God Made Nature, Man Made Science

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader: In the JewishTimes you wrote: “The wisdom we derive from [science/nature] originates in faulty human language.” It is inaccurate to call the sciences “human inventions;” it is only the application that is human. Every science has for its basis a system of principles. Man cannot make principles, he can only discover them. This knowledge is of divine origin. “Arithmetic must be discovered in just the same sense in which Columbus discovered the West Indies, and we no more create numbers than he created the Indians” (Bertrand Russell).

Revelation can mean a direct communication such as what happened at Sinai or it can refer to an inference of God’s presence. Both nature (God’s revelation through nature) and the Torah, are paths to God. We can know God by studying science or by reading the Torah. God is revealed through nature inasmuch that we can discover God through His works. Thus, both paths are paths to God.

Johannes Kepler said, “I give you thanks, Creator and God, that you have given me this joy in Thy creation, and I rejoice in the works of Your hands...I am thinking Your thoughts after You! Geometry is unique and eternal, a reflection from the mind of God.”

“Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind” (Albert Einstein).

Torah and nature are bound together, as you yourself said, “God created both nature and Torah.” Psalm 19 understood this truth. There are two roads to God: the natural world (general revelation) and the written word—Torah—which records God’s words to the people of Israel (special revelation). 

Rabbi: I did not say nature is human invention, certainly it is God’s perfect work. I refer to man’s “perceptions” and “formulations” what we call “science”…that is flawed. God made nature perfect, but man made science and it is therefore flawed.

King David said that Torah is perfect, he did not say science (man’s interpretation of nature) is perfect. This is because science is man’s deductions, man’s formulations, which are flawed, as man’s mind is not God’s mind. But Torah is not man’s words, but God’s words. It’s perfect. Now, if God wrote books on nature, they would be equally perfect as Torah. 

Reader: I think you are trying to say how we use science is human. 

Rabbi: We must be clear: Nature is one matter, science is another. How we perceive science and formulate it, is a human fabrication containing flaws. It is unlike Torah, which is God’s words. For example, scientists used to think they saw the sun in real time. Now we know it takes 8 minutes for sunlight to reach us; we are seeing the sun as it was 8 minutes ago. This human perception and thinking is evolving closer to the truth, but is never without error. Scientists suggest certain laws, and later, abandon them when error is detected. Does gravity work by pulling, or by warped space? You see, the conflict between Newton and Einstein demonstrates man’s imperfect perception and thought. Thus, scientific accuracy starts off with failure from the human perspective, while Torah is God’s perfect formulations. Only nature is God’s creation, but scientific principles are man’s creations, developed to explain, to interact with nature, to manipulate it and study it. But we don’t perceive natural laws as God sees it….explaining why scientists argue on each other. 

With Torah, at least we have a starting point of God’s articulation, whereas in science we don’t have that: we start with man’s articulations. Science is therefore 1 step behind Torah. 

Again, does gravity work by pulling, or by warped space? This conflict between Newton and Einstein demonstrates man’s imperfect perception and imperfect thought. They cannot both be correct. So here, we have an example of how man’s see’s God’s perfect nature, but he errs when formulating what the law is…explaining scientists at odds. Had God written a book on science, it would be as perfectly accurate as Torah. But God did not impart to man His divine formulation of natural law, meaning science. Thus, man who deduced the formulations of how nature operates, formulated the sciences with errors, and many times scientists contradict each other. Although “nature”  (physical reality) was created perfectly, “science” is man’s flawed deductions of what he actually perceives. Newton’s gravity and Einstein’s gravity were worlds apart. In fact, gravity works only one way. Have we discovered its final definition yet? I don’t know. 

King David said God’s Torah is perfect, because it was God who formulated Torah’s language, sentences and ideas. But science is man’s deductions, man’s language and man ’s ideas. Torah is perfect, science is not.  Yes, “nature” is perfect; that’s what God made, while “science” is man’s imperfect formulations, not God’s. 

Rabbi Israel Chait said that Torah surpasses nature, in that nature does not offer man a path towards character perfection. Refining one’s personality and values cannot be learned from natural law. Only Torah offers commands leading to human perfection.