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Natural Philosophy: A Survey of Physics and Western Thought Review by Heidi Shaw

By: David Snoke
ARN (Access Research Network)

From the folks that brought us Real Science 4 Kids, this is an intriguing, challenging addition to the homeschool science arena. It is exciting to see what is being produced for, and by, homeschooling families as our children progress into high school.

Natural Philosophy is an intense and rigorous combination of philosophy, theology, and mathematical physics; and it is very cool!Very different from any physics course ever seen before, you won't find anything 'fluffy' or 'light' in this volume. Designed for a year long course of physics or even a college intro class, Natural Philosophy contains topics not covered in any conventional science texts at this level.

Now, I am not a scientist and I feel a bit inadequate reviewing this level, but I do have a parent's perspective. I have graduated two of my children on to college and I can tell you, this book covers everything I would want my teen to contemplate before leaving home. I am thankful to have found it now before the next three are ready to go!

Physics is taught in NP, in the context of Judeo/Christian theology, philosophy, and western culture. As the publishers hope, I predict, once homeschooling families discover this course, they will be entranced and fascinated, not frightened, as happens with so many higher level science courses. This is a very real and comprehensive alternative to products currently available, and in my humble opinion, far superior.

At first glance, what intrigued me about Natural Philosophy was what I didn't find there. Simple machines, inclined planes, and the like are not front and center here. The reason why, I was to discover, is that there are two separate kinds of physics courses. This book covers the second kind, or 'Natural', physics. This course answers the questions,"What should every educated person know about physics, assuming they may never study physics again?"

I LOVE this approach. Rather that filling page after page with info that only a science major or engineering student needs to know, this book presents the types of questions and answers that modern physicists actually think about! Of course NP prepares the budding scientist just as comprehensively. Nothing essential to a superior science course has been left out; the focus is what is different. Be prepared for lots of discussion and a fair amount of debate, as your traditionally held assumptions may be shaken a bit. The author believes it is as important for high school students to be well acquainted with the philosophical and theological questions as it is for them to be expert in machinery and equations. Therefore, there are many fairly advanced topics of philosophy and Christian theology and the student will delve deeply into them.

Your student will also need to be up on his/her math. This is a physics course, and my son found the mathematical portions quite rigorous, requiring him to use his Algebra skills frequently. It is all presented in such a unique and distinctly Christian context. Alongside equations on quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, it includes passages on Bible Study and philosophy dealing with issues such as the problem of evil and the problem of certainty"(quote from inside jacket).

You will meet scientific personalities in each chapter and read about their lives and achievements. Well known names such as Bacon, Newton, and Kelvin are studied alongside mathematical laws and states of matter. Right alongside you will find practical applications such as in Chapter 4 - 'How Does A Refrigerator Work?' All formulas and laws of traditional physics are included and how to use them. Also available is an Answer/Solution guide. I was happy to see this made available only recently as my original review copy didn't have any solutions, and I was more than a bit intimidated by what we were encountering.

The solution manual has detailed answers to all the problems presented in the text and should enable you and your student to enjoy your journey down the road of Natural Physics. The publisher, Access Research Network, is a non-profit educational organization and has an amazingly vast array of materials available. They offer articles, books, videos, and articles having to do with Christian perspectives in today's world of science and technology.

Society is changing all around us and we as Christians are under more and more pressure to 'bend' our worldviews than ever before. Organizations like ARN help us to stand firm and not be shaken. I encourage you to visit their website and see for yourself what is available. I personally want my sons and daughters to be well educated in all aspects of life, and I believe this course will help prepare them for the lifetime of discussion, theology, and debate that is most likely ahead of them. As they they learn to daily walk out their faith, I am thrilled that courses like this are available to guide them. The author of Natural Philosophy, David Snoke, has a degree in Physics from Cornell and a Ph.D. in Physics as well. He is written and published several books on the subject and is well published in many refereed scientific journals. In other words, he knows whereof he speaks!

To top it off, Dr. Snoke and his wife homeschool their own children for the past 14+ years and have taught the content of this book in their own homeschool group. Grab this book for your high school students and hang on to your hat. Your dinnertime may never be quiet again. You may however lose some of that 'school-bred' fear of the word physics. I did, and I highly recommend Natural Philosophy. Oh, and it is non- consumable and very reasonably priced. A very nice plus indeed.

-- Product Review by: Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine