Science is the Ultimate Religion
What makes the Torah sacred is NOT the “Answers” in the Torah
but the “Questions” it inspires.
The Commandment is to “study” Torah, not to “learn” Torah.
“Learning” Torah without “questioning “Torah locks up your brain and makes you Stupid.
God does not want us to be Stupid
One of the ironies of the 21st Century is that the more details we seem to know as to how the world operates, the less we seem to value that understanding. We tend to value the “new” and tend to see the exception as the rule, rather than perceive the exception as the limiting definition.
Another irony is that while new technology may change the nature of how we perceive our environment, it does not change the character of man.
The nature of human beings is to seek and find patterns in everything we perceive and do. The recognition of patterns and ability to communicate them is the distinctive quality of being human.
Within all cultures, there are traditions of behavior and concepts that describe and proscribe group and individual behavior. Within Judaism, that traditional codification is called the Shulchan Aruch, a body of 613 concepts codified some 1000 years ago that traditionally serve as the philosophical and procedural basis for "proper" Jewish behavior.
By definition, these concepts originate from "the word of God" which gives them an ultimate Authority and Timelessness. But if one looks deep enough at these rituals and traditions, there is a concept of empiricism so basic that it has an almost unspoken name: dever ha'eretz - "laws of the earth."
That empiricism motivated Abraham (according to the apocryphal story) to challenge the "god-ness" of the statues in his Father's shop, and has likely motivated many of his "descendants" to exchange Kabalistic studies for the activities of physics and biochemistry. The attention to and measurement of the increasingly minute details of the world around us has brought about the technical advances that we call "Western Civilization." The existence of God as an omniscient, omnipotent, infinite, timeless entity is not dependent on the existence or continued existence of any human being or the belief or non-belief by any human being in that existence of God.
The strength of Judaism is not in the mindless observance (as a substitute for spirituality) of "sacred traditions" that purport to be thousands of years old, but in social practices that are empirically beneficial regardless of their Authority. The tragedy of previous attempts to bring rationally to Judaism is that the questioning process frequently failed to recognize the empirical basis of many traditions because they saw those traditions only as blindly acquiescing to Authority.
The further handicap of being in the 21st Century is in NOT knowing the source of empirical observations made some 2 thousand years ago. We are "afflicted" with perceptions and blessings of a world that no longer lets us accept primitive concepts of causality. A standard concept of magic is that children and adults perceive magic tricks differently. a child's view of causality will have them look at the movement of leaves and determine that the leaves are the source of the wind. Hopefully, by adulthood we have intuitively learned the correlation between mass, momentum, and time.
What we now have in writing as "traditional" concept of behavior were originally oral traditions of a culture that has had a high respect for education despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of its membership were illiterate.
It is the intention of the following commentary to put an empirical interpretation on some of the basic concepts of Judaism. By definition, the non-omniscience of humans insures that these comments will be only an interpretation, and not a final pronouncement. Our knowledge and perception of how things work has changed significantly in the 1000 years since the 613 principles of the Shulchan Aurch were composed. With advances in physics chemistry, biology, and math, it would be an insult to the intelligence of the majority of those people who define themselves as Jewish, NOT to question the interpretation of these principles. The standards of science no longer let us blindly accept undocumented tradition. Scientific, behavioral, and mathematical concepts, that we now take for granted, were unknown.
A metaphor of the traditional Passover Seder has four sons and their interpretations of the Seder. The "wise" son has total faith in the rituals and procedures and is concerned only that they are followed correctly. The "wicked" son questions those procedures and asks for explanations and justifications. The "uneducated" son wants to know what are these correct procedures and traditions so that he may learn and follow them. And the "simple" son only wants to be there and participate because he is not (yet) capable of understanding.
The following is dedicated to the "wicked" son who is trying to better the world by increasing his understanding of how it works. The underlying motivation for that search has been an overwhelming faith in the absolute causality of the world around us. Religion has perceived that such a search for "measurable truth" is a form of heresy since scientific answers are NOT dependent upon religious "authority" or their existence. Even the Biblical concept of evil began with eating an apple from the "Tree of Knowledge." The very process of examining and trying to understand ourselves and the world around us, from some "Judaic-Christian concepts, is viewed as the source of mankind's problems because that “understanding” tries to be dependent upon the laws of physics rather than "Religious Authority."
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