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Thomas HaydenFor those who want to understand the evidence for evolution, Jerry A. Coyne's
—The Washington Post
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.
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
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
Suggestions for Further Reading 272
Illustration Credits 295
Posted January 25, 2009
This is a fantastic read, but it's not for everyone. If you're not convinced about evolution, but you're capable of having an open mind, it's a wonderful book. If you believe in evolution conceptually but have never been aware of the astounding amount of evidence supporting it this is a wonderful book to read. However, if you're close-minded or intent on believing in creationism regardless of the evidence all around us then this is a terrible book for you. Another reader review on this site describes the book as a "reminder of the far strech of the human mind to rationalize belief" and I couldn't agree more. However, he's trying to defend creationism. This book helps the reader realize who is really warping reality here, and it's clearly not those who know evolution is true.<BR/><BR/>This book is extremely well put together, interesting and easy to read. Every chapter is packed with facts and interesting explanations that not only gets the reader thinking about the world around him, but helps him realize the extent to which evolution binds our world together. Reading this book has given me a greater appreciation for nature and the world around me.<BR/><BR/>I couldn't recommend this title more, especially for those who aren't already well versed in the field of evolution. This well written and enjoyable book is great for anyone with an open mind or who needs more background on evolution. However, the close-minded individual who can't wrap his or her head around the truth in this book will not be able to appreciate it.
11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 12, 2009
This book has it all! From speciation to adaptation and everything in between. I love the way he presents the fossil record and shows that a prediction about ancestry can be proved true. The author actually states creationists arguments and then proceeds to blow them out of the water with multiple examples to support every point of his discussion! Bravo!! This is a great read and I recommend it for anyone wanting to gain more insight into why evolution really is true!
9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Given the raging culture wars, there is an abundance of misinformation being disseminated. This book lays out in a very clear and understanding manner the irrefutable evidence that establishes that all animals, including humans, share a common ancestor and that evolution is a scientific fact. A must read for anyone interested in science and science education.
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2009
As a mainstream faculty member researching epigenetics and evolution, I would like to point out here that Coyne has grossly misrepresented facts in his latest book.
The modern evolution theory consists of two opposite sub-theories, NeoDarwinism/natural selection and the neutral theory. NeoDarwinism or natural selection is largely irrelevant to molecular evolution, or, more precisely, contradicted by molecular data. As a result, a theory based on the negation of NeoDarwinism or natural selection, the neutral theory, is used to explain molecular evolution, in particular the molecular clock. And the neutral theory is however widely acknowledged to be an incomplete explanation and has countless contradictions of its own.
But the only theory Coyne ever talks about in his book is NeoDarwinism or natural selection. There are very few sentences that mention molecular evolution. And these in fact mislead the readers into believing that NeoDarwinism is supported rather than contradicted by facts of molecular evolution. Here is what Coyne wrote: "Evolution theory predicts, and data support, the notion that as species diverge from their common ancestors, their DNA sequence change in roughly a straight-line fashion with time."
Does Coyne really expect the lay readers to know that the 'evolution theory' here means the neutral theory, when the neutral theory is never mentioned in the book and must negate the key idea of Darwin? If the lay readers, after reading this, then believe incorrectly that NeoDarwinism predicts the major facts of molecular evolution, is it the readers' fault or the author's?
Coyne had openly said: "In science's pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics." But there can be no justification in any kind of science to misrepresent contradicting facts as supporting evidence.
It is clear that NeoDarwinism is true for some aspects of microevolution. It is equally clear to anyone familiar with the primary literature that it cannot explain all the relevant facts or is contradicted by numerous facts including both fossils and DNA data. A complete theory of evolution must include and grant the proven virtues of NeoDarwinism and must explain all relevant facts including those that contradict NeoDarwinism. By not informing readers of the incomplete nature of the existing theories, the author is actively reducing the population of thinkers who may participate in the search for the complete truth.
Thanks to his effort and others like him among Darwin followers, that population has become extremely small especially among professional biologists but fortunately not yet extinct. For a strong candidate to the complete truth, read about the maximum genetic diversity (MGD) hypothesis. http://precedings.nature.com/documents/1751/version/2
A true theory loves all facts and is contradicted by none. And such a theory is not impossible in the field of evolution.
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Posted June 9, 2009
I thought I had a pretty good understanding of evolution before reading this book, but after reading it... I know I do.
Great book for those who get evolution, but would like to really understand it.
Imperative for those who do not get it and even claim it to be untrue.
Useful and informative for all.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2009
Coyne, like many other scientists, teachers and the general public, incorrectly treats Evolution as a single absolutely true "theory" or "law" encompassing both Darwin's truly scientific theory of natural selection or adaptation of species and his subsequent speculative or philosophical rumination culminating in his "philogenetic tree". Darwin's latter speculation lacks verifiable experimental suppport that is obviously difficult to acquire or confirm for a random statistical upward "evolution" occurring over a mega millennial time frame. Hence, any "evolution" of species from primordial mud to living species of increasing complexity, while superficially and intuitively obvious, lacks scientific proof demanded of a theory or even an hypothesis. Furthermore, "irreducible complexity", often requiring concurrent events in creation of complex organs occurring at infinitesimally low compound probabilities, also bars upward evolution even among living species. Even Darwin publicly acknowledged that a complex organ like the human eye could not possibly have evolved by his theory. One must conclude that vertical evolution of species, like Creationism and Intelligent Design, thus is a faith-based construct without scientific merit. Lacking the current knowledge of molecular biology and the unfathomable complexity of the genetic code, Darwin's flawed beliefs are excusable. But current scientists, like Professor Coyne, must be faulted for blindly embracing the "non-theory" of mud to man evolution and in indiscriminately muddling the two "evolutionary" theories, one true and the other fatally flawed. As a chemist, I second the opinion of the late Professor Leslie Orgel, a molecular evolutionist, who bluntly stated that any proposed evolutionary theories cannot be based on "if pigs could fly chemistries".
Herman Rutner, M.S. chemistry, retired industrial R&D scientist
4 out of 39 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2009
Posted May 29, 2009
Creationists always fear the evolotuion theory,,,Reason?,,It will shake the very foundation of their belives.Nothing else,,and if so,,will end their ca$hy bu$$ine$,simple.One needs to look to the sky and if you have your eyes open,will see the greatness of the universe,if you look around on earth,you will see that life as we know it,not only is diverse but unique and beatifull.The author explains in a very simple way,how life comes from a very simple begining,evolves and becomes complex,and now,we as a species are(for good or bad)the crown jewel of evolution,self aware of our existence.If creationists doubt or deny the existence of the big ban,the universe,all the forces,and laws,the begining of earths life and our existance,just look at you cell phone and you will see how "we"as a evolved dominating species,harness all the universe forces,into a every day thing that even them cant live without.I read this book and now i see life in a diferent way,its diversification and yet its similarity.Thank Mr Coyne,its a great job.I highly recomend it.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 11, 2009
Posted May 10, 2013
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2013
Posted February 13, 2012
Posted December 29, 2011
Posted October 28, 2011
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2011
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.
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Posted April 25, 2011
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!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2011
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.
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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."
Posted February 24, 2011
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 19, 2010