Book Review: The Fossil Record: Unearthing Nature’s History of Life
This is a very welcome new book. Our catalogues provide beautifully illustrated books on fossils for young students of the junior high variety, but little for interested adults that is not highly technical. Here we find a nicely illustrated book with discussion at an adult, but not overwhelmingly technical level. On each topic, the authors firstly present the evolutionary argument and then they show how this conclusion does not actually represent the fossil description, location in the rocks and comparison with other fossils. The authors proceed in an organized fashion through the presumed evolutionary events of the past: microbes (said to represent earliest life), origin of animals without backbones, origin of animals with backbones, invasion of the land and special topics like whale origins. The discussion which they provide on these issues are certainly interesting and food for thought.
One highly useful piece of information that they provide is how to think through any issue to avoid being unnecessarily swayed by mere assertions masquerading as facts. One must be a critical consumer of information! Certain questions can be asked of a lecturer/presenter: What do you mean by that statement? What are the implications of that? What are the assumptions upon which those conclusions were drawn? Are there other studies in which different conclusions were drawn? (See p. 62 and p. 96-97). The objective is not to alienate any instructors, but to obtain information on the uncertainties associated with every scientific study. The student and perhaps others, will then be in a position to better evaluate the claims that are being made. If the statements are in writing in a textbook or whatever, then the student can use these questions to research the background to the topic.
This book is documented, but not exhaustively. For example, the authors describe nautiloid fossils in the Grand Canyon and provide no documentation at all. However there is a detailed appendix at the back of the book which does consider the validity of many so-called transitional forms among vertebrates. That section is strongly documented. The information on the connection of fish to four footed animals (“invasion of the land”), is particularly interesting.
Thus for high school students and adults seeking the creation based interpretation of the fossil record and the information on which it is based, this is a great introduction!
John D. Morris and Frank J. Sherwin. 2010. The Fossil Record: Unearthing Nature’s History of Life. Institute for Creation Research. 189 pages. $14.00 (full colour, hardcover)
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