Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne (PDF)



Ebook Info

  • Published: 2009
  • Number of pages: 316 pages
  • Format: PDF
  • File Size: 4.18 MB
  • Authors: Jerry A. Coyne


Coyne’s knowledge of evolutionary biology is prodigious, his deployment of it as masterful as his touch is light. -Richard Dawkins In the current debate about creationism and intelligent design, there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned-the evidence. Yet the proof of evolution by natural selection is vast, varied, and magnificent. In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Jerry A. Coyne dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms the scientific truth that supports this amazing process of change. Weaving 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, Why Evolution Is True does not aim to prove creationism wrong. Rather, by using irrefutable evidence, it sets out to prove evolution right.

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⭐Jerry Allen Coyne (born 1949) is an American biologist and professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution; he has also written


⭐.He wrote in the Preface to this 2009 book, “This book lays out the main lines of evidence for evolution. For those who oppose Darwinism purely as a matter of faith, no amount of evidence will do—theirs is a belief not based on reason. But for the many who find themselves uncertain, or who accept evolution but are not sure how to argue their case, this volume gives a succinct summary of why modern science recognizes evolution as true. I offer it in the hope that people everywhere may share my wonder at the sheer explanatory power of Darwinian evolution, and may face its implications without fear.” (Pg. xiv)He cautions, “it’s clear that the fossil record MUST be incomplete. How incomplete? … we can estimate that we have fossil evidence of only 0.1 percent to 1 percent of all species—hardly a good sample of the history of life! Many amazing creatures must have existed that are forever lost to us. Nevertheless, we have enough fossils to give us a good idea of how evolution proceeded, and to discern how major groups split off from one another.” (Pg. 22) He adds, “We should also be able to see cases of evolutionary change within lineages: that is, one species or animal or plant changing into something different over time… Of course because the fossil record is incomplete, we can’t expect to document EVERY transition between major forms of life. But we should at least find some.” (Pg. 25)He points out, “There are hundreds of other examples of evolutionary change in fossils—both gradual and punctuated—from species as diverse as mollusks, rodents, and primates. And there are also examples of species that barely change over time. (Remember that evolutionary theory does not state that ALL species must evolve!) But listing these cases wouldn’t change my point: the fossil record gives no evidence for the creationist prediction that all species appear suddenly and then remain unchanged. Instead, forms of life appear in the record in evolutionary sequence, and then evolve and split.” (Pg. 32) Later, he adds, “when we find transitional forms, they occur in the fossil record precisely where they should. The earliest birds appear after dinosaurs but before modern birds. We see ancestral whales spanning the gap between their own landlubber ancestors and fully modern whales. If evolution were not true, fossils would not appear in an order that makes evolutionary sense.” (Pg. 53)He states, “if you think a bit, it’s not so hard to come up with intermediate stages in the evolution of flight, stages that might have been useful to their possessors. Gliding is the obvious first step. And gliding has evolved independently many times… [And] the even more remarkable … colugo, of Southeast Asia… was seen gliding for a distance of 450 feet… while losing only forty feet in height! It’s not hard to imagine the next evolutionary step: the flapping of colugolike limbs to produce true flight… But we no longer have to only imagine this step: we now have the fossils that clearly show how flying birds evolved.” (Pg. 39) He continues, “the fossils show that the basic skeletal plan of birds, and those essential feathers, evolved BEFORE birds could fly… But if feathers didn’t arise as adaptations for flying, what on earth were they for? Again, we don’t know. They could have been used for ornamentation or display—perhaps to attract mates. It seems more likely, though, that they were used for insulation… feathers would have helped maintain body temperature. And what feathers evolved FROM is even more mysterious. The best guess is that they derive from the same cells that give rise to reptilian scales, but not everyone agrees.” (Pg. 46)He acknowledges, “The evolution of whales from land animals was remarkably fast… But why did some animals go back to the water at all? After all, millions of years earlier their ancestors had invaded the land. We’re not sure why there was a reverse migration, but there are several ideas. One possibility involves the disappearance of the dinosaurs along with their fierce marine cousins, the fish-eating monosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs. These creatures would not only have competed with aquatic mammals for food, but probably made a meal of them. With their reptilian competitors extinct, the ancestors of whales may have found an open niche, free from predators and loaded with food. The sea was ripe for invasion. All of its benefits were only a few mutations away.” (Pg. 51-52)Concerning homology, he asserts, “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. Darwinism predicts, then, that new species will be modified versions of older ones. The fossil record amply confirms this prediction.” (Pg. 54)He comments on our appendix as a vestigial organ, “So why do we still have one? We don’t yet know the answer. It may in fact have been on its way out, but surgery has almost eliminated natural selection against people with appendixes. Another possibility is that selection simply can’t shrink the appendix without it becoming even MORE harmful: a smaller appendix may run an even higher risk of being blocked… Our bodies teem with other remains of primate ancestry. We have a vestigial tail: the coccyx… It still has a function (some useful muscles attach to it), but remember that its vestigiality is diagnosed … because it no longer has the function for which it originally evolved. Tellingly, some humans have a rudimentary tail muscle… identical to the one that moves that tails of monkeys and other mammals.” (Pg. 62) He adds, “Some tails are an inch long, others nearly a foot. And they…can have hair, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Some can even wiggle!… What could this mean, other than that we still carry a developmental program for making tails?” (Pg. 65-66)He asks, “Why DOES development often occur in this way? Why doesn’t natural selection eliminate the `fish embryo’ stage of human development…? Why don’t we simply begin development as tiny humans… and just get larger and larger until we’re born?… The probable answer—and it’s a good one—involves recognizing that as one species evolves into another, the descendant inherits the developmental program of its ancestor… And development is a very conservative process… If, for example, you try to tinker with [it]… you might produce all sorts of adverse side effects in the formation of other structures… it’s usually easier to simply tack some less drastic changes onto what is already a robust and basic developmental plan.” (Pg. 77-78)In a section on `Bad Design,’ he explains, “What I mean by `bad design’ is the notion that if organisms were built from scratch by a designer… they would not have such imperfections. Perfect design would truly be the sign of a skilled and intelligent designer. IMPERFECT design is the mark of evolution: in fact, it’s precisely what we EXPECT from evolution.” (Pg. 81) He goes on, “A good example of bad design is the flounder… If you wanted to design a flatfish, you wouldn’t do it this way. You’d produce a fish like the skate… not one that has to achieve flatness by lying on its side… Flatfish are poorly designed… One of nature’s worst designs is … the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals… it is much longer than it needs to be… [This] is not only poor design, but might even be maladaptive. That extra length makes it more prone to injury.” (Pg. 82) He concludes, “the particular bad designs that we see make sense only if they evolved from features of earlier ancestors. If a designer did have discernable motives when creating species, one of them must surely have been to fool biologists by making organisms look as though they had evolved.” (Pg. 85)He contends, “Again one must ask: If animals were specially created, why would the creator produce on different continents fundamentally different animals that nevertheless look and act so much alike?… No creationist… has offered a credible explanation for why different types of animals have similar forms in different places. All they can do is invoke the inscrutable whims of the creator. But evolution DOES explain the pattern by invoking a well-known process called `convergent evolution.’ … Species that live in similar habitats will experience similar selection pressures from their environment, so they may evolve similar adaptations … coming to look and behave very much alike even though they are unrelated.” (Pg. 92-94)He observes, “Everywhere we look in nature, we see animals that SEEM beautifully designed to fit their environment… It is no surprise that early naturalists believed that animals were the product of celestial design, created by God to do their jobs. Darwin dispelled this notion in `The Origin.’ … he completely replaced centuries of certainty about divine design with the notion of a mindless, materialistic process—natural selection—that could accomplish the same result. It is hard to overestimate the effect that this insight had … on people’s worldview. Many have not yet recovered from the shock…” (Pg. 115)He explains, “This brings up what is surely the most widespread misunderstanding about Darwinism: the idea that, in evolution, `everything happens by chance’… No evolutionist… ever argued that natural selection is based on chance. Quite the opposite. Could a completely random process alone make the hammering woodpecker, the tricky bee orchid, or camouflaged katydids and beach mice? Of course not. If suddenly evolution was forced to depend on random mutations alone, species would quickly degenerate and go extinct. Chance alone cannot explain the marvelous fit between individuals and their environment… True, the raw materials for evolution—the variations between individuals—are indeed produced by chance mutations. These mutations occur willy-nilly, regardless of whether they are good or bad for the individual. But it is the filtering of that variation by natural selection that produces adaptations, and natural selection is manifestly NOT random. It is a powerful molding force…” (Pg. 118-119)He argues, “we must ask: What’s the alternative theory? We know of no other natural process that can build a complex adaptation. The most commonly suggested alternative takes us into the realm of the supernatural. This, of course, is creationism, [also] known … as `intelligent design.’ … In the main, ID is unscientific, for it consists largely of untestable claims. How, for example, can we determine whether mutations were mere accidents in DNA replication or were willed into being by a creator? But we can still ask if there are adaptations that could not have been built by selection, and therefore require us to think of another mechanism… this is commonly called the `God of the gaps’ argument, and it is an argument from ignorance. What it really says is that if we don’t understand EVERYTHING about how natural selection built a trait, that lack of understanding itself is evidence for supernatural creation… the onus is not on evolutionary biologists to sketch out a precise step-by-step scenario documenting exactly how a complex character evolved. That would require knowing everything about what happened when we were not around—an impossibility…” (Pg. 136-138)About fossil human ancestors, he says, “Remember that the `missing link’ is the SINGLE ANCESTRAL SPECIES that gave rise to modern humans… and chimpanzees. It’s not reasonable to expect the discovery of that critical single species… Except for a few marine microorganisms, such complete fossil sequences don’t exist. And our early human ancestors… inhabited a small part of Africa under dry conditions not conducive to fossilization… Given all this, we can’t expect to find the single particular species that represents the `missing link’ between humans and other apes. We can hope only to find its evolutionary cousins.” (Pg. 195)Interestingly, he states, “recent work shows that our genetic resemblance to our evolutionary cousins is not quite a close as we thought. Consider this. A 1.5 percent difference in protein sequence means that when we line up the same protein … of humans and chimps, on average we’ll see a difference of just one out of every hundred amino acids. But proteins are typically composed of several hundred amino acids. So a 1.5 percent difference in a protein three hundred amino acids long translated into about four differences in the total protein sequence… That oft-quoted 1.5 percent difference between ourselves and chimps, then, is really larger than it looks: a lot more than 1.5 percent of our proteins will differ by at least one amino acid from the sequence in chimps.” (Pg. 210)He concludes, “the major tenets of Darwinism have been verified. Organisms evolved, they did so gradually… and natural selection is the major engine of adaptation. No serious biologist doubts these propositions. But this doesn’t mean that Darwinism is scientifically exhausted, with nothing left to understand. Far from it. Evolutionary biology is teeming with questions and controversies. How exactly does sexual selection work? Do females select males with good genes? … Which fossil hominins are on the direct line to Homo sapiens? What caused the Cambrian `explosion’ of life, in which many new types of animals appeared within only a few million years?… Far from discrediting evolution, the `controversies’ are in fact the sign of a vibrant, thriving field. What moves science forward is ignorance, debate, and the testing of alternative theories with observations and experiments. A science without controversy is a science without progress.” (Pg. 223)This is one of the best current books on evolutionary theory and the evidence for it. One might supplement it with Donald Prothero’s

⭐and Richard Dawkins’

⭐, to get “up-to-date” on modern evolutionary theory.

⭐Galileo Lives!!!BOOK REVIEW: WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE By Jerry A. Coyne, Penguin Books, London, 2010, 282 pagesBy Samuel A. Nigro, MD, copyright c 2016 “We are the one creature to whom natural selection has bequeathed a brain complex enough to comprehend the laws that govern the universe. And we should be proud that we are the only species that has figured out how we came to be.” (Page 233)Those are the last two sentences of the book–an amazing but feeble touch of spirituality for an atheist whose naturalistic secular materialism and constricted version of evolution are opiates which allegedly confirm “how we came to be.” And in contradiction to the rest of the book, Coyne wrote on the penultimate page 232: “Deriving your spirituality from science also means accepting an attendant sense of humility before the universe and the likelihood that we’ll never have all the answers.”Given that Coyne rejected natural law and virtue in his recent book, Faith vs Fact, it is puzzling how he can acknowledge human super-nature above all other species and then summon the ancient virtue of humility which is “accurate self-awareness” rather than some of the fourteen elements common to the human body on the periodic table. Perhaps he has a soul after all?Why Evolution Is True “proves” (“describes” is more accurate) evolution by an overwhelming presentation and imposition of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Stories are created for everything to explain everything and all facts are naturally selected to fit (“Natural selection” is a dogma never to be sinned against.). Whatever the creature, the natural selection story applies, or will in time as required by the next enthusiastic discovery to be interpreted the Darwinian way only. There can be no heresies or great arguments with the “facts” as presented by the pre-ordained science interpretations required. Evolution is declared to be true and all “facts” are presented/contorted/decreed as such. Infallibility reigns for science too, especially when cogent criticisms are ignored (1) and (2).Theophobia:What also comes through is the theophobia (3) so common for those who see evolution as excluding the ancient secrets of human super-nature consistent with a Loving God and a pre-Big Bang Eternity, Infinity or the scientific word for the space/time continuum’s beginning and end: “Statimuum”. To mock, trivialize, degrade, reject and deprive people of the comfort and succor of a Loving God is selfish, arrogant, cruel, subhuman, ignorant, and unscientific. To censor the Catholic Mantra of life, sacrifice, virtue, love, humanity, peace, freedom, and death-without-fear is outrageous. To discover a Big Bang space/time continuum without a pre-Big Bang non-space/non-time Statimuum, is just pathological denial. Not to see their subnatural anti-humanness, by rejecting the ancient, is to not use the fullness of their supernatural abilities above the others in the animal kingdom. What do atheists want from God (scientifically, an UnRestricted Act of Thinking–“UR-AT” [by Fr. Robert Spitzer (4,5)]) as messages? No creation? A No Bang? Words proven to be “angels”(6)? Better scientific probabilities? Godel’s Theorems? A planet with all the 118 elements of the periodic table instead of one or two elements as on other astral bodies? A planet with the toxic elements in low quantities isolated and remote from living creatures? A planet with water and elements warmed nicely between freezing and boiling protected from all anti-life bombardments? A life protecting electromagnetism from the molten core of the earth stirred by a moon which once was part of the earth? The ideas of Transcendence (being, matter, identity, truth, oneness, good, beauty) and Love? A Statimuum–what used to be called Eternity–all of all immediately–I AM WHO AM (to be joined by those who love)–an UnRestricted Act of Transcendence (UR-AT for all)? More? Atheists want more than a man who rose from the dead? (If that does not impress, nothing will.)Supernature: conscious-of-consciousnessHumans have a super-nature above the rest of the animal kingdom. It is called conscious-of-consciousness or C2 well described in my “Theogeocalculus of Life” (7) and “The Attainment of Psychological Freedom” (8). A few examples of relevant observations of its use and non-use:(1) Although Atheists always gleefully tell of his “mistreatment” by the Church, the celebration of Galileo regularly overlooks the fact that he was, con-man like, laughed out of the Venetian Senate when he asked for funding so he could “invent” the telescope, because all knew of its earlier development in Germany. Also overlooked are Galileo’s faulty studies of the ocean tides which he claimed “proved” the circulation of the earth about the sun–something not really proved until stellar parallax studies of the nineteenth century. Even more overlooked is the fact that when Galileo disturbed the peace and showed contempt for authority by making religious claims outside his area of expertise, he lived his arrest in a comfortable palace. Could it be that, “bad science” evolved from Galileo’s making exaggerated claims about ocean tides which his superiors could see that he had not proved, and that subsequent scientists refuse to learn from what Galileo really did? Do scientists suffer from Galileo’s bad genes? Will evolutionists call it “natural selection” too and claim it just as another proof of evolution?(2) Darwin’s Descent of Man is obviously wrong. It is the “ascent” of man we see in evolution unless the traditional messages of a Loving God are ignored. Evolutionists are looking at life upside down and may be just still imitating Galileo.(3) Godel’s Theorems are the scientific fulfillment of the doctrine of original sin. (The ancient Jews did not have contemporary words, only parable words). Godel’s first theorem is that in a system of complexity, questions exist that are neither provable nor disprovable on the basis of the axioms in the system; that is, true statements are undecidable even if known to be true on the basis of the system as known. Godel’s second theorem is that the system is always incomplete because new undecidable elements will always be present such that contradictions occur when the system claims it has decided all; that is, the system will generate more undecidability. If undecidability and incompleteness are always present in extreme mathematical formality, how much more are they present in everything else man does. In the human complex, things are born wrong (undecidable and incomplete) and there will be defects about which forgiveness and corrective action will almost always be needed, unless the Virgin Mary.(4) Coyne’s referring to Richard Dawkins three times in this book is disturbing because Dawkins is a discredited science fabricator, more than Galileo, who likely is no longer allowed to link himself with the University of Oxford. The God Delusion by Dawkins quotes three psychiatrists who tell Dawkins that he is incorrect and should not use the term “delusion” as he does. And yet, Dawkins does not care. He does it any way–in imitation of Galileo. Another Dawkins book, Climbing Mount Improbable, reveals praise for Ernst Haeckel whose fraudulent drawings of embryonic development still float around, and, thereby co-corrupted, Coyne himself defends Haeckel. The Galileo case is thus replayed? Worse yet, in Climbing Mount Improbable, Dawkins totally fabricates a reference to a Nilsson and Pelger article on eye evolution–calling it an “elegant computer model.” In embarrassing truth, it was nothing but a series of confabulated sketches–totally and outrageously distorted and grandiosely magnified by Dawkins. Interestingly, Coyne refers to the same Nilsson and Pelger article as “science.” Quite to the contrary, the essay is pure imagination (pages 142-143), like the exaggerated claims that Galileo made about ocean tides. Finally, Coyne makes reference to Dawkins’ oxymoronic “clever” definition of “natural selection” as “the non-random survival of random variants” (page 119). In truth, Dawkins’ writing really is “the non-random never-actually-observed story-telling about selected survival of selected random variants”.(5) Then there is the shocking expose of academic scientific studies found at this site: “http://reason.com/archives/2016/08/26most-scientific-research-is-wrong-or-useless”. I offer one example by quoting a brief statement from the article: “In 2015, only about a third of 100 psychological studies in three leading psychology journals could be replicated.” That is just a hint of how bad it is. One wants to yell: “Scientists: Save yourselves! Do better than Galileo!”Closure:Why Evolution is True is likely not filled with fraud, but, like Galileo, the interpretations and claims are arrogant, never-directly-observed impositions. Today, more than ever, science has become filled with anti-academic, intolerant, dishonest, and arrogant abusers of science out to make names for themselves as they act out a required theophobia which forgives their own sins against truth. They “create” evolution by their own self-imposed style of “intelligent design”–so it all fits. May be it should be called “natural selection pseudo-intelligent design/creationism”? And they have no alternative except a personal evolution into a pre-Big Bang state which they cannot allow themselves to believe.References:(1) Samuel A. Nigro,MD, “Why Evolutionary Theories Are Unbelievable” Linacre Quarterly, February 2004, Vol 71, #1, pp 58-75.(2) Samuel A. Nigro, MD, “Charles Darwin’s Bicentenary: Time for a ‘Celebration’ or an Inquest?”, Social Justice Review, May/June 2008, pp 72-76.(3) Samuel A. Nigro, MD: “Theophobia, Dehumanization and Depersonalization: A Critique of Prominent Secular-Atheist Thinkers”, 2007, unpublished.(4) Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D, The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason .(5) Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D, From Nothing To Cosmos: God and Science–a comprehensive look at the evidence for God.(6) A chapter in each of my three books expand on the fact that “words are angels” (ultra-microscopic person-al messages)–Happy Ending, Everybody For Everybody, Soul of the Earth.(7) Samuel A. Nigro, MD: “The Theogeocalculus of Life: Natural Law Thinking has the Answer to Everything,” The Linacre Quarterly, August 2006.(8) Samuel A. Nigro, MD: “The Attainment of Psychological Freedom”, Social Justice Review, November/December, 2002, pp176-179.

⭐Well – this just changed my life.Flip.I read and study the Bible daily. It tells us that we were created special, but evolution tells us that is a lie. At least in the classic religious belief that we are special.Jerry A. Coyne is a brilliant author, he writes in a very accessible way and is very clear at informing his reader when he is talking about things he knows to be correct, and when he is speculating.I genuinely believe that this book is one of a few books, along with others like ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari, which is at the cole face of atheistic apologetics.In the past, if you wanted to challenge Christianity the attack would always be aimed at God or the resurrection of Jesus. Very little work has been done within a religious framework into the scientific beginning of the galaxy and life on our planet. But how can it? Religion aims at purpose and meaning, not origins and biology.This book aims to inform the modern reader about evolution. It does that beautifully. It also raises its head time and time again to critique and question Creationists or people who believe in Intelligent Design.Belief should be able to withstand questions, big or small. We don’t need answers to flow immediately, rather we need to be able to explore, understand and consider faith against the pieces of evidence that science brings to bear.I believe we should all hold doubt within our lives. Anyone who thinks they hold the complete answers to everything is holding a very dangerous state of mind.’The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.’ – Bertrand Russell

⭐I thoroughly recommend this book as a brilliant introduction to evolutionary theory. Written in clear English which neither dumbs down the subject nor patronises the reader I could have read it in one go if I’d had the time. What I like most is that although an introduction, the author doesn’t skim over the subject, providing enough depth and examples to amply prove his point. As someone addicted to watching David Attenborough documentaries, I felt that I already had a decent background in evolution, but this book both cemented and added to my knowledge. A great read!

⭐A convincing and easy read.. Could be understood by someone with limited scientific knowledge. Very matter of fact.

⭐Read as part of Evo Bio course. Wouldn’t have gone for it otherwise as the entire book is geared towards trying to convince Creationists they are wrong, a pointless endeavour in my opinion.Still lots of interest and well written.

⭐A good stimulating read for those brought up in Sunday School to believe in the Creation story.


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