Here’s the review of Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True that I posted on goodreads.com when I finished the book:
I’d give it 2.5 stars if I could. Seeing how I think he’s wrong, though, I’ll downgrade rather than upgrade. [I gave it two stars]
I probably agree with 70% of what’s in the book, which may be surprising, me being a creationist. I’m not going to try to untangle all the mixtures of agreement and disagreement.. but its interesting that I definitely am fully onboard with over half of the book, but still disagree with the major premise; that evolution is true.
Coyne succeeds in presenting a case for neo-darwinian evolution. By which I mean, he successfully explains observations in light of modern evolutionary theory. He paints a fairly complete systematic understanding of the history of life. I recommend the book to everyone for this reason. E.O. Wilson is correct when he writes in the blurb on the back that this is a “clear, well-written explanation of evolution.”
Unfortunately, he doesn’t begin to explain the serious difficulties of darwinism (he outright denies the existence of such problems!). That’s a major drawback of the book… it presents it more as a defensive boast rather than a scientific and critical examination of evidence.
A further detriment is the apparently intentional strawman portrayal of creationists. There is an endnote on page 33 that explains the creationist position as allowing for microevolutionary change within biblical ‘kinds’. But this is the only place in the book creationists are treated this honestly. Everywhere else ‘special creation’ is caricatured as a special creation event for each and every species of organism. It is dishonest and, once again, takes away from the argument of the book.
The final failure of the book I will mention is the last chapter, where Coyne attempts to deal with philosophical and metaphysical implications of evolution. It is a sad attempt… while he should be praised for recognizing the need to deal with these issues, he should have stopped when he honestly stated the case: “How can you derive meaning, purpose, or ethics from evolution? You can’t.” (p225)