Torah and Science

Isaac A Zlochower (zlochoia@ix.netcom.com)
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 10:51:17 -0800

I must disagree with the recent comments of Michael Voytinsky and Kira
Sirote on the nature of scientific inquiry and its relationship to G-D and
Torah. Science, at its core, is vitally concerned with truth and
understanding the workings of the universe (the "Mind of G-D" in Einstein's
phrasing). The greatest scientists, Newton and Einstein, were keenly aware
that they were communicating with that "Divine Intelligence" when they were
in the throes of their epochal discoveries. I doubt that any great
discovery in science or mathematics was unaccompanied by such mystical
feelings, even if the discoverer was not, ostensibly, a believer in G-D.
After all, why seek unity in nature if the universe did not arise from
rational design; if it did not have a Creator?

Lacking such feelings about the universe is an impediment to science. As
Einstein phrased it, "science without religion is lame". He also
maintained the converse, "religion without science is blind". We may not
go that far in supporting all the ideas of someone who was far from Torah,
but must surely give credence to the voice of one of the greatest masters
of Torah and Halacha (Jewish Law), the Rambam (Maimonides). The Rambam in
the second chapter of his great work, the Mishne Torah (in the book of
"Knowledge, laws concerning the foundations of Torah"), writes, "How does
one come to love and awe of G-D? When a person contemplates G-D's great
and awesome deeds and creations, and sees, thereby, His infinite and
incomparable wisdom, immediately one is siezed with a feeling of love and
praise and great longing to know G-D". How, then, can someone maintain
that the study of nature contributes nothing to our relationship with its
Creator? Granted that the study of Torah has primacy, since it is the only
way of knowing G-D's will, but science surely has a role in enhancing our
appreciation of G-D's wisdom.

If there is an apparent conflict between our understanding of Torah and
science, then we need to carefully examine both in order to come to a
resolution. In doing so, we must be clear about the vital difference
between established scientific facts, and the theories that try to account
for these facts. The facts, presumably, won't change, but the theories may
not stand up when additional facts are discovered. If a theory or model
has been accepted for decades, then chances are good that it will not be
completely overturned. There are exceptions, of course, but I believe that
the current model for the universe with a beginning for matter, energy,
space, and time will stand the test of time. It is most unlikely, however,
that the currently accepted age of the solar system and the universe will
change appreciably. We must be careful, therefore, not to boast about the
support given to the Creation account of the Torah by the "Big Bang" theory
if we do not accept the data on which it is based.

Yitzchok Zlochower