Home Faith and Science: the Trees and the Forest
Home Faith and Science: the Trees and the Forest

Faith and Science: the Trees and the Forest

Inspired by the R. Slifkin case much blogging has been done over Faith and Science often on the extremes. Some distrust all science viewing it as an attack on faith, others distrust faith viewing rational thought as the tool to achieve truth. And truth after all is the end and faith and science are the means to achieve it.

Through science we study, observe and hypothesize to understand as much of the world as we can; through faith we accept what is given to us from a higher power as a truth beyond our full comprehension and exploration. Both science and faith contemplate reality but where science contemplates the micro-reality of the physical world as we know it, faith addresses the macro-reality of the physical world as a product of the spirtual one. Science is capable of addressing the physical world to the extent of the limits and abilities of its users but not of the spirtual world of which it is but a product.

The spirtual world is the underlying superstructure of G-D and his will which emenate throughout the physical world whose existance itself is a manifestation of his power. Faith in Judaism has less to tell us about this world, unless you go into the realms of Kabbalah, as much as it has to tell us what is required of us to do in this world to elevate ourselves spirtually by following his will. Science by contrast should not interfere with the spirtual world since it is beyond and above the physical laws and observed and predictable phenomena on which science is based.

This should mean that in theory faith and science could co-exist; the problems occur when each trespasses into the other's sphere of knowledge. When science presumes to set up theories of the physical world as also defining purpose and the nature of human life on earth and all of existance; it trespasses into the realm of faith. When faith asks us to accept the word of holy men on physical phenomena that are simply not so on faith; it trespasses into the realm of science.

Science is a micro-reality which can be compared to a room in a great skyscraper. It can describe in detail the nature and functioning of the room but it knows nothing of the skyscraper. Its results can often be reliable but nonetheless limited because its ignorance of the skyscraper prevents it from fully knowing the room. Faith is the macro-reality which sees the skyscraper but is often fuzzy on the details of what is inside. It knows the big picture and ideally is satisfied with it. But when it attempts to go into the fine details of the room it is bound to overeach itself. Faith is after all a higher knowledge but not one gained by the study of the world but the one who made it. It grants inspiration, vision and a grasp of the moral and spirtual purposes of existance but not the fine details of the physical structure of individual carbon atoms. Such knowledge must be gained through study of the physical world and it is not easily gotten.

The error of those who trumpet that science knows all is in believing in the supremacy of physical reality and materialism. The error of those who trumpet that holy men know all is to assume that because spirtual knowledge is superior in purpose, that it is also so overriding to the extent that it obliterates all lower levels of knowledge and gathers them in. Scientists see the trees, men of G-D see the forest. Both can err, scientists are far more likely to err when discussing the forest by plunging into grand theories of evolution and the age of the universe; men of G-D are more likely to err when discussing trees; the nitty gritty details of how the day to day physical world works. Truly wise men on both sides know not only what they know but what they do not know as well.


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