The Evidence for Evolution

University of Chicago Press

by Alan R. Rogers

I have been teaching evolution to college students for thirty years. Until recently, I seldom spent much time arguing that evolution happens. I took that for granted and launched directly into my real love--the mechanisms of evolution. This has lately begun to look like a mistake. According to polling data, most Americans doubt that evolution is a real phenomenon. How can one teach students how evolution works if they doubt that it happens at all?

As soon as this dawned on me, I began looking for a text on evidence--something to assign during the first couple of weeks of my introductory course. Many of the books I found were too long, and few were aimed at skeptical readers. Most seemed to assume that the reader needed only to be told about evolution, not convinced.

In the end I wrote my own book, which was published in 2011 by the University of Chicago Press. The book is small (about 130 pages), it covers the evidence for evolution and nothing more, and it is aimed at skeptical readers. It does not merely summarize received wisdom; it recounts the give and take between skeptical scientists who first asked "how can we be sure" and then answered those questions with evidence. Because of this emphasis on people and what they did, the book reads more like a popular book than a text.