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The Bible According to Einstein: A Scientific Complement to the Holy Bible for the Third Millennium

"And trilobites would one day dominate the sea but later die. And dinosaurs would one day dominate the land but later die. But microbes would verily survive. And feeding on the dead remains of others, they would even thrive.

And in modern times, man would think he was the master of the World. Microbes would verily 'know better.' They would really rule the World." page 431

Cast in the King James Version of the Bible style, The Bible According to Einstein attempts to create a science text that sits alongside the religious Bible. The author or authors are anonymous although Stuart Samuel of Columbia University is the book's "spokesperson". Hence, using Einstein's name probably isn't fair (but it may generate more book sales--I imagine that is why it was used).

This "Bible" covers the history of the Universe--from the first 10 billion-or-so years without life (so far as we know) to the last few billion years of life evolving on our planet. The ever-changing geology of Earth is also a major topic. The author(s) are careful to not rule out 'intelligent design'--thus steering clear of ticking off the majority of the world who hold some sort of creationist belief. In fact, several places hint that there is indeed intelligence behind the formation of the cosmos, the evolution of our solar system, the first forms of life, and the descent of Homo sapiens from our common ancestors with other primates. Then again, God(s) aren't specifically mentioned so that the atheist/agnostics will continue to read on. The effect of these tactics, which are probably meant to please a wide audience, may produce opposite results and serve only to annoy those in both camps.

Like the Christian Bible, The Bible According to Einstein will be dull to most readers during parts. However, it is a decent work of reference despite the complete lack references. For a more entertaining read that covers some of the same ground, I recommend Life for the last few billion years and Blind Watchers of the Sky for the evolution of the cosmos.

To some, the King James English will seem corny, awkward, and/or forced. Others may find it brilliant. I ended up somewhere in between. Words like thee, thou, and ye are annoying at first, but if you are, or were, a frequent reader of the King James Bible or if you stick with all 600+ pages of this text then you may get used to it.

Like many science books and nearly all religious books, the question "how do we know that?" is unfortunately omitted in the vast majority of cases. It is always useful to have underlying assumptions explained. In other words, I find books to be far more useful, and believable, when methodology is disclosed and emphasized. Except for the disclaimer in the Introduction (p. 3) which states that science is indeed a fluid process of discovery, The Bible According to Einstein sounds like a book of cold, hard facts that haven't changed in the past and won't change in the future despite new evidence. This is unfortunate, not only for this work, but for textbooks in general. In fact, The Bible According to Einstein reads, in many places, more like a textbook than it does a popular work of science. The fact that it took me more than six months of off-and-on reading to complete may be an indication of its potential dullness. On page 603, there is an exception. Here we find the method of obtaining knowledge discussed. More of this sort of explanation is needed. The final section entitled "The Last Two Books of the New Testament" contain interesting reading. They contain "prophecies" about the future and "commandments" that few will disagree with.

In a similar vein to Stephen Jay Gould's belief that science and religion compliment each other, the Introduction defines and defends the supposed areas of knowledge and responsibility of each. I take issue with The Bible According to Einstein's view as much as I disagree with Gould's. Both think that religion has a corner on morality and science has nothing to say on the matter. This begs the question of which religion has the correct morals and why. The Bible According to Einstein claims that "Moral laws were essentially determined thousands of years ago and have changed little." A study of history or the differing morals by culture clearly contradict such a dogma. But The Bible According to Einstein takes it even further asserting a universal morality. What exactly this universal morality is the author(s) never state. Luckily for the frustrated reader in disagreement with the unsubstantiated claims, the author(s) leave the subject alone, for the most part, after the Introduction.

The Introduction recommends the reading of the New Testament (Homogenesis to the current day) before the Old (pre-5 million years ago). Being the rebel that I am, I disobeyed and read the Old Testament first. I believe this was the recommendation because the Old Testament is generally more cumbersome--especially to those not familiar with cosmological evolution.

The New Testament begins with the evolutionary line of our own species. The descriptions and explanations of the transformation from one species to another are good but confusing. An uninformed reader may think that the author(s) are indicating that species changed from say Australopithecus to Homo Habilis in one generation. In reality, species are blurry entities which can take thousands or more generations to be clearly established as only one and not the other or something "in between".

The word "evolution" is incorrectly used at times. (See page 29 for an example.) Only someone with prior knowledge can distinguish between whether it means "change" or "biological evolution".

The New Testament continues with a few history lessons. One is on Darwin. The author(s) claim that Darwin's nearly lifelong illness was solely caused by the grief his own theory gave him. I don't think this claim is fully justified given the facts. His illness may have been caused by a number of factors and/or be totally unrelated to his scientific beliefs. Or so I remember from my reading of Darwin's biography a couple of years ago.

The history lesson delves into the lives of several religious figures which seems out of place considering the rest of the book's emphasis on science. Religious mythology is in some cases--especially the stories of Moses--explained in a rational manner. Although interesting, the truth behind the words is questionable at best. Moses is made into a manipulator of the superstitions of others rather than a superstitious person or myth himself. The author(s) are bigger fans of Buddism, Christianity, and Islam than they are of Jewish mythology based on the recountings of the histories. Indeed, we learn on page 86 that Muhammad was the greatest man who ever lived. One of the reasons given is that he defeated paganism.

Perhaps my favorite section of the book is "The fifth book of Chronicles, called Catastrophes" which ironically follows immediately after all the religious discussion. In Catastrophes we read about numerous cataclysmatic events that have taken place in recent history. One is left with the feeling that nature, rather than man, is in control and that life can be radically changed in one's neck of the woods with little or no warning. Likewise, the impression that the "signs of the times" are ever present pervade the section.

The Bible According to Einstein is a good, but not great, overview of the past. It will serve well as a reference or as a refresher course to those interested in obtaining a big picture view of the bigger questions in life. The facts appear to be generally reliable as of the late 1990s. You'll probably be glad once you have finished the book for the information assimilated into your head, but the process isn't always the most enjoyable. Insomniacs may find it to be a "companion to the Holy Bible" on their night stands for reasons other than those envisioned by the publisher.

from the publisher:
The Bible According to Einstein is a scientifically based work about the Universe, Earth and life in the form of the Bible. Unlike the expository style of most popular science books, it uses a narrative, almost poetic, sometimes metaphorical and almost biblical language. Its "Old Testament" tells the complete story of the world from the initial moments of creation to the emergence of mammals and man. The "New Testament" provides the laws of Nature and humanity's intellectual, spiritual and scientific development. The Bible According to Einstein reveals the extraordinary workmanship of the Universe and ends with predictions for the future and a message, "the last commandment," for the reader.

In no way should The Bible According to Einstein be construed to be written by Albert Einstein. On the other hand, the true contributors of this book are the many men and women of science who, during centuries of work, have discovered the laws of Nature. Without their contributions, this book would not be possible. Likewise, the word "bible" in the title does not refer to the Holy Bible. Rather, it indicates the ancient meaning of the word, namely, "a collection of books."

"This imaginative book traces the history of the universe and mankind, seen through the eyes of science and told in the language of faith. Ultimately, it provides a marvelous opportunity to learn a lot of science and enjoy it." -- Dr. Glenn Seaborg (Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory), Nobel Laureate in chemistry
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