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Why Evolution is True [Hardcover]

Jerry A. Coyne
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Jan 2009
For all the discussion in the media about creationism and 'Intelligent Design', virtually nothing has been said about the evidence in question - the evidence for evolution by natural selection. Yet, as this succinct and important book shows, that evidence is vast, varied, and magnificent, and drawn from many disparate fields of science. The very latest research is uncovering a stream of evidence revealing evolution in action - from the actual observation of a species splitting into two, to new fossil discoveries, to the deciphering of the evidence stored in our genome. Why Evolution is True weaves together the many threads of modern work in genetics, palaeontology, geology, molecular biology, anatomy, and development to demonstrate the 'indelible stamp' of the processes first proposed by Darwin. It is a crisp, lucid, and accessible statement that will leave no one with an open mind in any doubt about the truth of evolution.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Reprint edition (22 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199230846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199230846
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 13.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 318,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

If you want a direct response to creationism, then Jerry Coyne's recent book 'Why Evolution is True' is your book. (Clive Cookson, Financial Times)

Powerful and popular book. (Randy Olson, New Scientist)

'Why Evolution Is True' suceeds in being fully accessible to any reader who has even a vague idea of what DNA is.' (Douglas J. Futuyma, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Vol.24, No. 7)

It is a book that needed to be written and needs to be read. (Douglas J. Futuyma, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Vol. 24, No. 7)

One of the very best and most important book on evolution for broad audiences in at least 50 years. (Douglas J. Futuyma, Trends in Ecology and Evolution)

A scholarly, yet delightfully readable account. (Tom Tregenza, Current Biology, Volume 19)

We must present the evidence, and Jerry Coyne's book does an excellent job of it. (Massimo Pigliucci, Science)

Evolution is true...Coyne displays it for us in a way that no objective reader could fail to find compelling. (Richard Dawkins, TLS)

'Why Evolution is True' is outstandingly good. (Richard Dawkins, TLS)

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

His coverage is enviably comprehensive, yet he simultaneously manages to keep the book compact and readable. (Richard Dawkins, TLS)

Coyne's book is just what we needed in this bicentennial year to anchor Darwin where he belongs. (Nigel Hawkes, The Times)

Selected as one of the 'Fifty Books for our Time'. (Newsweek)

A clear, engaging, accessible explanation of the evidence for evolution. (Massimo Pigliucci, Science)

Excellent volume. (Clive Cookson, Financial Times)

Lucid, thorough and eminently readable, this book is a delight from start to finish. (Doug Johnstone, Scotsman.com)

Coyne gives a clear and engaging overview of what evolution is, and how it works. (BBC Focus)

Coyne is as graceful a stylist and as clear a scientific explainer as Darwin himself (no mean feat). It's one of the best single-volume introductions to evolutionary theory ever. (Wired magazine)

A masterfully concise reinstating of [Darwin's] big idea. (Karen Shook, THE)

There are many superb books on evolution, but this one is superb in a new way -- it explains the latest evidence for evolution lucidly, thoroughly, and with devastating effectiveness. (Steven Pinker)

For anyone who wishes a clear, well-written explanation of evolution by one of the foremost scientists working on the subject, 'Why Evolution is True' should be your choice. (E. O. Wilson)

I once wrote that anybody who didn't believe in evolution must be stupid, insane or ignorant, and I was then careful to add that ignorance is no crime. I should now update my statement: aybody who doesn't believe in evolution is stupid, insane, or hasn't read Jerry Coyne. (Richard Dawkins)

An engaging and accessible account of one of the most important ideas ever conceived by mankind. The book is a stunning achievement, written by one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists. Coyne has produced a classic. (Neil Shubin, author of 'Your Inner Fish')

Review

I once wrote that anybody who didn't believe in evolution must be stupid, insane or ignorant, and I was then careful to add that ignorance is no crime. I should now update my statement. Anybody who doesn't believe in evolution is stupid, insane, or hasn't read Jerry Coyne. I defy any reasonable person to read this marvellous book and still take seriously the 'breathtaking inanity' that is intelligent design 'theory' or its country cousin, young earth creationism.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
That loudmouth Daily Mail journalist Melanie Philips once opined that evolution is a theory, not a fact. She meant presumably that evolution is 'speculation': that the evidence as it stands does not lean toward creationism or Darwinism. Hence, on the evidence there is, it is equally reasonable to opt to `believe' in either.

There are a lot of people out there who would agree with her. They need read Jerry A. Coyne's book which tackles the misunderstandings about Darwinian theory head-on. Evolution is indeed a theory, but that does not make it speculation. As Coyne explains, in science a 'theory' is much more than speculation about how things are: it is `a well thought-out group of propositions meant to explain facts about the real world.' Second, for a theory to be scientific, as opposed to mere speculation, it must be `testable and able to make verifiable predictions' and, third, `the scientific theories can be tested against other theories (pp 15-17).

What facts, then, support the theory of evolution - what predictions does it make that have been confirmed? Here are a few salient examples Coyle offers.

First of all there is the movement from simplicity to complexity. If life has evolved ever greater complexity over eons of time, the theory predicts that the fossil record should show greater and greater complexity over time. The oldest layers of rocks contain simple fossils, younger layers more complex examples. Evolution predicts simple organisms evolved before complex ones, with transitional fossils between simpler and more complex fossils. The fossil record does indeed confirm this prediction (see page 30)

So take the largest mammal on Earth, the blue whale, the distant ancestor of which was a shallow-water dwelling hippopotamus.
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114 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of evolution 25 Jan 2009
By Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution". That classic quote from the great Russian-American evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky is replete with far more truth now than when he uttered it in 1973. Thousands of scientists around the globe are using the principles of evolution towards understanding phenomena as simple as bacterial population growth to those as complex as the origin and spread of such virulent diseases as malaria and HIV/AIDS, and the conservation of many endangered plant and animal species. There is no other scientific theory I know of that has withstood such rigorous, and repeated, testing as the modern synthetic theory of evolution. The overwhelming proof of biological evolution is so robust, that entire books have been written describing pertinent evidence from sciences that, at first glance, seem as dissimilar from each other as paleobiology, molecular biology and ecology. But alas this hasn't convinced many in the court of public opinion, especially here, in the United States, who remain skeptical of evolution as both a scientific fact and a scientific theory, and who are too often persuaded by those who insist that there are such compelling "weaknesses" in evolution, that instead of it, better, still "scientific", alternatives exist, most notably, Intelligent Design creationism. Distinguished evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution Is True" is not just a timely book, but it is quite simply, the best, most succinct, summation I can think of on behalf of evolution's scientific validity. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book
This book is fantastic. Explains evolution in a clear and concise way and is very engaging at the same time. Read more
Published 17 days ago by s
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes True.
A marvellous book all about evolution. It is a subject I love. It is all so logical and I cannot understand why many people beleive in Creationism, but hey, we are free to beleive... Read more
Published 1 month ago by john bristow
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, clear and concise
This book explains evolution in a clear and concise fashion. This really is a must read for anyone interested in the subject who wishes to understand more about the compelling... Read more
Published 3 months ago by KenE
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book
This book is just awesome, I'm a wildlife student which includes the study of evolution, however i bought this book for enjoyment. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Becky
1.0 out of 5 stars Ow dear... Dont be fooled.
This man is so fixed in his assumptions of how nature and reality works that he overlooks possibilities that are beyond his dogmatic materialistic worldview.
Published 3 months ago by MACG
5.0 out of 5 stars Bang tidy
A summary of the evidence for evolution by natural selection.
Do you believe in the theory of gravity? Why? Read more
Published 3 months ago by jeffdaniels
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent summary
A useful summary of evolution to have in order to counter the tripe creationists spout on the internet and other places,
Published 4 months ago by DP
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
My son is an avid consumer of these kind of literature. He is absolutely in love with the book, he is 15 and can't stop reading it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Andrea Freire
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book yet
This book has to be the best that i have read recently and on a par
with Richard Dawkins. There is so much info in it I may need at least
another reading to take it all... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. J. Malcolm
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read and full of great information
Enjoyed this and found that it informed me in this exciting subject as no other book has done. It is abook about evolution and not an attack on religion although the religous... Read more
Published 5 months ago by enchantment
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