The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom


Gerald Schroeder

The Free Press, 1997, 1225 pp.  ISBN 0-684-83736-6


Schroeder is an M.I.T. physicist and a student of Genesis in the Hebrew language.

He is also known for his previous books, Genesis and the Big Bang Theory and The Hidden Face of God.  In this book he attempts to show, through interpretation of scientific evidence and early commentaries on the Torah, that the Book of Genesis and science are describing the same origins of earth and life.  [My notes do not imply my endorsement—or even my understanding—of everything stated.]


“Changing one’s paradigm is not easy.”  xii


“Has science replaced the Bible as the ultimate source of truth?” (1)  “Misconceptions are what the great debate is all about.”  (2)


“Scientific investigation stops at an account of how the universe functions.  It cannot go further.  The attempt to discern if a purpose to existence underlies the how is left as a private exercise, one that is usually neglected.” (2)


“This book accepts neither Bible nor science as being individually sufficient for a hungry mind seeking explanations of and purpose in life.”  “What appear to be diametrically opposed biblical and scientific descriptions of the creation of the universe, of the start of life on Earth, and of our human origins are actually identical realities but viewed from vastly different perspectives.” (3)


“Render unto Einstein that which is Einstein’s: science has given us a powerful tradition for the examination of life as we know it.” (3)  “Render unto the Bible that which is the Bible’s, the search for purpose.”  (4)


“Time and again, the Torah implies that the infinitely powerful biblical God withheld control and allowed the world to follow its own course.”  (13)


“The gradual evolution of a trait that only slightly alters the morphology of the animal is referred to as micro-evolution.  The change in longevity for post-Flood humans is micro-evolution.”  “Macro-evolution, the evolution of one body plan into another—a worm or insect or mollusk evolving into a fish, for example—finds no support in the fossil record, in the lab, or in the Bible.” (16)


“Knowing the plumbing of the universe, intricate and awe-inspiring though that plumbing might be, is a far cry from discovering its purpose.” (18)


“The origins of modern science are rooted in the works of great thinkers who were also religious believers….” (200)


“The big three questions about origins—of the universe, of life, and of humans—have also divided the secular from the religious.”  “The separations have narrowed and in significant cases the opinions have merged. (20)  “Reconciliation…will be complete when we accept the need to read and understand the Bible on the Bible’s terms—a text that carries a subtext requiring interpretation—and when scientists, having already discovered that these is a limit to knowledge, admit that science is powerless to confirm or deny a purpose for life.” (21)


“Penrose finds the laws of nature tuned for life.”  “He avers an intelligent ‘Creator’ must have chosen them.”  “Weinberg is saddened by the fact that, although the laws of nature show ‘incredible fine tuning,…the universe is pointless….” (21)


“From the time of Aristotle, 2300 years ago, scientific theory held the universe to be eternal.”  “Only in the past thirty years has science resolved the question. …the 3,300-year-old Genesis 1:1 was correct all along.  There was a beginning.”  “A beginning poses a problem that borders on theology.”  “Evolution, dinosaurs, cavemen are all trivial controversies when compared to the concept of a beginning.  While a beginning does not confirm the existence of a Beginner, it does open the way for that possibility.” (22)


For years the MIT-trained author was convinced he had the information to exclude a Creator.  (25)  “You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwinism….  Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.” (27, quoting Michael Behe.  [See Darwin’s Black Box.])


“Science has made the two most important steps it can ever make in closing ranks with the Bible: (1) there was a beginning to our universe, and (2) life started rapidly on Earth and not via millennia of purely random reactions.  These are global concepts.”  (29)


“According to the fossil record, gradual evolution has been found to be false at every major morphological change.” (29)


“If we have spent much of a lifetime attempting to prove the validity of a premise in question, the emotional stakes are high.  Cognitive dissonance, humanity’s inherent ability to ignore unpleasant facts, helps us in our struggle to retain the error of our ways.” (34)


“It is no secret that each individual phylum first appeared as simple aquatic forms and became more complex with the passage of time.  The Book of Genesis proclaimed this fact 3,300 years ago: first came aquatic animals, then winged creatures and land animals, then mammals.  That’s Genesis 1!   The Bible knows about development.  Humans are the last, not the first, of the animals mentioned in Genesis.  It is inter-phylum development that has been proven to be a fantasy.” (39-40)


“Interpretation is an essential for understanding Genesis as it is for understanding nature.” (40)


Scientific data show the universe to be between ten and twenty billions years old but there is a simple answer to the problem of a scientifically old and biblically young universe.  Time as described in the Bible may not be the same as we know time today.  (42)


“The approach that ‘the six days were really six epochs’ has scant biblical basis.  Ancient commentaries, those written millennia before the discoveries of paleontology and cosmology disclosed any hints that the universe was billions of years old, state definitively that the six days of Genesis were twenty-four hours each, the total duration of which was ‘as the six days of our work week.’”  (43)


“Deep within Psalm 90, there is the truth of a physical reality: the six days of Genesis actually did contain the billions of years of the cosmos even while the days remained twenty-four-hour days.”  (43)  “The description of time in the Bible is divided into two categories: the first six days and all the time thereafter.  During those six days, blocks of events are described and then we are told that a day passed.”  “It is as if there were a consciousness reporting the events from the outside looking in.”  “With the appearance of humankind, the accounting changes dramatically.” 


The author reconciles eons of time with 24-hour days through the relativity of time, i.e. by contrasting earth-based time with ‘universal time.’ “There are literally billions of locations where a clock, if we could place one there, would tick so slowly that fifteen billion Earth years would pass while it recorded only six twenty-four-hour days.” (50)  He suggests that the perspective for the first six days is that of the total universe, a perspective that encompasses the entire creation.  (51)


“The clock of Genesis starts with the creation of the universe and continues till the creation of humankind.  It must identify the relative passage of time not between particular places in the universe but between moments in the universe as the universe evolved from the big bang.” (52)


“A more accurate, though cumbersome translation of Genesis 1:2 is: ‘And the earth was in a state of chaos but filled with the building blocks of matter.’”  (57)


“The Bible’s clock before Adam is not a clock tied to any one location.  It is a clock that looks forward in time from the creation, encompassing the entire universe, a universal clock tuned to the cosmic radiation at the moment when matter formed.  That cosmic time-piece, as observed today, ticks a million million times more slowly than at its inception.” (58)


“Cosmologists are in awe that the mass and the energy of expansion of the universe are matched with the ‘incredible fine-tuning’ of one part in 10120

[10 to the 120th power].  It is almost as if the values had been selected.  Perhaps they have.”  (58)


Cosmic background radiation (CBR) is the clock of the cosmos.  Its wave frequency is the rate which the cosmic clock ticks. (61)  When the universe was compressed the cosmic clock ‘ticked’ much more rapidly than it does now.  Each doubling in size ‘slowed’ the cosmic clock by a factor of 2.  “The opening chapter of genesis acts like the zoom lens of a camera.  Day by day it focuses with increasing detail on less and less time and space.  The first day of Genesis encompasses the entire universe.  By the third day, only Earth is discussed.”  (62)


“As the temperature of the universe cooled, electrons were able to bond with atomic nuclei and light literally broke free.”   “The Bible limited its description of this period to the creation, and then to light separating from darkness (Gen 1:4) (66)


On day two the heavenly firmament took shape (Gen 1:8).  During that period most of the stars of the Milky Way’s spiral formed.  (68)


“Considering the brevity of the biblical narrative, the match between the statements and timing in Genesis 1 and the discoveries of modern science is phenomenal….”  “It is modern science that has come to match the biblical account of our genesis.” (70)


“Over the six days of Genesis (Gen.1:1-31) the universe developed from its chaotic beginning, through the start of life, and on to the appearance of humankind.  For this entire epoch, the word creation is used only for three events.  The vast majority of events in that period were directed by the laws of nature, created as inherent parts of the universe.” (73)


“For decades leading biologists had promulgated the position stated so well by Wald [Nobel laureate], that time and chance were the forces behind the miracle of life.”  However, in 1979, Scientific American reprinted Wald’s article with an unequivocal retraction.  In 1991, Scientific American printed a review article including the statement by Sir Fred Hoyle, a British astronomer that “such an occurrence is about as likely as the assemblage of a 747 by a tornado whirling through a junkyard.”  (83-4)


“The simplest forms of life…are far too complex to have originated without there being an inherent chemical property of molecular self-organization and/or reaction-enhancing catalysts at every step of their development.”  “‘And the Earth brought forth’ life (Genesis 1:12).’  In biblical language we are being told that the Earth itself had within it the properties to encourage the emergence of life.  There is no biblical mention of a special creation for the origin of life.  The laws of nature, created along with the creation of the universe, and the very special conditions of the Earth were quite adequate to orchestrate the flow of the universe toward life.”  (85) 


“The difference between secular evolutionists and theologians is not in the details of the events.  The difference is that the former claim the development is all by random mutations while the latter see a channeling in the flow of life that implies a teleology.” (87) 


“According to the picture presented by the fossil record, bursts of morphological change occurred within startlingly brief periods of time.”  (87)  “In a leap, life moved from single-celled protozoa and the amorphous Ediacaran clumps to multicellular complexity.”  (89)


“Evolution is not a free agent. The laws of biology, chemistry, and physics, the laws of nature, determine which structures can evolve.  The thirty-four basic body plans of all animals extant since the inception of animal life are the only body plans that fit within those constraints of nature.  We can only conclude that evolution is channeled along these paths, working new variations into old original themes.” (92)


“The likelihood of producing any particular sonnet of Shakespeare by random typing is about one chance in 26490 [26 to the 490th power] or one in 10690.”  “The statistical improbability of pure chance yielding even the simplest forms of life has made a mockery of the theory that random choice alone gave us the biosphere we see.” (93)  “Evidence from anatomy, from molecular biology, and from the fossil record is that evolution is channeled in particular directions.  In that sense, we are written into the scheme.” (94)


“The condition of the universe at its creation was one of chaotic, exquisitely hot energy.”  “The flow from the primordial state of universal chaos to the simplest forms of life and then on to humanity represents the imposition of order on that primordial chaos, an imposition somehow accomplished through the laws of nature created at the beginning.”  (97)


“I would not attempt to prove a case for divine direction.  But there is a certainty: twentieth century science has opened the door, and opened it wide, for that interpretation!” (97-8)


Humans have approximately seventy thousand genes that make up thirty trillion cells.  Can this arrangement be the result of random selection?  “Randomness just doesn’t cut it when it comes to generating meaningful order out of chaos.  Direction is required.  Always.” (102)


“The convergence observed in convergent evolution did not happen by independent, random reactions.  It could not have….  It must have been preprogrammed.” (112)  “The idea of the spontaneous genesis of life in its present form is therefore improbable, even on the scale of billions of years.”  (112)


“Science may not be capable of adjudicating the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature, but it certainly has discovered that nature functions in a way that at time seems most unnatural.” (114)


“The argument of design assumes that since the complexity of a watch requires a designer, how much more so does the complexity of a human.  Yet…watches do not make themselves.  But animals do make themselves and each animal is a bit different from its parents.” (116)


“Since the Bible defines a human as an animal with a neshama—the spiritual soul of humanity (Gen. 2:7)—there is no biblical problem with human-looking creatures predating Adam.”  “Our global similarity indicates that we humans all have a fairly recent, common ancestor.”  (117)


[And the Eternal God] breathed into his nostrils the neshama of life and the adam became a living soul. (Gen. 2:7)  ‘became a living soul’” it may be the verse is saying that it [adam] was completely living being and  [by the neshama] it was changed into another man.  (Nahmanides, commentary on Gen. 2:7; written in the year 1260)”  (125)  “Adam may have been the first hominid with a divinely created human soul.” (126)  Maybe Adam had an ancestor.  “According to the Bible, what makes humans unique is our neshama, our soul (Gen. 2:7), not our bodies.” (127)


“Each second the Sun fuses 660 million tons of hydrogen into helium and energy.” (128)


“Liquid water and dry land appeared 3.8 billion years ago.  To the amazement of the scientific community, fossils demonstrate that life in the form of bacteria and algae appeared immediately after liquid water became available.  For the next three billion years, the only forms of life were single-celled organisms.  Then some 530 million years ago, life exploded into the diversity we see reflected to this day.” (128-9)


By 150,000 years ago, Neanderthal had appeared. (129)  By forty thousand years ago Neanderthal had disappeared, replaced by Cro-Magnon, although they had coexisted for tens of thousands of years.  About 10,000 years ago the beginning of farming occurred.  By 8000 years ago pottery had been developed.  All this before Adam!  Cuneiform, the first form of writing, dates to the biblical time of Adam and Eve.  “Theology refers to the time of Adam as the beginning of humanity.  (130)


“Creation, in biblical language, refers to the Eternal’s introduction into the universe of something from nothing.  It is an instantaneous act.  Genesis 1:1 is teaching that in the beginning, in an instantaneous flash now known as the big bang, God created from absolute nothing the raw materials of the universe.  Then, as Exodus 31:17 relates, this primordial stuff during the following six days was fashioned into the universe we know.  Making, we see from the verse in Exodus, requires raw materials, and takes place over a period of time.  As the Bible says: ‘For six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth [from the primordial matter created ‘in the beginning’].’” (128)  “For Adam, the order was reversed.  The fact that Adam was first ‘made’ (Gen 1:26) and only later ‘created’ (Gen. 1:27) informs us unequivocally that some amount of time passed during which Adam was fashioned.  The neshama was implanted only after that vessel was complete.” (138)  “The Bible explicitly states that the body of mankind was formed from the dust of the ground.” (139)


Chapter 10 deals with the necessity for and evidence for free will. 


“The efficiency of DNA as a carrier of data is so great that if all the information held within all the libraries of the world (about 1018 [10 to the 18th power] bits of data) were programmed onto DNA, that information would fit on about 1 percent of the head of a pin.  Each cell of our bodies has approximately three billion bits of data coiled within DNA weighing trillionths of a gram.” (157)


“Creation of the universe from absolute and complete nothing marked the beginning of space, time, and matter.  Theology has held that position for over three thousand years.  Cosmology in the last decade or so has come to agree.  These three parameters are characteristics of our universe, not of the Creator.”  Just as the biblical God is not composed of space or matter, God is not bound by time.  God is outside of Time.  And being outside of time means to exist in an ‘eternal or unending now,’ an eternal present that includes past, present, and future simultaneously.” (159)


“It is highly significant that light was the first creation of the universe.  Light, existing outside of time and space, is the metaphysical link between the timeless eternity that preceded our universe and the world of time space and matter within which we live.” (165)


Chapter 11 deals with why bad things happen

“The choice with which we battle is between life and death, not between doing what is good or what is evil.” (Deut. 30:19)  (175-75)


Chapter 12 deals with the anthropic argument, that the universe is fine-tuned (designed) for life. 

Einstein proved that matter is energy in condensed form. (177)  “And yet more fundamental than energy, according to kabalah, is wisdom: ‘With wisdom God created the heavens and the earth.’ ‘By the word of the Eternal the heavens were made’ (Psalm 33:6), and ‘In the beginning was the word’ (John 1:1).  According to the Bible, the entire physical structure of our vast universe is a manifestation, a concretization, of wisdom.”  “Wisdom is the unifying base of energy.” (178)


“The difference between pantheism and monotheism is that biblically, the laws of nature are understood as a projected manifestation of an infinite wisdom that transcends the physical universe, within which the physical universe dwells, and of which the physical universe is composed.” (178)


“The big bang produced energy, all of it squeezed into a volume possibly smaller than your thumb.  It was the only physical creation and it marked the beginning of time, space, and matter.  Physics and the Bible are completely in agreement on this.  What lies beyond the universe is pure speculation.  It may be that nothing, in the most complete meaning of that word, Is beyond.  There is no vacuum within which the universe hangs.  A vacuum implies space and space is part of the creation.  The edge of the universe would be an edge with an inside and no outside, a phenomenon that can not be pictured in our minds or by our computers.” (179)


“The renowned Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose quantified the precision needed in nature’s quirks for the conditions and energy distribution at the moment of the big bang to have eventually produced an environment suitable for life.  The likelihood, or better the unlikelihood, that those initial conditions might produce such a universe is less than on chance out of ten to the power of ten to the power of 123.  That is one out of a billion billion billion, etc., repeated more than a billion billion times.  Just to speak aloud those billions would require more time than the universe has existed, more time than as passed since the beginning of time!”  (186)


“In science we search for the ‘how’ of the universe.”  “But at the end of the day, the questions we all ask relate not to the how but to the why of existence.  Is there meaning to our lives that transcends the splendor we see about us?  Something that goes beyond the physical?”  (194)