Jerry A. Coyne - Why Evolution Is True

February 27, 2009

Jerry A. Coyne has been a professor at the University of Chicago in the department of ecology and evolution for twenty years. He specializes in evolutionary genetics and works predominantly on the origin of new species. He is a regular contributor to The New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. His most recent book is Why Evolution Is True.

In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Jerry Coyne talks about extent and breadth of the evidence for evolution and how the reasons for believing in evolution are not as clearly argued in today's textbooks as they were fifty years ago. He contends that professional evolutionists may take evolution on faith, or on the authority of their intellectual forerunners. He explains how evolution is both a theory and a fact. He details the various kinds of evidence for evolution, including evidence from the fossil record, molecular biology, embryology, the existence of vestigial organs, biogeography, and from bad design. He explores how Darwin discovered evolution by natural selection without the evidence from the fossil record. He explains how sexual reproduction is the key to evolution, and talks about sexual selection. He discusses the Intelligent Design movement and exactly how many scientists are actually proponents of ID. He lists some genuine controversies within evolution, and states that they are indeed taught in the schools. He discusses the relationship of belief in evolution to disbelief in God. And he explains why he feels the need, as a scientist, to publicly speak out in defense of Darwinism.

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Comments from the CFI Forums

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Great conversation, went very well with my morning coffee. I think there’s great power in focusing on the science, and what science is, and having someone such as Jerry, a brilliant scientist with a wonderful ability to explain science is a win-win. I was delighted the focus remained on Jerry’s expertise and delved deeper into his knowledge. I think, whether he recognizes it or not, he answers the way forward in attempting to dispel creationism (in its various guises), and like others, he is bringing the science front and center is a positive light (in this podcast and his book). He clearly demonstrated why evolution matters and what it means in the larger context. It is because of these things I am dismayed by his more ‘culture war’ claims, such as “supernatural phenomena are not beyond the realm of science” or “God was part of science” (confusing the issue - though I understand the point - i.e. - it’s not science), which only gives the appearance of being scientific, while falling far short. I am not even slightly suggesting Jerry, or anyone, not to engage the “supernatural” belief aspect (or the so-called ‘culture war’ - though I am troubled by the emphasis on ‘war’ used by many in our camp), only that its better not to begin by confusing the science. The facts and theories of evolution are confronted by non-science in the form of creationist beliefs, which also suggest we should be precise and cautious in whom we label ‘creationist’ while speaking in the context of what is science and scientific. Science simply does not deal in the “supernatural”.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, thank you.

Posted on Mar 30, 2009 at 5:43am by Robert Buhn Comment #1

Dr. Coyne sounded intoxicated to me, and I had a hard time understanding some of his sentences. HOWEVER, I still am a huge fan of his work, and I’m definitely looking forward to having a compendium of all the lines of evidence in one place though. Unfortunately, I felt the interview was pretty basic and didn’t really describe any of the topics in much detail. Is it just me or is POI getting shorter and shorter? I remember talks that were 45+min in the past…

Posted on Apr 02, 2009 at 9:40am by fallout1 Comment #2