Re: Great books for young people?

Void where inhibited (
Tue, 29 Dec 1998 02:15:58 -0500 (EST)

On Tue, 29 Dec 1998, Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko wrote:

> I am trying to suggest some good book to a 16yo correspondent
> with a religious background who is trying to find interesting ways
> to look at the world and see what's out there.
> Do you have any suggestions of books that could open somebody's
> mind to the marvels of science, provide interesting new views on
> science, religion, world, and humans, or generally inspire, without
> being too specialized, or difficult?
> What books impressed you most when you were in high school?

What's your friend's opinions on evolution? If your correspondent is a creationist, I highly reccomend _Climbing Mount Improbable_ by Richard Dawkins.

Studying physics was a real eye-opener for me in high school. All too often, I find, people are prepared to say that things work outside the physical laws as we know them. While this isn't logically inconsistent, only after I studied physics for a while did I come to get an idea of how much physics explains; ie how much we'd have to throw away if we decided to throw out physics. Any metaphysical theory that attempts to explain miracles had better explain at least as much as Newtonian mechanics can.

As far as science goes, I was in raptures over Drexler's _Engines of Creation_. I bought a copy for my mother. (She still hasn't read it, unfortunately...)

The computer/mind paradigm was also very interesting and important in my own development. There are a variety of good books on this topic. I'd reccomend Godel, Escher, Bach but I don't think it would be all that compelling unless one was already somewhat convinced of the computational theory of mind in the first place. To this end, I might instead reccomend Steven Pinker's _How the Mind Works_.

Similarly, studying ethical philosophy was another turning point for me; however, this subject is sufficiently broad as to consume all of the other reading combined. :) Having taken excellent courses which dealt with the question of ethics, I can only really advocate taking a good class with a good teacher.

I may think of some more later.