Science, Evolution and Creationism, the newly revised booklet on the evolution-creation controversy issued by the National Academy of Science in the US, is the best short, accessible introduction to evolution that I have ever come across. It is authoritative, quite comprehensive, interesting, very well organized, beautifully illustrated, concise, clear and (surprisingly for something produced by committee) well written. The three main chapters – “Evolution and the Nature of Science”, “The Evidence of Biological Evolution” and “Creationist Perspectives” – cover everything the average layperson needs to know about science and evolution. More importantly from a tactical perspective, it does an excellent job of arguing science and religion can be compatible, thereby neutralizing the primary source of people’s rejection of evolution.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the booklet discusses physics and cosmology – e.g. the Big Bang, how the Milky Way and our solar system formed and so on. In my experience, people unfamiliar with evolution (who tend to be ignorant of cosmology and most of science as well) find it difficult to accept the theory unless it’s placed in the context of the grand scientific narrative of the universe.
In any case, the booklet is an excellent resource – I’ll most certainly use it when I have to teach evolution to the uninitiated again. The booklet, by the way, is free to download as a pdf.
(See also: PNAS editorial on "Evolution, Science and Creation" and, as I mentioned before, the NAS podcast discussed (mp3) the release of this publication a while back.)