Non-sequitur in five parts

After having retired from a university where I taught physics, I was approached by some friends who requested that I reply to a number of very popular books whose authors diligently tried to prove the compatibility of the biblical story with science. Among the writers subjected to my critique happened to be both religious preachers (like Grant Jeffrey) without any scientific credentials, and also holders of advanced degrees, sometimes from prestigious institutions, for example from MIT (Gerald Schroeder), or from some other good universities (Hugh Ross) and even professors currently teaching physics at quality universities (like Nathan Aviezer). However, there was little difference between writing of either Jeffrey or, say, Aviezer, in that both not only offered plainly fallacious arguments, but also displayed sometimes amazing lack of knowledge and understanding of even seminal concepts of science in general and physics in particular. It was easy to dismiss pseudo-arguments of, say, Schroeder, by pointing to such absurd claims as his statements that masers emit atoms, or that mass and weight are the same, or, say, by revealing the misinterpretation of probabilities by Aviezer. What credibility could be afforded their pro-biblical “arguments” if they obviously were confused about elementary facts of science and/or math?

Recently a friend wrote to me about another book written by a professional physicist, a professor of physics, thus my younger professional colleague, Stephen M. Barr, which seemed to also promote the thesis about modern science allegedly supporting faith. Unlike the likes of Schroeder or Ross, Barr seems to be indeed a well qualified scientist, with a real knowledge of modern science, and a talent for offering seemingly strong arguments in favor of his position.

Barr’s book was reviewed a number of times, mostly in religious periodicals (like First Thing) and on websites (like Metanexus) where it was acclaimed in superlative terms. The religious reviewers unanimously praised Barr’s “accessible” writing, stressed his impeccable scientific credentials and asserted that he has brilliantly proved his thesis about the supposed “fall” of “materialism” as a consequence of scientific discoveries of the 20th century.

In this review I shall discuss Barr’s opus from the standpoint of a secular scientist, thus estimating whether or not Barr’s arguments sound convincing for a skeptic.

Continue reading Non Sequitur in Five Parts at Talk Reason.