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.
Current discussions in the West on the relation of science and religion focus mainly on science's uneasy relationship with the traditional Judeo-Christian view of life. But a parallel controversy exists in the Muslim world regarding ways to integrate science with Islam. As physicist Taner Edis shows in this fascinating glimpse into contemporary Muslim culture, a good deal of popular writing in Muslim societies attempts to address such perplexing questions as:
Is Islam a "scientific religion"?
Were the discoveries of modern science foreshadowed in the Quran?
Are intelligent design conjectures more appealing to the Muslim perspective than Darwinian explanations?
Edis examines the range of Muslim thinking about science and Islam, from blatantly pseudoscientific fantasies to comparatively sophisticated efforts to "Islamize science. From the world's strongest creationist movements to bizarre science-in-the-Quran apologetics, popular Muslim approaches promote a view of natural science as a mere fact-collecting activity that coexists in near-perfect harmony with literal-minded faith. Since Muslims are keenly aware that science and technology have been the keys to Western success, they are eager to harness technology to achieve a Muslim version of modernity. Yet at the same time, they are reluctant to allow science to become independent of religion and are suspicious of Western secularization.
Edis examines all of these conflicting trends, revealing the difficulties facing Muslim societies trying to adapt to the modern technological world. His discussions of both the parallels and the differences between Western and Muslim attempts to harmonize science and religionmake for a unique and intriguing contribution to this continuing debate.
Most books on the relationship between religion and science have been written from a Judeo-Christian perspective not so in this case. Edis (physics, Truman State Univ.; The Ghost in the Universe), son of a secularist Turkish father and a nonreligious American mother, grew up in a Westernized area of the secular Republic of Turkey, where Islam was recognized but not stressed in public schools. His relationship to Islam, while unbelieving, comes across here as one of respect. His argument is really in alignment with those who see all of modern science as having been prefigured in the Qur'an, and he points out the often-tortured interpretation of the text to which this leads. Edis argues for a more liberal Islam, one that would peacefully coexist with science and recognize the proper spheres for science and religion. He is doing for Islam and science what Mohammed Arkoun through books like Rethinking Islam has been doing for Islam and literary criticism of the Qur'an. Recommended for popular religion collections, especially those with a Muslim clientele, although many Muslims are sure to reject Edis's presuppositions about the Qur'an.