15 Dec 2022


Critique of Jerry Coyne’s Book Why Evolution is true

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The world as it is with its various creatures and a physical feature is a product of different processes that have happened over long periods of time. Ultimately scientists have referred to these continuous and gradual changes and modifications to as evolution from the verb ‘evolve.' Evolution seems to offer concrete and distinct explanations on the origins of life, and this has made this theory to remain dependable over time. However, there are other theories that seem to oppose this theory such as creationism which places God at the center of creating the living creatures the way they are. Jerry Coyne’s book is on point for trying to justify evolution theory by claiming that it possesses the quality of being consistent with observable facts which are a missing quality in the creationism theory. 

Critique of Jerry Coyne’s Book Why Evolution is true 

Chapter 1- ‘What is Evolution’ 

Chapter one begins by summarizing on what is evolution by identifying six tenets of the evolution process. This is achieved by going through each of them in turn. Coyne (2009) fronts the tenets of neo-Darwinian sufficiency mechanisms which include section, mutation, and drift. He further subdivides this concept into six more components of evolution, speciation, evolution, natural selection, common ancestry as well as nonselective mechanisms of evolutionary change (Coyne, 2009). Natural selection is seen as a change mechanism which in spite of proposing to bring change ends up bringing about reduced genetic diversity which in turn leads to a reduced genetic diversity (Coyne, 2009). As a result, reduced genetic diversity affects evolution negatively since it implies the opposite of what is needed for evolution to continue. 

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This chapter goes further to analyses the main components proposed by Darwin and trying to validate their role in the evolution theory. Important to note here is the concept of allele frequencies found in populations and which keep on changing over time (Coyne, 2009). As a result, this has contributed to the fact that different organisms have been known to live on this planet at different times. However, from this chapter, there is a problem of keeping tabs on the diverse organisms that may have been missed and not recorded. In addition, there is no way to establish how the upcoming organisms will tend to be like considering this concept of allele frequencies shift. Furthermore, natural selection is blamed by creationists such as Edward Blyth as being responsible for the loss of genetic information which means that the resultant creatures do not match the original ones. 

Chapter 2- Written on the Rocks 

Chapter two is concerned with the fossil evidence that is available to justify that evolution occurred as well as highlighting the gradual and coordinated processes for these evolutionary changes. Coyne (2009) considers the earth’s crust as a great museum where the various collections of nature have accumulated at different intervals in time. According to Coyne (2009) for fossils to be formed, a certain specific combination of circumstances must be present. These remains of either plant or animal must get into water where they sink to the bottom where they should be covered by sediment immediately to prevent decay or scattering by scavengers (Coyne, 2009). It is evident from the above statements that if any of this condition is not met in one way or the other there is a risk of losing the originality of a species and what remains must just be a mere representation which does not give a clear picture. 

There is an estimation of at least 17 million creatures that have walked on the face of the earth with only a discovery of at least 250,000 distinct fossil species. This finding only accounts for a mere 1% which can be considered a dismal sample to be used as a conviction of evolution theory. Fossil record usually exhibits a particular trend where simpler organisms precede complex ones such as bacterium preceding an elephant. Considering that fossil records are meant to reveal common ancestry, it would be outrageous to claim that both bacterium and elephant have a common ancestry. This is due to the fact taxonomists in their classification have classified these two in different taxonomic levels. Besides, fossil records reveal a situation where phyla precede classes, classes before orders and consequently orders before families. As a result higher taxa do not reflect to have come from lower taxa accumulation. 

Chapter 3-Remnants: Vestiges, Embryos and Bad Design 

Chapter three focuses on the results that are witnessed as evolution takes place throughout the world’s history. A vestige is a characteristic in a species that was formerly an adaptation in the species ancestors which has eventually lost its usefulness or adapted for other new uses such as an appendix and the human tail (Coyne, 2009). Atavisms, on the other hand, are features that crop up mostly as an anomaly and which looks like a reappearance of features in the species ancestors, for example, a human being born with a tail (Coyne, 2009). According to Coyne (2009) embryos can also be considered as dead genes where a gene considered dead in one species becomes active in related species such as a human embryo resembling a fish embryo. Bad design, on the other hand, reflects disorganization of features in the creation such as the laryngeal nerve that is recurrent in mammals. 

This concept may seem too much to take in for critics who may have other reasons for the appearance of vestiges, bad design, embryos, and atavisms. Modern advancement in technology, industrialization as well as medicine has been associated with mutations that occur in human beings creating what Coyne (2009) would love to refer to atavisms and evil designs. A case in this point is the Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuclear bombs attack which left the victims as well as their descendants with severe mutations and gene alterations due to radiation exposure. Medicine has brought about so many bodily changes and alterations as well in bodies of various species with some of the results being making certain species resistant to diseases. DNA replication, exposure to alcohol, lead, organic mercury, radiation, lithium as well as other chemicals can also lead to mutations. It is, therefore, important to note that this changes are not as a result of evolution but other chemical processes. 

Chapter 4- The Geography of Life 

Chapter four is concerned with the explanation of the origins of life as well as their geographical distributions across the planet. Coyne (2009) talks about convergent evolution where species that live in habitats that are similar experience selection pressures that are similar thereby evolving adaptations that are considered similar ending up behaving in the same manner though unrelated. Convergent evolution according to Coyne (2009) is seen to demonstrate three components of evolution theory which are speciation, common ancestry as well as natural selection. As a result of evolution according to Coyne (2009), species that live in an area should then be progenies of a former species that had lived in the similar area. Therefore, if digging were done into the superficial layers of the rocks in this field would reveal fossils that bear a resemblance to the species in that location presently which Coyne claims to be the case. 

This proposition made by Coyne purports that species tend to remain the same throughout ages which seem to nullify his earlier hypothesis of evolution. If the present species resemble their ancestors who died many years ago, it means that there is stagnation in evolution or maybe evolution has come to an end. Species according to evolution tend to change over time through speciation, natural selection among others (Coyne, 2009). So then if these creatures do not alter their adaptability as time changes it then cancels the whole idea of evolution. Nevertheless, species are known to change their locations as they find new places to survive in as a result of a change in weather patterns and human activities which may force them from their natural habitats. 

Chapter 5-Engine of Evolution 

Chapter five discusses the role of natural selection as well as adaptations in the process of evolution. In addition, it focuses on animal and plant breeding, experimental evolution in the laboratory, genetic drift as well as the evolution of bacteria resistance to antibiotics. Natural selection according to Coyne (2009) is not imposed on a specific population from the outside but rather a process where genes produce adaptations that are better. As a result, species that have a right kind of gene variation will automatically adapt well to their environment (Coyne, 2009). 

Therefore for natural selection to create an adaptation, there must be a population that is variable in terms of genetic basis which must affect the species probability of having offspring. Animal and plant breeding are species selection that not only happens in the wild naturally but a selection that can be perpetuated by human beings in laboratories with the aim of producing better quality species. Artificial breeding is quite detrimental to natural selection since it opposes the fact that only the strong species survive extremities. In artificial breeding, it is possible to enhance the survival rates of weak species by breeding them with strong species of the same kind or totally different kind. This artificial breeding has therefore denied natural selection and ultimately evolution theory a chance to thrive. Evolution is now determined by human activities rather than natural mechanisms that existed earlier on. 

Chapter 6-How Sex Drives Evolution 

Chapter six focuses on the importance of sex in the evolution process. Coyne (2009) discusses the concepts of sexual selection as well as the development of sexual dimorphism in addition to the explanation of why sex even evolved in the first place. Sexual dimorphism as explained by Coyne (2009) refers to the traits that differentiate males and females of a particular species such as color and tails. According to Coyne (2009), sexual selection takes two forms which are direct competition among males as well as female choosiness. In both cases, however, it is the males that compete for females rather than the vice versa. The difference in evolution in females and males is a matter of differential investment that is costly eggs versus relatively inexpensive sperms (Coyne, 2009). 

This belief has sparse evidence which may partly seem to point to the preference of evolutionists to stick to strict Darwinian explanations which are a belief that females should and must be able to make a distinction between male genes. This is also a belief that this sexual dimorphism evolution is solely driven by biases that are pre-existing in the females’ nervous system. This view, in addition, tends to portray males as promiscuous while on the other hand females should be coy. However, this is not always the case in the event of the human species where females tend to be promiscuous who lead men to have sex with them even through force. Females are also known to solicit for sex in exchange for rewards to their male counterparts. 

In conclusion, evolution theory is a major theory that has stood the test of time considering that it has a lot of empirical evidence to support it. When compared to other theories explaining the origin of species demonstrates quite deep convictions. However not all the claims that this theory makes are irrefutable. This is so because there are other tenets of this theory that do not seem persistent with this theory as claimed by the theory. This essay has brought out some of the critiques that can be fronted to discredit this theory in various aspects. 


Coyne, J. A. (2009). Why evolution is true . New York: Viking 

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