I read an interesting blog entry today. In it, the author mentions Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s theory to explain the discrepancy between the age of the universe as determined by science and that mentioned in Genesis. His theory is based on time dilation as detailed in Einstein’s theory of Relativity. It basically relates the galactic year to the seven days of the Bible using time dilation.
He then goes on to say that he doesn’t really support this theory, but uses it as an example of how the scientific and religious view of the beginnings of the universe can be reconciled. The he tells us that his personal theory is based on Lurianic Kabbalah.
I don’t know much about Lurianic Kabbalah, but I do know that Kabbalah is a branch of Judaism and that Judaism is a religion. I find it interesting that he would use a religious theory that contains no science to bridge the gap between religion and science.
Let us look at the two theories side by side, shall we?
“When the big bang happened the outer rim of the universe ballooned outward with such a tremendous burst of energy that it approached the speed of light. Time dilation theory teaches that the faster you go in space the slower you go in time. Therefore by reaching such high speeds, time greatly slowed down at the outer rim of the universe when measured relative to clocks within the universe.
So while the outer rim experienced only seven days, the interior of the universe could have experienced 15 billion years.”*
“Shroeder attempts to reconcile a young earth creationism Biblical view with the scientific model of a world that is billions of years old using the idea that the perceived flow of time for a given event in an expanding universe varies with the observer’s perspective of that event. He attempts to reconcile the two perspectives numerically, calculating the effect of the stretching of space-time, based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Schroeder holds to a theistic evolution view.”**
The characteristic feature of Luria’s system in the theoretical Kabbalah is his definition of the Sefiroth and his theory of the intermediary agents, which he calls partzufim. Before the creation of the world, he says, the Ein Sof (“Without Ending”) filled the infinite space. When the Creation was decided upon, in order that God’s attributes, which belong to other beings as well, should manifest themselves in their perfection, the Ein Sof retired into God’s own nature, or, to use the kabbalistic term, God “concentrated” Himself (Tzimtzum). From this “concentration” proceeded the “infinite light”. When in its turn the light “concentrated”, there appeared in the center an empty space encompassed by ten circles or dynamic vessels (kelim) called Sefirot, (“Circled Numbers”) by means of which the infinite realities, though forming an absolute unity, may appear in their diversity; for the finite has no real existence of itself.
However, the infinite light did not wholly desert the center; a thin conduit of light traversed the circles and penetrated into the center. But while the three outermost circles, being of a purer substance because of their nearness to the Ein Sof, were able to bear the light, the inner six were unable to do so, and burst. It was, therefore, necessary to remove them from the focus of the light. For this purpose the Sefirot were transformed into “figures” (parzufim, cf. Greek πρόσωπον = “face”).
The first Sefirah, being Keter (“Crown”), was transformed into the potentially existing three heads of the Macroprosopon (Erech Anpin); the second Sefirah, being Chochmah (“Wisdom”), into the active masculine principle called “Father” (Abba); the third Sefirah, being Binah (“Understanding”), into the passive, feminine principle called “Mother” (Imma); the six broken Sefirot, into the “male child” (Ze’er), which is the product of the masculine active and the feminine passive principles; the tenth Sefirah, Malkut which is (“Kingship”), into the female child (Bath). This proceeding was absolutely necessary. Had God in the beginning created these figures instead of the Sefirot, there would have been no evil in the world, and consequently no reward and punishment; for the source of evil is in the broken Sefirot or vessels (Shvirat Keilim), while the light of the Ein Sof produces only that which is good. These five figures are found in each of the Four Worlds; namely, in the world of Emanation (atzilut), Creation (beri’ah), Formation (yetzirah), and in that of Action (asiyah), which represents the material world.***
*Quoted from http://soullite.blogspot.com/2010/03/science-vs-creationism.html
**Quoted from the Wikipedia entry on Gerald Schroeder, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Schroeder
***Quoted from the Wikipedia entry on Isaac Luria, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Luria
Well, both of those explanations were delightfully obtuse and unencumbered by simplicity and clarity, the second admittedly more so than the first.
What really gets me about this is that the author is giving us a fairly complex (and scientifically wrong) theory to try to reconcile the two views, scientific and religious, and then casually mentions his own religious and vastly more convoluted theory.
He, like many people on both sides of the debate seems to be failing to apply simple logic and Occam’s Razor. I think a much simpler solution to this question is that the science is correct in describing the age of the universe to be approximately 13.7 billion years old and that the account in Genesis is obviously allegorical. The Genesis account is a literary device that is meant not to show how the universe was created, but how unimaginably powerful and awe inspiring God is.
This works for me because Occam’s Razor basically says that the simplest explanation that fits the evidence is most likely the correct one. The evidence for the age of the universe is pretty conclusive and is supported by multiple studies and an abundance of evidence. The idea that Genesis is allegorical is not new and, while there will always be disagreements with this idea, it has the advantage of not having to find ways to explain away discrepancies between its account and observed evidence while maintaining its validity as a inspirational text.
So, the old axiom, “Keep it simple, stupid.”, still holds here.