Consider it a brief against scientific materialism. Yes, Philip Johnson has done it in his case against Darwinism. So, in different ways and quite effectively, have Michael Behe and William Dembski and a host of others. The new thing that Barr (for the record, professor of physics at the University of Delaware and frequent contributor to First Things
) brings to the table is an easy comprehensiveness in his critique, and written, as the publisher rightly claims, ''in the best tradition of science for the non-physicist or non-mathematician.'' Barr with rigorous fairness describes the motives and content of the materialists' position, then proceeds through the remainder of the book to describe developments in modern physics and cosmology that tend toward the dismantling of that position: the evidence for the Big Bang and a discrete beginning to the physical universe, the impact of recent discoveries concerning the physical world combined with the argument from design and beauty for a Creator, the Anthropic argument, observations concerning the differences between human and artificial intelligence, and reflections on quantum physics. Though he may not have meant it as such, Barr has given us apologetics in the very best sense: sound rational argument that lends itself to the New Testament definition of the word, ''a reason for the hope within us.''
An Eighth Day View:
A considerable amount of public debate and media print has been devoted to the "war between science and religion." In his accessible and eminently readable new book, Stephen M. Barr demonstrates that what is really at war with religion is not science itself, but a philosophy called scientific materialism. "Modern Physics and Ancient Faith" argues that the great discoveries of modern physics are more compatible with the central teachings of Christianity and Judaism about God, the cosmos, and the human soul than with the atheistic viewpoint of scientific materialism.Scientific materialism grew out of scientific discoveries made from the time of Copernicus up to the beginning of the twentieth century. These discoveries led many thoughtful people to the conclusion that the universe has no cause or purpose, that the human race is an accidental by-product of blind material forces, and that the ultimate reality is matter itself. Barr contends that the revolutionary discoveries of the twentieth century run counter to this line of thought. He uses five of these discoveries--the Big Bang theory, unified field theories, anthropic coincidences, Godel's Theorem in mathematics, and quantum theory--to cast serious doubt on the materialist's view of the world and to give greater credence to Judeo-Christian claims about God and the universe. Written in clear language, Barr's rigorous and fair text explains modern physics to general readers without oversimplification. Using the insights of modern physics, he reveals that modern scientific discoveries and religious faith are deeply consonant. Anyone with an interest in science and religion will find "Modern Physics and Ancient Faith" invaluable. "A modern physicist who writes with extraordinary clarity and verve, and is familiar with the intellectual arguments long used by the ancient faiths, Stephen Barr gives a brilliant defense of the integrity of science in the teeth of its most powerful modern bias, by telling the exciting story of the rise, complacency, and fall of scientific materialism. As his story crackles along, and just at the point of reaching really difficult concepts, he has a knack for inventing illustrations that make one's inner light bulbs flash again and again." --Michael Novak, Winner of the 1994 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion "Barr has produced a brilliant and authoritative defense of Biblical faith in the light of contemporary science. He perceives a serious conflict, not between modern physics and ancient faith, but between religion and materialism. I know of no other book that makes the case against materialism so lucidly, honestly, and deftly." --Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics "Written from the viewpoint of an accomplished physicist, this book is an invaluable contribution to the growing interest in the relationship between science and religion. The arguments are rigorously logical and the documentation is excellent." --Robert Scherrer, Ohio State University