WESX's Party Line Discussion of
The Bible According to Einstein

Excerpts of the transcript of the broadcast that took place on March 27, 1998

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Al Needham: We are delighted that Professor Stuart Samuel of Columbia University and City College of New York is here in the North Shore area. And he has come home to his hometown of Beverly, Massachusetts. Tell us about this new bible.

Professor Samuel: Well [ha]. It's called The Bible According to Einstein: A Scientific Complement to the Holy Bible for the Third Millennium. And I was one of the editors of this book. It's quite a project. If I were to try to describe it in [ah] a single sentence, I would say that it's science and nature in a biblical format. It adopts the structure and style of the Holy Bible. For example, it's organized with an "old testament" and a "new testament." And it uses some of the language of the Holy Bible. For example, there are expressions that say "and then it came to pass .   .   ." There's also extensive referencing to the Holy Bible -- quotes from the Holy Bible. But the content of the book is different. The content of the book is [ah] science and nature. For example, the "old testament" of The Bible According to Einstein consists of a complete history of the Universe, Earth and life. And the "new testament" provides the laws of nature, a little of the development of human spirituality, [ah] a little history of science, and a description of the way that nature works as best known by scientists now.

Al Needham: If I were to sit here and talk about the Bible and what I get out of the Good Book with the inspiration and guidance. And you pick it up and you put it down. Is it competitive, your work?

Professor Samuel: You mean The Bible According to Einstein

Al Needham: [ah, hun]

Professor Samuel: to the Holy Bible?

Al Needham: Yes.

Professor Samuel: Well, these are two different books and they shouldn't be viewed as antagonistic toward each other.

Al Needham: [ah, hun]

Professor Samuel: The Holy Bible, as you just mentioned, provides important spiritual inspiration. It's very important in terms of morality. Basically the things that we believe in today in terms of what is good and what is bad are to a large extent determined by the Holy Bible; things such as "Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt love thy neighbor;" and so on are the basic moral principles that govern our modern society. The Bible According to Einstein doesn't deal with these moral issues. It doesn't deal directly [ah] with spirituality. Instead, it treats science and nature. It provides a description of the way that the physical world works.

For example, there are four fundamental forces that control everything in the Universe. Those four fundamental forces are gravity, which is very familiar to us -- every time we've dropped an object and it hits the floor, we've witnessed gravity. There is the electric and magnetic force which are united into one force called electromagnetism, which plays a crucial role in everything from computers to TV's and radios. In fact, without electromagnetism, we wouldn't be able to broadcast this signal to your listeners; they would not be able to receive it through the air by radio waves, and their antennas wouldn't be able to pick it up. That's the second force.

The third and fourth forces are forces that operate at a microscopic scale, smaller than an atom in the subnuclear region. They are called the strong force and the weak force. The strong force is responsible for holding the nucleus together. As you might know, the nucleus is made up of protons and neutrons. They're held together at the central part of an atom by the strong nuclear force. The weak nuclear force is responsible for some rare decays of nuclei and it also plays an important role at the center of the Sun. At the center of the Sun, mass is destroyed and converted into energy. Eventually, that energy is converted into light that is released at the surface of the Sun and provides us with the light that we have during the day.

Al Needham: Alright. What about some of the other things that are researched in the book; [uh] about the Earth, about predictions. Do you do a lot of fantasizing in the book?

Professor Samuel: For the most, the book is based on fact, on scientific understanding and on the highest quality sources. There is a little bit of speculation in the book. The initial moment of creation of the Universe -- the first millionth of a second -- is not know exactly but scientists have a pretty good idea of what happened. From about a millionth of a second on, there are ways in which cosmologists, astronomers and physicists can reconstruct the past. So from that point onward, there is very little speculation in the book. The history of the Universe that is presented in The Bible According to Einstein is accurate. There is also a book of Prophets. As I said, The Bible According to Einstein adopts the structure of the Holy Bible. And like the Holy Bible, it is organized in a series of books. So [ah], the next-to-the-last book is called the Book of Prophets. And there is a series of predictions made there. There's more uncertainty in those predictions but some of them are virtually certain to happen. I can give you an example, if you're interested.

Al Needham: Yes, I certainly am. It seems that the book begins by comparing it to the New Testament. Why not the Old Testament to start?

Professor Samuel: Well, [ah]. You would expect that the book is organized with first the "old testament" and then the "new testament." However the publisher decided to reverse that and start with the "new testament." And the reason was as follows: The beginning of the "old testament" describes the initial moments of creation -- the Big Bang theory. That period of time was so different from now that it was felt that the reader might have a little difficulty understanding it. It was an almost incomprehensible situation which transpired then. So it was decided to begin the book with the "new testament" -- the book of Homogensis, which is the emergence of humans, how the human evolved from the ape and developed intellectually and spiritually. That's something that readers can relate to more easily. We're all interested on how we all got here on Earth.

Al Needham: And the publishers want a book that you don't want to put down.

Professor Samuel: Absolutely. In those first few pages, there is this mysterious cloud that engulfs a forest region and a woman appears and she throws her arms out and receives the rays of light. It's hard for your listeners to realize this but the language of the book is extremely rich. It is written in a rhythmic language that approaches poetry.

Al Needham: Are you going to read at the Beverly presentation?

Professor Samuel: Yes. I'll be reading a section of the Book of Cretaceous. [ah] It's called [ah] .   .   . let's see. It's called Nature's Holocaust. It begins with a quote "A star shall fall from heaven." But actually, it's not a star that falls -- it's an asteroid.

Al Needham: Could you find it easy to .   .   . This is an off-the-wall question, perhaps. Could you find it easy to sit in a panel discussion with [ah] with the Reverend Billy Graham and Bishop Sheen and even Connel Law here in Massachusetts with their strength of belief in the Bible?

Professor Samuel: Well, that's a hypothetical question so that it's a little bit hard for me to imagine how such a panel discussion would proceed. I think that extremely religious people might have a certain antagonism toward science and perhaps also towards me as a scientist. However, I don't think that's .   .   .

Al Needham: That's primarily why I asked the question.

Professor Samuel: I think there are other religious thinkers that are a little more open-minded about things. In fact, The Bible According to Einstein, even though it's a science book and even though for centuries science and religion have been hostile toward each other, it's one of the few science books that is really not hostile toward religion. In fact, the very first sentence of the Introduction begins with the statement .   .   . It says, "The Holy Bible is one of the greatest books ever to appear." Certainly that doesn't sound like a work that's hostile to religion. What's happened here is that in certain instances the Church has made statements about the physical world. The typical example is in the early 17th century and the 16th century also, when the Church stated that the Earth was the center of the Universe. Now that's a statement about astronomy, a domain of science rather than a domain of religion or spirituality. So later, when Galileo, for example, took a telescope and observed the heavens and began to collect evidence to convince himself that the Earth wasn't the center of the Universe -- in fact, the Earth was orbiting the Sun, so, at best, it was the Sun that was the center of the Universe -- there was a conflict between science and religion.

Al Needham: I'm going to interrupt you here for a second, Professor Samuel. We're going to take a break.

[news break]

Al Needham: Human cloning has been in the news recently. This is scary. How do you approach this?

Professor Samuel: Let me say something first here. This issue of human cloning is going to be a polemical one. There are some very deep moral issues involved. And one of the purposes of The Bible According to Einstein is to give people the necessary scientific understanding to debate these questions in an intelligent way. So, for example, there's a Book of Biology in The Bible According to Einstein, which describes some of the biology that people need to know in order to make intelligent decisions. This proposal by Richard Seed to clone a human being is really unethical. One has to understand that only one mammal has been cloned, and that's the famous sheep Dolly. More than 200 attempts were done to produce one such sheep. And you can imagine if the same sort of statistics occurs with a human, what it might be like. Some woman is implanted with a clone egg and it may be that she miscarriages 200 times before she's able to produce a human being.

Also, there is this. Cloning of species has been occurring for a long time. Frogs were cloned in the sixties. A lot of those frogs had birth defects. You might worry if a woman was provided with a cloned cell that she might produce a defective human being.

I think it would be interesting for me maybe to explain exactly what cloning is.

Al Needham: Certainly.

Professor Samuel: So, what is done is that a cell that contains genetic material -- some DNA .   .   . That DNA and genetic material is removed. And then the DNA from .   .   . Let's take the example of a human being. The DNA of a human, which is available anywhere in a human body, is placed into that cell. The DNA of a person is unique to that person. It's used, for example, in criminal trials as a kind of "finger printing" technique. So the DNA that a person has is then place in the cell. It's an identical replica to all the DNA that that person has. Then this is the difficulty part. Something has to be done to induce the cell to replicate. If that is achieved then the cell begins to divide and a human fetus can then develop. So that's basically what goes on.

Now DNA is a very interesting thing. It actually contains the code of life. DNA is made up of nucleotides -- smaller building blocks. There are four different types. There's [ah] -- this gets a little technical but -- there's adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Microbiologists let a letter stand for each of these four nucleotides. So there's A for adenine, C for cytosine, G for guanine and T for thymine. So DNA consists of a long string of letters. And those letters actually act like text. Three letters together form what's called a codon, which acts like a word. So DNA, which consists of thousands of these strings of nucleotides, actually has a message in it, a series of biological words. And that encodes life. It tells the DNA how to generate proteins, how to reproduce and so forth. So the code of life is hidden in the DNA. The amazing thing that is going on in biology now is that microbiologists are trying to discover that fundamental code of life. And when they do that, they'll have a very deep understanding of how life works at a very basic level. Eventually, scientists will be able to genetically manipulate the DNA. In fact, they're able to do that now but there's not a lot of control. When that happens, even more serious ethical questions will be raised because we will be able to control our evolution. We will be able to decide whether our offspring have blue eyes, the color of their hair, their weight, size -- very many things. So that's a very dangerous issue because it will raise questions of eugenics. There'll be some practical benefits that will probably immediately happen. For example, certain genetic diseases will be easily eliminated.

Al Needham: Would you be able to follow up on another book on just DNA and cloning and what you've described over the last ten minutes.

Professor Samuel: Well, I like to do research. I like to discover things. So my purpose is not really to edit and write books. The Bible According to Einstein provides some of the foundations that allow people to understand these things, which makes it a wonderful book for people. And it's a wonderful book to give away as a gift to someone -- someone who's interested in science.

Al Needham: Well, we'll take a break here.


Al Needham: Now let me go to the other side of the coin -- the spiritual people, the Christians who are in the midst of the Lenten season -- ten days almost. It will be two weeks from today when we go to Good Friday and the solemn observance and then the Resurrection and then Easter arrives. All of the people who clutch their Bible every day... They might be clutching their Bible scolding the radio right now. How do you feel about that?

Professor Samuel: Well, they shouldn't really be offended at all. The Bible According to Einstein is very respectful of religion.

Al Needham: What about the research in the book?

Professor Samuel: One of the things that I would like to emphasize is that this book is really based on solid science. [And ah.] It is the only book that I've seen that has the endorsements of three Nobel laureates, two of whom are in this area. Sheldon Glashow, who's at Harvard, who won the Nobel prize in physics, said that this book is "a cosmic history and a bible for our times --- a fascinating attempt to unify the secular and the spiritual." And the other Nobel laureate in this area is Samuel Ting, who is at MIT and also won the Nobel prize in physics; he said that "The Bible According to Einstein is a fascinating book, most educational. I have learned a great deal from it." It's really an opportunity for your listeners and others to learn a lot about how the world works and about science.

Al Needham: I have a copy of the book thanks to you Professor Samuel. And I have shared this book with the reverend of my church in Manchester who's a congregational minister. He and I talked a little bit about the Hubble telescope. And you and I have talked about Hubble. Relate some of the activities that the Hubble telescope has observed -- maybe in relation to your book and your way of thinking.

Professor Samuel: Well, the Hubble telescope was launched a number of years ago. It was sent up above the atmosphere. And the reason is that telescopes here on Earth have to view the stars -- that wonderful world out there -- through the atmosphere. And there's a lot of turbulence. Starlight is distorted as it passes through the atmosphere so that by launching a telescope into space, scientists have been able to get a much clearer picture of the Universe. One of the things that they have discovered is that there is an enormous number of galaxies out there. Galaxies as you know are collections of about 100 billion stars in a localized region of the Universe. And what they [astronomers] discovered is that there are probably tens of billions of galaxies in the world. We live in a galaxy and that galaxy is called the Milky Way. Perhaps listeners have had the opportunity to see the sky at night on a very clear day -- on a clear evening, late at night when the sky is particularly black -- and right over head you may see a sort of milky collection of stars -- that's the Milky Way. That's our galaxy out there.

Al Needham: Well, keep up the good work. Thanks so much for coming by. It's great to meet you. And good luck with your Beverly venture. Good luck in going back to the big city.

Professor Samuel: Thank you very much.

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