Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hovindologist Down The Flat Earth Rabbit Hole

Lamar Smith is back from an assignment.  I asked him to look into the odd interaction of Kent Hovind and flat earth.  The way this connects with tax is kind of intriguing.  The people who are commonly called tax protesters, a term they dislike, have a pretty preposterous belief. It is that most people who pay federal income tax are being deceived into paying a tax that really does not apply to them.  The grandfather of the movement and possibly the inventor of many of the arguments is Irwin Schiff.

The movement lives on with, among others, Joe Bannister - Agent of Truth.  What is preposterous, besides the arguments themselves, is that they always lose in court except for the occasional criminal acquittal using the Cheek defense,  In order for them to be right, there would have to be a conspiracy involving the entire federal judiciary among others.

What I finally realized is that conspiracies of that scope and much larger are part of the world view of Kent Hovind, who while claiming not to be a tax protester, played one in court and prison and the continual promotion of his innocence narrative.

And Young Earth Creationism, the notion that real science supports a hyper-literal reading of Genesis that allows you to arrive at the age of the universe by summing up begats and tacking on six days requires an even grander conspiracy.  The biology, geology and astronomy departments in every university have to be in on it - just for starters.

There is a continuum that comes with using the Bible as a science textbook.  Form YEC, you move to geocentrism.  And the next step is flat earth (Usually a disc sort of shape).  I'll spare you the scriptural argument, other than to note that it is pretty compelling.  The people who wrote the texts that eventually became the Bible probably mostly believed that they lived on a firmament supported by pillars to the extent that they thought about the issue at all.

The scale of the conspiracy to deceive us into believing in a roughly spherical earth revolving around the sun if that is not true is mind boggling. It's not just the professors,  There has to be a lot of technology like GPS and even pre electronic aviation and maritime navigation that works differently than we think it works.So the moon landing was a fake.  Maybe.  But GPS really works because of ground stations not satellites and nobody is talking about that?

Regardless, it turns out that geocentrism and flat earth are bridges too far for Kent Hovind,  And that has the flat earth Christians very upset because he is such a solid guy on evolution and creation that it is so disappointing that he does not take the next obvious step into a biblical world view.

To end this perhaps too long introduction, that is what I asked Lamar to look into and here is his report. - PJR


I have returned from down the rabbit hole. Now, if I tell you that up is still up and North is still North, I’ve done you no favors because, since I’ve now told you this, you can rest assured it’s a lie because the rules of the game state rather clearly that everyone is always lying when they say something. The only real truth you can count on are YouTube videos.....

Unless you can’t.......

Who can know?

Peter Reilly gave me an assignment to look into and it has taken its toll on my time and sanity but Kent Hovind is now more embroiled in the FE debate than ever.......

Unless he isn’t.......

I’ll get to who I hope is Lenox’s most controversial resident shortly but my research has entangled me even more in the Flat Earth movement and I’ll get to Kent through them.  

First, though, two simple observations; Kent has dropped the word ‘literal’ from his description of what “the crew at Dinosaur Adventure Land” believes about the Bible and the calls for a Presidential Pardon are conspicuously absent for several weeks from his videos.

I’ve spent my time with the Flat Earthers and it’s been utterly confusing and exposed me to statements where I understood every single word in a sentence or question but have no idea what they collectively meant.  Please read a very abbreviated list of my transcriptions of direct quotes from Flat Earth debates and discussions that utterly confuse me but do not ask me for an explanation of their meaning. I remain as confused by these pronouncements and questions as you, most probably, will be:

“Even your eyes are lying to you, why can’t you see that?”

“Which direction of South are you talking about heading, right now?”

“NASA’s budget is a quarter of a billion dollars. Do you know how much of that is being spent on proving the shape of the earth is round? None! You can go look that up!”

“Sunlight isn’t daylight, most people don’t know that.”

“Well, how flat is a pancake, anyway?”

“The inner hemisphere of stars turns counter-clockwise and the outer hemisphere of stars turns clockwise.”

“I don’t have any idea what video or photo you’re talking about but I already have a video on my channel debunking it.”

“You have to understand that ‘Pac Man’ has two meanings and you have to be clear which one you mean.”

“No, you don’t understand, there’s a barrier above us. It’s invisible and can’t be detected in any way but we know it’s there.”

“People back then could just add to or take away from their calendars a few hundred years, if they wanted to. How would anyone know?”

“They have removed huge sections of the ocean and that’s why we can’t find the downed Malaysia flight.”  

“Oh yeah, I looked at that NASA footage. Do you know how easily I could have faked that? You give me a couple of thousand dollars and I could bring you an image just like that in a week. If an image looks easy for me to fake, it’s fake.”

“Occam’s Razor says ‘Do not unnecessarily multiply assumptions,’ therefore the only logical conclusion is that a conspiracy to control all of us has been underway for half a millennia involving every branch of every government of every country and almost every major company for the last 500 plus years. Nothing else makes sense!”

These are the sort of things that have assaulted my brain for weeks. To say that I’ve discovered some issues with the Flat Earth movement is the equivalent of saying the sky is blue but even that has been questioned. The label ‘Flat Earth,’ though is increasingly problematic, though a replacement isn’t immediately obvious.

The sub-sets of positions that currently fall under the ‘Flat Earth’ umbrella are truly manifold and, it seems to me, are truly testing the carrying capacity of a single term to describe them.

I think the best way to represent this is by posing questions that different members of the movement would answer in different ways:

1) What is the basic shape of the Earth? 

Kent Hovind has had conversations and done videos with Dr. Robert Sungenis that have gotten Kent off the sidelines and offered debate challenges to FEers. Both of these men agree that the earth is round but Dr. Sungenis holds that the earth is round but fixed and the entire universe revolves around it. Dr. Sungenis is Catholic and has many YT debates against Protestants of different stripes. He claims expertise in many ancient languages and claims that FE assertions from the Bible are unfounded or, at best, are very selective translations. 

Kent’s alliance with Dr. Sungenis is, on the face of it, somewhat strange, given their discrepant views on so many scientific and theological points outside of the shape of the earth and at least one FEer has attempted to drive a wedge between them. More on that shortly.

2) What is above the atmosphere of the Earth?

Listen to enough FE debates and discussions and you’ll hear some really far out theories about what’s far and out. Some hold there is an actual barrier, a canopy, a ‘semi-sphere’ above us. Weather balloons don’t pop at the end of their life-span, they deflate when they hit this barrier. Planets and stars are just projections on this, some hold. This barrier is why every rocket launch, every satellite is fake, except when they fail and, on those, ‘they’ knew they’d fail.

3) What is the proper and provable relationship between the sun, the earth and the moon?

Oh, man. If you have the guts to ask this question to a single flat-earther, bring a chair and get a snack and an adult beverage..... or six....  Throw this out to a group or panel or convention of them, buckle up and watch the show! Just the sun question will consume hours and hours. FEers claim to love Occam’s Razor and then consistently propose ad hoc solution after ad hoc solution in direct contravention of it. They can’t quite get away from direct observations anyone can make. When it’s daytime where you are, unfortunately for FEers, it seems it’s night somewhere else. The sun, then, must be small, close, have a shade like a lamp and the shade must, somehow, change shape throughout the day and year.

Even after they get the sun sorted out (they never really do) the audience may be astounded by the claims about the moon. Some hold that while the sun emits “hot light,” the moon, according to some, also is the source of light, but it’s “cold light.” Some FEers have done ‘scientific’ research with store-bought laser thermometers and ‘discovered’ that on the night of a full moon, temperatures of objects in direct moonlight are lower than objects in the shade of the moon. Their methodologies are questionable at best.

As far as the moon goes, though, virtually all FEers are in agreement that no person has ever actually been there, though a very few will concede it might be possible to go. Former stuntman, limousine driver and current gubernatorial candidate for California ‘Mad’ Mike Hughes, a very prominent figure in the FE movement, has already launched himself in a homemade steam-powered rocket, a few thousand feet in the air to gain attention for his cause of building and launching a bigger homemade rocket high enough to actually see the curvature of the earth. AronRa asked Mad Mike on a panel on a Non-Sequitur podcast, “So, if you’re able to launch yourself as high as you intend, won’t you have proven that if the US had put all its technical expertise to the task of going to the moon, that it, in fact, did? I mean, aren’t you proving yourself that it could have been done?”

After a long pause, Mad Mike gave one of the most honest and telling answers I’ve ever heard from a Flat Earther: “No, I can never believe that that happened or is possible no matter what evidence I have.”

Aron tried to press him: “But, Mike, you will have proven it’s possible.”

Mad Mike pivoted to his gubernatorial platform of disbanding all standing military forces and returning to a militia-based system and spoke no more of the moon landings.

There are many other questions that don’t have simple binary responses that divide the FE movement. There is no map of the Earth that all support, they just know the globe Earth is wrong.

I shared a link in an earlier post that is the most commonly accepted FE map. It posits a disc shape with Antarctica ringing the outside. Observations that this arrangement means that Antarctica couldn’t experience 6 months of daylight and 6 months of dark,” are currently met with “I’m ok w/the Arctic getting 6 months of sun and 6 months of dark but that doesn’t happen in Antarctica. I don’t see that from where I am.” The name of this particular projection is the Azimuthal Equatorial, or AE, map.

The closer you get to the North Pole the more accurate this map is but distances in the Southern Hemisphere are badly distorted. Australia appears to be something like 2 1/2 times as wide as the US. Some FEers have proposed cutting slices out of the Southern Hemisphere to fix this and this debuts the first of two references to Pac Man. Cut a slice out and you’ve got that lovable video game icon from the ‘80s. Please don’t ask me “What’s happening in Pac Man’s ‘mouth,’ I don’t know.

The other problem with the AE map is it puts Antarctica on the outside and makes its coast line on the order of 75-80k miles long. It’s actually only around 12k. 

Another map and another Pac Man appearance follows the diamond projection. Supporters of this projection point out that the dimensions of the diamond match the angles present in the Great Pyramid if you put a mirror image of itself directly under itself. Why that’s important remains beyond me. The problems with this image are that oceans are at the edges of each diamond edge. “What happens when a boat or airplane gets to the edge?”

Well, those of us of a certain age actually played Pac Man and remember that in fleeing from Inky, Blinky, Pinky & Clyde (Why do I remember that?), you could steer Pac Man into a couple of tunnels on one side of the board and then immediately appear on the opposite side of the board. I know I never wondered “Hey, how did that happen anyway?” Advocates of the diamond don’t know either but they’re claiming it actually does, not in Pac Man’s world, but right here on earth.  Any solution, for Flat Earthers, is better than admitting we’re on a globe.

Beyond the question of what they believe, many Flat Earthers really think the question of why they believe what they believe is important and  this, actually, divides the FE camp. Most of the FEers I’ve heard admit to being Creationists but only after long conversation and prompting. The diamond-earthers have to at least believe in the supernatural or their Pac Man’s tunnel to the other side doesn’t work at all. 

A Flat Earther named Rob Skiba states directly and immediately that he holds to the Flat Earth model because he understands a literal reading of the Bible to teach that fact. Skiba was and is at the point of attack when Kent Hovind decided to get involved. Skiba considers himself a ‘student’ of Kent Hovind though it’s not clear this is literally true. Skiba’s videos are full of praise for Hovind’s ‘knowledge’ of evolution and even mild chiding that “Kent, you’ve showed us there are ‘Lies in the Textbooks,’ I’m simply challenging you to realize that they’re not just in the Biology textbooks. They’re also in the Geography textbooks, as well. You say you believe the Bible literally......”

I spoke directly to Kent by phone after he released his Sungenis video and issued his 4-part challenge to the FE community. I tried to warn him off trying to debate Rob Skiba or others like him who hold to the Flat Earth for theological reasons. I foresee that a debate between Kent and a theologically-minded FE won’t be a debate about the shape of Earth but just a debate over Biblical interpretation that no one would actually win but Kent would come off appearing to be less Biblically literal than his opponent and that wouldn’t benefit him.

My world has become so bizarre that I was trying to help Kent Hovind not lose credibility or face with his own followers. Whether the world is flat or round, it certainly seems upside down to me right now.

So, Kent Hovind’s set to debate, right? He’s done  well over 100 with opponents supporting evolution.  No foreseeable problems, then?


Both Hovind and Skiba have burned much time and many electrons first saying “I really don’t want to debate this!” Skiba claims this because he says he’s too busy, he’s said everything he needs to say on the matter, he respects Hovind too much and he has a bit of a precondition. Skiba has proposed that Hovind and Sungenis debate first on the issues that divide them and he’ll “take the winner.” Both have spent so much time posturing before a debate has happened that they could have held numerous actual debates in the time they’ve spent.

Sungenis has already agreed to this proposal by contacting Skiba directly.

Hovind has yet, as of this writing, to respond.

In the videos flowing back and forth between Hovind & Skiba, anyone can watch snippets and reasonably conclude that Skiba doesn’t want to do it and Hovind doesn’t want to do it. You can watch other snippets from the exact same videos where Skiba sent emails months ago that he was eager to debate and Hovind is ducking him. Hovind, too, of course, claims to be both the reluctant quarry and the bold challenger all at the same time. Both end up asking the camera pointed at them “I’m not sure how you could possibly have mistaken my intentions,” when an objective observer could watch their videos and still come away wondering “So, do they want to do this or not?”

I’m not sure if I’ve fulfilled Peter Reilly’s original assignment or not. I’ve entered a world where compasses are probably in on the conspiracy, words don’t mean what they’ve ever meant before, to really know is to have no idea and to try to head south could mean any direction at all, all at once or none at all.

Peter, please find enclosed a bill for all the therapy I’m going to need to recover from this.

Here is an incomplete list of my sources but they cover most of my claims. I highly recommend no one spend the time to view them that I did. Take a walk, visit an old friend, knock yourself in the head with a ball peen hammer, all are better uses of your time:

I need a shower and a shave rather desperately. Has anyone seen my Razor?

Peter J Reilly is a CPA who has become a writer of sorts.
Lamar Smith has taught high school history and is now a regular contribution to Your Tax Matters Partner,


  1. Kent has been promoting in recent days the idea that his people need to write President Trump about his pardon and that someone high up was going to make sure the matter was run across the President's desk.

    Alas, this week when that was supposed to happen, Kent reported that he was told Brady Byrum's pro-forma letter about the pardon was too long.

    So, there's that!

    In the opening scenes of Kent's latest performance, you can still see the pardon promotion on his monitor and hear him promote it.