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Why Evolution is True [Paperback]

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

14 Jan 2010
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (14 Jan 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0199230854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199230853
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"[Coyne] makes an unassailable case." -"New York Times" "In nine crisp chapters...the respected evolutionary biologist lays out an airtight case that Earth is unspeakably old and that new species evolve from previous ones." -"Boston Globe" "Coyne's book is the best general explication of evolution that I know of and deserves its success as a best seller." -R.C. Lewontin, "New York Review of Books" "I recommend that Mr. Coyne's insightful and withering assessment of evolutionary studies of human psychology and behavior be taped to the bathroom mirrors of all those (perhaps especially journalists) inclined to be swept into excited announcements of What Evolution Shows About Us." -Philip Kitcher, "Wall Street Journal" "With logic and clarity, Coyne presents the vast trove of scientific evidence that supports Darwin's theory." -"Cleveland Plain Dealer" "It's always a pleasure to tell people about a wonderful book, especi


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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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
"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 13 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 2 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 4 months ago by enchantment
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