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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Just up at Access Research Network: A look at Jewish physicist Gerald Schroeder's The Science of God

For the most part Schroeder would get along quite well with the design theorists: Here's why:

Introduction The Science of God - a Jewish physicist considers the design of the universe and life
One thing that struck me about The Science of God: is that Schroeder admits freely and with no sense of angst - back in 1997! - that there is very little evidence for Darwinian evolution as a cause of origin of species. Yet here we are in this 2008-2009 season of ridiculous Darwin hagiography, and on the very eve of the Expelled documentary on the suppression of scientists who favour design as an explanation.
Part One: Is the Darwin cult on the way out?

In fact, Schroeder argues, the real history of life is a guided evolution that occurs as a series of jumps:
"The statement Darwin repeats several times in Origin of Species,"natura non facit saltum" - that nature does not make jumps - is simply false. Transitional forms are totally absent from the fossil record at the basic level of phylum and rare if present at all in class. Only after basic body plans are well established are fossil transitions observed. Darwin would have been much closer to the truth had he written "natura solum facit saltum" - that nature only makes jumps." (page 10)
Indeed, he charges that Darwin knew this perfectly well.
Part Two: Schroeder as recovering multiverse faddist?

While it might be tempting to say that Schroeder "would obviously think this way because he is a devout Jew," he reveals that, as an MIT alumnus, he was originally on the "adversary's" team. That is, he had wanted the multiverse to be real, but he found that he couldn't make it make sense. (p. 25). Instead, "... with each step forward in the unfolding mystery of the cosmos, a subtle yet pervading ingenuity, a contingency kept shining through, a contingency that joins all aspects of existence into a coherent unity. While this coherence does not prove the existence of a Designer, it does call out for interpretation."
Part Three: Let there be light ... and then time stands still

Schroeder addresses the six days of creation in a way that I had never heard before: Instead of concerning himself about whether the days were 24 hours or great ages, he points out that light (as in "Let there be light"), strictly speaking, is free from time. At the speed of light, no time is observed to pass. (page 53ff).

For example, suppose a supernova approaches the earth for 170 000 Earth years. It is finally visible after all that time. But for the light itself, no time has passed. "Light, you see," Schroeder explains, "is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities."
Part Four: Self-organization - not random, but according to a preordained program

Addressing the mystery of life's origin, Schroeder opts for self-organization - but he does not mean by this that after eons of slow cooking, augmented by an occasional accidental stir, life just sort of organized itself. He entirely dismisses the idea that life could have started by chance (pp. 84-85). He argues that self-organization occurred in response to a recipe for life encoded into the nature of the universe.
Part Five: Non-humans with a human form? And what of the divine wisdom?

More controversial is Schroeder's view that, despite their art works and their habit of burying their dead with grave goods, humans prior to about 6000 years ago were not human and did not have a soul. He argues that they are "Nonhuman creatures with a human morphology [body shape]" (page 140-41). I learned much from his close exegesis of the Hebrew Bible, but at this point, he suddenly lost me
But Schroeder's central concept is still pretty close to intelligent design - especially his most important concept: The universe is constructed not of matter alone but of wisdom.

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