Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

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Overview

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...

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Modern Physics and Ancient Faith

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Overview

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, Gödel’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

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Barr skillfully masters both physics and theology. . . . His work is a thing of scholarly beauty.” —Science & Theology News
 

“In this well-reasoned and accessible book, Stephen Barr argues against the idea that modern science has discredited belief in God. Barr, an accomplished theoretical particle physicist currently at the University of Delaware and a lay Roman Catholic, adroitly marshals recent developments in the natural and computer sciences to show that science, far from clearly discrediting religious belief, can in many instances reasonably be construed to support it. The book is well documented, and the exposition is masterful, making it a valuable asset for those theists wanting to learn more about the ways in which the sciences can contribute to the materialist-theist debate.” —Journal of Religion

"Stephen Barr does heroic service with his book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith as a revolutionary insurgent within the intellectual hegemony of modern scientific materialism." —Crisis Magazine

“It is a happy day indeed when one finds a work by a scientist that is so clear, based upon serious reflection, and demonstrates a broad knowledge of philosophy and religion as well as science. Modern Physics and Ancient Faith is such a work. Barr . . . has a wonderful way of explaining difficult theories in modern physics. Equally impressive is his ability to reflect upon the philosophical and theological implications of these theories and explain them to us in ordinary English.” —Theology Today

“[A] well-written and logically argued presentation on the relationship between religion and science . . . Barr makes both modern physics and theology understandable to the general reader. This is a worthy successor to P.C.W. Davies’s God and the New Physics . . . Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“[A] lucid and engaging survey of modern physics and its relation to religious belief. . . . Barr has produ“[ced a stunning tour de force . . . [a] scientific and philosophical breakthrough.” —National Review

“Stephen Barr’s book … energizes the reader, since its philosophical positions are well argued, its writing is clear and accessible, and its religious affirmations are provocative for believers and nonbelievers alike.” —Christian Century

“. . . Modern Physics and Ancient Faith ranks among the most scientifically, theologically, and philosophically rigorous studies of the relation between science and theology to appear in recent years. That it is also written in a clear and highly accessible style makes it even more worthy of widespread notice, discussion, and debate. . . . Barr has written an accessible, insightful, and fair overview of how the discoveries of physics and mathematics during the last century could be thought to confirm the expectations of the religious believer—as well as a careful analysis and critique of materialism. For those looking for an overview that will help them to think at a deep level about these issues, I cannot think of anything better than Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.” — First Things

Library Journal
Barr (physics, Univ. of Delaware) provides a well-written and logically argued presentation on the relationship between religion and science, particularly modern physics. Barr's background in theology, apparent in his discussions of Thomas Aquinas, serves him well as he shows that the argument is not between religion and science per se but between religion and scientific materialism, the philosophy that sees as real only what can be measured and observed. Writing in a popular style, Barr makes both modern physics and theology understandable to the lay reader. He believes that a person can accept the Big Bang and other discoveries of modern physics and still believe in a creator God, further arguing that recent discoveries in physics would seem to support Judeo-Christian teachings and not materialism. While not everyone will be convinced by Barr's arguments, he offers a cogent discussion of a very popular topic. A much more scholarly work than Frank J. Tipler's The Physics of Immortality, this is a worthy successor to P.C.W. Davies's God and the New Physics and John D. Barrow and Tipler's The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Highly recommended for all collections.-Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268021986
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2006
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 353,386
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 10.28 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen M. Barr is professor of physics at the Bartol Research Institute, University of Delaware.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Pt. I The Conflict between Religion and Materialism
1 The Materialist Creed 1
2 Materialism as an Anti-Religious Mythology 4
3 Scientific Materialism and Nature 19
Pt. II In the Beginning
4 The Expectations 33
5 How Things Looked One Hundred Years Ago 36
6 The Big Bang 38
7 Was the Big Bang Really the Beginning? 47
8 What If the Big Bang Was Not the Beginning? 58
Pt. III Is the Universe Designed?
9 The Argument from Design 65
10 The Attack on the Argument from Design 71
11 The Design Argument and the Laws of Nature 76
12 Symmetry and Beauty in the Laws of Nature 93
13 "What Immortal Hand or Eye?" 105
Pt. IV Man's Place in the Cosmos
14 The Expectations 115
15 The Anthropic Coincidences 118
16 Objections to the Idea of Anthropic Coincidences 138
17 Alternative Explanations of the Anthropic Coincidences 149
18 Why Is the Universe So Big? 158
Pt. V What is Man?
19 The Issue 167
20 Determinism and Free Will 175
21 Can Matter "Understand"? 190
22 Is the Human Mind Just a Computer? 207
23 What Does the Human Mind Have That Computers Lack? 220
24 Quantum Theory and the Mind 227
25 Alternatives to Traditional Quantum Theory 245
26 Is a Pattern Emerging? 253
App. A God, Time, and Creation 257
App. B Attempts to Explain the Beginning Scientifically 268
App. C Godel's Theorem 279
Notes 289
Index 307
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 30, 2010

    Everyone should read this book.

    Is it "turtles all the way down," and endless (and pointless) chain of cause and effect from an infinite past? Or does creation point to a Creator? Professor Barr convincingly argues for the latter.

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    Posted November 9, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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