BOSTON — The Science of God:
The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom
By Gerald Schroeder The Free Press
226 pp., $25
Gerald Schroeder is a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist who wants to show that modern study of the physical universe is really telling the same story of life and creation as the Hebrew Bible.
To do this, Schroeder draws on centuries of Jewish study of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, and on his own understanding of modern physics, cosmology, archeology, and the biology of evolution. Along the way, the reader is treated to a tour de force in all these areas.
But how is the reader to know if Schroeder is doing justice to any one of these fields? He assures us that he will draw only on published opinions in the leading scientific journals.
This does not, however, guarantee that Schroeder's use of these scientific ideas would be agreed to by all or even most experts. For example, Schroeder tells us that quantum physics reveals an element of chance in God's creation and it is this element of chance that underlies the Bible accounts that are often called miraculous.
It is true that quantum processes, as currently understood, include a fundamental element of chance.
But to imply that this property of atoms and particles allows God to direct the events of our daily lives without violating any law of nature is to go well beyond what the scientific community has concluded.
Many readers, I think, would have similar questions about Schroeder's restatement and use of traditional Jewish Bible interpretations, his analysis of the fossil and DNA records of life on earth, and his statistical arguments.
Not only does Schroeder push his arguments well beyond the accepted borders of today's natural science, he also appears to assume a kind of finality to the science on which he builds.
In Chapter 3, Schroeder takes the best current estimate of the age of the physical universe, 15 million years, reduces this by a factor taken from Einstein's theory of relativity, and arrives at the six days of creation in Genesis.
In doing so, he assumes that science today has pretty much discovered the true age of the physical universe and that the current application of Einstein's theory in cosmology is pretty much correct.
Given the tremendous changes that have historically taken place in human understanding of the physical universe, it assumes a lot to think that we have today anything close to a final answer to the age of the universe or to the application of Einstein's theory to that age.
In addition, Schroeder assumes that a day of creation in Genesis is literally a 24-hour day of the same duration as the day that appears in the figure of 15 million years.
This view of Genesis as an accurate record of a physical creation will appeal to some readers and not to others.
The biggest problem I had with the book was that I do not view Genesis as literally as Schroeder does.
Add to this my nagging suspicion that what is being presented here is only the author's take on some very complex subjects and you may be surprised to hear that I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
What I enjoyed was being challenged to think freshly and speculatively about some familiar Bible topics. Schroeder writes very well, and I don't think there was a single page that lost my interest - as critical as that interest may sometimes have been.
* David K. Nartonis is a former college physics teacher who is doing historical research for the Christian Science Church in Boston.