Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Why Evolution Is True" mini-review

I recently bought Coyne's book "Why Evolution Is True". I had not planned on finishing it quite so quickly, but an enforced 5 days in hospital made short work of it; I could have read it four times over.

Overall: It's a solid covering of a lot of both the evidence that evolution has occurred (and continues to occur), and the evidence that a major driver of evolutionary change is natural selection. It's clearly and engagingly written - the level is a bit lighter than I'd like (there are many places where just a bit more detail and depth would help), but probably spot on for the audience it's aimed at.

Nits: Actually, I have quite a lot of nits to pick. I won't list them all just now (I may visit some in a later post), but they're mostly minor. I'd love to have seen more on ERVs, for example. A number of assertions are made that really should have some evidence to back them up -- and at least one of those assertions is, I think, very likely wrong, and reads like accomodationism. (Coyne is no accomodationist, which makes it seem weird.)

Who this book is for:
- anyone who wants to learn what evolution is, what is the evidence that it happens, and why natural selection is such a powerful explanation of it.
- anyone who finds themselves in the position of having to try to explain to someone else what evolution is, ... and so on. This includes me. The moment a creationist finds out I am interested in science, I'm enthusiastically Gish-galloped. This is a good start on background for being able to give better responses than my original laser-like response of "uh-whuh-huh?".
- anyone who wants to argue that evolution is wrong. This is a basic introduction to what they have to try to argue against - that straw man they currently pound makes them look like morons.

In short, "Why Evolution Is True" is an enjoyable book. Well worthwhile, even at the relatively exhorbitant price I had to pay for it in Australia.

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