Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Emunas Scientistim

We spoke about Emunas Chachomim (good but not in the extremists), Emunas Kanoim (always bad), and Emunah Peshuta (sometimes ok). Now its time to talk about Emunas Scientistim.

In a previous post, I divided the world of science into 3 broad categories:

1. Proven Science.
These are theories that the majority of the Scientific Community accept are ‘proven’, (to the extent that anything can be ‘proven’).

2. Debatable Science
These theories (or some significant aspects thereof) are the subject of much debate within the scientific community, as to wether they are proven, (or even correct).

3. Theoretical Science
These theories are held by the majority of the scientific community to be theoretical, unproven and conjecture at this point.

I stated that I will argue Science vs Torah from catgeory 1. I will occasionally debate category 2 but not usually. I don’t go near Catgeory 3 to the best of my knowledge.

This stimulated much debate. I discerned three major questions.

Q1. You just have Emunah Peshuta in Science !

A1.1 Yes for Good Reason.
Its true, I have EP in the scientific community and process. This is for a number of reasons. The scientists come from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and religions. The scientists employ an open process. The scientists encourage new experimentation and discussion of opposing views. There are many textbooks and popular books on science, explaining in great detail all the theories. Few scientists insist that you must have emunah peshutah in their theories, but then refuses to explain their reasoning ! Do I have a science phd ? No. Have I read all of science ? Of course not. However I have read enough of it to see its convincing. Therefore I have emunah peshutah, as long as the majority of the scientific community are in agreement.

A1.2. No, its not Emunah Peshuta
EP implies a faith in something for no good reason, other than that one needs to have faith. However my faith in Science is for all the good reasons stated above. Am I ultimately trusting the scientists ? Yes, in exactly the same way that I am ultimately trusting that everyone I have ever had any contact with since the day I was born has not been lying to me as part of some great, global conspiracy. That’s not emunah peshutah. That’s common sense.

Q2. If you believe the scientists, then you should believe the Documentary Hypothesis too !

A2.1 The Premise of DH is Wrong
The DH assumes that the Bible was man written, and the question is how many men wrote it. G-d writing the Bible is not entertained as a credible alternative. Even though general science also has this assumption, its not directly relevant there, since even G-d believers understand that there is a scientific mechanism to how the world was created and subsequently operates.

A2.2 DH is not ‘Proven’
Alternatively, DH may be in category 2, or even 3, not category 1. I am finding it difficult to figure out. Some people claim that not a single serious (non fundamentalist) Bible scholar in the world disagrees with the multiple authorship theory. Others say the theory is outdated 19th century scholarship which has been debunked.

A2.3 DH is not Science
I could also say that DH ‘Science’ is not in the same category at all as the other sciences (physics, biology etc). Its more of a soft science, which relies on conjecture and theories, rather than provable or observable expirements. My emunah in science is only in the hard sciences.

Q3. What if Science disproved an ikkar like Sinai, then what would you do ?

A3.1 It could never happen
I have emunah that science could never disprove a real ikkar (e.g. Sinai) since Science is true and Sinai is true, so one could not ever disprove another. Therefore the question is theoretical, could never happen and is not worth thinking about. You might as well ask, what if all the Gedolim said Sinai didn’t happen !

A3.2 The Truth is the Truth
I could also answer that if a category 1 science theory did actually disprove Sinai (and I mean mamash disprove, no doubt at all whatsoever), then it would show Sinai never happened, and that would be a fact. Truth is truth, and is surely the highest value. It would be a great shame, but there’s no point in denying reality.

A3.3 I would have emunah
Alternatively, I could say that if it came to something really fundamental, like Sinai, then I would not listen to the scientists. However, I don’t like this approach as much, because then the whole debate with the extremists just becomes quantative. i.e. We all have our limits as to when we will ignore reality, they just reach theirs sooner. However I think its qualatitive, they are nuts and I am not.