Why Evolution Is True

( 37 )

Overview

"Coyne's knowledge of evolutionary biology is prodigious, his deployment of it as masterful as his touch is light." -Richard Dawkins

In the current debate about creationism and intelligent design, there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned-the evidence. Yet the proof of evolution by natural selection is vast, varied, and magnificent. In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Jerry A. Coyne dispels common...

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Overview

"Coyne's knowledge of evolutionary biology is prodigious, his deployment of it as masterful as his touch is light." -Richard Dawkins

In the current debate about creationism and intelligent design, there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned-the evidence. Yet the proof of evolution by natural selection is vast, varied, and magnificent. In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Jerry A. Coyne dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms the scientific truth that supports this amazing process of change. Weaving together the many threads of modern work in genetics, paleontology, geology, molecular biology, and anatomy that demonstrate the "indelible stamp" of the processes first proposed by Darwin, Why Evolution Is True does not aim to prove creationism wrong. Rather, by using irrefutable evidence, it sets out to prove evolution right.

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Editorial Reviews

Thomas Hayden
For those who want to understand the evidence for evolution, Jerry A. Coyne's is a fine place to start.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

November 2008 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and Coyne's (Univ. of Chicago) excellent volume offers a crystal clear presentation of the evidence for evolution with no polemics, unnecessary technicalities, or undue epistemological speculation. His prose is not fancy but compelling in its clarity. This is Coyne's first book for a general audience; he has been doing distinguished research on speciation for many years and has written magazine articles on evolution and related topics. The author brings his extensive knowledge of evolution to his writing but is spare with details of his own work, concentrating on explaining all the independent lines of evidence for evolution. These include the fossil record, vestigial organs, embryology, makeshift design, biogeography, direct and indirect observations of natural and sexual selection, and observations of speciation itself. He addresses the perennial counterarguments with effective dispatch without being insulting. Many recent writers, from Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins through Sean B. Carroll and Neil Shubin, have made wonderful contributions to the public understanding of evolution, but Coyne has done the best job of simply laying out the evidence. Highly recommended for all libraries.
—Walter L. Cressler

Kirkus Reviews
Coyne (Ecology and Evolution/Univ. of Chicago) patiently explains that the "theory" of evolution is neither open to question, nor one of several alternative theories. Indeed, he writes, the accumulation of fossil finds, the use of molecular genetics to establish kinships and estimate the years since species shared a common ancestor, as well as the existence of intermediate forms (between reptiles and birds for example) are all neatly laid out. So, too, are the atavisms (like tails in humans) reminding us that we carry remnants of our past in our genes. Nor are species perfect, as presumably an Intelligent Designer would fashion them to be. Numerous examples-including the male urethra running through the prostate gland and the narrow female pelvis that enables bipedal walking but also inflicts great pain during the birth of our big-headed babies-demonstrate how nature compromises, configuring new features but making do with parts at hand. Coyne discusses natural selection as the engine of evolution, but also mentions genetic drift, whereby random changes can occur in gene frequencies over time in a small, isolated population. Sex also drives evolution, as Coyne illustrates with many examples of male competition and female choice. The abundant evidence provided makes this an apt primer for high-school biology teachers. But there's more here than that. The closing chapters address what is the real issue for anti-evolutionists: the fear that subscribing to Darwin's ideas reduces humans to materialist beasts lacking "moral values." You can't derive meaning, purpose or ethics from evolution, Coyne responds, taking to task those extreme determinists who look for evolutionary adaptations inevery bit of human behavior. The study of nature may be a spiritual experience, he acknowledges, citing scientists like Einstein who found it so, but evolution is neither moral nor immoral. It just is. Richly detailed evidence to counter the Intelligent Design argument.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143116646
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/26/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 165,216
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet 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.
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Table of Contents

1 What Is Evolution? 1

2 Written in the Rocks 21

3 Remnants: Vestiges, Embryos, and Bad Design 59

4 The Geography of Life 93

5 The Engine of Evolution 121

6 How Sex Drives Evolution 157

7 The Origin of Species 183

8 What About Us? 207

9 Evolution Redux 241

Notes 255

Glossary 266

Suggestions for Further Reading 272

References 279

Illustration Credits 295

Index 297

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2013

    Great book

    A summary of the latest research on this topic. Fascinating science in an easy to read book. Full of facts and, as an added bonus of digital books, full of links for subsequent reading.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Excellently documented

    An excellently documented and easy to understand presentation of the evidence for biological evolution. Every individual wanting to understand the importance of science for learning about nature and ourselves will benefit from the education this book provides.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    ebook transcription errors

    A good and necessary book marred on Nook by OCR errors and sloppy proofreading. Many 'k's are 'lc', and Greek letters are nonsense strings. Read this one on paper.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2011

    Publishers review is misleading.

    I decided to read a book on evolution out of curiosity, and I chose this particular book largely because of the editorial review from the publisher that said, "Coyne does not aim to prove creationism wrong." I didn't want to waste my time reading anyone's opinion on a creator, because science will never prove or disprove the existence of a creator. I've never had any reason to doubt evolution. If we came from apes, fine. Whatever. I wanted to read about the science that supports evolution, and that is in this book. It's on a fairly basic level, but that's okay. My complaint is with the publisher's review. Coyne does aim to prove creationism wrong, and predictably, he failed to do so. Coyne's argument is nothing more than his opinion that a creator would not have created things the way they are. That's a pretty lame argument. Maybe next time the creator should ask Coyne how to do it right. I can say that a creator could have created things exactly the way they are, and Coyne has no scientific basis whatsoever to dispute this. Apparently, he thinks he does, but he doesn't. Coyne can write whatever he wants, but the publishers statement is misleading - expect to get a good dose of Coyne's opinion on creationism.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent study of evolution

    In this superb book, Jerry Coyne, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, makes what the New York Times called 'an unassailable case' for evolution.

    He sums up the modern theory of evolution: "Life on Earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species - perhaps a self-replicating molecule - that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) evolutionary change is natural selection." The theory has six components: evolution, gradualism, speciation, common ancestry, natural selection ('the non-random survival of random variants' - Richard Dawkins), and nonselective mechanisms of evolutionary change.

    Coyne writes, "Given the gradual pace of evolution, it's unreasonable to expect to see selection transforming one 'type' of plant or animal into another - so-called macroevolution - within a human lifetime. Though macroevolution is occurring today, we simply won't be around long enough to see it. Remember that the issue is not whether macroevolutionary change happens - we already know from the fossil record that it does - but whether it was caused by natural selection, and whether natural selection can build complex features and organisms."

    He continues, "creationists often claim that if we can't see a new species evolve during our lifetime, then speciation doesn't occur. But this argument is fatuous: it's like saying that because we haven't seen a single star go through its complete life cycle, stars don't evolve, or because we haven't seen a new language arise, languages don't evolve."

    Coyne argues, "If we want to see selection in action, then, we should look in species that have short generation times and are adapting to a new environment." He cites Galapagos finches, soapberry bugs in the New World and wild mustard plants, then writes, "There are many more examples, but they all demonstrate the same thing: we can directly witness natural selection leading to better adaptation."

    He sums up, "we've seen new species form, both in real time and in the fossil record, and we've found transitional forms, between major groups, such as whales and land animals." As he points out, "Despite innumerable, possible observations that could prove evolution untrue, we don't have a single one. We don't find mammals in Precambrian rocks, humans in the same layers as dinosaurs, or any other fossils out of evolutionary order."

    He concludes, "Selection is both revolutionary and disturbing for the same reason: it explains apparent design in nature by a purely materialistic process that doesn't require creation or guidance by supernatural forces."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    Slow read, very informational, I recomend this book.

    I recently finished this book and I liked the level of information it provided. This was my first book that I have read on theory and I wasn't surprised when there were two main theories that were debated. The quality of this book was good and the reading level was higher than I had hoped. This book proved difficult to read. There were many pace slowing words like "paleoanthropologist" and many words in latin. That is what you'd expect in a book about the evolution of species, their scientific names. Overall I enjoyed the book and surely learned a thing or two. The information was acurate but narrowed. He included the theory of natural selection and the theory of intelligent design. I know for a fact that there are many more theories than just these two. Coyne also highly preferred the theory of natural selection and might as well have left the theory of intelligent design out of his book. He is athiest afterall. I myself have no preference to any evolutionary theories and respect the fact that many people believe in a certain theory. Throughout the book, Coyne quoted Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species" that I didn't like. I might just read some of it, maybe the half that he didn't quote. I didn't mind reading the quotes but Coyne could have proved points without Darwin's input. I believe that Coyne used too many examples and could have proved his points with a lot less examples. The quotes were helpful, plentiful, and somewhat unneeded at certain points. I liked the fact that Coyne does his own research. He breeds gnats or Drosophila and this helps him study evolution as well as other things. He gives examples of sexual selection and sexual dimorphisms through his own exoerience. I like this because it makes me feel like I'm reading a book written by someone who knows what they are writing through first-hand experience. I also liked the fact that He added the chapter "What About Us?" Most books on evolution do not include humans. Schools aren't allowed to teach in depth about evolution and specifically the evolution of humans which he gives an example of in his preface. This is for reasons like religion and beliefs. I have first-hand experience with a legal topic in schools that caused problems. In my fifth grade class, there was a Mexican student that is a decendant of Aztecs and had similar beliefs. My class was learning about a war spain had with the Aztecs and this student had to leave the class before the teacher taught us. Just imagine a teacher asking all Christian and Jewish students to leave the classroom before they taught about evolution. I myself am Catholic but do not mind learning things against religion. Some people are highly offended by those teachings though. I learned many interesting facts in this book like the fact that Lactoseintolerance is genetic. I personally liked this book and think that it was worth the time it took to read. I recommend this book to all who can accept an athiest theory based book on evolution, and to all who want to learn something new. even if you skim through this book, you might just learn something.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2014

    Awesome

    This book is amazingly insightful, it was occasionally difficult to read (reads almost like a textbook, sometimes) but it had plenty of examples to balance out its large vocabulary.

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  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Highly recommended - a must read

    This is well researched and written book for senior high students and older adults - especially people who have had no training beyond the 12th grade. It clarifies and backs up its suppositions with hard facts. It is a book that draws a line in the sand when it comes to truth. As father of eighty It was a pleasure to have read it and recommend to any college grade over the age of 25.It takes maturity to be able absorb what the this author tends to imply.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2013

    For real facts go to the Bible result 1 reviews

    0 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    Clear explanation of evolution

    If you like dawkins, read this

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Amazing

    This book is the perfect way to fix most of my curiousity when it comes to evolutionary theory.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    Like reading logic

    Every time I read a book like this, I'm reminded of how ignorant so many of the masses can be. How one can be an anti-evolutionist is beyond my comprehension. This book specifics explains why the term "Theory" of Evolution doesn't mean NOT A FACT. It, in fact, DOES mean FACT. If those who don't believe in evolution were to open their mind for a micro second, they'd realize that evolution is as true as gravity.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    A book that needed to be written!

    This is your "go to" book for so many great facts about the truth of evolution. Written so well and very easy to understand. Should be required reading all schools!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2010

    excellent

    A must read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 17, 2010

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    Posted February 10, 2011

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    Posted May 12, 2014

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    Posted January 9, 2011

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    Posted September 9, 2011

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    Posted June 11, 2010

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews

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