Required reading for science majors

The geoblogosphere (as well as the broader world of science blogs) has a meme going around:

Imagine: YOU are asked to assign a half-dozen-or-so books as required reading for ALL science majors at a college as part of their 4-year degree; NOT technical or text books, but other works, old or new, touching upon the nature of science, philosophy, thought, or methodology in a way that a practicing scientist might gain from. [This is the wording from Highly Allochthonous, but there are many other blogs which are doing the same]

Here’s my list of a book collection that would be beneficial for an undergraduate in any science major. I have included a couple books by Christian authors, as these would help both Christian and non-Christian students to have a fuller understanding of the relationship between science and faith than they would get from reading Dawkins or Sagan.

  • Geology: The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Young and Stearley. This is not only a polemic against young-Earth creationism, but an excellent introduction to the science of geology, with sections on the historical development, philosophy, and major subdivisions of the science.
  • Environment: Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. Christianity is not the enemy of the environment, but Christians sometimes are. Schaeffer saw clearly that we are in a massive ecological crisis, and pointed to a Christian world view as the solution rather than the source of the problem.
  • Biology: The Creation by E.O. Wilson. The author is a skeptic, but recognizes the need to have religious people involved in the fight to preserve biodiversity, which is the theme of the book. This book opened my eyes to the wonder of Genesis 1:20-25, where the waters, skies, and land swarmed with swarms of living creatures, and it was good. We now live in an impoverished world.
  • Physics: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman. This physics professor was able to explain foundational physics topics like no other.
  • Chemistry: Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs by Joe Schwarcz (or another book by him; this is the one I’ve read). This book is proof that even chemists can have fun and a sense of humor.
  • Philosophy of Science: What is This Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers. Every science undergraduate should read a philosophy of science book, and this one is a good overview of the various philosophies of science, such as those of Popper, Kuhn, and others. My one critique: like most other philosophers of science, Chalmers focuses on the experimental sciences. Geology doesn’t operate by all of the same rules as do chemistry and physics.
  • Plus anything by Stephen Jay Gould, just to read some really good science writing.

Grace and Peace

One thought on “Required reading for science majors

  1. You might like “Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley, although it isn’t strictly a book to be in the top 10 or so of science, but it could get non-scientists interested in science. It’s a book containing some of his essays. Some seem like they could be interpreted as showing a spiritual wonder about the natural world – or maybe it’s just an amazing wonder described very well.


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