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FINGERPRINTS ON THE UNIVERSE
Searching for belief and meaning in today's turbulent world
by Louis Pollack
FINGERPRINTS ON THE UNIVERSE
Louis Pollack's achievement is remarkable. An intellectual, a voracious reader, and a keen thinker, he searches for truth in a world of contradictions. In a century that has placed science on the pedestal once reserved for faith, he analyzes science with its own tools and finds his faith reaffirmed and strengthened.
From religious and scientific authorities alike comes acclaim for a book that will stimulate and enlighten anyone with a probing and open mind.
"By using the development of scientific thought as a means to appreciate the depths of Torah and its education, the author provides the reader with a true insight into the significance of Torah in our generation."
The Bostoner Rebbe
"Fingerprints on the Universe by Louis Pollack makes an important contribution to contemporary Torah literature. This book demonstrates the remarkable harmony that has emerged between recent scientific discoveries and the eternal message of the Torah that was revealed at Mount Sinai several millennia ago. Writing in a lucid style that is readily understandable even without a scientific background, Pollack has provided an excellent introduction to the Jew who seeks to correlate the Torah viewpoint with ideas of modern science."
Professor Nathan Aviezer
Professor of Physics, Bar Ilan University,
"In science, we search for the 'how' of the universe. We study the world and hope to learn the laws by which it functions. But at the end of the day, the question we all ask relates to 'why,' the why of existence. Is there meaning to our lives that transcends the splendor we see about us? Something that goes beyond the physical? And if so, how do we probe that meaning? Louis Pollack in Fingerprints on the Universe clarifies the difference between the search for the how and the need for the why. Citing developments in the physical and social sciences, the author maps the steady trend of science away from a position of confrontation with Torah to one that falls within the worldview first revealed at Sinai 3,300 years ago. Then, in contemporary language, Pollack develops a body of knowledge based on the traditional commentaries which for centuries have expanded our understanding of Torah, and makes this available for persons searching for meaning in their own lives or eager to help others find that meaning for themselves."
Dr. Gerald R. Schroeder
After a successful professional career, Louis Pollack embarked on the most ambitious adventure of his life: a rigorously intellectual search for truth. He read voraciously and digested the social and physical sciences. In the end, he found that science itself testifies to the existence of a Creator and the eternal truths of the Torah.
This book is the "log" of his long and successful search. It traverses Maimonides and Einstein, quantum physics and quintessential faith. Pollack questions everything and subjects it to scrutiny on its own terms. Kant does not impress him. Bombast does not impress him. He wants to know why. He insists on analyzing claims and dissecting findings.
To join Pollack on his mission is to join some of the greatest scientists and philosophers of all time and to subject oneself to a revolution of many ideas once held inviolable. This is not a book for shallow people with superficial minds, but for readers who enjoy a challenge and relish intellectual combat.
He writes lucidly and has the rare knack of presenting complex ideas clearly and understandably. This is a book for anyone with an open mind and curiosity for ideas. In short Louis Pollack has performed a great service for thinking people. His life's odyssey deserves the widest possible audience.
With its compass set on the eternal verities of Jewish tradition, Shaar Press presents authors of distinction, with stimulating, innovative - sometimes controversial - ideas, and the ability to express them with grace and style.
Jewish history, thought, responses to current problems, and anecdotal insights into how Jews cope with life - this is but a sampling of the literature published by Shaar Press.
Shaar Press - the mark of quality in Jewish publishing.
About the Author
Louis Pollack holds degrees from Cornell University (where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa), the Cornell Law School and the Harvard Business School.
He is a member of the New York Bar and practiced law in New York City.
He is presently the administrator of an adult-education Yeshiva which he co-founded in 1988.
This is his first book.
Searching for belief and meaning
by Louis Pollack
Published by SHAAR PRESS
Initially, I wish to convey my appreciation to Rabbi Aryeh Rottman, of Jerusalem, Israel, and to Rabbi Berel Wein, of Monsey, New York, each of whom has played a significant role in my life as rabbi, as rebbe, and as close friend.
Most of the Torah background and understanding which I possess I owe to them. As to this book specifically, I am greatly indebted to Rabbi Rottman for having originally conceived its theme and direction and to Rabbi Wein for his continuing encouragement and for his counsel, improvement of the manuscript and invaluable assistance in guiding it to publication.
During the book's development, there were times when I wondered if and when it would ever see the light of day. In these skeptical periods, I found support in recalling to mind one of this century's great rabbinic leaders, HaRav HaGaon Yaakov Kamenetsky, of blessed memory, who long ago had expressed assurance that I should pursue the book's purpose.
A special and most deserving note of appreciation goes to my wife, Elaine, for her keen insights regarding the book's thrust and for her consistent patience, understanding and support during the book's progress. Another heartfelt family thank you is due to my son, David, who oversaw the processing of the manuscript and who frequently alerted me to new research material and to means of achieving wider readership.
I also wish to express my especial gratitude to Rabbi Nachman Bulman, Rabbi David Gottlieb, Rabbi Shaya Cohen and Rabbi Aharon Feldman for their constructive recommendations and valuable advice. Professor David Luchins, Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman and Rabbi Hershel Billet also contributed a number of clarifying ideas and suggestions. Other good people who contributed practical comments are Rabbi Yitzchak Schlomo Zilberman, Rabbi Chayyim Yaakov Bulka, Yaakov Lavon, Chaim Billet and Ben Gasner.
As to those portions of the book relating to physics, I received most helpful advice and constructive suggestions from Professor
Nathan Aviezer and Professor Avi Greenfield, and I am obliged to them for their generous time and interest. I am quick to acknowledge, however, that any inaccuracies or errors which may appear in the book's scientific (or non-scientific) content are to be attributed to me alone.
I also wish to note the valuable assistance I received from Maria Diaz, who, with skill, patience and care, typed the several drafts of the manuscript.
A singular debt is also due to various members of the ArtScroll family for their splendid publishing and editorial support. Specifically, I wish to mention Rabbi Nosson Scherman for his early-on assessment that the book could serve a worthwhile educational purpose and who, together with Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, provided exceptional helpfulness in bringing the book to publication. My encouraging and wise editor Rabbi Moshe Lieber merits a very hearty hug for his warmth, competency and help in eliminating more rough spots in the manuscript than I care to recall. The cooperative and time-consuming word processing and advisory efforts of Shmuel Blitz are also greatly appreciated, as are the graphic, proof -reading and other fine production endeavors of Eli Kroen, Avrohom Biderman, Yehuda Gordon, Fayge Silverman, Bassie Gutman, Udi Hershkowitz, and Leah Bracha Lasker.
But primarily and most importantly, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the Almighty, blessed is He, for having enabled me to undertake and to complete this writing.
From our earliest conscious moment we are assailed by basic, unrelenting questions. Who am I? What is the purpose of my life? How can I judge success in life? And perhaps most depressing of all, who cares? The numbing quality of modern life is that instead of attempting to deal with these questions, it ignores them and substitutes meaningful analysis of life with rapid and unrelenting pursuit of things and pleasures. Nowhere is this disastrous course of modern human behavior as evident as in the Jewish people of today. The overwhelming majority of modern Jewry rarely ever give serious thought to their heritage, value system and lifestyle. Having thrown out the baby of Torah with the bathwater of medieval Eastern European habits and mores, the modern Jew is defenseless in the face of the realities of life. Not knowing where he has been, he has no clue as to where he is supposed to go.
What can one say when the doctor tells us "I don't know" or "I can't help"? What of a world order still so cruel and dangerous that the tens of millions of murdered victims of this most advanced twentieth century seemingly have died in vain? What about marriage, children, family, community? Are they important? And most chillingly, what about life and its inevitable partner, death? We may be able to run from all of these questions, but we cannot hide from them. Western man has sought refuge in Valium and alcohol, palaces and luxury automobiles, sports leagues without end and entertainment without conscience. And nevertheless we still all return to dust.
Judaism has from its inception at Sinai over 3,300 years ago dealt directly, honestly, compassionately and wisely with these issues. It is a faith centered on man and his problems, weaknesses and greatness. However, it is foremost a faith posited in the rock-firm belief of a Creator who has fashioned us all, guides us, gives and takes our lives, and has demands upon us for the proper use of our gifts of time, talent, wealth and opportunity. Western society, in removing the Creator from the equation of life, has doomed itself to the depressing state that has become its hallmark. In order for us to find ourselves, we must be able to analyze and redefine who we are and to see some connection to the faraway past and the even more distant infinite.
This book is meant as a primer for thinking people to enable them to begin the search for their Creator and themselves. It explains lucidly how the search for meaningful existence can be realized by Jews in examining their Torah and tradition. It points the direction to the wisdom of old in the new and ever-changing world of ours. It is not argumentative nor intimidating. It is not dogmatic. It is informative, understated, entertaining and very challenging. It will cause the reader to think about his life and being. It may therefore force us to use mental and spiritual muscles that we may have long considered to be atrophied.
The book is also a necessary explanation of modern concepts and theories in astronomy, physics and the world of nature. It explains the harmonious relationship between nature and its wonders and man and his soul. It informs and teaches without boring us. I am confident that the reader will leave this book wiser and more knowledgeable than when he began.
My friend of decades, Louis Pollack, has himself lived much of this book. I not only refer to the years of research and writing that have gone into this finely crafted book but also to his own personal life and search for meaning. Louis Pollack, who holds degrees from Cornell, the Cornell Law School and the Harvard Business School, is a lawyer, executive and now an author. But more importantly he is someone who has pursued his own life's meaning tirelessly and with tenacity. From this book not only facts, theories, anecdotes and good writing emerge but also the struggle and triumph of a modern-age Jew who, by dint of his own intuition, honesty and efforts, has found his answers to the mysteries of human life and existence. I am gratified that he has chosen to share himself with us and that he has allowed me these words of introduction.
Rabbi Berel Wein
There are times when many of us sense a lack of meaning in our lives. In occasional quiet and reflective moments, we find ourselves struggling with frustrating questions: What is life's purpose? Why was I put on this planet? Is this daily monotony all there is to life? Isn't there something more?
How can existence have meaning if nothing endures? If having all the things I want is supposed to make me happily fulfilled, how come I'm not? When these quandaries well up within us, oftentimes we react by concluding, "There really are no answers. I'll just make the best of things without getting involved in such insoluble mysteries." Still, as the years go by, these inner challenges do not go away. It is not unusual to find oneself still awake at two a.m. wondering, What's it all about? For it is in the nature of man to attempt to unravel the perplexities of his life. There is in most of us a strain of Indiana Jones seeking the Lost Ark of Understanding.
The profile of the average American Jew is one of a fairly successful person, with a respectable family, satisfying social relationships and few major complaints. Still we do not know why it is not enough. The nagging riddles remain. We continue to seek "something more" to our existence. More often than not, that existence has become routine, even boring, despite our contrived attempts to freshen and enliven it with distant travel, different lifestyles, various innovations and new possessions. After fifteen thousand miles of driving it, the Porsche or Lamborghini often tends to lose much of its original thrill.
The search for meaning and fulfillment is shared by a very large segment of mankind. Viktor Frankl, one of the world's preeminent psychiatrists, concluded early in a lifetime of research that the prime moving force in man is "striving to find meaning in one's life." The noted Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung made a similar observation about his practice, pointing out that his patients' most frequently asked question was, "What is the meaning of my life . . .? " A professional study conducted several years back by Daniel Yankelovich Associates confirms that the search for self-fulfillment involves "in one way or another, as many as 80 percent of all adult Americans.'" In an interview not long ago in Life, tennis star Chris Evert spoke of being unfulfilled despite her fame and money. "There has to be more," she confided. Remember, this is the Chris Evert, idolized by fans throughout the world and the winner of 157 tennis singles tournaments more than any other player in history.
For some of us, the yearning for significance in our lives begins early. Jonathan Netanyahu, who was to become a legend through his exploits and martyrdom as the intrepid Israeli commander of the daring rescue at Entebbe of the hijacked Air France passengers, wrote, at age eighteen, that he wanted to "hold on to something," to discover some "meaning and reason" to life, but could not.2
For others, the yearning for a more meaningful course for our lives begins late sometimes it starts after we're forty or fifty, even beyond. In July 1993, the Harvard Business School addressed this increasingly prevalent life-challenge by instituting its "Age of Options" Program, designed specifically to answer the "nagging little question" besetting a growing number of even highly successful graduates: Is that all there is? This eleven-day workshop explores this question in depth, with the participants considering the possibilities of "new, more fulfilling goals" or re-committing "to a current path in a more meaningful way."3
Recently, Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schwieckart reminisced over a special moment in his life which occurred as he was floating outside the spacecraft, testing equipment. His fellow astronaut, Dave Scott, had been photographing him when the camera jammed. Scott had to return to the capsule to repair the camera, leaving Schwieckart dangling alone for a few introspective moments. What does he recall thinking about while traveling at seventeen
(1.Yankelovich, Daniel, New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down, New York: Random House, 1981, p. 3.
2. Netanyahu, Jonathan. Self-Portrait of a Hero: Letters from Jonathan, New York: Ballantine Books, 1982, p. 21.
3.Beyond the Pot of Gold, Harvard Business School Bulletin, December 1993 issue.)
thousand miles per hour in an absolute silence, looking down on our beautiful, blue earth? "Questions," he replied. "What does this mean? How did I get here? Who am I?"4
This book is an outgrowth of my own search for answers to such questions. It was a varied search. At first, I busied myself with a serious study of the writings of a number of well-known philosophers of the past, from Socrates to William James. I was impressed with their intellect, but I found that most of their papers offered more theory than practical solution. At other times, I found that their writings were tedious or difficult to penetrate. Frequently, they came across as having been written more for fellow philosophers than for people with average minds. After much investigation, I discovered little in philosophic literature to resolve my questionings or my dilemmas.
It was then that I turned my attention to the world-view of the scientific establishment. In the twentieth century the scientist became the hero of society. He was lauded as the creator of a dazzling array of technological and medical achievements. And the more man relied upon the scientist, the more science influenced man's thinking and direction. Twentieth-century man soon became willing to entrust his future to the men of science.
In the late nineteenth century, science and technology overtook and replaced social reform as the principal forces in the continuing emergence of the Enlightenment. Among the sciences, physics was especially intriguing, even to the common man. True, its complicated theories were mostly beyond his understanding. But physics bore a comforting resemblance to religion, which the rationalist Enlightenment philosophers had influenced man to devalue and jettison. Like religion, physics was seen as dedicated, purist, lofty, and it probed the mysteries of the universe for concealed truths.
This probe was markedly accelerated soon after the turn of the twentieth century by Albert Einstein's publication of his two great Theories of Relativity. These remarkable discoveries brought about a stunning advance in theoretical physics and earned worldwide recognition and esteem for the modest scientist. At a 1930 dinner in London to raise funds for needy East European Jews, George Bernard Shaw toasted Einstein as "the greatest of our contemporaries."
Man now seemed poised to make the final leap toward the most
(4. Lemle, Miche, Review, June 1990 (reprinted from New Age Journal), p. 48.)
exciting and passionate of scientific goals: that of "reality," which was deemed to represent the true meaning of the universe. Science assured us that if we could only discover reality, everything could be understood, and then there would be enough life-meaning to go around for everybody.
But this dream was soon shattered. Within a dozen years after Einstein published the second of his theories, a revolution in physics called the "Quantum Theory" took place. This theory partially overturned the Principle of Determinism which had previously shaped the "classical" physics of Einstein and all other scientific thinking for over two centuries. This principle held that every event is predetermined and the outgrowth of a chain of cause-and-effect, making every event exact and certain.
In the late 1920's, however, quantum physicists made the revolutionary discovery that there is an inherent uncertainty in nature. They found that the reliability and exactitude encountered in our vast, visible physical world do not carry over to the ultra-miniature, invisible world of atoms and particles.
Because of the uncertainty present in this latter, unseen world, it cannot be measured precisely. And since the scientist's goal of discovering physical reality cannot be achieved except through exact measurement of both the visible and invisible worlds, this meant that science never could totally fulfill the grand hope it held out, that the discovery of physical reality would provide man with universal understanding.
Consequently, when the quantum revolution established that science would not be able to provide us with a full understanding of ourselves and our universe, many of those who had relied upon science to do so turned instead to other thought systems. One was the new, fascinating discipline of psychiatry, brought to world attention by the startling theories of Sigmund Freud. Like physics, psychiatry also held out a promise: It would unlock many of the secrets of man's mind and personality and thus achieve the Enlightenment's aim of a rational society.
Yet, as was the case with Einstein, Freud's genius was praised highly, but some of his theories were seriously challenged by colleagues and fellow scientists. They criticized his overall tendency towards determinism, his strong reliance upon the value of self-knowledge, his slighting the importance of man's fear of death and his denigration of spiritual beliefs. Because of these flaws, they held, Freudian techniques could only partially resolve man's dilemmas. To this day, serious professional criticism of Freud's work continues.
Another thought system which attracted both American intellectuals and blue-collar workers was Marxist socialism, with its deter-minist-oriented beliefs of economic and social equality. It trumpeted that a classless society could achieve the goals of the Enlightenment more effectively than either science or psychology. Yet seventy years of Marxist-Leninism ended with its collapse throughout Europe. This was its final denouement, coming after gradual betrayal of millions who had surrendered their hopes and lives to a cause upon which they earnestly had depended for solutions to their personal problems and those of a troubled world.
But, by far, the largest segment of twentieth-century society was attracted not as much to science, psychology or politics as to the centuries-old enticement of money and materialism. Alexandre Solzhenitzyn, the famed Russian author, has observed that the materialistic overemphasis we see today was brought about by Enlightenment man's reaction against the dire material poverty of the Medieval Age. That the drive toward materialism characterized the earliest beginnings of the Enlightenment is evident from the writings of the sixteenth century's famed Jewish Italian sage, Ovadia Ben Yaacov Sforno (1475-1550): "Our people . . . concentrate their efforts on the accumulation of wealth, feeling this will protect them from the exigencies of their time." Regrettably, this reliance upon monetary protection and its disillusioning outcome continue into today's world, and most signs indicate that they will continue into tomorrow's as well.
When quantum mechanics discredited determinism to a large extent and enabled man to understand the inner structure and power of the invisible, non-material atom, we came to recognize that intellect, not matter or resources, would shape our future. Consequently, to the extent that they were based on the dogmas of determinism and materialism, Marxist theories, pre-quantum economics, Freudian psychiatry, classical physics and Darwinism were discredited as well.
The triumphs of quantum atomic energy, computers, instant telecommunications, fibre optics and many others demonstrated the victory of "mind over matter." Quantum physics largely defies can find real answers to our dilemmas of purpose and meaning through the wisdom of Judaism's spiritual heritage rather than through interaction with the other value systems or the material world.
Through Judaic wisdom, I am convinced, we can derive both of man's most sought-after reassurances:
(l)That there is a great store of meaning in the world which is available to each of us, and
(2)that the remembrance of our once having existed need never disappear.
And it is most important to know that Judaic wisdom and these reassurances are accessible to every Jew, whether his identification with Judaism is strong, nominal or even non-existent.
A few words should be said about the historical accounts, in the early chapters, of four sciences: astronomy, evolution, psychology and physics. What, you may well ask, are such accounts doing in a book about the search for meaning?
One reason is that the history and philosophy of modern science provide a helpful setting against which one can discern the marvelous difference which connectedness with Judaism can make in the lives of Jewish men and women seeking purpose and fulfillment.
A second reason is that, in the light of science's exceptional contributions to mankind, many people came to look to the sciences for answers beyond the purview of technology, to the deeper questions of life. Consequently, for many decades the foregoing four disciplines have exerted major influences in the formation of man's thinking as to the purpose of existence and his role in the world.
In the last seventy years, however, several basic beliefs of these disciplines have been substantially revised or outmoded by new findings of scientists in their continuing search for truth and accuracy. Since many of us still mistakenly adhere to such previously held but now-altered beliefs, I felt it important to trace why such beliefs arose and how they came to be superseded by recent, astonishing discoveries which can help us gain better understanding of ourselves and our universe.
We begin with the emergence of the Enlightenment Movement, which three hundred years ago began to shape the world in which we live, a world in which man ever since has struggled to find his place.
"Me thinks . . . [the Heroes of this Age] . . . will
Joseph Glanville (1661)
(1. Glanville, Joseph, The Age of Dogmatizing, London: 1661. 16)
The Enlightenment Movement revolutionized medieval society as drastically and permanently as atomic energy has revolutionized the art of warfare. Historians disagree as to when the movement began. Some maintain it started as early as the fifteenth century, with the invention of the printing press. To others, it first gained momentum with the seventeenth-century scientific findings of Galileo, Leibnitz and Newton. Another view dates it from the latter half of the eighteenth century, with the impact upon society of the writings of the philosophers of the Enlightenment: Voltaire and Rousseau in France, and Paine and Jefferson in America.
Spreading from France to other Western European countries, the movement set off an avalanche of reaction against the poverty and repression of the Medieval Age. It attacked the decadence of the nobility, the belief in the divine right of kings and the infallibility of the Church. The results of this upheaval were extraordinary and far-reaching.
The main doctrines upon which the Enlightenment rested were the beliefs that human reason could solve all problems and that the rights of the individual were supreme. These great issues were debated and their expression polished in the literary salons of Germany and France, which were hosted by influential and charming ladies who welcomed into their stately mansions the new liberal, literary and philosophic minds of the age.
It was this new spirit of thinking which inspired such history-shaping documents as the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, the Virginia Statute of Religion and the Declaration of Independence. This initial phase of the Enlightenment, lasting till the end of the nineteenth century, focused upon the eradication of social ills. Secular humanism occupied center stage and the "common man" was assigned the leading role.
Medieval society's mainstay, the belief in an omnipotent God, was replaced by belief in the innate goodness of man. The most eminent of the Enlightenment philosophers, Immanuel Kant, proclaimed in his famous work, The Critique of Pure Reason, that man is endowed with an inner "moral law." This, Kant asserted, enabled man to do what is inherently good and to bring meaning to his life from "within himself," without reliance upon any "outside" teaching or belief.
For many centuries prior to the Enlightenment, man had little need to seek meaning. True, poverty and oppression were common in the medieval world, but man was able to capture a fairly satisfying degree of life-meaning through religion, pride in his daily labors, the comfort of a close-knit family and an uncomplicated rural environment. Emancipation's sweeping winds of change, however, virtually dismantled these societal underpinnings. In their place, it was promised, man would discover greater rewards through the social and economic gains of his new freedoms. But the Enlightenment, preoccupied with social and economic emancipation, did not address itself as religion had for ages to man's most perplexing challenge-. What is the purpose of existence?
When it became apparent that this challenge would not be met in this phase of the Enlightenment, the modern search for meaning began in earnest.
Between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, a new phase of the Enlightenment began. It was initiated by a shift from an emphasis on the blessings of human rights to the blessings of technological benefits. This shift was fueled by the Industrial Revolution, which brought to the era improved technology, increased production, management efficiency and a harvest of exciting new inventions. Still, these innovations had unwelcome side effects. The individual's pride of workmanship was replaced by the monotony of mechanization. Higher wages encouraged the migration from the cottage to the city, causing an accompanying breakdown in the once central influence of family and home. Urban slums and overcrowding proliferated.
On the other hand, the increase in the availability of education, the widening of communication, the expansion of new markets and the heightened demand for goods contributed to the growth of the natural sciences. Exceeding even the far-reaching political and humanistic changes initiated by the earlier phase of the Emancipation, in this latter phase the sciences would alter the world beyond the dreams of earlier generations. Joseph Glanville, a member of the Royal Society and one of the exceptional visionaries of the seventeenth century, gave a startlingly accurate prediction of the future when, in 1661, he wrote:
It may be some Ages hence, a voyage to Southern unknown Tracts, yea possibly the Moon, will not be more strange than one to America. To them, that come after us, it may be as ordinary to buy a pair of wings to fly into remotest Regions; as now a pair of Boots to ride a Journey. And to confer [sic] at the distance of the Indies by Sympathetick [sic] conveyances, may be as usual to future times, as to us in a literary [sic] correspondence. . .; And the turning of the now comparatively desert world into a Paradise, may not improbably be expected from late Agriculture.2
As we know from hindsight, each of these wonders and many more came to pass, as a steady stream of astounding discoveries and benefits poured out of scientific minds and research laboratories. As early as the turn of the seventeenth century we began to see the emergence of scientific disciplines which would exert an amazingly dominant influence upon society in the centuries to come. The most exciting and influential of these disciplines and each of their goals were:
Astronomy — to explain how the universe came into being Evolution — to explain how man came into being Psychology — to explain how man's inner self functions
Physics — to explain how both the huge and the minute aspects of the universe operate.
Each of these branches of science, then, saw as its ultimate goal the uncovering of segments of "reality." Science believed reality could be isolated and identified through investigation by our five senses and through the full discovery of the ultimate mathematical theories and physical laws governing the universe. Once reality would be identified, science postulated, man would be able to understand the underlying causes of all events, predict the future of the universe and comprehend his own role in it.
The next four chapters will explore this fascinating but unrealized ambition. It was unrealized because science failed to recognize that it sought a physical reality, which is only a portion of total reality. Until the late 1920's science did not take into account that a search for spiritual reality also must be pursued in order to discover total reality.
Astronomy took an early lead in the quest of science to understand our world. So let us begin with astronomy, the oldest science, in our account of the four most influential branches of science to emerge in the Age of Enlightenment.
and the "Big Bang"
exists a first Being... who brought all things into
existence and continues to sustain them. This
Being is God... Through such scientific disciplines
as physics and astronomy, clear evidence for
these concepts [can be] deduced."1
— Rabbi M. C. Luzzatto (1707-1746)
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
— Quoted from Genesis by U.S. astronaut on the first sighting of planet earth from outer space
1. Luzzatto, Moshe Chaim, trans, by Aryeh Kaplan, The Way of God, Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers Ltd., 1977, p. 31.
The cosmos always has fascinated man, from ancient times when he could only peer up at the heavens to his contemporary, sophisticated search for evidence of intelligent life beyond our planet. And when we begin to muse that "there must be something more to life" to make it truly fulfilling, we usually think of that "something" as originating "somewhere out there" in the boundless cosmic "beyond."
What do we really know about this vast, silent space? How far away does it stretch? Recently, Cal Tech built a new telescope atop an extinct 13,600 foot-high Hawaiian volcano. This remarkable instrument, the Keck telescope, can "see" fifty percent further than any other earthbound telescope. It has a light-gathering power four times that of our previously most powerful Mt. Palomar instrument. (Keck can observe a candle flame as far away as the moon.) Recently, it spotted a quasar, the brightest class of objects in the sky, almost fourteen billion light-years away, close to the edge of the known universe, which is estimated to be fifteen billion light-years distant.
To gain a very vague idea as to how distant fifteen billion light-years are from, say, the Statue of Liberty, we should first grasp the extent of a "billion." A good way to start is by keeping in mind that it would take thirty-one years for a watch to tick off a billion seconds.
The next step is to try to think in terms of "light-years." We need to use the astronomer's measuring rod of light-years because the distances in space are so astoundingly great that they cannot be translated in terms of our conventional "mile." A "light-year" is the distance that light travels in a calendar year at light's speed of 186,000 miles per second. To express this in terms of our miles, the sun is ninety-three million miles from earth; this distance is covered in ten minutes by the sun's light traveling to earth.
Another way of gaining an idea of the enormous distance represented by a light-year is by recognizing that someone driving a car on an express highway at sixty miles per hour would need to stay behind the wheel for twelve million years in order to drive the distance covered in one light-year. Then we must multiply the immense number of miles driven during these twelve million years times fifteen billion (the estimated distance in light-years to the edge of the universe) to arrive at the incredibly great distance in our conventional "miles" between the Statue of Liberty and the known limits of the universe. That is why the word "vast" falls far short of describing its dimensions.
Now for a glimpse into what is contained within the mainly empty, airless black void of that universe. Until a hundred years ago it was thought that the universe consisted only of the great galaxy of stars which we call the Milky Way. But, early in this century, astronomers discovered that our Milky Way is only one of billions of similar galaxies. Our large telescopes are powerful enough to confirm that there are some one hundred million other galaxies just within the bowl outline of our Big Dipper! And each of these galaxies contains approximately one hundred billion stars or suns, making such an enormous, cumulative total of stars that even a trained scientific mind finds it difficult to deal with such fantastically huge numbers.
What we call the cosmos is simply too overwhelming in size for finite man to conceive. We live on a planet which is a mere speck in a galaxy which itself, in turn, is a mere speck in the enormous expanse of the heavens. Man is left to ponder how puny he is in the mysterious, swirling, immense system which we call the universe and which God probably calls His workshop.
The U.S. Space Program and the exploits of the astronauts have captivated the minds of peoples on every continent. About one-sixth of the earth's population watched the live broadcast on July 20, 1969, when U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong took the first human step on another celestial body. We experience vicarious feelings of adventure and drama in following such explorations.
Landing a frail, retrievable machine on the surface of the moon is a form of tapping on the window of the cosmic mystery. We support the space effort for its geopolitical and military values but no less because it satisfies our curiosity to learn what lies on the "dark side of the moon." Despite the shadow of sadness which the Challenger disaster cast over the nation, America is moving forward with its space program. Something deep within us, more than just curiosity, moves us to peek beyond our earth to learn what lies beyond Main Street and above Mt. Everest.
Some thirty kilometers east of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, is the site of Cornell University's Areceibo radio-radar observatory. The world's largest and most sensitive, with a diameter of 305 meters, it monitors cosmic radio signals reaching earth, seeking signs of intelligence in extraterrestrial space. When I visited Areceibo a number of years back, the staff allowed me to listen in on some of these radio waves. To me, they sounded like just so much static. But to the staff scientists, they were the subject of keen, technical analysis for hints of intelligent signals from possible civilizations beyond our own.2 This is not H.G. Wells or Star Trek fantasy. It is motivated by a fierce drive within serious, dedicated radioastronomers to pierce into star space for signs of other worlds created with life-supporting systems.
On the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World, October 12, 1992, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched "SETI" (Radio Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), the most intensive, coordinated listening search yet. Its scientists employ both the Areceibo and the Mojave Desert Goldstone Tracking Station radio telescopes, aided by widely-spaced powerful computers capable, when fully operational,
of searching fifteen million radio channels every second and sorting out those which have any possibility of originating from outer space. In the initial hours of NASA's program, more signals have been scanned than in all past years of investigation. This sophisticated search will continue for ten years in the grand quest of someday possibly tapping into a radio channel at the other end of which has been placed a long long-distance call to "anyone out there who might be listening." That would be the electrifying moment when man would learn that we are not alone in the universe.3
The man in the street shares this infatuation, as shown by the record-breaking popularity of such films as Return ofthejedi and E.T. A hundred million patrons stood in line to pay 350 million dollars to view E.T. in the first year of its release. To date, it has grossed over eight hundred million dollars more than Gone with the Wind earned in its day.
One can detect more than a science-fiction attraction in this exceptional response of the public. For such films do more than display slick cinematography. They have a moral and spiritual side as well. The Star Wars duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader portrays a moral Armageddon between good and evil, between the wicked "imperial dark lord" and the goodness and light of "the force." And in teen-age Elliot's human affection and E.T.'s reciprocal creature feelings we see portrayed the theme of universal love and the belief that all creation emanates from a single source.
We find an interesting parallelism to this "single source" concept in that the Periodic Table of Elements, an undisputed scientific discovery, demonstrates that all matter in the universe, on earth as well as in outer space, can only be composed of the chemical elements listed in the Table. Two hundred fifty years earlier, Isaac Newton had postulated that our planet Earth and all the heavenly bodies are linked together by a common origin and the same physical laws. This conclusion was but one of Newton's spectacular findings. No other scientist before or since (although Albert Einstein came close) possessed Newton's remarkable, intuitive gift for scientific discovery.
But this scientific genius had a matching philosophical side. To Newton, the principles of physics demonstrated an origin, an order and a harmony to the universe which could be attributed only to a
(3. Regrettably, however, federal budgetary reductions overrode SETI's worthy ambition, and late in 1993 Congress canceled the project.)
supernatural Creator Who is beyond and independent of the universe. Like the great pre-Newton scientists Kepler and Leibnitz, Newton was convinced that the material and the divine must be viewed together to understand the meanings of human existence and the universe. These greatest of the early scientists believed that science and reason standing alone never could capture such meanings.
For centuries, man had accepted Aristotle's theory that the universe is eternal, that it had no beginning. Newton believed, however, that Aristotle was wrong, that the world had not existed forever but had a beginning at a single instant of time, just as described by the opening words of the Bible, "In the beginning ..." Newton, although a loyal member of the Church of England, held that the world was so created by the "God of Jews." This belief was in part derived from Newton's lifelong reliance on the interpretations of Judaism's sacred writings set out by the twelfth-century Jewish sage, Moses Maimonides.
Maimonides is universally recognized as Judaism's preeminent legal authority, philosopher and codifier. His towering scholarship and leadership earned him the accolade of his contemporaries-. "From Moses [the Lawgiver] to Moses [Maimonides] there was none like Moses [Maimonides]." In his philosophical writings, he supported a number of other aspects of Aristotle's thinking, but eventually Maimonides rejected the eternal universe theory, concluding that it was speculative and not provable. This issue was and still is a critical consideration in Jewish belief because faith in a Creator is not valid without faith in His creativity. To the Jew, unless the first words of Genesis are indisputable truth, the thousands of words which follow become considerably compromised. That this truth has now been substantially confirmed by science is the thrust of what follows in this chapter.
In the early twentieth century, almost every astronomer and physicist held fast to what is called the "Steady State" Theory, further advanced in 1948 by Herman Bondi, Thomas Gold, and also Sir Fred Hoyle. The theory held that new matter was continually being created and that, in effect, the universe is eternal and had no specific beginning — a proposition similar to that of Aristotle. Even Einstein continued to stand by this theory despite the clear demonstration by the brilliant Russian mathematician Alexandre Friedmann that Einstein's own General Theory of Relativity indicated a contrary finding. To counter this, an unyielding Einstein tried to modify his own theory to fit a Steady State condition (later calling this modification the "biggest blunder of my life"), but eventually he conceded the accuracy of Friedmann's conclusion. In the mid-1930's, the work of Edwin Hubble cast serious doubt upon the Steady State Theory and not long thereafter, Steady State was replaced with the once-opposed but now widely accepted "Big Bang" Theory. "Big Bang's" outstanding contribution was that it demonstrated that the universe did not always exist but rather came into existence within one split second of time.
Why did most of the leading astronomers and physicists of the early twentieth century oppose "Big Bang" so strongly? Robert Jastrow, founder of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and now Director of the Mount Wilson Institute, has published a fascinating volume on this subject entitled God and the Astronomers.4 Dr. Jastrow notes that opposition to "Big Bang" stemmed from a reluctance by many earlier leading astrophysicists to align themselves with a scientific theory that was congruent with the Biblical account. Their acknowledgment that creation had a beginning would contradict what science had maintained from the start of the Enlightenment. To concede that the universe did not always exist but was created in a single instant of time would be tantamount to scientific apostasy.
Yet, in the late 1920's and early 1930's, the work of Edwin Hubble led his fellow astronomers and physicists to subsequently reject Steady State and to support "Big Bang." His brilliant work at the Mt. Wilson Observatory established the fundamentals which have since become the astronomer's "standard model" of the origin of the universe.
It is Hubble for whom the remarkable ninety-four-inch space telescope was named. This extraordinary device weighs twelve tons, is the size of an average room, cost 1.5 billion dollars, and was eighteen years in the planning. Scheduled to have been launched by the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle, the telescope was finally lifted into space in April 1990. It operates 381 miles above the turbulence of the earth's atmosphere, enabling it to see seven times deeper into
(4. Much of the remainder of this chapter is based on Professor Jastrow's most interesting account in God and the Astronomers (New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1980) of the "new story of Genesis," and I wish to express my reliance upon this very helpful source.)
space than previous instruments. Although some serious viewing difficulties developed soon after launching, technicians recently made a very expensive house call to Hubble to replace, among other items, the telescope's mirror. Sighting results since the corrections were made have left NASA officials jubilant, and there is great optimism that in the future Hubble will indeed reveal secrets beyond the reach of all present telescopic instrumentation.
Edwin Hubble was an exceptional man of many talents. In his youth, he was a collegiate basketball star and boxer.5 Following his undergraduate days, Hubble was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and studied law at Oxford. After his discharge as a major in the U.S. Army at the end of World War I, he began his study of astronomy and developed into a world-class astronomer. Handsome, patrician and articulate, he devoted the remainder of his days to a study of the speed and distances of stars.
Hubble's interest in this aspect of astronomy began with a lecture he heard delivered in 1914 by Vesto Melvin Slipher of the Lowell Observatory. This lecture's impact on the fledgling astronomer and the extraordinary results that followed Hubble's subsequent investigations have been interestingly detailed by Dr. Jastrow in God and the Astronomers.
Slipher's work provided Hubble with the clue to the seemingly impossible clocking of the incredibly fast speeds of stars and the enormous distances they flew into deep space. Slipher's clue lay in the differences (viewed through a spectroscope) of the color of light emitted by a star moving away from the earth (reddish) and that of a star moving toward the earth (bluish). The further away a star moves, the more the reddish hue increases in intensity; in this way the star's speed can be measured.
Building on Slipher's findings, Hubble set to work at the one-hundred-inch Mt. Wilson telescope, then the world's largest. Night after night (spectroscoping just one galaxy took an entire night), he monitored the galaxies to determine their distances from earth and the speed at which they traveled. He and his collaborator, Milton Humason, spent over a decade in the late 1920's and early 1930's
(5. Baseball fans will be interested to know that one of Hubble's relations was the New York Giants famed pitcher Carl Hubble, who holds the fifty-five-year-old record for the most consecutive victories — twenty-four — and the All-Star Game record of five consecutive strikeouts (tied in 1986 by Fernando Valenzuela).)
viewing hundreds of galaxies and stars, recording, collating and analyzing the data that flowed out of telescope and spectroscope.
Milton Humason had no previous training in astronomy and no education beyond grade school. He came to know the staff at Mt. Wilson through his employment as the supervisor of the mule teams that transported equipment, materials and people up and down the mountain during the construction of the observatory. When it opened, he remained on, doing menial work but all the while developing a keen interest in the imposing and sophisticated devices around him and in the bright, investigative people who were operating them. Soon he became fluent in the language of astronomy and gained a clear perception of what telescopes were seeking to discover. Before long he caught the attention of the staff through the care and devotion with which he handled the delicate equipment. Soon afterwards, he was invited to become an official member of the observatory personnel. In the years that followed, Milton Humason developed into the leading spectrographer in the world, contributing exceptional and unique findings which have greatly enlarged our understanding of the cosmos.
When the data that Hubble and Humason had discovered was fully analyzed in the mid-1930's, Hubble was able to publish what is regarded as "probably the most important discovery in astronomy ever made."6 Known as Hubble's Law, it stated that the universe was expanding at speeds in excess of one hundred million miles per hour in all directions. Moreover, the more distant a galaxy, the faster its speed.
Why was Hubble's discovery such a cosmological triumph? Because it established that the universe, space, and time originated in a white-hot, multi-trillion degree explosion of unimaginable force and energy which took place in a single instant of time. Hubble further revealed that all of the exploding celestial bodies throughout the universe originated from a common source.
These findings closely paralleled the ancient Biblical description of the creation. Edwin Hubble, after centuries of dispute, had pioneered the way to the subsequent invalidation of the Steady State Theory and had confirmed that the universe was created at a precise point in time. And, while not all details of Hubble's findings and
(6. Cornell, James, ed., Bubbles, Voids, Bumps in Time: The New Cosmology, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989, p. 25.)
those of the Bible match perfectly, his discovery also furnished powerful support for the "In the beginning" account of Genesis as stating a valid, believable theory of the origin of the universe I
Thirty years later, a fortuitous, extraordinary discovery by radio-astronomers Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson provided significant further confirmation of Hubble's earlier findings of an enormous explosion that took place in the very remote past. The work of Penzias and Wilson was so significant that it earned them a Nobel Prize.
In 1964, the two men had been conducting experiments in a Bell Telephone laboratory in New Jersey to measure the intensity of radio waves or "noise" emanating from our own galaxy, the Milky Way. They were astonished to learn that their antenna was receiving waves very much different from what they had anticipated. At first, they suspected that the noise might be the result of droppings left inside the antenna horn by nesting pigeons. This theory was found untenable once the pigeons were dislodged and the antenna cleaned.
What greatly puzzled Penzias and Wilson was that the noise was coming from all directions, and that it did not vary from day to day or week to week. Moreover, it did not appear to originate from the earth, the sun, the Milky Way or from any particular cosmic source.
Sometime afterwards, they learned from a colleague of work at Princeton, especially that of P. J. E. Peebles, which theorized that there was a glow of radiation throughout the universe which had remained from the huge explosion which took place at the beginning of the universe. This theory had been advanced since 1948, but neither Penzias nor Wilson was familiar with it. When they described their findings to their Princeton colleagues, it became evident that Penzias and Wilson had come upon the most important contribution since Hubble's work toward understanding the formation of the universe. For they, indeed, had located the radiation left over from the original "fireball" that generated all universal matter and energy!
Still further confirmation of the "Big Bang" Theory is noted by Professor Jastrow in his book Until The Sun Dies.7 There, he describes
(7. Jastrow, Robert, Until the Sun Dies, New York-. Warner Books, 1977.)
the fifteen-year investigation by astronomer Allan Sandage of the changing rate of the expansion of the universe.
In his youth, Sandage was an assistant to Edwin Hubble until the latter's death, and he is regarded by many as Hubble's successor. Known as today's grand old man of cosmology (the study of the nature of the universe), Sandage established through his findings that the expansion of the universe was of greater velocity in the "early" universe than in the present. The speed of expansion is slowing down, therefore, as the gigantic force of the explosion at creation gradually becomes spent. Jastrow observes that Sandage's investigation, together with the Penzias-Wilson discovery, confirmed the validity of the "Big Bang" creation theory "beyond a reasonable doubt." For his findings, Sandage was honored with the 1991 Crafoord Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In astronomy, this prize is of equal stature to the Nobel Prize.
Thus we see coming to a close the three-hundred-year controversy among scientists over whether the universe had always existed, as Aristotle maintained, or whether it came into being in a single moment of time, as Isaac Newton had believed. Newton must have smiled wryly in his Westminster Abbey resting place over his eventual vindication by most of the leading astrophysicists of the twentieth century.
Still, the vindication belongs no less to Moses Maimonides, whose writings played such a vital role in Newton's thinking and who, five hundred years before Newton, held fast to the belief that we are part of a universe the existence of which is not eternal but which began, as Genesis relates, with one colossal stroke of its Creator.
"There is still considerable difference as to the
— Charles Darwin, 1878, twenty years after publication of his Origin of the Species
(1. Cohen, I. Bernard, Revolution in Science, Boston: Harvard University Press, 1985, p. 296, quoting Darwin's 1878 letter.)
Close by Newton's honored place in
Westminster Abbey is that of Charles
Darwin who, in the mid-nineteenth century,
initiated the most far-reaching scientific
revolution since that of Newton. Darwin's
Theory of Evolution seriously challenged
the Newtonian concept that the universe
is governed by a mechanism designed to
function with order and harmony. Darwin
postulated that creation's governing cause is
chance, not design. Inevitably, Darwin directly attacked the Biblical
accounts of creation and of the divine origin of man.
Darwin's Origin of the Species, published in 1859, had the near-immediate effect of altering the principal religious and social views which society had held for many centuries. And to this day, it continues to dominate the philosophy of both the intellectual and the man in the street, exerting powerful influence within the schools, the laboratories and the legislative halls of the Western World.
This influence becomes understandable when we recognize that Darwin's theory fit almost perfectly into the anti-religious, humanistic principles of the then-unfolding Emancipation Movement. The philosophers of the movement had declared that God is no longer to be enthroned as Sovereign of the world. Henceforth, man is to be his own master and in exclusive control of his own destiny. Darwin's findings neatly buttressed these views. All happenings in nature, he maintained, were without any pattern or plan. They were purely random, devoid of any trace of divine stamp. Man was not created in the image of God but evolved through the complex processes which Darwin called "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest." While this anti-Creator position may not have been Darwin's primary agenda, he certainly was adopted as a convenient fellow traveller by those seeking to deny God as the Creator.
There were only two possible approaches to the beginning of life: divine creation or "spontaneous generation." Since the training and philosophy of the scientist excluded the possibility of supernatural forces and since science believed that all answers were to be found in nature, the evolutionist was left with no choice but to select spontaneous generation as the rationale for the origin of life.
The opening salvo in the struggle between the evolutionists and the religionists was fired at the beginning of the nineteenth century by geologists who attacked the religionists' literal reckoning of the age of the earth as found in Genesis. Subsequently, with the publication of Darwin's famous Origin of the Species, a veritable fire-storm broke over the Biblical view of creation. The ensuing tug of war for man's mind was enacted in the meetinghouse, schoolhouse, courthouse and legislative house.
Darwinism became (and still is) a faith in itself. From its inception, its adherents crusaded for the teaching of evolution to the new generations. Among them was Sir Julian Huxley, who campaigned for the teaching of evolution "as the central core" of the educational system. (To this day, the ideological struggle continues. Not long ago my own university, Cornell, announced the formation of a "Committee of Evolutionary Biology" to stimulate enrollment in a course of evolution by students other than biology majors.)
But not every evolutionist has been comfortable in asserting that all human development is the sole result of the random mechanics of the evolutionary process. Alfred Russell Wallace (who is credited by history with having conceived the theory of evolution independently of Darwin but who failed to publish it before Darwin did) felt that natural selection could not have produced the human mind. He posited that a Creator must have played a major role in man's physical and mental development. Darwin was greatly distressed by Wallace's conclusion but was forced to admit years later that the exact role of natural selection was unclear and that, as stated in the quotation at the head of this chapter, there may be "some mysterious innate tendency to perfectibility."
In the Origin of the Species, Darwin had already commented on his especial hesitancy to identify the human eye as one of the end results of natural selection-.
"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light and for the correction of spherical and chromatic observation could have been formed by Natural Selection seems, I confess, absurd in the highest degree."2
He was later to write to his friend Asa Gray that he went through a stage when he would feel "cold all over" at "the thought of the eye."3
As marvelous as the eyes' capabilities are in scanning, tracking, locking onto and transmitting intelligence to the brain, it is a wonder that Darwin's misgivings did not extend beyond the eye, as did Wallace's. That the development of man's intelligence, his ability to conceive abstractions, to philosophize, to speak, that all of these wondrous qualities are the outgrowth of a random process which began in a "primeval soup" seems a belief far more difficult to accept than Judaism's opposing belief, that of the divine imaging of man.
Today, some scientists continue to contest the validity and soundness of evolution's premises. In his recent (and characteristically controversial) volume The Intelligent Selection, the prominent astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle attacks Darwinism on a number of fronts. He contends that natural selection could never have brought about the two thousand enzymes necessary for life. Further, he argues, man possesses many characteristics that are totally unconnected with survival. He cites, as an example, man's belief in religion, which often defies personal risk and even danger to life itself. Although he is a self-declared "non-religionist," Hoyle concludes that man's creation was not accidental and that our source of origin must be sought beyond this planet.4
(2. Darwin, Charles, Origin of the Species, C VI.
3. Letter to Asa Gray, April 3, 1860.
4. Newsweek, Jan. 11, 1989.)
While Hoyle's position may be debatable, recent developments have begun to raise serious questions about Darwinism even among evolutionist biologists. Thus, Darwin had maintained that natural selection is powered by a fierce rivalry among the species for food and mates. Those species with specialized traits which increase their adaptability to the environment have better chances of survival. Eventually, the lineage which is best adapted survives, while those which do not adapt become extinct.
But this theory presents major difficulties. Even Darwin conceded that there were a number of "missing links" within certain species without which it could not be demonstrated that there was, as he theorized, a gradual transition of the evolutionary process from a lower to a higher stage of development. Darwin maintained that over the years we would discover the "missing links" in the then-still-incomplete fossil chains of many species.
Yet, in the 130 years that have passed, the search for the missing fossils to support Darwin's position has proved so disappointing5 that paleontologists generally have abandoned this pursuit, turning instead to other approaches. Many believe, contrary to Darwin's description of an almost imperceptible and continuous evolution, that many new species came into being through abrupt "jumps." And within the past few years, gaps of millions of years have been uncovered in the evolutionary chain envisioned by Darwin.6
Darwin seemed to have laid a foundation in the Origin for such future difficulties. For he stressed that he had "... two distinct objects in view; to show that species had not been separately created and secondly that natural selection has been the chief agent of change..." But he went on to acknowledge that he had possibly "exaggerated" the influence of natural selection.
Thus, Darwin's approach in the Origin is one of occasional candor. Whenever he had little to support his position he was frank in admitting it. On the other hand, he frequently asserted' that views contrary to his own were simply wrong even though his own also
5. For example, paleontologists investigating the evolution of insects have not found evidence of any fossil to which the insect can be linked.
6. In Wisconsin several years ago, tiny skulls were unearthed which evolutionists consider were the ancestors of apes and humans. Yet paleontologists claim that these primates parted from other primates some fifteen million years earlier. Paleontologists do not deny that this leaves a break of millions of years in the evolutionary description of human development.
lacked convincing, objective scientific proof. (Interestingly, a similar position is taken by both sides in today's ongoing dispute between evolutionists and "creationists.") And although the Origin contains an orderly presentation of evolutionary theories which are frequently quite persuasive, the scientific proofs he submitted were considerably less so.
One of the most unconvincing of evolution's theories was the postulate that individual and racial competition together with natural selection are the mainsprings of socially desirable progress. In the light of the history of the last fifty years, marked so tragically by the regimes of Hitler and Stalin, it is obvious that evolution's thesis of "pitiless struggle" can hardly be viewed as a desirable means of achieving enlightened social advance.
Within the same historical context, we Jews can clearly detect that our own survival throughout the past four millennia demonstrates a marked incompatibility with the claimed validity of Darwin's "fittest" theory. For our survival has been that of the weak, the few, the powerless, the different and the hunted quarry of numerous "tooth-and-claw" pursuers ever since Abraham left his father's home in ancient Mesopotamia. Yet, "we are here" to tell the story.
While Darwin's explanations of natural selection and survival of the fittest are developed at length in the Origin, it would seem necessary for there first to have been in existence a broad range of alternatives and variations — the "initial conditions" — any one or a combination of which would determine those destined to become "the fittest." Consequently, one can make the strong argument that no matter how far we go back in time, such a set of alternatives and variations must have existed before the evolutionary process began. However far back Darwinism pushes the time frame of when and how evolution itself began, the issue of initial conditions remains.
Specifically, how does Judaism react to the Theory of Evolution? Not too nervously. Why is not Judaism seriously perturbed over evolution's postulate, which directly disputes one of Judaism's basic teachings, the creation of man by God? Why is not Judaism as militant and vocal in opposition to Darwinism as are Bible-belt fundamentalists?
While not all of Judaism's commentators are in strict agreement, a respectable segment of our sages does not view evolutionary workings within an evolutionary process as necessarily incompatible with or hostile to Judaism. They point out that the purpose of creation is to enable man to rise through successively higher levels of accomplishments and morality to the ultimate level of human perfection. Indeed, the account of Genesis is a model of transition from matter to vegetable, then to animal and finally to human. But, these sages caution, the point that must always be kept foremost in one's mind is that Judaism views these stages as the products of divine ordering and purpose, not of chance.
The problem with Darwinism, many Judaic authorities make clear, is that it does not even begin to clarify what Force accounted for the appearance of the so-called "primeval soup" and its bubblings in the first place. Evolutionary theory may attempt to explain how the processes of life evolve and change, but it does not ever address the fundamental question of why they evolve and change. And nowhere do Darwinists account for the mysterious Force within an evolutionary chain which ignites the development of a human being into someone able to reason, imagine and be possessed of an inner soul.7
It is Judaism's position that only a Creator in His purposeful act of creation established what the scientist calls the "initial conditions" which must exist to bring about any and all human and physical processes, whether the colossal explosion of the "Big Bang," the creation of man or even the seemingly mundane germination of a tiny seed in a Montana wheat field.
7. Cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, whose work is discussed at length in the next chapter, expressed a similar thought. Strongly questioning modern psychology's belief that man's inner self can be understood by "scientific analysis," without taking the soul into account, he pointed out that "we still haven't explained the inner forces that have led to the development of an animal capable of self-consciousness, which is what we still must mean by 'soul' ..." (Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, New York: Free Press, 1973, p. 191.)
The Emergence of Modern Psychology
the blessed hope of immortality, by which we\
may console ourselves for the vanity of life and
overcome the dread of death."
— Yedaiah HaPenini (1270-1340), Jewish poet and philosopher
"Everybody has got to die, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?"*
— William Saroyan, American author, 5 days before his death
"[Man] ... cannot achieve meaning in his life without regaining his religious outlook.'"*
— Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), Swiss psychiatrist
9. Jung, Carl G., Modem Man in Search of a Soul, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1957, p. 264.
|Beginning chapters from the book,
Fingerprints on the Universe by Louise Pollack
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