Convergence of Scientific Knowledge and Torah

Convergence of Scientific Knowledge and Torah as the Messianic Era Approaches[1]

by the Executive Director of Ask Noah International

Delivered as a talk at the 4th International Noahide Conference, Jerusalem, Israel, 5779 (20’19).

Suppose we could send a message back in time to a prominent Rabbi of the past, perhaps Maimonides who wrote the Mishneh Torah about 850 years ago, or Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi who wrote the Mishnah a little over 1800 years ago, and we told him that we’re gathered here in the Hebrew year 5779. What would be his first response? Undoubtedly, he would jump up and exclaim – you’re living in 5779, and Moshiach didn’t come yet? He’ll be there any minute! What are you doing to get ready?!

Torah tradition teaches that the Messianic Era will begin no later than the Hebrew year 6000, and in fact, it will begin at some time before that. This isn’t abstract theory. The Talmudic Sages treated is as a matter of Torah Law. About 1700 years ago, the Great Sanhedrin established and sanctified the current Hebrew calendar, based on calculation of the dates and times of the new moons, instead of calculations combined with witnesses. Since then, the Festival Days we observe in Judaism – Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot – are observed and are holy only because they were sanctified in advance by the Great Sanhedrin at that time.

However, the Sages at that time knew that the Messianic Era, with a re-established proper Sanhedrin convening adjacent to the Third Temple, would begin before the year 6000, so they only sanctified the new moons up until that time. If Moshiach would not come and rebuild the Holy Temple before that time, G-d forbid, the Jews would have to stop observing the Jewish Festivals as holy days.

What would we answer if Maimonides asked us if we’re prepared for Moshiach [the true Messiah] to come?  Are any of us more prepared than he was? But since G-d knows that people tend to be procrastinators, He Himself is getting everyone in the world prepared for the Messianic Era. One of the ways G-d has been doing this is through the rapid advancement of science and technology in the past 180 years.

The Zohar (p. 116b) contains the following prophetic statement: “In the 600th year of the 6th millennium [5600 = 1840 C.E.], the supernal gates of wisdom will be opened and also the wellsprings of wisdom below. This will prepare the world for the 7th millennium.” [The 7th millennium begins with the year 6000.]

The Zohar continues, “There is a hint about this in the verse (Gen. 7:11): ‘In the 600th year of Noah’s life … all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.’ ”

On the spiritual side, the opening of the “supernal gates of wisdom” is the vast increase that began in spreading out deep Chassidic teachings from the inner dimensions of Torah, which are now also combined with spreading out the Noahide Code. On the worldly side, the opening of the “wellsprings of wisdom below” was the Industrial Revolution and the advances in science and technology that followed. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that there are three ways in which in science and technology are getting the world prepared for the Messianic Era:

1) Isaiah 40:5 says that in the Messianic Era, “The glory of G-d will be revealed, and all flesh together will see that the mouth of G-d has spoken.” That means that G-dliness will be visible to us. In the past, this was an abstract idea. Now, technology lets us experience things that were impossible to conceive of in the past.

Ethics of the Fathers 2:1 says, “Know what is above you: an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in a Book.” Now we have hidden video cameras, hidden microphones, and unlimited digital video storage. Even without a microphone, the government or spies can record our conversations right now by shining a laser at the window and recording the vibrations of the glass. Satellites can track our movements. Being able to sin with no other person being able to know is becoming a thing of the past. This makes the knowledge that G-d is always watching us much more connected with our physical reality.

2) Technology lets us accomplish perquisites for the Messianic Era that were impossible in the past. Once the Baal Shem Tov experienced a elevation of his soul, up to the Heavenly chamber of Moshiach. He asked, when is the Master coming? Moshiach answered, “when the wellsprings of your teachings will be spread out over the outside places,” meaning, over the whole world.

Today, we can post a Chassidic teaching or details of the Noahide Code on-line, and it’s available in almost every nation on Earth, and people can use Google Translate to get a translation in almost any language. Isaiah 11:9 says that “the earth will be as filled with knowledge of G-d as water covering the sea bed.” Today, our atmosphere is full of radio waves and WiFi that include huge amounts of Torah knowledge.

3) Science is now close to finding the basic unity of all physical forces, which reflects the total unity of G-d.

Why do many people imagine that advances in science dispute statements in the Torah, when information based on the true scientific method can never contradict the Torah? The 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe explained the difference between Maimonides’ and Aristotle’s approaches to knowledge about the physical creation, and the same idea applies today.

Imagine the edge of circle that represents our current scientific understanding, and at the center is the real truth of the matter.

Aristotle drew a circle representing what he assumed was true about the physical world, and from there he tried to search logically for the underlying truth of the matter, represented by the center of the circle. This was made even more difficult by the fact that his assumptions and axioms were wrong. Relying on this method, what secular scientists have been saying about the nature of the world has been constantly shifting. Now it is converging due to many physical discoveries that are all consistent with Torah, but the atheists of today still try to dismiss or suppress some of this information.

Maimonides’ approach was different. The true fixed center point of knowledge about nature is that the universe was created by the One G-d, as Torah teaches. The Torah was G-d’s blueprint for creation, so the more knowledge we gain through the true scientific method, the farther we expand the circle of what we know is actually true, and not just a human theory, and the closer we come to seeing how everything actually emanates from the source point.

For example, in Aristotle’s atomic theory, he reasoned that there must be a smallest, indivisible, unchangeable unit of each type of element. Let’s call it an atom, but in the form of a tiny billiard ball.  Now we know that there are many different sub-atomic particles, so you might think that this is taking us away from seeing unity in nature. But thanks to Albert Einstein, it was discovered that m=E/c2 (mass = energy divided by the speed of light squared). So every particle – and every conglomeration particles, including our bodies – is a condensed form of energy, and energy is a basic, simple, unified thing. In our superconducting super-colliders, one type of particle with mass can be converted to energy, which can be converted back into a totally different particle. This is consistent with the concept in Torah, which can be found in the teachings of Rabbi Akiva,[2]  that there is one basic spiritual potential for all kinds of matter, and the different types of physical matter all derive from this unified source.[3]

As we make more precise scientific measurements, how do we understand the data? We have to look at it logically, but all forms of human logic will depend on a few basic axioms that seem reasonable, and we can agree to accept them based on our own free will, but we can’t prove that they’re true. So our interpretation of the data is only as good as the axioms that we use to interpret it. All of the great breakthroughs in modern science were made by scientists who were brave enough to challenge the current axioms that people had agreed to accept.

It wasn’t easy, because many scientists made the mistake of believing in their axioms, in a religious way, instead of acknowledging that the axioms are only temporary as the best explanations at the present time. For example, Einstein challenged the axioms that space has no curvature, and that matter can’t be created or destroyed. He proposed new axioms, and proposed experiments that would prove that his axioms were more correct, which they were, and this led to a more unified understanding of the creation. There are many more examples. This is what the Zohar meant when it said that the fountains of worldly wisdom will be broken open. Old axioms of scientific ideas will broken up, allowing deeper wisdom to be reached.

Another axiom of science is that the basic subatomic particles are points of matter, with a probable location at a given time based on the probability wave functions of quantum mechanics. But with that axiom, scientists haven’t been able to find a unified theory for all forces in nature. This axiom was challenged by something called String Theory, which does produce a unified theory for all forces in nature, but we just don’t yet have the technology to test it. It says that a particle is really a little loop of quantum stuff called a “string.”

The vibrations on the string determine what kind of particle it is. The theory requires that the strings vibrate in 10 dimension in one direction, and in 26 dimensions in the other direction. How is this converging to Torah? Torah teaches that G-d creates physical matter through the power of His four-letter Tetragrammaton Name, and through the channels of His Divine attributes, the sefirot. The numerical value (gematria) of the Tetragrammaton Name in Hebrew is 26, and the number of the sefirot is 10, exactly like the number of dimensions of space on the micro-quantum level that are required for String Theory: 10 and 26. So we see science converging to Torah.

Another way in which science and technology are converging to Torah is in the phenomenon called “Swords into plowshares.” Isaiah 2:4 prophesies: “And he [Moshaich] shall judge between the nations and reprove many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

The present discussion is not about how many nations are engaged in wars at any given time, although that has been steadily declining. It’s about advances in technology, and how those are converging toward what the Torah teaches. Let’s take an example from very early in history, before the great flood. The Torah gives a brief overview of the innovations that were made by leaders of the very early generations. Tubal-Cain was a 6th generation descendant from Cain. It is likely that he was born several hundred years before Noah.

Genesis 4:22 teaches that Tubal-Cain innovated the technology for sharpening metal into weapons for killing. Then came Noah. Genesis 5:29 teaches that Noah used the technology for sharpening metal to innovate tools for agriculture. This is the first example of literally turning the technology for swords into the technology for plowshares.

Today we see this happening at an incredible pace. The process of taking technology that was innovated for military purposes and using it in peaceful ways for enhancement of human life – including for greater agricultural productivity – is called “Defense Conversion,” and “Dual Use Technology.” There are now major programs in this area by the 3 world superpowers, the U.S., Russia and China. Examples include:

– The technology for cleaning up poisons of biological and chemical warfare is now used to clean up pollution

– The technology for making biological weapons is being used to produce new medicines to cure diseases.

– The capabilities of spy satellites are now used to monitor crop development and natural resources.

– The Global Positioning System, GPS, was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense for military navigation, and now it is found in almost all aspects of our peaceful daily life, from all types of public and private civilian transportation to the cell phones we use.

We see that all of this reflects convergence with Torah, because Proverbs 3:17 explains about Torah that “all its paths are peace.”

Finally, we need to speak about the need to transformation the attitudes that scientists have, from being anti-Creation and anti-Torah, to being honest and therefore consistent with Torah.

A theory is truly “scientific” only it is based on an hypothesis that can be experimentally tested in controlled and repeatable ways, so it can be either upheld or disproven. If an idea is impossible to be tested, then by definition, it’s not in the realm of being a “scientific” theory. Instead, what the person is doing is making a biased and unprovable conjecture. Here are some famous examples:

1) the age of the universe, based on the conjecture of dating by the red-shift of starlight;

2) the age of the earth, based on the conjecture of radiometric dating;

3) the age of organic material on earth, based on the conjecture of carbon dating;

All of those methods for dating ancient phenomena are based on unprovable assumptions. They are based on extreme extrapolations about physical conditions that existed before there were any human beings who had the ability to measure them at the time. So they are not in the category of the truly scientific method.[4]

A fourth example is the conjecture of evolution of the species on earth based on random genetic variations over a long period of time. It can’t be tested, so can’t be proven to be true. And furthermore, it has been proven to be untrue. So it can’t honestly be called a scientific theory, because if something is physically impossible to have happened, it can’t be scientific. There are two main points of knowledge which prove that the idea of evolution of species arising from random genetic variation is not true (even if is assumed to be working combination with other factors):

–  The first is that it contradicts information science, from which we know that random variations can’t lead to large-scale evolution with the complexity we observe. That’s because  the difference between a lower level organism and a higher level organism is due to a much greater amount of highly ordered information being stored in the higher organism’s DNA. This can’t happen by random variation.[5]

– The second problem with the idea is that many organisms have been discovered which contain irreducible complexity. This means that the creature survives based on at least one (and usually much more than one) biological process that is critically complex. If there was a preceding species with any less complex version of this process, the process would not work at all, and the organism could not live. This means that the present creature could not have evolved from a simpler one.

All this brings us to the question: What are miracles, and what is nature? What we call the nature of things that we see on a daily basis is really a miracle that is recurring continuously. That’s why people assume that it doesn’t need a creative force from G-d bringing it into existence and guiding it continuously.[6] If you what the trailer for the coming attraction, it’s that a scientific discovery of the presence of that Divine creative force is the direction in which we’re headed.

Footnotes:

[1] A main resource for this essay is the book Scientific Thought in Messianic Times, by Shimon Silman, Ph.D.

[2] See Likkutei Sichos, vol. XVI, p. 87, on the teaching by Rabbi Akiva in the Passover Haggadah that each of the Ten Plagues in Egypt consisted of five plagues, as cited in the book At Our Rebbe’s Seder Table, p. 54, pub. SIE.

[3] Called the hiyuli for matter (הִיּוּלִי, meaning “potential”).

[4] See the technical letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the subject of creation and science, dated 18 Tevet 5722. It has been reprinted in many places, including in the book Mind Over Matter, and on the web page https://asknoah.org/essay/creation-and-science

[5] See the book Not By Chance! Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution, by Lee M. Spetner, Ph.D.

[6] The Gate of Unity and Faith (Tanya, Part II), by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. See our web page https://asknoah.org/essay/wellsprings-of-spiritual-insight

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