How Not to Use Science to Bolster Faith

December 1, 2020 | Ben Rothke
About the author:

In his recent book The Cosmic Puzzle, published by a major Orthodox press, Harold Gans—an accomplished mathematician—seeks to use modern mathematical and scientific knowledge to demonstrate the existence of God. While finding this work “a fascinating science book,” Ben Rothke concludes that it fails at achieving what it sets out to do:

Gans writes of the unlikelihood that our universe could have been created by chance, without a prime mover. But how to connect the prime mover to the God of the Torah is left to the reader. . . . When reading of the spectacular nature of creation, a believer will consider what King David wrote in Psalms 104:24: “How many are the things You have made, O Lord; You have made them all with wisdom; the earth is full of Your creations.” The non-believer will take that same evidence and [draw different conclusions].

Gans is in fact opening something of a theological Pandora’s box. If science can be used to prove God, then it can be used to disprove God. Moreover, for those who use science as proof of God, that means they must be open to the possibility that it could also be used to disprove God, which leads to the question: would anyone want their belief in God to be based on something that could be scientifically disproven?

And more than that, even if one accepts the fact that God’s existence is necessary due to science and statistics, Gans does not indicate that there is anything to prove that God commanded us to keep the Torah’s commandments. While science might be able to bring one to deism, there is no way science can prove Judaism’s most sacred fundamentals, such as the revelation at Sinai and the observance of mitzvot. And the next logical step would be to conclude that if science can be used to prove God’s existence, it could also be used to poke holes in God’s law.

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