Review of “Why Evolution Is True”

Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clear, understandable, irrefutable. I have long believed in evolution by natural selection in the same sense that I believe nearly all scientific explanations. That is, I am inclined to trust scientists in their own field of expertise, even if I don’t fully understand the particulars, so long as the overall principle makes sense. Just as I wouldn’t expect a psychologist to tell me how I do or do not know how to design a propulsion system, I would certainly not presume to second-guess her evaluation of the pilot’s mental condition upon landing though I know little about the details of clinical flight psychology.

Now, finally, I understand the concrete evidence and solid reasoning that makes evolution by natural selection one of the most well-established and rigorously proven scientific theories we have. I am not a biologist, nor do I keep up with the field on a regular basis, yet Jerry Coyne was able to very clearly make his points without loss of either specificity or generality, and they were conveyed in a manner which satisfied my engineer-brain’s desire for rigor and logic.

I did think that Coyne’s defense of Darwinian evolution could have been accomplished quite successfully without the occasional barbs directed at creationists. Today’s culture wars being what they are, I can understand the reasoning for putting such offhand snipes in the book, but to me the argument stands on its own and needs no such undue provocation. To his credit, Coyne does make sure to point out at several points in the book that evolution explains the origin of species, including our own, not the origin of life. Further, he refutes the claim that acceptance of evolution by natural selection means a rejection of morality, God, spirituality, or human meaning. He is also frank about where the unsolved mysteries are, and what particular details and consequences of evolution remain subjects of open research.

All in all, a fantastic read and among the best works of scientific writing for the masses that I have come across. I recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about a scientific fact that has been unfortunately politicized and demonized by those who interpret their worldview to be threatened.

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