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Talk.origins Book Recommendations

by Chris Stassen
Copyright © 1992-1997
[Last Update: April 6, 1996]

T his FAQ contains a list of books which I recommend to those who are interested in the creation/evolution debate. The publications have been grouped into a handful of categories, as follows:

  1. Creation-science books
  2. Critiques of creation-science
  3. Old-Earth Christian writings
  4. Mainstream science books
  5. The Arkansas Trial of Act 590
  6. Abiogenesis
  7. Miscellaneous

For those who want the most up-to-date information, various creation/evolution periodicals and organizations are listed elsewhere.

1. Creation-science books

This is a difficult section to write. In my opinion, the "popular" (non-technical) creationist works tend to be of relatively low quality. I have trouble recommending a book which contains much material that is demonstrably false (and, worse, which the author would have known not to include -- had he bothered to perform even a minimal investigation on someone else's claim before repeating it).

On the other hand, many arguments taken from these works appear in talk.origins regularly, and it is useful to be familiar with the original material.

Morris, Henry M., Scientific Creationism. (1974, CLP Publishers, ISBN 0-89051-002-4.) Available from ICR for about $11.

The book is intended to be a student or teacher handbook of material to use in a science class. It is probably the single best-known creationist work, though the collection of arguments is not as comprehensive as Walter Brown's book (following).

Brown, Walter, In The Beginning. (1995, CSRC, ISBN 1-878-026-01-1.) Available from online.

An encyclopedic reference of creationist arguments. The book is heavily referenced and therefore a good starting point for researching creationist claims.

Unfortunately (as of the last edition which I saw) Brown was still pushing several arguments which the majority of knowledgeable creationists would disown.

Morris, Henry M., and Gary E. Parker. What is Creation Science? (1987, Master Books, ISBN 0-89051-081-4.) Available from ICR for about $11.

The book is more recent and less technical than Morris' Scientific Creationism. The bulk of the text argues against evolution, and doesn't defend a young Earth as staunchly.

2. Critiques of creation-science

These are all books which are written in direct response to creationists' claims. In this way they are rather similar to the creationists' own works, which are essentially a negative response to mainstream science.

Strahler, Arthur N., Science and Earth History. (1987, Prometheus Books, ISBN 0-87975-414-1.)

It is rare to see a creationist argument that is not covered in detail in this work. Since it is heavily referenced, it is an excellent place to begin research.

Godfrey, L., Editor., Scientists Confront Creationism. (1983, W.W. Norton and Company, ISBN 0-393-30154-0.)

A collection of short essays by experts in various relevant fields. For example, Stephen Brush on young-earth arguments and Thomas Jukes on molecular biology.

Kitcher, Philip, Abusing Science. (1982, MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-61037-X.)

Kitcher discusses creationist arguments and argumentation technique in general. The book has more of a "philosophy of science" slant; most of the other works in this section produce evidence and attempt to directly refute creationist arguments.

3. Old-Earth Christian writings

These books are written from a Christian perspective; the authors' take a position in between the usual "creationist" vs "evolutionist" beliefs. Most allow for some amount of evolution, though some argue that it has a very limited role in the history of life. None accept a young earth.

Morton, Glenn R., Foundation, Fall and Flood. (1995, DMD Publishing Company, no ISBN.) Ordering information and overview available on the author's web site.

The book consists of two parts. The first part argues against young-Earth creationism. The second part argues for the existence of a Designer and attempts a harmonization between Genesis and mainstream science.

Fischer, Dick, The Origins Solution. (1996, Fairway Press, ISBN unknown.) Available for about $20 from the publisher (phone 800-537-1030).

The book claims to produce "the" answer to the origins debate, from a Christian perspective. The text argues against young-Earth creationism, and also against the sufficiency of natural processes to account for our existence.

Wonderly, Daniel E., Neglect of Geologic Data. (1987, IBRI, ISBN 0-944788-00-9.) Available from the Interdisciplinary Bible Research Institute / P.O. Box 423 / Hatfield, PA 19440.

A series of geological arguments against young-earth creationists' claims.

4. Mainstream science books

These works cover fields which are relevant to the creation/evolution debate, but do not directly address or discuss creationist arguments.

Dalrymple, G. Brent, The Age of the Earth. (1991, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-1569-6.)

A comprehensive account of evidence on the age of the Earth; details modern methods (especially isotope dating). Also discusses the history of attempts to discover the age of the Earth. The book is heavily referenced and has even received positive review in creationist literature.

Futuyma, Douglas J., Evolutionary Biology. (1986, Sinauer Associates, ISBN 0-87893-188-0.)

A college-level text intended for a biology course with emphasis on evolution.

Carroll, Robert L., Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. (1988, W.H. Freeman and Company, ISBN 0-716-71822-7.)

A college-level text on the vertebrate fossil record. Somewhat difficult to read straight through, but it is an excellent reference.

5. The Arkansas Trial of Act 590

By placing well-organized pressure, creationists succeeded in getting a piece of legislation passed in Arkansas in 1980 which mandated equal time in public school science classes for "creation science." The law was challenged on constitutional grounds (and overturned); the trial to overturn the law was dubbed "Scopes II."

Larson, Edward J., Trial and Error. (1989, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-506143-8.)

A complete history of creation/evolution legal battles in the United States.

Montagu, Ashley, Editor, Science and Creationism. (1984, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-503253-5.)

A collection of essays. Some are written by various participants in the trial. Others are more general criticisms of creationism. A few (such as Cuffey's and Gould's writings) were originally published elsewhere.

6. Abiogenesis

This is a common topic in talk.origins; many creationists argue against the origin of life when trying to refute common ancestry. Unfortunately, abiogenesis research is a very fast-moving field and every book that I'm aware of is pretty much outdated. Still, some titles serve as good introductions to the topic.

Shapiro, Robert, Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. (1987, Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-34355-6.)

This is one of two titles which I've seen for sale in both creationist and mainstream book-ordering services. It's the best introduction to the various abiogenesis hypotheses and their strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, Shapiro is a little overly skeptical, and today would have to eat some crow on a few of his criticisms -- only nine years after his publication date.

Cairns-Smith, A.G., Seven Clues to the Origin of Life. (1995, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-39828-2.)

Cairns-Smith is the best-known proponent of the "clay life" hypothesis. This book describes what Cairns-Smith believes to be the main problems with "standard" abiogenesis scenarios, and an overview of his own. The book is readable but non-technical and not referenced (it is a layman's version of Genetic Takeover, which is technical and well-referenced).

Fox, Ronald W., Energy and the Evolution of Life. (1988, W.H. Freeman and Company, ISBN 0-7167-1870-7.)

Fox discusses abiogenesis, mainly from a perspective of flow of energy. The book is reasonably technical. Counters some of the creationists' arguments against the origin of life which are supposedly based on thermodynamics.

7. Miscellaneous

Numbers, Ronald L., The Creationists. (1992, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-679-40104-0.)

A detailed history of the creationist movement. The book contains a wealth of information and has received reasonably positive reviews from both sides of the fence.


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