Okay, a few weeks back I promised some thoughts on Stephen Barr's book. Well, let me first of all say that it's great reading, and it's stimulating information. And while I'm sure he worked at getting it all down to a less scientific reading level, it's also challenging! There are lots of technical explanations of various processes and theories, so I do recommend it, but let's just say I've had to renew it 3 times from my library 'cause it ain't no 1-hour read!
The book revolves around what Barr calls 5 "plot twists" along the way of trying to write off religion and approach the universe in an exclusively materialistic philosophy. He introduces these early, then the remainder of the book is opening up each plot twist from a scientific point of view.
#1 The Big Bang points to a beginning. Materialism had posited an eternal universe, where matter had always existed. This wasn't a new thought (ancient pagan Greeks also thought this) but much of the 19th and 20th century scientists pushed the idea. But evidence pointing to the Big Bang points to a beginning.
#2 The complexity and beauty of the mathematics underlying the laws of physics and the even deeper laws that seem to govern those laws does not answer the question of "why the universe?" In fact it seems to beg the question even further, moving it to the front of discussion.
#3 "The universe and its laws seem in some respects to be balanced on a knife-edge..." Movement either way, and life doesn't exist. There are a series of "anthropic coincidences" that defy the chance-requirements of naturalistic materialism.
#4 The existence of human intellect pushes us to see the human mind as more than just machine.
#5 Quantum theory has brought about a revolution in the scientific determinism inherint in materialism.
This is obviously a very brief summary of the book. But if you're interested in learning some scientific facts and seeing how those facts point for or against materialism as a philosophical explanation of the universe, I recommend this book.