Re: Torah & Science

Tsirkin Michael (mtsirkin@iil.intel.com)
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 23:08:20 +0300 (IDT)

Hello

I have been reading the thread for some time now: should and can Torah &
Science be reconciled or not? I think that the lectures on "Torah and
quantum mechanics", "Torah and evolution" etc of which I've heard some, and
some very convincing,can cause more harm than good. I think I remember
someone formulating the same ideas on this forum, sorry I am not original,
but anyway I think it needs some support. Here's why:

1.Science is in no position to criticise/argue with Torah, thus obviously
any "reconciliation" of these two is an attempt to prove science is correct
by showing it does not contradict Torah.

2.While this is OK when we talk about science in general, this becomes
problematic when this is related to this specific scientific theory or
another (Big bang, evolution etc) because this way to approve/disapprove is
inconsistent with the scientific method.

3.Thus the only reason for the above mentionned reconciliation of torah and
"the science" (actually, currently accepted scientific theories) that I see
is to convince the unbelievers that torah is true (specifically, the
unbelievers that argue "torah is false becuase is contradicts
evolution/know age of the universe/radio etc").

Now if that is true (and this is indeed a worthy reason for these studies
and lectures) I'll try to explain the "dark side" of these attempts.

4.Science is flexible. It tends to change: If you find in torah hints to
the big bang theory - and use it to convince someone of the Torah's truth ,
I'm afraid this person will have BIG problems believing you again when the
theory's changed (and you find proofs from the Torah for it too). Another
matter is that there usually are quite a lot of scientists that don't
totally agree with probably almost any given theory. So, when they hear
about this reconciliation , they say "What? torah agrees with Darvin's
evolution theory? then it's surely false!" (HV"SH).

5.There many wrong conceptions arising from these reconciliations with
science. Their source is simple: science is open to all. Once someone has
heard about the connection between science and torah, it's easy to start
speculating - and some start bending torah to fit science: once you are
sure they HAVE to agree, and you prove to yourself your scientific idea is
right, what else can you do?

Here are some examples of these problems:

....................................................................
Each of following misconceptions usually has some part of the truth, which
makes it even worse because it lends them credibility.

Misconception (1): Torah is a big parrable, things shouldn't be taken at
the face value Genesis 1 is a parable of the creation of the universe and
life (big bang , evolution) , Genesis 2 and farther the development of
society Exodus represents a parable of the natural disasters that befell
Egypt etc.

of course Torah is not just a parable - it does include SOME parables.

Misconception (2): Torah describes not our world , but some "spiritual
realm": this effectively solves any problems with historians as well.

Torah is indeed intended for our world, specifically for us humans with our
problems and although it contains also other meanings it does describe our
world.

Misconception (3): Torah doesn't tell anything about so many matters in the
modern science, and this is so because they can be of no practical value.

this is subtle: matters of no practical importance can (I think) be
imagined omitted in the (revealed) Torah, but all of the science in
interconnected, so a "non-important" matter can later have great practical
implications.

....................................................................

6. Another side of the coin is misconceptions about science - these easily
appear in the minds of religious people without scientific background. This
then makes them vulnerable in discussions with atheist scientists - again,
the pedagogic value appears to be negative. Again, here the problem is
people with torah background start speculating about scientific matters
because they are shown the two are linked: so people start trying to get
scientific information from torah.

7.There is a negative effect on the science: if the scientist will
disregard some idea because it appears to contradict torah, this would
reflect on the science very bad, I think.

8.There are many cranks that read into torah whatever ideas they want.
Anything resembling attempts to regulate science on basis of religion is
automatically rejected by many scientists. Again, the educational effect is
negative. As an example,(Of the negative effect) I have read many posts in
the news group discussing creation vs. evolution theories. It appears (
from the newsgroup) creationists are all christians that use texts from
Tanach ( and the "new testament", too) to support their scientific position
on the matter of the evolution of species. Without offering my own position
in the scientific discussion, I have seen that the calls to study
creationist theory in schools etc when supported by bible as the proof
really is regarded by many as religion regulating science.

9. (AND LAST) Well, I am not sure I did convince anybody. Still, I'd
welcome any replies. Please cc:mail me mtsirkin@iil.intel.com if possible.

Thanks,
Michael

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Michael S. Tsirkin,32000, Technion, Canada dorms 44/3/3,Haifa,Israel;
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