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I doubt anyone believes that “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will be remembered as one of the great celluloid hits of 2014. There are many reasons for this.

First, the book is always better than the movie – especially when we are dealing with The Book. Second, Irish actors portraying Middle Eastern Jews and Egyptians make the script far from credible. Finally, the producers opted for preserving this one historical fact: that the Jews defeated the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. Had the producers used a little more of their fertile imagination, replacing Egypt with North Korea and Pharaoh with Kim Jong, I have no doubt “Exodus” could have been the greatest blockbuster of 2014.

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They did not. Instead, their account attempts to capture an ancient Jewish tale in its proper geographical and historical context but with a modern theological twist: the god of the movie is a child character who is not necessarily behind the plagues but behind the scientific knowledge of a concatenation of natural disasters. In this sense the work of the movie does not innovate – the modern era of secularism and science has many “men of knowledge” replacing or displacing God. Is anything new under the sun?

And yet, there is something new under the sun. Recently I read a fascinating op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal – an article I doubted that in my lifetime I would see published in such a prominent venue.

While “Exodus: Gods and Kings” makes the case that the existence of God is unnecessary to explain even the most miraculous events in Jewish history, the WSJ article announced that (the actual title of the article) “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.”

The writer, Eric Metaxas, focused first on the improbable likelihood of the spontaneous emergence of life in our planet – a problem that still remains unresolved for modern evolutionary biologists. Metaxas reminds us of the astronomer Carl Sagan’s belief in the late 1960s that there must be life on any of the septillion planets that lie at the right distance from a star like our sun. But despite a decades-long search for extra-terrestrial intelligent life (SETI), nothing has been found. For all we know, Earth is the only living planet in the whole universe.

There is more. As Guillermo Gonzales points out in his book The Privileged Planet, science is constantly discovering new depths to the complexity of life. And scientists find themselves adding more and more conditions that would need to be satisfied for a planet to be capable of hosting life.

It is not just the right size of the sun and the moon or the precise mass and distance between the earth and the sun and the moon, respectively. It is also the finely-tuned position of our planet within the solar system, and even the right distance between our solar system and the big black hole of our Milky Way. No less than 200 similar parameters were found to be necessary for the existence of life.

Metaxas suggests a potent example: “Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface.” Finding a planet with all conditions to host life is not just rare but flatly inconceivable.

“Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?”

In addition to life being an unlikely random event, the existence of simple matter is nothing short of miraculous. Why? The four physical forces necessary for atoms to even exist and combine with other atoms are so exquisitely finely tuned that if “the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction – by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 – then no stars could have ever formed at all.”

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Rabbi Yosef Bitton was born in Argentina and received his ordination from Israel's Chief Rabbinate. He recently published his first book in English, “Awesome Creation: A Study on the First Three Verses of the Torah.” Rabbi Bitton currently resides in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, where he serves the Sephardic community of Ohel David uShlomo.

6 COMMENTS

  1. This is just so silly. If you won the lottery and examined all the events in your life that led to that moment the odds against predicting such a convergence of events would seem "miraculous". But really there are a huge number of other outcomes that could have occurred had one of those variables changed. Same here, we egocentrically observe our "life" as the only possible end product, not realizing that there are countless other possibilities.

    And the statement "But despite a decades-long search for extra-terrestrial intelligent life (SETI), nothing has been found." is so absurd as a "proof" for there being no other life. We are just now discovering hundreds of earthlike planets that are hundreds and thousands of light years away. That means it would take hundreds of years for a signal to reach us from the closest ones. And that means they'd have to be hundreds or thousands of years more advanced than us to have produced those electronic signals. (Something we've only been doing for a little over a hundred years.) And forget the fact that the far side of our galaxy is over 100,000 light years away and other galaxies are millions. But we 'listened" for decades. Right.

    Believe in God because you accept our Mesorah or because you "feel" his presence, not because of this nonsense.

  2. This not silly at all, as opposed to Michael Lipkin's assertion. This article is about science coming to grip with origins and nothing else. The winning the lottery argument he employs is banal at best, and a paper tiger to boot. I do agree with him about the potential, or lack thereof, not being a matter of a mere decade long attempt. In fact it has nothing to do with science at all. Now, his case would have been stronger had he lumped together the powerball, the megamillions and every scratch off in his pocket as scoring the big time. Personally, I believe there is much in existence that is chaotic and random, maybe most, none of that counters the case for an intelligent design of what came into existence whenever it did so. This article may be seen as an attempt by the author to prop up a failing religious paradigm…if you are wearing lenses designed for that purpose. I'm not wearing them, so I choose to see the article for what it is, a degree of glee over those who had been stumbling in darkness moving toward a glimmer of light.

  3. It's bad science and thus "silly". It's not even close to the equivalent of an ant peeking out from his ant hill and making haughty assessments about the rest of the world. Regardless, we agree that the article is useless in trying to prove a particular religious understanding.

  4. They have done the odds. They are astronomically against intelligent life, any form of life, arising spontaneously. In any theory and timeline on the origin of life, there is always the step where you write in, "and a miracle happens here".

    Sagan's arguments for alien god-creators do not say where the god-creators came from. So, his answer to the question does not answer the question.

    Whether there is life on other planets is essentially inconsequential. It is likely, but unnecessary to prove, for there is life here. The odds are 50:50. There is, or there isn't.

    The biggest question for me, is not if there is life after death, but rather, is there life after birth?

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