Benchmark statements for Hovind Scale variables

Thanks again to qbsmd for the idea of creating tables that provided examples of statements corresponding to each value of the variables that make up a Hovind factor. Over the next few days I will be compiling such tables in this post, so watch this space!

Just as a reminder, the Hovind Factor is calculated thus:

(X + S + i + p) * (m + 1)

And cyberguy’s revised Hovind Factor (which I hope will catch on) is calculated thus: (EDIT: consensus for now seems to be to let the original Hovind Scale stand.  On the RD.net forums, cyberguy has suggested his revised scale be renamed “The Behemeter,” a name which is, in my opinion, fantastic.)

(X + S + p) * 3 + (i + m) * 7

I’ll start with a table providing examples for each value of x, which quantifies the dependency on holy scripture of a creationist statement.

X = 0: No doctrinal belief required.

Benchmark Statement: “”Why is the blood clotting system an example of intelligent design? The ordering of independent pieces into a coherent whole to accomplish a purpose which is beyond any single component of the system is characteristic of intelligence.” – Michael Behe, during testimony for the defense, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

X = 1: Metaphorical use of Biblical/Qu’ranic/other holy scripture quotation.

Benchmark Statement: “The Bible was the first written work to describe the expanding universe model for the universe (indicated by verses stating that God spreads out the heavens), which is consistent with the Big Bang model.” – from godandscience.org

X = 2: Belief in scripture as the infallible word of God. Timeless, inerrant and absolute.

Benchmark Statement: “No apparent, perceived, or claimed interpretation of evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record. ” – from the Answers in Genesis Statement of Faith

Keep these benchmark examples in mind when determining to what extent a creationist statement indicates a belief in scriptural inerrancy.

Next is the variable designated S, which quantifies the scientific illiteracy reflected by a given statement.

S = 0 – Full understanding of detailed, advanced scientific principles

Benchmark statement:“God has created birds with marvelous instincts to make nests in which they can raise their offspring. Notice two different kinds of nests. Pictured on the left is the nest of an African rock martin. It is built on the face of a rock or on the wall of a house. The roof of such nests is an overhanging rock or, as shown in this picture, the eaves of a building. The floor of the nest is made of tiny mud pellets stuck together in the shape of a cup. Both male and female work hard to collect mud pellets and may take over a month to complete their nest. Then they line it with grass and feathers. Both share in feeding their young. What appears below is the nest of a male masked weaver. This industrious African bird builds its nest using blades of grass or strips of other vegetation. It can complete a nest in one day and may weave more than 30 in one season!” – from the Watch Tower website, in an essay on design in nature

The information on nest-building, while broad in scope, is technically accurate. This is a common theme in Watch Tower publications: bombarding the reader with complexity and saying, “See, it was designed!”

S = 1 – Overall grasp of principles with some understanding of specific area being discussed

Benchmark Statement: “We see evidence for common descent, evidence for relationship, but we see nothing, nothing that bears on the question of random mutation and natural selection.” – Michael Behe, cross-examination during Kitzmiller V Dover Area School District

Dr. Behe acknowledges evidence for common descent, but fails to acknowledge the landslide of evidence in favor of natural selection as a mechanism of evolution.

S = 2 – Vague understanding of general principle but with poor grasp of many details

Benchmark statement: “As Harris points out, the law of increasing entropy is a universal law of decreasing complexity, whereas evolution is supposed to be a universal law of increasing complexity.” – Henry Morris, Institute of Creation Research

This statement would probably deserve a high idiocy rating, but as it broadly characterizes entropy as “decreasing complexity” (while missing all the relevant details) it scores some scientific literacy.

S = 3 – No understanding or knowledge of area being discussed

Benchmark statement: “Evolutionists believe that certain fish a long time ago learned to walk out of the water and eventually evolved into mammals. Since there are mammals such as whales in the water, they were forced to postulate that a few of the land mammals became homesick and returned to the water and became whales! Wow!” – Ray Comfort, Evolution: a Fairy Tale for Grownups

4 – Rejection of basic scientific facts/laws/robust theories and/or denial of any evidence that contradicts scripture

Benchmark statement: “Dinosaurs first existed around 6,000 years ago. God made the dinosaurs, along with the other land animals, on Day 6 of the Creation Week (Genesis 1:20–25, 31).” – Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis

5 – Ray Comfort (Extreme, moronic and puerile level of 4 above)

This is a classic, but to be fair to Mr. Comfort I must mention that he has conceded his argumentum ad bananum to the other side. This, of course, is because the banana was modified purposefully through artificial selection.

Next: The variable i represents the idiocy factor. This quantifies the level of blithering dumitude necessary on the part of the creationist in question not to recognize how stupid his/her statement is.

The idiocy scale has ten levels, so in the interest of keeping this post readable I will provide examples only for the even numbered ones. If you see a statement showing idiocy intermediate between two of them, you can go with the odd number.

i = 0 – no discernible stupidity

Benchmark statement: “Thus, mechanisms in addition to gene duplication and point mutation may be necessary to explain the development of MR features in multicellular organisms.” – Michael Behe, from testimony during Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

Michael Behe is a gold mine for these examples. He made the above quote while explaining a paper he published about a computer simulation of the evolution of “irreducibly complex” features. (MR stands for “multi-residue,” indicating a protein feature that requires changes in two or more amino acids simultaneously.) The statement is essentially correct: if any truly irreducibly complex structure were demonstrated, gene duplication and point mutation (and any other evolutionary pathway) would not account for it. The statement is also rather misleading, because no such structure has ever been identified, despite the claims to the contrary in Behe’s two books.

In any case, the statement is not stupid.

i = 2 – foolish

Benchmark statement: “So many eons of evolution…….so few ”transitional” forms.. The earth should literally be packed with the remains of these ”transitional” forms after that period of time.” – follower of Christ, from Fundies Say the Darnedest Things

I will be referring to FSTDT a lot in this section. You can see idiocy at all levels there.

Benchmark statement:

i = 4 – rather funny in a slightly worrying sort of way

Benchmark statement: “One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn’t possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.” – awesomestnerd, from Fundies Say the Darnedest Things

This one is really funny, but not that stupid. It’s not hard to imagine laypeople misunderstanding what entropy means.

i = 6 – scary stuff

Benchmark statement: “If evolution is true, you could not know that it’s true because your brain is nothing but chemicals. Think about that.” – Kent Hovind

i = 8 – unlikely to be accepted by anyone with more than two functioning neurons

Benchmark statement: “Well, if humans came from apes then we should be backward compatible. You can made [sic]a dog with a wolf and a wolf with a dog. You can’t mate a human with an ape or any of their genus i.e., monkies,[sic] chimps, orangutans, etc.” – TonyN, from Fundies Say the Darnedest Things

Using FSTDT for this is almost cheating. They have undistilled stupidity preserved for posterity over there.

i = 10 – Kirk Cameron or VenomFangX

Benchmark statement:

Go to the 1:55 mark to see the glory of Kirk Cameron: “Darwin said in order to prove evolution, which is the number one alternative to God, you’ve got to be able to prove transitional forms, one animal transitioning into another, and all through the fossil record and life, we don’t find one of these: a crocoduck! There just isn’t anything like it!”

Long live the Crocoduck! (It was either that, or VenomFangX’s claim that the Grand Canyon formed in 5 minutes.)

I will add that evolution is of course not an alternative to God. It is a scientific theory. Science has nothing whatever to say about God.

Now, the variable p. This indicates the level of self-contradiction of a creationist statement. Many times a creationist argument will be so incoherent that it undoes itself, with no effort required from the debunking party. Which, of course, only adds to its wrongness, and so its Hovind Factor.

p = 0 – Statement is logical and self-consistent

Benchmark statement: “If the planet flooded, like the Bible says, the Grand Canyon could have formed in about five minutes.” – VenomFangX, from one of his YouTube videos

A logically consistent statement, if a laughable one.

p = 1 – Statement acknowledges slight flaw in internal logic but glosses over it with babble.

Benchmark statement: “Micro-evolution is the adaptations and changes within a species while macro-evolution is the addition of new traits or a transition to a new species. Micro-evolution is a fact that is plainly observable throughout nature. Macro-evolution is a theory that has never been observed in science.” – Eddie Snipes, Extended Life Outreach

His definition is broadly correct. The logical error comes into play when one recognizes that macroevolution is nothing more than the sum of small evolutionary changes over time. Saying that macroevolution doesn’t happen is equivalent to seeing that one can walk to the supermarket, but cannot, given time, walk to New York.

p = 2 – Statement relies on an assumed divine intervention to explain self contradiction.

Benchmark statement: Kalam Cosmological Argument
1. The universe began to exist
2. If something began to exist, something else must have caused its existence
3. Therefore the universe was caused by something else – from rationalchristianity.net

It makes sense at first, but the KCA has three fatal logical shortcomings that occur to me right away (and I’m no expert in logic):

  1. If we accept all the premises, the KCA demonstrates only that the universe was caused. It does not demonstrate that this cause would have to be a god.
  2. One cannot truncate the series of cause and effect. Whatever cause orginated the universe would have to be caused itself, and infinite regress results.
  3. “Cause” and “effect” only have meaning in the framework of time. Time is a property of the universe. However, the UnCaused Cause would have to exist “before” the universe, since the KCA holds that it is responsible for creating it. Therefore the KCA fails. There can be no “before” in the absence of time, and time would not exist if there were no universe.

The KCA, therefore, rests on a shambles of logical omissions that is addressed only with “God is eternal.”

Again, science has nothing to say about God. The supernatural is beyond the remit of science.

p = 3 – Self contradiction invalidates statement completely, and is left unaddressed.

Benchmark statement: Expelled

This movie takes the cake as far as internal contradiction is concerned. First, it strains to make the point that intelligent design is a scientific theory, and not religiously motivated. Then, it strives to make it look as though all evolutionary biologists are atheists, out to subvert religion! If ID is purely science, it shouldn’t matter that atheistic scientists are out to destroy religion (slanderous and false as the accusation is.) This contradiction is not addressed in the film.

Finally, the variable m quantifies the mendacity, or dishonesty, of a creationist statement. This is the most often criticized part of the scale, because mendacity is weighted far more heavily that any other variable, and because the intent of the creationist in question is not always clear. I think, however, that in providing examples for each level of mendacity, I will provide some tips as to how to determine whether a statement is rooted in innocent stupidity, or contemptible dishonesty.

Here it goes:

m = 0 – Total honesty

Benchmark statement: “Polar bears are scared to the point of white hair.” – Robert Byers, RichardDawkins.net forums

Mr. Byers made this statement as part of a greater argument that all other animals are inherently afraid of humans. An inane statment, but no reason is given to regard it a dishonest one.

m = 1 – Statement maker knows they are telling enough of a porkie to try to mislead a generally credulous audience

Benchmark statement: “Well, Carl, call anytime. And if you still believe we came from a rock we can help you, okay, that’s what we are here for.” – Kent Hovind, Truth Radio 15 June 2004 (from Analysis of Kent Hovind

The dishonesty in this statement comes from the strawman caricature of the scientific position. No one anywhere believes that life “came from a rock.” Because this dishonest ploy would only impress graspingly scientifically illiterate people, it earns a mendacity rating of 1.

m = 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.

Benchmark statement: A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism

This is a petition bearing the signatures of some 400-500 PhD-holding scientists who doubt “Darwinism.” It’s usually presented to establish that there is a legitimate controversy in biology over whether or not evolution accounts for biological diversity. Among other things, this ignores the facts that (1) 500 scientists is a drop in the pond globally, and (2) many if not most of the scientists listed do not hold doctorates in evolutionary biology. You might as well ask an aeronautical engineer for his opinion on interior decorating: he might have an opinion, but it won’t be a professional one.

A useful counter to this level-2 argument is the NCSE’s Project Steve, which tracks the number of scientists named Steve who support evolution. So far, it outstrips the Dissent from Darwinism by a wide margin.

m = 3 – Whopper! Including Plagiarism, or fabrication of their own “facts” to cover woeful lack of knowledge.

Benchmark statement: Chapter 5 of Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution: Haeckel’s Embryos

I couldn’t find a good representative sentence, so I’m citing the whole chapter. (The whole book can be read on Google Books for free.) His argument essentially boils down to this: Ernst Haeckel’s mid-19th century drawings of embryos were wrong, therefore evolution is false. This statement ignores the fact that modern developmental biology does not rely on Haeckel’s drawings. It ignores also the fact that Darwin published the Origin seven years before Haeckel published his drawings of embryos. It ignores a whole host of things (the NCSE had a good summary) that Wells could easily have taken the time to learn about, especially concering that he holds a PhD in celllular biology.

I could easily use Wells’ awkward shuffling around his pledge to Reverend Moon to destroy Darwinism for level four, but I think I’ll go to a different iconic statment for that.

m = 4 – Complete, burn-in-Hell, perjury grade, super-lie – Including deliberate attempts to confuse with incoherently applied high level concepts. Chewbacca Defence.

Benchmark statement: “Intelligent Design is an intellectual movement that includes a scientific research program for investigating intelligent causes and that challenges naturalistic explanations of origins which currently drive science education and research.” – Intelligent Design Network

This is, of course, the central falsehood of intelligent design. There is no research program. Intelligent design is demonstrably not scientific. In fact, intelligent design has been identified in federal court as a retrofit of creationism, a religious doctrine. I hold, therefore, that any creationist claim holding that either creationism or ID is a scientific theory built on research earns a solid 4.

That concludes the benchmark statements for the Hovind Scale. I hope they help you all in your efforts to quantify stupidity!

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5 Responses to “Benchmark statements for Hovind Scale variables”

  1. PJG Says:

    Excellent, just excellent!

  2. qbsmd Says:

    I appreciate the effort and acknowledgment. 2 comments:
    It’s interesting how many of the low level comments were made by Behe under oath. That shouldn’t make us suspicious of him at all.
    You used Ray Comfort as a mid-level example of the scientific illiteracy scale that tops out at “Ray Comfort”. Has he demonstrated some potential for learning?

  3. soulbiscuit Says:

    It’s interesting how many of the low level comments were made by Behe under oath. That shouldn’t make us suspicious of him at all.

    Indeed. He’s the kind you really have to watch out for: using legitimate science to legitimize his illegitimate ideas. What a kook.

    You used Ray Comfort as a mid-level example of the scientific illiteracy scale that tops out at “Ray Comfort”. Has he demonstrated some potential for learning?

    Well, you’ll notice that Ray Comfort’s “Banana: The Atheist’s Nightmare” video also tops out that scale. The Hovind Scale focuses on statements, not people, and on person makes statements on a wide range of brilliance or stupidity. I say utterly brilliant things now and then, but more often than not I would earn an idiocy rating of at least 2.

    However, Mr. Comfort did retract the banana video, so maybe there is some potential there!

  4. Abyssal Says:

    Awesome stuff. I love the Hovind Scale!❤

  5. Mr. Briggs Says:

    @Kirk Cameron: 137 million rods and cones?

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