Thursday, May 06, 2004

Mooney on Hovind Article In my entry for May 2, I reported on this article from The New York Times about a creationist theme park. I objected that the article was not nearly negative enough. Pharyngula had an even stronger negative reaction here, in an entry for May 1.

Chris Mooney weighs in here (scroll down) with a somewhat different reaction:

I disagree with Pharyngula, who slams the New York Times for kissing up to this theme park. I actually thought the writer was trying to deadpan it. After all, it's so obvious how ridiculous this thing is--especially to the readers of the New York Times--that the reporter probably felt she didn't have to spell it out any more than she actually did.

Indeed, she pretty much lets the theme-park goers hang themselves. The story ends, for example, with this passage:

“We've been to museums, discovery centers, where you have to sit there and take the evolutionary stuff,” Mr. Passmore said. “It feels good for them [the children] to finally hear it in a public place, something that reinforces their beliefs.”

That's a very damning quote, and even if Mr. Passmore may not realize it, I think the Times writer did.

In my original essay on this subject, I described the reporter's tone as “bemused”. Unfortunatly, I don't have Mooney's confidence that the Times readership will interpret the article as deadpan. I fear that all too many people will think Hovind's park sound's like a pretty nifty place.

Brayton on Pandas The always interesting Ed Brayton has weighed in on the panda articles I wrote about in my entries for April 25 and May 2. Go have a look.

Charles Colson, the Nixon co-conspirator turned Christian apologist, can quite often be seen shoveling out nonsense on evolution on his website and in books, but I think this opinion piece may take the cake. His commentary is a follow up on this one by Roberto Rivera, and the subject of both articles is the survival of the giant pandas. Their survival, as anyone who has paid attention knows, is in serious jeopardy right now, with experts estimating that there are less than 1500 left in the world. Zoologists and biologists around the world are very concerned about this and there are projects underway in many countries to find ways to help the pandas survive. You'd think this was to the credit of science, but Rivera and Colson, while praising the effort, go to great lengths of absurdity and hypocrisy to make this an argument against evolution.

Good Letter The article reported on below comes on the heels of this article, also from the Times. It describes the loss of stature American science has suffered in recent years. Here's an excerpt:

The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, according to federal and private experts who point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals.

Foreign advances in basic science now often rival or even exceed America's, apparently with little public awareness of the trend or its implications for jobs, industry, national security or the vigor of the nation's intellectual and cultural life.

"The rest of the world is catching up," said John E. Jankowski, a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that tracks science trends. "Science excellence is no longer the domain of just the U.S."

In response to this article, the following excellent letter to the editor:

One reason we are losing dominance in the sciences is the influence of creationism, which has reached into the highest offices of government. For example, the dominant force determining our policy on stem cell research is not science but a religion that holds that evolution never occurred.

Creationists have been very successful in suppressing the teaching of evolution in high schools in parts of the United States, and are now building theme parks for children based on creation "science" (Arts & Ideas, May 1).

Would you hire a geologist who believes that the Grand Canyon was caused by Noah's flood? Would you hire a bacteriologist, geneticist or oncologist who had no knowledge of the function of mutation in nature? Talk about a loss of dominance in science — how about a loss of reason?

Libertyville, Ill., May 3, 2004
The writer is a retired high school biology teacher.

Well said.

Too Few New Scientists From yesterday's New York Times comes this depressing article on the dearth of American college students choosing to pursue careers in science.

The United States faces a major shortage of scientists because too few Americans are entering technical fields and because international competition is heating up for bright foreigners who once filled the gap, a federal panel warned Tuesday.

"I fear irreversible damage can be done," Robert C. Richardson, a Nobel laureate in physics and a member of the panel, said at a news conference in Washington, adding that he found the personnel trends "quite disturbing."

Warren M. Washington, chairman of the panel, the National Science Board, said the nation was in "a long-distance race" to maintain its edge in human scientific resources.

"For many years we have benefited from minimal competition in the global science and engineering labor market," he said. "But attractive and competitive alternatives are now expanding around the world."

The solution, Dr. Washington added, is for the United States to work harder at developing its own scientific talent. But a board report shows declining interest among young Americans in science careers

To develop our own scientific talent we would need an administration that is both interested in quality science and far-sighted enough to be willing to spend money on science education. Our current administration passes neither of those tests.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Times on John Maynard Smith Atoning, perhaps, for this embarrassing puff piece about a creationist theme park (see my entry for May 2), the New York Times has now published this nice obituary about John Maynard Smith. Here's an excerpt:

Dr. John Maynard Smith, an evolutionary biologist who revolutionized the study of animal behavior by applying the principles of game theory, died on April 19 at his home in Sussex, England. He was 84.

His work helped to answer a wide variety of perplexing questions, explaining, for example, why animals seeking dominance rarely actually fight for it and why parents sometimes stay around to raise their offspring yet other times leave the burden to a mate.

Influential in a wide range of areas within evolutionary biology, Dr. Maynard Smith is best known for his work involving game theory, which was originally inspired by the study of poker and which attempts to explain why strategies are more or less successful in different game situations.

Sense from the Right One of my readers has called this interesting website to my attention. It is maintained by Steven Dutch, a geology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. His site contains a number of interesting articles on various aspects of science and pseudoscience. I particularly liked this brief article responding to the old creationist canard, “What good is half a wing?” The creationist idea is that if a structure is non-functional until it is fully assembled, then it could not have evolved gradually. Here's an excerpt:

One of the most common criticisms of evolution is the question "what good is half a wing?" Anti-evolutionists point out that organs must be functional at every stage of evolution, otherwise they wouldn't be selected, and therefore half-formed wings, eyes, and lungs are impossible.

One problem with this criticism is that it ignores exaptation, the adaptation of a trait originally developed for one function to some other function. But apart from exaptation, the criticism is completely false.

Actually, half-formed eyes and wings can be very useful. Any light-detecting ability, however rudimentary, will enable an organism to seek shelter, find food, and avoid predators. Similarly, half-formed wings aren?t as useless as often imagined. The idea that eyes and wings can only function if fully formed is completely false. Indeed, it?s a lot easier to see how partial versions of these organs could function than it is for many other organs. Creationists assume that problems in evolution are insoluble without making even the slightest attempt to see if solutions exist.

The reader who called this site to my attention points out that Mr. Dutch identifies himself as a political conservative. Since I am frequently critical of conservatives on this site, it is nice to have an opportunity to point out that “conservative” does not have to imply “anti-science”. It is only that strain of conservatism that demands that the Bible be taken as a source of scientific data, precisely the strain that holds so much power over the current administration, that is anti-science.

Mr. Dutch also has a large number of political articles at his site. There is quite a lot here I can't endorse, but his thoughts make for interesting reading. One place where we disagree is on the subject of public religious displays:

Religion is a powerful source in American society. Lots of people who can't fall out of bed on Sunday morning to get to church nevertheless get angry over attacks on religion. I suspect a lot of them think getting angry about religion counts as a substitute for actually practicing it.

So what in - pardon the language - God's name are liberals thinking when they support, or at least remain silent about, attacks on religion?

There is no such thing as a right to pretend something you oppose doesn't exist, and no such thing as a right to be shielded from the fact that most people reject your values. So nonbelievers simply do not have a right to live in a society free of religious sentiment. And public displays of religious sentiment - the Ten Commandments, Nativity sets in public parks, the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance - are a straightforward First Amendment issue. Freedom of speech, which is not, I believe, limited only to individuals. Government agencies and bodies have it too.

The public exercises of religion listed above involve an absolutely trivial expenditure of public resources and don't infringe on the rights of non-Christians in the slightest. Opposing these exercises is not about protecting the rights of the minority but about suppressing the rights of a majority, using the courts because opponents have failed to make their case on its merits.

But public displays of religious belief send an exclusionary message. Maybe. But the last time I checked, messages of all kinds were protected by the First Amendment. Even exclusionary ones. And if you find yourself being excluded, maybe you might even ask whether you're on the right side of the issues.

You'd feel differently if you were in the minority. I've spent a total of two years of my life in Islamic countries. If you're expecting me to buy into the idea that it's a violation of my rights to have the majority express a different religious sentiment, you have definitely picked the wrong person.

Absolutely nothing would blunt the power of the Religious Right by letting them have their public symbols. The last time they did, they were lulled into such a complete sense of complacency that the values shift of the Sixties caught them completely by surprise.

This quote comes from this article, entitled “Some Issues Where Liberals are Missing the Boat.

Mr. Dutch's analysis here is absurdly simplistic. No one has ever argued that we should have a society that is free of religious sentiment. No non-believer is asking to be shielded from the fact that most Americans believe in God. We ask only that the government not fund religious displays. You see, while the first amendment does talk about freedom of speech, it also talks about congress passing no law regarding an establishment of a religion. It is a long-standing principle of constitutional law that state and local governments must also respect such prohibitions. So the only question is whether religious displays on public land constitute an establishment of religion. I would argue that it does, and I have quite a lot of legal precedent on my side.

One thing that has always puzzled me is why so many Christians care so much about pacing nativity scenes on public land. Isn't it enough that they decorate their homes and churches? Any private business can decorate its facilities with any religious displays it likes. Why the government buildings? The only reason I can think of is that the people who support such things specifically want to send the message that they live in a Christian town. And that is precisely what the constitution forbids.

Anyway, have a look at the site and form your own conclusion. Sensible commentary on science, less sensible commentary on politics.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Dembski's Fantasy Land William Dembski's latest turd tome is entitled The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design. It is nothing more than another repackaging of the same bad arguments he's been making for a decade. But one new aspect of Dembski's delusion is that his ideas have become a source of great interest to serious scientists.

For example, he writes:

Specified complexity is a widely used criterion for detecting design. For instance, when researchers in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) look for signs of intelligence from outer space, they are looking for specified complexity. (P. 85-86)

There is some equivocation going on here. It is true, in a vague sort of way, that what SETI researchers hope to find is some radio signal from outer space that carries an intelligible message. If that is all Dembski means by “specified complexity”, then I find nothing objectionable in this statement. But this statement comes at the end of a chapter in which Dembski outlines an elaborate probabilstic apparatus for detecting design in biological structures. Dembski's claim to fame among ID folks is his assertion that his convoluted mathematical arguments from the core of a strong case against evolutionary theory. For Dembski, specified complexity is a technical term in probability theory. It holds that status for no one else. Scientists interested in solving actual problems in the lab do not use Dembski's tools, for the simple reason that they are based on bad arguments and sloppy reasoning. In that sense, it is highly misleading to say that specified complexity is widely used.

He goes on to write:

By arranging these questions sequentially as decision nodes in a flowchart, we can represent specified complexity as a criterion for detecting design. This flowchart is now widely known as the Explanatory Filter. (P. 87)

The questions he has in mind are “Is it contingent? Is it complex? Is it specified?” “It” refers to the event in question.

Widely known as the Explanatory Filter? Dembski himself coined the term “Explanatory Filter” to describe the algorithm he uses to determine if a particular event resulted from intelligent design. The only time scientists ever refer to the filter is specifically when they are criticzing Dembski. Like specified complexity, the filter is something that plays no role at all in any serious scientific enterprise. It's existence is widely known only among people who take an interest in evolution/creationism disputes. Once again Dembski is implying that his ideas have gained some currency among scientists.

A third example is:

Certainly the bacterial flagellum is specified. One way to see this is to note that humans developed bidirectional, motor-driven propellers well before they figured out that the flagellum was such a machine. This is not to say that for the biological function of a system to constitute a specification, humans must have independently invented a system that performs the same function. Nevertheless, independent invention makes all the more clear that the system satisfies independent functional requirements and therefore is specified. At any rate, no biologist I know questions whether the functional systems that arise in biology are specified. (P. 111)

One suspects that the biologists Dembski knows form a rather carefully chosen group, but the fact is, once again, that there are no serious scientists who ever use the term “specified” in the way Dembski envisions. In fact, most of the people who have seriously conisdered Dembski's proposal have come to the conclusion that Dembski's ideas about specification are hopelessly vague, and therefore impossible to apply in any nontrivial case.

In each of these examples Dembski is trying to give the impression that scientists find his ideas correct and useful. Actually, they find them to be neither. But since Dembski's book was published by the Christian publisher InterVarsity Press, it is safe to say that the book's intended audience is not likely to know about the current state of affairs in modern biology.

Bush and Science Have a look at this news brief from the editors of Scientific American. It addresses the repeated instances of the Bush administration's abuse of science:

In February his White House received failing marks in a statement signed by 62 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and advisers to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. It begins, "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences.... The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle."

The editors go on to provide several examples:

Doubters of that judgment should read the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that accompanies the statement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making" (available at Among the affronts that it details: The administration misrepresented the findings of the National Academy of Sciences and other experts on climate change. It meddled with the discussion of climate change in an Environmental Protection Agency report until the EPA eliminated that section. It suppressed another EPA study that showed that the administration's proposed Clear Skies Act would do less than current law to reduce air pollution and mercury contamination of fish. It even dropped independent scientists from advisory committees on lead poisoning and drug abuse in favor of ones with ties to industry.

Let us offer more examples of our own. The Department of Health and Human Services deleted information from its Web sites that runs contrary to the president's preference for "abstinence only" sex education programs. The Office of Foreign Assets Control made it much more difficult for anyone from "hostile nations" to be published in the U.S., so some scientific journals will no longer consider submissions from them. The Office of Management and Budget has proposed overhauling peer review for funding of science that bears on environmental and health regulations--in effect, industry scientists would get to approve what research is conducted by the EPA.

As many recent examples make clear, the truth counts for nothing with the present administration and its fawning, talk-radio lickspittles. These are the same people who, just a few short years ago, told us that Bill Clinton's lies about his sexual affairs constituted impeachable offenses.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Colson, Again Not to beat a dead horse, but here's Charles Colson endorsing the book Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design by Thomas Woodward:

BreakPoint listeners have heard me speak many times over the years about the intelligent design movement. Intelligent design is the argument by scientists that the world shows clear signs that it was designed and is not simply the result of random evolution.

This is one of the biggest cultural shifts in recent history, especially now with school boards across the country debating this very question and affirming the need to teach both sides of this controversy.

How did this come about? It’s been developing for years, and a new book recounts the intelligent design movement’s history.

Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design, written by rhetorical historian Thomas Woodward, tells the stories of four founders of the intelligent design movement—Michael Denton, Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski—and how they used brilliant rhetorical strategy to break down Darwinism.

I don't have much to say about this entirely standard bit of ID puffery, but I love the implication that ID is far more about rhetoric than it is about science.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Pounding on the Pandas Last week I reported on this column by Charles Colson, in which he argues that Darwinists should take pleasure in the looming extinction of the giant panda. They are simply losing out in competition against fitter competitors, you see. The column attained a level of such rarified, gourmet ignorance, it almost defied rebuttal. I nonetheless attempted that thankless task, arguing that someone needed to explain to Colson the difference between “is” and “ought”.

Well, it seems that Colson's outfit, BreakPoint is so enamored of this argument, that they actually found someone else to write the same column, available here. This time the author is someone named Roberto Rivera. Commenting on the striking coloration of the pandas, Rivera writes:

I have my own theory about the markings: they make the creatures so cute that people will care about what happens to them. Because, let's face it, evolutionarily speaking, Giant Pandas are losers. Unlike their ursine cousins who will eat almost anything, Giant Pandas, as you probably know, basically eat one thing: bamboo stems and leaves. Okay, two things.

I assume Rivera is being facetious about the reason for the panda's coloration, but his remark about pandas being evolutionary losers has no charitable interpretation. The panda, like every other modern species, resides at the end of a long line of winners in the game of survival. The pandas have been able to survive for a long time with their limited diet and leisurely reproductive rate. The reason they are endangered now is because of human encroachment on their natural habitats.

Rivera saves his best stuff for later in the article:

For those who take their Darwinism, as Thelonious Monk might've put it, straight, no chaser, the logical response to the plight of the Giant Panda is “tough.” Evolution is, if nothing else, unsentimental. It rewards adaptability and punishes, in the medium-to-long term, overspecialization. If your diet and habitat disappear-and that has happened countless times in Earth's history-then you do, too.

For those who take their theory of gravitation, as Thelonious Monk might've put it, straight, no chaser, the logical response to a plane crash is “tough”. Gravity is, if nothing else, unsentimental. What an asshole.

Actually, Rivera is so fond of this point, he proceeds to repeat it:

What's more, I've read many books and watched countless hours of PBS and Discovery Channel programs on evolution and the one thing that I haven't heard was a hint that a species felt regret or remorse about out-competing another species into extinction. Do you think that the American Bison feels bad that it is, among late- Pleistocene megafauna like the Columbian mammoth and the giant ground sloth, the only survivor? Or that the first modern humans to enter Europefelt [sic] regret about the eventual demise of the “indigenous population,” a.k.a., the Neanderthals? More to the point: I've never heard a modern paleontologist express such regret about such previous extinctions. As we?ve been told over and over, extinction is natural.

Anyone want to take a guess about the number of paleontologists with whom Rivera has discussed this topic? I'm thinking zero. I'm also thinking that, minus a spell checker, Rivera would find himself unable to spell “paleontologist”.

And just in case you were thinking of pointing out that biodiversity, whatever its aesthetic appeal, is good for humanity, rest assured that Rivera is all over that one:

Oh yeah, biologists treat biodiversity as an indispensable good of human existence but it's nothing of the kind. There are probably indispensable species out there but I'm hard pressed to name any of them. Contrary to what you've heard, the rain forests aren't the “lungs” of the planet. As Bjorn Lomborg writes in “The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World,” if all the plants on the planet died and decomposed, the process would consume less than one percent of the atmosphere's oxygen. If anything, animals are even less indispensable to human existence. As animal rights activists never tire of telling us, we don't need to eat them to survive; soy, legumes, and grains can provide the necessary protein. We've technologically outgrown our need for animal labor, at least in the industrial world. What's true of chicks, ducks, geese and other things that scurry is especially true of the Giant Panda. If it and many other species were gone tomorrow the material impact on human existence would be less than negligible; it would be nonexistent. Saving it from extinction has nothing to do with self-interest.

Yes, he's serious. Plants, of course, don't merely produce oxygen, they also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If all the plants on the planet died, even the conservatives would have to accept the reality of global warming. Rivera fancies himself clever for pointing out that soy, legumes, and grains can provide necessary protein, but he simply ignores the fact that numerous animals are responsible for producing the conditions under which such things can grow. I'm sure he's right that the giant panda could go extinct without materially affecting human existence. But the fact remains that biodiversity is essential if we are to have an environment in which humans can survive and prosper.

Actually, Rivera is fond of biodiversity. He just thinks that Darwinians have no grounds for supporting it. So what's a better reason for supporting biodiversity?

What it has to do with is the qualities that cause humans, alone among the millions of species on Earth, to ponder their obligations to other species. As Leon Kass pointed out in “The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis,” our capacity to ponder that question proves that we are not just another species. Peter Singer, Matthew Scully and, more recently, Jeffrey Moussaeiff, have all written, with ample justification, against the cruel treatment of animals. What often goes unmentioned in the debate about animal rights is that only human beings could debate animal rights. Not just because of the uniqueness of human language but because the arguments and appeals in such a debate only resonate with humans. Pardon the rhetorical questions but do lions care about the suffering of the zebra? Do Orcas, which often toss their prey back and forth like a beach ball before finally killing it, care about the feelings of seals?

Our relationship to the rest of creation is different and we know this is true even if we don?t believe in the biblical God. Even if we consider Genesis to be a pious fairy tale, we still see ourselves as the protector of other animals, especially those that are having a hard time surviving. That?s as it should be. What's not is insisting that man act as if he were special while, at the same time, insisting that?s he?s not.

Zing! First of all, no one, Darwinist or otherwise, has ever argued that humans are not uniquely able to ponder moral questions. But how does that imply that we are not just another species? An elephant could as plausibly argue that their enormous, highly flexible trunks show that they are not just another species (I mean, really, can you pick up a peanut with your nose?) . Every species has something that makes them unique among nature's productions.

What's particularly galling about this is that it's the conservatives who routinely oppose any sensible legislation geared at protecting species or solving other environmental problems. Colson, Rivera and their ilk care about biodiversity only to the extent that endangered species can be used to persuade their idiot readers that Darwinists hate animals. When it comes time to actually passing laws they find themselves far more sympathetic to polluters and despoilers.

The Times on Creationism Here at EvolutionBlog we spend a lot of time trolling the web sites of brain-dead, right-wing ignorance peddlers. But sometimes we seek out more nourishing fare, and for that purpose we have often found the New York Times helpful. Sure, they've had their problems, but as newspapers go we've always considered them among the best.

And then they published this article, headlined:

Darwin-Free Fun for Creationists

It's an astonishing piece of pro-creationist puffery. Here's an excerpt:

Robert and Schon Passmore took their children to Disney World last fall and left bitterly disappointed. As Christians who reject evolutionary theory, the family scoffed at the park's dinosaur attractions, which date the apatosaurus, brachiosaurus and the like to prehistoric times.

“My kids kept recognizing flaws in the presentation,” said Mrs. Passmore, of Jackson, Ala. “You know the whole `millions of years ago dinosaurs ruled the earth thing.”

So this week, the Passmores sought out a lower-profile Florida attraction: Dinosaur Adventure Land, a creationist theme park and museum here that beckons children to “find out the truth about dinosaurs” with games that roll science and religion into one big funfest with the message that Genesis, not science, tells the real story of the creation.

Kent Hovind, the minister who opened the park in 2001, said his aim was to spread the message of creationism through a fixture of mainstream America, the theme park, instead of pleading its case at academic conferences and in courtrooms.

Mr. Hovind, a former public school science teacher with his own ministry, Creation Science Evangelism, and a hectic lecture schedule, said he had opened Dinosaur Adventure Land to counter all the science centers and natural history museums that explain the evolution of life with Darwinian theory. There are dinosaur bone replicas, with accompanying explanations that God made dinosaurs on Day 6 of the creation as described in Genesis, 6,000 years ago. Among the products the park gift shop peddles are T-shirts with a small fish labeled “Darwin” getting gobbled by a bigger fish labeled “Truth.“

Lovely. Suffice it to say that Hovind's theme park is intended for very young children. The Passmores' children only noticed that Disney World was making certain claims that were different from what their parent's were telling them. Hopefully, when they reach their teenage years, they will notice that their parent's are idiots.

Kent Hovind is well-known for being unusually stupid, even for a creationist. The ever-useful website TalkOrigins has everything you need to know about him here. The article later notes that even some creationists find Hovind's standards of scholarship a bit weak:

The man who calls himself Dr. Dino is also controversial among creationists, some of whom say he discredits their movement with some of his pseudo-scientific claims. Mr. Hovind got into a dispute in 2002 with Answers in Genesis, when he took issue with an article it published called "Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use." One such argument was that footprints found in Texas proved that man and dinosaurs coexisted; Mr. Hovind said he considered the argument, now abandoned by many creationists, valid. Mr. Hovind said he gave 700 lectures a year and that 38,000 people had visited his park, at $7 a head. According to a map that invites visitors to pinpoint their hometown, most come from the Florida Panhandle and from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In fairness, the article does go on to mention some of Hovind's recent legal troubles, though it glosses over them rather quickly:

Dinosaur Adventure Land, tucked behind a highway lined with car dealerships in this metropolitan area of 425,000, sits next to Mr. Hovind's home and the offices of Creation Science Evangelism, which he said he founded in 1989. Mr. Hovind is well known in Pensacola, and even in a region where religious billboards almost outnumber commercial ones he is controversial. Escambia County sued him in 2000 after he refused to get a $50 permit before building his theme park, saying the government had no authority over a church.

Just last week Internal Revenue Service agents used a search warrant to remove financial documents from Mr. Hovind's home and offices, saying he was not paying taxes and had neither a business license nor tax-exempt status for his enterprises.

Mr. Hovind did not want to discuss the I.R.S. investigation, saying only, "I don't have any tax obligations."

It is troubling that the article takes a bemused tone, and makes no attempt to point out that Hovind and his ilk are promoting an especially dangerous sort of ignorance. If a holocaust-denier's theme park ever opens up, look for the Times to provide similarly fawning coverage.