The Science of G-d

ScienceGodWhere, exactly, do science and religion come together? Since both are human mental enterprises, they must at some point at least glance off one another. Both religion and science attempt to make sense of human experience in the world, and, given the limitations of human time, being a true expert in both may be impossible. The John Templeton Foundation, as any religion scholar knows, supports research and awards handsomely those perceived to have succeeded, at least somewhat, in bringing the two together. A single lifetime, however, is not long enough for either, let alone both. Gerald L. Schroeder’s The Science of God illustrates this point. Subtitled The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, and produced by a major publishing house, the pitfalls of applying the Bible to a scientific worldview become apparent almost from page one.

Somewhat unusual in the field, Schroeder is an Orthodox Jew addressing the questions that the Bible raises for science. He is also a credentialed physicist. Most attempts to force religion and science into bed together come from Christian researchers—secular scientists usually have a headache—and a hidden agenda is often not too difficult to discern. I read The Science of God knowing nothing of Schroeder’s religious sensibilities. By narrowing the focus from science and religion to science and Bible, however, I knew the enterprise was doomed without even opening the cover. The Bible is one of the least scientific of all human writings. That’s not to say it has no value, but it is an honest observation by a lifelong reader of the Bible who believes science has a proven track record for making some sense of the world. Schroeder begins with that most specious of arguments, the anthropic principle. Few ideas raise such ire in my limited scientific understanding. The suggestion that the universe is fine-tuned for life is a moot point in principio. Who are we to say that life wouldn’t have emerged if the Big Bang were one degree cooler or hotter? It might have been life with different parameters, but the anthropic principle seems to point to nothing more than the tenacity of life.

While Schroeder does raise some valid points, it is clear from his challenging of the fossil record that the Bible will only ever sleep uneasily with science. For a physicist, Schroeder spends an awfully long time using God-of-the-gaps reasoning to fill in biology. In a disguised day-age “hypothesis” he gives us the creation order of Genesis 1, while skirting around Genesis 2 where humans are created before animals. And, I’m sorry, but the Bible does not mention dinosaurs anywhere. It’s a pity really. Schroeder’s book addresses some important issues, but using the Bible as a measure of scientific credibility fails every time. The science of God, it seems, is more a concluding unscientific postscript, but without the philosophical sublimity.

3 thoughts on “The Science of G-d

  1. joezias

    I went to his lecture here in Jrsm when his Big Bang book came out and I was probably the only non-religious person there. I sat there mystified and angered at his misuse of science and his mis-interpreting the works of great scholars like Stephen Jay Gould. He presented Darwinism as it was first expressed as if neo-Darwinism never existed. I finally said enough is enough raised my hand and after I addressed the audience as such, the moderator immediately closed the lecture and all went home. He may be well known in his field but he like many of the wanna be biblical archaeologists, with no training, should not stray from his field.

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    • Steve Wiggins

      Thank you, Joe! Spot on! I had hoped the book would be scientifically sound, given the credentials of the author, but I knew nothing about his religious outlook before I began reading. As a former Hebrew Bible scholar, I was equally disappointed with his reading of the Hebrew text.

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  2. James Hill

    I’ve read a number of reviews such as these which claim that Schroeder says things in his book that I never found him saying. For instance, he never uses the Bible “as a measure of scientific credibility”. He merely points out areas where they seem to be in agreement, as long as you don’t read the Bible too literally. Also, he never claims that the science he presents, or the the science sources he cites, are infallible, but that they are the most current general theories.

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