Category Archives: Intelligent Design

Kent Hovind Trial: First Two Days

Tyhe Pensacola News Journal of Pensacola, Florida has a report on the trial’s first two days. We assume the trial is in Pensacola because a federal courthouse is conveniently located in what had been the home of Hovind’s creationist “ministry” and his Dinosaur Adventure Land, which are among the properties confiscated by the feds to pay Hovind’s back taxes.

Our last post on this topic was Hovind Trial: Flood of Drool Hits Pensacola. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

The principal defendant has a writeup in Wikipedia: Kent Hovind (a/k/a “Dr. Dino”), which describes his 2006 conviction for tax evasion.

Hovind contested the original tax charges against him, and lost. Then he appealed and lost. He’s been in prison for eight years, during which he also contested the seizure of his property, and was unsuccessful in that. He had his day in court. Now he’s being charged with fraudulently trying to stop the feds from selling property that the courts have already determined was lawfully taken from him.

He filed lis pendens documents attempting to cloud the government’s title to the confiscated property. Here’s a link to the text of the indictment. Hovind is a martyr to two different groups of people, and his behavior suggests a certain similarity between them — see Creationists and Tax Protesters.

Hovind ‘s co-defendant is John Paul Hansen, who seems to have been providing Hovind with advice in these matters. Hansen is also facing mail fraud charges in connection with the lis pendens filing on the real estate that the government had seized.

Okay, the Pensacola News Journal has this headline: Hovind’s ‘fight’ continues in court. An icon will get you to comments after the story.

Their article may be the worst example of courthouse reporting we’ve ever seen. They don’t mention that jury selection was swiftly accomplished on Monday, and they also don’t mention that the lawyers made their opening statements to the jury on Tuesday. Instead, they write up the events described in the opening statements as if they were testimony and evidence actually presented in the trial. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

For years, Pensacola evangelist Kent Hovind and his trustee Paul John Hansen have been stubbornly resisting a court-ordered forfeiture of more than $400,000 worth of Hovind’s property. Their struggles — dozens of filings that appeal, question or protest the government’s right to sell the land — have landed the duo in front of a federal judge facing decades on charges of fraud and contempt.

Yes, we know all that. Let’s read on:

During the first day of testimony in their trial Tuesday, Hovind and Hansen’s defense attorneys told jurors that while the actions of the men may have been ineffectual — perhaps even ill-advised — they were not illegal. “Every single step of the way Mr. Hovind and the people of his church fought to hang on to his property,” Hansen’s attorney Christopher Klotz said. “Mr. Hovind is a notorious fighter. He has fought every single step of the way, and he has a right to do that.”

As we said, this is wretched reporting. A lawyer’s opening statement to the jury is not testimony. He’s merely telling the jury what the evidence is going to show them. Anyway, the news story continues:

Much of the day Tuesday was spent laying out the background of the case. The litigation is essentially over 10 pieces of Pensacola property that housed Hovind’s family, his Creation Science Evangelism ministry and his Dinosaur Adventure Land theme park. The government seized the land to settle a $430,400 debt after Hovind was convicted in 2006 of failing to withhold employee wage taxes and structuring bank withdrawals to skirt reporting requirements.

If opening statements were on Tuesday, then it’s obvious that the jury was selected on Monday. Such things usually occur swiftly in Federal courts. Those judges don’t let lawyers turn trials into a circus. Here’s more:

Hovind and trustees of his ministry have been appealing ever since, and the government was eventually granted an injunction barring Hovind and his ministry interest from filing claims, liens and other motions on the property. Instead of heeding the injunction, Hovind questioned its legality and filed a “lis pendes” [sic] — a motion that warns potential buyers the ownership of a property is under dispute. He also brought in Hansen — a Nebraska-based “student and scholar of church law” — to act as trustee of the properties.

The government alleges the men committed mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud through their filings. Hovind also is charged with contempt of court for violating the injunction, and Hansen is charged with contempt for failing to travel from Nebraska to Pensacola (at the government’s expense) for fingerprinting.

Yup — that’s a summary of what the feds intend to prove. Moving along:

Thomas Keith, Hovind’s attorney, essentially told jurors his client’s current charges were the result of him lawfully disagreeing with the powers that be. “He has the truest belief that he was wrongfully sentenced and convicted, and he’s been fighting it, lawfully, in every legal way that he thinks he can. … It’s not illegal to file motions in court, and that’s what he’s doing.”

Generally, filing motions isn’t illegal; but Hovind’s objections had all been dealt with, and he allegedly violated an injunction by persevering in his antics. Another excerpt:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Eggers read transcripts of a phone call from Hovind to his daughter in which Hovind reportedly discussed his lis pendes [sic]. “Have you ever taken a step into dog crap and it gets stuck on your feet and it’s really hard to get off?” he reportedly asked. “That’s what a lis pendes [sic] is.”

Charming. One last excerpt, from something said by the attorney for Hovind’s co-defendant:

There is a mountain of evidence, but I expect you’re not going to find one shred of evidence that Mr. Hansen acted with the intent to defraud anybody, or take anything that didn’t belong to them, or deny the government of the $430,400 it was owed,” Klotz said. “He just did what he thought he had to as a trustee.”

So there you are. Now the actual testimony begins. We hope the reporter does a better job in the future. If not, no problem. Your Curmudgeon will be here to set things straight. Stay tuned to this blog.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Creationist Wisdom #529: Proof of God

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Duluth News Tribune of Duluth, Minnesota. It’s titled The proof of God is evident all around us. It doesn’t look like the newspaper has a comments feature.

Because today’s writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. We found a professor with his name at the University of Minnesota Duluth, but it’s a common name and the professor probably isn’t our man. We’ll use only the writer’s first name, which is Tom. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

It is amazing how many News Tribune readers write in denying the existence of God. This includes the Feb. 14 letter, “Existence of God can’t be proven.” They say there is no proof. The Bible says the heavens declare the glory of God.

The bible says the heavens are proof? Actually, when carefully studied with modern instruments, the heavens declare the Big Bang. But Tom has an ark-load of other evidence to offer. For example:

Well, just look at the sun rise over Lake Superior some morning or watch it set in the evening. Or how about the northern lights? Or when there is a sky full of stars? Or what about the beauty of our North Shore? That sounds like nature declaring something!

See? We told you Tom had evidence. Let’s read on:

How can anyone deny his existence? How about the birth of a beautiful baby?

Yeah — how about that? Tom continues:

Fools say there is no God. They say there is no proof. Time and time again science proves the accuracy of the Bible.

Can’t argue about that! Not with Tom, anyway. Here’s more:

If there is no God, then why do people get upset over nothing? Isn’t it illogical and foolish to get so worked up over something or someone that isn’t there or doesn’t exist?

Your Curmudgeon isn’t upset about God. It’s ghastly reasoning that bothers us. Moving along:

The Bible says God has set eternity in the hearts of men and women. This is why people get upset. Deep down, they know God is there. Their pride and arrogance get in the way.

Admit it, dear reader. Put aside your pride and arrogance. Deep down, you know Tom is right. And now we come to the end:

The Bible says there will be scoffers and mockers before Jesus comes back. Jesus is the only way to the father. Receive him now before it is too late. By all these doubting letters I read, it sounds like he is on his way.

Okay, dear reader. You’ve been warned. Now it’s up to you.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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A Study of Moving the Goalposts

The Scientific American website has a social science article which is somewhat relevant to the topics we discuss here. It’s Why People ‘Fly from Facts’, by Troy Campbell and Justin Friesen. It has this sub-title: “Research shows the appeal of untestable beliefs, and how it leads to a polarized society.”

It’s not specifically about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, but it seems to shed some light on a tactic with which we’re all familiar — moving the goalposts, which Wikipedia describes as:

a metaphor, derived from association football or other games, that means to change the criterion (goal) of a process or competition while still in progress, in such a way that the new goal offers one side an intentional advantage or disadvantage. … Moving the goalposts, similar to “shifting sands” and also known as raising the bar, is an informal fallacy in which evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other (often greater) evidence is demanded. That is, after an attempt has been made to score a goal, the goalposts are moved to exclude the attempt. The problem with changing the rules of the game is that the meaning of the end result is changed, too.

The Scientific American article never uses the phrase “moving the goalposts,” but that’s what the authors seem to be talking about. They begin with an example:

“There was a scientific study that showed vaccines cause autism.”

“Actually, the researcher in that study lost his medical license, and overwhelming research since then has shown no link between vaccines and autism.”

“Well, regardless, it’s still my personal right as a parent to make decisions for my child.”

That’s rather tame. We’ve seen much better in the creationism controversy. This is typical:

Creationist: There are no transitional fossils, so Darwin was wrong.

Sane person: Here’s a whole list of transitional fossils.

Creationist: Oh yeah? Well Hitler was a Darwinist, and you’re going to hell!

Anyway, that’s the kind of argument we’re talking about. Here’s what the authors have to say, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Our new research, recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined a slippery way by which people get away from facts that contradict their beliefs. Of course, sometimes people just dispute the validity of specific facts. But we find that people sometimes go one step further and, as in the opening example, they reframe an issue in untestable ways. This makes potential important facts and science ultimately irrelevant to the issue.

We can’t locate their published paper, but we can get along without it. Then the authors give an example from their research:

We presented 174 American participants who supported or opposed same-sex marriage with (supposed) scientific facts that supported or disputed their position. When the facts opposed their views, our participants — on both sides of the issue — were more likely to state that same-sex marriage isn’t actually about facts, it’s more a question of moral opinion. But, when the facts were on their side, they more often stated that their opinions were fact-based and much less about morals. In other words, we observed something beyond the denial of particular facts: We observed a denial of the relevance of facts.

We’re all familiar with that phenomenon. When dealing with creationists, we usually refer to it as reality denial. They give another example and then say:

These experiments show that when people’s beliefs are threatened, they often take flight to a land where facts do not matter. In scientific terms, their beliefs become less “falsifiable” because they can no longer be tested scientifically for verification or refutation.

Yup — that’s how it goes with creationists. Then, as so often happens with social science, the topic swerves into politics:

For instance, sometimes people dispute government policies based on the argument that they don’t work. Yet, if facts suggest that the policies do work, the same person might stay resolvedly against the argument based on principle. We can see this on both sides of the political spectrum, whether it’s conservatives and Obamacare or liberals and the Iraqi surge of 2007.

Here, your Curmudgeon goes his own way. Principle really matters in political issues. A specific government policy might be effective — for example, dictatorships can be terribly effective in enforcing their policies — but that doesn’t mean opposition based on principle is fallacious. Anyway, let’s read on:

One would hope that objective facts could allow people to reach consensus more easily, but American politics are more polarized than ever. Could this polarization be a consequence of feeling free of facts?

Again, we have to point out that political polarization may not be about facts — on either side. It is about facts — or it should be — when it comes to things like teaching creationism in science class. But political conflicts are all too often about the ideology of one party or another, sometimes both. The article continues:

[W]e can experimentally assess a fundamental question: When people are made to see their important beliefs as relatively less rather than more testable, does it increase polarization and commitment to desired beliefs? Two experiments we conducted suggest so.

We’ll skip their example, but here’s what they say about it:

Together these findings show, at least in some cases, when testable facts are less a part of the discussion, people dig deeper into the beliefs they wish to have — such as viewing a politician in a certain way or believing God is constantly there to provide support. These results bear similarities to the many studies that find when facts are fuzzier people tend to exaggerate desired beliefs.

One final excerpt:

So after examining the power of untestable beliefs, what have we learned about dealing with human psychology? We’ve learned that bias is a disease and to fight it we need a healthy treatment of facts and education. We find that when facts are injected into the conversation, the symptoms of bias become less severe. But, unfortunately, we’ve also learned that facts can only do so much. To avoid coming to undesirable conclusions, people can fly from the facts and use other tools in their deep belief protecting toolbox.

Well, dear reader, what did we learn from this excursion into social science? We’re not sure we learned anything new, but perhaps we missed something. What do you think?

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Hovind Trial: Flood of Drool Hits Pensacola

The fun starts today, as we recently told you in Kent Hovind Trial: Jury Selection Monday. That earlier post has all the background information, so we’ll jump right into the Pensacola News Journal of Pensacola, Florida. That town had been the home of Hovind’s creationist “ministry” and his Dinosaur Adventure Land (now confiscated by the feds to pay back taxes).

Their headline is Demonstrators show support for Hovind. The newspaper has a comments feature, but you need to click an icon below the headline to see it. Here are some excerpts from the article, with bold font added by us:

A crowd of demonstrators has gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Pensacola to support a polarizing local evangelist.

A crowd of demonstrators — isn’t this exciting? How big a crowd? We’re told:

Kent Hovind, founder of the Creation Science Evangelism ministry and the theme park Dinosaur Adventure Land, is scheduled to be tried on charges of contempt and mail fraud over the next two weeks. This morning, a group of about a dozen supporters crowded around the intersection of Garden and Palafox streets with signs and words of support.

A dozen! BWAHAHAHAHAHA! How much drool can a dozen creationists generate? Probably a lot. Let’s read on:

“We pray for justice that Kent be liberated at the shame of the government,” said Alan Hoyle, who came to Pensacola from North Carolina last week for the trial. “They’ve persecuted a non-violent person who has done no wrong.”

Get that? Hovind isn’t merely being prosecuted — he’s being persecuted! The news story continues:

The demonstrators – who came from as far away from as far as Texas, Ohio and Colorado – stood on street corners and the courthouse steps holding an array of “Free Kent” signs.

[…]

Many of Hovind’s supporters have maintained that he is being targeted by the government because of his religious beliefs.

Ah yes, it’s not about taxes (Hovind lost that on appeal), or Hovind’s interference with the feds’ sale of his confiscated property (likewise challenged in court, unsuccessfully). It’s all about religion. Here’s more:

Ernie Land, a former member of Hovind’s board of trustees, said the government has shown religious bias in case, delayed the trial repeatedly to aid prosecutors despite protest from Hovind, and pursued mail fraud charges against Hovind at great cost to the American public despite the Hovind’s actions ultimately did not impact the government’s ability to sell his land.

Yes, all of Hovind’s gyrations to block the sale of property that was lawfully seized weren’t successful, so why are they bothering the man? It’s like an attempted rape — if the attempt wasn’t successful, why prosecute the guy? It’s gotta be because of Hovind’s religion.

Here’s the end of the article:

“They’re supposed to give him a fair trial, and I’m having a problem seeing that,” Land said.

Yeah — where’s the fair trial? Well, it’s true that the prosecutors have to prove their case. It’s also true that Hovind will be represented by a lawyer, and it’s going to be a jury trial. But it’s all because he’s a creationist, and it’s so unfair!

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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