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Why Evolution Is True [Hardcover]

Jerry A Coyne
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 27 2009 0670020532 978-0670020539

Why evolution is more than just a theory: it is a fact

In all the current highly publicized debates about creationism and its descendant "intelligent design," there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned—the evidence, the empirical truth of evolution by natural selection. Even Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, while extolling the beauty of evolution and examining case studies, have not focused on the evidence itself. Yet the proof is vast, varied, and magnificent, drawn from many different fields of science. Scientists are observing species splitting into two and are finding more and more fossils capturing change in the past—dinosaurs that have sprouted feathers, fish that have grown limbs.

Why Evolution Is True weaves 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. In crisp, lucid prose accessible to a wide audience, Why Evolution Is True dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms that this amazing process of change has been firmly established as a scientific truth.

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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, especially when the subject of the book is of universal and critical importance. Evolutionary geneticist Jerry A. Coyne has given us such a book...A book that may change the way you look at things-if you dare."
-The Huffington Post

"In this 200th anniversary year of Darwin's birth, Why Evolution is True ranks among the best new titles flooding bookstores."
-Christian Science Monitor

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

About the Author

Jerry A. Coyne has been a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution for the past twenty years, where he specializes in evolutionary genetics and the origin of new species. He is a regular contributor to The New Republic, The Time Literary Supplement, and NPR. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This the THE book on the subject March 22 2009
By Bernie Koenig TOP 500 REVIEWER
Natural Law, Science, and the Social Construction of Reality

As a philosopher who has written on evolution, both from a scientific and ethical viewpoints, I found this book to be extremely clear in explaining what evolution is, and what it isn't, and why we all not only should, but MUST accept the truth of evolution.

I have two minor quibbles with the book, quibbles only a philosopher would have. One has to do with the use of the term 'theory' and the other with Coyne's discussion of values in the last chapter.

Coyne is essentially correct in stating that the scientific use of 'theory' is not the same as everyday usage. In science theories explain facts. For example, atomic theory explains why boiled water turns to steam. Evolution is a fact. The evidence is overwhelming. Yet people refuse to accept the truth of evolution by calling it a theory.

As Coyne points out, there are some problems with explaining certain aspects of the evolutionary process, but that, in no way, diminishes the truth of evolution. My minor quibble with his use of the term is that he sometimes uses it a bit imprecisely and sometimes comes close to everyday usage.

The book is set out in 9 self chapters, each presents what is needed to convince the reader of the truth of evolution. And, in the process, he demonstrates the shortcomings and fallacies of anti evolution arguments.

In chapter one he defines what evolution is: "Life on Earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species....more than 3.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CREATIONIST'S NIGHTMARE Sept. 1 2009
By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER

"Darwin looked beyond the obvious, suggesting--and supporting with copious evidence--two ideas that forever dispelled the idea of deliberate design. Those ideas were evolution [genetic change in populations, often producing changes in observable traits of organisms over time] and natural selection [see below]...[His book] "On the Origin of Species" [first edition published 1859] turned the mysteries of life's diversity [on Earth] from mythology [and the supernatural] into genuine science...

I hope you're convinced [after reading my book] that evolution is far more than a scientific theory...We've looked at evidence from many areas [such as:]

(1) the fossil record
(2) biogeography [the study of the distribution of animals and plants on the Earth`s surface]
(3) embryology [the branch of biology dealing with the formation and development of embryos]
(4) vestigial structures [a structure that is the evolutionary remnant of an earlier structure once useful in an ancestral species but that is no longer useful in the same way]
(5) suboptimal design [imperfect design is the mark of evolution and is, in fact, expected from evolution. The idea of perfect design is an illusion]...

[A]ll of that evidence show[s], without a [trace] of a doubt, that organisms have evolved. And its not just small "microevolutionary" changes either: we've seen new species form, both in real time and in the fossil record and we've found transitional forms ["missing links"] between major groups, such as whales and land animals. We've observed natural selection in action, and have every reason to [logically infer] that it can produce complex organisms and features.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Evolution is a scientific fact.

If that statement troubles you in any way, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

There is no more reason to doubt the Theory of Evolution than there is to doubt the Theory of Gravity.

Darwin first came up with the theory over 150 years ago, but keep in mind that even with the incredible amount of knowledge that has accumulated since then in anthropology (mountains of new fossils), genetics (Darwin knew nothing about DNA), geology (plate tectonics and the movement of continents), and physics (new methods of dating), not a single piece of evidence has contradicted evolution; on the contrary, we just keep finding data to support it.

The realization that in a way the universe has become self-aware through us, is an awe-inspiring and, given the size of the Universe, a humbling experience. It belittles Life to attribute it to magic.

I am proud to know that I am the product of an unbroken line of descendants linking me to the first form of life. Every single one of my ancestors, over the last 3.5 billion years, has managed to survive and reproduce. Awesome.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most convincing case for evolution I've read May 21 2013
I'm no scientist, and I'm of a background sympathetic to intelligent design. From my point of view, Coyne's book is the most convincing and best written option for proving the case for evolution. He effectively starts from the best evidence, creating a firm foundational case before moving to areas where there are more questions, or in the case of human evolution, where the greatest controversy lies.

Coyne dismisses creationist arguments, but he avoids belittling religious beliefs or the values that might cause people to resist the case for evolution. Therefore, this is a book to give a creationist interested in seeing the best opposing arguments (better than Dawkins' "Greatest Show on Earth"), or to someone who is wavering on the edge, just needing a little more convincing. Obviously a dyed-in-the-wool creationist won't read it.

The story that's outlined here is truly astonishing and awe-inspiring, and hardly diminishes anyone's avenues for exploration. Some people think this is a non-magical explanation of origins, but to my way of thinking, natural selection is magic, considering its power to shape and create species, at least as outlined here. Just because you can invoke "natural selection" doesn't mean that you understand what it is. Anymore than invoking "God" increases understanding.

Anyway, a wonderful book that will give me much to think about in the future. At least I know what evolution really teaches, as opposed to some caricatured variation alleged by a dishonest creationist.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Resource
Fascinating Read: Thoroughly researched, well-constructed arguments and written in a style that is enjoyable to read and easily accessible to the general public.
Published 11 days ago by E
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!
Quite simply, the best book on evolution I have ever read.
Published 3 months ago by Charles H. Heroux
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Evolution Is True
This is a great book delivers a Solid account explaining the evolution and its ability to make predictions, its applications and of course solid evidence that's available to us... Read more
Published 4 months ago by champinn
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book on Evolution
Clearly written. You should read it. The title says it all, the book explains the Why part in a way anybody could enjoy understanding it.
Published 16 months ago by Michelle de Villiers
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book for non-scientists and scientists alike!
Amazing, Coyne sums up all of the arguments so cleanly and with as little jargon as possible. Examples are given and the case is made. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Ezio
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful book
bought this book for my biology course, I enjoyed reading it, it has lots of rudimentary background information that explains very engagingly. will read it again just for pleasure.
Published on Aug. 23 2011 by Bao Gang Yu
4.0 out of 5 stars Why evolution is true
This book is clear, well thought out and logical in its arguments. It gave me something to think about and changed my beliefs.
Published on Nov. 1 2010 by Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Service!
The book came exactly as described, was a fantastic price, and I received it very quickly. Wonderful experience dealing with this seller.
Published on June 14 2010 by Erin E. Coldrick
5.0 out of 5 stars read this even if you know it's true
I've read most of Darwin's, Dawkins', Wilson's, Sagan's, and Diamond's works and found this completely enlightening. Nothing new but everything clearer and more confirming. Read more
Published on March 21 2010 by G. Holborn
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and persuasive
This book is clearly written, informative, and interesting throughout. The next time someone tells me that scientists don't really have enough evidence to support the theory of... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2009 by Ruth Freese
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