Eric Hovind: Lies, damn lies and the almighty dollar

Matthew 19:24

Proof, as if it were needed this week, that the one thing more important to Christian fundamentalists than lying for Jesus is cash and plenty of it, comes in the form of confirmation that Eric Hovind and Sye Ten Bruggencate’s plan to sell a DVD of the conversation they had with myself and Alex Botten is in fact going ahead.

“I realize [sic] that you despise Eric and I, but your understanding of the DVD sale is misinformed. Obviously we are not selling the exchanges as is, but are planning to sell commentary on the exchanges, with OUR copy of the exchanges included for free.

The full exchanges are offered for free on both our sites, so selling them alone would make absolutely no sense. If you think that you have cause for action against us selling DVDs of our commentary on the exchanges, and including the exchanges for free, then lawyer up.”

– Sye Ten Bruggencate

We did not agree for God Quest, inc. to edit the conversation we had with Sye and Eric. We did not agree for God Quest, inc. to use our comments for any commercial purpose of any kind. We were not asked if God Quest, inc. could use our comments in this way. We specifically said the whole point of our having the conversation was that it would not be used in this way.

In a second conversation, held between myself, Alex, Eric and Dustin Segers, we specifically told Eric that the single most offensive thing he does, in the name of his religion, is make money from wilfully misrepresenting the facts and what other people have said about those facts to his face.

We also told Eric and Sye, in a recent Fundamentally Flawed podcast, that the quickest and most honest way for them to put right any ill feelings which have been caused by their decision to go back on their promise not to financially gain from our involvement in their ministry, would be to donate the proceeds from sales of the DVD to UNICEF. So far they have declined, even though we also promised, if they did this, we would help them sell as many copies of it as possible, despite that we did not perform particularly well.

Anyone who buys this DVD is going to hear Alex and myself make some giant, huge, ridiculously obvious mistakes. We went into the recording fully prepared to admit that we did not know the intricacies of their argument. In the spirit of intellectual honesty, we asked them — and expected them — to be honest with us in return and simply explain what their beliefs actually are. What we discovered, over the following weeks, was a staggering degree of misinformation and blatant lies, pumped into the literature they produce, about “what atheists believe”.

Here is a sample of quotes from emails I have received following that conversation, from Christians who don’t lie for a living and are ashamed of those who do:

“They make us all sound nuts. I lost count of the times Eric dodged a question but made it sound like it was you guys who didn’t get it. He’s good, but not in a good way.”

“How did Sye manage to avoid Emmanuel Kant for this long? For someone who claims to be interested in logic his lack of knowledge in everything which happened in the last 150 years is embarrassing.”

“Please don’t have that annoying liar on the podcast ever again.”

I do not “despise” anyone. Least of all do I despise Eric Hovind or Sye Ten Bruggencate. I pity them. I pity their lack of humanity and honesty. I pity their need to turn everything that moves into money. I pity their small minded word games and holier than thou attitude to anyone who points out the phantasmagorically obvious flaws in their fear theology.

You would think, then, that I would welcome their decision to pump out more of this stuff. After all, how could it do any harm to let them prove with their own actions everything which we have ever said about them is right? On the face of it, that would be true. This would be further demonstrated by their complete unwillingness to give myself and Alex the right to reply. It’s telling that the conversation they chose to highlight is the one which came before we had a chance to go away and read up on some of the subjects they themselves advised us to research.

For example, if they had instead chosen to look at what was said in our second conversation, they would now be attempting to sell a DVD of a conversation which involved Eric insisting that there is “plenty of scientific data” to support Intelligent Design, but point blank refusing to name any of them.

If the intellectual honesty they frequently refer to had been exercised, in the production of this DVD, towards what myself and Alex actually said, about the fallaciousness of drawing a conclusion from ones own proposition, they would be peddling a debate in which we repeatedly answered their questions to the best of our ability, only to be told we hadn’t given them the right sort of answer.

Eric and Sye have a very simple proposal to consider. They can either go ahead and sell what they do not have the permission of its participants to sell; lining their own pockets with something they know full well presents an incomplete picture of the facts. Or they can give the proceeds of this DVD away to UNICEF and enjoy my 100% endorsement of it. I will give them a quote for the artwork. I will place a banner linking directly to the on-line store selling it at the top of this blog and leave it there for 6 months. I will encourage as many people as possible to buy it. All they have to do is sell it as pay-what-you-want and publish the receipts, so we know for certain that every last penny is going to a worthy cause.

UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation focusing on children and child rights, with a presence in more than 190 countries and territories. We work with local communities, partners and governments to ensure every child’s rights to survive and thrive are upheld. – http://www.unicef.org.uk/UNICEFs-Work/

Current estimates show [God Quest, inc.] has an annual revenue of $78,000 and employs a staff of approximately 2. – http://www.manta.com/c/mtmqspz/god-quest-inc

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37 comments on “Eric Hovind: Lies, damn lies and the almighty dollar

  1. The more that they pull these sorts of stunts then the more damage that they do to their cause.

    Their behaviour does bear comparison with that of some of the more outlandish cults – remember that it’s ok to lie, misrepresent and generally cheat a non-believer.

  2. Why am I not surprised?
    What does surprise me is that you continue to think that it’s worth bothering with this kind of person.
    With this post you’ve just given them some more free publicity.
    And please, PLEASE don’t ask me, “How do you know?”

  3. Paul: If we continue to turn a blind eye, in the hope what you rightly say about them will become obvious to those who need to heed the warning the most, we’re deluding ourselves. The only way to make it harder and harder for these people to continue profiting from their lies, is to shout from the rooftops about exactly this sort of thing, in the hope that anyone searching for more information on the people who are preaching to them, will find the facts before they find the propaganda. We need to spread this information around to as wide an audience as possible.

  4. Eric and Sye are morally bankrupt liars. They peddle delusion and bullshit for money, and anything that can be done to stop them gets my full support.

  5. The Q, – depending on how you read your post, it sounds like your reasoning is the same as theirs.

    That’s exactly what they see to be gained – “Just your two cents”. Ever heard of PPC?
    The best way to stop them is to give them the indifference they deserve. They just want to get folks talking about them, and as long as that happens, they WILL reap monetary benefits. Regardless of what is being said about them. Their only real fear would be the Tax Man – seriously.

  6. THE single reason why they keep getting away with this sort of thing, is because they expect people to become tired of hammering away at them to no avail. If they expect this to happen in this case, they don’t know James Gardner very well at all.

    This has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. It is to do with selling lies and using my name to attempt to get away with it. I challenge anyone to say they would be prepared to turn a blind eye to that, if it was their name being used.

  7. All I’m saying is that, if it were me, I’d consult an attorney to learn what my legal options are and never engage with them directly again. I should have been explicit about that. It seems to me that any attempt to convince “morally bankrupt liars” to do the decent thing is a Sisyphean endeavor. This is only my opinion, admittedly not worth much.

  8. Wrong again, The Q.
    Your opinion is valid, and could be worth a great deal.
    That said, I understand that Jim is very angry at the moment, and I wish to support him in his indignation.
    Maybe lawyering-up will be the next step.

  9. I sincerely hope that neither you, Jim or anyone reading this would construe anything I’ve said here as my not supporting Jim in this matter or any other, come to think of it, as I’ve become quite fond of him and the rest of the gang at Fundamentally Flawed. If I gave that impression, it was certainly not intended.

  10. Don’t worry, TheQ. Nothing negative could be construed from your posts.
    That’s Internet communication – nobody can see me smiling benignly as I spit on the Syeber Attackers.
    And anyway, I’m the cantankerous one around here, King of Snark 2008, don’t you know!
    Keep posting, pal.

  11. From the latest email I’ve received from Sye, they appear to be labouring under the illusion that this has something to do with religion vs. atheism.

    Because, on legal advice, I cannot directly communicate with him any further, I’m going to explain to anyone reading this exactly what the problem with the sale of this DVD going ahead is, from my point of view, and leave it to the wisdom of the crowd to decide where the root of my grievances reside.

    I hope that, in so doing, any fair minded person would agree that this has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of religious expression. Indeed, as I have maintained all along, if Sye or Eric were shown to be suffering active suppression of their religious beliefs, strongly disagree with them though I might, I would be the first to insist for their right to express these opinions openly. In that spirit they have been given several hours of airtime on the Fundamentally Flawed podcast, in which to reply to numerous criticisms of their position. This information was made available publicly and without charge.

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion. What they are not entitled to are their own facts. The fact remains, no matter how wilfully oblivious of this Sye pretends to be, that the only reason myself and Alex arranged to take part in the original podcast, was because it was expressly and specifically agreed that no one would use it for financial gain. Nor were anyone’s comments to be edited, muted or taken out of context.

    This is exactly the agreement their decision to sell this DVD has broken.

    On the subject of the debate, I have repeatedly stated that they presented us with a series of questions for which we did not have direct and cogent answers. I have repeatedly explained that, because of my own personal frustration with this fact, following the conversation, I read up on a number of the topics they raised so as to understand them better.

    Readers of this blog, including Sye, are fully aware of this fact; as witness to the following blog entries which were posted after the original conversation was recorded:

    http://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/fundamentally-flawed-extra-dustin-segers-and-reynold-hall/
    http://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/i-think-jim-is-getting-closer-to-becoming-a-christian/
    http://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/my-final-word-on-sye-ten-bruggencates-transcendental-argument-for-the-existence-of-god/
    http://howgoodisthat.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/why-do-we-do-this/

    I also took part in three additional podcast recordings, following the original recording with Sye and Eric, on the subject of TAG apologetics and explained, in detail, where I felt the flaws in the argument resided.

    If it is the intention of God Quest, inc. to produce for sale a DVD, which does not include this follow-up material, which was made available to its producers within a reasonable timeframe that they could include it in their production, not only are they in breach of our original agreement, they are also neglecting to include information pertinent to the discussion; which is nothing short of a deliberate obfuscation of the available facts.

    The right of reply is the right to defend oneself against public criticism in the same venue where it was published. Article 1 of a 2004 Council of Europe proposal defined a right of reply as: offering a possibility to react to any information in the media presenting inaccurate facts – http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/consultations/MMSOD2004.pdf

  12. I wonder if Eric’s finances are as slimy and illegal as his incarcerated father’s. Someone should look into this.

  13. Jim, I concur with your righteous indignation at the shenanigans perpetrated by Eric and Sye, but I’m not surprised by what they’ve done. As creationists they have a skewed and dishonest attitude to evidence, and as presuppositionalists they have a mindset predisposed to consider everyone else a liar. That’s why I’m not interested in having anything more to do with them — though I admire your (and Alex’s) persistent attempts to engage with them.

    Good luck with trying to get them to do the decent thing with the DVD, but don’t hold your breath. (Interesting to note, time and again, who holds the moral high ground in these cases…)

  14. I was in an area with poor internet connection for most of yesterday afternoon and evening, so I’ve only just now had the chance to read what happened after PZ Myers very kindly blogged about this. Thanks to everyone who got the word out there into the wider (here’s another one of those words I hate but find myself using nonetheless) blogosphere.

    I’ve just received a text message from Alex, in which Sye is apparently now claiming to have an audio recording of us giving him permission to sell the DVD. Staggering, isn’t it?

    Stay tuned.

  15. Since I have plenty of time on my hands, and love playing with my audio programmes, do you want me to produce for you an audio “recording” of Sye promising to hand over all the profits from the sales of the DVD to you, and asking you to marry him?

  16. Paul! The very man. I’ve just been asking about you on PZ’s blog. Can you tell us the details behind the DVD featuring your conversation with Sye? Did you give your permission for it to be sold or did you think it was being given away for free?

  17. Jim, I remember Paul B saying that Eric was going to make it available on the CSE website, and he (Paul B) would be able to publish it too.

    As a general principle if someone contributes to a “work” that is to be sold, that contributor is entitled to compensation. If they contribute without compensation, it’s unethical to sell the work they contributed to. Pretending that their contribution is being given away for free “along with” a separate work that is sold is a disingenuous smokescreen (as PZ Myers has pointed out).

  18. As part of the pre-show recording for the Third Debate we both gave permission to do what we liked with the recording. The idea was that both sides could publish a copy to prevent selective editing accusations.

    What I’m objecting to is that CSE then approached PCR to obtain permission to use the recordings of the First and Second debates for commercial sale as part of their DVD package. PCR agreed without consulting me or seeking my permission as a contributor. PCR do not insist on contributors signing any release prior to participating in any show.

    CSE are using my contributions to two debates as part of a DVD set that also then includes their own bookended spots as a commercial sale without making any financial offer to me for my work.

    At the very least both PCR and CSE have acted unethically and possibly illegally and if there is to be action against CSE then I would like to be a party with regards to the commercial sale of the first two debates on that DVD.

    That all said, the behaviour of CSE (and PCR) leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and cannot help but damage their cause. As I’ve said many times – if this is how a Christian is and how a Christian does then why would anyone want to be a Christian and try to lecture anyone else on morality.

  19. I thought that was the top and bottom of it, just from Googling around, but I’m glad you’ve cleared it up in person, so to speak.

    We need to wait and see what they plan on doing with the recording of Alex and me before deciding what to do next, but when we had Eric on Skype last night he sounded as if he plans on releasing it just to piss us off. This presumably means he thinks he has a strong legal case should we decide to sue… but I’m getting ahead of myself. IF this goes ahead we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I’d certainly like to keep in touch with you on this, should it be possible for us to take joint legal action against them.

    I should also underline, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked and everything to do with the fact we weren’t asked for our permission for it to be used commercially. I know it must be the hundredth time I’ve mentioned this fact, on this page alone, but since we’re not exactly dealing with people who pay too much attention to the facts, it’s worth repeating.

    thatjim@gmail.com

  20. I think the way forward that EVERYONE should use is to stipulate that the recording is under a Creative Commons Non Commercial Non Derivative license (I think Skepticule is released under that license)..

    We were all a bit naive, and a bit too trusting.

  21. I hope that anyone thinking about debating Sye and/or Eric will find these articles and think twice. Nothing would hurt Sye more than being starved of opportunities to grand stand on Skype.

  22. Thanks to the Internet, no-one need be starved of opportunities to grandstand on Skype or elsewhere. Now that their names are “out there”, I would be happy to debate Sye or Eric, but for the same reason that most people debate in public : to get heard. Not to belittle or demean Sye or Eric – they are taking care of that quite well on their own, without my help.
    As David Robertson pointed out three years ago, best-selling “new atheist” books like The God Delusion actually generate greater interest in the whole subject of religion and Christianity. I think it is always a good thing to get people thinking. That is why I am such a fan of Fundamentally-Flawed. My wish is that it become Fundamentalists-Floored, but I’m not holding my breath.
    The Internet is much like the school play-ground – a good scrap always attracts a crowd. In a debate, the real winner is the one who knows how to best exploit the crowd that has been attracted, NOT the one who KO’s his opponent.

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