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The Whole Megillah
by Dr. Arnie Gotfryd
How do we reconcile the opposing Talmudic statements about the mazal (luck / destiny) of Adar, which say on the one hand "ayn lo," it has none, and on the other hand that it's mazal is healthy? The words "ayn lo" refer not to nothingness but to no-thingness, a source so exalted it cannot be defined in any way. Because it is so unlimited, it can manifest the divine presence seamlessly within the boundaries of nature.
The Rebbe, Sefer HaSichos, Shabbos Tetzaveh 5752. 
 
 
 
Readers Write
 
The Whole Megillah
 
 
Dear Dr. Gotfryd,
 
Please correct me if I'm not getting this: I understand you are saying it makes sense to question the mutually corroborating outcomes of countless scientific investigations, typically carried out by highly trained, responsible people, but that somehow the Torah (or Bible, or Koran, I assume, for those of other faiths who make exactly the same argument?), a document written-down thousands of years ago by people with the most rudimentary grasp of the ways of the physical world and often thoroughly prejudiced in their outlooks, you know to be a repository of 'Divine information'? How possibly does a rational person defend such a double-standard?
 
Robert K,
Toronto
 
 
Dear Robert,
 
First, let's clarify our conflict.
 
You want me to agree that biblical creationism is purely irrational while evolutionary explanations are rationally compelling.
 
On the other hand, I want you to agree that believing in biblical creationism is reasonable while evolutionary explanations are questionable.
 
We can agree that these are mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed positions.
 
Now let's say we discussed the matter for an hour and it was decided that you are right and I am wrong. As a result, I drop any vestige of biblical creationism and wholeheartedly espouse evolutionism.
 
One of the central pillars of my new belief system is randomness. There is no intelligent designer or manager at work. We have only material entities and forces acting on random associations of atoms that exist only because they have more survival value than other such random associations. So far so good.
 
One day I get invited to a charity dinner-lottery hosted by an organization called "Sensible Citizens in Support of Science." Feeling generous, I buy a ticket and attend, along with 1,000 other supporters.
 
Then comes the highlight of the evening - the three draws. "For third prize, the winning ticket is... 0...8...5...3." A lady at my table, Sara N. Dipity, leaps out of her chair and shouts, "That's me!" as she strides up to the dias to claim her prize.
 
Next is the draw for second prize, "0...8...5...3,"and again she wins! Wow! Amazing! Twice in a row! What odds! Meanwhile, here and there, people are murmuring, "How can someone win twice in a row? That doesn't make sense." "Oh, don't be so suspicious. After all, it is possible," and so on. The din dies down.
 
And now for the final draw, and once again, "YES, Sara, it's you!"
 
Now there's a commotion. There's a definite murmur swelling in the crowd. "What's going on here? Is this rigged or something? Hey! The guy that's pulling the winning tickets... Isn't his wife's maiden name Dipity too? Yeah. I saw them talking pretty friendly at a coffee shop just last week. I can't believe this! I want my money back."
 
Meanwhile Sara sits riveted to her chair, staring down at her shoes, afraid to move lest she gets lynched.
Some time later, somebody drops a fraud charge on Miss Dipity and her brother-in-law, and much, much later the case is heard in court.
 
Defence: Your honor, as you can see, after days of testimony, absolutely no hard evidence has been tabled to support the plaintiff's claim that the draw was rigged. There were a thousand witnesses to the turning of the drum with all the tickets inside. The accused was merely a volunteer who pulled the winning ticket from the drum without looking.
 
Prosecution: I object, your honor. Circumstantial evidence is evidence, too! First of all, that volunteer is the winner's brother-in-law, and secondly, the odds of a triple win are a billion to one! The accused probably had her ticket up his sleeve!
 
Judge: Well, nobody saw the accused do anything wrong and there are no regulations prohibiting lottery payouts to relatives of the person pulling the winning tickets. About the odds, however, you do have a point. What does the defendant's counsel have to say about that?
 
Defence: It's a one-in-a-billion chance, that's true. But if instead of three one-in-a-thousand wins, she won a single one-in-a-billion draw, nobody would have raised an eyebrow.
 
Prosecution: Your honor, it's not the same. This is not just about odds. It's the kind of event that makes people question, not just the statistics. When there's a coherent combination of low probability events, that demands an explanation. In law, we have to consider the opinion of 'the reasonable man.' We had a room full of reasonable men and women present and they collectively brought this action.
 
One of the members of 'Sensible Citizens in Support of Science' who is a party to this action, brought an example from the work of Albert Einsten. Ever since Galileo, physicists had been puzzled about how it is that two independent properties of matter, gravitational mass and inertial mass, have a ratio of precisely 1. Because of this, we get the surprising result that a block of lead and a feather will fall at exactly the same rate, in a vacuum.
 
Einstein realized that there were infinite possibilities for the value of this ratio, but the fact that unity was involved drove him to investigate at length, certain that such a coincidence could not have come about by chance. Sure enough, he eventually developed a theory that accounted for this surprising fact, all because of a combination of low probability events such as in our case.
 
Defence: But that's just one example. It's not a general rule.
 
Prosecution: In science it is. Science is always looking for explanations when they find unity among diverse phenomena - that's why they built the $10B collider in Cern, to find the ultimate theory that unites the four fundamental forces of nature. Besides, we also have the example of the Cosmological Anthropic Principle.
 
Judge: What's that?
 
Prosecution: The Anthropic Principle, espoused by a great many physicists including Nobel Prize winners, says that all the cosmological constants are so finely tuned for life, that it is impossible that they have come about by chance.
 
Defence: Objection, your honor! Biologist Jacques Monot, in his book Chance and Necessity, says that the Anthropic Principle is a bunch of baloney. He subscribes to the multiverse theory that proposes a vast number of parallel universes, and we just happen to be in the lucky one that supports life. We only imagine this to be a 'miracle,' but really where else would you expect to be, if not in a universe that supports life?!
 
Prosecution: Monod's argument is faulty. For this we can turn to expert testimony by Philosophy of Science Professor Emeritus George Schlesinger of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He refutes Monod by demonstrating that a combination of meaningful, low-probability events is of an entirely different kind than a simply rare event and therefore requires an explanation beyond chance.
 
Defence: Are you saying that science agrees that the universe is a put-up job, actually designed for life?
 
Prosecution: Absolutely.
 
Defence: So who designed it?
 
Prosecution: Ah... well... We don't know!
 
Defence: And we don't know who caused Sara N. Dipity to win! It's all circumstantial. True, the evidence points to a put-up job, but we don't know if the defendant did it or if it was some other Intelligent Designer yet to be named.
 
Judge: Case dismissed.
Well, that got me thinking. Why did I abandon belief in a Creator who is interested in mankind in favor of an atheistic, materialistic science, that eventually comes to the same conclusion?
 
Robert, next Monday night and Tuesday, Jews the world over will be celebrating Purim, a festival marking the miraculous deliverance of the Jews from the Persian viceroy, Haman, who had decreed their total annihilation throughout the empire.
 
The whole story is documented in the Scroll of Esther, the only book in the Bible that does not mention the name of G-d even once. The question is: Why not? Another puzzling aspect of this is that when Jews read it on Purim, they are obliged to hear every word in sequence, to the extent that if they miss a single word, it's like they didn't hear it at all.
 
The concept is that G-d is in the details, in the long string of low probability events in a meaningful fashion that demands an explanation, that characterizes a put-up job. In the lottery of life, mankind comes up a winner even thought G-d's presence is hidden, just like the story of Purim. Indeed the word Purim means lottery and the word Esther means concealment.
 
About our views on species origin, I'll invoke a dialogue between Einstein and Neils Bohr, a founding father of Quantum Physics:
 
Einstein said, "G-d doesn't play dice with the universe."
Bohr replied, "Don't tell G-d what to do."
 
I think they were both right. He does play dice, but each roll is made to measure.  
 
This much is about the creationism part of our dialogue. I still owe you a rational explanation about the biblical part. I didn't forget.
 
Sincerely,
AG
 

 


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