Reductionism in Science: Order from Chaos or Order from Ideas?

Feb 3 2017 12—1:30pm
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Stephen M. Barr

University of Delaware


Open to current university students and faculty. Lunch will be served.

Join us for a discussion with physicist Stephen Barr on his article from First Things on the philosophical assumptions behind a tendency toward reductionism in the natural sciences.

"This tendency to downgrade and diminish reflects a metaphysical prejudice that equates explanatory reduction with a grim slide down the ladder of being. Powerful explanatory schemes reveal things to be simpler than they appear. What simpler means in science is much discussed among philosophers—it is not at all a simple question. But to many materialists it seems to mean lower, cruder, and more trivial. By this way of thinking, the further we push toward a more basic understanding of things, the more we are immersed in meaningless, brutish bits of matter."

Stephen M. Barr, a theoretical particle physicist (PhD from Princeton University), has held research positions at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.  In 1987, he joined the faculty of the University of Delaware, where he is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Director of its Bartol Research Institute. His research centers on “grand unified theories” and the cosmology of the early universe.  He has written 150 research papers, as well as the article on “Grand Unification” for the Encyclopedia of Physics. He has lectured widely on the relation of science and religion and is the author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, A Student’s Guide to Natural Science, and Science and Religion: The Myth of Conflict. He is also President of the Society of Catholic Scientists.