Ask the Rabbi: Is there a God?

Like most of our information, it’s hard to “know” anything 100%. When we cross a street, do we really “know” 100% that we won’t get hit by a car? Do we really “know” 100% that George Washington was the 1st President of the United States? We never saw him, or met him and weren’t even alive at the time. Ultimately, our “knowledge” is really a reflection of conclusions we have drawn based on evidence and experience. To really raise some questions about how limited our “knowledge” could really be, take a look at the movie, “The Matrix[1].”

BIN-OpEd-Experts-300x250(1)Yet, there is a commandment in the Torah to “know” G-d.[2] So as with any other form of “knowledge” that we profess, we need to examine the evidence. Various philosophers and theologians throughout the centuries have offered hundreds of pieces of evidence that allow us to “know” G-d. Since we are all different, I find that not everyone likes every “proof.” And that’s OK. With hundreds of pieces of evidence to choose from, each person needs to find only one that resonates to help establish and secure one’s faith. For a Jew, I often find that it is helpful to share the method that Avraham (Abraham) used to figure out that there is a G-d. Since he was the father of the Jewish people,[3] we may relate more to his reasoning than to that of others. But if you happen to not like his argument, that’s OK too, since there are hundreds of other arguments for G-d.[4]

Avraham grew up surrounded by idol worshippers,[5] a home and community that denied the existence of one all-powerful G-d; his father even tried to have him killed for his monotheistic beliefs.[6] But as Avraham examined the world around him, he developed what some refer to as the “Intelligent Design” approach to belief in G-d. Imagine that we finally succeed in sending a manned spacecraft to Mars and find a functioning wristwatch. Would we conclude that the watch randomly formed on its own? More likely, we would realize that someone had “created” that watch (which might mean life on Mars or might just mean that someone else came to visit first). When Avraham examined the intricacies of the world around him, he too concluded that the world could not have randomly formed by itself; he realized that someone had to have created a world that has so much design.

Centuries later, this argument was espoused by Sir Isaac Newton, the world-renowned astronomer and physicist,[7] who also happened to be a devout believer in G-d.[8] A story is told that Isaac Newton’s apprentice, a professed atheist, walked into a room to find Newton standing in front of a model of our solar system, suspended in the air from the ceiling. This model was an impressive replica of our solar system. Every planet resembled the ones in real life and even rotated around the model sun. The apprentice told Newton how impressed he was with Newton’s creation.

But the apprentice was quite incredulous when Newton told him that he had not created the model. Newton explained that when he walked into the room, he found a large pile of materials on the floor, which included paper, string, paint and the like. He gave the pile a really big kick and the materials randomly connected with one another, forming an exact replica of our solar system. The apprentice exclaimed that it is not possible for this complex model of the solar system to have come about randomly. Newton retorted that if all the requisite materials were in that pile, it was certainly possible for his kick to have randomly caused this masterpiece of a model.

While his apprentice acknowledged that it was technically possible, he explained that the odds were so low for it to have formed by chance, that only a fool would believe that this model of the solar system did not have a designer or creator. At that point, Newton pointed out the irony of this atheist’s words – “If a mere model of the solar system must have had a creator, certainly the real solar system must have had a creator as well!”[9] And the real universe is much more complex – it’s not just a few balls rotating around, but millions of planets and stars. And the complexity of any life-form adds a whole new level of intricacy.

When Avraham looked at plants, trees, animals or even the human eye, he saw the beauty and complexity of the design and concluded that there must have been a creator. Modern experts, including the world-renowned Stephen Hawking, argue that the odds of the elements necessary to create life on earth having come about randomly would be the same odds as a horde of monkeys spontaneously typing one of Shakespeare’s sonnets with no prior training![10] In mathematical terms, while not 100% proof of G-d, the chance of randomly typing the 488 letters to produce just one sonnet (average length) is one out of 26 to the 488th power, or one out of 10 to the 690th power – a one followed by 690 zero’s! The immense scale of this number is hinted at when one considers that since the Big Bang, roughly 15 billion years ago, there have been only 10 to the 18th power number of seconds that have ticked away.[11]

So while this argument does not prove with 100% certainty that there is a G-d, based on the arguments posited by Avraham and Sir Isaac Newton, it appears to be highly probable from a statistical perspective.

——————————————-

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/

[2] Shemos (Exodus), 6:7 and 20:2; Devarim (Deuteronomy), 5:6; Rambam (Maimonides), Sefer HaMitzvos (Book of Commandments), Mitzvah #1

[3] Beresihis (Genesis), 32:10; Zecharia, 1:73; Shemoneh Esrei Prayer

[4] Links to a handful of the books that offer evidence for G-d appear just above and just below the footnote section

[5] Rambam (Maimonides), Mishna Torah, Hilchos Avodah Zarah (Laws of Idolatry), 1:3

[6] Rashi, Bereishis (Genesis), 11: 28

[7] History of Science: Newton citing: Delambre, M. “Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. le comte J. L. Lagrange,” Oeuvres de Lagrange I. Paris (1867); Westfall (1980), Chapter 11; “Newton: Physicist And … Crime Fighter?],” Science ( 2009), NPR.

[8] (1975) “Isaac Newton: Inventor, Scientist and Teacher,” Milford, Michigan, U.S., Mott Media; Newton to Richard Bentley (1692), in Turnbull et al. (1959–77), vol 3, p. 233; Opticks, 2nd Ed 1706. Query 31

[9] Isaac Newton, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy

[10] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

[11] Dr. Gerald Schroeder, “Genesis and the Big Bang”

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Rabbi with Answers