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The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science Hardcover – June 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 2nd Printing edition (June 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573929778
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573929776
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Bringing twentieth-century sophistication to Laplace's famous eighteenth-century dismissal of God as an unnecessary hypothesis, Edis deploys a rigorous scientific materialism to explain all the marvels of religious faith. That means exorcising spiritual forces from all the miracles of scriptural tradition, from every transport of psychological ecstasy, from every inspiring moral reflection. Edis effects this cosmic exorcism by invoking astrophysics to explain the earth's creation and evolutionary biology to account for the emergence of the human mind. In his zeal to establish his godless credo, Edis challenges not only the precepts of Judaism and Christianity but also those of Islam and New Age mysticism. Of course, religious readers will resist the attempt to compress all truth within the scope of rational demonstration. Some of the devout may even suspect that Edis is conceding more than he realizes when in his conclusion he admits that--despite all of their scientific inadequacies--scriptural poetry and sacred myth still speak to deep human needs. A careful defense of empirical reasoning. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"...a thoughtful reflection on the problems of belief in God by someone who has wrestled honestly with these questions." -- Research News and Opportunities in Science and Theology

"...engaging, well-written...presents scientific naturalism at its best. Highly recommended." -- Free Inquiry, Winter 2002

"...good enough to benefit believers and nonbelievers alike." -- The Skeptic

"...may be one of the few truly essential books about science and religion of recent times." -- Skeptical Inquirer, Nov/Dec 2003

"...offers alternative ways to look at and understand the world around us..." -- About.com

"a substantive book about science, religion and philosophy...extensive research demonstrated in numerous footnotes and an excellent index..." -- Rain Taxi Review of Books, Winter 2002/2003

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

I mean, the book has a lot of value, in a lot of different areas.
Dark Music Domain
In fact, in intelligent opposition, Edis has shown a great deal of respect for the religious view.
R. Hardy
This is great reading, challenging, insightful, thought provoking.
William Alexander

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Is there a God? Taner Edis has the answer to the big question, and he is qualified to submit an answer, given the amount of thinking he has done on it. A physicist, he has for years run the cerebral and entertaining e-mail Skeptic Discussion List...which is devoted to the discussion (read 'debunking') of such topics as astrology, psychic powers, creation 'science,' miracles, and more. So you can probably guess where he stands: There are thousands of gods you don't believe in, and chances are he believes in even fewer than you. In _The Ghost in the Universe: God in the Light of Modern Science_ (Prometheus Books), his first book, he tells why he thinks that a naturalistic view, based on science, is a better explanation for what we experience in the world than any reach for spiritual answers. It is clear, wide-ranging, and intelligent, and it brings in topics from philosophy and science explained at a level accessible to readers with no expertise in those fields. It perhaps will swing no one from the spiritual camp, but those who wish to stay within it with intellectual vigor will do well to examine the arguments here.
Edis starts with philosophical proofs of God: 'A perfect being must exist, since if it did not, it would not be perfect. Having made God pop into existence by sheer force of logic, we now break out the champagne.' They carry little weight, even among believers, who are more likely to favor stories of a God who created and maintains the universe. Even the argument that there has to be a first cause God is a strong one that withers under quantum physics. We are used, in day to day life, to examining causes and effects, but we are guilty of looking only in our own scale of neighborhood.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Dark Music Domain on May 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have an interesting perspective on Taner Edis. As a fourth-year biology undergraduate at Truman State University (where Edis teaches), I have heard him speak twice. The first time was a short speech to a small group of Freethinkers about the subjects covered in his book. The second time was an afternoon Science Hall lecture on design in the universe. In that lecture, he identified the two elements of "design": chance and necessity. Purpose was not one of them, which may have been one of the many things that upset a fellow science professor (a rather belligerent old Creationist) to the point that he referred to Edis as "the Inquisition." I assure you, the label is unwarranted. I have never run into a more intelligent, unbiased "skeptic" in my life ...
Edis's book synthesizes a lot of material from history, theology, philosophy, and science. He deftly addresses not only Christianity, but also Judaism and Islam. The material is very in-depth, though, requiring some sort of elementary understand of the aforementioned subjects prior to reading the book.
In stark contrast to Christian apologists, Edis takes a rather passive approach to God and other theological matters, free from insults and judgements. He never identifies himself as an atheist - only as a skeptic. And it becomes clear to the reader at several points in the book that Edis has a profound and legitimate interest in the concept of God - far from the idea, perpetuated by many Christians, that non-Christians are just out to get Jesus. Edis has a quiet respect for some elements of religion, and a quiet disgust for some of the fundamentalist interpretations of reality.
Because Edis's book is so full of all kinds of information, there is little I want to say about the arguments presented against God. It's not like that, really.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By H J Coulter on January 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the best book on science and religion that I've read in a long time. Most others I've read were either too obviously stuck in a certain philosophical point of view, were too hostile to religion, or defended religion by too much unconvincing "it might be"s. Edis leaves no doubt that he thinks modern science makes all supernatural beliefs untenable, but does so without hostility to religion. I especially liked how he explained the attractive aspects of religious ideas before going on to show that his naturalistic approach does a better job. I was also impressed by his discussing Islam and the New Age as much as Christian ideas, and the fact that he emphasized modern, liberal defenses of God and religion rather than bashing obviously absurd fundamentalist beliefs.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By William Alexander on July 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A physicist tackles the ultimate question: is there any reason to believe in any type of god? Bringing together and harmonizing insights in the fields of philosophy, biology, physics, the brain sciences, history, human morality, and scripture revelation, the author argues that what is becoming more obvious as we advance in these realms of knowledge is that there is no evidence whatsoever that there is a superior being presiding over the universe. His argument is clear and well presented. The distinct advantage that this book has over others that attempt to address this same question is that it evaluates it from so many divergent perspectives. Not all of this material is easy reading, but it is all insightful and though provoking.
Although there continue to be scientists, philosophers, and historians that believe in some sort of transcendent being, the details of these disciplines are revealing that if there is a god, he is certainly not the God humans have come to assume: law-giving, personal, imminent, and omni-benevolent. One of the boldest assertions herein is the admission of the fact that evolutionary biology has taught us that the universe is indifferent, disinterested, and amoral. While liberal Christians and believing scientists struggle to reconcile evolution with divine revelation, the stark truth is that the idea of a personal, caring God is completely incompatible with the indifference and randomness of evolution. Quantum physics has taught us that the reality that we are accustomed to where every effect has a cause that precedes it is not the reality in the sub-microscopic world. In that world events happen without a cause, particles and anti-particles randomly pop into existence from a seething energy field before quickly annihilating one another.
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