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Science and Nonbelief (Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion)
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on January 21, 2008
Taner Edis has written a marvelously critical overview of where naturalism and supernaturalism collide. Books in this vein tend to be overly biased in favor of one side or the other, but Edis somehow maintains an edge of skepticism toward even his own viewpoints. Strength rests in this book where it points out the incomplete and weak areas of a fully naturalistic account of existence. The tactic utilized seemed to be very effective in that, generally speaking, he shows why naturalistic accounts are the best explanations, why their supernaturalistic rivals are woefully inadequate or just plain wrong, and then he points out the potential weak spots for those who hold to naturalism. I found this approach especially refreshing seeing that this method invites critical reflection on the issues at hand - something that the epistemological methodology of supernatural belief often lacks.

Chapter 1: Science, Philosophy, and Religious Doubt

This chapter is a very good overview for framing the thesis of the book. It contains the historical background of science, philosophy, and doubt and traces their beginnings in ancient Greece, their revitalization during the Enlightenment and how this trend is (and isn't) being carried into today. This chapter also gives a good introduction to the meta-representational differences between naturalism and supernaturalism.

Chapter 2: An Accidental World

Providing a primer on our current and mature physical picture of the universe, Edis explains why "commonsense" notions of believing in a Designer-god such as the "anthropic principle" are inadequate when one has a good understanding of physics. I especially enjoyed the exposition of "symmetry breaking" and how this very simple principle accounts for much of the "design" often pointed to.

Chapter 3: Darwinian Creativity

Makes the case for evolution and its centrality to understanding biology. Edis tackles a wide range of topics ranging from entropy to the ways in which evolution has been reconciled with religious beliefs, from pseudo-scientific Intelligent Design to the propagandist-driven American and Islamic creationism.

Chapter 4: Minds without Souls

Utilizing neuroscience, this chapter explains why the dualistic notion of a soul or non-material essence is superfluous to a complete understanding of the human mind.

Chapter 5: The Fringes of Science

Following in the grand tradition of debunking nonsense, UFO's, psychics, parapsychology, and miracles are judiciously dealt with.

Chapter 6: Explaining Religion

Drawing from the burgeoning and related fields of cognitive science and evolutionary psychology, Edis successfully shows why a naturalistic account of religious psychological phenomena is effective, even if incomplete. It is also correctly pointed out that a cognitive-scientific account of non-belief is needed to complement our understanding.

Chapter 7: Morality and Politics

Edis takes the exceptionally large issues covered in the book and expounds on their political environment and outlines some of the most common methods and tacts utilized. Covered here as well is explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of morality without a Heavenly Watcher, contrasted with the strengths and weaknesses of traditional transcendental schemes. The author concludes on a stark note, one that I won't spoil for the potential reader.

These annotations on the chapters do not and cannot do the volume justice. Edis weaves the thematic content of each chapter into a very coherent whole of a very readable and intellectually rich book.
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on March 10, 2016
Excellent insights.
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on August 25, 2015
Worth to read it! highly recommended
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on May 26, 2013
Whereas Science is involved with the investigation of the secular (Natural) world, Religion is about morality for which it employs and depends on a supernatural world with supernatural entities. The problem for religion is the threat science poses by being capable to disprove and refute many of religion's claims. Taner Edis discusses the differences between these two domains in a very clear and understandable manner in his book SCIENCE AND NONBELIEF.
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on July 17, 2008
Truth is, I just finished the book and I'm not sure what to write. My feeling towards the book is one of ambivalence. It was a bit dry, somewhat technical at times (at least for me), and I didn't always understand what the author was trying to say. Too often I found myself rereading paragraphs trying to understand the point, not always successfully. Overall, the book needs a glossary and some spark. The best part for me was the collection of short essays at the end by other authors. Their points were clear, straightforward, and had "spark." I rate the book 3.5 stars.
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on April 19, 2008
Of all the books I've read on this topic, this one takes the cake. Edis presents well-thought out, logical, and unbiased arguments - a combination particularly difficult to find on a subject like this. The author examines each of his topics thoroughly, and his writing demonstrates skill, fair-mindedness, and expertise that far exceeds other books I have read on science and nonbelief. This book expounds complex ideas in a digestible way that holds the reader's interest while introducing intricate concepts and ideas. Edis explicates the politics and history behind creationism, intelligent design, and Darwinism in addition to their principles, claims, and assertions. It is quite easy to take this author's writings seriously because he does not make the mistake of appearing elevated, bombastic, or egotistical; he simply offers the facts and spreads his prodigious knowledge on to the rest of us.
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on May 14, 2008
If all physicists had the grasp of philosophy, biology, human prehistory, religion and new age bunkum that this writer has the world would have been a better place. Having read Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Paul Kurtz, Sam Harris, Matt Ridley, Steven Weinberg, Jared Diamond, Peter Watson, Frederick Streng, Peter J Gould, Joseph Campbell, Ninian Smart, Michael Shermer, Stephen Hawking, Simon Blackburn, Philip Kitcher, Charles Freeman, Karen Armstrong, Hector Avalos, Robert M Price and many others, Taner Edis stands apart with this single volume that introduces the reader to just about all the important topics that these writers have explored.

The book (dare I call it a landmark publication?) leads the reader effortlessly through all the important topics related to nonbelief. The style is clear and convincing, the scope expansive and the author self-assured and well informed. His insights are wider than most of his peers and his exposition of the subject convincing. Unlike Dawkins he never snaps at religion, unlike Harris he doesn't stop short at vague mysticism, and unlike anyone else I've read his understanding of the central issues seems unmatched. And he adds just that touch of sarcasm where opportune, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle's "oracular" reputation outside physical science being a juicy example. I also appreciated his unapologetic naming of the phenomenon under discussion as nonbelief rather than atheism, agnosticism or "bright-ism".

And he puts his finger on the pulse when he laments science and skepticism's standing in society amid the pseudosciences, new age bunkum and other intellectual hallucinations.

Perhaps in the next edition (which I look forward to) the author might choose to expand on the indoctrination of very young children and the philosophical anaemia of praying. But even with minor shortcomings (from my subjective point of view, I must add) this remains an excellent book as an introduction, reference or thoughtful gift.

This book stands on my "favourites" shelf next to the Bible, Quran, Bhagavad-Gita and The Origin of Species, and henceforth Taner Edis is my author of choice. I'd have given the book ten stars if I could.
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on May 23, 2009
This book presents a very comprehensive and fair-minded accessment of how science and religion differ in shaping human thoughts about life and the nature of our universe. Additionally and of equal importance, it offers an extensive description of the socio-political implications that these differences hold for a society such as ours in the USA. While it is written in language for an intellectually astute audience, I recommend this book for skeptics and believers alike. It will open a few eyes and a few minds.
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on July 9, 2008
Scientists have raised religious questions since the discipline's earliest development. Today many scientists are also nonbelievers - but can scientific inquiry and religious belief coexist? Science and Nonbelief is an overview detailing the history and theories of this relationship, examining scientific and spiritual developments alike. Any collection strong in science, philosophy or religion will find Science and Nonbelief a satisfying blend of inquiry and analysis.
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Taner Edis' SCIENCE AND NONBELIEF joins others in Greenwood's 'Guides to Science and Religion', examining ways in which science and religious belief co-exist. Major issues between the two from evolution to modern physics research and findings survey the political and scientific content of debates over science and non belief, consider the impact of theories and findings, and include plenty of primary source documents.
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