Saturday, January 25, 2020

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I always enjoy Ben Rothke’s very insightful book reviews, including his latest one on the sometimes perceived conflict between the Torah’s description of Genesis and current scientific theories. As a scientist, I never thought there was a conflict, and was instead amazed at the agreement between them. I think the problem came about because it took scientists thousands of years to explain what the Torah so accurately described some 3,000 years ago. And in addition, making the adjustment in time scales, where one may reasonably equate three million man days with one God day, even both time frames become similar.

Let’s start with day one, when the Torah talks about God creating the heavens and the earth, which was unformed and void, and God says, “Let there be light.” This is not the light of the sun, which came later. This is in amazing agreement with current scientific description of the Big Bang, which formed the universe. Cosmologists compare the Big Bang to a massive super-nova explosion, which is the brightest light that occurs in the universe. In fact, remnants of the Big Bang can still be measured today as microwave background radiation after over 14 billion (man) years. There is no conflict between Torah and science.

On day two, the Torah describes the formation of heaven and earth. The current scientific explanation is that the primordial soup formed at the Big Bang evolved into the universe as we know it now, through subsequent condensations and accretions, first into subatomic particles then lighter atoms like hydrogen and helium, then into heavier atoms, and then gasses, liquids and solids. Finally, these coalesced into larger bodies (some so large and hot that they ignited as stars) and galaxies. All these within the vast void of space. Again no conflict.

On days three, four and five, the Torah describes the separations of the water on earth into oceans, the sprouting of vegetation on the land and finally the formations of life as we know it, first from the seas, and then coming onto the land. Amazingly, even the chronological sequence of events is generally in agreement with current scientific theories, except for the apparent transposition of the events of days three and four. In the Torah, day three describes the earth and vegetation, and day four describes day and night. These seem to be reversed, but since the Torah is not just a book of history, but also of laws, ethics and great literature, it often describes events out of strict chronological order, depending on their content. No real conflict.

On day six, we see the coming of man himself. This completed the Torah’s narrative. All that remained was to wait 3,000 years for the scientists to develop their theories to verify it.

Max Wisotsky, PhD
Highland Park