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Albert Einstein

“Religion without science is Blind, Science without Religion is lame”  Albert Einstein

This observation by Einstein both captures quintessential insights as well as dispelling core misconceptions of the relationship between religion and science.  There are apparent needs which religion addresses but not without a seeming conflict with scientific thinking as it is commonly understood.   These relate to the needs for primarily security in the universe or plainly our own mortality as well as the need to find meaning in our lives. Religion provides some comforting answers, but finds itself challenged by many respected individuals armed with the cool light of reasoned thought within the world of science.

How can we reconcile scientific understanding with the wide gap found in the biblical accounts all familiar to us? Firstly, I believe one obstacle is an exclusive literal interpretation of the Torah (only peshat). If we take the bible strictly on a literal level we find that we must reconcile such prospects as the age of the earth, creation period and Noah ark dimensions and content with the bald opposing facts of science. However our tradition through other interpretive avenues found in Talmud and Kabbalah allow at least 3 additional ways of looking at matters in additional to literal namely derash, remez and sod, enabling us not shackled to such a devastating literal reading. These involve at times metaphorical interpretations guided however by rules and systematic approaches considering context and relationships.  Derash deals with inferential interpretations, Remez with suggestive clues and sod with mystically driven interpretations.


 Our religion teaches that creation provides order in nature, something that science requires in immeasurable degree.   Genesis spells out an order and Job, Kohelet and the Psalms magnificently describe and glorify it.  Take any such content as Psalm 96: “Praise God, sun, and moon, all shining stars. Let them all praise Hashem’s glory at whose command they were created. At whose decree they endure forever and by whose laws nature abides.” Appreciating creation is one core way of appreciating God’s goodness, something we are encouraged throughout our religious teachings and here again science arrives at the scene. Einstein described himself as a believer in Spinoza’s God and when we read Spinoza we find he speaks of a “natura naturans” or a creative energy beyond the physical driving the magnificent constant uniform and permanently established principles throughout the universe covering every moment. This certainly is goodness of a high order as Einstein recognizes and without some understanding   our appreciation is limited and somewhat short of fullness.   This goodness is further evidenced by Gerald Schroeder’s extension of this reasoning to life forms where he cites the probabilities of life forms or ingredients demonstrating it would require a universe much more ancient than our own to produce the kind of compounds and combinations that life demand. For example it require 90,000 times the number of carbon atoms to produce  the forms  needed or looking another way 90.000 time the age of universe to produce.

Moreover other scientists and mathematicians support this defiance of the odds required by a random universe, particularly George Wald, Nobel Laurette in uncovering the complex evolution of the retina, asserting and that underlying mind and intelligence was somehow involved but the time durations taking place were not sufficient to deliver these results on a random basis. .  Time itself is often claimed to be the plot hero especially in this development but here is rejected. Roger Penrose the world famous mathematician and physicist , joint  discoverer of black hole, computes a one in 10 ^123 probability for life through random processes  is another   Moreover the time for creation conventionally expressed as 5 1/2 days (to Adam)  is reconciled  well by Schroeder with the accepted 13.8 billion years when we consider relativistic considerations. . According to Einstein relativity asserts Schroeder there is a time dilation that occurs when heavy gravitational forces are involved and reflected in the expansion rate of the universe. Taking this into consideration in general relativity considerations Schroeder demonstrates we are faced with a factor of a million million or trillion in expansion dilation itself. When we consider the time differential applied to the 5 1/2 days to human creation by Einstein’s relativity we find 5 1/2 days at the core of the universe when multiplied by the dilation factor of a trillion yields about 14 billion years from the time of creation which is well within a reasonable 1 ½ % margin of uncertainty. Further the process itself by which this happens is amplified by Nachmanides in his anticipation of the big Bang and universe expansion  by analyzing the introductory words of genesis and the use of the Hebrew term tohu vavou alluding to primordial  substance condensed. The Rambam himself asserts that Judaism consistently respects the findings of science without abandoning its truth in his Guide (2:8) and reference to Talmudic sources (Pesahim 94 b)

However there is something still missing which Einstein does not completely capture. It is true that there is a goodness that is within this appreciation but is it enough provide us the rich meaning and answers we seek in life? Einstein’s or Spinoza God is a totally impersonal God not intervening in human affairs.   Nonetheless a form of intuition may be brought to bear that Einstein himself did not at all neglect in the world of science. In his theory about gravitation comparing it to acceleration this was evident and his use of conceptual simplicity in his thought process another example. The transition of such instances as God’s goodness here to that of human affairs is another example of something Gerald Schroeder identifies and amplifies through his intuitive sense.  The suggestion that such goodness is extended is also linked by Schroeder by examining the connection between consciousness and matter or between wisdom and the physical. Schroeder expresses this connection by appeal to suggestive opening biblical language of Torah when precisely understood: “With wisdom God created heaven and earth.    Kabballah here itself recognizes the central role of intuition through the notion of “chuckmah” connoting a deeper wisdom in a flash (second sefaroit) while “binah” used in conjunction with it connotes a kind of   induction and deduction inherent in day to day science.

 In this connection particularly the intuition aspect the observation of Blaise Pascal the 17 the century mathematician who laid the foundation for modern probability theory may be relevantly noted. When Louis the 14 confronted him and inquired as the best evidence of a miracle or intervention of God in human affairs he replied why the survival of   the Jewish people. Pascal’s the founder of probability theory‘s intuitive sense of probability considerations here led him to this mind boggling assertion. We find the same sentiment in the Talmud where it is asserted, “The continued existence of the Jewish people is proof of God’s providence.” (Talmud Balvi Yoma, 69 b).

 When we look again at Einstein we find his intuitions operates against a background of experience or empirical input. It is not operative in a vacuum.  Einstein was a great admirer of the philosopher David Hume who emphasized time and time again that causation can take many sided directions without there being any necessity in the outcome. This, moreover, could in many cases land us in a universe with strange happenings.  We must therefore be steered by experience and not allow ourselves to intuit too much and exceed experience.


We are often confronted with Darwin theory as a case against religion.  However it may be noted that once again we must consider the various interpretive approaches that our religion offers. Moreover interestingly Darwin harbored a sense that the design aspects of his theory could not have arisen if left to the laws of randomness with the law of natural selection being the driving force. In the standard account of utilization of the the theory time is depicted as the hero of the plot in accounting for the development of life form. However here again the unlikelihood emerging in the time allowed is mirrored in Darwin’s own remarks the concerning complexities of life involved.  Significantly  a close examination of his views on the matter contained no less than a clear endorsement of something more when asserting that “There is grandeur of life with its several powers breathed by God into a few forms or even one” this is right from his Origins where he invokes  the word creator 9 times and God twice.  

The same acts of enlightened intuition that has guided Einstein, Spinoza, Penrose, and Darwin are at the disposal of all of us (less perhaps the exact math) in the many personal worlds we all inhabit. I invite the reader to think about that personal dimension  in  his/her own life connecting himself/herself with the cosmos gifted by the Creator.

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Howard Zik is the author of Jewish Ideas. Creator of the Blog: Encountering Holiness and Philosophy