In the previous blog we began approaching the issue of how to get a proper Jewish/Religious worldview concerning the issue of science vs. emunah. The basic issue being how can I be a believing Jew in a world of science. Most specifically, what am I to do if the science seems to be in conflict with the Tradition? Who has more authority? Am I to believe the words of our sages, ob”m, even in the face of empirical evidence? Does faith fly in the face of fact?
In my book, Core Emunah vol. 1 “Hello? G-d?” I address this issue specifically and expound upon what “Jewish faith” is and how it differs from the “faith” espoused by every other religion in the world. I have built off of this even further in Core Emunah vol. 2 “G-d & Me” which will, with HaShem’s help, be available in the very near future.
This issue is addressed specifically by some of our greatest minds. While there are those who say that we are to believe even in the face of the facts, the Rambam (in Moreh Nevuchim 53) and Rav Sa’adia Gaon (in his book Emunot v’Deyot) say otherwise. In their opinion if the facts are, indeed, indisputable, then there is room to reconsider a statement of our sages, ob”m. However, even they would never say this concerning the written Torah.
After years of studying the issues, I can say with absolute certainty that there is no such thing as a statement of our sages that contradicts the science. Just the opposite is true! The Torah is all about living one’s life according to life’s and realities most basic truths, and science is the search after the reality of life. There is, therefore, no way that they can be in conflict. They will only always work together to allow us for greater understanding. However, that doesn’t mean that there are no scientific opinions that are in contradiction with the statements of our sages. There are also many statements of our sages that are misunderstood or taken at face value without any context. As that is the case, the questions that we must ask ourselves when it comes to conflicts between the two realities are:
As I mentioned in the previous blog (#1) there is no clear, observable, measurable, (repeatable) data that is in conflict between the Torah’s statements and the observations. There are, however, conflicts between the Torah’s interpretation of the observations and those posited by science. Let’s take a look at several examples of this.
As I mentioned in blog 1 on this topic the oldest of all of the proofs brought for evolutionary theory is the fossil record. As it is possible to create, via comparative anatomy, a “train” of change from one form of animal to another it is, therefore, thought that this is conclusive evidence of the truth of evolution. It isn’t.
This is not only true because of the reason I stated in blog 1, there are many reasons why this is positively incorrect. Let me list a few:
So, after all of the above, what are we left with?
Well, Rabbi, what about all of the various hominids that paleontologists have found? What about them? The answer? Elementary, my dear Watson! 2 points to consider:
When one considers the actual amount of evidence presented as a “middle of the road” between man and monkey (pick whichever one you want as the “monkey”. It really doesn’t matter), while totally ignoring that the batting average of anthropology and paleontology is 0 when it comes to creatures that they never actually met, the whole issue becomes funny. The sheer absurdity of the issue was captured for all eternity by the hilarious comic artist Don Martin
Of course, they do! I’m not talking about modern sources here, but rather the Midrash itself, which is around 1700 years old according to all opinions, writes in Bereshis Rabbah 23:6 as follows
אַרְבָּעָה דְּבָרִים נִשְׁתַּנּוּ בִּימֵי אֱנוֹשׁ בֶּן שֵׁת, הֶהָרִים נַעֲשׂוּ טְרָשִׁים, וְהִתְחִיל הַמֵּת מַרְחִישׁ, וְנַעֲשׂוּ פְּנֵיהֶם כְּקוֹפוֹת, וְנַעֲשׂוּ חֻלִּין לַמַּזִּיקִין.
Which translates “There were four things that changed during the days of Enosh, son of Shet. The mountains became terraces (terashim in Biblical Hebrew), and the dead began to squirm (?) AND THEIR FACES BECAME AS THOSE OF MONKEYS and they became as unconsecrated for the demons”.
So, you found some humans with monkey faces? Great! You’ve just proven our sages to have been correct.
Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Ph.D. who took the time to read my book and gave it a “haskomah” (approbation) has written many books on this topic. “Genesis and the Big Bang”, “The Science of God” and others. In it he explains how the science and the Torah work together in order to explain how to “make peace” between scientific opinion of today and the Torah of yesteryear. However, I disagree with his conclusions and re-explain the observable phenomena in by book Core Emunah vol. 1. The reason that I do this is twofold.
To know the way to correctly interpret the words of our sages, ob”m, look in my book (that is what I wrote it for, after all).
There are many that point to statements of our sages as statements of pure nonsense from a scientific viewpoint. The problem is, many times (all the time?) that they are read without any thought of context at all. Here are some examples:
Our sages, ob”m, tell us that one of the great secrets of the Torah is called Ma’aseh Bereishis, the creation. (See Rambam Laws of the Foundations of the Torah chapter 4:10) they are not meant to be taught to just anyone, only to a very select group of students only. Yet for some reason all of the teachings of our sages that are explicit in the Talmud and the Midrash are taken at face value, even though these were public teachings. What happened to “a select group of students only”?
The answer is that the Talmud’s teachings are said to the public and are therefore NOT the actual mysteries of the creation by and large. Although there are many places where the secrets do leak out.
To the “man on the ground” it doesn’t actually matter what goes on in the heavens. The only question is his own interpretation of what he views from the earth. If the description fits – that’s just fine! It doesn’t matter if it’s not “astronomically correct”.
Having said that there is a lot of abject truth in the words of our sages concerning a significant amount of the observable, known phenomena, and much of which is still not understood by science. For example: where did all of the water come from? Where is the moon from and why does it have such weird properties? And many other issues.
2. Stories and parables
There are, indeed, secrets to the Torah that are only meant to be understood by the select few. As Clark Kent has surely taught us, if you want to hide a big secret – do so in plain sight! (How he continues to do this in the age of facial recognition software…?) Anyone who is not really searching for depth will look at the story and go “that’s nice.” Anyone looking for depth but lacking in the tools necessary for the investigation will say “this is silly” or “this makes no sense.” But someone with the drive for truth and the tools to boot – he’ll figure it out.
May HaShem help us all to recognize the Torah’s truth and utilize all of our G-d given senses to internalize this issue fully!
More issues in upcoming blogs.
 A nice article on the topic can be found at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0026-1394/52/3/S51
אמנם זה באנגלית, אבל יתורגם, בע”ה, לעברית בקרוב