by Denyse O'Leary
One of Schroeder's key concerns is free will:
A natural world allows us to maintain our free will. The biblical Creator may be omnipotent, but in this universe each member of mankind chooses his or her own path. (page 73)
Not surprisingly, a key plank is modern materialist atheism has been the denial of free will. According to a study by Gregory W. Graffin and William Provine, 78% of evolutionary biologists do not believe that humans have free will. Here again, Schroeder is pretty close to the design guys and to The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soulnon-materialist neuroscientists.
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:
According to Nahmanides, who is the major kabalistic commentator on the Bible, the biblical text has told us that before the neshama [soul] there was something like a man that was not quite a human. (page 140)
Here we have ancient accepted sources that describe animals with human shape, form, intelligence, and judgment. Suddenly cave paintings that predate Adam by twenty thousand years and ten-thousand-year-old inception of agriculture became understandable. These less-than-human creatures had human-like skills. What they lacked was human spirituality. (page 141)
Looking at the cave paintings, I simply don't agree. In particular, I don't think spirituality is entirely separate from the expression of a human awareness of life and death.
Schroeder argues that
The Bible describes a qualitative leap, a creation, at Adam that occurred almost six thousand years ago. Archaeology has provided us with an impressive record of that change. Though the soul leaves no material remains, the effects of the spirituality brought by the neshama are written loud and clear in the remnants of ancient Mesopotamia. (page 143)
The neshama instilled in humans knowledge of a spirituality that transcends the individual. It provides the potential for goals other than the physical, allowing for social relationships, the intent of which exceeds the desire for survival and physical gratification. (page 144)
Almost six thousand years ago, the neshama, the spirit of human life, was instilled in humankind. The image of the Eternal Creator was now present on Earth. Writing was invented and for the first time history was recorded in the form of pictographs. (page 163 )
In my own view, Schroeder has here fallen victim to a sort of "fundamentalism" that we also see at times among Christians. The desire to defend the Biblical account using our own ingenuity plays tricks on us. At times, we must simply allow the Biblical account to defend itself. The Bible does not give us a good reason for believing that any identifiable humans do not have a spiritual nature.
It is, as Schroeder notes, true that there were massive cultural leaps about five to six millennia ago, but we might prudently consider pragmatic explanations first. Settled agriculture, for example, may have allowed more people to devote themselves to culture or research than the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle would. For example, agriculture both created a need for record-keeping and provided some individuals with the time to develop methods.
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:
According to the Bible, the entire physical structure of our vast universe is a manifestation, a concretization, of wisdom. On this concept, science is (as of now) silent. Considering the information explosion that we are experiencing, a few more decades may be all that is required for science to confirm the next step in the biblical theory of our origins, that wisdom is the unifying base of energy.
Substitute "information" for "wisdom" and voila! - you have an ID theorist.
Note: Schroeder wrote another book in 2001, The Hidden Face of God (Free Press), and I will review that one as well.
Return to: Introduction The Science of God - a Jewish physicist considers the design of the universe and life
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).
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