Recently, I’ve started reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Indeed, I may have developed a bit of a Pratchett addiction. I just can’t stop reading his novels because they are really, really funny.
But nothing produced by Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Monty Python or even Ernest Scribbler can compare to the gigglefest that is Claws, Jaws & Dinosaurs by William J. Gibbons and “Dr.” Kent Hovind. The fun begins with the title. Is “dinosaurs” supposed to rhyme with “claws” and “jaws”?
Then there are the author bios. Hovind, of course, is a world-renowned felon and author of one of the funniest dissertations ever written for a diploma mill, but, according to the blurb on the back of the book, he is also “considered by many to be one of the leading authorities on ‘Science and the Bible.'” I’m not sure who considers him this. Maybe a bunch of evangelical Bigfoots. But, wait, there’s more:
As a fifteen year veteran high school science teacher, his love for science sparked his interest in creation vs. evolution. He saw the tremendous need for exposing evolution as a dangerous, religious world-view, and for arming Christians with scientific evidence that there are no contradictions between true science and the Bible.
So…uh…evolution is religious (and being religious is dangerous) and the bible is scientific. Welcome to Bizarro World!
More than half of William (Bill) Gibbons’ bio is taken up with accounts of his expeditions to find the Mokele-mbembe and living Dodos. No luck so far. But we also learn that
Gibbons became a born again Christian in 1986 during his first Congo adventure, and has since acquired his bachelor and master degrees in Religious Education from the Immanuel Baptist College in Atlanta, Georgia. He is currently  pursuing a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology with Warnborough College, Oxford.
Three of Immanuel’s faculty members, including its president and executive vice president, are family members. Many faculty members appear to have residences in Ghana, India, Indonesia, Korea and Nigeria. An Internet search of a number of faculty members turned up only links to Immanuel…. [It fits] into a category known as “diploma mills,” entities that demand little, if any, real academic training, enable students to bypass rigorous education, have no legitimate accreditation and award impressive sounding degrees.
But, on the other hand, an Oxford Ph.D.–that’s pretty impres….wait, what? Warnborough College is in no way affiliated with Oxford University? They got into a heap of financial and legal trouble for suggesting they were? They stopped even implying the connection in 1996? Huh. Well, just because it’s not Oxford doesn’t mean it’s not a real college. What? It’s not?
Yep, that’s right–it’s another diploma mill, and Gibbons is another “Dr.” Some bios of him still say that he has a Ph.D. from Warnborough College, Oxford.
Hovind wrote the introduction to the book and “contribute[d] information from my research” (5), so it’s difficult to tell how much involvement Hovind had in the actual writing of the book, Still, the intro’s a hoot:
It is my studied opinion that although most scientists in this field [cryptozoology] do extensive research, they start with the assumption that the earth is billions of years old. (5)
So, while they may be a bit loopy, they’re not completely delusional. Good to know.
Hovind follows this up with an illustrative anecdote showing how science works. It involves scientists studying the jumping abilities of a frog “as his legs were removed one by one.” The scientists yell “Jump frog” before each test. The distance diminishes as each leg is removed until the frog stops jumping completely after it has lost its last leg. The scientists conclude that “The frogs all jumped a shorter distance each time a leg was removed [and a] no-legged frog becomes deaf!” (5).
See, he made a funny about how scientists are stupid. Of course the anecdote doesn’t show that the scientists went into the test with a preconceived notion (that the distance of a frog’s leap is in some way related to shouted encouragement) which is what he claims scientists do, but that doesn’t matter because it makes them look bad.
This is an example of how to do good research, keep careful records and still come to the wrong conclusions! Nearly all of the authors who write on the cryptozoology topic do great research on living dinosaurs. They keep careful records and then conclude two things:
- There are probably some small dinosaurs still alive. (Good observation)
- This proves they survived for millions of years. (Bad conclusion) (5-6)
Okay, I’ve seen MonsterQuest, and if proving that the earth is really old is one of the prime motivations of cryptozoologists, I’ve missed it.
These authors seem blinded by the theory of evolution. The evolution theory, which is actually a religion, not a scientific theory, has been a great hindrance to scientific research in many fields, including cryptozoology. (6)
You’ve got to admit, he has a point–look at all the advances in biology that have sprung from Creation Science. Oh, wait. Yeah, he’s a bozo. But, hey, at least he didn’t say that “evolution is just a theory.” Apparently, it’s not a theory at all.
As for the great research cryptozoologists (and creation scientists) do: Claws, Jaws and Dinosaurs has no index; its bibliography is made up of ten books (all on cryptozoology); and the authors rarely if ever cite sources in the text for the
fairy tales they tell evidence they provide, making it difficult to verify what they say or, in many cases, to figure out what the hell they’re talking about. On top of that, they are baffled by the mysterious cryptid known as the Apostrophe, the organization within chapters doesn’t make sense and both Hovind and Gibbons should be denied access to exclamation points. I know it seems cruel, but really, they’ll be better for it.
After attacking “evolution theory,” Hovind offers a “much simpler” explanation for why there have been so many modern sightings of dinosaurs. This explanation involves the story of the creation and the Flood. It’s pretty standard Young Earth Creationist fare, the sort of thing that one can find on Answers in Genesis any day of the week (and that’s a literal 24 hour day, seven day week). The only difference is that both Hovind and Gibbons write in an awkward, immature style (“[Noah] probably took babies or young ones in order to save space, weight and food”). I still can’t quite figure out if the book is intended for children or adults.
The other problem with his explanation is his conclusion: “The idea of a few small ones [dinosaurs] still being alive today is perfectly reasonable from this Biblical perspective” (6). Why? I mean, yes, if the earth was created “fully formed and fully functioning about 6000 years ago” (6) then the dinosaurs haven’t been extinct for all that long, but in the extremely unlikely event that there is a plesiosaur swimming about in some Scottish lake, does that prove that the earth is 6000 years old? No, of course not. It would be weird, but it wouldn’t prove creationism or disprove evolution. It would just be weird.
And, all right, I kind of see the point when they’re talking about dinosaurs (though I think they’re wrong), but this book has a section on Dodos. Dodos! We all know that Dodos existed until quite recently. What the hell does that have to do with creationism? I suspect that it just means that Gibbons really likes cryptids and wants to find a Dodo and slipped it into the book whether it fit or not.
The last page of the introduction is pure evangelizing and sermonizing, as is the conclusion, co-written by Hovind and Gibbons. It includes this paragraph:
The Bible teaches that God will restore the earth one day for His children to live here for 1000 years! Won’t it be great if there are dinosaurs here for us to have as pets during that time! If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you are one of God’s children and have a wonderful eternity to look forward to. If you have not accepted Jesus, the Bible teaches that you will be in hell forever. God does not want anyone to go to hell and neither do we. Please call or write if you are not sure where you will spend eternity. We would love to help you know for sure that you are going to heaven or answer any questions you may have.
So, if you don’t accept Jesus, you’re going to hell forever, but if you do accept Jesus, you get to spend a thousand years playing fetch with velociraptor puppies. I’ve got to admit, that’s an unusually appealing pitch.
Tune in for our next installment when we will learn about Leif Eiriksson and the Bigfoot and discuss a portion of Beowulf that I didn’t even know existed.
For part two, click here.