My recent book, Why Evolution Is True, gives 230 pages of evidence for evolution--evidence from many areas of biology, including the fossil record, anatomy, biogeography and molecular biology. My main problem in writing the book was not deciding what to present, but what to leave out; I could easily have made it three times longer without even beginning to exhaust the data. There is so much evidence and so many kinds of evidence that one would have to be either willfully ignorant or blinded by faith to think otherwise.
I have said as much. The article is, in large part, a rebuttal to an article written by a neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor, who wrote an article for Forbes called "A Neurosurgeon, Not a Darwinist." In it, he recounts that the reading of Michael Denton's book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis as his principle inspiration. As Coyne notes:
If Egnor had bothered to look just a little into Denton's book and its current standing, he would have learned that the arguments in it have long since been firmly refuted by scientists. Indeed, they were recanted by Denton himself in a later book more than 10 years ago.
Egnor reportedly had a bad time of it:
I came to learn why evolutionary biologists are so fiercely devoted to Darwinism. I was vilified on the Internet. Calls came to my office demanding that I be fired.
And much of the venom was ideological. The vast majority of evolutionary biologists are atheists. I'm Catholic, and my religious faith was mocked by my fellow scientists. Many Darwinists openly express their hatred for Christianity--atheist biologist P.Z. Myers desecrated a Eucharistic host on his Web site.
In 1989, Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in the New York Times book review section that people who don't accept evolution are "ignorant, stupid, insane … or wicked." He has described the religious upbringing of children as "child abuse."
The behavior of P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins is worthy of condemnation, and more than a few people have written scathing reviews of Dawkins' book The God Delusion. That doesn't make evolution untrue. It is also quite true that people of faith who accept evolution have been called "atheists who are going to Hell" by their fellow Christians. There is enough vitriol to go around.
It is telling that he is a neurosurgeon but not a "Darwinist." There are no evolutionary biologists who refer to themselves as "Darwinists." Instead, that is a word of choice by the ICR and the Discovery Institute, who's members use it pejoratively. It also suggests someone who has little understanding of evolution. Coyne rightly castigates him for it:
Let's examine Egnor's main criticism of evolutionary theory. "The fossil record," he writes, "shows sharp discontinuity between species, not the gradual transitions that Darwinism inherently predicts."
This is sheer nonsense. As all biologists know, we have many examples not only of gradual change within species but also of "transitional forms" between very different kinds of species. These include fossil links between fish and amphibians, reptiles and birds, reptiles and mammals and, of course, the famous fossils linking apelike creatures with our own species, Homo sapiens. Does Egnor not know this, or is he simply trying to mislead the reader?
I think the answer is that, yes, he does not know this. Especially if his only exposure to evolution is through Denton and Johnson. He claims, however, to have read Richard Dawkins and Tim Berra. Dawkins is, if nothing else, an excellent evolutionary biologist and I am curious (enough to write a letter) at what Dr. Egnor found unpersuasive in either of those two authors. Berra wrote an excellent book a few decades back called Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, which is a clear, concise rebuttal to creationism.
Hat tip to Little Green Footballs