Science and Torah


         

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The Big Bang

By Arthur Rosen

When I was young, between the ages of ten and twelve, I was enthralled with astronomy. I must have read very book in public library dealing with astronomy. I knew the names of the planets, their distances from the sun and from earth, their sizes and rotation. I could easily spot constellations at night. On days off from school, I would go to the planetarium to watch the 'show' in the skies.

For my choice of science projects, I would always involve astronomy. I remember my science project: a mechanical whirling model of the solar system with a large light bulb in the center as the sun. I could compare the orbit of our moon to that of the moons on Saturn. I still have one of my science reports from the eighth grade, and even today I marvel at my devotion to astronomical detail wondering how a child of such a young age could be so completely involved in astronomy.

Of all of the marvels of the universe, beyond the comets and shooting stars, past the swirling nebulas millions of light years away, one thing gripped my imagination and never let go of it. On dark nights where there were no street lights to obscure the summer sky, I would lie on the grass and gaze up and the dark black sky with the millions of stars twinkling down on me and I would wonder to myself, "Is there no end to the universe?" Even searching with my puny telescope, I could not fathom a universe with out an end.

Somewhere, at some time, my romance with the universe was put on the back burner, perhaps with my transistor radio and rock 'n roll, perhaps with an interest in cars, perhaps with girls. But almost imperceptibly, I cease to frequent the planetarium and left my books on stargazing with all of their colorful pictures and charts and I entered into a different phase of life. The near world around became a powerful magnet and I became interested in many other things; motors, history, crafts, music, art and eventually girls and work.

As I pasted through the teen years and found myself thrust into adult life, yet one thing remained with me from my sojourn into astronomy, how could it be that there is no end to the universe? More so, if there is an end, where is it and what is it and what is beyond it? Once, some of my friends and myself went down to the beach to watch the sunrise. Early in the morning, we separated into pairs snuggling on the beach waiting for the light to begin to break in the East. Every one was giggling and schmoching on the blankets, everyone except for me, that is. I was laying on the blanket explaining to my date the secrets of the universe. I pointed out the various stars and planets and why I knew which one was which and what the constellations signified and I digressed into the deepest of the deep explanations of the origin and the endlessness of the universe. She must have been pretty bored, but lying there under the dark sky trying to figure out the mysteries of the universe took me far beyond the fragile and fair feminine body that just wanted a caress and a kiss.

I suppose she thought me odd, I guess I must have been. All my friends were making out and seemed not much interested in the beautiful sunrise (wasn't that the reason we had come?).

* * *

The big bang was the theory in vogue at the time then. How did the universe start? Well in those days, scientists seemed to believe that the universe was expanding and moving away from a center, like fragments from an explosion moving away from the site of the explosion. This theory seemed to have a following, but I never could follow it: Gasses under great pressure exploding in space created the universe.

Where did the gasses come from? How did they get there together in the center of the universe (not that there could be a center to something with no end!). What was the origin of this matter; it certainly could not come of itself? Somewhere, somehow, some thing had to create or produce this matter. To have a big bang sounded great to a kid, but as an adult, I quietly mulled this: something had to bring the elemental substance, no matter how primitive, into being. To have a big bang, we had to have something to bang; how did it come to be? To have a big bang, we needed something to ignite it.

Then I began to realize that science is a logical deductive and investigative system that is based on observance of cause and effect. It can only deal with what is, or was, that is time and space related. Just like I had difficulties trying to conceive of the 'extremities of the universe' space wise; it was just as futile to understand what existed before the universe time wise. Either we would have to save the universe always existed, which means that every thing within it is of finite measure, so how did the gases which exploded to give us matter, how did these gases come into existence? If you say that they always existed, that is absurd – matter always existed? Who put it here? How did it come about?

Today I believe, like many others, that science can not answer these questions. Not that science is not an extremely useful, valid and needed tool, but rather science, and more so, scientists, deal with what is physical in the material world. They can interpolate between two givens but when they extrapolate beyond the given, the chance of error increases multifold.

Science deals with what is in the universe, it cannot deal with what is beyond the borders of the universe, if such a thing be. To say the universe is expanding means that the universe has a limited area and is constantly expanding its border. To where can it expand? Can the universe expand beyond the universe? If so, what is there before the universe expands to there?

But rather, this is foolish talk. How the universe came about can only be speculated by scientists; it can not be proven. Science can never be at odds with the Torah's version of the creation because it can not prove that either the Torah is wrong or that 'science' is correct. Science does not make or break the Torah's version of creation, but rather it is 'scientists' who speculate who challenge the Torah's view of creation.

I myself choose the Torah's viewpoint. This is not to say that I for one minute disagree with nature. Nature cannot be disagreed with; it can only be observed and measured. It is certain vocal scientists whose yet unproven theories can appear contradictory to the Torah.

I still go out a night when I am in a place devoid of streetlights. While traveling at night on a highway, I often pull the car off the highway and drive down some isolated road to some point beyond that of the electric lighting. I stop the car, turn off the lights and slowly step out of the car. In the darkness I look up to the heavens where I can see the myriads of stars and sometimes even a shooting star and I wonder at the creation and exclaim, "How great is your creation, O God."

~~~~~~~

from the July 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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