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Why Evolution is True Paperback – 14 Jan 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (14 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199230854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199230853
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Review from previous edition Coyne is hugely knowledgeable and an excellent writer. (Nature, Vol. 462)

Review from previous edition 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)

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

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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 April 2011
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Doc Lee on 1 Nov 2009
Format: Hardcover
Having read this book some considerable time since it was published, nothing will be served by repeating what the earlier reviewers (with one obvious exception) have so correctly set out.

I am a firm believer in evolution and that the main driving force behind it is natural selection. I come from the perspective of having been taught about evolution both by my father, a "Christian rationalist" and in my education in the sciences at school in the 1950s. The evidence for Darwinian evolution with which I was presented was general, and, being more interested in other things at that time of my life I looked no further, accepting the assertion that the "theory" had a good evidential basis.

The appearance of "intelligent design" and the number of woolly-headed individuals who have accepted this concept with little or no thought has been profoundly depressing for me and brought home to me that my own grounding in the evidence-base for evolution was woefully lacking.

This book, therefore, is a most welcome addition to my library. I would consider it something of a primer in the evidence-base for evolution, building up the case for evolution logically and in an easily understood and assimilable way. It has provided me with the evidence which now provides concrete underpinning of my belief in evolution.

My only concern is that those who should read this book will not do so since their minds are closed. What is needed is to stop their minds being welded shut by those individuals who corrupt them by preaching "intelligent design" as a scientific alternative.
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117 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Peter Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Jan 2009
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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