- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (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 (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 498 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why Evolution Is True Hardcover – January 22, 2009
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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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*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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As a whole, I did really like this book. He makes many good points and backs up his points with interesting evidence, some of which I wasn't even aware of, despite being a science student. I found out about midway through my class that I didn't really need to buy this book since my professor would go over the key topics of certain chapters of this book that he wanted to discuss, but I would still find myself reading the chapters myself because I found all the little stories and such that he includes to be very interesting. Normally, like most other college students, if I don't HAVE to read the chapters, I won't! But yet I did with this book. My professor really liked this book as well, though, of course, he got his degree in evolutionary sciences and is friends with Jerry Coyne.
The only thing I was opposed to in this book is that sometimes he does go on tangent-like ramblings, usually whenever he was directly trying to discredit Christianity. Not creationism, but Christianity. These rants weren't very often though and can be ignored, but as a Christian it was a bit off-putting. I can perfectly well understand discrediting creationism, but discrediting a whole religion is a bit much, especially when there are others like me who are Christians who believe in evolution. In fact, there was a good number of Christians in my evolution class who had such beliefs.
Nevertheless, if you can ignore his tangents like I did(which is the only reason I didn't rate this 5 stars - I would rate it 4.5 stars), then you'll find this book to be a very good read!
The basic concepts of evolution began to be worked out by Charles Darwin only a century and a half ago. He had much of it right but there were gaps in his knowledge of precisely what was happening. His enormous contribution was made well before the discovery of the basic unit of life, the gene, that tiny package of chemicals arranged in very specific combinations that have produced differences in life forms. But Darwin had the basics of the science very right. Later insights, built on the emergence of knowledge about genetic structure, led to an understanding that species evolve, gradually but steadily, into more successful forms. And now, today, well over ten million individual species are on our planet, each working to become more efficient and more successful.
This is a fascinating science, one that throws off so many important observations. Of course, evolution has been the target of other theories of how species change and how human life appeared on the planet. But evolution is provable; records exist of earlier, less successful versions of species today. Professor Coyne is careful to discuss the process of proof since this is such a fundamental requirement in any complete discussion of evolution.
A difficult subject is made alive and constantly fascinating in Why Evolution is True. Be prepared to race over many difficult scientific concepts but at the end you will be in awe of the power of nature over many billions of years. A marvelous book.
These two books together make for great companion pieces. Dawkins book is thicker and he tends to try and spend a bit more time explaining things and going into detail, whereas this book is much more succinct and Coyne moves quickly from evidence to evidence.
He's a really great writer with an immense vocabulary. The skill with which it was written is as enjoyable an experience to read and take in as the topic itself is interesting.
Language might be a bit difficult for younger readers, but still a very important book to own. After reading these two books, you walk out feeling like an expert on evolutionary biology yourself. EX. there are professional terms used occasionally and explained (such as dimorphism). Check it out!
P.S. Question to those who own the re-issue: It says it has over 300 pages, my copy has about 270 including references. What kind of extra material is in the rest of it? Is it worth re-buying?