The Kent Hovind Challenge!

I got tired of Kent Hovind constantly demanding that I, and other people, debate him, so I offer an alternative.

If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, you can get the gist from the title screen: I tell him to go read a book. Or you can read the script, down below.

Dang, he beat me to it. Hovind issued his own challenge this morning: it’s to have a debate, with idiotic creationist YouTuber Standing For Truth as the moderator. In other words, the same as he always does.

Forget it, my challenge is better.

Hey, Kent Hovind!

You keep begging people to debate you. You asked me multiple times, even though I have a strict policy of not dignifying creationists with an equal platform. Every week you have your silly “Wack-an-atheist” show, and you always, at some point, beg the people you’ve just crudely and ignorantly mocked to come on down to Lenox, Alabama, and then you smirk because you know no one wants to spend any time with you in your mudhole theme park, or listen to your yokel sunday school teacher level of unqualified delusion.

Today, though, I had a brilliant idea. I had suggested that we go through a popular science text on evolution, recommending Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True”, and your reply was, “You pick a chapter where he gives what you consider the best evidence for evolution” — which would be basically any and all of them — “and debate it. You go first. I get equal time. No interruptions.” My immediate, first thought was to question why I need your input. What do you bring to the field, O Fake Doctor Know-Nothing?

But then, my second thought was, to be fair, what would I be bringing to your debate? I know your tactics. You’ll avoid all the evidence and ignore everything I might say. It seems like a pointless exercise.

Which brings me to my marvelous idea: YOU DON’T NEED ME. Have the debate with a book, no one else’s participation required. Every week, you go through one chapter of “Why Evolution Is True” and explain to your audience what’s wrong with it.

Or if you’d rather, here are some other pop-sci books on evolution that would be great.

Trilobite is a fun book that focuses on the interpretation of fossils and the phylogeny of that long extinct clade. You like to belittle fossils, don’t you?

At the Waters Edge is about macroevolution — you know, that phenomenon you claim doesn’t exist — and the evolution of transitional forms between aquatic and terrestrial life. More fossils and more molecular biology.

Making of the Fittest is a book we use in our first year introductory biology course. It offers a great introduction to the mechanism of natural selection. Young men and women fresh out of high school have no trouble grasping the topic, I’m sure you could cope.

Those are good choices to start with, and I guarantee you’ll learn a lot…and also learn that a lot of the stuff you peddle in your videos is wrong. You really don’t understand evolution or biology at all. If you want to get radical and have some fun with it, here are a couple of other books that are accessible to a lay audience, but have a rather narrower perspective.

Of course I have to recommend Endless Forms Most Beautiful. It’s about the synthesis of evolution and development, and some of the most interesting discoveries in molecular biology in the last 40 years.

To get really radical, try reading Mutual Aid. It’s over a 125 years old, so it’s a bit more advanced than your current understanding of biology, and it’s written by a famous Russian biologist and anarchist so it’s sure to shake up your limited comprehension of the science. It would also be fun to watch your brain explode in a video.

You should love this idea. You don’t need anyone’s permission, and nothing is holding you back — just pick a book favored by evolutionary biologists, and charge in and rip it to shreds. If you can.

It would probably be popular. I mean, look at Aron Ra’s video series, “Supposed Lies in the Text Books”, in which he goes through your videos and dismantles your claims. He didn’t ask you for permission, he didn’t tell you to take some time and provide rebuttals in companion responses, he just barrelled in and disemboweled all your arguments all on his lonesome. Just imagine, you could do the same to Coyne, or Fortey, or Zimmer, or Carroll. They’re sitting there waiting on the bookshelf for you. Have fun!

Toodles! And leave me out of it, and stop pestering people for debates you aren’t qualified to handle.

I suggested a few books, too.

Why Evolution Is True, by Jerry Coyne
Trilobite, by Richard Fortey
At the Water’s Edge, by Carl Zimmer
Making of the Fittest, by Sean B. Carroll
Endless Forms Most Beautiful, by Sean B. Carroll
Mutual Aid, by Petr Kropotkin


  1. StonedRanger says

    Oh boy. His you tube channel is now ad free. The whole world rejoices. I wouldnt watch his you tube channel if he paid me.

  2. says

    I think it’s demonetized because it was being frequently demonetized by youtube anyway, for spreading disinformation. So he’s trying to turn it into a virtue.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    Åh, I see you have found a translation of a very good book by Peter Kropotkin.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Hovind should do the “Driving Instructor” thing- a sketch from the 1960s which Clint Eastwood emulated 2012. Kent Hovind debating an empty chair.

  5. moarscienceplz says

    PZ, do you really want to give oxygen to Jerry, criticize Israel, you’re an antisemite, Coyne?

  6. mamba says

    “To get really radical, try reading Mutual Aid. It’s over a 125 years old, so it’s a bit more advanced than your current understanding of biology,”

    Ah PZ, this is why I love reading your post, you’re good at cutting through idiocy. Thank you for that, it’s perfect!

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    Do those cartoons on his shirt represent KH-level paleontology, or a shout-out to the Booger Loogie Bois?

  8. John Harshman says

    Might I suggest the very fine Improbable Destinies by Jonathan Losos? It’s mostly about convergent evolution: when it happens, when it doesn’t, and why.

  9. PaulBC says

    This sounds good, but it also sounds like an invitation to quote mine (not that they ever needed an invitation). How do you stipulate that he is debating the actual book and not a straw man? First off, he could not present the book’s reasoning accurately if he was honestly trying to. Second, of course he will not try.

    I don’t think there’s any harm in making this challenge. It’s just going to be hard to find an unbiased judge to certify his inevitable failure if he tries.

  10. Rich Woods says

    @PaulBC #10:

    How do you stipulate that he is debating the actual book and not a straw man?

    You don’t. You leave him free to lie and when he inevitably does so you can point out the lies and say that after 20 years Hovind still needs to lie to dismiss evolution, that he clearly hasn’t learnt a damned thing in all that time (despite all the free time he must have had in prison to read and to educate himself). Your message won’t reach everyone who hears his lies, of course, but it will reach some and it will help inoculate another generation against being taken in by him and his ilk.

  11. F.O. says

    I can’t understand why Kropotkin’s ideas about mutual aid aren’t more widely discussed among the left.

  12. brucegee1962 says

    Sure he would just try to quote mine, but there is a tiny chance that, as his eyes moved across the page, he might accidentally learn something. Unlikely, sure, but stranger things have happened. We see what you’re doing there PZ, you sneaky educator you!

  13. PaulBC says

    brucegee1962@15 Right, like the line from Fat Albert: “if you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done”. I can only conclude that Bill Cosby is a careful fellow indeed. Hovind would likewise take great care not to learn anything at all from those books.

  14. hemidactylus says

    Coyne’s book is well written and useful. Coyne is a major douche. Both things can be true.

    I found Shubin’s Your Inner Fish much better plus his awesome PBS series I bought on DVD after having seen it on DVR multiple times. Great stuff.

    BTW someone had linked to this thread on WEIT. All wave hello to the obsessed anti-wokers over there taking a peek. Boo! Kendi’s coming to get you.