Summary of Gerald Schroeder event

As previously announced here, acclaimed scientist and theologian, Dr. Gerald Schroeder, presented a lecture last evening in Austin on the origins of humankind from a scientific and biblical perspective. By my count, over 150 people attended the lecture, with the audience skewing very young. Dr. Robb Wilson of The Scholar Redeemer audio-recorded the lecture, and we should have a podcast of sorts available here within the next few days. In the meantime, here is a brief summary of the event.

Dr. Schroeder began with his explanation for reconciling the biblical calendar with the scientifically-calculated age of the universe of 14 billion years using the well-studied phenomenon of time dilation that arises from the expansion of the universe. His explanation hinges on an ancient interpretation of Genesis 1, which says that the first six days are distinct and separate from the rest of the biblical calendar. He argued that these six days actually contain billions of years if looked at properly. Genesis time stops partway through the sixth day with a special event — the creation of Adam — at which point the conventional biblical calendar starts. Dr. Schroeder then segued into the main topic by announcing that Adam had parents. I suspect some people were rather shocked by this notion, but Dr. Schroeder laid out the overwhelming scientific evidence for pre-Adam hominids as well as evidence from the Bible itself. The key point was that the creation of Adam was a spiritual creation, not a physical one. Human-like beings existed prior to Adam, but they were not human because they lacked the neshama (which we may be tempted to call the “soul,” but it’s more than that). After Adam received the neshama, he is described as becoming a “communicating spirit.” This tells us that the defining quality of Adam as a human being, what separated him from his predecessors, was the ability to communicate with God.

The lecture ran slightly long, which unfortunately only left time for half a dozen questions from the audience. But they were all good, substantive questions; one in particular (which I can’t remember, but will hopefully be audible on the recording) was of particular interest to Dr. Schroeder. Several young people approached Dr. Schroeder after the lecture with more questions and comments and requests for book signings. I noticed that several of them were also taking photos of the diagrams he made on the whiteboard during his talk. For any of our readers who were present at the lecture and would like to know more about the information in those diagrams, I strongly encourage you to read his best-selling book, The Science of God.

Update: Due to some unforeseen difficulties posting the audio recording, there will be no podcast of the lecture. Sorry.

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Alien life and the Christian view of Creation

A bacterium from the meteorite (right) is similar in size and structure to the terrestrial bacterium Titanospirillum velox (left) (Riccardo Guerrero / Richard B. Hoover / Journal of Cosmology)


Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has traveled to remote areas in Antarctica, Siberia, and Alaska, amongst others, for over ten years now, collecting and studying meteorites. He gave early access to the out-of-this-world research, published late Friday evening in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology. In it, Hoover describes the latest findings in his study of an extremely rare class of meteorites, called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites — only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth.

Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies — comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said.

Claims like this have been made before, and while previous claims turned out to be unsupported by the evidence, they always give rise to the question of whether the presence of life elsewhere in the universe undermines the Judeo-Christian view of Creation. The best answer is the simplest one: it doesn’t. Ancient and medieval Jewish scholars of the Genesis account of creation maintained that the universe was created with the potential for life built into it. This agrees with the growing scientific evidence that the universe is undeniably tuned for life. Working from both perspectives, I would be surprised if we did not eventually find evidence of at least the most basic forms of life elsewhere.

The religiously pivotal question is whether or not we ever find intelligent or even conscious life elsewhere since, according to the Judeo-Christian view, these would have to be deliberate creations by God. As physicist and theologian Gerald Schroeder points out in his book The Science of God, two different verbs are used in Genesis when describing key events: “created” and “made.” The former refers to the instantaneous act of bringing something into existence from nothing. Genesis uses this word only three times: first for the creation of the universe on day one, then for the creation of animal (intelligent) life on the fifth day, and for the last time on the sixth day when Adam is endowed with a human soul. For the remaining events of the six days of Genesis, including the third day when life first appears, the word “made” is used, as though something that already existed was merely being restructured. Non-intelligent forms of life, like the primitive bacteria discovered by Dr. Hoover, would fall under the category of “made.” Intelligent and conscious forms of life would fall under the category of “created.”

With this in mind, let’s ask a revised version of the key question, “Would the discovery of conscious beings elsewhere in the universe undermine the Judeo-Christian view of Creation?” It would if Genesis stated that the creation of Adam is a unique event, not to be repeated elsewhere in space or time. I have not seen anything in scripture to suggest this is the case. In fact, the great Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis, laid out a plausible scenario for conscious life on other planets within the context of the Judeo-Christian view in The Space Trilogy. In these novels, humans encounter alien beings on other planets in the solar system that, though they have some things in common with us, are wonderfully unfallen and thus enjoy direct communication with the Creator.

This brings us to one of the great problems for the materialist view that humans have no spiritual component: the need to explain why an overwhelming majority of humans throughout history have demonstrated a deep longing for the spiritual. The prevailing explanation seems to be that it is an evolutionary tic, an unfortunate byproduct of an otherwise beneficial genetic mutation. So let’s engage in a bit of speculation to turn the tables: would the discovery of conscious beings on another planet who turn out to be as spiritually-inclined as humans undermine the materialist view of existence? Seems to me it would, given the immense improbability of two entirely different species of conscious beings developing the same evolutionary tic independently.

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