My most recent reading experience is an older book that is apparently being promoted again by Prometheus Books. In the Beginning...A Scientist Shows Why the Creationists Are Wrong, by Chris McGowan, Prometheus Books, 1984. I ordered my copy through a local book store and saved the shipping costs usually tacked on by the publisher. I believe the price was $24.95 for this 208 page soft cover edition.
Chris was curator in charge of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum when this book was published. From what I have checked into he remains in this position today.
I have read a number of books with this same theme and many excerpts which also cover this topic. Most of these publications came about at the time the Supreme Court was hearing the ACLU versus the State of Alabama case. I can imagine that In the Beginning... is being re released because the problem of Creationism versus public education has not gone away in the last fifteen years. That in itself is a prediction that McGowan made in this book. McGowan's presentation is the best I have read in that it more clearly presents information in a form that the lay public can understand.
Within the book McGowan quotes the claims made by Creationists and point by point refutes them. He quickly points out that he has no argument with anyone who believes in the Biblical Creation story based upon their faith. The problem for him as well as for our country is when Creationists try to claim scientific proof of their claims. It is in this light that he attacks their claims. McGowan laments the dumbing down of America as Public school systems back down from the very vocal fundamentalist groups leaving biology education incomplete. He even indicates that many Universities have done the same. The problem goes beyond biology however as Creationists' notions eat away at the principles of physics, nuclear physics, astronomy, thermodynamics, and medicine.
In the Beginning... is organized into fourteen chapters and an afterword, source list, and reference list. The chapter titles are as follows: Science, Non Science, and Nonsense; Why Evolution?; Evolution: Past, Present, and According to the Creationists; How Did It All Start? The numbers Game; Noah's Ark: Fact or Fable?; Gaps or Continuity? A Look at the Living World; Rocks and Time; Fossils: How They are Formed and What they Can Tell Us; Fossils and Time; >From Reptiles to Birds: When is a Bird not a Bird?; A Mammal by any Other Name; Horses Hooves and Embryos; Newts, Lungfishes, and Sea dragons; Coming Down From the Trees: The Descent of Man. Let me review just a few of the highlights.
McGowan fills in numerous examples of "missing links" by using both fossil and modern examples. In the modern realm he presents examples of fossils in the making, transitional species, and evolution in action. The transition between fish and amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to birds, and reptiles to mammals is logically presented and illustrated with many examples. Horse evolution has been used by Creationists to support their opinions. McGowan turns the table by pointing out misinterpretations and thoroughly explaining the way evolutionists see the transition. The last fifteen years has provided a wonderful sequence of whale fossils from legged land animals to the whales of today, information not available when In the Beginning... was written.
The chapter concerning the Flood and Noah's Ark was amusing as well as enlightening. McGowan uses simple math to show the improbability of the capacity of the Ark and the survival of its occupants. The Creationist's Flood "consequences" are equally shown to be incorrect through the understanding of sedimentation processes and stratigraphy. McGowan does not seem to be able to come up with an answer for "where did all the water go?" putting all earthly water into the liquid state by melting the ice caps would only raise the sea level globally by 40 meters, not even enough to flood Cincinnati let alone Mt. Everest.
The last chapter covers human evolution. The fossil evidence as known through the publication date is admirably used to illustrate the "missing links". Discoveries made since then have added much more to the support of human evolution.
The afterword subtitled "The Emperor's New Clothes" comments briefly on the techniques used by the vocal Creationists to make their points. McGowan's description reminded me of my days listening to short wave radio during the Cold War. Most of you can recall the term propaganda which the evil powers used to make false claims about us, the good guys, or promote support for their own views. I think most people when asked to define propaganda would say that the bad guys just told lies about the good guys. This is not the way it works. Actually the bad guys would never tell all of the story thus preventing the listener from having all the facts necessary to base their opinion upon. What they did tell was actually truthful. They just selectively reported the facts and quoted people out of context. These techniques are used by Creationists's coupled with an apparent lack of knowledge of the sciences and slick presentation styles.
If this subject matter interests you I know you will find this a valuable work to read.