But Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, talks about Hovind in a tone that suggests he's more amused than intimidated.
Hovind, a well-known creationist speaker, contends that dinosaurs walked the earth with people and that dinosaurs might still exist; the Loch Ness monster may be one of them, Hovind recently told a reporter.
Branch once attended a seminar held by Hovind. The visit was more for a fascinated colleague than himself, and Branch said he respectfully reserved any pointed questions because the event was being held in a church. Hovind is scheduled to lead a creationism seminar Friday and Saturday at Dover Area High School.
Branch said Hovind is a good speaker, and a "showman."
But Branch says he doesn't take Hovind's ideas seriously.
"He's really a piece of work, I'm afraid," Branch said. "He's sufficiently loose about the facts, so that other creationists complain about him.
"A bunch of people who are peddling bad science are accusing him of peddling even worse science."
In a series of correspondence, Hovind and the creationist group Answers in Genesis have vented their disagreements on the proper arguments to use when teaching creationism. The group has criticized some of the arguments Hovind has used in his speeches, ranging from examples of old science to claims the group said have never been substantiated.
Hovind said the disagreements with the group are "little minor things," and that he and Answers
in Genesis agree on "99 percent" of their arguments.
Trouble provides ammuni tion: But Hovind's legal and financial problems, along with the other creationists' faultfinding of his science, have provided ammunition for his critics.
Hovind is perhaps best known as the builder of the Pensacola, Fla., Dinosaur Adventure Land, an anti-evolution mini-theme park he built in his back yard in 2001.
But officials in Escambia County claim Hovind never filed the proper zoning-permit requests for his theme park and have charged him with failure to observe county zoning regulations.
Hovind unsuccessfully filed for bankruptcy in 1996; a judge found that he filed false tax schedules, made a "bad-faith" court filing and lied about his income in order to evade paying income tax.
In 2004, the Internal Revenue Service raided Hovind's home, asserting that he evaded taxes and doesn't have the proper business licenses or tax exemptions for his ministry and the theme park.
Hovind denies that he broke any law, including the zoning rules, and said he doesn't know why charges have been filed against him.
"You'd have to ask them (government officials) that," he said. "I think it's ridiculous. I think everyone should obey the law, including the government. They're the ones breaking the law, not me."
He said the raid on his home and ministry was "harassment."
"I'm not being charged with anything, nor am I doing anything illegal."
Scientists scoff at reward: Scientists have scoffed at Hovind's claim that he will pay $250,000 to anyone with scientific proof -- to his satisfaction -- that evolution happened.
Hovind said evolution is a religion because there's no proof it ever happened.
"The evolution theory is the dumbest and most dangerous religion in the history of the earth," he said. "Every farmer on planet Earth counts on evolution not happening. They breed cows, they expect to get a cow, not kitten."
Scientists have said that, under the guidelines Hovind set, he will never have to pay out on the wager.
And if the requested proof were provided, some evolutionists have said, Hovind isn't likely to understand it.
Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University who studies the creationism movement and testified in Dover's intelligent design case, has said Hovind lacks a fundamental understanding of the rules of science and history.
Forrest has pointed out that, in his book, "Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution," Hovind said Cherokee Indians' belief in evolution led to that nation's defeat and The Trail of Tears, the route the Indians traveled when forced to give up their lands east of the Mississippi River.
But The Trail of Tears migration occurred in the late 1830s, and Darwin's book "The Origin of Species" wasn't published until 1859.
And though Hovind bills himself as "Dr. Kent Hovind," Forrest is one of many scientists who question the credibility of Hovind's Ph.D.
Hovind says he graduated from Patriot University in Colorado in 1991, when it was affiliated with a Baptist church.
The school, which was later renamed Patriot Bible University, is not accredited by a federally recognized accrediting agency.
"He attended a degree mill ... that was apparently at one point being run out of a split level (house)," Branch said.
Hovind said the degree "doesn't matter at all." He said he doesn't subscribe to the "elitist" notion that only certain people can conduct scientific research.
"I do have a legal Ph.D. from a non-accredited school, but many schools are non-accredited," he said.
Hovind said his critics attempt to discredit him because they aren't able to defend their views in a debate.
Michael Marcavage, director of Philadelphia-based Repent America, which is sponsoring the event, said he's still looking for a scientist to face off against Hovind Friday or Saturday in Dover.
-- Reach Christina Kauff man at 505-5434 or ckauf firstname.lastname@example.org.