Today, someone in the Discord posted a link to a video made by Creationists. In it, a pair of Creationists disingenuously attack the scientific method. They don’t say why they need to knock down the scientific method, but only one reason ever drives Creationists to do these things.
Today, let’s explore this video. And then, let’s unveil the reason for these Creationists’ attack, which they were too cowardly and dishonest to admit.
(This post went live on Patreon on 1/30/2024. Its audio ‘cast lives there too!)
Introducing our guest Creationists, Eric Hovind and Danny Faulkner
Most people know about Kent Hovind, who is possibly the most dishonest and predatory grifter in the entire Christ-o-sphere. He’s also famous for having crafted the world’s most poorly-written doctoral thesis on the planet. Dude seriously published “The Hovind Theory,” which has dinosaurs and humans co-existing, and all meat-eating animals having been totally vegetarian until humans’ disobedience in the Garden of Eden. In addition, Kent Hovind created theme parks and fake museums to fleece gullible Creationists, along with the website Dr. Dino.
Kent Hovind has faced legal troubles galore for grifting and tax evasion—and a 2021 charge of domestic violence. While Kent Hovind rotted in prison in the late 2000s-2010s after 58 felony convictions for various tax frauds, his son Eric mostly took over the family’s fleecing operations. He still runs many of them.
- Pensacola Christian Academy, a sort of extended-religious-homeschooling operation that teaches only Creationism
- Credit of some sort in “higher education” from an obviously-lackluster Bible college in the middle of nowhere that is basically a campground for useless nepo babies
- At least one evangelism class at an evangelical private university
Eric Hovind is hilariously ill-equipped to tackle anything related to real science of any kind.
Daniel “Danny” Faulkner possesses better credentials. He taught at least physics at the publicly-funded University of South Carolina-Lancaster, where he says he worked for 26 years. I don’t know where he became accredited in astronomy, but he lists a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University. Nor do I know why he left U of South Carolina. But right after he left there in 2012, he began working for Answers in Genesis as an “Astronomer.”
Faulkner’s apologetics inspire some truly magnificent displays of sheer WTFery. However, Faulkner has no training or experience in anything related to the Theory of Evolution that I can ascertain. That doesn’t stop him from declaring himself “at war” with the scientific method as a whole.
Creationists face off against the scientific method, again
The scientific method is how humans figure out how our universe works. Done correctly (archive), it controls for the all-too-human mistakes people can make in figuring stuff out (archive). Using it, we can prune away false explanations for our universe (archive), by which I mean explanations produced by falling prey to biases like these:
- Confirmation bias
- Survivor bias
- Observer bias
- False pattern recognition
Unfortunately, the mistakes listed above function as the major ways Creationists argue their case against real science. No real-world experiment has ever led to the confirmation of a single Creationist claim. In fact, Creationists do not conduct any experiments of their own at all. They used to, but they kept losing their pet Creationist scientists. Here’s one writeup of how that kept happening:
The creationist movement also does not like to talk about the scientists who leave after being given the opportunity to do real field research. In 1957, the Geoscience Research Institute was formed in order to search for evidence of Noah’s Flood in the geological record. The project fell apart when both of the creationists involved with the project, P. Edgar Hare and Richard Ritland, completed their field research with the conclusion that fossils were much older than allowed under the creationist assertions, and that no geological or paleontological evidence of any sort could be found to indicate the occurrence of a world-wide flood. [. . .]
A few years later, creationist biologists Carl Krekeler and William Bloom, who taught creationist biology at the Lutheran Church’s Valparaiso University in Indiana, left after concluding that a literal interpretation of Genesis was not supported by any of the available scientific evidence.
In order, therefore, to make their own claims sound more plausible, Creationists do not conduct research. Instead, they try to figure out a way to negate science and the scientific method. Then and only then can they insinuate their own pseudoscience techniques and claims into the blank spaces left behind.
That’s what today’s Creationist video is all about. It hopes to inspire doubt in the scientific method. The Creationists making it hope that once people cast it aside, they’ll find they can only trust Creationists’ claims.
First, our Creationists must grift
As I watched our OP video (relink), I took copious notes.
I won’t bore you with a full 3000-word writeup of this 30-minute-long video, though. Instead, I’ll show you the highlights and takeaways.
Hilariously, Eric Hovind begins his video with an advertisement for whyIboughtyourcoffee.com. Evangelicals buy cards advertising this site, which they use at coffeeshops where they donate free coffee to others. When someone gets a free coffee, they also get one of these cards. The site’s creators clearly hope that the free coffee will establish a social contract with the recipients, who will then feel obligated to visit the site on the card.
At the website, of course, visitors find hard-sales evangelism messages. One of these is the hilariously- and childishly-obvious and manipulative “are you a good person” tactic (archive). In using it, a hard-sales evangelist seeks to inspire the fear of Hell in their marks. Ray Comfort is famous for pushing this tactic at evangelicals, but I guess Answers in Genesis wanted in on it.
Out of every utter waste of evangelistic time I’ve ever encountered, this site might be one of the most blatantly emotionally manipulative. It’s just so funny to me that Eric Hovind can’t help but be a manipulative little piece of shit from the very get-go.
Being wrong isn’t actually bad at all, unless you’re a pair of Creationists
To start off the video, Eric Hovind asks what science actually is. He doesn’t answer his own question, but instead complains that science “has a long history of being [… dramatic pause …] wrong.” Then, he asks if the scientific method taught to schoolchildren is wrong. If you’re wondering, we won’t have even any poor explanations for this apparent wrongness until the very end of the video.
He introduces Danny Faulkner, a former professor of, he claims, astronomy and physics from the aforementioned university. None of the credentials offered for Faulkner indicate any education or training in anything related to the Theory of Evolution. That will not stop Faulkner from complaining up a storm about what he mistakenly perceives as problems with it.
It’s important to note that Hovind will never actually tell us anything about science being wrong. Yes, many times we’ve had to revise theories and whatnot due to new information, just as Christians have had to do with their religion—yes, even Creationists—over the years. Most evangelicals, for instance, accept that past evangelicals were completely in the wrong for supporting slavery. Only the most insectoid, cruel, and swivel-eyed try to devise atrocity apologetics to warp the practice of slavery into an acceptable one for Christians.
It’s not bad to revise one’s opinions and beliefs after getting new information. What’s bad is getting new information and refusing to do that necessary revision. You know, like Creationists constantly do.
But Creationists have decided that scientists’ revisions represent some major shortcoming of science itself. It makes Creationists feel less safe and certain of the findings of science. Their own leaders constantly claim to be utterly certain of their claims, which makes them feel safer. They’d rather have false certainty than real uncertainty.
Back to our video, these two numnuts will go round in circles about how awful it is that scientists refuse to declare any theory as 100% certain and true. They don’t quite state that their own claims do that without having any reality-based justification for doing it, but clearly the audience is meant to make that connection.
Being reality-based is the best strength of the scientific method, but Creationists don’t like that
Further, Faulkner in particular doesn’t like the fact that the scientific method deals only in real-world claims and uses only real-world experimentation to test those claims. He does readily admit that the instruments and tools of science cannot measure or observe any one of his religious claims, like those about angels. But he thinks it’s terrible that science has imposed “a limitation” on the “supernatural” world.
Amazingly, neither of these two shameless hucksters brings up falsifiability, which is easily the most powerful part of the scientific method. But I can see why not.
This “supernatural limitation” is exactly how we know that Creationists’ religious claims aren’t reality-based. They are impervious to falsification.
That’s a bad thing. In fact, it’s a dealbreaker.
In the case of all reality-based phenomena, we can imagine a condition that would render a hypothesis about them false. For example, if we drop a ball and it falls upward in a normal test in an elementary-school classroom on Earth, then that would contradict what we know about gravity. If we run a chemical analysis on a poisoning victim because we expect to find arsenic there, but we don’t find any, then we know something else killed that person.
If Creationists’ claims were falsifiable, then we could devise experiments to test them. But they’re not. Creationists, like other literalists in Christianity, have created for themselves a supernatural world that constantly intersects with reality, yet leaves not one single sign of its existence behind for humans to find.
Of course, they do this because every time we do test their claims, the results contradict those claims. We’ve run countless tests on intercessory prayer (archive), for example, but so far nobody’s found compelling evidence for it doing anything for sick people—unless they know people are praying for them. Even then, often those sick people do even worse if they know people are praying for them. Oops.
By the way, if you thought of apologists’ frequent complaints about scientism, you’re quite right. That’s what Hovind and Faulkner are upset about, though they’re not using that exact word.
Let’s count off all the sciences!
Now Eric Hovind names off various fields of study he thinks are sciences. Some of these aren’t actually real sciences, and one reveals him to be a major asshole to his wife. (He sure takes after Daddy, doesn’t he?)
- Biology, described as the “science of life”
- Baraminology, an interesting branch of pseudoscience dealing in animal “kinds,” which Creationists think bolsters their claims; see this writeup for more info (archive)
- Geology, paleontology (except Creationism-flavored, not really real paleontology), and anthropology, none of which get described
- “Wife-ology,” which Hovind laughingly says he hasn’t mastered yet (OMGOD this is cringe, even considering who his dad is)
Faulkner corrects him by adding the “two biggest” sciences, chemistry and physics, “and sometimes astronomy.”
Sometimes astronomy. See, this is why I have my doubts about what kind of astronomy education this guy’s had. It’s very easy to be a Creationist as a physicist. On professor rating sites, at least one person thought he did a good job of teaching physics and justifying the need for it in apparently unrelated STEM fields. But to say that astronomy mostly doesn’t count as a branch of science is just so bees-headed that all of Faulkner’s qualifications to speak about science at all just got thrown out the window for me.
I can see why he is reluctant to admit astronomy as a full science. It’s very hard to be a Creationist astronomer. Their usual timetable of evolution, 6000 years, is not even comparable to the first firing of our brains’ neurons leading to the ruffle of our eyelashes in a blink, galactically speaking.
And now, let’s see Creationists strawman the scientific method
Now, we get to describing the scientific method. Here’s how Faulkner describes it:
- Observe a phenomenon. Wonder how it happened. Study it to see if someone’s already answered that question. If someone has, “you’re kind of done at that point unless you want to critique it or really go further into it.”
- Develop a hypothesis. Faulkner defines a hypothesis as “an educated guess,” which might be true from a popular standpoint, but it’s way more than that in reality. But Hovind agrees that it’s an educated guess. Again, nobody brings up falsifiability or describes how hypotheses work.
- Test the hypothesis. Faulkner describes this part as “conduct[ing] an experiment.” If the experiment doesn’t confirm the hypothesis, then “we’re kind of done at this point,” unless the experimenter wishes to “go back and modify the hypothesis.” (My notes: I’M SCREAMING INSIDE MY SKIN RIGHT NOW.)
Faulkner also complains about science never proving anything or declaring something true. As he puts it:
But which one is true? Which you probably never even thought of the correct one, if there is a correct one. Even so you never can be 100% sure about these things.
And then, he decides to illustrate this complaint with the dumbest “experiment” I’ve ever encountered.
Creationists love to make dumb thought exercises like these
Here’s Faulkner’s galaxy-brained cow experiment:
One example I used is you may have never seen a cow before. And you see a cow, or someone says this is a cow, what a cow looks like, and get an idea of cow-ness. And you notice the cow’s brown.
Later on, next day, you you see another cow. After about 10 or 20 cows, they’re all brown. You say, I’ve got a hypothesis that all cows are brown.
How would you test your hypothesis? Well, go out looking for more cows, and keep looking. But how many brown cows would you have to see to know that all cows are brown? Well, to know with complete certainty, you would have to see every cow. Yeah and the world’s pretty big, and that’s not practical, is it?
So can you be pretty convinced after 10 cows, or 20, or 100, or 200? How many cows it take to convince you? And of course, it takes only one non-brown cow to disprove. So in science, we often times say we can disprove ideas, but we can’t prove them. We can never be sure.
This is so absolutely stupid that it boggles the mind that a guy with a doctorate in physics and 26 years’ teaching experience could go there. But it does demonstrate how completely non-scientific Creationism is, since Faulkner does not even once point to any experiment done to falsify any Creationist claim.
How would a real-world scientist test a hypothesis about cows’ coat color? Well, we don’t actually have to go look at every single cow on Earth. Instead, we can check out their genetics and get an idea of how those genes become phenotypes. Nobody’s ever seen a bright green cow, for instance, and nobody ever will. That’s because none of a cow’s genes express themselves that way. If we saw something similar in cows that didn’t create any other fur color, then we’d know that all cows are brown.
(This explanation, incidentally, also covers why it’s so hard to get purple and blue roses via natural means. Their genes do not naturally put any delphinidin in their petals, and delphinidin is what makes flowers blue (archive). I used to grow several variants of silvery-lavender roses in my garden in Atlanta in the early 2000s. That was as close as they got at the time.)
My hypothesis is that Faulkner has no clue how to design experiments, so he keeps offering really bad ones to PROVE YES PROVE Creationism.
And now let’s hear these two talk about everything they like better than real science
Rather than real science and real experiments, these two Creationists vastly prefer fields that don’t tether tightly to reality. They talk a lot about philosophy, epistemology, and ontology, which are all fields that apologetics hucksters love.
Faulkner declares that nobody can conduct real experiments about astronomy. He thinks astronomy is purely “an observational science.” Further, he admits he’s never once conducted any experiments on any aspect of astronomy. So he thinks that astronomy experiments consist of making observations, then making more observations. He does that, and he thinks that’s about as far as astronomy experiments go.
When Hovind talks about some dumb moon-phase “ex-PEER-ih-MINT” he does, Faulkner replies that it’s not an experiment. It’s just a “demonstration.” Hovind deflates.
So allow me to correct these two by offering up these fascinating experiments that either took place last year or are slated for 2024:
- Amazing experiments done to learn more about black holes in 2023 (source; archive)
- All kinds of Moon landings and other landings on our Solar System’s planets and their own moons, all of which have research goals attached to them (source; archive)
- Various experiments NASA plans to run on the April 2024 eclipse, including chasing it with jets (source; archive)
These aren’t simply a series of passive observations. Scientists sample, measure, theorize, and then seek to confirm or contradict those theories. They often must devise new instruments and methods to measure space stuff, or figure out new ways to deploy existing instruments and techniques.
Speaking as a longtime astronomy nerd, I’m really offended that Faulkner doesn’t realize that astronomy is very much a real science in its own right. It wouldn’t be hard to educate himself.
But then he’d be of no use to his Creationism buddies, would he?
FINALLY someone gets around to explaining why the scientific method is apparently so bad
Twenty-six minutes into the 34-minute-long video, someone finally gets around to explaining why the scientific method is apparently so bad. Faulkner jolts awake like he’s only just realized they haven’t talked about the video’s topic yet, and explains that his “criticism” of the scientific method involves his misperception about experiments being purely based in observations. He says:
We’re setting people up to think that’s the only way to do science. Now, the scientific method is one way to do science. But the Dirty Little Secret is scientists very rarely actually use that. It’s a very simplified method. And I think it’s okay to teach that to kids in school, but you should also emphasize that this is not the way to do science. It is a way to do science, and it’s not the way most scientists do their work. And astronomers certainly don’t do the work that way
Ignoring that we already know that’s not how astronomers conduct their research, he’s flat wrong here. All reality-based sciences conduct experiments to test their theories and hypotheses. Most of these will involve the manipulation of various components or situations.
Also, he’ll never tell us what any other way of “doing science” might be. Instead, he just asserts without evidence that the scientific method is not the only way to “do science.”
Faulkner is also very upset that the modern understanding of the scientific method “didn’t exist until 1945.” Chances are good he’s referencing Karl Popper here, though he doesn’t realize it. Popper’s 1934 book on the topic certainly shook up the scientific world! In addition to introducing the absolute necessity of falsification, Popper taught that scientists needed to think of their research not in terms of being true or false, but of supporting or refuting their hypotheses.
Popper also removed induction from the scientific process, and that’s what’s really got Faulkner and Hovind’s pants in a bunch in their video. They talked about inductive reasoning already, and expressed great admiration for it. They want the scientific method to re-include “drawing inferences from those observations.” We’ll probably talk more about inductive reasoning at some future time, but for now I’ll just say that it is very vulnerable to the very biases that the scientific method seeks to eliminate.
POOR WIDDLE CREATIONISTS!
At the end of the video, our Creationists complain about how hard-done-by they are in the scientific community. Hovind compares real scientists and the reality-based scientific community to the medieval Roman Catholic Church—while Creationists are like the early Protestants trying to eke out a place at the Christianity table:
If you’re a quote ‘scientist’ you know, you get to determine what’s right and what’s wrong, and nobody can, it feels like, they’re trying to say nobody can question it, and it feels like that’s what was happening back then, and it felt to me, I was like oh, are we kind of creating the same problem? And we missing, you know, the height of science where it was well back then, in the you know, 500 years ago, Middle Ages, if you wanted to do anything you had to do it within the confines of the Church.
If literalist Christians decided to stop lying and mischaracterizing everything they don’t like, they’d never open their mouths again.
In reality, Creationism is more like the long-discarded theory of “humors” in the human body (archive). Both are based on inferences and inductive reasoning. Humoral theory has nothing to do with reality, just like Creationism doesn’t. Had medieval doctors had access to the scientific method, they would have figured that out. Because it didn’t exist yet, medieval doctors treated patients for centuries using this pseudoscience. In fact, therapeutic bloodletting—an important component of humor-based medicine—continued into the 20th century before finally modern people were willing to stop doing it.
What’s wild is that now we do have access to a way to ascertain how things work. But because that method never ever supports Creationists’ claims, they want to go back to systems that don’t work nearly as well. Their claims only sound semi-plausible if someone is willing to discard what we know about reality-based science, thus opening themselves up to all the biases and poor thinking skills that interfered with research in past centuries.
They want to be the Last Ideology Standing, but can’t say why anyone should let them go there
As I’ve hinted at a couple of times here today, our two Creationists are using a technique their tribe loves. They’re trying to be the Last Ideology Standing. They think if they can just inspire enough doubt in real science and the real scientific method, people will glom onto their claims instead.
Watch out for hucksters who need you to discard what you know about reality so they have a better shot at making a sale.
In truth, there’s no reason why people should do that, even if these two could ever provide any compelling reasons for looking elsewhere for reality-based explanations in Creationism. That’s why they do not even once provide a single example of their preferred way of “doing science” resulting in knowledge that the scientific method couldn’t possibly have produced.
There isn’t any example to give, and they know it.
Many years ago when I was Pentecostal, I had a knack for detecting bullshit in my evangelical peers. I often blurted out my observations at the worst possible times. Everyone back then called it a spiritual gift, the “word of wisdom.” Nowadays, I call it “being very socially awkward.” So believe me when I say that if I were still Christian, this kind of duplicity would bother me so much. It’d be so clear to me that Creationists have no way to tether their claims to reality. I’d understand that they needed me to fall back on vulnerable forms of thinking in order to find their ideas persuasive.
And yes, even as a Christian I’d have been very damned annoyed and offended at how Faulkner mischaracterizes astronomy. I’m sure biologists feel the same way about Creationism in general, but ohhh, my biscuits are well and truly buttered over that. There truly is nothing in our reality that Creationists can’t and won’t mangle to try to make their pseudoscience sound better.
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