Trust in Hashem, Not Scientists

In the sefer Chovos HaLevavos there is a section called Shaar HaBitachon, the Gate of Trust, which talks about the greatness of the wonders of Hashem. In the Hakdama to that section, the author gives various examples of things that a person could wrongly put his trust in, and shows the downfalls of these things, such as wealth, other people, etc. Ultimately the only thing we can trust in is Hashem. He even, most likely to the chagrin of many then and in our time, states quite clearly that one should put trust in the Kimoah, also known as Alchemists, now known as Scientists.

It is a common contention that science and Torah cannot mix whatsoever. What I will say is that this is true. Science though is not what it is commonly made out to be by people, which is essentially a religion termed Scientism by many in intellectual circles. There are those who maintain that we should hold like Rambam, and say that every part of Torah that seems to be contradicted by the scientists is obviously simply metaphor and Chazal were just plain wrong about many aspects of the physical world. The problem with this perspective is that it leads to a Judaism free of mystery, which has rachmana litzlan led to many younger people going completely off the path of the Torah. I’ve known many of them from my days in a particular religious educational institution in Seattle that pushed this particular hashkafa. Nearly every single one of my peers from this school have gone off, best case scenario they’ve only decreased in general religiosity without stopping being Shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos, which is bad enough.

The proper approach to dealing with science and Torah, in short, is to address science as its own discipline, and Torah as its own as well. The Torah encompasses all reality and should influence how we view scientific discoveries, seeing them as new ways to know and understand Hashem. Science is only meant to describe reality as perceived with our meagre physical senses. Fun fact: there’s a sea bug known as the “mantis shrimp” that has 12-16 eye cones, whereas people only have three on average, meaning that this shrimp can see colors than we can’t even imagine. Let this concept help you understand that science is only meant to help us understand how to exist in, and manipulate, the world we physically live in. Spiritual truth is contained in the Torah, expressed clearly through the works of Kabbalah, and in no way contradicts scientific discoveries. The gemoro in Shabbos says that someone who doesn’t know astrology sins through not gazing upon Hashem’s marvelous wonders; we can easily say that this applies to general knowledge of the natural world, which has greatly expanded in the last century. Ultimately, any questions between how our scientific instruments perceive reality and the underlying truth of reality, will be answered and explained when Moshiach comes and knowledge of Hashem fills the entire world.

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