Taner Edis

Free Inquiry, January 2003

Ghostbuster for the Cosmos

Tom Flynn

This engaging, well-written book explores one of the Big Questions: does a scientific understanding of the cosmos require (or leave any room for) belief in a god or the supernatural? Edis, an assistant professor of physics at Truman State University, covers the waterfront from astronomy to biology to quantum physics and concludes that there’s neither room nor need for the divine hypothesis.

With relentless reason but also with ready wit, Edis examines and refutes the claims religious believers have made on behalf of science. He also offers scientific and skeptical analyses of major religions’ core truth claims. If we look at early Christianity or Islam in the light of science, what can we still believe in?

Edis constructs one of the most thoroughgoing, multifaceted defenses of the naturalistic viewpoint available, coupled with fair-minded but powerful refutations of key religious truth claims. Ghost in the Universe is truly an accessible “World View 101” for curious secular humanists. (An excerpt appeared as “An Accidental World” in the Fall 2002 FREE INQUIRY.) Yet by book’s end, Edis concedes that religion may have an important function after all—not to encapsulate physical truth or to limn the avenues of the Celestial City, but rather as a vehicle for presenting evocative, allegorical truths about the human condition. Personally, I cling to the hope that humans may finally have developed enough control over their universe that more of us can dare to live without evocative allegories—to take our reality straight. But Edis adds a powerful twist to his conclusion when he calls for humans to construct new myths as evocative as the ancient allegories but based firmly in the scientific worldview.

Ghost in the Universe presents scientific naturalism at its best. Highly recommended.

Tom Flynn is the editor of FREE INQUIRY.

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