After offering common objections to the biblical creation story, physics professor Nathan Aviezer proceeded to demonstrate to a mostly Orthodox audience how science and Torah have essentially reached the same conclusions about the world’s origins.
Aviezer addressed a crowd of 350 Oct. 16 at the Congregation Ohr Torah in Edison. Impersonating skeptics, he said the creation story in Genesis is “irrational” and in contradiction to every accepted scientific theory in the world. A member of the faculty at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and former chair of its physics department, Aviezer was addressing the Orthodox Forum of Edison/Highland Park.
In the guise of a skeptic, he cited the Torah’s opening line — “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth” — and explained that “to create something out of nothing is scientifically impossible.”
Even more ridiculous, say skeptics, is the notion that God created the universe in six days when “anyone with an ounce of intelligence” knows its development took billions of years.
The concept of “let there be light” on the first day, he said, is similarly illogical to skeptics. “What light? The only light I know is sunlight or moonlight, the stars, or if someone flicks on a light. And what is light but the absence of darkness? I have no idea what [Genesis] is talking about.”
And undercutting the creation of Adam and Eve, Darwin’s theory of evolution, Aviezer said, “has been accepted by every biologist and scientist in the entire world, and they completely and utterly contradict Bereshit.”
Then, these deflating readings of the Genesis story notwithstanding, Aviezer cited Charles Darwin, the Big Bang theory, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to show that there may indeed be less disconnect than thought between the theological and scientific ideas of the world’s creation.
“What cosmologists discovered toward the end of the 20th century,” said Aviezer, “is that there is no contradiction with what the scientists tells us and what was written in the holy Torah thousands of years ago.”
No scientific discovery has provided more answers about the universe’s origins than what is commonly known as the Big Bang Theory, which attributes its beginnings to an “enormous” explosion, said Aviezer — raising his voice and spreading his arms wide — and which posits that “the world was literally created from nothing.”
First put forward in 1946 by George Gamow, a Russian-born Jewish American nuclear physicist, the theory was based on Einstein’s relativity theory. The Big Bang holds that immediately after the massive explosion, said Aviezer, the world was filled with plasma, a matter so hot that subatomic particles couldn’t coalesce to form atoms. As the Earth cooled and expanded, this plasma formed stable atoms that weren’t able to absorb the radiation, which has continued to exist, although it has grown fainter as an increasingly larger universe is filled.
But there was light. “There was no sun,” said Aviezer. “There were no stars. Over time this light has weakened and weakened so that now it cannot be seen by the human eye.”
Even Darwin’s theory can now be explained in context with Torah. Just as food cooks faster at a higher temperature, high heat — “think not millions but billions of degrees” — at the time of creation vastly speeded up development of oceans, land, and all forms of life. As the earth cooled, development slowed.
Aviezer — the author of In the Beginning: Biblical Creation and Science and Fossils and Faith: Understanding Torah and Science — said scientists now believe it was likely that the building blocks of all material on Earth “were created in the first three minutes after the big bang.”
“The era of contention between science and Torah is over,” he declared. “Every word in Torah has its counterpart in science…. The source of creation is no longer an article of faith, but a scientific fact.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story led some readers to conclude that a series of views Prof. Aviezer presented in the guise of a critic of the Bible story were his own. In fact, in a letter to the NJJN, Aviezer clarified that he began his lecture "by describing the completely erroneous views regarding the Torah creation narrative held by those who have no knowledge of recent scientific findings." The story has been updated to reflect the ironic intention of his opening remarks.