Tremors cascaded through the philosophical community when Anthony Flew, perhaps the world’s most famous atheist, recently announced that accumulating evidence pointing to a deistic Designer had persuaded him to believe in a Creator-God. Flew has certainly not embraced theism, but he now seems aligned with thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson. Explaining his new position, he named Gerald L. Schroeder as one of two thinkers who had most influenced him. (The second man mentioned is Roy Varghese, the author of The Wonder of the World: A journey from Modern Science to the Mind of God). Following his undergraduate and graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and some years in America’s atomic energy establishment, Schroeder has worked at several research institutes in Israel. In the midst of his scientific work, he also reared children, and their questions regarding Scripture and science prodded him to write three engaging and persuasive books: Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery of Harmony Between Modern Science and the Bible (New York: Bantam Books, c. 1990); The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom (New York: Broadway Books, c. 1997; and The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth (New York: Simon & Schuster, c. 2001).
Since the same basic themes weave their way through all three books, I’ll focus on seven of what I take to be Schroeder’s central theses rather than dealing with each book independently. Firstly, as a physicist seeking wisdom he acknowledges the ultimate importance of metaphysics. Aristotle, in his great treatise, Metaphysics, noted that “all men suppose what is called Wisdom to deal with the first causes and the principles of all things.” We cannot but wonder why there is anything rather than nothing. “Why is there an ‘is’?” (Face, 1). This is the truly amazing question underlying all Schroeder’s books. For to understand what Aristotle called the universal “being qua being” is the greatest of all intellectual challenges, and Schroeder believes the evidence (both ancient and modern) points to “a metaphysical Force that brought the physical universe into being. The universe is the physical expression of the metaphysical” (Face, 1).
Summing up this conviction in his latest book, he says: “The physical system we refer to as our universe is not closed to the nonphysical. It cannot be closed. Its total beginning required a nonphysical act. Call it the big bang. Call it creation. Let the creating force be a potential field if the idea of God is bothersome to you, but realize the fact that the nonphysical gave rise to the physical. Unless the vast amounts of scientific data and conclusions drawn by atheistic as well as devout scientists are in extreme error, our universe had a metaphysical beginning. The existence–if the word existence applies to that which precedes our universe–of the eternal metaphysical is a scientific reality. That single exotic fact changes the rules of the game. In fact, it establishes the rules of the game. The metaphysical has at least once interacted with the physical. Our universe is not a closed system” (Face, 186).
Given the importance of metaphysics, Schroeder’s second theme is the intricate relationship between mind, energy, and matter. The universe, in its most ultimate and important aspect, is mental rather than physical. The scientific materialism that has so dominated modern science–as well as certain currents of Greco-Roman philosophy–has dramatically lost its allure for 20th century physicists. They virtually all now agree that “energy is the basis of matter” (Science, xii). What’s increasingly clear, Schroeder argues, is that “wisdom and knowledge are the basis of, and can actually create, energy which in turn creates matter” (Science, xii). This view is as controversial today as were Einstein’s theorems a century ago, but most everything points to that conclusion. John Archibald Wheeler, a renowned Princeton University professor of physics, has “likened what underlies all existence to an idea, the ‘bit’ (the binary digit) of information that gives rise to the ‘it,’ the substance of matter” (Face, 8). This is a truly “profound” position, for it means “that information is the actual basis from which all energy is formed and all matter constructed” (Face, 154). What’s really Real, as Plato discerned, are the ideas, the forms, that shape matter. However offensive this may be to philosophical materialists, it is no more strange than the widely-accepted notion that “the massless, zero-weight photon,” the most elementary of elements, “gives rise to the massive weight of the universe” (Face, 154).
What scientists like Wheeler now recognize as information or ideas the ancient Hebrew Bible calls wisdom. This leads to Schroeder’s third main emphasis: the harmony between science and Scripture. Today’s scientists, who have discovered the “underlying unity of the physical world,” are “on the brink of discovering an even more sensational reality, one predicted almost three thousand years ago, that wisdom is the basis of all existence. ‘With the word of God the heavens were made’ (Ps. 33:6). ‘With wisdom God founded the earth’ (Prov. 3:19)” (Face, 88). The Bible ( rightly read and interpreted by great exegetes like Maimonides and Nahmanides, allowing for both the literal and symbolic aspects of Revelation) illuminates and harmonizes the most recent scientific discoveries. Only the Bible, of all the ancient religious texts, generates serious interest in sophisticated scientific circles. “It alone records a sequence of events that approaches the scientific account of our cosmic origins” (Science, 80). Indeed, “The parallel between the opinion of present-day cosmological theory and the biblical tradition that predates it by over a thousand years is striking, almost unnerving” (Genesis, 67). The ancient words of “Divine revelation” accurately portray the creative process. But “the words are only a part of the message. The other part is placed within nature, the wisdoms inherent in the Creation. Only when we understand those hidden wisdoms will we be able to read between the prophetic lines and fully understand the message. With the help of science, we are learning to read between the lines” (Face, p. 173).
Fourthly, we now read creation in the awesome light of the Big Bang. Fifty years ago, many physicists, such as Fred Hoyle, still held to the “steady state” cosmos, an eternally existent material world. Christian thinkers (such as Athanasius in the fourth century and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th) who insisted on creation ex nihilo did so purely on the basis of Revelation, understanding that the word barah “is the only word in the Hebrew language that means the creation of something from nothing” (Genesis, 62). It cannot be emphasized too strongly that creation ex nihilo “is at the root of biblical faith” (Genesis, 62). Amazingly, like a relentless blizzard, recent cosmological data regarding the formation of the universe points to precisely such a singular event–an explosion of being–some 15 billion years ago, when literally everything was a super-concentrated bundle of energy “the size of a speck of dust. It would have taken a microscope to study it” (Genesis, 65). With incredible power, this concentrated bit of energy expanded and quickly transitioned into matter, taking form in accord with the four basic laws of the universe. Though these laws largely explain the ways the universe thenceforward developed, they do not, in any way, explain why it came into being. Neither physics nor any other branch of science can explain being. So metaphysics, marvelously revealed in the Bible, is needed.
Granting the reality of the Big Bang and its explicit confirmation of Einstein’s theories, we move to Schroeder’s fifth point: time is relative to the speed of light and is thus, like space and matter, hardly constant. “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 and space and matter within which we life” (Science, 165). While we cannot fully fathom it, Einstein’s equations indicate that “tomorrow and next year can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass” (Science, 164). A Rolex watch on the moon runs more rapidly than one on earth because it’s subject to less gravity. Accelerated so as to approach the speed of light, it would virtually stop ticking but still work perfectly. Depending on one’s reference point, “when a single event is viewed from two frames of reference, a thousand or even a billion years in one can indeed pass for days in the other” (Genesis, 34). It is, thus, quite correct to insist that the Bible’s six day creation account and a 15 billion year-old cosmos, are identical: “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” (Science, 43). However illogical it may seem, Schroeder insists that this is literally true: “Six 24-hour days elapsed between ‘the beginning,’ that speck of time at the start of the Big Bang, and the appearance of mankind, and simultaneously, it took some 15 billion, 365-day years to get from ‘the beginning,’ or the Big Bang as astrophysicists call it, to mankind” (Genesis, 29). From God’s standpoint–and that’s what’s recorded in the Genesis account–creation took six days. But His days are the same as 15 billion years from our perspective, as we weigh the scientific data.
To cite Schroeder more fully on this critical point, he says: “To measure the age of the universe, we look back in time. From our perspective using Earth-based clocks running at a rate determined by he conditions of today’s Earth, we measure a fifteen-billion-year age. And that is correct for our local view. The Bible adopts this Earthly perspective, but only for times after Adam. 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 was formed. That cosmic timepiece, as observed today, ticks a million million times more slowly than at its inception” (Science, 58). Amazingly, “This cosmic clock records the passage of one minute while we on Earth experience a million million minutes. The dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 120 million years, as measured by our perception of time. These clocks are set by the decay of radioactive nuclides here on Earth and they are correct for our earthly system. But to know the cosmic time we must divide earth time by a million million. At this million-million-to-one ratio those 120 million Earth years lasted a mere hour” (Science, 58). Summing up what this all means, Schroeder says: “In terms of days and years and millennia, this stretching of the cosmic perception of time by a factor of a million million, the division of fifteen billion years by a million million reduces those fifteen billion years to six days!” (Science, 58). Though such statements may utterly perplex those of us mystified by the mysteries of modern physics, Schroeder’s tantalizing suggestions certainly open one’s mind to time’s dilation and the implications it has for understanding the “days” of creation.
Periodically in his presentations Schroeder points out some of the glaring flaws of evolutionary theory, especially regarding the beginning of the universe and the origin of living organisms, what seems to me his sixth distinct emphasis. His criticism comes in three categories: 1) the mathematical improbability of aimless evolution; 2) the glaring gaps in the fossil record; and 3) the willful deceptions advanced by some of evolutionary science’s premier advocates.
Schroeder, like most physicists (and unlike many biologists), finds the cosmos’ structures deeply, indeed astoundingly, mathematical. But, strangely enough, “many of the texts on evolution eschew any semblance of a mathematical analysis of the theories that random reactions produced this ordered, information-rich complexity” (Face, 120). When they do they encounter difficulties. For example, two evolutionary biologists invited a renowned chemist, Henry Schaffer, to calculate the mathematical probabilities of their presentation, Population Genetics and Evolution, and their case was tainted by the fact that “evolution via random mutations has a very weak chance of producing significant changes in morphology” (Face, 120). Most biologists just ignore the mathematical problems entailed in their presentations. Yet to Schroeder, alleged “scientists” who blithely dismiss the mathematical improbabilities of evolution betray the fundamental nature of the reality they claim to explain. He cites favorably the 1968 work of a Yale University physicist, Harold Morowitz,who carefully calculated the probability of earthly life evolving by random selection (as most evolutionists insist). Five billion years, he showed, affords too little time “for random chemical reactions to form a bacterium–not an organism as complex as a human, not even a flower, just a simple, single-celled bacterium. Basing his calculations on optimistically rapid rates of reactions, the calculated time for the bacterium to form exceeds not only the 4.5-billion-year age of the Earth, but also the entire 15-billion-year age of the universe” (Genesis, 111). “In short, life could not have started by chance” (Science, 85).
Nor does the fossil record validate the theory of gradual, mindless, random 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” (Science, 16). More than a century after Darwin, Niles Eldredge, one of the world’s most distinguished paleontologists, admitted that the evidence for the gradual evolution of living creatures was still lacking. “The fossil record of the late 1900s,” says Schroeder, “is as discontinuous as that of Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) time” (Genesis, 134). Species–and intricate things like eyes and gills– simply appear in the fossil record and “stasis, not change, is the trend with all species yet formed” (Genesis, 135). During the five million year Cambrian explosion, all the major extant phyla suddenly appeared. Neither before nor since has anything remotely similar transpired. For example, five phyla appeared in the Cambrian Era with various kinds of visual systems. But there is no “common ancestor” for these seeing creatures. Indeed, “there is no animal, let alone an animal with a primitive eye, prior to these eye-bearing fossils. Random reactions could never have reproduced this complex physiological gene twice over, let alone five times independently. Somehow it was preprogrammed” (Face, 121). This was definitively demonstrated by Harvard’s Elso Barghoorn, who studied the oldest fossil-bearing rocks available. He discovered “fully developed bacteria” in rocks some 3.6 billion years old. Living cells were, in fact, present at virtually the same time “liquid water first formed on Earth” (Face, 51). “Overnight, the fantasy of billions of years of random reactions in warm little ponds brimming with fecund chemicals leading to life evaporated. Elso Barghoornhad discovered a most perplexing fact: life, the most complexly organized system of atoms known in the universe, popped into being in the blink of a geological eye” (Face, 51).
Finally, Schroeder condemns some eminent evolutionists for their calculating deceits. To win their case in the court of public opinion, learned scientists have fudged the evidence. Darwin himself–seven times in the Origin of Species–”implored his readers to ignore the evidence of the fossil record as a refutation of his concept of evolution or to ‘use imagination to fill in its gaps'” (Science, 31). Shortly thereafter, Charles D. Walcott, the director of the Smithsonian Institute, collected 60,000 Cambrian fossils from Canada’s Burgess Pass. Hauling them back to Washington, D.C., he stacked them away in laboratory drawers. Perhaps the richest fossil collection dealing with the appearance of life on earth was deliberately shelved. Walcott devoutly believed in Darwinian evolution, and the fossils he collected challenged that belief. If the evidence challenges the theory, hide the evidence! So Walcott simply kept the fossils out of sight. Rediscovered in the 1980s, these fossils have played a major role in making clear “Evolution’s Big Bang” in the Cambrian Era.
More recently, Harvard’s Nobel Prize-winning Professor George Wald declared (in the Scientific American), that life had necessarily arisen from random chemical reactions. To Schroeder, Wald’s remarks illustrate the fact that such views were “often based on poorly researched science present as fact by one or a few noted personalities” (p. 110). Wald was in fact so wrong that the magazine printed a retraction of his earlier declaration–an unheard of correction of a Nobel laureate. Further illustrating the deceitful strategies of eminent evolutionists, Schroeder shows how another Harvard biologist, Stephen Jay Gould, concluded an essay with a quotation from Darwin’s Origin of Species that (in Darwin’s text) left open the possibility that God might have played a role in creation. Gould, however, deleted some of Darwin’s words and then capitalized a word in the middle of one of Darwin’s sentences to suggest the beginning of a new one, deftly altering the text’s original message. This was a subtle but significant move by Gould. And it shows the commitment to a theory that leads to a deliberate distortion of the truth. Still more: prestigious museum displays often maximize deception. The London Museum of Natural History, setting forth a massive “demonstration” of evolution, managed only to portray “pink daisies evolving into blue daisies, little dogs evolving into big dogs, a few dozen species of cichlid fish evolving into hundreds of species of–you guessed it–cichlid fish. They could not come up with a single major morphological change clearly recorded in the fossil record” (Face, 91). How revealing it is that evolutionists routinely cite the “evolution” of fruit flies, following intensive genetic manipulation by scientists in laboratories, resulting in bewildering varieties of fruit flies!
Turning to the computer-generated models that allegedly prove evolution, Schroeder scoffs at the poor mathematical work of celebrated biologists like Richard Dawkins, whose work “proves only that his computer is working correctly!” (Science, 108). Quite simply: “As a way of supporting arguments for evolution, computer programs blithely show the transition of outer body forms from amoeba to fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal and human. The electronic displays deliberately ignore the intricacy of the molecular functions of each cell and serve only to repress the impossibility of randomness as the driving force behind these life processes. They are in fact an exercise in deception, an insult to adult intelligence” (Science, 189).
Seventhly, Schroeder regularly discusses human beings as the crowning work of creation, freely responding to the Creator throughout history. We’re uniquely conscious of ourselves and God. Amazingly, “If the universe is indeed the expression of an idea, the brain may be the sole antenna with circuitry tuned to pick up the signal of that idea” (Face, 105). Designed with the ability to discern God’s work and presence in His world, with eyes that are external extensions of the brain, we have, since Adam, been making civilization, preeminently through the use of language, oral and written. With a brain capable of housing “the information contained in a fifty-million-volume encyclopedia, we ought to be sufficiently wise to succeed at the task” (Science, 170), though we have no idea precisely how non-material words get embedded in and then recalled from a material brain. Indeed, “the brain is amazing. The mind is even more so” (Face, 147). Just as a radio pulls in music from radio waves, so the mind gleans data from the brain. Without a radio there’s no music; without a brain there’s no thinking. But a dead radio no more destroys the music than a damaged brain destroys the mind.
“‘With wisdom’ God created the heavens and the earth” is one way of translating the familiar first verse of Genesis. Wisely thinking about it all, Schroeder says: “Life, and certainly conscious life, is no more apparent in a slurry of rocks and water, or in the primordial ball of energy produced in the creation, than are the words of Shakespeare apparent in a jumble of letters shaken in a bag. The information stored in the genetic code common to all of life, DNA, is not implied by the biological building blocks of DNA, neither in the nucleotide letters no in the phospho-diester bonds along which those letters are strung. Nor is consciousness implied in the structure of the brain. All three imply a wisdom that precedes matter and energy” (Face, 178).
To gain such wisdom, fully informed by the best understanding of Bible and science, is our privilege.