WEIT a top tenner in China

January 29, 2010 • 4:00 pm

I am reliably informed by one of my Chinese colleagues that WEIT was chosen by China Reading Weekly (said to be the Chinese equivalent of The New York Review of Books), as one of the top ten books published in China in 2009. It’s #8, and the only science book on the list.  You can see the list here, and the announcement (upper left) here.

Now I know there’s a Chinese-speaking reader who will point out that the title of the book is actually “Why We Should Believe Darwin,” and not “Why Evolution is True.”  That was done, I am told, because of the immense authority Darwin commands in China.

One other interesting point: my Chicago colleague Dr. Manyuan Long, who kindly helped shepherd the book into print in China, and who contributed a foreword, says that he fought to have the word “evolution” translated into the Chinese word (roughly “yanhua”) that means “descent with modification” rather than what the publishers wanted, which is a word equivalent to “progress” (roughly “jinghua”).  (Apparently the “progress” word is more politically congenial.)   Curiously, he won the battle not on the grounds that evolution doesn’t produce what humans think of progress, but on the grounds that the distinguished Professor Jerry Coyne might someday visit China and find out that his words had been distorted!

h/t: Manyuan Long, for all his help, and for calling this to my attention

15 thoughts on “WEIT a top tenner in China

  1. Congratulations.
    If Darwin commanded any respect with Stalin and Trofim Lysenko, thousands would not perish to famine and starvation.

  2. I know church history is not your subject, but even I noticed something wrong with an entry in your otherwise well researched and very readable book. On page 23, in the chapter ‘Written in the Rocks’, you write that Pius XI canonized Nicolaus Steno/Neils Steensen in 1988. Pius XI died in 1939. John Paul II was pope in 1988, and as far as I can tell, Nicolaus was only beatified, not canonized.

    1. Indeed–lots of people let me know this early on, and it was changed to the correct date and status. Thanks.

  3. I’m curious to see a translation of the complete top ten list (titles & authors, maybe even summaries for domestic titles), but I couldn’t find one by googling. Any suggestions?

  4. Regarding the title of the Chinese version, the Chinese word for “belief” may not necessarily hold the same connotations and meaning as the English word. Translations between East Asian and Indo-European languages are a bitch to get right sometimes.

  5. “…Jerry Coyne might someday visit China and find out that his words had been distorted!”

    Jerry Coyne has clout in China? Amazing. Congratulations.

  6. Congratulations Professor Coyne! That is wonderful news.
    People have been commenting that Darwin specifically, and evolution theory in general command great respect in China. Is this true of science in general? Or just evolutionary biology?
    If the answer is science in general, I wonder why? Is it because Abrahamic religion (the greatest opponents of evolutionary theory) does not have a strong foothold in the world’s most populous nation?
    Also, is WEIT available in Australia? I have not seen it in any bookshops. Also, is there a stryne transalation edition (eg. instead of saying “male and female”, it would say “blokes and sheilas.”)

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