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Natural Science: The Best Explanation,
This review is from: The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science (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. In the quantum world, things happen without being caused, and the Big Bang was a quantum event; the chain back to the first cause is broken. Of course Evolution is covered, in only a chapter, which shows that Edis's book is about much more. Edis shows how the physics of the universe has a random foundation, and randomness can be harnessed to ratchet up to increasing complexities. No designer, intelligent or otherwise, is needed. He critiques the scriptures, including the Quran, as human creations. He shows that psychological and neurological evidence indicates that our brains are engaged in examining an unmagical world, and spirits, souls, or direct contact with some ultimate reality are all equally unlikely. He sees no transcendent moral reality, no good and evil 'out there'; morals instead are a product of our genes and our social, collective effort to live together and incorporate conflicting interests.
Believers should be grateful that they have such a gentle critic. It could only be a fundamentalist of insecure faith who would accuse Edis of trashing religion. In fact, in intelligent opposition, Edis has shown a great deal of respect for the religious view. He also reveals himself to be a fan of the stories religions tell, because they can explain a good deal about ourselves. Most will think that this will be giving the stories too little credit, but as he repeatedly says in acknowledging how little certainty we have, it is good enough. His book is certainly good enough to benefit believers and nonbelievers alike.
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Initial post: Jun 18, 2008 1:04:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 18, 2008 1:06:50 PM PDT
B. Lee says:
The low hanging fruit is fun to swing at, but I find it curious that none of those demanding supportable evidence for the universe as explained by the various world religions never seem similarly inclined to question the evidence for the possibility of a universe without a creator. After all, without a miracle (disallowed!), causation never would have caused anything. A beginning to existence caused by something else merely points to an earlier, more distant beginning, but endless recursiveness need not be examined. Instead, we can skip to the very most beginning of the first thing or agency before which there was no thing or agency and simply ask the open minded secularist: how is it that we are here?
There is no answer. A universe without creation is no universe at all, therefore creation is thereby proved. The schoolyard logic response "who created God" is no help, for religionists allow for God to work the miracles required for existence to exist, whereas athiests have no such recourse.
This does not address the question of which, if any, religion is true, or truer than any other, only that it is stupid to deny the existence of a supernatural agency that created the universe. From that point, the examination of why it is that the universe is so spectacularly compatible with the possibility for the development of life can be better grounded in reality, I think, and the further truth that humankind is essentially as miraculous as existence itself can be more fairly entertained.
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