WhyEvolution is True Book Critique and Reflection
Inthe book, “Why Evolution is true,” Jerry Coyne presentedarguments which align with the concept of modern evolution theory.For instance, he asserted that “Lifeon earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species,perhaps a self-replicating molecule, that lived more than 3.5 billionyears ago it then branched out over time, throwing off many new anddiverse species and the mechanism for most (but not all) ofevolutionary change is natural selection” (Coyne,2009, p. 3). The contemporary view of evolution includes the currentinformation on genetics, development biology, paleontology, and DNAsequencing. The consensus is that evolution is facilitated by thegene mutation. In this context, species which corresponds to distinctgene pools are isolated and bundled together.
Oneof the greatest strengths of the bookis the author`s organization of facts and coherent flow ofdiscussion. It is easy to follow his thought patterns and understandhow the author reasons regarding the subject matter. For instance,theauthor’s arguments can bebrokendown into parts which seem to align with the six components ofDarwin’s evolution components. The first part discusses evolutionfacts of living things bymaintaining that genetic change over time is a natural and animminent process.
Thesecond part of the argument supports the concept of gradualism. Ittalks about the fact that changes occur over time. Thirdly, it talksabout speciation byreferring to a case where new species develop from the existinglineages. The author also talks about ancestry bymaintaining that all species are grouped together and have a commonpoint of origin. The fifth aspect of the author’s discussion is thenatural selection of mechanism.
Inthis context, he claims that a particular gene combination can bereproduced successfully compared to others due to their ability tosurvive relatively better than others in a shared environment. Thelast part of the author’s argument talks about the existence ofprocesses which facilitate the evolutionary change.
Incomparison, Darwin highlighted six components that characterize thetheory of evolution. The first point, overproduction, underscoresthe fact that living things tend to produce offspring at a relativelyfaster rate than their extinction. Secondly, he talked about the factthat the offspring of each generation must compete for the limitedspace and food in their environment.
Coyne’sfifth point, the natural selection of mechanism, highlights thatparticular species of living things are better survivors than others.The third component of evolution theory is the genetic variationwhich emphasizes that the elements of individual living organisms inany species vary from the rest. This view is also captured in theauthor’s book, especially when he discussed the concept ofspeciation. The similarities between Coyne`s arguments and Darwin`sdiscussion poignantly highlights that the author was trying toauthenticate the idea of evolution as used in the modern scientificapproach to the existence of living things.
Therefore,when the author tried to verify the existence of evolution, heimplied that all the propositions supporting the theory arelegitimate. Moreover, they should be understood because within thecontext of the overwhelming evidence that scientists gathered in thepast. The fact that evolution is still but a theoretical perspectiveof existence should not limit people from believing in life’sdiversity.
Coyne’sopinion on this matter highlights that evolution is, in fact, still atheory because of the presence of diverse perspectives into the issueof existence and creation. Some of them are theological while othersare cultural. Belief is one of the strongest forces in the world. Itis the inherent nature of human beings to believe. In most cases,they prefer to think that someone or something stronger than them isin control of a situation or a concept they cannot understand.
Theexplanation regarding the existence of organisms and non-organismshas eluded the comprehension of many scholars for a long time. Infact, the reality of the Earth among other planets is yet to becomprehensively and conclusively explained. In this case, it is easyfor people to assume that a Supreme Being created the earth and allliving things. In the cultural context, it is easy to believe thatthe spirits or great ancestors facilitated the existence of the Earthas in the case of the Aboriginal people. Otherwise, it has beentested over time, and evidence gathered to prove that in as much asit is a phenomenon, it is still a reality that cannot be overlookedbecause it cannot beunderstood easily.
Theopinions presented in the book are based on facts extracted fromcredible sources. In an attempt to legitimize the view in thepreceding paragraph, the author produced several scientific pieces ofevidence from fossil records, biogeography records, and informationregarding the presence of vestigial structures in the contemporaryorganisms. He also consulted from reports which have information onembryology to prove that, indeed, living things evolved in the pastand evolution will occur in the future.
Coynetried as much as possible to portray that evolution theory madeaccurate predictions in the past. Under this circumstance, it wouldbe easy to believe that the related data makes sense.Correspondingly, the author also demonstrated an attribute ofobjectivity when defending the model. He did not shy away from therefuting inconsistent observations. For instance, he concurred thathuman fossils have never been found in the Cretaceous rock stratadespite knowing that this point would have positively reinforced hisarguments. He also opposed the notion advanced by Haldane that thefossils of rabbits were found in Precambrian. From this assessment,it is apparent and possible to believe Coyne’s arguments based onhis obsession with establishing the authenticity of sources beforepassing the related information as facts.
Arguably,the book`s greatest strength exists in the author`s ability todiversify the sources of his evidence and use only what has beenproven and tested. In as much as such kind of sources are limited andhard to find, he tracked down some of them and used them to supporthis views on the matter of evolution successfully. He also tried torepresent facts in simple terms as possible to make it easy for thereader to follow his logics and understand his thoughts clearly.
Coynedemonstrated that any competent historian and biologist would notrefute the existence of evolution amidst convincing proofs. Thecontroversies present in the scientific body regarding some factsarise from the availability of a large amount of data which whenorganized, studied, and analyzed would still converge at proving thatthe major points that characterize Darwin`s model are valid. In thiscontext, it can be seen that no scientific controversies surround theexistence of evolution. However, there are social disputes regardingits actuality. These disagreements emanate from concerted effortswhich seek to compromise the legitimacy of the model with the aim ofadvancing other theories.
Forinstance, Christianity teaches that everything is God’s creation.He created the universe, human beings, and other living things. Heplaced man in charge over all creation. Therefore, the will,livelihood, and survival of people precede all things on Earth.Apparently, the objective of Christians is to establish the sovereignnature of God and convince other people that nothing would haveoccurred without His divine intervention.
Similarly,culturists also refute evolution theory because it compromises thelegitimacy of their beliefs and practices. They also believe thatnothing would have occurred on its own without the help of a mysterypower or being. The only difference between the views of culturistsand Christianity teachings is that the former believes that theirancestors were influential people and were responsible for thecreation of the universe and everything. In a rejoinder, scientistschallenge social, religious, and cultural activists to contest theexistence of disease-causing micro-organisms. Apparently, they usethis approach to asserting that if the concept of medicine is real,then there is a high possibility that evolution theory is anauthentic perspective on the existence of human beings and otherliving things.
Inthe last chapter of the book, Coyne presented an argument whichsought to portray belief as a powerful tool for convincing people toaffiliate to a particular notion or practice as seen in the case ofculture and religion. This argument is still a continuation of theauthor’s attempt to authenticate the concept of evolution byportraying the competing ideas as unrealistic. In this case, he askshis audience to think of the things which would make people with ahigh intellectual level to refuse to accept an explanation regardlessof the existence of proof.
Heinferred that culture and religion are baseless because they offerexplanations which end up in telling people that a mysterious powerwas behind creation. However, they are powerful because they providethe simplest explanations to things that are otherwise complicated.He created a juxtaposition between the creationists’ view of theworld and scientific opinions to convince people that science offersa more rational explanation regarding the existence of the universeas well as the difference in characteristics of human beings, plants,mammals, and other living things compared to the former. Thisapproach reflects an excellent use of evidence in disapprovingcompeting information to pave the way for the author`s assertion.
However,a critical examination of the case reveals that he was debating andspeculating rather than providing facts. He started his augments byproviding facts after the other. He should have used the same trendwhen countering the arguments of the opposition. In a debate, anargument can be right depending on how the speaker uses words tocounteract challenges.
However,it does not mean that it represents the true nature of the facts. Notonly did this book choose to address an issue which has generated alot of controversies, butalso one which cannot be speculated, butrather proved using solid facts. Scientific discussions have no roomfor conjecture. When there is insufficient evidence to support theexistence of something, then it cannot bereferred to as a fact. Rather, it is called an area of research. Thefact that Coyne’s assertions, which mostly entail assumptions whendisapproving creationist ideas, attempts to close the discussion robit of the credibility which he struggled so much to represent in thebook.
Asa result, Coyne’s obsession with proving the legitimacy ofevolution theory portrays him as one sided in his arguments. Herubbished the creationists’ view of existence but failed to offerconclusive evidence to disapprove their supporting evidence orclaims. For instance, he stated on page 17 of the book thatcontinents would have only been few inches apart had they beencreated as purported byChristians.
Inthis case, he failed to consider the theory of tectonic plates whichtend to support the notion that continents drift apart. This view wasfurther legitimized when a study of the Earth’s surface whichproved that the outlines of the continents bordering the AtlanticOcean had a high degree of resemblance. As soon as an accurate mapwas developed, it became apparent that such linings were, in fact,joined earlier in the history of the world.
In1958, more evidence emerged to suggest that perhaps the continentswould have been joined at one time in history. Specifically, a Frenchgeographer, Antonio Snider-Pellegrini observed that there weresimilar fossil plants in North America and Europe coal deposits. Theonly realistic explanation for this phenomenon was that the twocontinents were once combined. He further claimed that the floodwhich occurred in the days of Noah, as explained in the Bible, mayhave taken place as a result of the fragmentation of the continent.
Inthe late 1800s, sediment sources were found at the bottom of oceans.At the same time, flora and fauna connecting continents were alsodiscovered. This evidence underpinned the proposal advanced by anAustrian geologist, Eduard Swess. It claimed that the present daycontinents broke off from a large block of a continent which existedin the past. This hypothesis fuelled further inquiry into the matter.As a result, it was discovered that some portions of the fragmentedcontinents sunk into the large water bodies.
Thebridgesthat once connected the continents disappeared in the process, thuscreating a perception that the world has always been geographicallydivided. These evidence-based hypotheses disapprove Coyne’sassertion that North America and Europe would have been closer if theworld was created. Perhaps they were close at some point, or evenjoined, but they separated and drifted apart due to strong naturalforces of the Earth. On pages 92 and 101 of the book, the authorfurther disputed the idea that the world was created by stating thatliving things would have been found exactly where they were created.
Again,he fails to consider the evidence that supports the fact that livingorganisms may have moved from one part of the earth to another.Processes such as pollination and seed dispersal may have facilitatedthe movement of species of living things from where they were createdto other sections of the earth. According to Coyne, the idea ofcreation compromises speciation, and therefore must be disproved.
PersonalReflection on the Book
Thefirst chapter of the book focuses on clarifying the fundamentalmisconception regarding the evolution theory. At the same time, itdiscusses the conceptual framework of the model. I have gained a lotof information reading the origin and the justification of thetheory. It offers an alternative explanation to a case which eludedmany scholars in the past. The author was obviously brave taking on achallenge of this magnitude and coming up with a piece of literaturewhich is not short of admiration.
However,one of the important issues in this chapter is the author`s immediateattack on differing opinions, especially the creationists` idea ofthe formation of the universe. It implies that people are yet toagree on a conventional and formal explanation regarding the issuesarticulated in the book such as speciation and gene mutations amongothers. There is a need to establish a way which all groups wouldrefer or explain these concepts.
Thesecond chapter seeks to justify the existence of evolution usingfossil evidence. This section provides the opportunity forunderstanding scientific research relating to fossils and how theymay be used to represent facts. In this part, the author made iteasier for other scholars to develop knowledge regarding theauthentic information sources to be used to understand fossils andthe facts they represent. In fact, Coyne`s book can be utilized as apoint of reference when looking for credible scientific informationregarding ancient evidence relating to life.
Inchapter three and four, the author resumes his opposition againstcreationists by providing evidence which otherwise were ignored inthe past. He adopts this approach to counter the design argumentspropagated by culturists and religious groups of people. The casesopen up opposing theories and make it possible for the reader tounderstand them and compared them to the evolution of theory.
Coyne`scommitment in this part gave me the opportunity to understand otherlesser known evidence such as whale hips, human tails, and otherelements of the human body which were not possible to believe thatexisted. Going through the author`s thoughts and evidence, somehow Istart to become convinced that perhaps evolution may not be astheoretical as purported in the contemporary cultural and religiousfields, but rather a valid claim of accounts of the occurrences ofthe past.
Chapterfour of five, six, and seven contain the major strength of the book.A lot of evidence relating classical neonatology, especiallyregarding genetics and speciation among others, are documented inthese sections. Apparently, Coyne`s academic specialty is in thisarea. Thus, I learned about a lot of evidence which supports theevolution model. For instance, he discussed how sex drives evolution.
Thisargument aligns with the Darwinian opinion on the natural selectionof species. Following these discussions, I expanded my understandingof the elements which characterizes the concept of evolution, and whyDarwin arrived at such conclusions. At the same time, the authorattempted to define the creationist movement and why they objectevolution theory. Again, he uses a lot of evidence from anatomy andpaleontology to refute the claims of creationists and strengthen ofhis theory. The discussion is illuminating because it exposed to alot of information regarding the two perceptive ideas. I alsomanaged to understand the cause of opposition between scientists andsocial groups, culturists, and religious people.
Evolutiontheory has the capacity to compromise people’s religious andcultural beliefs. Therefore, these groups feel threatened with theprospect of their affiliations playing second fiddle to thescientific processes. Coyne attacks this mentality by asserting thatit does not make sense why an intellect being would continue toignore evidence and continue to believe in something that offers aninadequate explanation to the existence of the universe and livingthings.
Thelast chapter comprises of a discussion which attempts to explain whyhistorians and biologists among other scientists may concur thatevolution is a reality. It is evident that Coyne followed in thefootsteps of Darwin y choosing not to engage creationists directly ordemystify their arguments. He rather chose to expose the existingevidence supporting the existence of evolution. Therefore, it is upto the reader to make a verdict to believe in such evidence or tojoin the creationist movement.
Coyne,J. A. (2009). Whyevolution is true.Penguin.