Genesis and the Higgs Boson

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16 Responses

  1. dr. bill says:

    Perhaps I am being a bit too critical; but i suspect: Yotzah skhoro behefsaido. The Torah does not teach science nor should we attempt to explain its messages by current science. It reflects the understanding of its times and its message must be explicated knowing that worldview and NOT current science. Whatever support we find might raises challenges as well; neither, imho, are of consequence. Frankly, they reflect the insight of the speaker/author rather than those of the Author. the final sentance in the article, not an effort to read modern science into scripture, is what i find compelling.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    How can we presume to say that physical laws, things, and phenomena during creation (before the universe was “completed”) were like those we can observe or deduce now?

  3. Raymond says:

    I find myself getting completely lost in all this highly technical, specialized scientific language described in this article, honestly understanding virtually none of it. I wonder, though, if that ultimately matters. Take, for example, any standard, secular biography. In the name of comprehensiveness, the respected, scholarly biographer will include as many details of that author’s life as he or she possibly can, as a way of demonstrating how much research went into that effort to write that biography. But is every detail of that person’s life, truly important for our own lives? I think of how, in sharp contrast, how the Torah describes the lives of, for example, our Patriarchs. If anybody knows every detail of their lives, it is G-d, and yet, He chooses to only give a sketch of their lives, of including only those details of events and things that were said, that will lead us readers to become wiser and better people. Perhaps this same principle applies for any part of the Torah, including the Account of Creation. Maybe all the details of how our universe and physical existence itself came into being, is ultimately not all that important, that such details actually distract us from focusing on what information we need to know and meditate upon, in order to accomplish why G-d put us here in the first place.

  4. Jo says:

    “Some of these particles have mass, like electrons, and some have no mass, like photons, the particles that comprise light”

    This is untrue.

    According to E=mc^2 light has a mass

  5. Ksil says:

    Bob miller, why would you not say the opposite….how can we possibly presume to say that physical laws were different at any time in the past?

  6. YM says:

    Rabbi K, thank you for this. I hope you yourself have a Rov who can protect you from those who don’t think this kind of speculation is permittable.

  7. Yitzchak says:

    “In the name of comprehensiveness, the respected, scholarly biographer will include as many details of that author’s life as he or she possibly can, as a way of demonstrating how much research went into that effort to write that biography.”

    This unnecessarily snarky comment is an unfair generalization regarding both the work product and the motivations of “respected, scholarly biographers.”

  8. Daniel Korobkin says:

    A few brief responses to the thoughtful comments thus far:

    To Dr. Bill, who suggested that “The Torah does not teach science nor should we attempt to explain its messages by current science”: On the first part we agree, that the Torah does not set out to teach us science, but on what basis do you make the claim that we shouldn’t attempt to explain its messages by current science? See the Ramban that I quoted at the end of the article, where he explains the “tohu va’vohu” (chaos and void) of the Torah as being the Platonic “hyle” described by the philosophers of his time. According to your argument, why bother?

    To Raymond, this article was meant for people who are fascinated by the highly technical stuff of physics and try to understand. There are two approaches, one is the “emunah peshuta” approach, which you appear to subscribe to, and the other is the Maimonidean and Chovos HaLevavos approach, which calls upon the human intellect to reconcile the world around him with Torah to whatever depths his mind will allow for. “Elu va’elu divrei Elokim Chaim”.

    To Jo, who argues that photons DO have mass, this is a technical issue that has been clarified by the physicists. See here:

    Finally, to YK, who hopes that I have a rov who will protect me, I appreciate the kind sentiments, but at this stage in my career that’s really a non-issue. Thanks.

  9. Yaakov Menken says:

    Jo is correct, in that sunlight shining on a cornfield actually weighs several tons, but it doesn’t detract from the larger point. Nonetheless, I don’t think we need the Higgs Boson in order to connect the science of the universe’s formation to the Torah.

    The Ramban on Genesis 1:1 is a reasonably precise nontechnical description of the Big Bang, matching it more closely than what we might have considered the plain meaning of the verses. The Big Bang is a far greater problem for anyone who does not believe in a Creator, for the obvious reason that you don’t get something from nothing, much less an entire universe. The theory was first proposed by a Catholic priest and roundly condemned for injecting religious thought into science, until the background radiation of the universe disproved the Steady State theory and demonstrated the Big Bang did, in fact, occur.

  10. C. Kanoiy says:

    In 1993, a new book called the Higgs boson the ‘G-d Particle,’ because its existence was so essential to the existence of all physical reality in the universe…. Others suggest that the term ‘G-d Particle’ is appropriate, because now that we have an explanation of how physical matter came into existence, we don’t need a sentient G-d to explain how matter came into being, since now science explains how everything came into existence on its own.

    In reality Leon Lederman who coined the term “G-d Particle” had intended to call it “that G-d damn particle” in reference to its elusiveness.

  11. Raymond says:

    I am surprised that anybody would read snarkiness or unfairness in anything I said, or that anything I said would elicit any animosity at all. I was not trying to disparage secular biographers or scientists who conduct basic research at all, but rather only attempting to point out that their function may be different from those people who are focused more on the ultimate meaning in life. And as for my being on the Chovetz Chaim side of things as opposed to that of Rabbeinu Bachya or the Rambam, I actually find tremendous value in either approach. I particularly find the Rambam’s mindset to be endlessly fascinating. I would think, though, that studying the Torah is of central, primary importance, with the world of secular knowledge interpreted best interpreted by seeing it through one’s understanding of the Torah.

  12. Bob Miller says:

    October 29, 2012 at 8:37 am
    Bob Miller, why would you not say the opposite….how can we possibly presume to say that physical laws were different at any time in the past?”

    If we believe in creation and not in an eternal universe, we know that all physical phenomena in our universe go back only so far. We can only speculate on how exactly HaShem ramped things up at the outset, but there was clearly some kind of rapid or not-so-rapid transition.

  13. David F. says:

    R’ Daniel,

    Thank you for this fascinating article. I’ve struggled with the Torah’s account of Yom Sheini for years and this poses a very interesting possibility.

    Thank you!

  14. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi Korobkin, thank you for your comment. I thought about addressing Ramban and other Rishonim who read science into Torah. It is also the case that biblical commentators always used the metaphor of their times for explicating the Torah. That said, I would think that when Rambam and Ramban and others commented with explicit reference to Aristotle and Plato, they were dealing with long established (assumed) truths that have a great deal more credence as biblical commentary than the latest scientific discovery. To the extent that their commentary is more similar to what you suggest in your essay, frankly, I would be critical of it as well.

    With respect to our great rishonim and achronim, we moderns have a somewhat more nuanced view of science that ought make us more circumspect than they. I see more danger than value in doing otherwise.

  15. Danny Rubin says:

    Excellent- What will it take to make Rabbi Korobkin a regular CC contributor!

  16. Melech Tanen says:

    This wonderful essay by Rabbi Korobkin reminds me of a passage from an article in Tradition in 1999:

    ” The Torah intended the story of Creation to be taken literally but with one reservation: that it be understood that the terms had “stretchability,” i.e., that while all of the nouns would retain their common-sense meanings, in the event that future scientific discovery should broaden our knowledge of such phenomena as light, time, water, sun, stars, heavens, firmament (rakia), we should be prepared to “stretch” their primary meanings to cover and include these new phenomena, with the overall account remaining essentially “true.” ”

    The Biblical Stories of Creation, Garden of Eden and the Flood: History or Metaphor?

    by Shubert Spero

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