I am deeply perturbed by the conflicts between Jewish beliefs and science. My heart and at times my mind, too, lead me to Torah, but at other times, my minimal understanding of science causes me to wonder about it all.


You speak of a conflict between science and faith and how this rips you apart in two directions at once. Let me provide a simple way to make this much easier for you:

The conflict really has nothing to do with science, nor with faith. The conflict has to do with purpose.

The standard materialist, empiricist, reductionist view that many scientists take has nothing to do with purpose. The trinity of this faith is Chance, Necessity and the Human Mind. From these supreme deities arise the demigods of Matter and Energy.

I call it a faith because not only has science itself never provided a logical basis for belief in this pantheon, but has demonstrated many times over the absurdity of it all. As the esteemed British theoretician of science, Alfred North Whitehead wrote in the 1920s:

"The state of modern thought is that every single item in this general doctrine is denied, but that the general conclusions from the doctrine as a whole are retained. The result is a complete muddle in the scientific thought, in philosophic cosmology and in epistemology. But any doctrine which does not implicitly presuppose this point of view is assailed as unintelligible."

I'll detail it out a little:

1. Prove to me that everything in the universe must make sense to the human mind? On the one hand, the scientist tells us that our mind evolved through the challenges of survival. On the other hand, he claims that this jelly-like grey-matter device that so evolved is capable of explain the basic truths and origins of all things. Could anything be more absurd?

2. Explain to me what is chance and what is necessity? The cosmologist chooses at whim which elements of existence are so because they must be so and which originated at the outset of the universe.

3. Explain why we cling to this anachronistic notion of energy and matter in the mechanistic, Cartesian sense after a century of scientific probing and discovery has demonstrated again and again how inadequate these notions are in explaining the phenomenon of the quantum world.

So science is also a religion of faith. But it is faith without purpose. It is faith that we are simply artifacts of a cold, indifferent universe. Nothing has meaning, other than being material to write yet another doctoral thesis.

The ancient faith of the Jew, on the other hand, is a belief that life itself is nothing but meaning. Reality is personal. The focus of life is my decisions, what I choose to do with life. Those decisions and their consequences are more real than any star or subatomic particle, any fact in Wikipedia or news on your TV screen. Whereas to the contemporary scientist, life is a phenomenon, to the traditional Jew, life is real.

As I promised, I've tried to simplify the matter by deconstructing the common terms in which we generally couch this conflict.

I hope this helps—mainly because I don't see why any of this conflict should get in the way of you adopting the entire beauty of Shabbat and bringing our rich heritage into your life with a complete heart.