Jerry Coyne and biology

Jerry Coyne and biologySam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, said in the praise section of Coyne’s book on evolution,

An indispensable book: the single, accessible volume that makes the case for evolution. Jerry Coyne has given us an utterly fascinating, lucid and beautifully written account of our place in the natural world. If you want to better understand your kinship with the rest of life, this book is the place to start.’

Christopher Hitchens wrote,

“Its ignorant opponents like to say that the process of evolution by natural selection is ‘only a theory.’ (That’s how they prove their ignorance). Jerry Coyne shows with elegance and rigour that it is hypothesis that meets and withstands all tests, and strengthens itself as a theory thereby. One could almost say that it had the distinct merit of being true.”

In his introduction, Coyne wrote,

Among the wonders that science has uncovered about the universe in which we dwell, no subject has caused more fascination and fury than evolution…..It shows us our place in the whole splendid and extraordinary panoply of life. It unites us with every living thing on the Earth today and with myriads of creature long dead. Evolution gives us the true account of our origins, replacing the myths that satisfied us for thousands of years. Some find this deeply frightening, others ineffably thrilling.’ 1 We can safely assume  that the ‘myths‘ he refers to is the Bible. He might be referring to other accounts of creation also, but we are not discussing them, for reasons we will explain later.

The problem is whether he correctly defines Darwinian evolution, which is:

The general theory of evolution is the theory that all living forms in the world would have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic [non-living] form,’ 2

We know it as the ‘molecules to man’ idea of evolution. Has Coyne proved that is true in his book? Has he proved how first life began and how all life evolved on the earth? Has he proved that the genetic code, the DNA, evolved? Did he give prominence to the origin of the cell, since it is the basic building block of living organisms? No, he does not give much attention to those things in his book.

What we want to know is if there is any scientific evidence for the origin of life on earth, or for the millions of species, any compelling reason to trash the Bible’s account of supernatural creation?

We want ‘hard facts,’ not general statements. Coyne believes that the changes in the beak size of finches on the Galapagos is evidence of evolutionary change, but that doesn’t accord with Kerkut’s definition of evolution.3 Does Coyne tell the public that he uses the word ‘evolution’ in different ways?

These are some of the things we want to discuss in this big issue of the ‘myth,’ the Bible, versus the ‘science’ of evolution.


Jerry A Coyne, Why Evolution is True, Oxford University Press, 2010, paperback issue, p xvi.

G A Kerkut, Implications of Evolution, Oxford, UK, Pergamon, 1960, p 157, cited by J Sarfati, Refuting Evolution 2, Master Books, 2002, p 55.

Reference 1, p 145.

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