>> 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?
I got a lot out of _The Third Culture_ (Ed: John Brockman) George C. Williams, Steve Gould, Richard Dawkins, Brian Goodwin, Steve Jones, Niles Eldridge, Lynn Margulis, Marvin Minsky, Roger Schank, Daniel C. Dennett, Nicholas Humphrey, Francisco Varela, Steven Pinker, Roger Penrose, Martin Rees, Alan Guth, Lee Smolin, Paul Davies, Murray Gell-Mann, Stuart Kauffman, Chris Langton, J. Doyne Farmer and Danny Hillis all present their views followed by comments from the other authors. It's quite rare to find a book like this, with critical assessment built in.
>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.
I have had a similar experience studing evolutionary biology in university. In my opinion everyone should study at least one scientific discipline to its foundations.