Intelligent Design

The Broken Gift: Daniel Friedmann’s attempt to marry science and Genesis

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Last year, I reviewed Daniel Friedmann’s best-seller, The Genesis One Code, which argued that the Bible, when properly interpreted, teaches that the universe is 13.74 billion years old – which is about as old as scientists currently believe it to be (13.798 billion years). Friedmann’s book also made a number of scientifically falsifiable claims – including the striking prediction that the Earth would turn out to be 9 billion years old and to pre-date the solar system (which sounds unlikely but just might turn out to be true). Friedmann’s scientific background as a professional engineer with a master’s degree in engineering physics who is also the CEO of a leading aerospace company undoubtedly lent his book extra credibility.

Friedmann’s second book, The Broken Gift, is even more thought-provoking than its predecessor. The conclusions it reaches are startling, and many readers will find them downright bizarre: at times, they sound a lot like Scientology. To his credit, though, Friedmann has done his homework: he is well-versed in the scientific literature, as well as the Jewish mystical writings which he brings to bear on the subject of human origins.

Friedmann’s latest book is an attempt to resolve a long-standing conflict between religion and science regarding where we came from and how long we have been here. As the blurb on the book’s back cover puts it:

How did we get here?

Was Adam the first man? Was man created by divine act in less than one day almost 6,000 years ago, as the Bible suggests?

Or did man appear 200,000 years ago as the culmination of numerous human-like species during a span of millions of years, as the scientific method shows?

Both cannot be right. Or can they?

Writing as an observant Jew, Friedmann addresses the subject of human origins by drawing upon not only the Bible, but also Jewish oral traditions, which were committed to writing around 500 A.D., when the Babylonian Talmud was produced. In addition, Friedmann makes use of rabbinical commentaries written in the Middle Ages by Rashi (1040-1105) and Nachmanides (1194-1270), who is also called Ramban. Finally, Friedmann appeals to the Kabbalah, or Jewish mystical tradition, which he believes dates back to Moses, but which wasn’t recorded in writing until the 13th century A.D., in Spain. One Kabbalist scholar whose writings Friedmann frequently quotes in his book is Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel of Acre, who lived in the land of Israel in the 13th and 14th centuries. Some of the Rabbi’s works have only recently been translated into English by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1934-1983), who argued in his posthumously published book, The Age of the Universe: A Torah Time Perspective (Rueven Meir Caplan, 2008) that Isaac ben Samuel had actually implied in his medieval work, Otzar HaChaim (Life’s Treasure) that the universe is billions of years old. However, only one copy of this book exists today, in the Lenin Library in Moscow, and the handwriting is very hard to decipher, as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan himself admits. So Friedmann’s proposed harmony between science and Scripture hangs by a very slender thread: one man’s translation and interpretation of a single copy of a 700-year-old book, written in very bad handwriting.

Three concepts of time

Before I discuss Friedmann’s answer to the perennial question of where we came from, I’ll need to explain the three concepts of time which Friedmann uses in his book: creation time (which is used by God to communicate with us in the opening chapter of Genesis, which describes the creation as a work performed in six creation days), Divine time (which is the actual time on which the universe operates) and human time (or time as we measure it). On creation day equals 7,000 years of Divine time, and one Divine day equals 1,000 years of human time, each of length 365.25 days. Thus one creation day is equal to 2,556,750,000 years (7,000 x 1,000 x 365.25) of human time. One creation hour is equal to 106,531,250 years of human time. One Divine day is equal to 1,000 years of human time, while one Divine year is equal to 365,250 years of human time. According to the rabbinic sources cited by Friedmann, the creation of the universe (which Friedmann equates with the Big Bang) took place on the sunrise of Day 1 – or about 12 hours into the day, since the Jewish day starts at sundown – not at the beginning of the day. And according to the same sources, the Fall of Adam occurred at the end of the ninth hour on Day 6. Thus the time covered by the Genesis 1 narrative up until the Fall covers 5 creation days and 9 creation hours, or 13,742,156,250 years (about 13.74 billion years). After the Fall, the Genesis narrative suddenly switches to human time. Following traditional Jewish chronology, Friedmann states that the Fall of Adam was completed by 3,761 B.C. (As we’ll see, Friedmann doesn’t think the Fall was an instantaneous event – in fact, it took place over a span of 284,043 years, when measured in human time, although it took less than 10 seconds of creation time.) The Biblical patriarchs, starting with Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth, were all born after 3,761 B.C. The Flood of Noah (which was local, not global) took place in 2,106 B.C. Friedmann believes that human history since the Fall is destined to last 6,000 years, and he looks forward to the commencement of the messianic era in 2,240 A.D., exactly six Divine days after the Fall of Adam.

Where did Adam come from?

Now here’s where the story gets really interesting. On Friedmann’s view, three key events in the history of the cosmos required Divine intervention: the origin of the universe itself; the origin of complex life; and the origin of the human soul. All other cosmic events can be studied via the scientific method, although they may nonetheless be guided by God. Adam, according to Friedmann, did not evolve: he was a unique creation. Adam’s body was formed out of the dust of the ground over a period of three creation hours, or about 320 million years of human time (from 959 million to 639 million years ago), and his soul was then blown into him by God Himself – “thus it contains pure, essential and unclothed Divinity.” This process took another hour of creation time, or 106,531,250 years in our time, and it took another hour for Adam to stand up, which he finally did, at the end of the fifth hour on Day 6. That event took place about 426 million years ago in human time. Adam was not a human being – indeed, he was “nothing like us, physically or spiritually.” He was a divine being, who was so God-like that “the very angels thought he was a deity.” He possessed a mind that could comprehend the universe, he spoke and reasoned, and he was so immense that he “filled the Earth.” Nevertheless, he walked on two legs like human beings, and he ate, drank and procreated like any animal. Interestingly, Friedmann writes that he was also designed to die like an animal, if perchance he fell into sin as a result of making a bad choice – which of course he did.

Adam’s soul: 225 billion souls in one!

Adam possessed not only an animal soul but also an intellectual soul, which was capable of reasoning, knowing right from wrong and knowing God. Adam’s intellectual soul, as Friedmann conceives it, was a quasi-physical entity. Instead of being simple and devoid of parts as we might imagine a spirit to be, it contained the roots of all 225 billion souls that would eventually descend from him, spiritually speaking: it was composed of 613 major roots, which were each divided into 613 smaller roots, which were each subdivided into 600,000 individual souls.

The Garden of Eden

Prior to Adam’s creation 426 million years ago, the Earth was barren and devoid of vegetation. But when Adam’s creation was finally completed, he was placed in a garden near the Equator, named Eden. The four rivers of Eden are now located in different continents – one is believed to be in Egypt (or possibly India), another in Ethiopia, and the remaining two (the Tigris and Euphrates) are in Iraq – but 420 million years ago, when the continents were arranged differently, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Arabian peninsula and India were all adjacent to each other. The Garden of Eden was situated east of Jerusalem and centered in the Arabian peninsula.

After having been placed in the Garden of Eden, Adam’s first task was to name the animals – by which Genesis means four-footed animals. These first appear in the fossil record about 400 million years ago. By the sixth hour after sunrise on creation day 6, or about 320 million years ago in human time, Adam had finished naming the animals. Eve was created during the seventh hour, and her creation was finally completed by 213 million years ago. During the eighth hour, which lasted until about 106.5 million years ago, Cain and Abel were born. Their birth preceded the Fall of Adam and Eve.

The fall of Adam and Eve

In the ninth hour, Adam and Eve were commanded by God not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve was the first to sin against God’s command, while Adam was still sleeping. She instantly realized that she had become mortal, panicked, and hysterically pleaded with Adam to partake of the same fruit, because she was afraid that God would provide Adam with a new wife. Adam’s sin was the act of a moment – but Friedmann, drawing upon rabbinic sources, argues that a moment in the Bible equals 9.6 seconds, and as the Genesis narrative at this point is still using creation time rather than human time, the moment that it took Adam to sin would have equated to 284,043 years of human time, lasting from 289,817 to 5,774 years ago. As a result of the Fall, Adam lost most of his stature, though he was still enormous by our standards: he shrank from being an immense creature that filled the Earth to a being that stood “only” 40 meters (100 cubits) tall. No longer would the Earth yield fruit in abundant measure for Adam: he was sentenced to work from the soul by the sweat of his brow, while Eve was condemned to suffer the pains of menstruation and child-bearing.

How Adam’s Fall created a need for Homo sapiens

Adam, as we have seen, was created as a great-souled individual. Had he not sinned, he would have lived forever, but the Fall caused his soul to fracture into sparks of varying sizes, each one of which had a special job to do, to help rectify the effects of Adam’s terrible mistake on a cosmic level. A few noble sparks of Adam’s soul, which had not participated in his sin, soared heavenward. Other large sparks remained in Adam and were transferred to his physical descendants, the Biblical patriarchs. Because they had very important tasks to do in repairing the cosmic damage caused by the Fall of Adam, they were granted unusually long lifespans by God, with some of them living to the age of almost 1,000 years. Most of the sparks from Adam’s soul were much smaller, however. These soul-sparks needed to find bodies in which they could be incarnated. The bodies in which they were incarnated were not glorious bodies like Adam’s, but bodies of very advanced hominids – anatomically modern Homo sapiens – who evolved naturally, from a simian ancestor. Thus humans and apes share a common ancestor, according to Friedmann, but the human capacity for rationality is not the result of evolution, but of tiny sparks from Adam’s soul migrating into the bodies of anatomically modern Homo sapiens individuals, making them rational beings capable of using language, creating art and worshiping God. The bodies of these hominids were the best available home for the sparks from Adam’s shattered soul, since they were the most God-like animals living on Earth at the time of Adam’s Fall. Thus Adam’s Fall created the need for anatomically modern Homo sapiens individuals, whose evolution by natural processes had been arranged by God, in anticipation of the possibility of Adam falling into sin. These anatomically modern human beings were Adam’s spiritual descendants but not his physical descendants: in other words, Friedmann doesn’t think that most of the human beings who lived in the time of the patriarchs were physically descended from Adam. Normal human beings have a much shorter lifespan than Adam’s physical descendants, the Biblical patriarchs, because their role in the cosmic scheme of things is less important. Drawing upon the Babylonian Talmud, Friedmann also claims that each developing human fetus is ensouled with one of these sparks from Adam’s soul when it is 40 days old, and not at conception (see Annex B, p. 204).

A gradual Fall: how Friedmann harmonizes scientific and Biblical chronologies

Based on his sources, Friedmann argues that the formation of anatomically modern Homo sapiens was a process that began 290,000 years ago and was completed by about 200,000 years ago, which is when Homo sapiens first appears in the fossil record. Thus there were many thousands of anatomically modern humans living on Earth when Adam fell. This is how Friedmann harmonizes the Biblical teaching of mongenesis (a single primal pair, Adam and Eve) with the polygenesis currently favored by most scientists studying human origins (but vigorously contested by Dr. Ann Gauger). The Fall, as mentioned above, was not an instantaneous but a gradual affair, lasting from 289,817 to 5,774 years ago in human time. Long before the Fall was completed, however, soul-sparks began leaving Adam’s body and flying into the bodies of these hominids. Friedmann claims that this process began as early as 120,000 years ago, and that by 63,000 years ago, all Homo sapiens individuals had been endowed with rational souls, making them behaviorally modern everywhere they lived at the time: in other words, they possessed language, art and religion. They also wore clothing. These human beings also developed a hankering to migrate to all corners of the globe, starting from 63,000 years ago.

Adam’s Fall, as explained above, was not fully completed until 5,774 years ago, in 3,761 B.C. After the Fall, Adam lived on for another 930 years. All of Adam’s direct physical descendants (with the exception of Cain and Abel) were born after 3,761 B.C.

Noah’s Flood

The Flood of Noah, which occurred in 2,106 B.C., did not kill most human beings. The individuals it killed were mainly Adam’s direct physical descendants, who lived in what is now Iraq. All of these individuals were killed, with the exception of Noah and his family. Friedmann cites several rabbinic sources and adduces passages in Scripture to argue that the Flood of Noah was local rather than global, and that it covered the land of Iraq. The ark did not hold every living species of animal, but only 100 species of large animals which were needed to repopulate the area of Iraq with animals after the Flood waters had subsided. The Flood itself was a very dramatic event, with “prolonged periods of rainfall, release of ground water, flooding hundreds of meters deep, boiling hot water, obscuration of the sun and moon, even acid rain to dissolve materials.” Friedmann thinks that the cause of the Flood was a natural event – possibly a meteor impact, earthquake or tsunami – but that the survival of the ark and its inhabitants required an act of Divine intervention. The Flood washed the ark into the Persian Gulf, where it drifted for several months, which is why no land was visible to Noah. Finally, after 150 days, it was washed back inland by a tsunami.

The Tower of Babel and the origin of modern language families

After the Flood, Noah’s direct descendants migrated in three different directions. At that time, they all spoke Hebrew, the language used by Adam and his physical descendants (but not by the anatomically modern humans who were endowed with sparks from Adam’s soul, and who developed languages of their own). However, in 1766 B.C., some 340 years after the Flood, God confused the tongues of Noah’s direct descendants, and scattered them over the face of the Earth. In Europe and India, the languages of Japheth’s descendants overtook the local languages (which largely died out). These new languages became established as the Indo-European languages. However, the languages of Ham’s and Shem’s descendants were unable to dislodge the pre-existing languages in Africa and the Arabian peninsula respectively, but blended with them instead. Other pre-existing language families developed by behaviorally modern races of Homo sapiens, such as the Sino-Tibetan and Amerindian language families, were unaffected by the dispersion of Noah’s descendants from the Tower of Babel.

The end of history: 2240 A.D.

In the final section of his book, Friedmann discusses the future of the human race. Citing rabbinic sources, he contends that God’s plan for humanity will be fulfilled only when 225 billion souls (which is equal to the total number of soul-sparks in Adam’s original soul) have been born as individual people. About 108 million human beings are estimated by demographers to have lived on Earth, up until now, and Friedmann calculates that another 130 billion people will have been born by the year 2240 A.D., when exactly 6,000 years (or six Divine days) of human history since the Fall of Adam will have elapsed, ushering in the commencement of the messianic era. By that time, the rectification of Adam’s sin will be complete.

That, in a nutshell, is the thesis of Friedmann’s book. Here’s my evaluation, in brief.

The positive points about Friedmann’s latest book

(1) Friedmann’s book is written in a clear and engaging style. Readers should find it easy to get through, and highly enjoyable as well. Although Friedmann’s three time scales (creation time, Divine time and human time) can get a little confusing, the diagrams in the book, which show the three chronologies side by side, are extremely helpful.

(2) Friedmann definitely deserves an A for sheer ingenuity. His book is a highly original endeavor to reconcile the findings of science with the Genesis narrative, on the subject of human origins. Some might say that Friedmann goes too far, and that his book amounts to an attempt to square the circle. Be that as it may, no-one can deny that Friedmann has essayed valiantly to reconcile the data from two different fields of knowledge on the issue of where we came from.

(3) Friedmann has familiarized himself with the scientific literature on human origins, up until 2012, and his scientific reporting is generally accurate and trustworthy. However, his claim that language arose some time after the emergence of anatomically modern Homo sapiens 200,000 years ago has been overturned by a recent study by Dediu and Levinson (On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences, Frontiers in Psychology, 4:397, 5 July 2013, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00397), which makes a very convincing case that “recognizably modern language is likely an ancient feature of our genus pre-dating at least the common ancestor of modern humans and Neandertals about half a million years ago.” A date of 500,000 years ago for the emergence of rationality in humans would cause Friedmann’s carefully constructed chronology to collapse like a house of cards.

(4) Friedmann has done his level best to minimize any conflicts between science and Genesis, as regards human origins. He accepts that humans and chimpanzees have a common ancestry, and that anatomically modern humans arose much earlier than 6,000 years ago. He also has no problem with the prevailing scientific view that the size of the human population never numbered less than 1,000 individuals (but see here for a scientific critique of this view). Friedmann regards the Flood as a local event, which did not wipe out the entire human race but was largely confined to Iraq and nearby areas. He acknowledges too that most modern human languages pre-date the confusion of tongues which occurred at the Tower of Babel, an event which Friedmann dates to 1766 B.C.

On the other hand, Friedmann is not without its drawbacks, which in my opinion outweigh its merits.

What I didn’t like about Friedmann’s book

(1) Friedmann is careless at times with his reporting. He misrepresents Intelligent Design on page 24 of his book: “species are too complex to evolve” is how he sums up the arguments of ID advocates. His historical survey of the debate on human origins from ancient Greece up to the present day is not bad, but often sketchy and at times inaccurate – for instance, he characterizes the Renaissance as “a time when science assumed a dominant role in cultural and educational forums,” when in fact science, after advancing steadily in the High Middle Ages, fell into abeyance during the early Renaissance (which began in the 14th century), and the Scientific Revolution only commenced 200 years later (it is traditionally dated from 1543, when Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus and Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica were published). Friedmann writes that in 1925, “Tennessee’s new law against teaching evolution was challenged by John Scopes.” Actually, the 1925 Tennessee Butler Act made it unlawful to teach “any theory that denies the Story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” The evolution of plants and animals could be freely taught in schools; only human evolution was off-bounds. And it was not John Scopes, the teacher at the center of the Scopes trial, who challenged the law, but the ACLU: the Scopes trial was the case that put it on the map. Still, these historical errors are relatively minor annoyances.

(2) Any good harmonization of science and Genesis should be falsifiable; if it is not, then it can hardly be called scientific. However, Friedmann’s harmonization is difficult to falsify scientifically, because he removes Adam from the ken of science by making him a Divine being. Thus Friedmann’s elaborately woven narrative is not so much opposed to science as completely orthogonal to it: all the action takes place in a realm that science cannot investigate. One wants to ask: where are the bones of Adam, who even after the Fall stood 40 meters tall, and his gigantic physical descendants, who lived to the age of almost 1,000 years? Why have anthropologists never uncovered them? For that matter, if Adam was originally a Divine being who “filled the Earth,” then why did he not dislodge the Earth from its orbit, every time he took a single step? Or was he weightless, perhaps? And how big were his footprints, anyway? From a scientific standpoint, these are perfectly reasonable questions, which Friedmann makes no attempt to answer.

(3) Most of the key dates in Friedmann’s book don’t correspond to anything significant in the history of life on Earth. Consider Adam. His formation from the dust of the ground took about 320 million years of human time, from 959 million to 639 million years ago. Well, what geologically significant events happened 959 million or 639 million years ago? None, as far as scientists can tell. Adam’s soul was allegedly infused into him by 532 million years ago (the infusion process having taken up 106 million years of human time). That roughly coincides with the Cambrian explosion, but it falls in the middle of the explosion, not at the beginning. Adam finally rose and stood on his feet 426 million years ago – once again, a date utterly devoid of geological or biological significance. The same goes for the date of Eve’s creation, 320 million years ago.

(4) Although Friedmann has labored mightily to harmonize his reading of Genesis with the findings of science, the discerning eye can still spot conflicts, as the dates in his book reveal. After he rose and stood on his feet some 426 million years ago, Adam’s first task, we are told, was to name the four-footed animals. But these don’t appear in the fossil record until more than 25 million years later, around 400 million years ago. What was Adam doing during that interval? Twiddling his thumbs? Even more curiously, the process of Adam’s naming the animals is said to have been completed by 320 million years ago, despite the fact that many kinds of animals (including mammals, birds, dinosaurs and most reptiles) had not yet appeared – which means that they could not have been named. We are also told that prior to Adam’s completion 426 million years ago, there was no vegetation. Once again, this is wrong; the first evidence of plants on land comes from spores of Mid-Ordovician age, about 470 million years ago, and molecular estimates place the origin of land plants as far back as 630 million years ago. Friedmann also makes some chronological mistakes when it comes to human origins. Menstruation and pain in child-bearing did not begin after the appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens, as he believes: the former is believed to go back to Homo erectus, while the latter dates back to Heidelberg man.

(5) The fudge factor in Friedmann’s book is readily apparent in his treatment of the conflict between scientific and Biblical dates for the emergence of man: Adam’s fall, he says, actually began 290,000 years ago in our time (shortly before the appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens in the fossil record), but was not completed until 5,774 years ago (which is roughly when the Bible says the Fall took place, if the chronologies in Genesis are read literally). A fateful decision by Adam that took 284,000 years to make, when measured in human time? Come on. That’s a fudge if ever I saw one.

(6) Friedmann denies the true humanity of Heidelberg man and Neanderthal man: on his account, they lacked language and therefore could not have possessed rational souls. Only Homo sapiens, Friedmann believes, was human – and even he didn’t become spiritually human until 120,000 years ago, when sparks from Adam’s souls began flying into the bodies of Homo sapiens individuals. But as I mentioned earlier, a recent study by Dediu and Levinson (On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences, Frontiers in Psychology, 4:397, 5 July 2013, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00397) makes a very powerful case that Neandertal man possessed language:

The Neandertals managed to live in hostile sub-Arctic conditions (Stewart, 2005). They controlled fire, and in addition to game, cooked and ate starchy foods of various kinds (Henry et al., 2010; Roebroeks and Villa, 2011). They almost certainly had sewn skin clothing and some kind of footgear (Sørensen, 2009). They hunted a range of large animals, probably by collective driving, and could bring down substantial game like buffalo and mammoth (Conard and Niven, 2001; Villa and Lenoir, 2009).

Neandertals buried their dead (Pettitt, 2002), with some but contested evidence for grave offerings and indications of cannibalism (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2010). Lumps of pigment — presumably used in body decoration, and recently found applied to perforated shells (Zilhao et al., 2010) — are also found in Neandertal sites. They also looked after the infirm and the sick, as shown by healed or permanent injuries (e.g., Spikins et al., 2010), and apparently used medicinal herbs (Hardy et al., 2012). They may have made huts, bone tools, and beads, but the evidence is more scattered (Klein, 2009), and seemed to live in small family groups and practice patrilocality (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2010)…

Neandertal culture, basically identical to modern human cultures before the Upper Paleolithic innovations, seems also to fall within the spectrum of modern human cultural variation in the ethnographic record. Various modern hunter-gatherers have produced archaeological records very similar or even considerably simpler than the Neandertal ones (Roebroeks and Verpoorte, 2009), some well-known examples being the North American early Archaic (Speth, 2004) and the Tasmanians (Richerson et al., 2009), who lacked bone tools, clothing, spear throwers, fishing gear, hafted tools and probably the ability to make fire (Henrich, 2004)…

Like these groups of modern humans with rather simple technology, the relative cultural simplicity of Neandertals compared to European modern humans can probably be best understood in its demographic context… In general, Neandertals had very low population densities, which coupled with the repeated local extinction and recolonization (Hublin and Roebroeks, 2009; Dennell et al., 2010; Dalén et al., 2012), would have inhibited the growth of complex technology…

Thus, we believe there is no argument to be made from Neandertal culture to the absence of language. The paucity of preserved symbolic material is also observed in early modern humans, and many modern ethnographic settings. On the contrary, nothing like Neandertal culture, with its complex tool assemblages and behavioral adaptation to sub-Arctic conditions, would have been possible without recognizably modern language…

The Neandertals had a complex stone tool technology (the Mousterian) that required considerable skill and training, with many variants and elaborations (see Klein, 2009: 485ff). They sometimes mined the raw materials at up to 2 meters depth (Verri et al., 2004). Their stone tools show wear indicating usage on wood, suggesting the existence of a wooden material culture with poor preservation, such as the carefully shaped javelins made ~400 kya [about 400,000 years ago – VJT] from Germany (Thieme, 1997). Tools were hafted with pitch extracted by fire (Roebroeks and Villa, 2011). Complex tool making of the Mousterian kind involves hierarchical planning with recursive sub-stages (Stout, 2011) which activates Broca’s area just as in analogous linguistic tasks (Stout and Chaminade, 2012). The chain of fifty or so actions and the motor control required to master it are not dissimilar to the complex cognition and motor control involved in language (and similarly takes months of learning to replicate by modern students).

The archaeological evidence seems to suggest clearly that Neandertal man possessed a culture that required the use of language. Neandertal man engaged in distinctively human cultural practices, such as wearing carefully sown clothing and footwear, burial of the dead (with personal ornaments and pigments, although this remains controversial), and the application of lumps of pigment to perforated shells. Unless we wish to say that human rationality arose on two independent occasions in human history, it is logical to infer that Heidelberg man, the last common ancestor of Neandertal man and modern man, was also rational.

It has often been claimed that Heidelberg man did not create any art. However, according to a 2011 paper, The First Appearance of Symmetry in the Human Lineage: where Perception meets Art (careful: large file!) by Dr. Derek Hodgson (in Symmetry, 2011, 3, 37-53; doi:10.3390/3010037), tools dating from 750,000 years ago, which were created either by Heidelberg man or late Homo erectus, have been unearthed in Africa, which manifest a concern for three-dimensional symmetry on the part of their makers, which is a clear indication of artistic ability. (See also the discussion of the Master hand-axe here.)

(7) Friedmann’s theology is highly dubious, too: he believes in a physicalistic account of the soul (which, he says, can fragment into parts of various sizes), and he also has some very strange notions about how souls are passed on to the next generation: they can be physically transmitted from parents to offspring (as with Adam and his physical descendants) or they can leave their old body and be incarnated in a new body (which is how sparks from Adam’s soul were transmitted to his spiritual descendants). Another conclusion many readers may find objectionable is Friedmann’s view that the fetus does not become a human being until 40 days after conception (see Annex B, p. 204), and his contentious claim that Adam was a divine being (and by the way, what exactly is a divine being, if it’s not God?)

(8) Friedmann relies on doubtful historical sources, as was pointed out above. I mentioned earlier that Friedmann’s proposed harmony between science and Scripture hangs by a very slender thread: one man’s translation and interpretation of a single copy of a 700-year-old book (Otzar HaChaim, by Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel), which was written in very bad handwriting. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, on whose work Friedmann heavily relies, openly acknowledges this point in his book, The Age of the Universe: A Torah Time Perspective (Rueven Meir Caplan, 2008):

There is only one complete copy of this manuscript in the world, and this is in the Guenzberg Collection in the Lenin Library in Moscow… This is how I got my hands on this very rare and important manuscript… It took a while to decipher the handwriting, since it is an ancient script.

A hypothesis based on such thin evidence should be treated with a great deal of skepticism.

(9) At times, Friedmann’s account bears an uncanny resemblance to Scientology. Consider the following account of Scientologists’ key claims, which was published in the Los Angeles Times (November 5, 1985):

…[A] major cause of mankind’s problems began 75 million years ago, when the planet Earth, then called Teegeeach, was part of a confederation of 90 planets under the leadership of a tyrannical ruler named Xemu. Then, as now, the materials state, the chief problem was overpopulation.

Xemu, the documents state, decided to take radical measures to overcome the overpopulation problem. Beings were captured on Earth and on other planets and flown to at least 10 volcanoes on Earth.

The documents state that H-bombs far more powerful than any in existence today were dropped on these volcanoes, destroying the people but freeing their spirits–called thetans– which attached themselves to one another in clusters.

After the nuclear explosions, according to the documents, the thetans were trapped in a compound of frozen alcohol and glycol and, during a 36-day period, Xemu “implanted” in them the seeds of aberrant behavior for generations to come. When people die, these clusters attach to other humans and keep perpetuating themselves.

Scientology’s thetans and Friedmann’s “soul-sparks” don’t seem so very different, do they? Both accounts, in my opinion, are basically castles in the air. Although I have the greatest respect for Friedmann’s personal integrity, I cannot see any good reason why his narrative of human history should be deemed any more credible than the creation myths found in cultures all around the world. Like these, it lacks historical evidence.

I will say, though, that I found Friedmann’s date of 2240 A.D. for the end of human history and the commencement of the messianic era to be plausible. At the present time, scientific knowledge appears to be growing exponentially; but in a finite universe, such a trend can hardly continue forever. Many people have a strong sense that human history is drawing to a close: they can feel it in their bones. However, a realistic appraisal of the facts suggests that we still have a lot to learn about ourselves and our place in the universe before that happens. It seems reasonable to suppose that in 200 years, the human race will finally be ready to meet its Maker, Who will bring history as we know it to a dramatic close.

10 Replies to “The Broken Gift: Daniel Friedmann’s attempt to marry science and Genesis

  1. 1
    Splatter says:

    Quite bizarre. Thanks for the review.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    I won’t touch his bizarre interpretation of Genesis but as to your specific claim here Dr. Torley:

    ‘it is logical to infer that Heidelberg man, the last common ancestor of Neandertal man and modern man, was also rational.’

    Yet, just last summer, this fossil of ‘particular importance’ to human evolution was labeled “no more than a paleoanthropologists’ construct”,,,

    Good-bye Heidelberg Man: You Never Existed – July 11, 2014
    Excerpt: “If someone kills one person they go to jail,” anthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco noted last month at a meeting here in France’s deep south. “But what happens if you kill off a whole species?” The answer soon became apparent: anguished debate. In the balance was Homo heidelbergensis, a big-brained human ancestor generally seen as a pivotal figure, (common ancestor of modern humans and our extinct closest cousins, the Neandertals), during a murky period of evolution. At the invitation-only meeting, researchers debated whether this species really was a major player—or “no more than a paleoanthropologists’ construct”.

    That lack of certainty for this fossil is not something to build a robust, ‘scientific’, case with Dr. Torley. The same lack of certainty is rife throughout the fossil record for supposed early human evolution,,
    In fact, another supposedly ‘lynchpin’ fossil for human evolution, discovered during the same time period as Heidelberg Man (i.e. 1920’s), also recently lost its ‘lynchpin’ status:

    Smithsonian Evolution Storytelling – Sept. 18, 2014
    Excerpt: Discovered in 1924 in South Africa, models of the skull have long since been duplicated for natural history museums as evidence for human evolution worldwide, including the Smithsonian. Found near Taung, South Africa, the lynchpin skull was tagged with the common name of Taung Child because of the fossil’s estimated age of 3 years, then, later named Australopithecus africanus meaning the “southern ape from Africa.” Hollow’s new high-resolution CT scan images, however, undermine the long-held pre-Homo fossil status of the skull.,,,
    In the words of ScienceDaily, the Taung skull was once “South Africa’s premier hominin… the first and best example of early hominin brain evolution.”,,
    The evidence undermines the the long-held pre-Homo status of the skull. In an article published in the John Hopkins News-Letter entitled “Taung child’s skull compared to human’s,” writer Elli Tian points to the glaring problem for human evolution –
    “The evolution of our species, and what makes us human, is much more complicated than we’ve assumed in the past.”

    and along that line was this major shakeup in the field of paleoanthropology from last year in which up to half a dozen supposed fossils for human evolution were found to be on ‘shaky ground’:

    Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray – OCT. 17, 2013
    Excerpt: Over decades excavating sites in Africa, researchers have named half a dozen different species of early human ancestor, but most, if not all, are now on shaky ground.,,,
    If the scientists are right, it would trim the base of the human evolutionary tree and spell the end for names such as H rudolfensis, H gautengensis, H ergaster and possibly H habilis.

    Skull “Rewrites” Story of Human Evolution — Again – Casey Luskin – October 22, 2013
    Excerpt: “I think it’s probably premature to dump everything into Homo erectus,” Johanson told NBC News. “This is what you’re going to find the most opposition to.”,,,
    “There is a big gap in the fossil record,” Zollikofer told NBC News. “I would put a question mark there. Of course it would be nice to say this was the last common ancestor of Neanderthals and us, but we simply don’t know.”

    This is not something that should inspire confidence in the fossil record for supposed human evolution Dr. Torley,,
    Moreover, Neandethal has of late, from genetic evidence, been shown to interbreed with humans. Thus how can Neanderthal be considered a separate species from humans?

    “The majority of the Neandertal divergences overlap with those of the humans (Fig. 3), reflecting the fact that Neandertals fall inside the variation of present-day humans.”
    (A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome, May 2010, sciencemag)

    Dating Between Modern Humans and Neandertals – (Oct. 4, 2012)
    Excerpt: The team estimate that Neandertals and modern humans last exchanged genes between 37,000 and 86,000 years ago, well after modern humans appeared outside Africa but potentially before they started spreading across Eurasia. This suggests that Neandertals (or their close relatives) had children with the direct ancestors of present-day people outside Africa.

    Researchers decode complete genome of extinct humans (Denisovans) from a fossil finger bone – February 2012
    Excerpt: The big news, of course, is that there probably wasn’t a separate Neandertal or Denisovan “species” just a different group of humans.,,, The genetic difference between Neandertals and Denisovans is roughly as great as the maximal level of variation among us modern humans.

    Human Variability Can Be Rapid – December 19, 2011
    Excerpt: In a new paper in Current Biology (Volume 21, Issue 24, R1002-R1009, 20 December 2011), Lalueza-Fox and Gilbert said:
    ‘Analyses of Neanderthal and Denisovan nuclear and mitochondrial genomes have revealed surprising insights into these archaic humans as well as our own species. The genomes provide a preliminary catalogue of derived amino acids that are specific to all extant modern humans, thus offering insights into the functional differences between the three lineages. In addition, the genomes provide evidence of gene flow between the three lineages after anatomically modern humans left Africa, drastically changing our view of human evolution.’
    Instead of “surprising insights,” they should have said “falsifications,” because none of that was believed by paleoanthropologists a decade ago. That’s why it “drastically changed” their view. They differentiated “archaic humans” from “our own species,” but then pointed to “evidence of gene flow” between all three groups. You can’t get gene flow without sex. If members of these groups produced children, they are all the same species according to the biological species concept (i.e., species are populations able to produce fertile offspring).

    New method confirms humans and Neanderthals interbred – April 8, 2014
    Excerpt: Technical objections to the idea that Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal Genetics.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Also of note to Neanderthals, is this,,

    Early human skull has inner ear “long thought” unique to Neanderthals – July 9, 2014
    Excerpt: Re-examination of a circa 100,000-year-old archaic early human skull found 35 years ago in Northern China has revealed the surprising presence of an inner-ear formation long thought to occur only in Neandertals.

    and this,,,

    Neanderthal Myth and Orwellian Double-Think – Jeffrey Tomkins PhD. – 2012
    Excerpt: The anatomical data not only shows that Neanderthals had fully human bone structure, but larger brains and more robust features. In fact, to the uncritical observer, they appear superior to modern humans.

    “Neanderthals are known for their large cranial capacity, which at 1600cc is larger on average than modern humans.”

    as to larger brains, it should noted that where we have our best fossil evidence, i.e. the fossil evidence that we can have the most certainty in scientifically speaking, is where we find this,,,

    If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking? – January 20, 2011
    Excerpt: John Hawks is in the middle of explaining his research on human evolution when he drops a bombshell. Running down a list of changes that have occurred in our skeleton and skull since the Stone Age, the University of Wisconsin anthropologist nonchalantly adds, “And it’s also clear the brain has been shrinking.”
    “Shrinking?” I ask. “I thought it was getting larger.” The whole ascent-of-man thing.,,,
    He rattles off some dismaying numbers: Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.”

    Cro Magnon skull shows that our brains have shrunk – Mar 15, 2010 by Lisa Zyga
    Excerpt: Using new technology, researchers have produced a replica of the 28,000-year-old brain and found that it is about 15-20% larger than our brains.

    Human face has shrunk over the past 10,000 years – November 2005
    Excerpt: Human faces are shrinking by 1%-2% every 1,000 years. What’s more, we are growing less teeth. Ten thousand years ago everyone grew wisdom teeth but now only half of us get them, and other teeth like the lateral incisors have become much smaller. This is evolution in action.”

    supplemental note: brow ridges are severely overrated as to being ‘proof’ of archaic humans,,,

    Modern Australian Aboriginal with prominent brow ridge – picture

    Aboriginal peoples
    Excerpt: Because Aboriginals have slightly larger eyebrow protrusions, a more downwardly slanted jaw and a smaller brain volume than Western peoples, they were thought to be living examples of transitional species. In order to produce proofs of evolution, evolutionist paleontologists together with fossil hunters who accepted the same theory dug up Aboriginal graves and took skulls back to evolutionist museums in the West. Then they offered these skulls to Western institutions and schools distributing them as the most solid proof of evolution.
    Later, when there were no graves left, they started shooting Aboriginals in the attempt to find proof for their theory.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    a short note as to the scientific evidence for a soul, besides the ‘non-local quantum’ evidence (which I won’t list right now), the observational evidence for a soul is far, far, more robust than the observational evidence for Darwinian evolution is:

    Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test – Dr. Michael Egnor – October 15, 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, about 20 percent of NDE’s are corroborated, which means that there are independent ways of checking about the veracity of the experience. The patients knew of things that they could not have known except by extraordinary perception — such as describing details of surgery that they watched while their heart was stopped, etc. Additionally, many NDE’s have a vividness and a sense of intense reality that one does not generally encounter in dreams or hallucinations.,,,
    The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species , (or the origin of life, or the origin of a molecular machine), which is never.,,,
    The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. NDE’s show fellows like Coyne at their sneering unscientific irrational worst. Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn.
    Note: Dr. Egnor is professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

    etc.. etc.. etc..

    Along that line, I would like to present you with this very credible, and enjoyable, Near Death testimony from Dr. Mary Neal, which I watched just yesterday:

    Present! – Mary Neal’s Near-Death Experience – Sept. 2014 – video
    Dr. Mary Neal presents an in depth account of her near-death experience at the 2014 Conference of the International Association for Near-Death Studies in Newport Beach, California.

    She made me laugh out loud more than once with her all too human reactions to the whole ‘supernatural’ experience she had.

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    Truly fascinating. Thank you for this review.

    It makes sense to me that Yahweh experimented with a series of body plans over millions of years before finally settling on Adam. Those pre-Adam beings were not humans because they did not yet have a soul. They were ape-like animals, IMO.

    I have several problems with Friedman’s account, one of which is my conviction that the original Adam was not a single man but a civilization. Furthermore, it makes no sense that Yahweh created a male species without a female species and commanded them to multiply. Nobody can separate Yin from Yang. Rather, I am convinced that the original humans were male-female beings (hermaphrodites?) and did not become males and females until many years later. Just speculations.

  6. 6
    Peter says:

    First, religion does not say the world is 6000 years old. That is the interpretation of one person, not the Bible, and not many groups of Christians.

    Also, the bible is a religious book, telling religious truths. It is not a history book, or a science book. When Jesus said: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’ was he claiming he was a vine? Does the truthfullness of the bible depend on arguing that Jesus was a vine. No. Jesus was telling a divine truth – that he is the source of life. Likewise, Genesis is saying that God is the source of life. Any chronology from Genesis, that Genesis does not give is not what religion says. It is only what one person had said a long time ago. To judge the authenticity of the bible by this interpretation is to misunderstand Genesis. The divine truth of Genesis is that God created the universe and life. Any other interpretation is a human interpretation only.

  7. 7
    jw777 says:

    Fascinating attempt.

    I’ve always wondered if the expansion of the universe, speed of light and creation of time itself from the inception of the physical world could be best wrought as an inverse exponential equation wherein time itself was fastest (infinite @ t=0) in the beginning, and declined at such a rate as to match what we now think of as 24 hours passing several billion years, then what we now think of as 24 hours passing tens of millions of years, then thousands, then decades, seasons, fortnights, weeks, with the 8th day corresponding to a 33 1/3 hour day which has very gradually trended down to our current 24 hours which now moves at an undetectably minimal asymptote limit.

    Unfortunately, no one has ever seriously taken on the quite easy graphing of this. But Friedmann attempted something as unique and certainly intriguing, even if not a home run. He definitely laid some ground structure on which others can add improved architecting.

  8. 8
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain77,

    I’ve only got time for a very brief reply now, but I’ll just say this:

    (1) I agree with you that anatomically modern Homo sapiens and Neandertals are sufficiently similar to be classed in the same species, although I’d put them in separate subspecies. My point is, however, that Friedmann doesn’t view the Neandertals in this way: in his book, they are a separate species and he hold that they lacked rational souls.

    (2) The question of whether Heidelberg man constitutes a valid taxon is logically distinct from the question of whether the common ancestor of anatomically modern Homo sapiens, Neandertal man and Denisovan man was able to use language. This common ancestor is usually described as #Heidelberg man”. My point was that unless we want to say that language arose independently in two or three separate lineages, it follows that the common ancestor must have possessed language too.

    Got to go now. Cheers.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, as you know, I disagree with you on common descent. Thus, since I do not hold your assumption to be true, then your objection of ‘two separate lineages’ does not hold for me. i.e. You have not made your case for common descent to be true so as to argue the rest of your point to be valid!

  10. 10
    Vishnu says:

    mapou: the original Adam was not a single man but a civilization

    I essentially agree with this view. How did you come to it?

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