Dr. Jerry Coyne is recognized in atheistic circles as one of, if not the, leading evolutionary biologists in the world. He has written a book, Why Evolution Is True, that leading atheists such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens have widely endorsed. Allegedly, Dr. Coyne has compiled an insurmountable case for evolution.

On closer inspection, however, one begins to see serious flaws with Coyne’s “evidence” and his mode of reasoning. One of his most serious deficiencies is the way in which he equivocates the term evolution. Equivocation is a classic tool of dishonest argument in which a person gives a term multiple meanings and then uses the term in a different sense than is correct. For instance, suppose a person were to say: “I’m holding nothing in my hand, and nothing is stronger than God. So what I have in my hand is stronger than God.” Anyone listening to the statement understands that there is some type of “sleight of hand” at play. The rub lies in the multiple meanings of the word nothing. In the first instance, it means “non-existence,” and in the second instance, it means “of the things that do exists, not one fits the category.” Thus, the logical fallacy of equivocation is one that often muddles the issue at hand.

Throughout Coyne’s book he abuses the term evolution, defining it in multiple ways and equivocating it. For instance, he states: “Evolution is a fact” (2009, p. xiii). What does he mean by the term evolution? That is the question. In some places, he defines the term as the idea that all life arose by naturalistic processes from “a single naked replicating molecule” (p. 233). According to that definition, evolution most certainly is not a fact for many reasons, not the least of which is that life cannot arise from non-living “molecules” (see Miller, 2012). In other places, however, Coyne defines the term in ways that any creation scientist would freely acknowledge to be true.

For instance, on page 180, Coyne discusses experiments in which biologists force “animals or plants to adapt through evolution to different environments…. After a period of adaptation, the different ‘populations’ are tested in the lab to see if they have evolved reproductive barriers.” Notice that in this instance of the use of the term “evolution,” Coyne simply means a process by which organisms can change slightly to adapt to their environment….

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