Thursday, May 31, 2007

Can you credit it?

Reading the fine print

The recent opening of Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Kentucky has drawn a lot of attention, most of it appropriately negative. The advent of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, however, is merely the biggest, noisiest, and most recent episode in creationism's struggle to adorn itself with the semblance of science. The enemy (that's scientists and most sane people) have museums devoted to natural discoveries, so we (creationists and other nutjobs) need some devoted to supernatural revelation! We'll pretend to do science, but all of our conclusions are already laid out for us in this book over here! (It's like the opposite of science.)

It's kind of sad, and made sadder by the fact that so many Americans have fallen for this creationist nonsense.

As I said, this sort of pretend-science is not new. There are other creation museums and exhibits scattered across the country for the edification of the gullible, although none of the older establishments have quite the cachet of Ken Ham's multimillion dollar temple to pseudoscience. Pride of place used to belong to the Institute for Creation Research's Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, California, until ICR found itself bumped aside by AiG's new facility. In terms of fame, however, the new Creation Museum's most notable predecessor was Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola, Florida. Although cheesy in the extreme, Dinosaur Adventure Land's profile was prominent because of its indefatigable efforts—to say nothing of the notoriety—of its frenetic founder, “Dr.” Kent Hovind (also known in some circles as “Dr. Dino”).

Hovind is currently incarcerated in consequence of his conviction on tax evasion charges. God apparently told him he didn't have to play by Caesar's rules in building and operating his tribute to God. He seems to have missed Christ's admonition about rendering to Caesar when the occasion warrants.

Hovind is of particular interest because he epitomizes the pseudo-scholarship that characterizes the creationist movement. A vanishingly small number of creationists hold legitimate academic credentials in pertinent disciplines, so they must populate their ranks with engineers and a smattering of mathematicians and philosophers. Hovind's doctorate comes from an unaccredited school currently using the name “Patriot Bible University,” although it was going by “Patriot University” when it awarded Hovind a Ph.D. in Christian education.

What, pray tell, does this degree signify? Most people mock Hovind's use of the title “Dr.” because Patriot University was not (and still is not) an accredited educational institution. Accreditation is the periodic review process that certifies the rigor and adherence to widely recognized standards of a school's curriculum.

Patriot has never met this mark. Does that make Hovind's degree worthless? Let's go to the fine print, which comes directly from Patriot's own website:
Patriot Bible University (PBU) is accredited by the American Accrediting Association
 of Theological Institutions, Inc. This accreditation is through a Christian agency, that recognizes high standards of Biblical and academic training.

**See Advisory Below: It is not to be confused with regional accreditation that deals with secular programs and standards.**
What is the American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions? According to Wikipedia, it “is an unrecognized accreditation group based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was created in the late 1980s and the composition of the board is unknown.”

Okay, not good news. What else does Patriot have to say about its accreditation status?
As we do not exist to train secular career professionals, grant secular degrees, or educate those who see ministry as a profession (rather than a calling by the Lord), we have chosen not to spend our student's money on secular regional accreditation that costs tens of thousands of dollars—annually.

We are a ministry with a purpose and we do not exist to pursue financial gain. We serve a niche of Born Again believers who are seeking to be better equipped for Christian ministry. And these students want to obtain education in a financially prudent manner without resorting to student loans. We believe our students appreciate affordable biblical education.
Well, all right, though the bit about student loans is redundant, since Patriot students would not qualify for them. It is definitely time to jump down to that “Advisory Below” which the Patriot website provides. It was rendered in small print, but I'll forgo that for the sake of easier readability. It lays out the unforgiving truth:

1. PBU accreditation may or may not allow you to receive transfer credits to a secular school. If you are seeking a secular education degree, you would be best served to attend a secular institution. We grant Bible and religious degrees. If you hope to apply your Bible degree towards a secular degree at some time later on, the PBU courses and degrees are not likely to be fully applicable. If you are trying to “impress” others with your degree from a prestigious university, you would be best served by attending that one. We deliver education not stature. If you are going to seek employment with a particular church denomination or wish to transfer to a certain Christian College or University, you might confer with them first. Please consider what YOUR educational goals are.

2. A Patriot Bible University degree is recognized by many churches and ministry organizations. It will demonstrate to employers a higher level of study through the attainment of a degree. We have trained thousands of students during the last 27 years.

3. PBU's accreditation with this agency is a religious accreditation, rather than secular—voluntary, rather than mandatory. The laws of Colorado give us the authority to grant degrees, rather than A.A.A.T.I. The agency monitors educational and religious standards for Bible colleges, and their accreditation is accepted by many religious organizations. However, this accreditation would not be accepted by some secular organizations, as A.A.A.T.I. is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the seven official regional accrediting agencies.

This non-recognition may have some implications that include, but are not limited to:
  1. Patriot University is not eligible to participate in the Federal Student Loan/Financial Aid program.
  2. Patriot University is not authorized to accept the GI Bill.
  3. Patriot University is unable to guarantee acceptance of its degrees in other postsecondary institutions, except those also accredited by A.A.A.T.I.
  4. Corporations are not required to recognize degrees from Patriot University.

There we have full disclosure. Patriot Bible University classes do not earn you transferable college credit. Patriot Bible University degrees do not constitute professional credentials in any secular endeavor but may be accepted by some churches and Bible colleges.

No wonder people giggle when anyone refers to “Dr.” Hovind.


Ed Darrell said...

It's not just the accrediting -- the "dissertation" Hovind did was way below par as well. You can find on the web somewhere accounts of a fellow who actually got access to the thing to read it.

Doctoral dissertations in almost all fields are designed to promote the knowledge in the field, if only very narrowly. Consequently, reputable schools make theses and dissertations available through clearinghouses, so any researcher can get at least a photocopy for study. Hovinds alma mater does not participate in such scholarly activities as sharing the work. So it took real digging, but it was obtained.

And it shows a basic lack of scholarly work.

Ken Ham's credentials are probably a bit better, but his positions are just as specious.

Zeno said...

You're right, Ed. Hovind's so-called dissertation is another chink in his armor. DarkSyde did a profile of Hovind on DailyKos and included several comments about the deficiencies in this document. You can check it out here.

Cat's Staff said...

As I understand it, Hovid was (maybe still is) president of PU at the time it awarded(issued) him the Ph. D. He claimed to have a Ph. D. in Education. Notice he didn't even bother giving himself a science degree... The actual degree from PU was a Ph. D. in Christian Education....slight difference. He also insisted that his name appeared as Dr. Kent Hovid in the phone book...most real doctors don't want to do that.

Ed Darrell said...

Hmmmm. PBU claims to have granted "thousands" of degrees in the last 26 years?

Bet they can't name ten people who got 'em. In the interests of full disclosure, though, shouldn't they have to name them?

And, perhaps graduates should be required to have a little group precede them into any academic meeting, waving censers and crying "Unthinking! Unthinking!"