Thursday, March 11, 2010

A rare clear and concise explanation of a complex scientific theory

Why Evolution is True
Jerry A. Coyne

Oh, I am such a cheater this month! I totally started this book a couple of days ago but, in my defense, I finished it up this morning....I just couldn't help myself.

Evolution. Very few words in science can raise the religious hackles and get the debate juices flowing like this one. Even numerous court trials have become involved to help decide if evolution is science fact or fiction and whether the opposing viewpoint - creationism - deserves to be taught and considered on the same academic level.

Granted, I went into this book a full-fledged supporter of evolution but I was still struck (again) by the beauty and elegance of this biological process that was thought of hundreds of years ago. Coyne logically and concisely went through the evidence for evolution - tracing his way through the fossil record to show dinosaurs evolving into birds, fish invading the land as terrestrial tetrapods, and terrestrial mammals going migrating back into the oceans. He not only shows fossil evidence and supports it with rigorous hypothesis testing (the hallmark of robust science) and examples from nature, but also brilliantly illustrates evolution rapidly occurring during a human lifetime. The vast majority of the book focuses on evolution in general - single-celled organisms up through mammals - but the final chapter focuses on humans evolution from primates and, what I feel is, irrefutable evidence that this process is the best explanation we have for how Homo sapiens came to be.

Sometimes science books can be a little tedious (shock, I know) but Coyne's writing style had me anxiously awaiting to pick the book back up! His words were illustrated by lovely drawings that I prefer so much more to pictures because it brings uniformity to book. And, possibly my favorite part, is that Coyne didn't attack any other belief system - he occasionally brought up the creationist argument against a specific evolution viewpoint but I didn't feel like he was hostile in any way, he simply laid out the facts and let them speak for themselves.

If you are a supporter of evolution but want to learn more, are unsure on the issue but would like more facts, or are even staunchly against evolution but think it's important to know the opposition, then I would highly recommend this book.

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