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How does Judaism's claim that the world is about 5,700 years old coincide with science?

by Mrs. Sarah Levi

  

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Torah and science can never contradict each other, because two truths cannot be contradictory. When we find an apparent contradiction between the two, it is generally due to a misunderstanding regarding what one is saying.

Science cannot really prove the age of the universe. All that scientists can do is speculate about the age of the universe by extrapolating from observed phenomena. No scientist alive today can say that he or she has first-hand information regarding the beginning of the universe.

The Torah tells us how old the universe is.

Science tells us how old the universe seems to be.

The scientist that does not believe in G-d has no reason to assume that the age of the world is different than what it appears to be
To give a simple example: how old was Adam when he was first created? Was he a baby? Young man? Old man?

Our sages tell us1 that he had the body and maturity of a 20-year-old man. Now, let us imagine Adam going for a medical exam a day after he was created. The receptionist asks for his age and he answers: “one day”. “You must be kidding me,” she would reply. “You seem to be at least 20 years old!”

They are both right. Adam is saying how old he really is, while the receptionist is estimating his age based on “scientific proof.”

The scientist that does not believe in G-d has no reason to assume that the age of the world is different than what it appears to be. The one who believes in G-d, however, can perfectly accept the fact that the world was created in a mature state and therefore does not contradict the fact that it is really younger than it seems to be.

Footnotes

  • 1. Midrash Rabba Breishis 14:7

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COMMENTS

Torah & the science of the universe

Posted by: J.T. Hunter, Dallas, TX on Jan 27, 2005

This was an interesting post, but I wonder about the statement that no one has any actual first hand proof of the creation of the universe. This is a true statement which does imply that, while science may extrapolate the age of the universe and the world from its observations, it cannot proove the observations correct. However, this is a double-edged sword, as the statement can just as easily be applied to the Torah. No Rabbi in the world can claim to have first hand knowledge of the Creation of the Torah or of the Creation of the world by G-d. Yet we accept it as fact. It is interesting to me that we choose to see only one side of the coin. The real issue (my opinion) is not whether or not G-d "created" the universe (many cosmologists and mathimaticians believe that the numbers support the existance of a "higher power") or how old the world is, for one will believe what one believes. The REAL issue is what are we, as Jews, doing to honor that belief? Todah and Shalom.

Editor's Comment

The objective of this article is not to convince the skeptic of the validity of Judaism. The purpose is to illustrate this: based on how each science and Judaism defines itself respectively, there is no contradiction in their views of the age of the universe. Judaism is defined by the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, a historical event that was seen by an entire nation. Science is defined by its ablitiy to observe and create scientific theories based on our current understanding. Hence the Torah discusses the age of the universe as a divine insight, and science discusses it as a human observance.

Creation

Posted by: Anonymous on Aug 27, 2005

interesting answer, but i have a problem with it. why should god make the world seem older then it is? there seems no reason. and please dont respond that we cant understand the workings of god, because i believe that to be a superficial answer. try and answer the question first....

Editor's Comment

As much as we would like to know exactly why G-d does everything He does, we simply cannot. Yet the absence of knowledge itself is not knowledge, and surely the lack of understanding per se can't be used as a rebuttal. Just because people didn't know Jupiter existed it doesn't mean it didn't. And if we don't understand the role Mars plays in the universe, that doesn't render Mars useless. Nonetheless, I will offer some personal speculations for why I think G-d created a mature looking world. 1. G-d wanted Adam and Eve to have food and clothing on the day they were created. 2. G-d wanted a world wherein it would be possible to deny His existence. 3. If you had the choice to a) either sit down with architects, engineers, contractors, loan officers, city planners, interior designers, then wait 5 years for your house to be built, and another 2 years for it to be fully furnished, or b) you could just say "poof" and just like that your mansion, with all its furnishings and decorations would exist right before your eyes; wouldn't you choose b? We don't have that ability so that option never even enters our mind (not for our house, and not for our world). But G-d had that ability, so He used it.

age of the world

Posted by: Anonymous, Bklyn, NY on Oct 28, 2005

i think the rebbe also explains that science judges according to the way the world develops around us today, but no one can prove that the devlopment of the world was the same 5000 years ago, especially in a year under water.

another thing, if g-d created anything and i mean anything which pointed blankly towards g-d's truthfulness without any room for doubt, then the entire purpose of creation, which is the free choice and work of man, would be for nought, because you would be having motivations from above in doing good, and not really your own self.

Editor's Comment

To read a letter from the Rebbe about this topic click here


Age of the Universe

Posted by: Anonymous, Batavia, IL on Mar 13, 2006

In answering the question on how old is the Universe you state that G-d made a mature Universe which is only 5700 years old, although it appears to be 12.7 billion years old, acording to scientists.

On the page for the question "What is G-d" the following appears:

"C. Science says that the universe began with a cataclysmic explosion spreading out evenly from a center point. But where did that super-condensed cubic centimeter of original matter come from? And who/what pulled the trigger to fire off that Big Bang? The answer is G-d."

So which is correct? Did the Universe start with the big bang, in which case it is 12 billion years old or was the Universe created as a mature entity, in which case G-d did not pull the trigger?

Editor's Comment

The two articles are addressing two distinct points: Age and Creator. This article is discussing age and suggests that even if carbon dating is in fact 100% accurate, the world can APPEAR to be billions of years old even though in ACTUALITY it is much younger. The other article you quote discusses the concept of a Creator (vs. a self created world). It thus uses the example that even if you were to claim there was a big bang, something would have had to create the original matter/energy and subsequently cause the bang.

Dating the history of creation

Posted by: Yoni, Brussels, Belgium on Apr 22, 2007

Well, there is also another theory that can shed some light in here. Are the 6 days of creation a 24htype of a day or million of years type a day?

we do measure a day by day by the sunrise and the moon. However until the 4th day of creation there were no sun or moon. So thus how the first 3 days were measured by? obviously not a 24h type of day but rather Hashem's type of days sort of speech.

Yoni

Editor's Comment

That is a very good, and very common theory. However, there are two challenges with it: 1) The Torah uses the same description for each of the days of creation: "it was evening, it was morning, a xx day"; implying that all the days were the same length. 2) The Talmud (Tractate Chagigah 12a) states that the time span for daytime and for nighttime, 24 hours between them, was created on the first day of creation.

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Philosophy » Creation
Philosophy » Torah vs. Science

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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.