Kent Hovind's "$250,000 Award to
Throughout northeast Kansas, from public forum to public forum, a familiar figure stumps for creationism, toting a sign and a stack of flyers declaring a "$250,000 Award to Prove Evolution". The announcement is intended to raise doubts about the scientific facts supporting evolution, but it should raise eyebrows about the ethics and lawfulness of false advertising. The creation advocate, knowingly or not, is promoting a sham perpetrated by Florida creationist Kent Hovind.
Hovind, already in trouble with the American Internal Revenue Service (IRS), is a regular champ at keeping scientific hands off his quarter million dollar wager. But how does he do it?
In one recent instance, a geologist named Kevin R. Henke contacted Mr. Hovind's "ministry" to ask about the contract terms that are necessary to win the award. In the first telephone conversation, Hovind was out of town and he talked with one of Hovind's staff members. The member admitted that the challenge on Hovind's site was vague. When Kevin protested that the challenge was technically unfeasible, the staff member agreed and further added that it was financially impossible as well.
In a second telephone conversation, Kevin talked to Hovind. Kevin was told by Mr. Hovind that the $250,000 award could be collected by recreating the Big Bang in a laboratory. A model or computer simulation of the Big Bang would not do, the applicant must generate an actual new universe. Of course, even if such a ridiculous challenge were technically feasible, the applicant would not be able to spend the money in this time-space continuum.
As a geologist, Kevin made numerous counter-proposals for the reward that dealt with the subjects that he had studied, such as the geologic record, the age of the Earth, the extinction of the dinosaurs, or plate tectonics. Hovind refused. Hovind required that the project must be of his choosing and that it must also lie outside of Kevin's research area and specific training. Hovind's project for Kevin? "Demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that dogs and bananas had a common ancestor."
If the size of the award was the stickler, how much money would Hovind be willing to gamble against a demonstration of this dog and banana challenge? $100,000? $50,00? $25,000? No, no, and not so. Hovind said he would wager only $2,000, that is, if his committee of hand-picked judges unanimously agreed that Kevin had demonstrated that dogs and bananas had a common ancestor - and $1,000 if the vote was not unanimous but a majority of judges found in Kevin's favor.
Although the project would require him to extensively study molecular biology, Kevin accepted the challenge to "prove that dogs and bananas share a common ancestor" and asked for 550 days to complete the project. The deal was nearly complete, except for the matter of judges. In his telephone conversation with Kevin, Hovind mentioned that a neighbor of his, a court judge, would make a good member of the committee to review Kevin's evidence. Kevin was cool to that idea. How does a court judge qualify as an expert on biology?
A few days after the telephone conversation, Kevin drafted a contract and presented it on the web site of Talk.origins, in it he specified the composition of a panel of neutral judges. Kevin required that the judges affirm that they are each theists - believers in God - but otherwise neutral scientists, and that they not be young Earth creationists. Kevin, himself an agnostic, reasoned that any agnostics or atheists on the committee might be unfair to Hovind and that any creationists would be unfair to him. A notary public would communicate with the otherwise anonymous judges and confirm to Kevin that the judges had sworn to the terms for neutrality. At this point, Kevin e-mailed the contract to Hovind and sent him another signed copy by mail. These terms were unacceptable to Hovind. Hovind insisted that he pick the judges himself without any confirmation of their neutrality.
Kevin tried again. His rewrote the contract, but still insisted that the neutrality of the committee be confirmed by a notary public. Hovind refused to sign this contract and broke further negotiations with Kevin. No contract. No project. No award money.
In the past two weeks, another scientist, [see Kent Hovind's Bogus Challenge] unaware of Kevin's failed attempt to gain a contract with Hovind, also contacted Kent Hovind. He reported details that show the $250,000 challenge has evolved to become even more difficult to obtain. Hovind now requires that the evidence submitted by the scientist for the judges' consideration must be "filtered" through Hovind before reaching his hand-picked judges. Hovind also reserves the right to eliminate any evidence which he finds unacceptable before the judges see it.