At the risk of seeming a bit self-aggrandizing (which of course is true), I have to say I’m chuffed at a mention of WEIT on a Daily Beast post, “What Richard Dawkins reads: Jerry Coyne, Helena Cronin and more.” Like my previous interview at The Browser, where I recommended Dawkins and four other books, he selects WEIT as one of his five biology reads—the first one. Indulge me if I quote what he says:
Why Evolution is True
By Jerry Coyne
The Origin of Species, Dawkins says, should be taken for granted as the must-read of evolution. Coyne, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, marshals the evidence in favor of the “fact” (not “theory”) of evolution. “His book is extremely clear, very well written, and lays out the evidence in a way that, well, if you read it, only an idiot could fail to end up believing in evolution,” Dawkins says.
The book is similar to The Greatest Show on Earth, and even came out the same year. Each author knew the other was working on a book about the evidence for evolution, but they avoided talking about it until they were finished. Was he surprised by any differences between the two? “I suppose it’s inevitable that there’d be similarities—the best evidence is the best evidence. But I learned some things from his book that I hadn’t put in mine, like the fascinating fact that the genes for having a good sense of smell, which are present in a dog, are in us as well. It’s just that they’ve been turned off. Which is a fascinating vestige of an evolutionary past when our ancestors would have had a much better sense of smell.”
It’s nice of Richard to say those things, and the logistical issue is true: we both knew we were working on books on the evidence for evolution, but didn’t discuss the issue for fear of duplicating our contents. I was also quite scared that my book would be completely overlooked because Richard is not only a bigger name, but a better writer. Fortunately, there’s sufficiently little overlap between the two that they can both be read with profit, and mine didn’t do too badly.
Richard’s other four recommended books, all of which I’ve read (and also recommend), are The Ant and the Peacock by Helena Cronin, Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph Nesse and George C. Williams, Splendid Isolation by George Gaylor Simpson (the evolutionary biogeography of animals in South America), and Narrow Roads of Gene Land, by W. D. Hamilton. Go over to the Beast and see what he says about them.