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“Why Evolution Is True?” by Jerry A. Coyne Term Paper


Debate on whether evolution is true has continued over the years. This paper will give a chapter-by-chapter analysis of Coyne’s (2010) work in the book, ‘Why Evolution is True’. The paper will include reflections concerning my understanding of evolution. This discussion will also include philosophical, theological, and sociological reflections that demonstrate the concept of evolution.

Analysis of Chapter 1

Chapter 1 presents the process of evolution as natural. According to Coyne (2010), different species are naturally designed to live and/or behave the way they do. Every animal and plant is intractably adapted to its survival habitat. The whole ecosystem functions in a self-fulfilling way that ensures continuity of existence. Coyne (2010) cites the example of a humming bird’s beak that is adapted to sipping nectar from flowers.

As it sips the nectar, the flower attaches its pollen grains on the beak. The pollen grains are used to fertilize the next flower that the bird visits. This observation presents a well-designed and self-controlling system. The reader is able to use this vivid substantiation of claims to understand the author’s need to introduce the aspect of God who is at the center of these natural happenings. However, lack of an empirical proof of how God created living things continues to discredit these myths. The inception of science of evolution has brought a complete different perspective of the issue.

According to Pryke and Andersson (2005), theological myths of how God created the world were upheld as the only truthful explanation of nature. However, the evolution theory counteracted this notion with scientific explanations of how living things evolved over the years to their current forms. Shubin (2008) affirms that similarity of phylogeny in most of the organisms, for example, having similar amniotic fluid and embryos, indicates that living things had a common origin.

The Darwinism theory has been widely accepted as prove of common ancestry. This theory affirms the fact that the presence of common features in different life forms is an indication of common ancestry. However, Coyne (2010) presents the evolution a gradual process that may take quick or a long period to be realized. For example, some plant and animal species such as microbes evolve within minutes while others will take millions of years. Counter arguments against the evolution theory have resulted in sociologists claiming that evolution is just but a theory.

Analysis of Chapter 2

How did fossil records spearhead the evolution theory? The entire chapter revolves around this question. The premise is that fossils of early plants and animals are buried deep in the rocks. Geologists have discovered these fossils in their excavation endeavors. However, the reader can question about the reliability of fossil fuel records, owing to the fact that most of them have been destroyed by weather and erosion. According to Coyne (2010), geologists and evolutionists have heavily relied on fossils that are buried deep in the seabed than on terrestrial land.

This information can rarely be relied on since very few animals and plant bodies find their way into the water. Therefore, it suffices to confirm that fossil evidence in evolution presents scanty information. Shubin (2008) adds that geologists who assume the class of creationists have also discovered fossils, thus giving more support to evolution. However, archeologists have used dating methods to determine the age of the fossils just as they do with rocks. Such methods include carbon-14 dating and uranium-238, which provide a predictable half-life.

Does it mean that such criteria can confirm the exact age of a dead material? It suffices to question Coyne’s (2010) substantiation regarding this subject in terms of the credibility of these methods since radioactive decay rates change. Hence, fossil fuel dating provides scanty information. The use of fossils in evolution has also been questioned due to lack of evidence on transition from one form to another over the years. Lack of earlier forms that predict the existence of newer forms is also a challenge. However, a 2004 discovery of transition form that exists between fish and amphibians continues to give credit to evolution.

Analysis of Chapter 3

Chapter 3 dwells on investigating the characteristic features in different species that indicate that they had a common origin. These characteristics are best demonstrated through atavism and embryology. According to Coyne (2010), atavism is responsible for vestigial organs such as the coccyx or tail in human beings and the appendix. Evolution explains that human beings evolved from their ancestral forms that had tails and tail muscles. However, due to use and disuse, the tail and tail muscles in human beings became useless.

Coyne (2010) confirms that the DNA genes that are responsible for tail and tail muscles in human beings are still active, although they have been dominated by other genes that are responsible for other more useful and adaptive features. This change also happened to the human appendix. However, the reader can point out a contradiction based on the information that Coyne (2010) is providing. For instance, history provides information and images of heroes who died hundreds of years ago. Richard III of England and King Henry IV lived in the 15th century. One would expect a significant difference between the two heroes and the people of the 21st century.

It is clear that there is no slight difference between them and the current generation. Coyne (2010) says that human beings’ ancestors used to feed on leaves just like other herbivores. The appendix was therefore important in the digestion of cellulose. However, as people evolved, the need for the appendix was reduced in size. This observation makes evolution appealing as factual since other mammals have these two features, which have proven useful to them. In addition, the presence of DNA strands that are responsible for the growth of the tail and its muscles evidences the relationship between humans and previous forms that had the tail and the appendix.

Coyne’s (2010) work is evidence-based as the author keeps on substantiating his claims concerning the validity of evolution. For instance, he deploys embryology to prove that human beings and other reptiles evolved from one form. The embryo of is similar to that of a fish and other reptiles. The reader can use this evidence to understand the historical similarity between human beings and other animals. In fact, the presence of vestigial hind limb in a whale and dolphin indicates that they were legged at one time. The gene that is responsible for these structures is still present in the animals’ DNA. This observation makes biologists rely on such evidences in their understanding of evolution.

Analysis of Chapter 4

Chapter 4 discusses how biogeography addresses evolution. The fact that different spices are distributed across the world and that they exhibit different characteristics is a sufficient evidence of changes that have taken place in different forms of lives over the years. Coyne (2010) reveals that animals that lived in islands depicted different characteristics compared to those that lived in assemblage of the rest of the world, although they belonged to similar species. The works of many naturalists have supported this evidence of evolution with little opposition. This confirmation makes the author’s evidence convincing too.

Early theologians claimed that distribution of species across the world was because of the biblical Noah’s arch. The notion was that the pairs in this arch moved to their present land after the floods. However, this opinion has little scientific evidence since it is impossible to hold up all classes of animals in one ship. Besides, one expects carnivores to have fed on the rest of the animals. Moreover, most animals could not have managed to cross the large waters from one continent to the other. Opposing this claim, evolutionists have said that animals were static and that different creatures remained in their places of origin.

From a geographical perspective, the reader can concur with Coyne’s (2010) substantiation, owing to the evident similarity of flora and fauna in different continents such as South Africa and South America. The implication is that the world was once interconnected by landmass. However, it is questionable that this information may not be factual, owing to the shared plants between Eastern China and Eastern North America while the inter-lands between the two do not have such flora. Evolution theory is also credited by convergent evolution. Convergent evolution explains that three pars of evolution, namely speciation, common ancestry, and natural selection worked together towards the realization of the current flora and fauna.

This observation implies that the common ancestry that some animals and plants that live in different continents makes them have similar features. On the other hand, speciation explains that every ancestor of a certain species gave rise to offspring that had variations, which continued over time. Natural selection ensured that species got adapted to their environment for survival to the extent of depicting variations, despite their common origins. Is there any evidence to give concerning the very first shape that all animals had before they evolved? Coyne’s (2010) work does not answer this question.

Analysis of Chapter 5

What controls evolution? Analysis of this chapter 5 confirms that nature controls evolution based on how various animals and plants are naturally adapted t their environments. Coyne (2010) cites the adaptations of the humming bird, the woodpecker, and the Vermont, which indicate a clear design by origin. The Vermont is designed with large jaws to crush its prey and large wings to move with speed. It has a capability of marking the prey’s location. Besides, it has a stinger that incapacitates the prey. These adaptations enable it to crush at least 40 bees in one minute.

The British bees have no defense mechanisms against it. However, the Japanese bees are able to entice the Vermont into their nest and attack it before roasting it with high temperatures. This scenario depicts a natural way of survival. Readers will flashback to the idea of theological creation, which confirms how species are naturally designed to survive in their environments. However, evolutionists refute Coyne’s (2010) notion by using the natural selection to explain the adaptation of various organisms to their environments.

Through natural selection, evolutionists confirm how the same result can be achieved. For example, rats become accustomed to the color of their environment to avoid being preyed on by hawks. Through natural selection, these changes are incorporated in the DNA strands of the organism that is adopting itself to such an environment. The changes are continually inherited by its offspring. Although natural selection was highly disputed due to lack of visible timely evidence since changes could take a whole lifetime of a scientist, factual evidences are available today.

Analysis of Chapter 6

Chapter 6 discusses how sex drives evolution. Various species have varying adaptations that enhance their ability to attract mates. Coyne (2010) asserts that some species have brightly colored feathers, huge bodies, or produce certain sounds that attract their mates. However, Pryke and Andersson (2005) claim that some of the sex adapting characteristics are maladaptive. Their perspective contravenes the natural selection theory. They confirm that the brightly colored tail of a peacock is maladaptive. Besides attracting the females for mating, it makes it difficult for the male to fly. This situation predisposes it to predators.

The brightly colored feathers also expose the male peacock to more predators compared to the female whose feathers are not as bright. Various adaptations make certain species attract more mates. However, some sex adaptations predispose members of one sex to predators. This situation contravenes the natural selection since it may lead to the extinction of the members. If adaptive features are not meant to help in the survival of an organism, they are then against the evolution theory and natural selection. In addition, the fact that sex has not evolved in a visible way also challenges the evolution theory.

According to Shubin (2008), philosophers have held that these sexually adapted males mate with more females relative to their counterparts as a way of ensuring a continued survival of their genes. Moreover, some males have special characteristics that ensure that the females that they fertilize do not mate with others. Therefore, natural selection is manifested through the assured survival of the offspring of the sexually adapted species, regardless of the fact that it is likely to be predated easily. Internal fertilization in such organisms also ensures that 50% of their genes are transferred to their descendants.

Analysis of Chapter 7

For many years, Darwinism and the evolution theory ignored the fact that new and distinct creatures existed at a certain point. The evolution theory only explains the changes in adaptations of different organisms. However, chapter 7 fails to explain what happens in case of splitting where organisms acquire completely characteristics that are different from their ancestors. Coyne (2010) asserts that gaps that exist in the evolution line are mysterious. The origin of new species and new traits is equally important. According to Pryke and Andersson (2005), speciation explains how new forms of life are created.

It also reveals the emergence of unique characteristics. Speciation upholds biodiversity. Hence, it fills the gap that evolution theory leaves behind. How are species separated by certain distinctive characteristics that ensure that they do not interbreed? The underlying factors may be physical appearance, chemical emissions, or geographical barriers. However, the evolution theory does not reveal any completely new species that developed over time.

Organisms that are seen as new under speciation are evolutionary accidents where long separated species mated and produced an offspring that had distinctive characteristics. The claim behind this observation is that organisms originate from previous forms of lives. Can new species result from the breeding of members of the same species that have been classified as different due to their dissimilar features? Can they mate and produce a viable offspring? Coyne (2010) uses the evolution theory to prove philosophers such as John Herschel wrong who claimed that speciation was mysterious.

Analysis of Chapter 8

Chapter 8 looks at man under the light of evolution. The missing link between human beings and lower order beings makes it difficult for evolution to explain how humanity came into being. Owing to the resistance from religion that taught that man was a higher being who could not have evolved from chimpanzees and apes, Darwin was also afraid of being explicit about evolution until his work gained roots. However, Coyne (2010) asserts that the evident difference between human beings and other primates that have tails and long ears and the intelligence of man makes it difficult to give credit to the evolution theory.

Darwin openly cited that human beings evolved from other primates through reproduction since organisms could not originate through any other means. According to Kitcher (2006), because Darwin was unable to convince philosophers such as Russell Wallace and Charles Lyell through natural selection that man was a primate that evolved over the years, he proved his point through fossils. These philosophers had argued that it would be impossible to explain the origin of man through evolution since he had completely different mental faculties compared to primates that were thought to be his closest cousins.

In addition, Linnaeus who is credited with categorization of living things classified human beings as primates. However, he avoided the explanation of their origin. Darwin’s courage was pushed by various discoveries of past human fossils in America and Africa. He used the molecular DNA data to prove that the protein sequence in man was similar to that of other primates. His plan proves the evolution theory true. However, the missing link between human beings and the apes has not yet been linked. It is clear that man has many features that are close to those of apes, despite his distinctive appearance. The reader might think of another primate between man and chimpanzee.

However, finding it can be difficult since few human beings existed at that time. Finally, discovery of fossils that resembles humans have been accepted as the past forms of human beings. Moreover, analysis of DNA from chimps and human beings indicates only 1% difference. The conclusion is that chimps and man share the same ancestor.

Analysis of Chapter 9

Various facts indicate that evolution is still taking place. According to Coyne (2010), despite the evidence of evolution from embryology, suboptimal designs, biogeography, and vestigial structures, people still find it difficult to accept evolution. However, they accept that bacteria and viruses evolve. Therefore, they agree to change the medicine that is used in treating them. According to Kitcher (2006), to most people, the push by theologians on creation myth is enough to make them doubt and not ready to accept facts o evolution. The question of morality and intelligence makes people want to exclude them from the creation. However, philosophers who uphold the evolution theory explain it using evidence from researchers.


The paper has confirmed that evolution is a true theory. Every chapter in this book exemplifies this theory in an effort to prove its truthfulness. Coyne’s (2010) work counteracts philosophical, religious, and sociological arguments that do not uphold evolution. A critical analysis and evaluation of every chapter in this book reveals enough biological, archeological, and philosophical evidence that evolution is true.

Reference List

Coyne, A. (2010). Why Evolution is True. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Kitcher, P. (2006). Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Pryke, R., & Andersson, S. (2005). Experimental evidence for female choice and energetic costs of male tail elongation in red-collared widowbird. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 86(1), 35-43.

Shubin, N. (2008). Your inner fish. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

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IvyPanda. 2020. ""Why Evolution Is True?" by Jerry A. Coyne." July 11, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-evolution-is-true-by-jerry-a-coyne/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '"Why Evolution Is True?" by Jerry A. Coyne'. 11 July.

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