Paleontology & Geology

Plate Tectonics: An Insider's History of the Modern Theory of the Earth

edited by Naomi Oreskes
Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001. 448 pages.

In The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science, Naomi Oreskes traced the reception of continental drift in American geology from its initial rejection to its eventual acceptance. Now, in Plate Tectonics, she compiled the definitive history of the theory, told by the very scientists who developed and assembled evidence for it.

The Seashell on the Mountaintop

by Alan Cutler
New York: Dutton Adult, 2003. 240 pages.

A new book about Niels Stensen (1638-86) — Nicolaus Stenonius in Latin, or Steno for short — the Danish anatomist-turned-geologist who was arguably the founder of the science of geology. Writing in The New York Times, NCSE President Kevin Padian praised Cutler "for making one think about what qualifies as an explanation, and for exploring the endless debates that mix strands of partial knowledge with the need to reconcile religious testaments."

Hiking the Grand Canyon's Geology

by Lon Abbott and Terri Cook
Seattle, WA: Mountaineers Books, 2004. 301 pages.

For the Hiking Geology series of The Mountaineers Books, Lon Abbott and Terri Cook have produced a hiker's guide to the Grand Canyon that explains the geology in loving expert detail, literally step by step. Eighteen excursions are detailed, ranging — as the publisher writes — "from the most popular rim-to-river trails (Havasu Canyon Trail) to gentle, half-day rim walks (Red Butte Trail) to rugged and remote multi-day backpack trips (Lava Falls Route)" and including useful information on permits, lodging and camping, and mule rides.

Grand Canyon Geology, second edition

edited by Stanley S. Beus and Michael Morales
New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. 448 pages.

From the publisher: "This second edition of the leading book on Grand Canyon geology contains the most recent discoveries and interpretations of the origin and history of the canyon. It includes two entirely new chapters: one on debris flow in the Canyon and one on Holocene deposits in the canyon. All chapters have been updated where necessary and all photographs have been replaced or re-screened for better resolution.

An Introduction to Grand Canyon Geology

by L. Greer Price
Grand Canyon, AZ: Grand Canyon Association, 1999. 63 pages.

Geologist L. Greer Price worked for the National Park Service for ten years, mainly in Grand Canyon National Park, and his experience in explaining the geology of the canyon to the parks visitors is evident on every page of his brief (64-page) introduction, enlivened with dozens of photographs. Basic geological principles, including plate tectonics, structural features and their significance, and the role of erosion, are introduced and emphasized throughout; a glossary and a full index enhance the book's usefulness.

How the Canyon Became Grand: A Short History

by Stephen J. Pyne
New York: Penguin Books, 1999. 240 pages.

From the publisher: "Exploring more than four hundred years of human contact with the Grand Canyon, Stephen J. Pyne chronicles the creation of one of Americas greatest icons. The Canyon was discovered in 1540 by Spanish explorers, but dismissed as worthless and immediately forgotten; three centuries passed before it came to be recognized by Westerners for the natural wonder that it is. Merging environmental, social, intellectual, and political history, Pyne takes us on a wondrous journey of discovery.

Noah's Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought

by Norman Cohn
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999. 168 pages.

With the aid of 75 illustrations, including 20 color plates, the distinguished medieval historian Norman Cohn explores the origins, development, and variety of interpretations of the familiar tale of the Noachian deluge.

When the Great Abyss Opened

by J. David Pleins
New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 242 pages.

In his lively, ambitious, and engaging study, Pleins — Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University — investigates the cultural significance of the story of Noah's flood, discussing the connections and conflicts among geology, archeology, myth, literature, the Bible, and popular culture. (A chapter is devoted to "Fundamentalist literalism and 'creation science'.") Michael Ruse writes, "This fascinating book opens up a completely new light on a topic about which we all think we know something and about which we learn we knew very little.

Missing Links: Evolutionary Concepts & Transitions Through Time

by Robert A. Martin
Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2004. 304 pages.

Reviewing Martin's Missing Links for Reports of the NCSE, Kenneth D. Angielczyk described it as "an easy-to-read introduction to the science of paleontology ... Martin's examples span many scales of evolutionary transition, from subtle tooth morphology in voles to the origins of birds, mammals, and tetrapods ... any attentive reader will come away from the book with questions and wanting to learn more about evolution."

Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and Its Cosmic Surroundings

by G. Brent Dalrymple
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004. 247 pages.

Whereas The Age of the Earth was aimed at the general scientific public, Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies is aimed at the common reader, and it succeeds magnificently in clearly explaining the methods and results used by scientists in ascertaining the age of the earth and of the universe. Writing in RNCSE (2005 Jan–Apr; 25 [1–2]: 45–46), Timothy Heaton described Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies as "a much-needed contribution to scientific education ...