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Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters [Kindle Edition]

Donald R. Prothero , Carl Buell
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Over the past twenty years, paleontologists have made tremendous fossil discoveries, including fossils that mark the growth of whales, manatees, and seals from land mammals and the origins of elephants, horses, and rhinos. Today there exists an amazing diversity of fossil humans, suggesting we walked upright long before we acquired large brains, and new evidence from molecules that enable scientists to decipher the tree of life as never before.

The fossil record is now one of the strongest lines of evidence for evolution. In this engaging and richly illustrated book, Donald R. Prothero weaves an entertaining though intellectually rigorous history out of the transitional forms and series that dot the fossil record. Beginning with a brief discussion of the nature of science and the "monkey business of creationism," Prothero tackles subjects ranging from flood geology and rock dating to neo-Darwinism and macroevolution. He covers the ingredients of the primordial soup, the effects of communal living, invertebrate transitions, the development of the backbone, the reign of the dinosaurs, the mammalian explosion, and the leap from chimpanzee to human. Prothero pays particular attention to the recent discovery of "missing links" that complete the fossil timeline and details the debate between biologists over the mechanisms driving the evolutionary process.

Evolution is an absorbing combination of firsthand observation, scientific discovery, and trenchant analysis. With the teaching of evolution still an issue, there couldn't be a better moment for a book clarifying the nature and value of fossil evidence. Widely recognized as a leading expert in his field, Prothero demonstrates that the transformation of life on this planet is far more awe inspiring than the narrow view of extremists.



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prothero, a geologist at Occidental College (After the Dinosaurs), explains how rich the fossil record has become. His goal is two-fold. First, he wants to demonstrate the wide variety of transitional forms that have been found, many within the past 20 years. Second, he aims to discredit the creationist movement. I have tried to document how they routinely distort or deny the evidence, quote out of context, and do many other dishonest and unethical things—all in the name of pushing their crusade. He accomplishes both of his goals (though he can be repetitious regarding the creationists), and his descriptions of recent research, much of it his own, are compelling. Prothero explains that the Cambrian explosion of life forms was anything but an explosion, and presents the impressive transitional fossils between reptiles and birds, along with striking evidence for mammalian evolution, including the relationship among hominid groups. With good science and some specific rebuttals to creationist arguments, this book demonstrates the importance of paleontology to the study of evolution. 208 illus. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

This book demonstrates the importance of paleontology to the study of evolution.

(Publishers Weekly)

A must read...Brilliant and masterfully researched.

(Greg Sweatt Fossil News)

Engagingly written and scientifically accurate... Highly recommended.

(CHOICE)

This is one of the best books of its kind.

(Christopher diCarlo Guelph Mercury)

The book is very valuable as a demonstration of the quality of the fossil record, which has improved dramatically in the past decade.

(Peter Dodson Reports of the National Center for Science Education 1900-01-00)

(T)o anyone who wishes to be informed on our current knowledge about fossils and their interpretation, and for anyone who is still not so sure whom to believe, this book will straighten things out and will be an unforgettable reading experience.

(Zentralblatt fur Geologie und Palaontologie 1900-01-00)

Product Details

  • File Size: 9157 KB
  • Print Length: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (November 22, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007H9RGOK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,066 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
228 of 243 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
A cursory look at the science section of any bookstore will reveal a current glut of books about evolution and creationism, some works being excellent reviews of the debate while others are not worth the paper they're printed on. Prothero's book falls into the former category, being the best popular resource I've come across to date about evolution and the evidence from the fossil record.

One of the most important (and appealing) aspects of Prothero's book is that he takes a "gloves off" approach to creationism, not waffling on the subject like other recent works (i.e. Whitham's "Where Darwin Meets the Bible"). This more up-front tone allows Prothero to look at the claims of creationists and ID advocates in depth, his excellent review of the formation of the Grand Canyon (the only one I know of in the popular literature) being a fantastic example of melding positive scientific evidence with a thorough refutation of pseudoscience. Still, while Prothero takes a more aggressive approach than other recent authors the book is hardly a long diatribe against creationism; Prothero combines personal experience debating YEC stalwarts like Duane Gish with his extensive knowledge of paleontology, geology, and evolution, delivering a successful one-two punch that is informative on more than just one level.

If I have any complaint about this book, it is only that some of the sections require a little more fine-tuning or focus to bring out the important evolutionary trends. The chapter on Dinosaurs is a good example of this; while Prothero provides a good review of important fossil finds, the origin and diversification of sauropod dinosaurs, ceratopsians, and dromeosaurs could use some further clarification as there is certainly more to the story than was given room for discussion.
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101 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent November 25, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The earth is old, and animals and plants have changed over time. If you know somebody who doubts these two well-established propositions, this is the book to share with them. I remember, as a teenager, in the early 1980s, reading Duane Gish's "Evolution: The Fossils Say No," as well as the other standard texts of creationism, and Prothero's book would have helped me think through (and past) creationism a lot quicker than I did. Prothero's book might have been aptly titled, "Evolution: The Fossils Say Yes." It is a lavishly illustrated, thoroughly readable, and authoritative dismantling of creationism. Because of the patient work of contemporary scientists writing accessible popular texts on evolution, no thoughtful 21st century young person need be intellectually derailed by creationist literature. Dr. Prothero's is perhaps the best of the current spate of these types of books. I especially liked the chapter on the origins of life, and the chapter on the Grand Canyon. One of the strengths of this book is that Dr. Prothero does not dodge difficult questions, but attempts to address them directly. It is always refreshing to read somebody who does not obfuscate or downplay contrary lines of evidence, and who is willing to say "I don't know" when something is uncertain. The book is thus, in addition to its overt purpose, also an excellent model of sane and measured reflection. A good companion volume to Dr. Prothero's book might be "The Counter-Creationism Handbook," by Mark Isaak, recently published by the University of California Press.
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142 of 162 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
"Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters" is the best book I have ever read emphasizing the importance of the fossil record as the indisputable "facts" of biological evolution, documenting the history of life on Planet Earth. Its publication is long overdue, and yet, remains quite timely, when major publishers like Simon and Schuster have mistakenly published sterling examples of mendacious intellectual pornography like Michael Behe's "The Edge of Evolution". Indeed, Prothero's book ought to be viewed as the one that demolishes forever, Behe's inane assertion (which he had expressed in a private e-mail reply to me that I've posted elsewhere here at Amazon.com) that the fossil record is irrelevant, claiming that the "truth" will be found only at the molecular level (More than anything else, that terse comment from Behe merely demonstrates his profound ignorance and understanding of the fossil record. Incidentally, Prothero refers to Behe as an "Intelligent Design creationist".). It also demonstrates the absurdity of creationist claims from the likes of Behe's Discovery Institute colleagues Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, and Geoffrey Simmons, among others, that the fossil record does not have "transitional forms". Indeed, as Prothero clearly shows his readers again and again, the history of life on our planet is replete with "transitional forms" documenting the evolutionary transitions from fish to tetrapods, from terrestrial carnivorous dinosaurs to flying birds, from primitive ungulate mammals to whales, and from apes to mankind. He also stresses the relevance of the fossil record to other aspects of evolutionary biology, noting its relevance with respect to molecular - as well as comparative anatomical - data. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of the latest fossil data
An excellent read. Dr. Prothero does an excellent job of breaking down a complex subject and helping readers (especially those of us with little background in paleontology)... Read more
Published 7 days ago by D. Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Evolution: a very simple concept
Evolution is a very simple concept. The word simply means "change over time" and change affects just about every thing in the universe. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Russ Heitz
5.0 out of 5 stars and this one stands among the best. Prothero's vast knowledge of...
I've read and published reviews on literally hundreds of popular science books over the years, and this one stands among the best. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kenneth Krause
5.0 out of 5 stars This book matters!
One of the most intelligent, wonderfully beautiful written books I have read on the topic.
This book is a invaluable resource for students, teachers, professors and the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by janine
4.0 out of 5 stars pretty good expose of recent archaeological finds that further the ...
Pretty good expose of recent archaeological finds that further bolster evolutionary theory. A little too much time wasted on troglodytes who argue the intelligent design... Read more
Published 3 months ago by robert vincel
1.0 out of 5 stars The Paleontologists's Guide to Complaining
Poorly written and full of personal attacks & insults, complete with cartoons ridiculing offending groups who have the audacity to see Design in nature. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Celeste Capielano
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing mixture of science, pseudo-science, convenience, and...
Prothero is one arrogant SOB. Unfortunately, his blatant omissions leave him wide-open to criticism. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bruce D. Wilner
4.0 out of 5 stars A Skeptics View of the Fossil Record
There are at least two scientific errors in this book: 1st, the implicit claim that life has emerged from matter, and 2nd, the explicit claim that Homo Sapiens has emerged from... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Clifford J. Stevens
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely thorough and fascinating; destroys creationist arguments...
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand our evolutionary history better, and to anyone who is having doubts about the truth of evolution. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Scotty Pills
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on the subject!
This is hands down the best book on the subject of fossils. From geologic layers to microfossils and everything in between and beyond. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kevin Maze
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More About the Author

Donald R. Prothero has taught geology for over 33 years as Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and currently at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA. He earned M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Columbia University in 1982, and a B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of California, Riverside. He is currently the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 33 books and over 250 scientific papers, including five leading geology textbooks and three trade books as well as edited symposium volumes and other technical works. He is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine, and in the past has served as an associate or technical editor for Geology, Paleobiology and Journal of Paleontology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. He has served as the Vice President of the Pacific Section of SEPM (Society of Sedimentary Geology), and five years as the Program Chair for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. In 1991, he received the Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society for the outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He has also been featured on several television documentaries, including episodes of Paleoworld (BBC), Prehistoric Monsters Revealed (History Channel), Entelodon and Hyaenodon (National Geographic Channel) and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC).

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