Physicist Stephen M. Barr’s lucid Student’s Guide to Natural Science aims to give students an understanding, in broad outline, of the nature, history, and great ideas of natural science from ancient times to the present, with a primary focus on physics. Barr begins with the contributions of the ancient Greeks, in particular the two great ideas that reality can be understood by the systematic use of reason and that phenomena have natural explanations. He goes on to discuss, among other things, the medieval roots of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, the role played by religion in fostering the idea of a lawful natural order, and the major breakthroughs of modern physics, including how many newer “revolutionary” theories are in fact related to much older ones. Throughout this thoughtful guide, Barr draws his readers’ attention to the larger themes and trends of scientific history, including the increasing unification and “mathematization” of our view of the physical world that has resulted in the laws of nature appearing more and more as forming a single harmonious mathematical edifice.
Stephen M. Barr is a theoretical particle physicist on the faculty of the Bartol Research Institute of the University of Delaware, where he holds the rank of professor. He has published over 125 papers in research journals in the fields of particle physics and cosmology and has also written numerous articles and book reviews on science and religion for such magazines as First Things (on whose editorial advisory board he sits), National Review, the Public Interest, and Academic Questions. His book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith was published in 2003.
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