When Charles Darwin published the theory of evolution a century and a half ago, there were still some unanswered questions about the theory. But today, with so many advanced archaeological, biochemical and mathematical techniques at our disposal, there is resounding proof in its support. Jerry Coyne’s book is a persuasive account of the irrefutability of the theory of evolution. I approached reading the book with an open mind, allowing myself to either agree or disagree with the author if logic warranted. But as I progressed through the chapters it became obvious to me that evolution is not ‘one’ among ‘many’ contending explanations for the unity within diversity of life. To the contrary, it was strongly impressed upon me how evolution through natural selection is the ‘only’ explication.
Coyne cites numerous evidences in support of evolution. Firstly, the fossil records of various extinct species fit into a grand ‘tree of life’ where every surviving species could be traced back to an ancestral species from which it deviated. Much like how branches of a tree span out in geometric progression, so does the tree of life accounts for all species that ever lived. The interesting thing is that all species extant today can trace their ancestry to the primordial microscopic life-forms that developed at one point in the geological time scale. Moreover, the embryology of related species, molecular biology, genetics, presence of vestigial organs and biogeography all vindicate the theory of evolution.
It is interesting to note that those who oppose evolution are not arguing from the basis of evidence but on the basis of religious faith. The creation mythologies passed on through religious scriptures are held to be literally true by this constituency. Their attack on evolution, in effect, is an all-out attempt to preserve the integrity of the religious texts that they esteem to be sacred. But the fact of the matter is that heightened religious belief is no substitute for rational scientific inquiry. As Coyne is at pains in explaining there is no way religious absolutism be made compatible with scientific facts. Where there is convergence between these two realms, it is a matter of sheer coincidence. For the most part, science, as it had progressed over the centuries, had steadily dispelled the religious understanding of the universe and our relation to it. It is high time that those who believe in ‘creationism’ review their positions. Those who cry foul over the ‘missing links’ in fossil records and claim it to be evidence for intelligent design are misinformed. It is not necessary that we are able to uncover fossils of every species that every lived. Using modern isochron dating techniques reasonable evidence for evolution have been ascertained.
In conclusion, I discovered many wonderful things through reading Jerry Coyne’s magnificent book. Foremost is the copiousness and logical integrity of the theory and data pertaining to evolution. I was also made aware of fanaticism passing off as belief. In this day and age, it is no longer acceptable that people blindly adhere to ancient mythologies and oppose scientific evidence without due scrutiny. Those who refuse to accept the theory of evolution on the basis of religious dogma are doing a great disservice to themselves and society.