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An Illusion of Harmony: Science And Religion in Islam Hardcover – January 2, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Taner Edis (Kirksville, MO), born and raised in Turkey, is an associate professor of physics at Truman State University and the author of The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science and Science and Nonbelief, among other publications.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (January 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591024498
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591024491
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Taner Edis was born in Istanbul, 1967, to Turkish and American parents. After completing his undergraduate work at Boğaziçi University, he received his Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1994, in theoretical and computational condensed matter physics. Working in diverse areas, from atmospheric modeling with collaborators at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to the philosophy of machine intelligence, he is currently professor of physics at Truman State University, Kirksville, MO.

Fascinated by the plethora of supernatural and fringe science beliefs around him, and concerned about the rise of Islamist politics back in Turkey, Edis first got involved with skeptical inquiry into religious and paranormal claims during his graduate studies. He has since written and spoken extensively on such subjects, particularly on the topic of anti-evolutionary thought. His writing has characteristically combined scientific rigor with an ability to reach a broad audience.

Edis's first book, The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science, an accessible defense of a naturalistic view of the world, was published by Prometheus Books, and received the Morris D. Forkosch award for "best humanist book of 2002." With Matt Young, he co-edited Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism. Hen then wrote Science and Nonbelief, and, most recently, An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam, which is a unique examination of science, religion and pseudoscience in a Muslim context.

While working on his writing, Edis also finds devious ways to get his students to understand physics, serves as a slave to some very self-satisfied cats, and grumbles about his wife being away at conferences too often. He is also a great fan of science fiction, where playing fast and loose with the laws of physics is not only acceptable, but positively fun.

Taner Edis can be reached through his web site, edis.sites.truman.edu

Customer Reviews

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Edis leaves the question of whether one of the alternatives might work for science open.
Harry Eagar
Islamic creationism and reactions from Islam to science through time are the core focus of the book.
F. Ramos
This is a rare book, informative and precise, yet perfectly accessible to the non-expert.
E. Schechter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on March 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With one famous exception, Muslims don't live in caves. They like the control, convenience and power that technology gives to otherwise weak humans as well as anybody else does. But they conspicuously do not feel comfortable with the "why" questions that underlie the "how" questions that technology answers. That is, to the extent (small as a proportion of the whole umma) that Muslims turn toward modernity, they turn to engineering, not to research science.

Taner Edis, a physicist educated in the allegedly most secular of Muslim countries, Turkey, asks how this came about and whether there is any chance that science, as westerners understand it, could ever become as much a part of Muslim societies as it has in western countries and, as he notes, a few others, like Japan.

Not to give away the ending, but, no, not likely.

Because Islam is based on a sacred text, and because almost all Muslims remain committed to a fundamentalist conception of the text's inerrancy, Edis must start by asking what, if anything, the Koran says about science. Answer: not much, but because of a predilection for finding all things in the sacred words (Koran and hadith), the scholars spend a lot of energy trying to find it.

After setting the stage, he then asks how leading Muslim thinkers have conceived of science and its relation to the restrictions of the Koran. Of course, at this point, Edis might have stopped. Once restrictions are imposed, science slows down or stops. Though Edis, unlike some other commentators, speaks respectfully about Islam, this requires a certain indifference to the elephant in the room -- Islam has not contributed anything to modern science.

It contributed to medieval science, but that was a different animal.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P. S. Braterman on December 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Islam is, to quote the book, "under reconstruction" as the billion-strong Muslim world, seeking parity with the West, attempts to come to terms with modernity and all that that implies. The author, a Turkish American physicist, is particularly well qualified to comment on this process, and has brought a scholarly approach to bear on an extremely wide range of material, most of it from English language or Turkish language sources. In doing so, he has shown a rare ability to describe in sympathetic terms points of view with which he does not agree, and those who open this book hoping to find yet another anti-Islamic rant will be disappointed. Indeed, the contrasts drawn are not always in the West's favor, especially when we come to compare unbridled individualism with the Islamic concern for community.

Modernity implies technology, and technology depends on science. But science relies on observation, continually modifies and refines its own conclusions, and accepts only natural explanations. This is in direct contrast to the dominant strains of Muslim epistemology, which give pride of place to revelation, especially the final perfect revelation embodied in the Quran, and to faith in an all-powerful God active and manifest in the world. Edis describes a wide range of attempts to resolve this conflict, from the rise (and fall) of Kemalism, to medieval style attempts to subordinate science to theology, to the promotion by those who should know better of the pseudoscience of creationism and Intelligent Design.

The conflict between science and faith is of course not peculiar to the Muslim world, and in his final section the author discusses this conflict in more general terms as he speculates about how it will develop in the future. Here again, his appraisal is much more nuanced than one might have expected from a self-proclaimed Enlightenment rationalist, leaving believers and unbelievers alike with much to reflect on.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By F. Ramos on November 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Taner Edis has done the world a huge favor in writing this book on Islam and Science through time. This kind of relationa is really rare to find due to lack of interest or flat out ignorance on the topics.

This is an honest book that is objective and Taner (of Turkish descent) does not say more than is needed to make his point. Muslims who read this book will of course be disturbed by some facts of historical Islam, but won't come out offended or feel like the author was aiming to ridicule Islam, because he writes in a calm, objective manner. He's after facts not slander.

Islamic creationism and reactions from Islam to science through time are the core focus of the book.

Here is a short synopsis of what is contained within the book:

Discussion of Islam in Turkey
Historical Islamic Views of Science
Different Views of Science from Modern Islam
Scientific Progress and Technological Advances in Muslim Countries
Speed of Technological Progress and Comparison to Western Scientific Progress
Examples of Islamic Creationism and Critiques of Maurice Bucaille, Harun Yahya, and other Islamo-scientific apologetics
Islamic View of History and Social Sciences and their Applications
Islam's Reaction to the West and Modernization (Resistance and Acceptance)
Conservative and Liberal Islamic Views of Science
The Author's Personal View of Science and Belief Systems

This book should be read with Bucaille's Book
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