains a number of quotemines, however, or an evasion of a direct question, a high mendacity factor is certainly justifiable. In this case, let’s assume no mendacity, so m = 0.
The Hovind Factor for this statement, then, is: (2+5+7+0) x (0 + 1) = 14%. Pretty low, but sensible, considering the maximum for an honest, but wrong, statement is 20%.
For a real world example, you might consider the film Expelled as a single creationist statement. I calculate its Hovind Factor as 85%. Not bad.
Calilasseia of the RichardDawkins.net forums created a spreadsheet that allows quick calculation of a Hovind Factor. Simply open the spreadsheet, press ALT+F8, click Run, and choose from the dropdown menus the proper value for each variable. More information here.
One more update: the list of example statements for each Hovind Scale variable is complete. Check it out here!
What high Hovind Factor statements have you seen out there?