Shabbat Parashat Tzav | 5768
Religion and Science- part IV (from Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael, ch. 30)
Rav Yisraeli gathered classical and more contemporary rabbinic views on the interaction between religion/belief and science. We present his sources in an abridged, free translation form.
6. Contradictions Between Torah and Exact Sciences Are Impossible
Hamadah V’Hadat, ch. 2 (Dr. Y. R. Holtzberg)
The concept of “proof” is known, but not everyone recognizes the simple definition of the concept and the conclusions that emanate from it. Proof is affirming a statement by means of other statements accepted as truths. In order to prove the other statements, yet other statements are needed and so on. At the end of the chain are statements whose truth we accept as givens without proof; we call these axioms. From a certain set of axioms, for example, the scientific basis of geometry is set, and such a set of axioms is necessary for every field of exact science.
Once upon a time, people viewed axioms with respect, as a truth upon which one may not cast aspersions, and this is also the case nowadays. However, more than a century ago, an event fundamentally changed scholars’ outlook on axioms, as one was “publicly disgraced,” uncovering the weakness of all of the world’s axioms. This is what happened. A famous axiom regarding parallel lines, set by
What is the basis of the choice of an axiom? Science’s surprising answer is that it is not on the basis of its truth but on its convenience for us. Normally,
This event brought into question the outlook on exact sciences, as the source and wellspring of absolute truth. All conclusions of science, even exact sciences, are conditional on axioms that the science accepts and relies on as if they were absolute truth. The event demonstrated that this was necessary of any systematic work of human logic. Furthermore, the acceptance of something as an axiom is arbitrary, and not based on some logical necessity in the recognition of truth. Science is unable to contradict conclusions that flow from other basic assumptions that are based on different axioms than the ones it accepts.The matters of science that contradict the stories of the Torah (about the creation of the world) do not disprove the stories. The axiom upon which science’s conclusions regarding creation is based is that all past phenomena occurred only on the basis of powers that function now in nature as we know it. The axiom that contradicts science’s basic assumption can be expressed in the words of one verse from the Torah: “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.” The contradiction is indeed a result of different fundamental assumptions, different axioms, if you will, from which science and religion emanate. The assumptions upon which science is based are themselves not scientific, lack the weight of science, are not worthy of the great respect with which we treat science.
Top of page
Print this page
Send to friend
More articles from this issue:
This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of
Max and Mary Sutker
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.