A strong advocate of the Fox News approach to political journalism, her incendiary and largely fact-free tweets, and posts to her Kingdom Insight forum, usually centre around various conspiracy theories popular amongst Christian evangelical conservatives.
One conspiracy theme which appears regularly is that surrounding the democratically elected leader of the United States, who just so happens to be black, being in-fact a socialist atheist Muslim from Kenya.
She also believes that science can make human embryos grow in the stomach of cows, because… …abortion, and that reading any article or book which explores the extreme rightwing origins of this kind of misinformation is ‘ungodly’; to the point that she also has a deep mistrust of journals, books and articles written as a warning to Christians by other concerned Christians, about the dangers of the rightwing conspiracy. To Juanita, these publications — many of them internationally acclaimed bestsellers — are merely yet more proof that, quote, “liberal Christians are godless – honoring God is not in their center, their standards are not very different than the un-churched.”
Berguson, in common with many evangelical conservatives, believes that evidence itself is a godless concept. As such, anything which can be presented as evidence of her own mistaken beliefs, even if it is contained within her own words, is fair game for post-hoc editorial, censorship and deletion.
For example, when every single twitter update she had ever posted which contained the word ‘Obama’ or ‘Muslim’ mysteriously vanished from her public timeline, she stated that a possible reason for this was her general disinterest in talking about Obama. As of 6th February 2013 her own blog returns 24 separate uses of the word ‘Obama’, in two articles. All comments are disabled.
Juanita also regularly removes posts to her Kingdom Insight forum which ask for citations, evidence, links, quotes and generally anything which questions her view of how Christians should think, behave and preach to a non-religious audience.
Because of this she is able to both believe in a wide range of ideas which are simply not true, while characterising anyone who points this out as being ‘godless’; a term which she defines as “…the movement from a standard that honors [sic] God to a godless, secular standard” — that, in other words, anything which depends upon facts, evidence and reason is ‘godless’ — and therefore should have no bearing on how ‘true Christians’ form their worldview.
It would be easy to mistake Juanita’s methods for deliberate slight of hand; since much of what she says in dressed in the same vocabulary as that of the well known charlatans and confidence tricksters detailed elsewhere on this site. In reality she is as much the victim of these profiteers for Jesus, as she is a salve for the snake-oil salesmen whose ranks she aspires to join.
Thanks to this, and aside from her self-confessed deliberately confrontational persona on social networks, out of character she is a surprisingly engaging and ostensibly well-meaning person, who just so happens to have fallen hook, line and sinker for the extreme rightwing agenda, which increasingly dominates conservative political dialogue in the United States news media.
To the debating skeptic or activist atheist, she is therefore best approached not with a request for the evidence upon which she asserts some of her more offensive beliefs, but in a way which instead demonstrates a great deal of sympathy for those who do not posses basic critical thinking skills, and so cannot decouple their religious beliefs from the Christian vocabulary in which this brand of extremism is written.
It is, in other words, important to remember that from her point of view, anyone who isn’t the right type of Christian, isn’t worth listening to, or talking with; and picking apart the social, cultural and emotionally charged reasons for why someone would want to view the world in such absolutist terms, isn’t as straightforward as simply ridiculing the bad ideas which stem from those views — despite how tantalisingly easy this is.
Sye is internet famous for having one idea, which isn’t as interesting as it first appears. He is also a regular contributor to Eric Hovind’s ‘Creation Today’ web series of videos on anti-science, and biblical literalism, which preaches wilfully incorrect information on certain scientific facts, so as to indoctrinate children and vulnerable adults.* (N.B., please see clarification below).
Ten Bruggencate is extremely sincere in his religious beliefs and enthusiastic about sharing them with others. The achilles heel of his argument, is a coupling of his refusal to accept the syllogism at the heart of his own proposal, with his eagerness to reassign this characteristic towards anyone who happens to point it out.
TAG apologetics rises and falls on a reworking of a very old problem in the philosophy of mind; how do we know what we know is true, if we judge the reliability of our understanding in a given area, according to attributes which are inherent to the very knowledge we wish to measure.
Taking morality, as an example of that which we wish to measure, Sye’s position is that we can only know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, if we have an absolute standard of morality by which to judge our actions against. As a Christian, Sye’s absolute standard of morality is the God of the bible, Yahweh.
Presented with the fact that, in the Yahweh myth, His adherents are repeatedly commanded to carry out acts of genocide, rape, enslavement, torture and the genital mutilation of infants, Sye’s position is that those who point out this obvious challenge to Yahweh’s moral authority, are in no position to judge God’s actions, since the atheistic worldview cannot account for an absolute standard of morality.
He repeats this over and over on the assumption it will eventually either make sense, or distract attention away from the fact that the non-theistic position on morality doesn’t depend on the kind of absolutism he nevertheless insists it does.
Ten Bruggencate has said he does not believe there is any such thing as an atheist — that those who describe themselves as such, are merely in wilful denial of what they know to be true. In that belief, his most notorious 15 megabytes of fame came when he issued a challenge to debate atheism versus Christianity to the world famous illusionist, public speaker, outspoken atheist, executive producer of the TV series ‘Bullshit’ and one half of the magic due Penn & Teller, Penn Jillette.
There is no evidence Mr. Jillette ever received an official invitation to this debate, and the only mention of it ever having been issued is contained on pro-creationist websites, to which Mr. Ten Bruggencate is either directly or loosely affiliated.
Sye’s one idea, comes in the form of a challenge which he himself refuses to accept. On his website, he presents a page of buttons which appear to beg a series of multiple choice questions on logic and rational thinking. No matter which button is clicked, each link either leads back to the previous page, or a multi-self-refuting article on truth-claims, based upon the book of Romans 1:18-21. The coup de gras being a click-through to the final page, which simply reads, “The Proof that God exists is that without Him you couldn’t prove anything.”
In 1920, the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists declared metaphysical truth-claims of this nature as essentially meaningless, so as to clarify the definition of concepts in empirical science as an exploration of their immediately observable content. This strict definition was later relaxed by Karl Popper, who favoured the falsifiability of a theory over the verifiability of a hypothesis. The logic circuits in the machine you are using to read this document function according to this kind of deductive process.
Sye’s entire argument is predicated upon a semantic confusion between strict definitions and informal meaning; a blurring of the line between a description of X and an analysis of the description itself. The mental acrobatics he has to perform, when presented with this fact, very often result in a dark satire of religious group-think and other forms of confirmation bias. That he is completely oblivious to the fact he demonstrates this every time he opens his mouth, has made him the unwilling poster child of circular reasoning in atheist debating circles, albeit to an extremely limited clique.
Because of this, it has been argued that to merely engage him on the intellectual level he incorrectly assumes he is capable of operating, is to give the fish all the oxygen he needs to outgrow his small pond. Others have argued that it is better to examine his ideas and reveal their weaknesses, than allow him to continue operating under the delusion that they are not without merit.
Ten Bruggencate therefore has a number of outstanding challenges open to him on the many websites which he floods with received opinions on a range of topics — very often straying into subjects irrelevant to the topic of the original discussion. He rarely responds to any of these questions directly, choosing instead to preach misinformation about the people who issue these challenges, to the limited audience of fundamentalist evangelicals oblivious to his bait and switch techniques, exemplified in the Dr. Dino franchise.
His repeated refusals to engage with his many critics, on any topic outside of the TAG — married to his all broadcast and no receive, aggressive attitude; including but not limited to threats of eternal damnation in the fires of hell, has seen him banned from a number of blogs and comment forums. Unfortunately for the moderators of these sites, this merely plays into his underlying persecution complex, leading him to play the hurt feelings card with anyone exclusively willing to listen to his side of the story.
Since the internet is resplendent with an all-too-ready audience, waiting to accept any bad news they can get about “pesky atheists”, the majority of Ten Bruggencate’s supporters are almost completely unaware of the actual reasons behind the decision to ban or moderate his comments — choosing instead to assume it is his ideas which atheists find challenging, when in reality it is the arduous task of dealing with someone only interested in listening to themselves.
Edit: 2011-12-04T17:29:20+00:00. In the original version of this document, in paragraph two, it was asserted that ‘Creation Today’ employ methods of “passive aggressive child abuse” to further their cause. Sye Ten Bruggencate asked for this phrase to be removed. In a previous edit, a clarification of the phrase “passive aggressive child abuse” was amended to this article, and Mr. Ten Bruggencate again asked for it to be removed.
It is the long-held, publicly stated opinion of secular humanists, that to wilfully present information known to be false, in order to indoctrinate children towards a particular religious belief, is a form of child abuse.
The use of mythological imagery, such as the eternal fires of hell, for example, are often used as a threat of punishment for “the sin” of accepting certain scientific facts. This is a concept used repeatedly by Mr. Ten Bruggencate.
Hell is also used to persuade children of certain religious dogmas, as if the concept of hell is a true description of an actual physical place, as opposed to being a part of allegorical folklore.
Despite this, Mr. Ten Bruggencate has suggested that the use of the phrase “passive aggressive child abuse”, in reference to his role in the ‘Creation Today’ video series, is litigious.
In a previous edit to this article, Mr. Ten Bruggencate was invited to, therefore, present evidence of the following claims, central to the ‘Creation Today’ series, that a) the earth is not 4.54 billion years old and b) Darwinian evolution by natural selection is false. He was also invited to produce c) empirical evidence that hell is an actual place which non-Christian people go to when they die.
Mr. Ten Bruggencate has yet to present any such evidence of these claims. Should he do so at a later date, the producers of this website are happy to issue an apology to ‘Creation Today’ and Mr. Ten Bruggencate personally, for any confusion which the use of the phrase “passive aggressive child abuse” may have caused. Nevertheless, in the interest of clarity, it has now been replaced with a less ambiguous description of the ‘Creation Today’ modus operandi.
Kent, who refers to himself as Dr. Hovind, founded Creation Science Evangelism in 1989, to give talks about creationism at private schools and churches, and on radio and television broadcasts. Some of his beliefs are so controversial, he has even received criticism from other creationists, including Ken Ham’s Answers In Genesis.
Other critics of Hovind have also pointed out that Patriot Bible University (PBU), where Kent acquired his doctorate, is in fact a diploma mill, with unreasonably low graduation requirements, a lack of sufficient faculty or educational standards, and a suspicious tuition scheme.
In December of 2009, Kent’s doctoral dissertation was leaked onto the internet by the WikiLeaks website, which confirmed much of the speculation as to the intellectual and academic rigour actually required of a graduate to PBU.
In it, Kent talks in the first person about his mission from God, and sets out a series of assertions which essentially accuse the entire scientific establishment of geology, physics, mathematics, palaeontology, archeology, biology and chemistry of deliberately suppressing evidence that the planet is less than 10,000 years old and that life on earth originated in the garden of Eden — exactly as described in the first book of the bible, Genesis. No evidence in support of these claims have ever been presented for peer review.
Eric Hovind continues his father’s ministry, via various new media channels, most famously his YouTube channel ‘Creation Today’ in which he pretends to tackle “difficult questions atheists don’t want to talk about” by erecting straw-man arguments and posing questions which he thinks are far more interesting than they actually are.
These generally revolve around the basic tenets of Christian presuppositional theology, which were soundly debunked as far back as the 1920s, by the Vienna Circle of logical positivists.
I first met Eric in October of 2011, when he agreed to be a guest on the Fundamentally Flawed podcast, of which I am a regular contributor.
He was joined by Sye Ten Bruggencate, another inductee into the Liars for Jesus hall of fame. Together, they set out the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God, or TAG.
Previous to the broadcast section of the debate, we discussed how the recording was to be used. We agreed that no-one’s microphone would be muted, during the talk, and no-one’s comments would be edited or taken out of context in post-production.
During the recording of a second debate, this time involving Dustin Segers, my fellow Fundamentally Flawed host, Alex Botten, explained to Eric how offensive it is when he selectively chooses which types of scientific evidence he wishes to pay attention to and which parts he chooses to ignore.
Eric is a young earth creationist, who rejects the evidence of Darwinian evolution by natural selection and believes the world to be less than 10,000 years old. He teaches this to children and vulnerable adults via a series of DVD’s available on his website for $24.99 a pop.
When it was explained to Eric why so many people are disgusted by his Creation Today program of misinformation, he stuck his fingers in his ears and began to pray out-loud before revealing his “smoking hot wife” was waiting for him upstairs and promptly disappeared into the night.
Creation Today teaches lies about a range of scientific facts, with the intention of them being used by parents who home-school their children — an almost uniquely North American phenomenon, whereby fundamentalist evangelical Christians opt their children out of the public education system, so as not to expose them to any scientific facts about the non-magical origins of life on earth.
A few weeks after our second podcast with Eric, we discovered that he had edited together a promotional trailer for an upcoming Creation Today DVD, released via his Dr. Dino website, featuring a break-down of the conversation he and Sye had held with myself and Alex — exactly as we had made clear we did not give our permission for him to do at the time of the original recording.
When given the opportunity to correct this error, Eric stopped answering emails and twitter messages asking for an explanation. He was then given the opportunity to put right the feeling of ill will this understandably caused, by donating the proceeds of the DVD’s sale to the UNICEF children’s charity. If he agreed to do this, Alex and myself were happy to endorse the sale of the DVD. Eric declined.
At the time of writing, no preview version of the DVD has been made available for critical review, and attempts to prevent its sale are on-going. If the DVD is eventually released, it is highly likely to contain some sort of reference to “the debate atheists don’t want you to hear”. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that prominent science blogger and long time critic of the Hovind family business, PZ Myers, picked up on the story on his Pharyngula website.
This prompted Eric to call PZ and issue what has to be one of the funniest statements in the already rib tickling history of creationist irony. Complaining that PZ’s blog contained “factual inaccuracies”, Eric was given short shrift by PZ, who wrote:
In the 2007 sentencing of Eric’s father to 58 federal counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes, it was revealed he had made threats against the investigators and those cooperating with the investigation, after protesting that he was exempt from taxes because he is employed by God and receives no income.
I laughed and laughed. A man who peddles lies to children as his profession, believes the earth is less than ten thousand years old, and thinks the book of Genesis is a science textbook complained to me about misinformation on my website.
In January of 2007, district Judge Casey Rodgers ordered Hovind to pay $640,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, pay the prosecution’s court costs of $7,078 and serve three years parole once he is released from prison. His wife Jo was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervision.
The idea mooted at the time, was that the vast discrepancy between Jo Hovind’s sentence and that of her husband, was possibly an indication that the court felt Mrs. Hovind was heavily coerced into going along with Kent’s criminal activity and a victim of serious mental abuse. No evidence was ever produced to corroborate this claim.
In 2006 Glen Stoll, who worked with Kent Hovind on legal issues, was charged with encouraging people to avoid tax payments by claiming to be religious entities.
Kent Hovind is currently incarcerated at the FPC Satellite Camp of the ADX Florence prison in Florence, Colorado.
Edit 13th Dec 2011: Phone calls recorded while Hovind was awaiting trial were leaked onto the internet in 2007: http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2007/02/kent-hovinds-bizarre-phone-calls-from.html