Taner Edis, born and raised in Turkey, is 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. His latest book is An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam.
In this wide-ranging conversation with D.J. Grothe, Taner Edis explains reasons he thinks religion persists, and explores the complex relationship between science and nonbelief, detailing how the institutional interests of science may prevent some in the science community from working to diminish religion, the New Atheists excepted. He talks about how scientific theories are often misused by paranormalists and supernaturalists to advance their cultural position, focusing on the New Age movement’s use of quantum physics and on the intelligent design movement. He examines differences between science and pseudoscience, arguing that often it is not possible to demarcate what is uniquely science. And he surveys various scientific approaches of examining religion, such as rational choice theory, the secularization hypothesis, and various evolutionary approaches, such as group selection theory, the byproduct theory of religion, and memetic approaches (that religion is a “virus of the mind”).