Torah and Science

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The Religious Foundations of Science

Avraham Kushalevsky

It is commonly believed that natural science such as physics and chemistry, which deal with material phenomena, are based on objective observations of controlled experiments, while religion, which deals with spiritual phenomena, is entirely subjective and based on faith alone. It is no wonder, then that any apparent contradictions between science and religion are inevitably resolved in rational debate in favor of science and its "proofs."

This attitude is very superficial. Science is no less a matter of faith than religion. Science assumes that there are internal associations between successive phenomena and, moreover, that the sequence of phenomena is significant. Science supposes that these associations are regulars, constant over time, and discoverable through a series of observations during a short period. Similarly, science assumes that these associations have universal validity, obtaining not only in the laboratory but anywhere in the universe - the same in our galaxy at the other end of the cosmos the same in the recent and distant past as at any point in the infinite future.

Science posits that certain laws, defined for masses of dimensionless points, lines with no width, and infinitely short tome intervals, embody objective truth about a real external world. Scince posits that laws have a simple form and arbitrarily selects the simple explanation rather than the complex one if given a choice. For instance, although it is experimentally impossible to distinguish between a law of operating according to 1/r2 or according to 1/r200000025, the former formula is presumed correct because of its simplicity and aesthetic appeal. Without accepting these assumptions, the natural sciences as we know them today would be impossible.

These are reasonable assumptions, but they are not necessarily true a priori. Not can they be experimentally verified, for the experimental method presupposes their truth. I am not criticizing these assumptions. I am only trying to emphasize that their acceptance is based on faith. It is not surprising that as little as a hundred years ago in England and Scotland the natural sciences were still called natural philosophy. He who says "I believe only in what can be measured and do not rely on faith" is guilty of fundamental contradiction in logic. He has nothing.

On the other hand the religious scientist accepts these assumptions as an integral part of his religious world view. He considers nature a manifestation of the wisdom of the Creator and science a means of drawing close to Him. From the very first sight, nature shows differential, variety, and a multiplicity of phenomena. Science - which assumes simplicity and integration, actually brings man closer to G-D.

The religious person expects to find laws, logic, unity, and internal harmony in nature, reflecting the unity of the Creator and His wisdom. Thus, he believes in the existence of universal laws of motion that govern both the movement of the planets as well as the falling of apples on Earth, even before he begins to search for these laws by observation and experimentation. The unity of Creation leads to an acceptance of a deep inner uniformity in the structure of matter and in the existence of uniform field laws, even though his attempts to discover them over the last few decades have failed. He believes that there is nothing random in nature and that every phenomenon has a cause and a purpose.

For the believer, and especially for the religious Jew, faith in G-D and faith in science are complementary. But for the non-believing scientist, science is a riddle that has no solution.

This article first appeared in Hebrew in B'or HaTorah vol. VII (1991). It was first translated into English by Sam Friedman.

Professor Avraham Kushalevsky completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Manchester and obtained a doctorate at Southford University. He has been working at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva where he teaches and conducts research in the field of Medical Physics and the use of physics and biology in medicine.



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