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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
Bernie Koenig (London, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Hardcover)
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 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for mot ( but not all) evolutionary change is natural selection."

Chapter two discusses the fossil record and how the fossil record demonstrates evolution in three ways:
Fossils confirms predictions which arise out of evolutionary theory, transitional forms are in the fossil record where they should be, and the fossil record records major changes.

Chapter three deals with our vestigial organs and how they demonstrate human evolution, as well as how human embryonic development also demonstrates the evolutionary process in humans. In this chapter Coyne also shows how various arguments from design do not hold up.

Chapter four is about how geography influences evolution from the developments of different characteristics of the same specie in different geographical contexts, and how travel to isolated islands can effect the evolution of a species. This leads into a discussion of the effects of environment on evolution.

Chapter five is a detailed discussion of the processes of natural selection and how it works, using a wide variety of examples. Briefly, natural selection involves the adaption of a characteristic which is variable within a species as the color of an animal. Second, some of the variation has to be genetic, and third, the genetic change must improve the animal's ability to leave offspring.

Chapter six about how sexual selection affects evolution. It is through sex that we reproduce, so how sex selects who produces works with natural selection in insuring species survival.

Chapter seven discusses what is meant by 'species.' It was Coyne's teacher Ernst Mayr who came up with the definition still used: a group of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups." This is called the "biological Species Concept."

And chapter eight finally gets around to human evolution. Coyne again returns to the fossil record and relates some of the history of finding fossils that fill out the human evolutionary chain. In this chapter he also discusses the relationship between humans and our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees. The most interesting aspect of this discussion is that, while we are constantly told that there is only a 1.5% difference in the dna of chimps and humans, Coyne shows how this is misleading and that the differences, when looked at from an amino acid standpoint, since there are hundreds of them, 1% in genetic material may still mean there are hundreds of differences in protein make up of the dna. Thus we are bit farther away from chimps than just 1.5%

And in the final chapter Coyne discusses why people still refuse to believe in evolution. People do want to give up other aspects of how we think about ourselves.

And my final quibble is when Coyne allows that sources such religion can still be used for our values. In this he still adheres to an old view of science where fact and value are separated. But, as I argue in my book, listed above, our understanding of nature implies certain values. In other words, evolution contains a foundation for ethics.

But aside from these minor quibbles, this a is a great book and should convince every reader of the truth of evolution.
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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
Stephen Pletko "Uncle Stevie" (London, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Hardcover)

"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."

The above comes from this fascinating book by Jerry Coyne who 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).

This book can be thought of as a modern, easy-to-read, and extremely evidence-based book that explains in modern terms Darwin's magnum opus, "On the Origin of Species." Thus, it's all here and explained clearly in a well-written narrative the essential processes and mechanisms of evolution:

(1) Adaptation: a change in structure, function, or form that improves the chance of survival for an animal or plant within a given environment. Example: the flowers of plants are adaptations to attract pollinators (like bees).

(2) Macroevolution: major evolutionary change where there is large changes in body form or the evolution of one type of animal or plant from another type. Example: the change from our primate ancestor to modern humans.

(3) Microevolution: minor evolutionary changes, such as the change in size or colour of a species. Example: evolution of different skin colours or hair types among human populations.

(4) Speciation: the evolution of new populations that are reproductively isolated from other populations.

(5) Natural Selection: process by which those individuals of a particular species with characters that help them to become adapted to their specific environment tend to leave more offspring and transmit their characters, while those less able to become adapted tend to leave fewer offspring or die out, so that after many generations there is usually a progressive tendency in that species to a greater degree of adaptation.

(6) Mutation: a small change in DNA.

(7) Genetic drift: a random change in gene (a segment of DNA) frequency within a population, resulting in mutations which, regardless of their adaptive value, become fixed within that population.

The last chapter of this book explains, among other things, why we still have people that say, "I find all the evidence for evolution very convincing--but I still don't believe it." I found this chapter to be well thought out.

Which brings up a question. Who is this book written for? Answer: For those who are uncertain about explanations of life's diversity. It is also written for those who want a good, comprehensive review of evolution with new, startling evidence. It is NOT written for those who do not value evidence, observation, logic, reason, and rationality.

Peppered throughout this book are illustrations that make the written narrative yet more easier to understand. And there is an glossary of essential terms to aid even more in understanding.

Some people might get the impression from hearing about this book that it is out to attack Creationism (and all its types like Intelligent Design). NO. This book's main emphasis is to explain evolution. What the author does do occasionally is to present evidence for some event and then he presents what creationists believe about the same event. This juxtaposition may have the reader saying to himself/herself: "How could anyone believe that?"

Finally, I recommend after reading this book, the excellent, easy-to-understand book "Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA" (2007) by Daniel J. Fairbanks.

In conclusion, this is a clear, easy-to-understand book (in fact, this book is so easy to read that a caveman/cavewoman can understand it) that shows that evolution has occurred, the evidence is overwhelming, and that no other rational explanation for what we see around us makes sense.

It also explains why the late scientist Carl Sagan stated in his 1980 landmark series "Cosmos" the following:

"Evolution is a fact, not a theory...Natural Selection...makes the music of life more beautiful as the eons pass."

(first published 2009; preface; introduction; 9 chapters; main narrative 235 pages; notes; glossary; suggestions for further reading; references; illustration credits; index)

<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful review of the overwhelming evidence for evolution, March 12 2010
Charles Ethier (Montreal) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Hardcover)
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
Rodge (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Closely and convincingly reasoned, without Coyne's usual spleen, Nov. 23 2014
ronbc (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
Anyone who can read "Why Evolution Is True" and still doubt the reality of evolution simply is incapable of being swayed by evidence. The book is that good.

"Why Evolution Is True" is clearly organized into short, understandable sections — for example, island evolution is treated by first distinguishing between continental and oceanic islands, then explaining with copious examples the similarities and differences between their evolutionary histories. Why do continental islands (which were once connected to a nearby land mass) typically have native mammals, amphibians, and freshwater fish, while oceanic islands typically do not? Why does the answer support evolution rather than creation?

Every key question is answered with minimum jargon and maximum straightforwardness. Every creationist and intelligent design objection is anticipated and answered directly, with little of the scorn and condescension that plague the writing of some of Coyne’s anti-religious friends.

Frankly, Coyne’s consistently calm and rational tone surprised me, for he can be a sharp and shrill opponent when provoked. It’s evident that for the book Coyne has consciously adopted a more measured tone — and thereby a more effective manner of presentation.

The case for evolution is well-known, as are both the standard creationist objections (micro- vs. macroevolution, blood clotting, the eye, the bacterial flagellum, etc.) and their answers. There’s no need to go into the argument in any detail here. If you want to go over the case point by point, just read Coyne’s book.

Coyne’s approach to the creation vs. evolution question is simple and convincing. Like all good scientists, Coyne asks again and again which version of the story of life better fits the evidence, and which version makes more successful predictions about future findings. In every case, evolution does a better job of explaining what we observe, and a better job of predicting what we find when we fill in gaps in our previous knowledge.

Where he is most interesting to veterans of the evolution wars is in his discussions of the scientific method and how it applies to the “big question” of human origins.

The first and most common question is “Isn’t evolution just a theory?” The use of the word “just” signals a fundamental misunderstanding. As Coyne writes:

"In science, a theory is much more than just a speculation about how things are: it is a well-thought out group of propositions meant to explain facts about the real world. … [T]he theory of evolution is more than just the statement that “evolution happened”: it is an extensively documented set of principles."

A scientific theory has a second key feature: “To be considered scientific, it must be testable and make verifiable predictions. That is, we must be able to make observations about the real world that either support it or disprove it.” A scientific theory is considered “true” when “so much evidence has accumulated in its favor—and there is no decisive evidence against it—that virtually all reasonable people will accept it.”

Crucially, Coyne continually re-emphasizes the point that “in the process of becoming truths, or facts, scientific theories are usually tested against alternative theories. After all, there are usually several explanations for a given phenomenon. Scientists try to make key observations, or conduct decisive experiments, that will test one rival explanation against another.” It is this process, comparing the explanations and predictions which derive from competing theories, which yields scientific “truth.” In time, with enough evidence, a “theory” is accepted as “fact”:

We can say, then, that evolution was a theory (albeit a strongly supported one) when first proposed by Darwin, and since has graduated to “facthood” as more and more supporting evidence has piled up. Evolution is still called a “theory,” just like the theory of gravity, but it’s a theory that is also a fact.

Throughout Why Evolution Is True, Coyne follows the methodology, asking “What results should we expect if evolution is true?” He compares these theoretical expectations to the evidence, then repeats the process with the expectations raised by creationism. In every case, without exception, with evidence from every discipline from biogeography to molecular chemistry, the physical results support evolution. He makes a thorough and devastating case for the reality of evolution and the purely speculative — and factually inadequate– nature of creationist ideas. Coyne puts the methodology this way:

"So how do we test evolutionary theory against the still popular alternative view that life was created and remained unchanged thereafter? By predictions, I don’t mean that Darwinism can predict how things will evolve in the future. Rather, it predicts what we should find in living or ancient species when we study them."

Each source of evidence is examined in detail. As an example, here’s just one, short section, from Coyne’s explanation of the imperfection of evolved life:

"There’s a real difference in what you expect to see if organisms were consciously designed rather than if they evolved by natural selection. Natural selection is not a master engineer, but a tinkerer. It doesn’t produce the absolute perfection achievable by a designer starting from scratch, but merely the best it can do with what it has to work with. … Ironically, it is in [its] imperfections … that we find important evidence for evolution."

"Evolutionary change, even of a major sort, nearly always involves remodeling the old into the new. The legs of land animals are variations on the stout limbs of ancestral fish. The tiny middle ear bones of mammals are remodeled jawbones of their reptilian ancestors. The wings of birds were fashioned from the legs of dinosaurs. And whales are stretched-out land animals whose forelimbs have become paddles and whose nostrils have moved atop their head."

"There is no reason why a celestial designer, fashioning organisms from scratch like an architect designs buildings, should make new species by remodeling the features of existing ones. Each species could be constructed from the ground up. But natural selection can act only by changing what already exists. It can’t produce new traits out of thin air."

This idea, that evolution is “messy,” argues against any reasonable counter-explanation by creationists. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t try. They go so far as to create a capricious, trickster God, who purposely designed life to give the false appearance that evolution happened. This conceptual and moral backbreaker can be found in the writing of ID superstar Michael Behe, who wrote that “features that strike us as odd in a design might have been placed there by the Designer for a reason— for artistic reasons, for variety, to show off, for some as-yet-undetectable practical purpose, or for some unguessable reason—or they might not.”

At this point, I expected Coyne to snap back into attack mode and to reel off a few paragraphs of his trademark scorn, pointing out that brain-bending statements like this one are simply meaningless in science — how could such an idea be tested? — but he restrained himself. He responded with commendable calmness:

"But this misses the point. Yes, a designer may have motives that are unfathomable. But the particular bad designs that we see make sense only if they evolved from features of earlier ancestors. If a designer did have discernible motives when creating species, one of them must surely have been to fool biologists by making organisms look as though they evolved."

Some creationists argue that life is just too complicated not to have been designed. In contrast, Coyne points out that natural selection is economical and effective:

"The process is remarkably simple. It requires only that individuals of a species vary genetically in their ability to survive and reproduce in their environment. Given this, natural selection—and evolution—are inevitable. … [T]his requirement is met in every species that has ever been examined."

At most, a creationist might hang on to the belief that this “remarkably simple” process required a divine creative mind to imagine it and then put it into place. This belief, unlike the denial of the reality of evolution, isn’t obviously and evidently wrong.

There’s no real case for this view, and there’s no logic supporting the addition of an unnecessary supernatural first step. But at least, with this limited assertion, creationism stays in the speculative realm where it belongs.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHY EVOLUTION is TRUE, April 8 2009
Jacques Loeb (CANADA) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Hardcover)
In spite of a recent book review in The Economist calling the book "redundant" I consider it to be well written, easy to follow and a necessary wake-up call to those who hide their ignorance and unwillingness to think behind the motto "it's all so difficult so let's have faith in Intelligent Design" because that relieves us of the burden of having to think logically.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, July 13 2014
Charles H. Heroux (Mundelein, IL United States) - See all my reviews
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Paperback)
Quite simply, the best book on evolution I have ever read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why Evolution Is True, June 5 2014
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Paperback)
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 all. I did my undergrads and grads in physics and this book gave me a great knowledge on the subject of evolution by natural selection. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning natural science.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good book on Evolution, June 18 2013
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book for non-scientists and scientists alike!, Dec 10 2012
Ce commentaire est de: Why Evolution Is True (Paperback)
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. If you love evolutionary biology (like i do) or are a creationist or non-science person willing to see the incredible amount of irrefutable backing evolution has, this IS the book to read. And its concise, which is good.
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Why Evolution Is True
Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne (Paperback - Jan. 26 2010)
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