Confession: I've always wanted to read Darwin's Origin of the Species but I'm too intimated. I attempted it once but after reading the first couple of sentences, I panicked and ran. So when Chris said he was going to read Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A Coyne for Amy's 50 Books Challenge, I saw it as an opportunity to read about evolution.
Turns out, while Origin is the book that started it all, it is just a drop in the bucket of information about evolution. Since Darwin's time science has grown in knowledge through breakthroughs in genetics and paleontology. Coyne explains how these discoveries add validity to the theories of Darwin. Could he have imagined the mapping of the genome or the images of a baby growing in utero?
I had a hard time reading the chapters in fossils (yawn) but Why Evolution Is True's chapters on human beings were fascinating. I had to talk about it with someone. My husband asked me, "Why do you keep talking about appendix?" accompanied by strange looks. But I thought that information was just too interesting to keep to myself. The book is fairly easy to read and I recommend it.
So why is Why Evolution Is True important enough to have made it on the 50 books for Our Times list- one of the books that "open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways."? I think that can be answered in the Preface. Coyne fears that the Darwinism is at risk of becoming an endangered species, that the politics of Creationism will interfere with scientific study in the classroom. Although Coyne shows his disdain for Creationists, he points out the barbs they have made toward Darwinism. I see it as a really nasty game of "Red Rover."
Coyne isn't out to convert the believers of Creationism nor is he preaching to the choir:
"For those who oppose Darwinism purely as a matter of faith, no amount of evidence will do- theirs is a belief not based on reason. But for the many who find themselves uncertain, or who accept evolution but are not sure how to argue their case, this volume gives a succinct summary of why modern science recognizes evolution as true."He doesn't exactly have to twist my rubber arm but he does give a thorough explanation of evolution. For me, the best chapter is the last "What About Us?" where he tells us that believing in evolution doesn't lead to cats and dogs living together.
"Evolution is simply a theory about the process and patterns of life's diversification, not a grand philosophical scheme about the meaning of life. It can't tell us what to do, or how we should behave."And most beautifully: "Evolution tells us where we came from, not where we can go." That is in our hands.