Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Science and Torah - Revisited

by Dr. Roni Grosz, Guest Contributor

Dr. Roni Grosz, curator of the Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed a Mishpacha Magazine article that apparently showed Charedi tolerance of scientific evidence supporting an ancient universe. They used the phrase ‘a billion light years’. A light year is the distance light travels in a single year. A billion light years means that light has traveled for a time period of one billion years to get here so that we here on earth can finally see it.

The article was in response to newly discovered  evidence of gravitational waves - a key component of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.  The focus of that article was on scientist Roni Grosz, a Kopycznitzer Chosid who is the curator of the Albert Einstein Archives at Israel’s Hebrew University. Who called the discovery ‘a smile from heaven’.

Dr. Grosz has graciously responded to that post with his perspective on the subject. He did so in a comment thread that had to date 582 comments posted. I have received permission to post his comment as a guest post so that it will not be buried in that lengthy comment thread. It follows unedited in it’s entirety:

I am very honored to be mentioned together with Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan whom I hold in very high esteem. In my opinion as a charedi Jew you have first to be strong in Emunah before you approach scientific discussions especially where scientific belief (I'll explain the choice of words) clashes with Jewish belief. If you have problems with that you have problems as a Jew even without entering the realm of discussions with science.

If you have a good look how science approaches the computation of ancient world age you will see that much hinges of very critical assumptions, like that the carbon 14 method assumes that the shifting of the magnetic north is uniform since the creation of the earth. If tomorrow science will discover that the magnetic north pole shift "changed gear", the whole million years numbers can shrink to a fracture of the time.

I agree with Harry Maryles that findings like ancient dinosaur bones should not be disregarded but take the numbers with a grain of salt having in mind that they are relative. Science extrapolates short measuring periods to huge historical periods.

The Tiferes Yisroel was mentioned repeatedly and rightfully so. There is reference to mammoths finds in his commentary to the Mishnah (I can't remember where but I saw it myself). If you are really adventurous you can read his commentary Drush Or Chadash (at the end of Masseches Sanhedrin of the Wagshal Zecher Hanoch edition of the Mishnah) where you can read how Hashem trashed 974 worlds before he created ours and there are remnants of the former worlds.

One of the problems of this discussion is that those who have a lot to say don't speak to the world and those who speak to the world don't have a lot of relevant contributions. Most people who support scientific positions have no clue how fragile they are and therefore believe in them without understanding the considerations on which they are based.

But Toras Hashem temima and this is our belief as Jews. I ultimately believe that there is only one truth and that science and Torah are not in conflict. If both are true they will embrace each other.

I will finish with a quote from William Henry Bragg, a British scientist and 1915 Nobel Prize for Physics laureate :

Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.