The Religious Foundations of Science
It is commonly believed that natural science such as physics and chemistry,
which deal with material phenomena, are based on objective observations
of controlled experiments, while religion, which deals with spiritual
phenomena, is entirely subjective and based on faith alone. It is no wonder,
then that any apparent contradictions between science and religion are
inevitably resolved in rational debate in favor of science and its "proofs."
This attitude is very superficial.
Science is no less a matter of faith than religion. Science assumes that
there are internal associations between successive phenomena and, moreover,
that the sequence of phenomena is significant. Science supposes that these
associations are regulars, constant over time, and discoverable through
a series of observations during a short period. Similarly, science assumes
that these associations have universal validity, obtaining not only in
the laboratory but anywhere in the universe - the same in our galaxy at
the other end of the cosmos the same in the recent and distant past as
at any point in the infinite future.
Science posits that certain laws, defined for masses of dimensionless
points, lines with no width, and infinitely short tome intervals, embody
objective truth about a real external world. Scince posits that laws have
a simple form and arbitrarily selects the simple explanation rather than
the complex one if given a choice. For instance, although it is experimentally
impossible to distinguish between a law of operating according to 1/r2
or according to 1/r200000025, the former formula is presumed correct because
of its simplicity and aesthetic appeal. Without accepting these assumptions,
the natural sciences as we know them today would be impossible.
These are reasonable assumptions,
but they are not necessarily true a priori. Not can they be experimentally
verified, for the experimental method presupposes their truth. I am not
criticizing these assumptions. I am only trying to emphasize that their
acceptance is based on faith. It is not surprising that as little as a
hundred years ago in England and Scotland the natural sciences were still
called natural philosophy. He who says "I believe only in what can
be measured and do not rely on faith" is guilty of fundamental contradiction
in logic. He has nothing.
On the other hand the religious
scientist accepts these assumptions as an integral part of his religious
world view. He considers nature a manifestation of the wisdom of the Creator
and science a means of drawing close to Him. From the very first sight,
nature shows differential, variety, and a multiplicity of phenomena. Science
- which assumes simplicity and integration, actually brings man closer
The religious person expects
to find laws, logic, unity, and internal harmony in nature, reflecting
the unity of the Creator and His wisdom. Thus, he believes in the existence
of universal laws of motion that govern both the movement of the planets
as well as the falling of apples on Earth, even before he begins to search
for these laws by observation and experimentation. The unity of Creation
leads to an acceptance of a deep inner uniformity in the structure of
matter and in the existence of uniform field laws, even though his attempts
to discover them over the last few decades have failed. He believes that
there is nothing random in nature and that every phenomenon has a cause
and a purpose.
For the believer, and especially
for the religious Jew, faith in G-D and faith in science are complementary.
But for the non-believing scientist, science is a riddle that has no solution.
This article first appeared in Hebrew in B'or
HaTorah vol. VII (1991). It was first translated into English by Sam
Professor Avraham Kushalevsky completed his undergraduate degree at the
University of Manchester and obtained a doctorate at Southford University.
He has been working at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva
where he teaches and conducts research in the field of Medical Physics
and the use of physics and biology in medicine.