He also distinguishes the difference between evolution and natural selection as its motor. Often, these two concepts are conflated by the masses. This is certainly true. But, here’s the problem. Both the points on ID’s flaw and that on conflation of terms have been made before. In fact, both are almost de rigueur in books on evolution. Coyne then makes another good, if unoriginal, point: there is a difference between the definitions of a theory as scientific and non-scientific.
Coyne then launches into a number of proofs for evolution, citing the well-known cases of birds (and whether they gained flight by gliding from trees down or running and leaping), fishes' transition to amphibians, and that of whales from land back to sea animals, ants’ descent from wasps, and snakes’ loss of limbs. Ben there, done that. One then moves beyond the sense of déjà vu and into whether or not the book might have been better served (market-wise) as sort of a ‘best of’ primer for evolution. He then trods on the familiar ground of bad design, atavisms, and vestigial organs to further bolster evolution’s bona fides.
And, if the case for natural selection is not compelling enough, Coyne has another ‘ace’ to pull out of his sleeve. And, if you are about to utter the words ‘sexual selection,’ well, you’ve clearly been paying attention to this review’s theme. To his credit, Coyne is the first evolutionary author to give primacy to sexually selected traits in terms of things like human racial characteristics. After all, wasn’t the idea that the epicanthic folds of Mongoloids arose to act as ‘visors’ for sun glare in the Gobi, or some of the other claims proffered, just silly? But, again, sexual selection has always been the poor cousin to natural selection in the evolutionary arms race. Natural selection means a beast is around and can outsurvive most mortal threats. Sexual selection means that the beast’s DNA can outsurvive most reproductive threats.
Coyne then takes on the straw man that a belief in evolution somehow leads to a lack of morality. Of course, he easily disposes of this as, of course, have all prior writers and books that have tackled the subject.