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Why Evolution Is True Hardcover – January 22, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With great care, attention to the scientific evidence and a wonderfully accessible style, Coyne, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, presents an overwhelming case for evolution. Ranging from biogeography to geology, from anatomy to genetics, and from molecular biology to physiology, he demonstrates that evolutionary theory makes predictions that are consistently borne out by the data—basic requirements for a scientific theory to be valid. Additionally, although fully respectful of those who promote intelligent design and creationism, he uses the data at his disposal to demolish any thought that creationism is supported by the evidence while also explaining why those ideas fall outside the bounds of science. Coyne directly addresses the concept often advanced by religious fundamentalists that an acceptance of evolution must lead to immorality, concluding that evolution tells us where we came from, not where we can go. Readers looking to understand the case for evolution and searching for a response to many of the most common creationist claims should find everything they need in this powerful book, which is clearer and more comprehensive than the many others on the subject. Illus. (Jan. 26)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Far more presentational than disputatious, Coyne’s demonstration that evolution has proven itself in lab and field is still a deliberate answer to anti-evolutionism, especially creationism or intelligent design (ID). At its most comprehensive, creationism/ID claims that each species is the product of a separate creative act; less universally, that at least humans were so created. Frequently throughout lucid, accessible chapters on the fossil record, vestigial features of modern bodies (e.g., the tail rarely seen but documented in newborns), biogeography, natural selection, sexual selection, speciation, and human evolution—the basic areas of evolutionary investigation—Coyne remarks that the material evidence confirms evolution, not creationism/ID. For the evidence shows complexities and imperfections that creationism/ID can’t explain or even allow, for that would necessitate positing a sloppy, imperfect creator or intelligence that couldn’t fashion creatures to ideally fit either their habitats or their bodies. Evolution, on the other hand, expects imperfection and jerry-rigging, and the physical findings, lately made much more precise by genetic analysis, just bolster confidence in it. In conclusion, Coyne wonders what it would take to convince the apparently reasonable people who still deny evolution. A new Milton, perhaps, to justify evolution’s ways in great poetry? Meanwhile, at a time—the Darwin bicentennial and Origin of Species sesquicentennial—when good evolution books are rife, Coyne has given general readers one of the best. --Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (January 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670020532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670020539
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (322 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jerry A. Coyne has been a professor at the University of Chicago in the department of ecology and evolution for twenty years. He specializes in evolutionary genetics and works predominantly on the origin of new species. He is a regular contributor to The New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications.

Customer Reviews

The book is well written and easy to read.
E. Kasper
It is hard to believe that somebody, after reading the book, will still not believe in evolution.
A. Awad
I recommend this book for anyone that wants to learn about evolution.
TS

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

997 of 1,037 people found the following review helpful By Esk on March 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was raised in a very conservative Christian environment and taught Young-Earth Creationism (anti-evolution, anti-Big Bang, etc.). I bought into it for a long time. In college, I finally began to investigate some of the claims for myself---reading what was _really_ being said by "the other side", rather than what I was being told was being said.

The disparity I discovered can hardly be exaggerated: what I had been taught bore essentially zero resemblance to the real thing. Genuine evolutionary theory was virtually unrecognizable in the creationists' caricatures of it. I learned that I had been lied to---intentionally, or not, I do not know---and that the quantity, diversity, and quality of evidence in support of evolution was simply crushing. It wasn't just that it could not be ignored or dismissed as trivial; it was that it was so cohesive and mutually supportive and overwhelmingly convincing that it simply HAD to be accepted as true. (As Gould said, it would be "perverse to withhold provisional assent.")

This discovery sparked a long (and ongoing) journey of reading books on the topic of evolution---books by authors such as Stephen Jay Gould, Sean Carroll, Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin, Neil Shubin, and others. I was enthralled with the elegant simplicity and beauty and shear explanatory power of the ideas I was learning. They not only made sense, but had tremendous evidentiary support in nature and the lab (as well as mathematical modeling, game theory, use in other disciplines, etc.).

But, as my journey progressed, and I continued to absorb ever more information and improve my understanding, I began to realize something. As I interfaced with many of those from my upbringing (i.e.
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281 of 298 people found the following review helpful By Marcus Lewis on May 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is the best book on the evidence for evolution I have read. I wish I would have read it years ago.

I went to a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) teaching high school and have attended very conservative, Genesis-is-literal churches my whole life. I attended required YEC conferences by Kent Hovind and another by Ken Ham in my High School science classes, and heard John Morris and Duane Gish speak several times in my church.

Several years ago I decided to read a book on evolution because I couldn't understand why anyone would believe it. So I read "Why Darwin Matters" by Michael Shermer (also a very good book) and then started reading all the books I could find on evolution. The subject is fascinating and I have a new love for science and nature as a result of understanding how evolution works. "Why Evolution is True" is the best book I have read and I will recommend it to any young or old earth creationist, or intelligent design proponent, I meet.

The explanation of the dating techniques of superposition, radiometric, and coral dating was very straightforward. Wells' experiment with radiometric dating and comparing the dates to the daily and yearly growth rings of coral was one of the best and most straightforward evidences I have read for an old earth.

The book looks at all the important fossils, especially tracing the development of whales, discussing Haikouella lanceolata being the earliest chordate, and explains Tiktaalik roseae well. The fossils in the human lineage are also explained in excellent detail.

The genetic portion of evolution books is always the most interesting evidence for evolution, in my opinion, and "Why Evolution is True" was no exception.
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201 of 216 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies on February 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Jerry Coyne is a bit annoyed that it was necessary to write this book. I am glad he got annoyed enough to write it. In part he is writing against the intelligent design movement, and against creationism and he shows the flaws in these viewpoints not with rhetoric, but with well chosen evidence.

The book is a powerful and straightforward account of evolution showing the strength of the theory, its ability to make predictions, and giving many examples of the evidence on which evolution is based. After reading the book you have a good idea of what evolution is about, and what fields of study it applies in. Coyne is clear that evolution is a theory in biology of great explanatory power. The key idea is that of descent with modification.

He is also clear (in his final chapter evolution redux) of the limits to evolutionary thinking. Good scientists know what they know, and also have some idea where their knowledge stops. Coyne demonstrates this ability well. By doing this he becomes a far better advocate for evolution than Dawkins.

Evolution is not an ontological or moral theory. You can derive no moral lesson from evolution- it just is (p253). David Hume pointed out that deriving an ought from an is is usually to make a specious argument. The fact that the idea of evolution as progress has been misused by many is not an argument against evolution. It is an argument against the misuse of ideas.

Coyne (p248)describes that, "There is an increasing (and disturbing) tendency of psychologists, biologists and philosophers to Darwinize every aspect of human behaviour, turning its study into a scientific parlour game.
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