Monday, January 17, 2005

Science and Torah

In my row in shul there used to be a dentist, pediatrician, anesthesiologist, nuclear physicist, cosmologist, surgeon, psychologist, and chemist, not to mention the banker, butcher, and candlestickmaker, but no rocket scientist(cosmologist was close.) We had similar views on the interaction of science and Torah. Ultimately, the Torah contains all knowledge, but to understand the world, we need science. (I forgot where I got this, but in a discussion on Da'at Torah, it was mentioned that we believe thath the Torah contains all knowledge, but until you find someone who can find particulars on pipes and water flows in the Torah, when you have a plumbing problem, you need a plumber, not a Talmid Chacham.) Science was science, Torah was Torah. Science was the study of the laws of nature(happens that Hashem set them up), and if you wanted to see the hand of Hashem in nature- fine, if not, fine also. Being frum and being a scientist was not a contradiction, nor a dichotomy. We believe that Hashem runs the world of course, but in the general scheme of things, He has laws of nature and a world for us to discover, use, and master. Therefore, I would be hard pressed to think of a discovery in science that could shake my faith in Hashem, because my faith in Hashem is not based on any connection to science. Also, not having a doctrine of Chazal infallability,there is no threat from proving Chazal wrong about some scientific/natural world fact.

Inquiries into the nexxus of science and Torah fall into three catagories: The first is simply descriptive, finding out what exactly the Torah and Chazal meant, delving into what they said as can be understood from the viewpoint of modern scientific knowledge. The second, is trying to jive the findings of science with what the Torah and Chazal said. This is important to those whose belief depends on Judaic teachings being compatable with scientific findings. People in this catagory are in danger of losing their faith if science is found to contradict Torah. This approach is useful as one way to counteract those who try to prove that frum Judaism is incompatable with science knowledge. The third catagory is, l'havdil , parlor magic Judaism, trying to induce faith by showing how Torah/Chazal predicted scientific findings, and other discoveries. Successfully done, this demonstrates the supernatural quality of Judaism, predicting the future or nature unkown at the time. I am not opposed to any of these types of inquiries, but inconsistancies found in types 2 and 3 can shake the faith of those who depend on them.

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