Lately a lot of interest, including in the JTNews, has focused on the subject of Creation, evolution, and Torah. In elementary school I became fascinated with the Theory of Evolution and spent 10 years of Bachelor of Science and doctoral studies in Anthropology. As a student of Torah, I thought there must be some reconciliation of science and religion.
There is a Talmudic (Eruvin, 13b) principle that these are the living words of God. Of course, those who believe and mystics who receive direct knowing are not in need of scientific proof. Through ruach hakodesh, wrote Rabbi Hillel Shkdover (Kol HaTor), the Vilna Gaon identified seven forms of knowledge that would help bring the redemption.
The thinking is that we are in the time of ichvesa d'meshicha, the footsteps of Moshiach, when lower knowledge in combination with upper knowledge will bring on Messianic times. As time goes on, science and religion are becoming congruent. This can be seen in the writing of those who delve and understand, ancient and modern. Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Israeli physicist and Torah scholar, wrote 'the eternal metaphysical is a scientific reality' (The Hidden Face of God, 2001).
The Torah perspective is that God creates and sustains the natural world, superseding nature occasionally, though preferring to work 'miracles' through the natural order of things. Scientific explanations for Biblical miracles do not and cannot prove they were not done by 'the hand of God.' The argument from design that the complexity of Creation cannot have occurred without a Creator goes back to Rabbi Akiva two millennia ago.
Morris Engelson (The Heavenly Time Machine, 2001) shows how almost impossibly large numbers of random combinations in the order of googol (10100) and googolplex (10googol)would be required to attribute the universe and life to chance, especially since life occurred soon after earth's creation 4.5 billion years ago. This has prompted some (I. Velikovsky, Paul Davies) to posit the idea of panspermia, whereby life in the form of primitive organisms came from somewhere else in the universe, perhaps Mars.
The Torah tells us in the Sh'ma that God is one, and 'there is nothing else' (Deuteronomy 4:39). Einstein's theory of relativity formula e=MC2 shows that matter comes from energy. Einstein and superstring theorists have searched for a unified theory to explain all of reality.
The superstring idea that there are 10 dimensions is suggestive of the 10 sephirot of the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is in each of four worlds ' Atzilut (emanation), Beriah (creation), Yetzirah (formation), and Assiyah (making) ' through which the process occurs of going from metaphysical to the material, the infinite to the finite world.
Scientific discoveries regarding quantum mechanics of matter as both wave and particle, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle that pairs of properties like location and velocity cannot both be determined exactly, chaos theory, the phenomenon that matter can affect other matter across great distance, and the influence of subjective observation or consciousness on matter ' all indicate that things are not as knowable, provable or predictable through scientific methods as once thought. Kabbalists use the term ein sof, without end, rather than one of the names for 'God.' This goes beyond the natural-supernatural interface.
Genesis' creation story and science's Big Bang theory fit together ' both say the universe had a beginning. In the 13th century, Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Torah, described a thin substance no bigger than the size of a mustard grain, which then expanded. The Big Bang theory as well says the universe is expanding from a single small point. Dr. Schroeder (Genesis and the Big Bang, 1990) explains how the six days equates to 15 billion years of existence of the universe based on Einstein's theory of relativity and time dilation. Isaac of Akko, a 14th-century Kabbalist, figured this out using the formula 7,000 x 6 x 365.25 x 1,000 = 15.3 billion years. Six cycles of 7,000 years (seventh, Sabbatical millennium), times the number of days in a year, times 1,000 'for 1,000 years are like a day in your eyes' (Psalm 90:4) (Aryeh Kaplan, Immortality, Resurrection and the Age of the Universe, 1993).
Both Genesis and the science show a similar progression over time of the basic forms of life. The revised evolutionary theory of Punctuated Equilibrium is more akin than traditional Darwinism to the Torah's statements of Creation. Punctuated Equilibrium posits that while stability of species is the norm, macro-evolutionary changes can occur more rapidly than Darwin thought.
The Torah names creatures, which does not exclude the possibility of their evolution. Rav Nachemiah, Nachmanides and Maimonides held the potential for everything was created in one day; 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' (Genesis 1:1). The commentators explain that the word barah, create, refers to something out of nothing or matter from will. The Torah (Genesis 1:12) later says v'todzeh ha'aretz ' 'and the earth brought forth.' Subsequently, the creation unfolded. Perhaps evolution can be viewed as a continued unfolding of the potential, God in partnership with the earth. The name Adam means earth while Chava is the mother of life.
The fossil record shows similar physical forms to our genus homo over two to three million years, with Homo Sapiens first appearing approximately 40,000 years ago. According to Talmud (Hagigah 13b) and midrash, 774 generations precede Adam and Eve roughly 5,700 years ago. 'The Lord God formed the man of dust of the ground,' a physical being like other creatures, and 'breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living soul' (Genesis 2:7).
The verb 'to form' has an extra letter yud when referring to humans, like the yud at the beginning of the tetragrammaton, God's four-letter name. The Torah says that humans are created 'in the image of God' (Genesis 1:26). The emphasis is this living soul of human beings likened to God. Humans exercise free will to choose, change, and raise ourselves and the world to a higher spiritual level.