Posted on | January 9, 2007 | By Rabbi Alter Klein | 101 Comments
Most people ask “How do they reconcile science and Torah?” I ask, “Do I need to?”
As a BT, I grew up in the secular, science-based world. I even went to Bronx High School of Science and got my undergraduate degree in archaeology.
You would think the question about science and Torah would be a burning issue for me. It isn’t. Why? Good question. I think the answer is that Chazal (our sages) have answers for us. My main focus in this article is the age of the universe.
Out of the two major answers, science jives better with one of them. However, I recognize what science is and what it isn’t. It isn’t perfect, far from it. Second, it consists mainly of theories that change by the day and I will take Rabbi Akiva over any scientist, any day.
One answer is that the universe really is 5767 years old in “real years” and everything that shows differently according to science is either mistaken or made to look that way by G-d to test our faith. Many of our sages held and do hold by this.
The second answer is that the universe is really 15 billion years old. The Jewish calendar only starts from forming of Adam, which is on the 6th day of creation. The previous days are not “our” days. Rather, each one represents thousands of years. This theory is well explained by some of our sages. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan has an excellent discussion about this in his book entitled “Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe”. Professor Schroeder also discusses the issue in his book “The Science of G-d”. Numerous other authors have discussed tgis theory as well.
For me, either answer is valid and assuaging. If you “need” science and Torah to match then you have an answer. If you don’t, you also have a possibility. Yes, I lean a certain way, but if in the end of days I find out the answer was the other one, no big sweat. Hashem existed before anything, designed the world as he saw fit and that is ok by me. G-d is all powerful, so he could definitely make some rocks look older than they really are. G-d help me if I base my emunah (faith) on what scientists tell me.
Let’s remember that Moses received the Torah from G-d and Mr. Scientist received a grant for his research from so and so foundation. I know whom I trust more.