Book Recommendations?

31


Discussion by: nblizzard

Growing up Christian (and then turning to Mormonism), my parents always completely rejected (and still do) Evolution in any way, shape or form. Although I was always quite spiritual etc, in the back of my mind I sort of always knew that it must be true, but because my knowledge of text on the subject was extremely limited, I had no idea how to go about learning more about it.

When visiting the King Tut Exhibit at my local museum on my 21st Birthday, I stumbled across Coyne's "Why Evolution is True" in the museum gift shop. I reluctantly put it down, but after not having it to read bugged me for months, I eventually bought and read it. The rest is history.

I guess because I felt so cheated by religion, since reading Coyne's book I've been adamant about gaining more knowledge on the subject especially in regards to religion etc. I tried reading Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish:, but stopped half way. I can't stand his writing style as I find its more of a memoir than an educational read.

Anyway, to get to the point, I was wondering if anyone in (or previously in) a similar position or with a similar interest in mind can recommend any books for a person like myself, with limited knowledge on the subjects. I'm also very interested to eventually read all of Dawkins' books, but I'm not sure which I should begin with?

Any help would be very greatly appreciated, thanks in advance.

 

31 COMMENTS

  1. First off it isn’t against Mormon beliefs to accept the evidence for evolution. My evolution professor is Mormon and he showed the whole class an official statement of church that showed they weren’t against it. However, individual members are a different story and there are many who don’t accept evolution. The book you started with is a good one I also like The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins and The Making of the Fittest by Sean Carroll. Both are great reads and break it down in a way that makes it easy to explain to others.

    • I’ll bet he’s a creationist.
      In reply to #1 by bjchiaro50:

      First off it isn’t against Mormon beliefs to accept the evidence for evolution. My evolution professor is Mormon and he showed the whole class an official statement of church that showed they weren’t against it. However, individual members are a different story and there are many who don’t accept evolution. The book you started with is a good one I also like The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins and The Making of the Fittest by Sean Carroll. Both are great reads and break it down in a way that makes it easy to explain to others.

      • Haha I am not even close to a creationist. However, I did grow up Mormon which is why I am familiar with the doctrine.
        In reply to #25 by wsayeth4:

        I’ll bet he’s a creationist.
        In reply to #1 by bjchiaro50:

        First off it isn’t against Mormon beliefs to accept the evidence for evolution. My evolution professor is Mormon and he showed the whole class an official statement of church that showed they weren’t against it. However, individual members are a different story and there are many who don’t accept evolution. The book you started with is a good one I also like The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins and The Making of the Fittest by Sean Carroll. Both are great reads and break it down in a way that makes it easy to explain to others.

  2. Don’t read anything by Dawkins, he hates God and deliberately twists the evidence to say there is no God. any real scientist would see God’s signature in Nature. Dawkins is a tool of Satan and he’ll get what he deserves !!!

    Actually, I would recommend Climbing mount Improbable together with The Blind Watchmaker. (I was just kidding about Richard)

    • In reply to #3 by Jay G:

      Don’t read anything by Dawkins, he hates God and deliberately twists the evidence to say there is no God. any real scientist would see God’s signature in Nature. Dawkins is a tool of Satan and he’ll get what he deserves !!!

      Actually, I would recommend Climbing mount Improbable together with The Blind Watchmaker. (I was just kidding about Richard)

      Cardiac arrest first and then I read the last 2 lines :)

  3. I’d endorse all the recommendations so far. The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable and Unweaving the Rainbow (a particular favourite) are a first-class overview among Richard’s books.

  4. You should definitely start with The Selfish Gene. It provides the best overview of evolution I’ve read anywhere. I never even understood evolution, not really, until I read that book. Well not that I’m claiming to be an expert now but that book really clarified a lot of misconceptions I had about evolution. I would go on to The Blind Watchmaker or other books only after reading The Selfish Gene first.

  5. Hi nblizzard, former fundie preacher here! When I was leaving the faith, one of the books that allowed me to understand, is absolutely gorgeously bound and printed, and allowed me to see the fantastically long-reaching effects of evolution through beautiful photography of animal skeletons, is:

    EVOLUTION by Jean Baptiste de Panafieu.

    It is so magnificently written and will truly broaden your understanding of the reason for natural selection. I would also suggest “Greatest Show on Earth”, and also try reading Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” – I hear there is an illustrated version out.

    I really can’t recommend de Panafieu’s book enough. I could list it as first place in my collection of evolutionary literature specifically because it expounds natural selection through short sections on specific animals and utilzes fantastic photography. If you are looking for arguments FOR evolution, anything by Dawkins really.

    -J

      • In reply to #17 by Sjoerd Westenborg:

        In reply to #7 by Jogre:

        EVOLUTION by Jean Baptiste de Panafieu.

        You’ve definitively piqued my interest with that glowing recommendation!

        It is a wonderful read and was absolutely instrumental to my deconversion because of it’s simplicity, logic, and insight. You won’t be disappointed if you take a look at it.

  6. I am currently collecting Dawkins’ books, so I can’t say which to start with since I haven’t read them all yet. However, my plan is to start with the Selfish Gene and work my way up through his works as he published them. I already have the Selfish Gene and its a good start as far as i’m concerned. I have Origin of Species and it is also a great book, although I think Dawkins is a little easier to read. Origin is a product of a different time, so it can be hard to follow at times, but its nowhere near as difficult as Shakespeare, if that puts it into perspective.

    Are you looking for atheist books as well? If so, I recommend The God Delusion by Dawkins and God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. Great books those two. There are many more on this subject, and I am collecting those as well.

  7. I have the full Richard Dawkins Set, and I recommend reading them in order, to follow along as the science and evidence developed over 40 years.

    They all complement each other, while exploring different areas and approaches to the various subjects he engages with. I’ve read all of mine 4-5 times, and never get bored since I see deeper into them each time as my understanding expands.

    Enjoy the journey – it’s all awesome since reality is far more magical than all that old god stuff…. Mac.

  8. “Tricks of the Mind” by Derren Brown is a great place to start. It doesn’t tackle evolution as such but gives a great insight into the psychology of belief and how vulnerable the human mind is to deception/ influence and also comes with a suggested reading list.

  9. “Tricks of the Mind” by Derren Brown is a great place to start. It doesn’t tackle evolution as such but gives a great insight into the psychology of belief and how vulnerable the human mind is to deception/ influence and also comes with a suggested reading list.

  10. Welcome to the world of scientific inquiry, nblizzard. I think I sense your excitement at standing before a great banquet of knowledge. You can almost not go wrong, you know, the worst being that one or another book will not be as much of a page-turner as the others. Dawkins’ most accessible book for the scientifically inexperienced is definitely The Greatest Show on Earth, but all of his work (save The God Delusion) deals with evolution. Darwin is also a tough read, unless you find a condensed version, or simply read his biography. But go to your nearest bookstore , to the ‘popular science’ department. You’ll find enough reading to hold you through the next year. (You might also want to expand into Cosmology, especially once you discover the likes of Niels deGrasse Tyson and Brian Cox. Both very lively authors.

  11. Hi nblizzard; as for books by Dawkins, this is how I would read them, with the least difficult one first:

    The Magic of Reality; River Out of Eden; The God Delusion; The Greatest Show on Earth; Unweaving the Rainbow; Climbing Mt. Improbable; The Blind Watchmaker; The Ancestor’s Tale (simply because of its length); The Selfish Gene; The Extended Phenotype.

  12. a great introduction is “Almost Like a Whale” by Steve Jones. any of Richard’s books would be ideal also but I agree that “The Selfish Gene” is a must

    TSG is also a good book to read because it’s so often misrepresented. and for the same reason (and because you care about writing style) you really must read On The Origin of Species

  13. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is the first Dawkins book I’d recommend, as it sets out much of the evidence for Evolution. The aim of the book is quite similar to Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”, but I think Dawkins is a much more gifted writer and so the style is much more engaging and less dry than Coyne’s book (as reflected in the chosen titles of the 2 books). I enjoyed reading both books and did not feel like I was going over the same ground at all.

    • In reply to #14 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

      “The Greatest Show on Earth” is the first Dawkins book I’d recommend, as it sets out much of the evidence for Evolution. The aim of the book is quite similar to Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”, but I think Dawkins is a much more gifted writer and so the style is much more engaging and less dry than Coyne’s book (as reflected in the chosen titles of the 2 books). I enjoyed reading both books and did not feel like I was going over the same ground at all.

      I can’t believe I forgot that one, I agree its a great place to start. I would amend my previous comment, if you are looking for a good overview of evolution and evidence Greatest Show on Earth is the best place to start. If you really want to understand the science of evolution I think Selfish Gene is the best place to start.

  14. Slightly off-topic, but if you ever feel like you’re missing the spiritual side to your life since leaving the faith I highly recommend keeping an eye out for Sam Harris’s next book ‘Waking Up: Science, Skepticism, Spirituality’. It should be out around this time next year.

    I’ll refrain from the fanboy gushing in case that puts you off, but his youtube video on death and meaning in life really changed the game for me. Definitely worth looking into!

  15. The books I was going to recommend have already been suggested by others. That said, the evidence is inspiring & spectacular. Good luck on your “journey”. It will take you places you never imagined…I’ve been in your situation – I know.

  16. If you have the time: The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. I found it freely available in E-Book format.

    Although his writing may well be old, I find him to be a surprisingly good (but somewhat verbose) writer. He did get some of the details wrong (he predates the discovery of genes), and he really likes dotting ALL the “i”s and crossing ALL the “T”s which also gives insight in not only his conclusions, but how he reached the conclusions. It made me realise that evolution is much more than just “survival of the fittest”.

  17. This is off topic but since you mentioned Mormonism I would highly recommend the book Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. Its a look at violence toward women in the Mormon church from Joseph Smith up to some modern sects that retain polygamy and violence toward Mormon women who attempt to leave the church and their men (to leave one requires leaving both). Besides being an example of the worst kind of behavior being supported by a supposedly ethical religion the book is very well written and a real page turner. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down.

  18. My own search started with the Enlightenment writer Thomas Paine. I consider his Common Sense and The Age of Reason to be magnificent introductions to the journey to atheism. Also try to read Bertrand Russell’s Skeptical Essays.

  19. Hi nblizzard! I had a very similar experience to you – being raised as a Christian and living in a blanketed world of faith and “non-science” as I like to call it. My partner opened my eyes to the way the universe really works. I would have to say that these books have propelled me as far away from religion as you can get:

    The End of Faith – Sam Harris, Godless – Dan Barker, A Universe From Nothing – Lawrence Krauss, God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens

  20. Thanks to everyone who has commented!

    I honestly can’t express how grateful I am knowing I have so much new material to read and learn from.. And especially not having to go off random reviews off random, irrelevant sites!

    I do apologise, as when writing my question I was unsure it would be published etc so I didn’t explain myself very well. I am very aware that the LDS church doesn’t forbid you from learning about evolution etc. I could write a book on the LDS church, although it would have nothing to do with evolution… Lol.

    My parents also aren’t mormon, just thought i would clear that up, too. theyre just very old and very stubborn people haha!

    I also have read up on Darwin and watched as many documentaries on the subject as I possibly can and they have all been equally as wonderful.

    Thanks again to everyone who commented
    Can’t wait to get my hands on every last one of these books!!

    xx!

    • As most have said on here, Dawkins’ “Greatest Show on Earth” is terrific in breaking it down. CdnMacAtheist had an interesting recommendation, one of which I wish I would have thought a while back: read the books chronologically as the science develops.

      A text I am fond of: “Biology: Science for Life with Physiology. Third Edition.” Colleen Belk and Virginia Borden Maier. You can usually pick up a copy for super dirt cheap; Ebay has one for $15 right now.

      On a side note, I would also really recommend Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

  21. Is There Intelligent Life On Earth? – by Jack Catran.
    Science and Sanity – by Alfred Korzybski.
    Science and Human Behaviour – by B. F. Skinner.
    The Best That Money Can’t Buy – by Jacque Fresco.
    The Tyranny of Words – by Stuart Chase.
    The Proper Study Of Mankind – by Stuart Chase.
    The Study of Man – by Ralph Linton.
    The Crowd; study of the popular mind – by Gustave Le Bon.
    The Mind in the Making – by James Harvey Robinson.
    Manhood of Humanity – by Alfred Korzybski.

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