When I first realized that the story of the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve, was an account of the formation and functioning of the human brain, the rest of the Scriptures made a whole lot more sense – everything from the creation and revelation, to the Kingdom of God.
The apparent inconsistencies and contradictions inherent in current Christian theology evaporated, especially the problem of the eschatological notion of the Kingdom of God (Schweitzer 1914).
This article shows how the allegorical explanation of the human brain in the story of the Garden of Eden conforms perfectly with the neuroscientific understanding of the functioning of the human brain outlined in the previous article (Part XI-A).
Genesis 1 as a reductionist account of the origins of the universe and life
Parts II to IX of these articles demonstrated how the interpretations of the creation story, primarily from two Jewish scholars, Nahmanides (1194 – 1270 AD) and Philo Judaeus of Alexandria (who lived at about the time of Jesus), accurately reflected the current scientific understanding of the origin of the universe and life.
In respect of Genesis chapter 1, Parts II to VII adopted the reductionist interpretation advanced by Nahmanides, best exemplified by his description of the creation of man:
“The correct simple meaning of the word, ‘let us make,’ is that which you have already been shown, to know (above, verse 1) that God created something from nothing on the first day alone, and afterwards He formed and made [everything] from the fundamental elements.” (Nahmanides 2015, on 1:26).
However, we departed from Nahmanides’ interpretation with regard to what actually existed after the six ‘days’ of creation. In that respect, Part VIII adopted Philo’s explanation that Genesis 2:4-5 should be interpreted to mean that nothing existed in the form we would recognize as life, such as plants, trees, animals or humans, after the six ‘days’ (Philo 2015, XLIV (129 – 130)). The methodology of Genesis 1 precludes it.
Applying the strict methodology of the first chapter of Genesis, we adopted an interpretation of the account of the ‘creation’ of “man” (Genesis 1:26-30) as a physicalist and reductive explanation of the three principal faculties of the human brain.
- The “image of God” symbolizes the ‘programming’ of primitive human DNA with a neurological moral network.
- The ‘programming’ of primitive human DNA with a capacity to reason is symbolized by God ‘speaking’ to the male and female He had just created.
- ‘Programming’ primitive human DNA with instincts is symbolized by what God says to the newly created human beings. “Be fruitful and multiply” represents the instinct to reproduce; “replenish the earth” symbolizes the instinct for survival and security, and the instinct to nurture and protect our offspring in order to perpetuate the species; “subdue the earth and have dominion” symbolizes the human instinct to subdue and control our environment, but regrettably, not excluding others of the species, which translates into an instinct to conquer; God explaining what He had given to the human beings for their survival and benefit, and what He had given to the “beasts of the earth,” symbolizes primitive human DNA being ‘programmed’ with a knowledge of how the physical world functions, and an instinct to pursue that knowledge.
This ‘programming’ of human DNA with instinct is central to the question of good and evil. Since ‘evil’ is reason in the service of primitive human instinct, yet primitive instinct is a necessary requirement for survival, and not in itself ‘evil’, God does not create ‘evil’.
The previous articles demonstrated that these various faculties of the human brain are a product of the physical laws that created and sustain the universe (both the quantum and Classical (Newtonian) laws), but also an “image” of those laws. In that respect, we adopted Philo’s interpretation of the “image of God”:
“The mind which exists in each individual has been created after the likeness of that one mind which is in the universe as its primitive model” (Philo 2015, XXIII (69)).
But as we saw in Part VIII, if the human mind, as an ‘image’ of the “mind of the universe,” is conscious, then the “mind of the universe” must also be conscious. That would resolve the scientific dilemma of how the “fundamental laws of quantum physics morph into the Classical (Newtonian) laws” (see Greene 2005,199, and Weinberg 1994,84). The observation necessary to effect the transformation is made by a conscious universe. The words “And God saw” at each crucial stage of the creation of the universe refer to the conscious universe effecting the observation. However, as mentioned in the previous article, that does not mean that God is redundant. The question remains as to how the initial matter in the universe, from which everything else was to be created, was itself transformed from being subject to quantum laws to being governed by the Classical laws that give the universe consciousness. It seems that the “spirit of God” (Genesis 1:2) moving across the waters must symbolize an initial observation, or action, by God, which created and ‘programmed’ the original matter and space (subject to quantum laws) with the laws that created the conscious “mind of the universe.”
However, the evidence suggests that all the faculties of the human brain constitute an ‘image’ of the laws that govern the universe, whereas the “image of God” specifically symbolizes the neurological moral network only.
The previous articles cited the scientific evidence that supports this reductive explanation of the ‘creation ’of primitive DNA, which has the necessary properties to transform into the various life-forms we see all around us, including the primitive DNA that created the human brain with these three distinct faculties. Part A adduced the neurological evidence of those neurological faculties.
The evidence thus supports Philo’s version of Genesis, which argues that nothing existed after the six ‘days’ in the form that we would recognize as life. All that existed was the primitive DNA that was ‘programmed’ to develop into the various life-forms that would inhabit the Earth. Research showing that what geneticists previously thought of as “junk DNA” actually consists of genetic “switches” that activate dormant genes, or ‘program’ spare genes, lends further support for Philo’s interpretation (Zimmer 2014).
Philo described Genesis 2:4-5 as follows:
“Does [Moses] not here manifestly set before us incorporeal ideas perceptible only by the intellect, which have been appointed to be as seals of the perfected works, perceptible by the outward senses. For before the earth was green, he says that this same thing, verdure, existed in the nature of things, and before the grass sprang up in the field, there was grass though it was not visible. And we must understand in the case of everything else which is decided on by the external senses, there were elder forms and motions previously existing, according to which the things which were created were fashioned and measured out” (Philo 2015, XLIV (129-130)).
One, or Two, Creation stories?
Previous articles thus adopted the position that Genesis 2 and 3 are a continuation of Genesis 1.
Genesis 1 is an account of the creation of the physical laws that determined how the universe and life would function in order to achieve the intended purpose, while Genesis 2 and 3 are an anthropological account of the development of man from the initial primitive DNA into modern human beings.
In Genesis 1, God’s actions (the words “And God said/saw”) refer to the conscious “mind of the universe” implementing the laws that would govern and sustain the universe and life by way of observation, while references to God taking actions in Genesis 2 and 3 refer to the laws that had been established by the conscious “mind of the universe” beginning to operate in order to give effect to the intended purpose and destiny of the creation.
On that basis, at the end of the six ‘days’ (or seven if we count the ‘resting day’), the Earth existed only in a pre-liquid water form, although all the primitive DNA necessary to create a large variety of life was present but dormant. That is confirmed by the words that follow the statement that grass etc had been created, but was not present – “for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth” (Genesis 2:5).
Then, when the Earth had cooled sufficiently, water appeared: “there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:6).
Liquid water provided the right environment for the dormant DNA to begin to develop. Over time, the DNA that was ‘programmed’ to become human began to form, going through various stages. The symbolism of God breathing life into man to make him a “living soul” suggests that the soul is a function of the physical brain (see below).
The Garden of Eden as the formation of the human brain
In Part VIII, we saw that the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8-14) symbolizes the formation of the human brain.
The “trees” that are “made to grow” perfectly correspond to the various neurological faculties. Those that are “pleasant to the sight, and good for food” refer to the network of instincts in the brain. Referring to these trees as being “pleasant” and “good for food” relate to the way these instincts are activated – the prospect of pleasure or the fear of pain.
The “tree of knowledge of good and evil” refers to the neurological moral network.
The “tree of life” refers to the reason network, which is the network that creates the mind and soul. The “man” was not prohibited from eating of this tree because, while the neurological moral network is only subconsciously activated, the mind is automatically structured for survival; the “man” automatically ‘obeys’ the impulses received from it. Only once the neurological moral network is consciously activated does a positive and conscious effort become necessary to structure the reason network in such a way as to ensure the survival of the mind as a conscious ‘living’ soul after physical death.
The river that flows out of Eden “to water the garden” (Genesis 2:10) clearly refers to the nervous system which supplies the brain with the information it needs in order to function. In A River out of Eden, obviously a ridicule of this verse, Richard Dawkins charts a “river of DNA” that eventually resulted in human DNA through a series of mutations (Dawkins 2014). Dawkins’ “river of DNA” is an account of the development of human DNA from the initial primitive DNA to modern man, whereas The Garden of Eden is actually describing the initial primitive DNA after it had formed into human DNA but which, at this point, was still dormant. That is symbolized by God putting the man into the garden the first time (Genesis 2:8).
The second time the man is put into the Garden, he is put there to “to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The first time he was just put there. The reason is that the first time symbolizes human DNA having appeared in the first of what would become the human species, but which was still dormant. These human beings would have had fully formed brains that would be recognizable as human, but would still have acted entirely on their primitive instincts, much as their primate ‘relatives’ would have done.
The second time man is put into the Garden symbolizes the first human being in whom the neurological moral network became subconsciously active. That is symbolized by the verse which immediately follows “man” having been put into the Garden the second time: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
In the original Hebrew, the words translated as “thou mayest freely eat,” and “thou shalt surely die,” are actually “eating thou shalt eat,” and “dying thou shalt die,” respectively. And that is important in respect of the symbolism in Genesis 2 and 3.
The symbolism of God commanding the man relates to the subconscious activation of the neurological moral network in the first human being/s who experienced it, and the effect it had on them. The recent discovery of Naledi man in South Africa may well be the remains of these first human beings with fully functioning neurological moral networks (Barras 2015). As Lee Berger, the head of the team that discovered Naledi man said, the fact that they buried their dead indicates “that naledi individuals recognised their own mortality and the other self that comes with death.” If that is the case, it would support the argument that the activation of the neurological moral network, even subconsciously, has the effect of causing a consciousness of mortality, and thus a consciousness of existing.
The original wording in Genesis 2:16-17 symbolizes that neurological event. Until that moment, human beings with still dormant neurological moral networks would have hunted, gathered and consumed on a day to day basis for survival. They would not have had the capacity or inclination to do otherwise. But once the neurological moral network was subconsciously activated, along with the other peculiarly human instincts (to conquer and seek knowledge), it also caused an enhanced capacity to reason in order to service those instincts. That means that these first human beings would have been tempted to cater to the demands from their instincts, for example, to seek greater security by appropriating to themselves more than they required for day to day survival. Their enhanced capacity for reason would also have been susceptible to the temptation to indulge their primitive instincts in excess, solely for the purpose of enjoying the pleasure of doing so.
However, the neurological moral network would have subconsciously caused them to refrain from doing so because they knew it was wrong. The words “eating thou shalt eat” symbolizes the moral imperative, dictated by the neurological moral network, that they should not appropriate to themselves in excess of what they could consume, especially not to the detriment of other life, or their environment. Neither should they kill other life unless it was absolutely necessary for their survival, and never in excess, or for the purpose of indulging their appetite for pleasure beyond the requirements of survival, or to allay their fear of pain.
The command that the man should not eat of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” or in “dying [he would] die,” symbolizes the effect caused by the subconscious activation of the neurological moral network. These first human beings became aware that certain actions were wrong even though no other human being had declared such actions to be wrong, and there was no authority to impose a consequence for committing such acts. Moreover, with this newly acquired knowledge, they would have noted that many of the actions of the very species from which they had emerged were wrong, yet there were no consequences to them for indulging in such behavior.
The effect of the subconscious activation of the neurological moral network was to compel them to recognize that the consequences would be imposed at some time other than during their lifetime, and the only other time could be after death. That would have caused an awareness of their own mortality, thus also causing a consciousness of being alive.
Genesis 2:18 to 25 records how the newly activated neurological moral network began to direct human behavior, and ultimately, human destiny.
Verses 18-20 imply that the activation of the neurological moral network occurred in one, or a number of individuals, who were isolated from one another, hence the reference to “the man” being alone. But this does not mean that each of them was physically alone. They would have been the offspring of members of the group or tribe from which they emerged. As Philo says, “all the individuals of the race had not yet assumed their distinctive form; since the extreme species are contained in the genus” (Philo 2015, XXIV (76)). This first “man” was thus the first to assume the “distinctive [human] form.”
These first human beings would have recognized that they were different to the species from which they had emerged.
The reason that it was “not good that the man should be alone” is that his instinct was to reproduce, but there wouldn’t have been a female of the species with fully ‘matured’ human DNA to reproduce with. Genesis suggests that this search for a mate activated other elements of his brain. The words “I will make him an help meet for him” symbolizes the activation of the ability to reason at a higher level, compelling this first human to examine the life around him in the hope of finding another living thing like him with whom he could reproduce. However, by examining the various different species around him, this first human activated another latent characteristic of the brain – the language module. Adam started ascribing names to the animals.
But Adam’s search for a mate proved futile: “but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:20). So it seems that this first of the human species must have settled for a mate from one of the more primitive species from which he had emerged, even though she would have been a different ‘species’ in some major respects. As a consequence, his fully ‘programmed’ human DNA must have again become dormant: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof” (Genesis 2:21).
The symbolism of “Adam” going into a deep sleep suggests that the fully formed human DNA he was carrying around probably passed through several generations while remaining dormant. So a number of the pre-human species may well have had this dormant DNA. Then the dormant DNA must have been activated in both a male and female at the same time, and in close physical proximity. And immediately they recognized each other as being different to the species around them, and virtual mirror-images of each other, except one was male and the other female. As Philo may have said, they would have “beheld” each other “as in a mirror” (Philo 2015, XXIV (76)).
However, at this stage, these early humans had not consciously activated the neurological moral network, so there would have been an innocence about them. They would have lived harmoniously with nature, and others like them. They would not have fenced-off portions of the Earth to claim as their own. They would not have sought to quell their insecurities and fears by building walls around themselves. They would not have sought security in subjugating others to their control and power. They did not even need clothes to display their vanity or to prevent lusting after each other’s bodies – they did not lust, because they knew it was wrong: “They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).
They would not have been in need of laws, because they knew the law. They would have known that making their own laws would simply be a ruse to violate the universal law which applied to everything and everybody.
That, suggests Genesis, was the state of the human race before primitive human instincts got the better of some.
The San people of Southern Africa, also known as Bushmen, who are the direct descendants of these first human beings who never consciously activated their neurological moral network, are living testimony to this interpretation of Genesis 2.
Anthropologists and geneticists identify some of these peoples as the ancestors of all human beings, although perhaps the rest of us are the descendants of that part of the species that went astray, and they are the descendants of those who did not. A recent extensive study supports that position (Choi 2012). Other research into the San people’s culture and beliefs provides evidence that they respond automatically to the impulses of the neurological moral network, so they don’t need courts of law and systems of justice (See Brody 2000 and Lewis-Williams 2004 & 2015). Reason is not in the service of their primitive instincts, so their minds, and thus their souls, are automatically structured on the neurological moral network (Lewis-Williams 2010).
The San should be contrasted with that branch of the species that did activate their neurological moral networks. That is addressed in Genesis 3.
Activation of the neurological moral network – ‘original sin’
As we saw in Part IX, the reason it was wrong to acquire “the knowledge of good and evil” is that to awaken the neurological moral network, some action had to be taken which offended against it. According to Genesis, that action related to pleasure – “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise …” (Genesis 3:6). All the emphasized words relate to pleasure, and pleasure relates to instinct (Philo 2015, LVI (160)).
The story of “the woman’s” temptation clearly refers to the interaction between the morality, instinct and reason networks. The serpent represents the instinct for reproduction. The symbolism of the serpent ‘speaking’ relates to the allure of pleasure to be had by indulging the instinct for reproduction. And “the woman” seeing the attractions of the tree symbolizes the application of reason to justify taking actions that she ‘knew’ were wrong.
The prohibition against eating of the tree symbolizes the neurological moral network within the brain that ‘speaks’ to us of the morality of our actions, and acts as a restraint to actions which offend against it.
When the first humans succumbed to the allure of the pleasure to be had by indulging their primitive instinct for reproduction, the neurological moral network was fully activated. This is symbolized by the words “and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). Genesis then tells us that once the neurological moral network had been consciously activated, it gave rise to a sense of guilt. Adam and “the woman” are then said to have done what people do to this day in order to justify their actions; they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the Garden” (Genesis 3:8). They attempted to escape the guilt aroused by their actions by seeking justification in their primitive instincts; in “the trees of the garden.” They ‘reason’ their way to a justification by attempting to convince themselves that they should not feel guilty because what they did was perfectly natural – just like the animals around them.
But the guilt could not be easily assuaged, so reason seeks to divert the blame – Adam blamed “the woman,” and “the woman” blamed the serpent. In ‘excusing’ her behavior by claiming that “the serpent beguiled” her, “the woman” defends her actions by ‘reasoning’ that the attractions of the pleasures she imagined could be had by indulging her primitive instincts were simply a ‘natural’ response to a ‘natural’ desire. But attempting to excuse their actions failed to silence their consciences.
Once they had crossed the moral threshold, no longer did they simply respond to an intuitive restraint to their actions from the neurological moral network. They had acquired an ability to identify specific actions as right or wrong. Yet, they were seduced by the allure of the pleasure to be had by indulging their primitive instincts, and could apply reason to justify doing so.
The ‘punishment’ said to have been inflicted on Adam clearly relates to human beings falling into bondage to their primitive instincts. From then on, human beings would be driven to provide for their survival and security by relentless toil. The instincts for survival and security generate a fear of being unable to provide for themselves, and a fear of anything and anyone perceived to be a threat.
The previous mental tranquility of intuitively refraining from actions because they knew they were wrong, was replaced with an obsessive preoccupation with the pleasures and fears aroused by those instincts.
The expulsion from the Garden of Eden to prevent “man” from eating of the “tree of life” symbolizes the effect of the neurological moral network being consciously activated. No longer is the faculty of reason, and thus the mind, automatically structured as an ‘image’ of the neurological moral network. In order to structure the mind to reflect the structure of the neurological moral network, we have to actively and consciously seek to do so.
Re-connecting to the neurological moral network – seeking the Kingdom of God
Other parts of the Scriptures perfectly support this interpretation, as does the way in which the Scriptures advocate providing for the ‘survival’ of the soul.
Many passages in the Scriptures lend support to the argument that the neurological moral network is the ‘vehicle’ through which human beings come to know God, and can provide for the survival of the mind as a conscious, ‘living’ soul after physical death.
Jesus said that “the Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 20 & 21).
Deuteronomy says a similar thing regarding the Law: “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deuteronomy 30: 11 – 14).
The parable of the mustard seed likens the Kingdom of God (or heaven) to a tree, which closely resembles neurological networks: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof” (see Mat 13: 31, 32; Mark 4: 30; Luke 13: 18).
That verse, and others (Mat 13: 33; Luke 13: 20), portray the Kingdom of God as something that starts out tiny and has to be nurtured in order to grow into a vehicle to survive physical death. But we need to seek it to find it: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to thee” (Mat 6: 33; Luke 12: 31). Furthermore, Kingdom of God is something we discover during our lifetimes (Mat 7:13 & 14; 13: 39), and if we ask for it and seek it, we can find it (Mat 7: 7; Luke 11: 9), but we should be aware of the dangers of servicing our primitive human instincts: “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Mat 13:22).
The references to being “born again” at John 3:3-13 relate to the activation of the neurological moral network, especially verses 6 and 8. The description at verse 8 refers to the “voice” of the demands of the morality network. These verses suggest that even if reason is in ‘bondage’ to the demands of human instincts (the instinct networks), it can still be activated (“born again”) in order to ensure that the mind is structured so as to survive physical death (to “enter into the kingdom of God”).
Jesus warns of the consequences of servicing our instincts, even if it is ‘profitable.’ He asks, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mat 16: 26). Proverbs issues the same warning: “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Proverbs 8: 35 & 36).
The Bible closes with the same theme of providing for the survival of soul following physical death: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelations 22: 14). We “do his commandments” when reason is in service of the neurological moral network, which has the effect of structuring the mind to survive physical death as a ‘living’ soul.
However, although servicing the neurological moral network has implications for each person in respect to the soul, if there is a God, then it is also likely to be the mechanism through which God chose to reveal to us His purpose for the universe and humanity. Servicing the neurological moral network is how human beings can collectively realize that purpose. That is the objective of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Mat 6: 10).
The story of the Garden of Eden only makes any sense when it is understood to relate to the formation of the human brain. But more compelling is that such an understanding of the story conforms in every respect to the current neuroscientific understanding of the functioning of the brain.
However, this does present some problems for current Christian theology. Current theology will find it increasingly difficult to find accommodation with science if it insists on holding to current doctrines. Unless it can bring itself to re-asses those doctrines, it will render itself increasingly irrelevant.
Unfortunately, there are many vested interests at stake. But that cannot stand in the way of each person deciding for him or herself what the Scriptures mean. Such ‘rebellion’ against the institutionalization of God was in fact the initial cause for the Scriptures, going back to Abraham. The prophets condemned the rituals of their times (see Isaiah 1:10-15 and Jeremiah 2:8-13). And Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat 15:9).
Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we may just be doing the same?
Joseph BH McMillan http://josephbhmcmillan.com
This article is based on the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan
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