Thursday, December 29, 2005

Why are creationists so successful? (part 1)

I have just finished listening to a radio debate between creationist Kent Hovind and evolutionist Massimo Pigliucci. This debate was absolutely fascinating, and it can be downloaded in MP3 format from

Note that when I refer to creationists in any of my posts, I’m referring to those who advocate the idea of a six thousand year earth. I’m not referring to Christians in general, who might indeed call themselves creationists (ie, that the universe was created by a god) but who do not necessarily hold onto the Young Earth view.

I must be honest and say that I don’t take Kent Hovind seriously at all. His arguments are appalling, and are without any scientific basis at all. However, during this debate I realised his one strength: his ability – within a debate – to counter his opponent quickly, with both wit and confidence. As a debater he is pretty slick.

Why are creationists so popular? Why are their debates hailed by their followers as huge successes even though they grossly misinterpret science and evolution? This is the question that I thought about while listening to this debate, and a few thoughts came to mind. This article is quite long, so I will post it over two consecutive posts.

I believe creationists are successful because they appeal to our unquestioned assumptions and beliefs. Each one of us carries a complex array of overlapping beliefs from our culture and upbringing. These beliefs shape the way we interpret the world around us. Many of these beliefs remain unquestioned, and some of them – without us realising it – may be entirely wrong.

Most individuals have incomplete and unquestioned beliefs of what evolution actually is, and how science works. Hovind repeats these beliefs, and so reinforces them in the minds of those who follow him. For example, he stated that science is built around observation and experimentation, and argued that macroevolution is not a science because it does not meet these two criteria. This view of science is probably held by most people, but it is incomplete. I’m glad that Pigliucci added hypothesis testing as a third characteristic to Hovind’s list. Hypothesis testing is the most important part of science, and evolutionary theory is a science simply because it makes predictions that can be tested; and it passes these tests with flying colours.

The other two reasons why I think creationists are so successful will be covered in a second post.


Shmanky said...

Listen to the Hoag vs Hovind shows I post on, or . Hoag is great at meeting Hovind's game.

Kevin Parry said...

Thanks for this. I will definitely take a listen!

Me! said...

They're also successful because they're bankrolled by the Discovery Institute and other Christian tycoons (oxymoronic, no?)

I want intelligent design to account for parasites. Did Noah give all the animals tapeworms (etc.) in the Ark? ;)

i s o n o m i a

Jared Hoag said...

Hey, Kevin.

I've gone through a very similar experience -- we'd probably have much to talk about. My mp3 site is back up (meaning the mp3s are downloadable again). I see on my little map image that I have a hit from South Africa. Was that you? Feel free to email me.

jared dot hoag at gmail


Kevin Parry said...

Hi Jared

Thank you for your comment. That hit to your site was me. I plan to download some of the MP3's, but only at the end of the month - our bandwidth is capped here :-(

Which of the MP3's are the most interesting?


Jared Hoag said...


Well, like the site says -- the ones in bold are the best. It's subjective, though... You sorta have to listen to all of them to understand all the context, so it's a bit difficult to recommend particular ones to people. I wouldn't expect anyone to listen to all of them, though. There's a lot of material there. Maybe you should look at the topic column and pick from there.