Monday, November 2, 2009

"Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne

I enjoy pop-sci books written by those qualified to write them. Jerry Coyne certainly meets that criteria on "Why Evolution is True", but he also fulfills the other part of why I enjoy reading pop-sci: I learn in an entertaining and easy sort of way. The majority of the time Coyne reviews a good chunk of data collected thus far that supports the theory of evolution while demonstrating the basics of how the scientific method works. However, despite doing this, one does not need a background in science to understand the arguments for evolution -- everything is straightforward and fairly easy to comprehend. There is some occasional ribbing of theism involved, but the ribbing is directed towards the current creationist movement that biologists have to contend with more than the grand philosophical questions of theism. This approach shows that Coyne is more concerned about the scientific stance of evolution and the reasons for its truth rather than any particular over-arching metaphysical stance. Some reviews term this ribbing as "Preaching to the choir", but Coyne never lets on what his particular religious stance is. Instead his overall concern isn't the existence or non-existence of God, but the lack of proper scientific argument from self-described creationists and the Intelligent Design community.

What I found particularly enjoyable was his treatment of the debates on evolution within the biological community. Not being a biologist, and having taken all of a single college course on biology, I found it refreshing to be able to review the variations on evolution currently being debated. Overall, Coyne presents the truth of evolution in an entertaining way with references to boot. I would recommend the book to those not in biology but wanting to have a clearer understanding of why the theory of evolution is on par with the atomic theory, as well as a deeper understanding of the social issues at hand (the last chapter covers these) from the standpoint of a biologist who is currently working in the field. We need more popular science books just like this.

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