Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer reading

A former student asked for recommendations for summer reading. Here's what I told her (with bookseller links, mostly to Amazon):

If you want to be a well-read creationist, I think you should look at historical books rather than just books from today. And don't put too much stock in reading books from "both sides," since most such books tend to get bogged down in irrelevant minutiae and the authors are too often in love with the sound of their own voices. Here are a few good books that come to mind:

1. The Creationists, by Ron Numbers - This will give you an inside look at the emergence of the modern creationist movement but from a pretty anti-Seventh-day Adventist bias. I suggest that you remedy this bias by reading my own paper "Species variability and creationism," which you can read here:

2. The Creation-Evolution Struggle, by Michael Ruse - A book that looks far more deeply at the roots of the creation-evolution struggle, beyond what Numbers does. Also written by a nonbeliever, so take his conclusions with a grain of salt.

3. Darwinism and the Divine in America, by Roberts - excellent introduction to the varied responses to evolution among Protestants in America. And Jon Roberts is a great guy, so buy his book.

4. Evolution, Creation and Science, by Frank Lewis Marsh - classic in creationist biology. He was wrong about a lot of things and his logic was muddled in places, but his work is one of the first really thoughtful responses to evolution by a thorough creationist. Definitely worth reading.

5. Earth's Catastrophic Past, by Andrew Snelling - I have not read this yet (it's two huge volumes, give me a break), but I have glanced through and read sections. It's a modern take on creationist geology, and it sets the stage for our understanding of what happened during the history of biology.

6. The Genesis Flood, by Whitcomb and Morris - The text that revived a widespread interest in creationism in the last half of the twentieth century. Like Marsh's work, much of the science is dated, but it's still worth a read.

7. Faith, Form and Time, by Kurt Wise - Modern take on the creationist model as a whole. First real attempt to articulate a complete model, and not just a refutation of evolution or an apologetic for creationism.

8. Understanding the Pattern of Life, by Wood and Murray - What Wise did, only focused on biology and particularly baraminology. It's awfully dated, but still worth reading.

9. Darwin on Trial, by Johnson - that's the standard antievolution ID position. I don't recommend everything in the book, but you should know that this position exists.

10. On the Origin of Species, by Darwin (get The Annotated Origin by James Costa - it's very good) - Find out what Darwin's argument actually was. It's a long, detailed book, but definitely worth the read (preferably in the first edition). Costa's version has lots of great notes which will help you understand what you're reading.

11. Natural Theology, by Paley - Lots of folks remain enamored with this book. I think they would be less enamored if they actually read it. This is the zenith of functionalist design, and you should be aware of it for historical purposes.

12. On the Nature of Limbs, by Richard Owen (there's a good modern reprint by U Chicago press) - classic design-based refutation of functionalism, an antidote to Paley. It's also tediously choked with anatomical detail, but you should read it anyway. (I don't think Owen was right about the Archetype, but he's got lots of good points to make.)

13. Faith, Reason and Earth History, by Leonard Brand - another great modern creationist book that takes a bigger picture look, like Wise's Faith, Form, and Time.

14. The New Creationism, by Paul Garner - a readable summary of the creation model, like Wise's and Brand's books.

There are plenty more books worth reading, and my list is shamefully deficient in the area of astronomy and cosmogony. But that should keep you busy for the summer anyway.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.