Wikileaks obtains Kent Hovind’s Ph.D. “thesis”.

December 9, 2009

If you don’t know who Kent Hovind is, well, I count you among the fortunate people of this world.  So fortunate, in fact, that I recommend you navigate away from this page before I steal your innocence.

Are you gone?

…. Really?  You’re still here?

…. Okay, you get what you deserve, then.

Kent Hovind is a Young Earth creationist who has been railing against evolution for years;  he’s also famous for starting a creationist theme park in Florida called “Dinosaur Adventure Land”, and more recently, for going to jail for 10 years in 2006 for failing to pay years of taxes.  His theory was that he was a minister of God and because of that, everything he owned belonged to God and the US government had no right to tax him on money he received for doing God’s work.  The IRS, not surprisingly, was unamused by this.

I’ve never given Hovind too much thought, because let’s face it, he’s so nuts that other creationist organizations (like Answers in Genesis) have disavowed his antics.  But I’ve always been curious about his purported Ph.D in “Christian Education” from the Patriot University, which Hovind’s Wikipedia entry states is a non-accredited correspondence university.  And today, via Pharyngula, I learned that Wikileaks has obtained and published his “thesis”, which Hovind has refused to allow anyone to see up until this point.

Failing to share your Ph.D thesis is, at the least, a breach of scientific etiquette.  Common practice is to send a copy to anyone who asks for one;  usually, the university will have the thesis on file, or you can ask the person directly, but it’s bad form to withhold your thesis and doesn’t speak well of it.  However, having wasted about 10 minutes of my life reading the introduction and half of the first chapter, I can see why Hovind would be embarrassed to have anyone read it.  Putting aside his writing style, which reminds me of a high school student who has been socially promoted, the thesis is both breath-taking in its purported scope and inanity.  In the introduction, he claims that the ten chapters to follow will completely demolish evolution, and that’s not even the end of the thesis – it goes on for another six chapters after that.  How useful for creationists!  Sadly, the material seems to be a rehashing of arguments that were old even when he wrote this mess, but don’t let that stop you from amusing yourself for as long as you can stand it.

(Interestingly, he claims that the chapters of the thesis originate from his radio show, which I don’t know much about.  This is what passed for an original contribution to the scientific literature at Patriot University?)

I’ll leave you with a Hovind thesis quote:

While all of the evidence is not in yet, I feel it is still the best option to take God’s word at face value.  The Bible has never been proven wrong yet, and I believe it never will be.

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Expelled slides into obscurity…

July 7, 2008

As a follow-up to Expelled‘s flop after its premiere in Canada last week, I tried to pull together the numbers for this weekend’s performance.  Unfortunately, finding Canadian box office results separate from US results is hard:  the only source I have is Tribute (one of the Canadian movie magazines), which publishes the top 20 Canadian movies each week.  Last week, Expelled ranked 20th on the list.

This week, it’s not even on the list.

So I can’t tell you how much it made.  What I can tell you is how much it didn’t make:  the 20th ranked film on the list was  Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, which pulled in a total of $15,226 this weekend.  So Expelled made no more than $15,000 dollars, and chances are that it made a damn sight less.   See the bottom of this post for screencaps of the Tribute website, showing both this weekend and last weekend’s results.

In other news, the Expelled website is now reporting a total of 23 theatres playing the movie (I should have taken screenshots of this too!  Oh well, too late now). It seems that theatres are abandoning this turkey in droves, since across the nation 36% of the theatres that had been showing Expelled – according to their numbers, at least – have dropped it.

Ah, the sweet smell of failure…

Visual records of the fail follow (from Tribute.ca):

and from the previous week:


Expelled – Tanking, redux.

June 30, 2008

Well, since the shock of finding out on Friday that Expelled was going to be fouling up my country with its ridiculous nonsense, the weekend numbers on its performance here have come in.  Box office figures for Canada are often lumped in with those of the US so finding good information is hard, but the best number I have states that Expelled pulled in $24,374 across Canada for the whole weekend.

Sorry, I just have to take a minute.  Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha! I mean, what a shame.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any official numbers which break down the gross per theatre or even how many theatres are showing the damn thing.  So, I did some ball-parking on my own.  Here’s a haphazard list of major cities in Canada (the provincial capitals with Vancouver, Calgary, and Ottawa thrown in) and the number of theatres showing Expelled, culled from online movie listings:

  • Vancouver: 5
  • Victoria: 1
  • Edmonton: 1
  • Calgary: 2
  • Regina: 1
  • Winnipeg: 1
  • Toronto: 10
  • Ottawa: 2
  • Montréal:  1
  • Québec City: 0
  • Fredericton: 0
  • Charlottetown: 0
  • Halifax: 2
  • St. John’s: 1

That makes 27 theatres playing the movie (at least) in Canada.  There are at least three showings at every theatre (a couple have only two showings, but the average is well above three so I’m estimating conservatively here). So for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we have 27 * 3 * 3 or 243 showings of the movie.  That would make for just over $100 per showing.  Average ticket price is somewhere around $10 per ticket , so we have about 10 people per theater per showing.  That’s pretty pathetic for the “big opening weekend”.  And my estimate is undoubtably conservative, since all ten theatres showing the movie in Toronto are showing it at least 4 and sometimes 5 times per day, as are several of the other markets.

Let’s get this straight:  they didn’t just plunk this turd down in one or two theatres up here in the Great White North.  No, they opened in almost every major Canadian city and the resulting numbers show that they failed miserably.  I would pretend to be sympathetic, but I’m not.  Ben Stein is a lying jackass, and frankly I’m happy that his movie is tankingAgain.

Wait!  There’s more!

Following up, I took a look at the Expelled website.  There’s a theatre locator which I paged through to get a theatre total.  Something is clearly whacky, because their locator only lists 4 theatres playing the movie in Vancouver where I count 5 (for some reason they left out Burnaby entirely), but putting that aside their total is still higher than mine at 36.  36 movie theatres, at an average of three showings per day for three days would make for 324 total showings, or no more than $24,374 / 324 = $75 per theatre, or about 7-8 people per showing. Again, a conservatively high estimate.

This, despite the “group release” extravaganzas available from the Expelled distributors!  Wow, I can’t imagine why people haven’t been snapping up those opportunities.

You may think that I’m being snarky here, and you’d be right.  Ben Stein is an IDiot, and he doesn’t deserve any attention that rises above the level of pure mocking.  So I refuse to do more than laugh at this tool who thinks that science makes murders and that evolution caused the Holocaust, while engaging in some wholesome schadenfreude.  Join me, won’t you?


The stupid – it’s coming!

June 27, 2008

I don’t know how I managed to miss this: via Pharyngula, I’ve learned that Expelled, Ben Stein’s vile dribbling of a movie, has slimed its way across the U.S. border and into my country.  I’ve written about Expelled’s implosion in the States, but now he comes up here?  The same man who thinks that being a scientist makes you a murderer?  I feel like I should be rousing the alarm about this stealth attack on evolution like a modern day (male, obviously!) Laura Secord.  Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way:  check out the Macleans review of the movie, which is gratifyingly harsh.

If you want to get an overview of Stein’s ridiculous claims, check out his interview on CBC’s The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos (the second time that I’ve linked to Stroumboulopoulos interviewing a nutjob – this is becoming a bit of a pattern, here).  In less than ten minutes, he manages to imply that evolutionary biology is responsible for the Nazis, eugenics, and the mass eviction of harmless ID proponents who just want a fair shake from the academic community;  this, while telling everyone that evolutionary biology somehow has to explain gravity, thermodynamics, and the beginning of life (the province of physics, physics / chemistry, and abiogenesis respectively). This last bit is a serious misunderstanding that even otherwise well-informed people are subject to.  To complain that evolutionary biology doesn’t provide an explanation for the beginning of life is ludicrous, because the field has never tackled that question and has no need to.  Quoting from ExpelledExposed:

Darwin wasn’t trying to explain the origin of life; you could just as easily complain that the theory of island biogeography doesn’t explain the origin of islands. Darwin himself says, in the Origin of Species, “It is no valid objection that science as yet throws no light on the far higher problem of the essence or origin of life” (Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. 6th edition, 1882. p. 421).

I’ll also refer you to the talk.origins FAQ on the subject of evolution and abiogenesis.  The fact that many of the people who have speculated on the beginning of life (or who have proposed theories of their own) have been connected with evolutionary biology is just because of the natural connection between the two fields, not because abiogenesis is a necessary question that evolutionary biology has to answer.

Then, after you’ve washed your hands, head over to ExpelledExposed.com and watch real science rip apart the trash that Stein spews from his ignorant word-hole.

Update:  After clicking through at Pharyngula, I came upon the Canadian Cynic blog, which smacks the issue around a bit more in an appealing way (I just added this blog to my RSS feeds).  I particularly like the National Post review that is linked to from CC, with its plum rating of “1” for the movie.

Update 2: Can you believe that I forgot to link to Stein’s interview?  Fixed that…


The consequence of “intelligent design”.

May 28, 2008

I’m reading a great book right now called Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France, by Lucy Moore. The basic premise consists of (as the title suggests) the lives of six women who were important during the French Revolution, both to tell their stories and to illustrate larger issues that ran through the Revolution like threads. The book is fantastic so far, but one passage leapt out at me as an illustration of the perils of the thinking inherent “intelligent design”. Moore is quoting and interpreting the influence that Rousseau had on the French and especially French women. I quote from Moore’s book in full here to illustrate the point:

Rousseau, in glorifying women as wives and mothers, denied them any role outside the home. ‘There are no good morals for women outside of a withdrawn and domestic life,’ he wrote. ‘A woman outside her home loses her greatest confidence, and is shorn of her true adornments, shows herself indecently. If she has a husband, what is she out seeking among men?’ For him, as for so many of his generation, sexual inequality created an ideal equilibrium: men were dominant, active and reasoning, and their role was public; women were emotional, modest, and loving, and their role was private. ‘A taller stature, a stronger voice, and features more strongly marked seem to have no necessary bearing on one’s sex, but these exterior modifications indicate the intentions of the creator in the modifications of the spirit,’ he reasons in La Nouvelle Héloïse. ‘The souls of a perfect woman and a perfect man must not resemble each other more than their appearances.’ According to this argument, the complementary differences between the sexes were essential to maintaining social harmony. (emphasis mine).

I don’t know Rousseau’s work well enough to know how far he might have taken this particular thought (I’m a biologist, not a philosopher), but it really doesn’t matter – I’m interested in the thought itself, because it exemplifies the problem with creationism and its cousin, ID.

In a heavy bit of irony, the problem is an issue that is actually usually attributed to evolutionary theory by critics: the “just-so” story, which is a unverifiable, ad hoc explanation for a phenomenon. Rousseau makes a laundry list of differences between men and women (the possible existence of which is bitterly debated these days), and then in a crucial move, justifies those differences by appealing to the wishes of the all-powerful Creator. In doing so, Rousseau not only explains and accepts those differences, but also removes any need to change a thing! Since the Creator wills it to be so, there is no need, and some might say we have no right, to modify the “natural” order of things.

This is a modification / elaboration of teleological arguments like the watchmaker argument advanced by William Paley, who is, incidentally, only the most famous proponent of this particular claptrap. Teleological arguments – arguments from design – only attempt to prove that God exists, but Rousseau’s sentiment goes farther by presupposing God and then divining God’s will from the way things are. This useful construction (a classic just-so story) allows creationists to deny any change or progress that they wish to, simply by claiming that God made things the way that they are and there is no need to modify them; just ignore any inconvenient historical fact that gets in the way here. It is also implicit in the creationist argument that “micro-evolution” is fine, but “macro-evolution” is rubbish – God set forth the species as they are, and so speciation can’t occur. Of course, putting aside the fact that evolutionary theorists don’t use the term macroevolution as a categorical one, but rather one of continuum, the recent deluge of credible evidence showing speciation and macroevolution occurring in front of our eyes has left creationists retreating into babble about “information”.

And yet, in a twisted bit of logic, it is creationists who accuse evolutionary theorists of blundering into this particular fallacy….


Expelled: My final roundup.

May 14, 2008

To avoid a constant stream of commentary on the movie Expelled, I’ve been ignoring it for the past few weeks after the first couple of posts that I did on it. Mostly, I was keeping my eye on the numbers to see if there would be a sudden resurgence in popularity for the pile of dreck that is Ben Stein’s masterpiece. I’m happy to say that at this point, there has not been: as per BoxOfficeMojo’s numbers, 25 days in to its run Expelled has made a grand total of about $7.3 million dollars. It is currently showing on 402 theatres, down from 1,052 at its height, and earning an average of $97 dollars per screen per day at this point (about $35-40,000 per day).

The slide into obscurity is not surprising, since all movies decline with time. But, I had to wait for it to run its course before I could nail the final nails into the coffin of this monstrosity with certainty. Creationist / “Intelligent Design” proponents may claim that it’s a victory:

Now., as to success, there’s no way Expelled’s going to be up there with Chain Saw #666; but that’s not a realistic assessment anyway. For a realistic assessment, we must compare Expelled with other documentaries about a public issue that you would need to think about.

Expelled is currently ranked #12 of all documentaries and #5 of all political documentaries. (May 9, 2008, 1:39 pm EST)

[…]

As of Wednesday, May 7 (20 days of showings), Expelled had made $6,827,768, so I expect the makers will pull down a profit.

Overall, the film reminds me of The Passion of the Christ and Bella: Panned by legacy critics, loved by the box office, both films paid the rent just fine. Which means that the makers can make other films

But as I explained in my previous analysis of this, it is unlikely that Expelled made a profit, nor did it meet the (absurd) goals of its producers. Since the production budget has not been released, we may never know how badly they hemorrhaged money, but any reasonable look at the probable amount of money spent suggests that the answer is: “like a hemophiliac in a knife fight”.

Comparing rankings of documentaries is a bit misleading as well. For the number of theaters that Expelled opened in, it should have done much better than it did. No other political documentary opened on anywhere near the number of theaters that Expelled did (with the exception of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko), but comparing it to #4, Bowling for Columbine (which did $24 million in business while opening in only a quarter of the theaters that Expelled did) shows how out of step Expelled was. The situation is even worse in the general documentary category, where Expelled sticks out like a sore (and gangrenous) thumb. Given the number of theaters it opened in and the lavish amount of money spent promoting this turd, its showing is downright dismal.

And really, comparing it to The Passion of the Christ? A film that did $370 million lifetime gross? Yeah, those two are clearly peas in a pod.


Expelled just keeps on sucking.

April 30, 2008

I’ve been working on my first peer-reviewed research post, which should be coming within the next day or two; these things require considerably more effort, so it’s not going as fast as I might have liked. But in the meantime, I thought I would drop in to mention that Expelled is continuing to stink the place up in its slide into obscurity: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were all down at least 45% from the corresponding day on the opening weekend, and the total take to date is just shy of $5.5 million (boxofficemojo). Given yesterday’s rather dismal performance of $157,191 (down 35% from last Monday), things are looking a little grim for Ben Stein’s money.

Dracil has a good round-up of the weekend’s numbers, and I encourage you to check it out.