on May 17, 2002
As a physicist, I have been seduced by the awe and mystery (to borrow from "The Outer Limits") of quantum mechanics for years. Still, the esoteric nature of subatomic physics was never adequate to convince me of an intelligent design of the universe. Schroeder, however, has succeeded in convincing me of an underlying wisdom in nature through his eloquent description of the mind-boggling complexity of molecular biology. I came away from this book with a perplexing and contradictory sense of calm and breathlessness.
Schroeder succeeds where others have failed; namely, he has convinced me that an honest and compelling argument can be made for the existence of God/Creator/universal intelligence without resorting to fundamentalist dogma or pseudo-science.
Be warned: parts of the book are tedious; Schroeder admits this. If you are unwilling to put some thought behind the subject matter, then this book isn't for you. But if you're not afraid to think, then by all means read his book; your soul will thank you.
Noted Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder presents a compelling case that our universe is readily reducible to simply this -- an immaterial wisdom. "The solidity of iron is actually 99.9999999999999 percent startlingly vacuous space made to feel solid by ethereal fields of force having no material reality at all." And what is that tiny portion of an "atom" of matter that we describe as supposedly being "matter", that is, the quarks and electrons? They are incredibly precise (i.e., specified) packets of 'frozen' energy, highly tuned to interact with these highly tuned "ethereal fields." It seems that such objects are essentially intellectual constructs, as are all the "objects" of the so-called particle zoo. We call "something" a quark (or a photon, electron, etc) only because we can assign a certain behavior to "it". But what is "it"? Apart from saying that "it" is specified information, nobody knows. Within the quantum mechanical framework, these "objects" are essentially mathematical objects. As Einstein told us, what we call matter is merely condensed ("frozen") energy. And it turns out that energy is merely information. But what incredibly elegant information it is! (If it were not, neither people nor stars nor any "material" thing could exist). The materialist paradigm of our age is decidedly uneasy with the revelation that "matter" is but an elegant creation of a nonmaterial and extra cosmic entity. Why should we have an "Elegant Universe"? Philosophical pre-commitments seek a "blind" non-thing as an explanation, actually demanding a clumsy series of explanations other than the theist's Creator. (Interestingly, this approach is mislabeled "reductionism" and/or "positivism"!) "Consider the 'coincidences'" of nature's wisdom, asks Schroeder, and explanations other than a wise Creator "must seem a bit forced," even to the atheist.
The only detraction that I will offer is that the author subscribes to a kind of 'process theology'. Overall, this may be a minor problem. Schroeder's central thesis is itself elegant (and modestly eloquent, and yes, obvious to anyone who isn't psychologically pre-committed to rejecting it out of hand).
on December 4, 2003
Schroeder is a wonderful teacher. He sees the sublime in science and his prose is at times beautifully poetic. He delves in both the macrocosm as well as microcosm using both to show that there is an inherent design to the universe and the life within it. This is a book that is well suited to those who would run from the usual creationist palaver yet feel that all of the wonder we see in this universe has to be more than an accident.
on February 24, 2002
Gerald Schroeder, with his unusual background (expertise in biology and physics, and a very broad knowledge of world religions)is one of those rare people with the qualifications to write a book such as this. And it's a good thing, too, in an age where the empiricism of many scientists minimizes or eliminates the role of God in our universe. His main thesis--that science helps us uncover the hidden code in creation which clearly reveals that God is more than just a Creator--is demonstrated by his own experience and that of other scientists as well as by illustrations of God's plan inherent in the world around us.
I've read this book twice and I will probably read it yet again. Along with Paul Davies's book The Mind of God, this book is a must for anyone wishing to explore the ways science can prove God's existence and plan.
on November 30, 2005
The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth by Gerald L. Schroeder has the potential to strike and interest in believers and non-believers alike. Schroeder takes a very disturbing position for some due to the face that he turns the ideas of science and uses them to support religious ideas. Most people in the world of science and religion would find this blasphemous, but when looked at closer I feel that Schroeder is on to something rather phenomenal. Gerald uses a great amount of scientific knowledge to prove his point and I would like to further examine this argument made by him.
I found that the best way to fully review Schroeder's work would be to go chapter by chapter, due to the science is divided up that way in his book. Not to mention this just makes more sense to follow the organization style of the book when reviewing it. So let us begin with Chapter one in Schroeder's evaluation of science and the capabilities it has to help the argument for religious believers.
Chapter One is entitled The Puzzle of Existence: An Overview and takes on the great feat of taking on an understanding of the metaphysical and therefore he argues that you cannot describe theology without insights of science, since the physical is needed to describe the metaphysical. I found this and ingenious way of thinking of things and must say that I agree with him. His second chapter ties into this, as well as all of the others, but one question he raised was, "How does one imagine, or even relate to, images [absolute]?" Another interesting concept that was brought up was how the universe was born as an undifferentiated unity, and how science today is trying to rediscover this.
Moving on in this book I was constantly amazed at how Schroeder would use specific scientific examples and tie them into the concept of using them to support faith. I love how he never directly comes out and says this supports this, but allows the reader to go along with him on the journey and make discoveries on their own. Basically, Schroeder takes his readers into the physics, anatomy, and metaphysics of human life and the world, as we know it. I find that he does a wonderful job and can't say enough good things about it.
One critical thing about this book is that you must have a firm background in science in order to read this. If you don't then you will find yourself looking up all the concepts he brings forward like Laplace's theory of determinism, Planck's constant, and metabolism. You also must have a good grasp on religious concepts, Biblical figures and other religions other than Christianity for this book to make better sense. I find that if you are not a believer of any religion you may read this book and find it difficult, but very rewarding in the end, due to the extensive research that was put into this work. His diagrams of the visual cortex and other brain structures help to keep one on track with what Schroeder is talking about in chapter seven.
Finally, I would just like to say that this is a wonderful text for anyone who wants to learn more about themselves and their surroundings, as well as ways to support their beliefs. This text is pushing the envelope with what it has to say, but is very clear and concise even when speaking about the relationship of DNA and RNA, meiosis, and the bringing about of life. This book has it all and marvels at how nature has these vast connections that science is trying to reveal. Schroeder's, The Hidden Face of God is a must read in my opinion because he comes at the argument of knowing that God is, but not knowing what God is in a very tactful scientific manner. Another five star read, from a man of great talent.
on May 14, 2001
I thought Maimonides "Guide to the Perplexed" would come close to letting me understand God... but it didn't.. only opened up even more perplexing problems with my observations of the universe and the religious view of "what it all means". Schroeder's book tied together many thoughts and concepts that have bothered me for many years and suddenly made it seem, as it should, that these are indications of the work of this universal "higher order". Schroeder's insight was the key to me understanding the relationships I knew where there in thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and classical physics in trying to understand of God. The "conciousness" of a bunch of chemicals in the biological world had to be imbued by an influence, and that influence certainly couldn't have come from within the universe! Maybe after reading this book, it makes sense to reread some Kabalist works...
on March 1, 2006
While reading this book I found myself repeatedly gasping in delight. I must have audibly whispered (or shouted) "Oh my gosh" dozens of times.
Before reading this book I was not an athiest, but as well I was not totally convinced of a God or a creation either. But it's all changed now. It all makes perfect sense. Everything is simply information and knowledge...it's all metaphysical. In the beginning of Genesis, the Bible says, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth." Shroeder points out that actually this english translation of Hebrew is a bit off. Instead, it should read more like this -- "With infinite knowledge God created the Heavens and earth." Very provocative when you consider that everything is simply condensed versions of knowledge.
This book should be required reading for everyone who doubts a creator. Shroeder doesn't push the Creator down your throat, he lets you find Him on your own.
This book has changed me. I'm so glad I found it.
on April 11, 2005
This book expands upon ideas presented in his book THE SCIENCE OF GOD. Schroeder extends his thinking to the area of biology and the study of the brain/mind connection.
I found this book very interesting, especially for the light it sheds upon ideas from other reading, such as Greene's THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE and Ramachandran's A BRIEF TOUR OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS. Schroeder may be on the verge of a new "Grand Unified Theory" linking Biblical theology and cosmology. Ideas are presented for further study/consideration by the reader.
I especially enjoyed the image that we are all composed of electromagnetic fields of particles, in an unimaginably vast collection of miraculous interrelationships occurring on the cellular and atomic level, with its origins in the stardust of the Big Bang.
I avidly await future works by Schroeder, further developing his paradigms.
on August 27, 2010
Somerset Maugham, in "The Summing Up," confessed that a lot of his favorite reading was "metaphysics." I am beginning to understand why: a good philosopher is trying as hard as he can to discover and explain the truth, and he has little equipment, aside from logic, imagination, other thinkers, and his own hard thinking.
I don't know if this book is going to change anyone's thinking about God, but it is (for me) a mind-stretching update into the world of modern science. I mean, do you know that your body has 75 trillion cells, and each one of them is busily manufacturing 2,000 proteins per second?!
The Big Bang apparently began with the entire universe at a size smaller than your thumb, and it certainly grew! How many billions of stars and billions of galaxies came from that tiny beginning? How did that happen?
Similarly (?), the union of one tiny sperm cell with one egg cell will finally produce a fully-grown human being, with the aforementioned 75 trillion cells, each making 2,000 proteins a SECOND. How did that happen?
A further mystery: proteins do not occur in nature, other than proteins manufactured by living cells. You can drain the seas and not find a single protein, unless that protein was made by some sort of life-form and its cells. BUT cells are made of protein, and require protein. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Another thought-provoking fact is the simple atom. We all remember the little diagram of the atom-as-solar-system from high school --- and we've all (probably) been told that it's inaccurate. It's stunning to find out just how inaccurate it is! Enlarge the nucleus to (say) four inches, and where are the electrons? They're four miles away. Four. Miles. Away. 99.9999999 percent of an atom is nothing but empty space? Well, not quite. The "empty space" is some sort of force field we don't quite understand. Theoretically, the "force" comes from zillions of hypothetical invisible protons humming around. And when we get to the "matter," the weirdness does not stop. All the atomic particles have wave-like properties. It would only be a tiny step further to think "There is no matter in the universe!" That's wrong, of course, but it is certainly right to say that matter is NOT what we imagined it would be. It still works, hammering nails into plywood and all that, and your house is not going to fall down, but quantum mechanics is just weird. (Not only that, in The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, Dr. Berlinski maintains that the math we use for relativity stuff and the math we use for quantum stuff are incompatible with one another.
I recommend this book very highly. You might have to absorb it in small doses (I did).
on May 17, 2004
As is hinted at by other reviews, the first 70% of the non-appendix material in this book is groundwork. I had to persevere in reading that groundwork because it is thick with details, many of which I was already familiar with. Perhaps I am over-stressing formality, but his constant and eventually predictable exclamations (essentially: "Isn't that amazing! Such wisdom!") following many explanations of complex natural phenomena were distracting. But it is important to note (despite the opinions of a reviewer below) that this is not his argument.
Despite these detractions, the book makes some excellent connections.
His argument carries a depth that recognizes the physical difficulties that lay to rest popular superstition about the nature of reality. It is grounded in reason with a silent recognition of realities that many of religious tenure are reluctant to adopt: the big bang, some form of evolution, the grounding of "self" in the physical brain, and the lack of Biblical commentary on the existance of an afterlife.
As in The Science of God, he still battles the Neo-Darwinian view of gradual evolution; his perspective on the issue (shared by other commendable researchers) offers important questions that gradualists have yet to answer: where are the transitional life forms in the fossil record and how can the mathematical improbability of random evolution be explained? The complexity in life that Schroeder highlights in his groundwork illustrates the difficult case for random evolution.
But an examination of the complexity and "wisdom" of the universe alone is not sufficient proof for God. So comes the final 30% of Schroeder's examination and he makes an interesting case.
According to the informed opinion based in empirical observation of the scientific community at large, the physical universe is based in the metaphysical. The basis for matter is energy and the basis for energy is what appears to be information. Schroeder argues that this information is the wisdom that pervades and unites the universe, you and I included. To come in touch with that unity is to come in touch with heaven.
His definition of (or attempt at understanding if you prefer) God is not simplistic (physicists are often accused having simplistic understandings of what they mean by God). Schroeder places God's metaphysical existance in both the non-thing that preceded this universe from which the physical was born and the wisdom that is inherent in nature.
While reading the first half of this book, I was, as a reviewer below warns against, psychologically precommitted. I was once vehemently on the side of existance but changed sides for the sake of objectivity. What I found was that I wasn't giving Schroeders arguments full consideration. To say "I am an atheist" or "I am a christian" or "I am a skeptic" and enter this argument with the intent to stagnantly keep his line of thought at arm's length, waiting to be convinced, rather than actively internalizing the argument, giving it the strongest defence, and THEN weighing its value (as anyone with intent for objectivity should do), is to discard this argument, likely unconvinced, without even understanding it. Don't ignore parts you don't understand because you don't think they have bearing on the question. If you have not internalized the scientific detail, how can you know whether it is relevant?
He is not looking for rabbits in spider holes: he is making an argument about the nature of reality and from an understanding of reality (the best scientific understanding we can have of it at present), he is making the inference that underlying wisdom is an inherent quality of reality. And he makes a strong case for it.
CORRECTION: I know I have the spotlight review for this book but after many years of thought and personal research, I have to admit that I disagree with some points I have made here (indeed, I was at the time uninformed). Transitional fossils to support gradual evolution have been found. Natural selection really is a viable explanation for the "wisdom" inherent in biological systems.
At the risk of losing the favor I have gathered from other readers, I have to admit, from a position of honesty: I no longer believe that Schroeder's argument is a convincing argument for an intelligent creator. His strongest argument (from "wisdom", i.e. design) is lucidly refuted in the 4th chapter of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Natural selection, not design, is the most viable explanation for creation.
In gazing at the universe in awe and wonder, we cannot deny its beauty. Schroeder's book highlights that beauty in wonderful spectacle. Dawknins' book explains where it comes from. We cannot be honest and deny this. And the beauty of life is not diminished in admitting it. Natural selection is no less beautiful than the dizzying wonders of biology that it creates.