Taner Edis

RNOST, February 2003

Unsigned note in Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology, Feb. 2003, vol. 3, no. 6, p. 21.

The Ghost in the Universe

“I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose.” This quote, attributed to Clarence Darrow, appears at the beginning of the introduction to The Ghost in the Universe. This well-written volume, by Truman State University physics professor Taner Edis, is a sustained interdisciplinary defense of modern atheism. In particular, Edis would like to defend the idea that all of the phenomena normally explained in the context of the world religions can be far better explained in the context of a modern naturalistic and thoroughly scientific view of the world.

Edis ranges broadly over the various terrain where discussions of the existence of God typically occur. He argues that philosophical arguments about God are rather unsuccessful in establishing or refuting the notion of God; Darwinian evolution does away with the idea of old-fashioned creationism and does not require intelligent design; modern cosmology shows that the universe was not designed for human beings and that the laws of physics should not be understood as the expressions of a divine will. Venturing beyond science, Edis argues that the various scriptures of the world religions are unreliable, largely fictional accounts of events which, while interesting and inspiring, have very little historical plausibility. In particular, he critiques the notion that the New Testament can be read as providing any satisfactory reasons to believe in a “risen Lord.” Miracles and the experiences of mystics are similarly rejected, and scientific counter-explanations for those phenomena are offered in their place.

The Ghost in the Universe has a consistent pro-scientific tone, but the author has gone to considerable efforts to understand both Christianity and Islam and raises important questions about theism within the context of those religions. Edis has a strong background in Islam, and recalls being a boy in Turkish schools and learning to celebrate “the conquering march of Muslim armies.” He then goes on to admit that, “It took me long to realize I was being taught to feel pride in pillage and enslavement.” The Ghost in the Universe is a thoughtful reflection on the problems of belief in God by someone who has wrestled honestly with these questions and has come down on the side of atheism.

A good review, especially considering that RNOST is basically a Templeton Foundation outfit.

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