Gerald L. Schroeder, The
science of God: the convergence of scientific and biblical wisdom.
Free Press, 1997. 226 p indexes ISBN
since the rise of modern science, a number of scientific results have been
in blatant contradiction with traditional scriptural explanations of the
universe and of natural phenomena. It is almost symbolic that modern science
should have been inaugurated by the heliocentric Copernican model which
shifts the earth and human presence from the centrality given to these by
practically all the religious traditions of the human family. One has only
to refer to Andrew White’s classic, A
History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom,
published a century ago, for a litany of examples.
important is the fact that the methodology of modern science is very
different from, not to say contradictory to,
the religious approach to higher truths. This methodology stresses
empirical search, rather than poetic speculation, in the quest for
truth; it insists on observational concordance of hypothetically formulated
world views; it attaches little weight to ancient authorities, and it
does not prove its propositions by
quoting from hallowed texts or is not concerned with interpreting abstruse
passages to correspond to the latest findings of science; also, the
notions of reverence for higher authority and infallibility of scriptures
are not part of the scientific enterprise. And then there is the
indispensability of instruments and mathematics in the scientific quest.
this in no way undervalues the
profound insights, traditional relevance, and experiential validation of
religion and spirituality in the context of the human experience here below.
That is why it has not been difficult for many serious scientists to find
harmony between deep personal faith in matters transcending reason and
endeavors constrained by rationality and empiricism. Productive and creative
scientists from Kepler and Newton through Faraday and Maxwell to Einstein
and many more have been “religious’ in the best sense of the term, but
have generally kept away from mingling this aspect of their personal lives
with articles in the Physical Review or in the Journal of Neuroscience.
there have also been a number well-meaning scientists who have tried to
reconcile the sacred texts of their particular religious tradition or
denomination with the scientific results of their particular age. Hindu
pandits, Muslim imams, Christian clergy, Buddhist exponents,
Jewish scholars: all have, in their different ways, tried to show
that with intelligent understanding, the holy books of their
faiths embody some pretty sophisticated findings of modern physics
and astronomy, geology and biology. These are individuals whose scientific
sophistication is combined with deep commitment to their faith; and when
they see the onslaught of science with its utter indifference, not to say,
disregard, for the wisdom enshrined in their scriptures, they feel they
ought to do something about it.
book under review is the fruit
of such an urge. Its author is a (former
?) physicist, and he is convinced that the six-day creation of the Book of
Genesis can, by an ingenious mathematical transformation, and by
suitably interpreting gravitational potentials and general relativity, be
expanded to the 16 billion years or so of cosmic age, suggested by current
cosmogony. The author has no hesitation in declaring: “With the insights
of Einstein, we have discovered in the six days of Genesis the billions of
years during which the universe developed (p. 71).”
solve the puzzle, that a DAY is a terrestrial unit which has no cosmic
significance whatever, and that according to the Book of Genesis
"evening and the morning were the second day," waters, land and
the Earth appeared AFTER this, and that "God made two great
lights" (the sun and the moon) AFTER He had made the earth, the author
repeats what others have suggested, namely that the Biblical day in the
first Book does not refer to the terrestrial unit of time. And he goes to
give a new interpretation: “The description of time in the Bible is
divided two categories: the first six days and all the time thereafter (p.
45).” In this interpretation, humankind began one fine day with Adam and
Eve who lived for more than a century. Though one may accept that Adam and
Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel, one is left to wonder whence came Cain’s
wife on whom he fathered Enosh. But this is not the kind of question
answered in this book.
may be mentioned in passing that a similarly motivated author by the close
of the 19th century would have made the appropriate mathematical
transformation and appeals to electromagnetism or thermodynamics or whatever
else was in vogue then, to show that the six days of the first book of the
Pentateuch actually stood for a few hundred thousand years, for that was
what the physicists of the day proclaimed to be the age of the universe.
Indeed a fine lady by the name of Madame Blavatsky did something like this
in a fascinating work called “The Secret Doctrine.”
one reads a statement like, “... the 3,300 year-old Genesis 1:1 was
correct all along. There was a beginning,” one wonders if the author is
familiar with the Vedic tradition of the Hindus, much earlier in fact, by
which the universe was created literally, and not Einsteinianly, a few
billion years ago. But I am not sure what that proves.
first Big Bang, the Cambrian explosion, the expansion of the universe, the
evolution of the species: you name it. “The Bible related in thirty-one
verses, in a few hundred words, events spanning sixteen billion years....
The entire development of animal life is summarized in eight biblical
sentences.” To borrow a phrase from a Gershwin tune, who could ask for
chapter (5) on the Nature of God is a well written piece for Sunday
instruction of children of the Judaic tradition, but is likely to persuade
few of other faiths, if only because much of it deals with God, the Exodus,
and Israel. And a proclamation to the effect that “Of all the ancient
accounts of creation, only that of Genesis has warranted a second reading by
the scientific community (p. 80)” may not sit well in this multi-cultural
multi-religious world of ours. Also, the suggestion in this chapter to the
effect that miracles are “theoretically possible according to QM (p.74)”
is somewhat misleading: biblical (and all religious) miracles are not just
occurrences of highly improbable events (permitted by Quantum Mechanics),
but downright violation of basic physical laws at the macroscopic level,
which from the religious perspective, is possible only by divine
intervention. No, QM does not look upon the splitting of the sea in order to
destroy the Egyptians as a
phenomenon that conforms to classical or to quantum mechanics.
the chapters on Life and
Evolution (6 & 7) we find interesting and concise discussions on current
theories/controversies on the theory of evolution and fossil interpretation,
but, inevitably, there is the implication that the third book of the Bible
embodies current taxonomy and the findings in the fossils. This may not be
any more convincing (to most secular scientists) than the claim of
Hindu apologists that the dasavatara (ten mythological incarnations
of Vishnu from fish to superman) reveal a knowledge of biological evolution.
9 discusses the emergence of humans. To conform to the thesis of current
science the author considers the possibility of Adam having ancestors
(p.126). Feeling uncomfortable at such an (apparently) blasphemous line of
thinking, the author consulted some “leading Bible scholars, Jewish and
Christian, in the United States and in Israel. Their answers have been the
same, though they replied only on the condition that I not quote them by
name (p. 127).” This is not quite how science is done these days. But the
author is quite confident of his position for he says a little further, “I
rest my case on the Talmud (ca 500) and such biblical giants as Rashni (ca.
1050), Maimonides (ca. 1190), and Nahmanides (ca. 1260)....” If all this
does not add weight to his arguments, then so be it.
is implicit in the Bible. All it requires is serious research by someone who
knows both science and Hebrew, and all the secret will be out. Such a
thesis, let me repeat, has its corresponding proponents who hold Arabic and
Sanskrit to be the sacred tongues in which God almighty chose to reveal the
ultimate truths. This can be soothing to its practitioners, but may leave
outsiders smiling and skeptical.
doctrine of Free-Will becomes the Science of Free-Will in chapter 10 because
it is tied up with (de Broglie’s) wave-particle duality (p. 152 et seq.),
and because “while DNA may produce a tendency, DNA does not dictate (p.
158).” Moreover, free-will is not incompatible with God’s omniscience
because God exists outside of time, a concept which in the author’s view
is not only compatible with, but follows from the oft-appealed-to theory of relativity. But perhaps the
most interesting (not to say curious) link is when the author connects
Einsteins E equals m-c-squared formula with the Sabbath day (p. 165).
11, Why Bad (and Good) Things Happen, and 12, Bread from Earth: A Universe
Tuned for Life, both contain intelligent and meaningful insights on various
aspects of the human condition. Indeed, these are the best chapters of the
entire chapter (Epilogue) is
devoted to answering the question, “Why doesn’t the Bible mention
dinosaurs?” There is, of course,
a simple answer to this question, but it would not be in conformity with the
book’s central assumption which is the Bible’s omniscience. So here is
the right answer: We read in Genesis 1:21 that God created the big
reptiles... “The biggest reptiles were the dinosaurs. But the author of
Genesis did not specify dinosaurs directly, because that would have been
inconsistent with the pattern of the chapter
book is based on the insightful proposition that Kant’s starry heavens
above and the moral law within “are one and the same whispering voice (p.
xii),” but (like so many others) it misses the point that the same
whispering voice touches two very different (if complementing) dimensions of
the human being: the
logical/rational and the
a result, erudite and insightful as the work is, The Science of God suffers
from the “parochiality” of books of this kind, for, to use a
Shakspearean phrase, there are more scriptures on the planet than are
revered in our own particular religious tradition.
course, Gerald L. Schroeder is
not the first to attempt building bridges between Relativity, Cosmology, and
Quantum Mechanics on the one hand, and Scriptural pronouncements and
religious doctrines on the other. This is a time-honored practice which
serves the rational/logical craving of the religiously inclined. For people
of the Judaic tradition who
need scientific backing for their faith, this book is to be highly
recommended. There is little doubt that many rabbis will be quoting
extensively from this book for years to come.
due respects to the commendable motives of such undertakings (by
well-meaning apologists in ALL religious traditions) I feel we are devaluing
the magnificent poetry and spiritual insights of the Bible (and of other
great scriptures) when we distort their deeper message to conform to the
latest findings of science. All that is accomplished by such efforts is to
bring even more to light the factual/scientific inconsistencies in works
whose significance lies, not in their scientific explanations of how the
world began, but in reminding us of our spiritual dimension.