New York: Park East, 2011. 231 pp.
This month I had the opportunity to preview The Genesis One Code by Daniel Friedmann. As a student of both religion and science, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to read and critique the work of someone who'd found a way to interpret science and faith as disciplines that can point towards a common truth.
The Genesis One Code focuses on cosmology as told by the scientific community as well as through his own faith. This is an initial problem for people of different disciplines: the evidence towards an old universe conflicts with the 6-day creation narrative of the Abrahamic tradition. While these two approaches towards the creation of the universe appear to be incongruent, the focus of Friedmann's book is to show that, indeed, both the scientific evidence and the 1st chapter of Genesis point to a common truth: scientific findings regarding the age of the universe are in agreement with Genesis that the world is 13.75 billion years old (plus/minus .13 billion years).
This is a strong claim, however Friedmann shows that he is familiar with the both approaches. One of the things I enjoyed about the book is that it did not present one side to be more "correct" than the other...an approach that would have easily imbalanced a highly volatile thesis. Rather, the author systematically approaches both disciplines, explains the history and thought behind both, and provides a mechanism of thought that seemingly unifies the fields of science and religion.
I say "seemingly" because Friedmann's methodology raises some questions. The author does well to illuminate his sources as well as explain their importance to the discussion, especially when discussing the entirety of Jewish Law. However the use of these various sources does not make Friedmann's conclusion necessary. Rather, it can be argued that the presentation of the religious material confirms the scientific approach rather than independently arriving at that same conclusion. For example, if scientific knowledge later showed how the universe was 23 billion years old, it's possible that Friedmann's religious interpretation of Creation could be altered to fit that number as well.
Whether or not other readers agree or disagree, the value of The Genesis One Code goes beyond validating one's beliefs. I found it rather appropriate that the book's introduction should include a quote by Pope Pius XII:
It would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux, when along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, and the elements split and churned and formed into millions of galaxies.As Catholic Christians, we are invited to see science as something that compliments our faith, not to see it as something that contradicts it. It is, for some, a hard part of our Catholic faith. This has been especially troubling throughout the Church's history as it dealt with advances in science...a point that Friedmann makes in his book.
This is where, in my reading, the book has the most value. Daniel Friedmann, when presented with contradictions between science and religion, chose to learn both rather than picking one and dismissing the other. Friedmann presents an understandable description of the cosmology of the universe, including the Big Bang Theory as well as the Theory of Evolution. Both are not fully explained, however I found myself learning more about the structure of these theories as well as the science behind both. Similarly, the author explains the depth of the understanding of Genesis from the Judaic perspective. It is clear from the book that the author has taken time to educate himself in both areas of study. Genesis One is a framework not just to look at our beginnings, but provides an example of incorporating science and faith towards a common goal.
Genesis One is a unique read in that part of the book reads like a science text while the other reads like a Raymond Brown text...bombarded with references and various interpretations of religious thought. Thankfully, the author provides timelines and visual aids to help readers synthesize the data. If you are looking for a spiritually stimulating book, this might not be your choice. However if you are looking to read something that will increase your knowledge as well as make you think about your own viewpoints, this is the book for you. I also recommend this book for Catholics who, although have no "official" teaching on the Evolution and Big Bang Theories, are encouraged to come to their own positions that compliment faith and science. The Genesis One Code will provide an insight towards thinking of religion and science as complimentary disciplines that can both lead humanity to understanding the truth.