Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why Jerry Coyne's Claims Are Not Persuasive

Recently, I've been challenged by a new acquaintance to discuss some of the details and implications of Darwinian Evolution. This is a friendly discussion and I commend my skeptical, truth-seeking friend for his willingness to tackle these issues in a serious, respectful manner. We also agreed to read a couple of books that supported our respective points of view. I recommended Jay Richards', God and Evolution and Fazale Rana's, Origins of Life. To his credit, he ordered both books the next day. In turn, I agreed to read a book he thinks is compelling in support of evolution, Jerry Coyne's, Why Evolution Is True.

Coyne is a very convincing writer and makes a compelling case for his view. Ultimately, I don't find it persuasive but that's why we're having the discussion! In an attempt to engage Coyne's arguments, I am linking to a series of blog posts by Jonathan McLatchie, a fellow CrossExamined instructor and frequent contributor not only to the CrossExamined Blog, but to the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views.

This link gives a summary of Jonathan's multi-post review of Coyne's book and links to each of the posts in the series: Jonathan McLatchie's Review of: Evolution is True.

Jonathan has a undergraduate degree in Forensic Biology and a Master's Degree in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He is currently serving as an intern with the Discovery Institute in Seattle. In other words, Jonathan is the kind of guy who can speak intelligently to this subject and I am happy to let him. As the discussion progresses, I will try to offer my own thoughts at a more practical, Marine-friendly level if I can.

Here are some quick takes on each post in the series with specific links to each one.
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Coyne defines "evolution"

Underwhelmed: Reviewing Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True


The gaps in Coyne's claim about Universal Common Descent (UCD) ... the idea that all life has descended from a single, single-celled, simple, common ancestor:

Jerry Coyne's Chapter on the Fossil Record Fails to Show "Why Evolution Is True"

Atheists never tire of denouncing theism as a lazy appeal to wishful thinking that gets inserted anytime there are gaps in our scientific knowledge. On their view, this is when theists shout, "Goddidit!" (You can see examples of this very thing in my discussion with tildeb a few posts back). But now, Jerry Coyne turns that notion on its head by presuming to know how God would do things if He really designed life. Coyne's lame claim is that "suboptimal" design proves that God could not have been involved. Apparently, Jerry Coyne not only knows what the most optimal design for each biological system should be, but also that this is exactly the kind of thing we should find if Darwinism is true. In effect, Coyne misses the irony involved when he shouts, "Evolutiondidit!":

From Jerry Coyne, "Evolution-of-the-Gaps" and Other Fallacies

This post shows the problems with Coyne's claim that "biogeography" -- the view that geographical evidence from continental drift and migration supports evolution -- offers convincing support for the "truth" of evolution:

As Evidence of Darwinian Evolution, Biogeography Falls Well Short of Satisfying

Evidence against Coyne's case for natural selection as an adequate explanation for the design everyone recognizes in life:

Blink and You'll Miss It: Jerry Coyne Turns His Attention to the "Engine of Evolution"

A short look at the ultimate question of human evolution and a summary of McClatchie's critique:

Human Origins, and the Real Reasons for Evolutionary Skepticism

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More to follow on this discussion. It should be interesting ...

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