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.
NOTE: Some changes to the original text have been made with the author's approval.
©2009 Jerry A. Coyne; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"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." (Richard Dawkins)
"Coyne wonders what it would take to convince the apparently reasonable people who still deny evolution. A new Milton, perhaps, to justify evolution's ways in great poetry? Meanwhile, at a time...when good evolution books are rife, Coyne has given general readers one of the best." (Booklist)
This audio-book was just what I was looking for, and more. I am very interested in Evolution but not formally educated in the sciences. I wanted to really understand Natural Selection and be able to explain what I always felt: that Evolution by Natural Selection is as much a "fact" as any accepted but not totally provable scientific theory such as "The Laws of Gravity". Warning: Do not listen to this if you are a proponent of Intelligent Design or a Creationist and do not want to be convinced otherwise. I'm not being facetious or demeaning. The author takes on all the ID arguments against Natural Selection I've ever heard and more and gives detailed, scientific, and non-judgmental rebuttals to each one that should be very understandable to a moderately intelligent and open minded individual. In addition, I just learned so much about the scientific method in general and was enthralled by so many interesting facts and jaw-dropping anecdotes. This is one that parents would want to share with their children or teachers with their students. The most important lesson I learned is: Science is constantly questioning it's theories, even after they are called facts. Nothing is above reproach and that's what makes science honest. Reputations are born from disproving established theories. Believing there is only one "Answer" and only looking for arguments to prove it is neither scientific nor honest and I believe the author very convincingly brings home that point.
There are too many great reviews on this book, so I'll just add a couple of points. First, the book relates the science in a way accessible to most educated people without talking down to them, so that you understand where the author is leading, and even feel the excitement of a great scientific mystery, without feeling overwhelmed.
Second, Coyne, unlike Dawkins and some others, doesn't have a dual agenda. He wants to educate people on Evolution, not promote atheism or religion, so the book is more focused on science, and less confrontational or preachy, or defensive. To me, that makes it more persuasive and more educational.
And last, Coyne concludes with a discussion of what Evolution is not, including issues like predestination. Evolution doesn't explain personality traits, for instance, or argue that human behavior is limited by genetic coding.
In the proverbial "If you only read one book on Evolution" category, write this one in. The only negative is it will leave you frustrated both with opponents of Evolution, and with supporters who misunderstand or misuse conventional wisdom about Evolution, such as Survival of the Fittest. Then again, you can just recommend this book to them to fix their ignorance on the subject.
I wanted to reiterate the excellent reviews already given for this book. I agree, this book is by far the best, most accessible, most interesting, presentation of evolution I've read. It's the audio-equivalent of a page-turner.
The book not only provides a concise, thorough, and logical explanation of the theory of Evolution but also methodically explains the science behind the conclusions.
The book also does an excellent job of addressing Creationist/ID arguments in a dispassionate way, then methodically explaining the scientific evidence that contradicts those arguments.
I would also recommend this book over several others I have listened to recently. Although I very much enjoyed Richard Dawkins "The Greatest Show on Earth" and would highly recommend it as a close second, the book "Why Evolution is True" is more concise, accessible, and dispassionate in tone.
"The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" is also quite good, but has a narrower (but by no means exclusive) focus on DNA.
"Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors" is a great book on human evolution.
"Your Inner Fish" is good, but more of an upper division treatment of a niche topic.
However, "Why Evolution is True" is the best choice for those who are interested in learning about Evolution itself. The book covers the origins of life, to how and why fish first came on land, to when land mammals went back into the ocean and become whales (and explains the evidence), to what we have learned from DNA sequencing. It explains how feathers, wings, and eyes can evolve, the huge time frames involved, how prescient Darwin was, and so much more.
You'll learn a lot and be better able to explain and defend the science behind Evolution as well as the science that debunks ID claims. A great book that I plan to listen to again.
This, by far, is the best presentation for the support of evolution that I have encountered. It is clear, presented in an interesting way and is not 'dumbed' down to the point where the science is lost. It is well referenced and presents both what Darwin's evolution can explain and has yet to explain. It is not antireligious, it is pro evolution. It answers the strongest questions that opponents have offered with scientific facts and reason. As always in science, some of the aspects of evolution have yet to be conclusively shown, but all the preliminary data continues to support it. It also raises some interesting points that are difficult for creationists to answer. He covers areas such as biogeography (where different life is found); speciation (development of different species in closed areas; the consistency of fossil records; vestigial limbs, organs and structures; why there are sexes and many other interesting topics.
He also discusses at length the difference between science and theology in thoughtful and fair way. This is a crucial distinction as the support for evolution is evidentiary - not philosphical.
One of the best lines from the book is that if God was directly responsible for putting all life on earth in it's present form, then he did it in a way that makes it seem like it was evolution. If you don't believe in evolution at the end of this book, you are not one who is persuaded by evidence and are not likely to ever believe in it.
The topic of evolution is still of great interest given the troublesome statistics on the proportion of people in the US and other countries that do not accept this the major basis for modern biology.
However, I was somewhat let down by the audible version of the book that I could not download the figures or maps as I have been able to for other audible books. There should be no need to have to buy a paperback or a Kindle version in addition to the audible version to fully appreciate the contents.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Yes. It's a great introduction to evolution through natural selection. I feel it spends too much time explicitly debunking Creationism, but that's probably what a lot of adults just discovering "Darwinism" need.
He reads all quotes from Darwin in a terrible English accent.
Since the auidobook necessarily excludes charts and figures, it should have excluded in test references to them as well.
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
As a HUGE fan of Dawkins, I thought it was probably a waste to buy this book. After all, I've read ALL of Dawkins' books, and have a good grasp of evolution. WOW, was I surprised! This book was like re-learning a language, in a way that makes it feel totally new!
Coyne presents evolution in easy-to-understand terms and examples that are both compelling and interesting. Every high school kid should be forced to read this book.... it should be in their curriculum. If you are a HS biology teacher, and you do not have this book in your required reading for students, then you need to be fired.
I honestly didn't think anyone could make evolution more enjoyable to learn about than Dawkins, but Coyne has managed to do just that. Trust me, if you are on the fence about evolution, there's nothing "wrong" with you, you are just mis-informed. If you get this audiobook, it will be like opening your eyes and breathing air for the first time...
Narration is top notch.
I'm a son, brother, husband and father. I design software and consider myself a free-thinker.
This is one of the better books I have listened to on evolution. I've listened to it twice! The book was well organized and the points were well thought out. It was easy to follow and grasp the concepts.
I have believed in evolution from the first time it was presented to me, but it is nice to have solid information to support that belief. Evolution for me is common sense and you will find yourself nodding in agreement a lot during this book. This book is excellent for those who believe evolution is the truth and those who doubt or would like to have a better understanding of how evolution works.
I have listened to many books from Audible and the narrator can sometimes interfere with be ability to concentrate or enjoy the book, Victor Bevine delivers the audio superbly. I really enjoyed listening from start to finish.
Although I m not a scientist, I enjoyed this immensely. It made the theory of evolution clear, and was interesting enough that I didn't need to switch to something lighter halfway through my hour long commute. The performance was engaging in spite of some rather complex terms. I particularly enjoyed the first and last chapters. My only quibble was that references were made to diagrams -- 22 of them, I believe, which are not available for download on the audible site. (Sometimes an accompanying pdf is available.) This really impeded the understanding of some points.
I found this an interesting, thought provoking look at modern evolutionary thinking. It does do a good job of poo-pooing the right-wing "creationist" arguments as well. But the poo-pooing takes a back seat to the compelling old and new scientific arguments.
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