Essay donated by Dr. Zvi Shkedi
"1. Torah and Science: Introduction"
The desire to understand God's creation has dominated human thinking since
early history. The quest to discover nature and to understand the laws by
which God controls nature is a never ending process. It probably started
thousands of years ago when people got curious about the motion of the sun,
moon, and stars in the sky. How do they move? What is their trajectory? Why
do they move? And, later on, what exactly is moving? What are the forces and
rules of nature which govern this motion?
Then came the quest for understanding life. What is life? How did it start?
Where do tiny creatures come from if we can't see how they are born? Why are
there so many species of living creatures? Are they related to each other?
Another question which keeps scientists busy is, how did the world come into
being? How old is the world?
There are two parallel paths which dominate this quest. One, is the
religious path - the way of the Torah, or at least, what we think we
understand from the Torah. The other, is the path of scientific research
where nothing is taken for granted - everything is subject to questioning,
criticism, research, and discovery. Somewhere in between these two, lies
the philosophical path which is an attempt to understand the world through
human intelligence, emotions, and imagination. This article will be limited
to Torah and science alone. The religious and scientific paths have crossed
roads since early history, sometimes in perfect harmony and sometimes in
heavy conflicts and apparent contradictions.
One of the most difficult challenges facing society in its desire to
understand newly discovered scientific knowledge, is the proliferation of
those who pretend to know more than what they really know. In the field of
medicine they are called "quacks". Unfortunately, almost every professional
field has its share of "quacks". A title, a degree, or a diploma are far
from being sufficient to establish a person's qualifications. The author of
this article has interviewed many job candidates for scientific-research and
for engineering positions. They all had valid paper certificates for their
qualifications; some of them had Ph.D. degrees. A large percentage of those
candidates could not pass a practical test and were unable to apply their
skills in their own professional field. It is not a surprise that new cars
fail within a few weeks and that buildings collapse while being built.
Similarly, science libraries are full of publications which should have
never been published. Sorting out the real from the fancy is not an easy
The apparent contradictions between what some people believe is their
understanding of the Torah and their understanding of science, will not be
resolved in a democratic way. Majority opinion and majority vote mean
nothing in this quest. Just try to imagine how to determine who should have
the right to vote on these questions. Does every individual get an equal
vote? How about a joint decision by all the Rabbis and all the supreme
courts in the world today? If they decide that the earth is flat, will the
earth be flat? Personal credentials, authority, fame, and world recognition
are just as meaningless in the quest to resolve such contradictions. When it
comes to establishing the truth, the only thing that counts is the truth
Psychological barriers to accepting a newly discovered truth can also not be
ignored. It is only natural for people to reject knowledge which they don't
understand. Regardless of how true the knowledge is, lack of understanding
creates a psychological barrier which most people cannot overcome. The
reaction to Einstein's theory of relativity teaches us an important lesson.
When Einstein first published it in 1905, most of the physicists in the
world rejected it - it was too difficult to understand. Today, on the other
hand, every physicist knows how true it is. Many years later, Einstein
himself, when introduced to the new principles of probability and quantum
mechanics, rejected it with his famous saying: "God does not play dice with
the universe." Even Einstein fell into the trap of this psychological
barrier, unable to accept the new and difficult-to-understand discoveries.
Again, today, every physicist knows how true these new discoveries are.
Many debates involving the apparent contradictions between Torah and science
begin with phrases like: "Torah says that ..." and "science says that ..."
Is it really what the Torah or science say? As we will see, this is not
always the case. Not everything which people call "science" is science, and
not everything which people call "Torah" is Torah. There are no
contradictions between real Torah and real science. Apparent contradictions
are only a result of misrepresentations of Torah, misrepresentations of
science, or both. An understanding of the misrepresentations resolves the
conflict and shows that Torah and science are in perfect harmony.
Copyright© 2007-SEP by Zvi
Shkedi. The author permits not-for-profit republication of this article with
proper credit and without changes.
Originally posted: 2008-MAR-30
Latest update: 2008-MAR-30
Author: Zvi Shkedi