Jerry Coyne

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Jerry Coyne
Jerry Coyne, American professor of biology at the University of Chicago.jpg
Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago, August 2006, with the "lab cat"[1] Dusty.
Born (1949-12-30) December 30, 1949 (age 72)
Residence Chicago
Citizenship American
Nationality American
Fields Ecology and Evolution
Institutions University of Chicago, University of Maryland
Alma mater College of William & Mary, Harvard University (Ph.D)
Doctoral advisor Richard Lewontin
Notable students H. Allen Orr, Mohamed Noor
Known for Speciation and evolutionary genetics, particularly as they involve the fruit fly, Drosophila, and the books:
  • Speciation[2]
  • Why Evolution Is True[3]
  • Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible[4]
Influences Bruce Grant, Richard Lewontin, Garnett R. "Jack" Brooks
Influenced H. Allen Orr, Kelly Dyer, Catherine Price, Audrey Chang, Mohamed Noor, Daniel R. Matute[5]
Notable awards Recipient, Richard Dawkins Award, 2015

Contributor to popular publications including The New Republic, The New York Times Literary Supplement, Wired, The Skeptical Inquirer, and Edge Foundation, Inc. He is a member of the Genetics Society of America, Society for the Study of Evolution, and American Society of Naturalists.

Jerry Allen Coyne (born December 30, 1949) is an American professor of biology, known for his commentary on intelligent design. A prolific scientist and author, he has published dozens of papers elucidating the theory of evolution. He is currently a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution. His concentration is speciation and ecological and evolutionary genetics, particularly as they involve the fruit fly, Drosophila.[6] He is the author of the text Speciation and the bestselling non-fiction book Why Evolution Is True.[7] Coyne maintains a website also called Why Evolution Is True.[8] He self-identifies as a determinist of the incompatibilistic variety.[9]

Scientific work

Coyne graduated with a B.S. in biology from the College of William & Mary in 1971. He started graduate work at Rockefeller University under Theodosius Dobzhansky before logistical complications (military conscription) forced a hiatus. He then earned a Ph.D. in biology at Harvard University in 1978, studying under Richard Lewontin, and went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Davis with Timothy Prout. He was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007, and received the "Emperor Has No Clothes" award from the Freedom from Religion Foundation in 2011.

Coyne has served as President (2011) and Vice President (1996) of the Society for the Study of Evolution, and as Associate Editor of Evolution (1985–1988; 1994–2000) and of The American Naturalist (1990–1993). As of 2015 he teaches evolutionary biology, speciation, genetic analysis, social issues and scientific knowledge, scientific speaking and writing.

His work is widely published in scientific journals as well as in such mainstream venues as The New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and The New Republic. His research interests include population and evolutionary genetics, speciation, ecological and quantitative genetics, chromosome evolution, and sperm competition.

Coyne is a critic of creationism, theistic evolution, and intelligent design, which he calls "the latest pseudoscientific incarnation of religious creationism, cleverly crafted by a new group of enthusiasts to circumvent recent legal restrictions".[10][11][12][13]

He is concerned about a disconnect between what the public believes about evolution and what scientists believe about evolution. He states the value of studying evolution is in the true story of our origins and its value in restoring wonder in people.[citation needed]

In a 1996 critique of the theory of intelligent-design creationism, Coyne wrote his first large New Republic article on Of Pandas and People (a book review), which started a long history of writing on evolution and creationism.[14]

Coyne lists the following evidence for evolution, as detailed in his book and elsewhere:

Transitional fossils provide rich evidence for evolution.[15] Charles Darwin predicted such fossils in 1859, and those later identified as such include:

  • Tiktaalik (transition between fish and amphibians)
  • Ichthyostega (transition between amphibians and reptiles)
  • Mammal-like reptiles (not classified one or the other)
  • Archaeopteryx (transition between reptiles and birds)
  • Ambulocetus (transition between land mammals and whales)[16]
  • Early human fossils with ape-like skulls
  • Series of terrestrial fossils between land animals and whales

The evidence not only includes these transitional fossils but the fact that they occur in the fossil record at times between their putative ancestors and their more modern relatives.

The Ecuadoran frog Atelopus coynei is named after Coyne. He collected the holotype in a swamp on a frogging trip to western Ecuador as a student in the late 1970s.


Born to Jewish parents, Coyne considers himself a secular Jew,[17] and an outspoken proponent of atheism, metaphysical naturalism and the conflict thesis. He claims that religion and science are fundamentally incompatible, that only rational evaluation of evidence is capable of reliably discovering the world and the way it works, and that scientists who hold religious views are only reflective of the idea "that people can hold two conflicting notions in their heads at the same time". He has argued that the incompatibility of science and faith is based on irreconcilable differences in methodology, philosophy, and outcomes when they try to discern truths about the universe.

As well as evolution-related topics, his blog Why Evolution Is True[18] discusses atheism, the incompatibility of science and religion, science, and other topics. He has frequently participated in public forums and cross-fire debates with theists.

Pseudoscience critic

Jerry Coyne (at podium), at "The Amaz!ng Meeting 2013"
Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins with Hemant Mehta (at podium), at "An Appetite for Wonder - An Evening with Richard Dawkins." 10/03/13. -Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA.

Coyne comments and responds to critics of science and evolution. In a recent rebuttal,[19] he clearly identifies his reasons for skeptical reasoning.

all scientific progress requires a climate of strong skepticism.

— J.A. Coyne, The New Republic

He offers criticism of creationists who appear closed minded by adhering to a literal Biblical view.[20] He questions the creationist concept of animals diverging only within kinds, which is in itself an admission of transitional intermediates between very different groups (i.e., whales and their terrestrial relatives) found throughout the fossil record.

we have many examples of transitional fossils between what anyone would consider different kinds: fish and amphibians (like Tiktaalik, which Nye mentioned), between amphibians and reptiles, between reptiles and mammals, between reptiles and birds, between land animals and whales, and of course, between early and modern humans, with early fossils showing intermediacy between the features of apelike ancestors and modern humans.

— J.A. Coyne, The New Republic

Coyne believes that both sides of such debates between evolutionists and young earth creationists could benefit from a better understanding of the fossil record and for modern tools such as Isochron dating. He considers that the inability of creationists to address these subjects fully suggests that "religion can poison one's mind so deeply that it becomes immunized to the real truth about the cosmos."[20]


Noteworthy scientific papers

Coyne's peer-reviewed scientific publications include numerous papers in Nature[21] and Science as well as recent publications from other journals.[22]

Coyne is a prolific author and commentator, with many hundreds of technical presentations, invited commentaries, and miscellaneous publications.[23] Of particular focus are publications related to evolution, the origin of species, evolutionary genetics, and associated theories. This theme appears across Coyne's research and technical writing, especially in Evolution, the International Journal of Organic Evolution.[24][25]


  • Coyne, Jerry A.; H. Allen Orr (2004-06-30). Speciation. Sinauer Associates Inc., Sunderland, Mass. ISBN 0-87893-089-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Coyne, Jerry A. (2009-01-22). Why Evolution is True. Viking, New York (USA); Oxford University Press, Oxford (UK). ISBN 0-19-923084-6. OCLC 233549529.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Coyne, Jerry A. (2015-05-19). Faith vs. Fact. Viking (USA); Penguin (UK). ISBN 978-0670026531.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

The New Republic


  • "A Letter to Charles Darwin" OUP Blog (celebrating the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth)
  • Coyne writes prolifically on his website at Why Evolution Is True, posting several times on most days. Topics range from debunking creationist theories, promotion of reason and scientific inquiry, commentary on interesting academic papers and scientific research, to fine food and his love of cats. As of August 2015 more than 35,000 readers follow the website.
  • On March 4, 2015, it was announced that Coyne was awarded the Richard Dawkins Award.[26]
  • On 30 September 2015 (coincidentally International Blasphemy Day), Coyne announced to readers of his website that he was retiring from teaching and academics. As a Professor Emeritus, he will continue the 'Why Evolution Is True'-website, write, lecture and travel.


  1. "Cat travel week: home again (lab cats)". Retrieved 17 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Jerry A. Coyne; H. Allen Orr (1 January 2004). Speciation. Sinauer Associates, Incorporated Publishers. ISBN 978-0-87893-089-0. Retrieved 24 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Jerry A. Coyne (22 January 2009). Why Evolution is True. Oxford University Press. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-0-19-164384-2. Retrieved 24 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Jerry A. Coyne (19 May 2015). Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. Viking Press. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-670-02653-1. Retrieved 13 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Flytree". Retrieved 8 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Jerry Coyne". 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Best Sellers Hardcover Nonfiction". New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Jerry, Coyne. "Why Evolution Is True". Jerry Coyne. Retrieved 25 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "You don't have free will", Vancouver, June 2015
  10. Coyne, Jerry (February 12, 2009). "Why Evolution Is True". Forbes. Retrieved 2009-06-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Coyne, Jerry (2009-01-21). "DOES THE EMPIRICAL NATURE OF SCIENCE CONTRADICT THE REVELATORY NATURE OF FAITH?". Retrieved 18 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Zepps, Josh (June 16, 2006). "Jerry Coyne - The Case Against Intelligent Design". Point of Inquiry. Retrieved 23 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Coyne, Jerry (July 1, 2007). "The Faith that Dare Not Speak its Name" (PDF). The New Republic. Retrieved 2007-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Smith, Adrian A. "Episode 7 Jerry Coyne". Age of Discovery Podcast. Retrieved 3 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Andrews, Seth. "Why Evolution is True (with Dr. Jerry Coyne)". Retrieved 18 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Coyne, Jerry (2010). Why Evolution is True (second ed.). USA: Viking Penguin. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-14-311664-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Jerry, Coyne. "Stupid religious rule #11734, and a note on my ancestry". Jerry Coyne. Retrieved 8 February 2014. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Jerry, Coyne. "Ceci n'est pas un blog". Retrieved 25 January 2014. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. CHOPRA, DEEPAK; JERRY A. COYNE (November 18, 2013). "Deepak Chopra Responds to Pseudoscience Allegations. Jerry Coyne Fires Back". New Republic. Retrieved 25 January 2014. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. 20.0 20.1 Jerry, Coyne. "Bill Nye Won Last Night's Creationism Debate". The New Republic. Retrieved 5 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Nature International Weekly Journal Of Science
  22. Recent Publications
    • Moehring, A. J.; Llopart, A.; Elwyn, S.; Coyne, J. A.; Mackay, T. F. C. (2006). "Genetic basis of prezygotic reproductive isolation between Drosophila santomea and D. yakuba due to mating preference". Genetics. 173: 215–223. doi:10.1534/genetics.105.052993.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Coyne, J. A.; Elwyn, S. (2006). "Does the desaturase-2 locus in Drosophila melanogaster cause adaptation and sexual isolation?". Evolution. 60: 279–291. doi:10.1554/05-008.1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Coyne, J. A.; Elwyn, S. (2006). "Desaturase-2, environmental adaptation, and sexual isolation in Drosophila melanogaster". Evolution. 60: 626–627. doi:10.1111/j.0014-3820.2006.tb01143.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Watson, E.; Rodewald, E.; Coyne, J. A. (2007). "The courtship song of Drosophila santomea and a comparison to its sister species D. yakuba". Eur. J. Entomology. 104: 145–148. doi:10.14411/eje.2007.020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Noor, M. A. F.; Coyne, J. A. (2007). "Speciation in the new millennium: What's left to know? Israel J. Ecol". Evolution. 52: 431–441. doi:10.1560/ijee_52_3-4_431.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Hoekstra, H. E.; Coyne, J. A. (2007). "The locus of evolution: evo devo and the genetics of adaptation". Evolution. 61: 995–1016. doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2007.00105.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Coyne, J. A. 2008. Short guide: sympatric speciation" Curr. Biol 17:r787-r788.
    • Drosophila 12 genomes consortium. (many authors, including myself). 2008.
    • Evolution of genes and genomes on the Drosophila phylogeny" Nature 450:203-218.
    • Coyne, J. A.; Kay, E. H.; Pruett-Jones, S. (2008). "The genetic basis of sexual dimorphism in birds". Evolution. 62: 214–219. doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2007.00254.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Matute, D. R.; Novak, C. J.; Coyne, J. A. (2009). "Temperature-based extrinsic reproductive isolation in two species of Drosophila". Evolution. 63: 595–612. doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2008.00588.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Matute, D. R.; Butler, I. A.; Coyne, J. A. (2009). "Little or no effect of the tan locus on pigmentation levels in viable female hybrids between Drosophila santomea and D. melanogaster". Cell. 139: 1181–1188. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2009.10.033.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Matute, D. R.; Coyne, J. A. (2010). "Intrinsic reproductive isolation between two species of Drosophila". Evolution. 64: 903–920. doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00879.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Matute, D. R.; Butler, I. A.; Turissini, D. A.; Coyne, J. A. (2010). "A test of the snowball theory for the rate of evolution of hybrid incompatibilities". Science. 329: 1518–1521. doi:10.1126/science.1193440.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subject of News & Views in Nature doi: 10.1038/news.2010.476)
    • Coyne, J. A. (2010). "The evolutionary calculus of depression". Psychiatric Times. 27: 32–33.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Coyne, J. A. (2012). "Science, religion, and society: the problem of evolution in America". Evolution. 66: 2654–2663. doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01664.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • Butlin, R. K., M. Saura, G. Charrier, B. Jackson, C. André, A. Caballero, J. A. Coyne, J. Gallindo, J. W. Grahame, J. Hollander, P. Kemppainen, M. Martínez-Fernández, M. Panova, H. Quesada, K. Johannesson, and E. Rolán-Alvarez. 2013. Parallel evolution of local adaptation and reproductive isolation in the face of gene flow. Evolution, in press.
  23. Selection of recent miscellaneous commentaries and publications
  24. Publications in Evolution, the International Journal of Organic Evolution
    • Coyne, J.A. and H.A. Orr. 1989. Patterns of speciation in Drosophila. Evolution 43: 362-381. [1]
    • Coyne, A.J. 1994. Ernst Mayr and the origin of species. Evolution, 51: 19-30. [2]
    • Coyne, A.J. and H.A. Orr. 1997. "Patterns of speciation in Drosophila" Revisited. Evolution, 51: 295-303. [3]
    • Coyne, A.J. and T.D. Price. 2000. Little evidence for sympatric speciation in island birds. Evolution, 54: 2166-2171. [4]
    • Price, C.S.C., C.H. Kim, J. Posluszny and J.A. Coyne . 2000. Mechanisms of conspecific sperm precedence in Drosophila. Evolution, 54: 2028-2037. [5]
    • Price, C.S.C., C.H. Kim, C.J. Gronlund and J.A. Coyne . 2001. Cryptic reproductive isolation in the Drosophila simulans species complex. Evolution, 55: 81-92. [6]
    • Llopart, A., S. Elwyn, D. Lachaise and J.A. Coyne . 2002. Genetics of a difference in pigmentation between Drosophila yakuba and D. santomea. Evolution, 56: 2262-2277. [7]
    • Hudson, R.D. and J.A. Coyne . 2002. Mathematical consequences of the genealogical species concept. Evolution, 56: 1557-1565. [8]
    • Coyne J.A. , S.Y. Kim, A.S. Chang, D. Lachaise and S. Elwyn. 2002. Sexual isolation between two siblings with overlapping ranges: Drosophila santomea and D. yakuba Evolution 56: 2424-2434. [9]
    • Coyne, J. A. , S. Elwyn, and E. Rolan-Alvarez. 2005. Sexual isolation between Drosophila yakuba and D. santomea: effects of environment and experimental design. Evolution 59: 2588-2601. [10]
    • Llopart, A., D. Lachaise, and J. A. Coyne . 2005. Multilocus analysis of introgression between two sympatric sister species of Drosophila, D. yakuba and D. santomea. Genetics 171:197-210. [11]
    • Llopart, A., D. Lachaise, and J. A. Coyne . 2005. An anomalous hybrid zone in Drosophila. Evolution 59:2602-2607. [12]
    • Coyne, J. A ., and S. Elwyn. 2006. Desaturase-2, environmental adaptation, and sexual isolation in Drosophila melanogaster. Evolution 60:626-627. [13]
    • Hoekstra, H. E. and J. A. Coyne. 2007. The locus of evolution: evo devo and the genetics of adaptation. Evolution 61: 995-1016.[14]
  25. Additional Noteworthy Publications
  26. "Jerry Coyne Receives 2015 Richard Dawkins Award!". Atheist Alliance of America.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links