Monday, May 04, 2009

Creation Video Series

While looking for worthwhile offerings at Netflix, Mrs. H. and I ran across a series of creation science videos. We decided to give them a shot.

While watching the first few minutes of the first video, we actually shut it off. We were disappointed. It wasn't really what we expected. The lecturer, Kent Hovind, was making a lot of wisecracks and doing tricks with kids in the audience. We were hoping for something a little more scholarly.

However, we gave it another shot, and we're glad we did.

The video is part of a series called: A Complete Creation Seminar From A Scientific Perspective. It is a series of eight DVDs of lectures given by Hovind in various locations accompanied by Powerpoint slides. After its initial slow start, and having gotten used to Dr. Hovind's quirky, at times comical style of presentation, we settled in and actually enjoyed his presentation of scientific evidence that supports the biblical view of a young earth.

Anyone who has seen Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed knows about the hostility that those who do not hold to the evolutionary theory (which is treated not only as fact, but guarded with the fervor of religious zealotry), as well as the suppression of evidence that does not fit with the current "orthodoxy" of scientific atheism.

We went ahead and bought the DVD set (it's $100). It comes with a limited copyright, meaning it can be copied legally for non-commercial purposes.

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (and I would say a vast majority of its pastors, teachers, churches, and schools) hold to a young earth understanding of creation, accepting the Genesis account as historically and literally true (and not mythical, allegorical, or tainted by human error). However, apart from a single elective course on Apologetics (which was outstanding!) taught by the late Rev. Prof. Kurt Marquart (who, though lacking an earned doctorate, may be the most intellectually-gifted person I've ever had contact with), we weren't given much by way of tools to make a good case from science for accepting the biblical account.

This is not to say Genesis needs support from science. Nor does it mean that anyone will come to faith based on fossils and theories about carbon dating. But we ignore the assault on the faith at our own peril in terms of those who avoid the Church in the misplaced notion that Christianity is anti-science, or that churches like the LCMS are knuckle-dragging flat-earth societies. And there is the additional problem we have of young people going off to college and losing their faith.

We need to do a better job in this area.

I wish we had more Lutheran resources, but there just aren't many. There is a group called the Creation Education Association which I understand has speakers and is doing some work in this area, but not only does this group lack a series of lectures on DVDs, they don't even have a website.

Hovind's lectures do refer to a couple of Lutheran resources - one of which is a book published by Concordia Publishing House called The Discovery of Genesis - which is an analysis of the written Chinese language which seem to contain primeval history corresponding to the Genesis account. Hovind also mentions a work by retired LCMS professor Erich von Fange - two of whose books were on sale at the Concordia Theological Seminary bookstore when I was a student.

I do recommend this DVD seminar. And like anything else, it has its strengths and weaknesses. I do want to address the negatives off the bat:

1) The lectures are at times overdone with jokes. They do improve greatly as you go through them, however. The videos at the end of the series are of much higher quality both in production and in content.
2) Hovind does address topics that are off-track. He is a Baptist, and has a limited understanding of, for example, Roman Catholicism. In fact, some of his statements are simply false, and unfortunately, he gets a lot of his information from books and pamphlets published by Jack Chick. At times, Hovind gets off onto tangents like world government, vaccinations, the sabbath, beer-drinking, the KJV-only debate, and also makes a lot of political jokes aimed at leaders of the Democrat party. Obviously, Dr. Hovind believes passionately in these issues, but when trying to present a seminar on scientific creationism, these things can be a distraction. They may also turn otherwise-receptive people off. And expect the "altar call" at the end of each lecture.
3) Hovind is not a scientist. He is a teacher. But he is a good teacher, lively, well-read, obviously a very bright individual. His doctorate degree (Ph.D. in Education) is from a Bible College that has no secular accreditation, and unfortunately, it sometimes becomes a distraction when he debates professors in academic settings who want to play degree one-upsmanship when the debate isn't going their way.

Having said all that, and keeping those things in mind, these lectures introduce the viewer to the fact that much of evolutionism is based on circular reasoning, is laden with unscientific assumptions, is built on tenuous evidence and, in some cases, outright fraud, is actually a religious faith-based system, is a dangerous worldview that is philosophically connected with racism and genocide, that there are a good number of accomplished scientists and scholars who disagree with the "orthodoxy" of the current academic paradigm.

Hovind presents a well-reasoned overarching Genesis-based theory that would explain things in a unified way, such as fossils, dinosaurs, the Grand Canyon, plate techtonics, the flood, micro-evolution, cosmological observation, the long lifespans of the patriarchs, etc. But unlike his opponents, Hovind presents his theory as a theory.

His treatment of dinosaurs is particularly interesting, especially as dinosaurs are so often used as a cudgel against Christians who believe Genesis to be true.

In short, there is another side of the story that most of us have never been exposed to.

I don't agree with every word Dr. Hovind utters. But that's okay. Science is about hypotheses, theories, examining evidence, debate, discussion, and following the evidence where it leads. Sadly, what passes for modern science begins with an unprovable premise, that the universe has no intelligent design - an assumption that not only violates the principles of science, but also runs contrary to the order and complexity of the universe.

And even if only a fraction of Hovind's argument is true, atheistic evolution would still be impossible.

Here are the titles of the lectures:

1) The Age of the Earth
2) The Garden of Eden
3) Dinosaurs and the Bible
4) Lies in the Textbooks
5) The Dangers of Evolution
6) The Hovind Theory
7) Question and Answer Part 1
8) Question and Answer Part 2

As I said before, I found the first lecture to have gotten off to a slow start. But it does get better. And I believe the lectures themselves get better as you move through them in order. I believe the strongest and most convincing DVDs are The Hovind Theory and Question and Answer Part 1. The lectures get increasingly better - with the exception of the very last DVD - which is a Q and A session that, I believe, is just not very good. Hovind covers a lot of extraneous information on this lecture, and I think he drops the ball on a lot of his material. Much of the reason for this is Hovind's lack of training in Biblical Greek and Hebrew. It is clearly the weakest of the lot.

I encourage everyone to have a look. Hovind's organization, called Creation Science Evangelism, can be found here. They offer not only this seminar on DVD, but an entire library of videos and books. There are also youtube videos of many of Kent Hovind's academic debates - which are themselves quite interesting.

Also, I'm shutting off comments for this post. There is an entire industry devoted to bashing Kent Hovind (the viteol and its intensity are themselves telling), and I have no desire to attract profane and hateful trolling to my blog. If you think Kent Hovind, intelligent design, the Book of Genesis, and biblical creationism (or any of these) are wrong, you're entitled to your opinion just as I am to mine. Put up your own blog (though it is unlikely that you will get much notice, there are already hundreds of hysterical and intentionally crude anti-Hovind and anti-Christian sites out there). But if you have an open mind, and if you are interested in hearing both sides of the story, I recommend this video seminar - especially to fellow LCMS Lutherans - with the aforementioned caveats.