The Hidden Face of God takes a bold step forward to show that science, properly understood, provides positive reasons for faith. From the wisdom encoded in DNA and analyzed by information science, to the wisdom unveiled in the complexity of cellular life, to the wisdom inherent in human consciousness, The Hidden Face of God offers a tour of the best of modern science. This fascinating volume will open a world of science to religious believers, and it will cause skeptics to rethink some of their deepest beliefs.
An earlier book by Schroeder, The Science of God, combined the thinking of the 13th-century Kabalist scholar Nachmonodies with modern cosmology and general relativity, and thereby found a way out of a dilemma (a seeming conflict) between modern physics and an Orthodox reading of Scripture. In The Hidden Face of God, Schroeder leaves physics and instead goes into molecular biology. Throughout the book, Schroeder frequently shows how a feature along the road to humanity is not just a “surprising coincidence” but is evidence that wisdom was built into the system from the outset. In several instances, after presenting scientific facts, he identifies a place in Scripture and shows how it says the same thing, and points out the link to the wisdom hidden beneath it all. Schroeder goes on to assert that wisdom is the basis of information, and “…our universe may be the manifestation of information.”
Prologue: We are the universe come alive
A single consciousness, a universal wisdom, pervades the universe. And more than that. The discoveries of science, those that search the quantum nature of subatomic matter, have moved us to the brink of a startling realization: all existence is the expression of this wisdom. In the laboratories we experience it as information that first physically articulated as energy and then condensed into the form of matter. Every particle, every being, from atom to human, appears to represent a level of information, of wisdom. The puzzle we will confront in this book as we study the behavior of the atomic building blocks of all matter and then the functioning of biological cells is from where does this information arise? There is no hint of it in the laws of nature that govern the interactions among the basic particles that comprise all matter. It just appears as a given, with no causal agent evident, as if it is an intrinsic facet of nature. The concept that there might be an attribute as non-physical as information or wisdom at the heart of existence in no way denigrates the physical aspects of our lives. Denial of the pleasures and wonder of our bodies is a sad misreading of the nature of existence. The accomplishments of a science based on materialism have given us physical comforts, invented life-saving medicines, sent people to the moon. The oft-quoted statement, “not by bread alone does a human live” (Deuteronomy 8:3), lets us know that there are two crucial aspects to our lives, one of which is bread, physical satisfaction. The other parameter is an underlying universal wisdom. There’s no competition here between a metaphysical spirituality and the material. The two are complementary, as in the concept ‘to complete.’
When we see through the camouflage haze that at times convinces us that only the material exists and we touch that consciousness, we know it. A joyful rush of emotion sweeps over the entire self. It’s telling us that we’ve come home. We’ve discovered the essence of being. Everyone has felt it at some time or other. Perhaps at a brilliant sunrise, in a work of art, the words of a lover. The physical and the metaphysical join.
If we dared, we’d call the experience spiritual, even Godly. But there’s a reluctance to use the “G” word. “Listen to the Force” is acceptable on the great silver screen. Had Star Wars said “Listen to God,” the theater would have emptied in a flash. The reluctance is not surprising considering the bizarre claims erroneously attributed to God through the ages and especially in our age. Fortunately, most of those claims are based on the expectations for the putative God of the Bible that we learned as children. Obviously, when our child-level wisdom is evaluated by our adult minds, that wisdom is bound to seem naive. For many, it comes as a surprise that there is far more sophistication to the metaphysical than that which we learned as youngsters.
The age-old theological view of the universe is that all existence is the manifestation of a transcendent wisdom, with a universal consciousness being its manifestation. If I substitute the word information for wisdom, theology begins to sound like quantum physics. We may be witnessing the scientific confluence of the physical with the spiritual. We are, each of us, a part the universe seeking itself. We struggle between a world that seems totally material and the emotional, even spiritual, pull we all feel at times. To relegate, a priori, those feelings of love and joy and spirituality to some assumed function of our ancestors’ evolutionary drive for survival masks the greatest pleasures in life, the experiential realization of the metaphysical.
In the following pages, as we journey through the newly discovered marvels of the cosmos, of life and finally of the brain/mind interface, I ask only that, as you read, you use these facts to re-examine your opinions concerning the origins of this wonderful world in which we live.
Biology And The Information Of Life: An Overview
The opening of the 20th century marked the era of physics. Theory and discovery revealed a reality at both sub-atomic and cosmic dimensions undreamed of just a few decades earlier. Einstein and relativity, Planck and quantum physics, Heisenberg and uncertainty exposed the wisdom within which all existence is embedded.
By the 1950’s, especially with the demonstration by Crick, Watson and Wilkins of the double helix structure of the genetic codes present in all life, the biological sciences moved to the fore. Almost simultaneously, cybernetics – computer based information processing – entered the scene and together with molecular biology, the world entered the era of information. For indeed information lies at the base of both molecular biology and computer science; the former manifesting a perplexing depth and breadth of information; the former and the latter both manifesting phenomenal abilities to manipulate information. In the coming chapters we’ll take a journey through the wisdom that lies within the cells of life. If we did not observe the processes we’ll see within those cells and merely proposed them as a theory, the theory would be rejected as fantasy. The processes of life are not merely complex. To call the phenomenon of life complex trivializes the reality.
Our study will not be easy. As I discuss the details, some parts will even be tedious. But the wonder of life lies in the details. We’ll discern a unifying wisdom embedded in even the simplest forms of life that outshines the wonder of the physics from which it arises. We’ll discover that the essence of life, of all life, is the storage, organization and processing of information. Information, the expression of wisdom, lies at the heart of life. One can only wonder how and from where this phenomenon of a complex order arose. It is in no way evident either in the atoms and molecules from which that life is composed or in the laws of nature that govern the bio-chemical interactions among those atoms.
I have no hidden agenda in this tour of the intricacies of life, no attempt to deny that life developed from the simple to the complex. In my opinion, such a goal would be absurd. Paleontology, biology, and the Bible too, all present the account of life’s flow. The Bible devotes a mere six sentences to the process. Paleontology records the past in thousands and perhaps millions of fossils. Biology texts on the subject fill libraries. My objectives in the following discussion are: 1) To enable a knowledge-based evaluation of what processes might have been responsible for life’s development in the light of the overwhelming complexity present in all forms of life; and, 2) to discern that the ordered, information-containing complexity found in life is of a type qualitatively different from that found in the sub-structures from which it arose.
This second aspect is in itself surprising. Systems can give rise to secondary systems that are more complex, but that complexity is a fractal extension, an increase in amount but not in type, of the original system’s complexity. With life, the increase in complexity seems to be one of a new type as well as amount.
So puzzling is the intricacy of the biochemistry that powers life that at times it seems as if wisdom must be an inherent characteristic of the universe waiting to be expressed in various forms. It would be as if a metaphysical substrate was impressed upon the physical. It may come as a surprise that the Bible suggests this to be true.
Before dismissing such a suggestion as rubbish, or accepting it as the absolute and obvious truth, let’s look at the text. Much of our understanding of the Bible has to do with our brain and how it learns. If we take a sparrow away from its mother before it hatches and never let it hear tweedle de, tweedle dum, but only play in the back ground some other tune, it will never be able to learn to chirp out tweedle de tweedle dum. The song a sparrow learns in its youth is its song for life. Humans are not so very different. When a statement is repeated over and over it takes on an aspect of truth, whether true or not. And if in our youth, be it biological youth or cultural youth, we had that fact impressed upon our thoughts, that’s our “truth” for life. The translation of the opening sentence of the Bible has fallen under that spell.
Genesis 1:1 is usually read in the English, is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Unfortunately, that rendition, which the entire English speaking world has heard repeatedly from youth (both biological and cultural youth), misses the meaning of the Hebrew. The miss is not very surprising. The English version stems from the King James Bible, first published in 1611. But the King James Bible is a translation preceded by the Latin Vulgate attributed to St. Jerome in the 4th century and that Latin version is taken from the Greek Septuagint that dates back some 2200 years. The Septuagint is taken from the Hebrew. “In the beginning” is three translations downstream from the original. The opening word, usually translated as “In the beginning,” is the Hebrew Be’reasheet. Be’reasheet can mean “In the beginning of” but not “In the beginning.” The difficulty with the preposition “of” is that its object is absent from the sentence and so the usual English translation merely drops it. Rather than changing the meaning of the Hebrew and ignoring the “of,” the 2,100 year old Jerusalem translation of Genesis into Aramaic realizes that Be’reacheet is a compound word: the prefix ‘Be’ – with; and ‘raesheet’ – a first wisdom. The meaning becomes: “With wisdom God created the heavens and the earth.” That wisdom is the first part of creation finds its parallel repeatedly in the Bible. For example, “With the word of God the heavens were formed” (Ps. 33:6). And, “How manifold are Your works, Eternal, You made them all with wisdom” (Ps 104:24). And, “Raesheet hohmah – Beginning of wisdom,” (Ps. 111:10). Wisdom is the fundamental building block of the universe, and as such it is an inherent characteristic. In the processes of life that wisdom finds its most complex revelation. Wisdom, information, an idea, is the link between the metaphysical creating Force and the physical creation. It is the hidden face of God.
Schroeder takes the widespread perception that science disproves religion and turns it on its head: from cosmology to neurology the latest research makes sense only if viewed from a metaphysical perspective. The strict materialism that excludes all purpose, choice and spirituality from the world simply cannot account for the data pouring in from labs and observatories. Nor can it explain the thrill of transcendence that occasionally pierces ordinary lives. Well schooled in the rigors of sciences, Schroeder knows too much about natural complexity to try to wring some tidy set of doctrines out of the cosmos. Rather, it is in an ineffable shiver of the divine, a deep-down stirring of wonder that he discovers in the furthest reaches of quantum physics, glossed with the poetry of the Hebrew prophets and the mysteries of the kabbalah. At the heart of the cell, in the depths of the quasar, lies a deep wisdom encoded in a unified chain of information. Let rigid atheists and biblical literalists take a pass, but this book deserves widespread circulation among readers still alive to the hidden harmonies of the universe.
– Bryce Christensen, Booklist
Schroeder…is a sophisticated and original scholar, and his approach will undoubtedly find a wide audience.
– Kirkus Reviews
Table Of Contents
- To Begin A few words about what God is not – Why skeptics have the wrong ideas about God
- The Unlikely Planet earth Finding a pleasant home is a challenging universe
- Nature Rebels In the act of creation, God has given nature a “mind” of its own!
- A Repentant God? The all-powerful God of the Bible actually has regrets
- Arguing with God We are partners with God and partners can disagree
- In Defense of God, The Book of Job Where we learn that suffering is not necessarily from God
- Life and Death: two perspectives of one reality Science and the Bible both point to one truth, that life continues after the death of our bodies
- The Desert Tabernacle: a model for a universe built of love By studying the vessels of the Tabernacle in the desert, we discover that the world was created to bring pleasure
- Knowing Truth in your Heart: A tale of love When the bond for friendship between two persons is powerful, God joins as a third member of the group
- Understanding the merciful God of the Bible Looking below the surface of the Bible to discover the true meanings
- Partners with God The dynamic God of the Bible wants us to be partners in fixing a less than perfect world