Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Belief and Science

Should God be taught in the public school science classroom? Should there be mention of the possibility of a Designer? Or should that be off limits? What about in the science classroom of a Yeshiva? Thses are questions that remains unresolved in the minds of many.

I think we need to define the parameters of a science and religion before we can answer these questions. Perhaps we can begin by trying to understand how one can determine the exact nature of objective reality. What are the ways of determining that?

Science is one method of determining objective reality. But science does not deal in absolutes. It deals in degrees of probability. The more you can repeat results in laboratory trials the higher degree of probability it is that it is one has discovered an objective truth of nature.

This is why we can get on an airplane without fear and confident that the many tons of heavier than air metal will actually take off and fly. Based on scientific experimentation and repeated identical results, there is a high degree of probability that it will not crash.

No scientist will say that anything science knows today about nature is the absolute objective reality and cannot ever be refuted. A scientist who says that is not truly a scientist. He is a believer.

Religion deals in absolutes. Those absolutes are based on belief. Belief is based on many factors having to do with observation, tradition, inductive reasoning, and intuition. Belief it can be argued is much stronger than science. Belief can neither be proven or disproven and is therefore not so easily refuted.

Science relies on observation and experimentation – things we can measure and then deduce from via our ability to reason.

Mesorah and intuition are not measures of science. Religion relies not on the measurable - but the immeasurable. It dictates to us what the objective reality is without necessarily requiring the use of reason. Religion and science -two different thought systems. Neither of which can objectively proven with 100% certainly that they are the objective reality. The scientist and the believer both act on their beliefs. The only difference is how they developed those beliefs.

How does these effect theories of how the universe came into being? It shouldn’t. The Big Bang is not discussed in terms of First cause. A scientist can neither say it was spontaneous or that it was caused by a First Cause (God). Both perspectives are belief, not science.

An individual teaching the Big Bang brings with him a personal perspective. So an atheist will say that it should be understood as spontaneous. A believer will more than likely say that there was a First Cause – a Creator. Neither can prove their position. One who teaches science in a public school classroom ought to take care (perhaps even mandated via the seperation clause of the first amendment) not to let his or her bias about religion enter scientific discussions in the public school science classroom.

In a public school - if a student asks whether the Big Bang ‘just happened’ or whether there is a First Cause, the teacher should answer that this question does not belong in a science classroom any more than – for example - an answer of ‘Buddha created it’ does.

If there is an atheistic bias on the part of science teachers in the classroom it should be routed out. But let’s be clear. Atheistic biases are not science any more than Orthodox Jewish belief in the Creator is.

A Yeshiva is an entirely different situation. If one believes in a Creator who gave us the Torah at Sinai, then there is no area of study that should not be informed by that. In my view it is important that be the starting point and proceed from there.

This does not mean to say that science even in the Yeshiva classroom need preface every sentence with that thought. But it is to say that God and Torah MiSinai should be the underlying premise of all that is studied.