Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Big Bang as Apikursus

I received a phone call today from a young man who teaches in very RW day schools and high schools here in Chicago. He told me that in one school an eighth grader who had heard the term for the first time… asked him what the ‘big bang” was. He explained it saying that it is how scientists think all matter and energy got here: One incredible explosion. There is of course nothing incompatible between the Big Bang Theory and the Torah’s narrative of the creation of the universe. Both science and the Torah say that the universe was created Yesh MeAyin. But when the child came home and told his father what their teacher told them… he went apoplectic!

He called this teacher and read him the riot act. “How dare he teach young children Apikursus?” And as if that wasn’t enough he called certain Roshei Yeshiva who severely castigated him as well. And the students at the RW Yeshiva high school where he teaches somehow got wind of it and when they saw him they started taunting him calling him an Apikores!

I did not realize until just now how bad the situation with respect to antagonism to science is in the world of the right wing. Is it possible they don’t even understand such a simple and basic concept like the Big bBang? Is there so much ignorance and fear of science that they have chew out a teacher who has said and done nothing to contradict the Torah at all… just because they heard a phrase identified with science?

And if, on the other hand, they do know what the Big Bang is, why are they so against teaching it? Must they put down every word of science just to uphold Emunah? Is a scientific conclusion going to be trumped just because it was espoused from a non Torah source … even if it might be true and doesn’t contradict anything in the Torah?

This can’t be what God wants from His people. I can’t believe that Chachma of the Umos HaOlam must be rejected anytime it dares to bring up something about the origins of the universe that did not originate in the Torah. No where in any of the sources does it say anything about the method of creation. The Torah does not speak of a “Big Bang”. It is silent on the issue. If scientists, after much study and analysis have theorized that the universe was created in one instant, in the form of a big explosion, what is wrong with believing that? Why must these Roshei Yeshiva deny what is at this point in time the best estimate of how the universe was created?

It is no small wonder that they fear Rabbi Slifkin’s books will turn their flock into a bunch of Kofrim. If RW Bnei Torah can’t handle the Big Bang, they certainly can’t handle questions about the age of the universe, the Mabul,, or evolution.

The bottom line is that if they keep teaching things that are so easily refuted by those outside the Torah world, then the slightest encounter that a RW Ben Torah will ever have outside the Daled Amos of the Beis Hamedrash might easily turn him into an atheist. You can’t shelter all these people forever. Many of them will encounter it. And they will be ill prepared to deal with it except to go off the Derech. And if they are married with children at the time… it will magnify the tragedy exponentially.