The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom

Reviewed by David Hazony

Pulp Exegesis
by Gerald L. Schroeder
Free Press, 1997. 206 pages.

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he past few years have seen a spate of books attempting, once again, to resolve the apparent tension between science and faith. Titles such as Patrick Glynn’s God: The Evidence and Hugh Ross’ Beyond the Cosmos: What Recent Discoveries in Astronomy and Physics Reveal About the Nature of God have joined magazine articles and television specials in the effort to tackle what is supposed to be among the thorniest, and most profound, questions that man has ever asked. While many of these have earned accolades from an apparently hungry public, most of them operate on assumptions which are not only flawed, but potentially harmful to more serious efforts in both science and religion.
A perfect example can be found in Gerald Schroeder’s The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom. In the first third of the book, Schroeder takes full advantage of scientific advances in fields as diverse as cosmology, paleontology and particle physics to offer an almost plausible scientific rendering of the Creation story. The six days in which the entire universe came into being are no parable or tribal myth, but “actually did contain the billions of years of the cosmos even while the days remained twenty-four-hour days.” How so? Schroeder invokes the teachings of relativity: We have all heard how mass and velocity can affect the “rate” at which time goes by for one object with respect to another—how a baby in a spaceship traveling near the speed of light will age two years while his twin on earth lives an en-tire lifetime. Schroeder’s innovation is to declare the entire universe to be the Bible’s opening “frame of reference” (there was, after all, no earth or sun to provide another one), in which the universe’s dense mass-energy point at the start of the Big Bang offers an extremely “slow” time-track, so that events which to us appear to have taken billions of years took, from the universe’s “own” perspective, a matter of days. Once the time scale is adjusted to allow for the universe’s expansion and cooling, Schroeder ends up with a schedule of Creation which allots eight billion earth-years for the first universe-day, four billion for the second, two billion for the third, and so on, adding up to the primordial six-day work week. Not without a certain reliance on smoke and mirrors, many of the most important events in the universe’s creation and the evolution of mankind are squeezed into the first chapter of Genesis.
The remainder of The Science of God is dedicated to impressing the reader with just how unlikely everything is: The galaxies, the earth, one-celled organisms, the Cambrian explosion of life half a billion years ago, are all described in terms of their statistical improbability, a suspicious yet entertaining presentation of numbers and exponents which at times degenerates into rambling. (At one point Schroeder dares the reader to try and repeat the word “billion” a billion billion times, so that he will fully grasp the unlikeliness of it all—“Just to speak aloud those billions would require more time than the universe has existed, more time than has passed since the beginning of time!”)
But it is not Schroeder’s showmanship that makes The Science of God so irksome. The most serious problem with The Science of God is also the tragic flaw of its genre: The premise that one can, or should, try to “reconcile” the teachings of a several-thousand-year-old religious text with those of obscure twentieth-century science.

R. David Hazony is managing editor of AZURE.

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