Six Days of Creation – A Modern Reconciliation with Science

This is the last in a thread of posts which began with a review of R’Meiselman’s book on Torah and Science, followed by a discussion of the dispute between R’Meiselman and Nosson Slifkin, and finally, a broad philosophical perspective on maybe why there are six days of creation.  Now, I will be discussing modern Jewish views on the six days of creation in view of science and attempt my own reconciliation of sorts.

Overview of Jewish Answers of What’s Happening in the 6 Days Of Creation

Here is the short, short version of how different thinkers have phrased it, from right to left on the viewpoint map.  The answers are, I believe, not very far off.  It should also be understood that I don’t think any of those I refer to actually claim theirs to be the answer.  R’Sapirman poses his ‘answer’ in question form only for purposes of showing we need not abandon Jewish beliefs in the face of science, R’Meiselman’s answer is along the lines of “we don’t know, but we do know Torah is true”, and as for Dr. Gerald Schroeder … I once had the opportunity to pick him from the airport.  I asked him  “Do you believe your theory is true?”  He thought for a moment and said, “After teaching it for so long, I’m starting to.”

Answer 1: Strict Literal Reading – Six Days & Creation of an Old World

(By “strict literal”, I am using the colloquial understanding that creation took six days from our time perspective and using the incorrect assumption that time is absolute.  In ‘reality’, even if it was from another time perspective, that’s still “strict literal”.)

Rabbi Sapirman has been instrumental in trying to introduce teaching emunah (why jews believe what we do) into Jewish schools.  He has produced books, school curriculums with short lessons (which were dinner time reading for my family), and an audio series.  The latter is available for free download on this blog, entitled, “Know What to Answer Yourself.”

In Rabbi Sapirman’s audio series, he posits the question – why can’t it be that a Creator created the world already in place?  He uses an example of stars with light already stretching for light years when it was created.  This could be literally done in six days.  Just as man was created fully formed, so too was the universe.  This would explain inconsistencies with what current science observers from our exceedingly limited vantage point and what actually was.

I’m not particularly fond of this explanation, but it is at possibility and one which really can’t be disproven.  Then again, it’s not really that different than the more palpable answers.  If a tree falls on a mime in the woods … does anyone care?  (Farside cartoon.)  If it all happens slow or fast, and you’re an infinite which is creating, what’s the difference?

Answer 2: Different Time Click – We Don’t Understand it, Move On

It’s said a bit more eloquently than that, but this is my understanding of R’Meiselman’s opinion in his book.  He devotes a chapter to the Rambam’s understanding of the shift in time clock on the fourth day (Bereshis [Genesis] 1:14 where it states, “to separate between the day and between the night”).  Before there’s a difference between “day” and “night” there’s a difference in the time being told.  Beyond that, the Rambam also states (as quoted in the last article) that it’s the second most hidden topic in all of Judaism … right after the description of the visit to the throne of the Creator.

R’Meiselman also makes clear that we have a truth from our fathers extending back to Sinai and this tradition is the living and continuing truth from the Creator.  There are a ridiculous number of places where we see the wisdom in the Torah attesting to it’s truth and greatness. (Rabbi Sapirman points this out as well, though more in the prophecy sense.)  It doesn’t change, but beliefs of the rest of the world have and continue to do so.  If something outside of Torah matches it, great.  If not, it can go take a hike (again, he says it more eloquently than that).

Answer 3: Torah Sources Match Modern Theoretical Physics; We’re Almost There

This opinion comes from Avaraham Goldberg, a Torah observant theoretical physicist (kabbalist?).   I reviewed his book over here, previously.  He basically goes through, on a very simple level, how our Torah sources describe the first moments of creation especially, and continues through from there.  Minute Physics, a great YouTube channel, actually discusses this as well:

It’s also seen in the “God 2.0 Video” from Imagining the 10th dimension which I discuss over there.  Great video.

In short, there’s a whole lot of convergence of Jewish beliefs and modern physics beliefs that, well, for more are further evidence of the truth of both.  No other beliefs coming from such disparate systems which claim truth are so aligned, to my knowledge.

Goldfinger does acknowledge at the end of his book one major problem: time.  For this the answer is relativity of time.  I discussed this in the previous article, but Gerald Schroder really takes this concept and fleshes it out as fully as I’ve ever come across.  It was actually a talk of his which I attended which first let me to realize not all creationists are … ignorant.

Answer 4: Torah is Telling Time from the Point of the Big Bang

This is the theory posited by Dr. Gerald Schroder, a Torah observant physicist by training.  He has a lot of very excellent books, trying to understand the Creator.  He strictly uses Torah sources and modern physics and organizes a whole lot of data.  I am going to try and explain the basics of his theory in a short space and do my own “making it fit” experiment, with apologies to R’Meiselman. In short, taking current physics it is believed that the speed of light is constant … we’ll use this, though there are theories that say the speed of light must have been quicker and I don’t see a reason why, when the universe itself was being created and more in flux, that the properties of physics and math would also be more in flux and changing than the seemingly static rules we observe today.

So what haRelativity_of_Simultaneity_Animationppens if something is moving away from you at something close to the speed of light?  The time it takes for the light to arrive back to you takes longer.  Add in another element – not only is the object moving away from you, but it’s moving faster and faster away from you, e.g. accelerating.  See, for example, how the rolling shutter effect distorts our view far away galaxies.  With a spinning galaxy, the closer part of it will reach us faster.  This is shown quite well on Wikipedia as well in the article, “Relativity of simultaneity” and the image to the right which I borrowed.  (Click it to see it bigger.)

As Einstein put it, imagine a train traveling at half the speed of light.  Shoot a laser up from the floor of the train to a mirror on the ceiling. When the beam comes back down, if you’re on the train it will be a straight line.  If you’re standing next to the train as it whizzes by you, the light moves at an angle upwards (remember, the train is moving quite fast) and then back down … but since the speed of light is constant, the time it takes to do so is much longer.

Limits to Human Knowledge and Assumptions Inherent in Cosmology, Geology, Torah

(You can skip this section and move on to the answer, if you prefer.)

Here comes the fun – do the math when viewing the universe from the point of creation of the universe and you got a very nicely overlapping picture between the two disciplines of knowledge.  (I used to be able to do the math, but now I have a Flowers for Allgernon feeling (not understanding my own previous work) when I try to do it.  For some simpler English explanations, see here and here.  I’ll leave the details of the math in this problem up to whomever wishes to comment, or view Gerald Schroeder’s works.)

What makes this complicated to do is that, in my humble opinion, is that well what actually happened is quite static, our understanding of it from a scientific point of view, is always changing, and from a text point of view, is open to all sorts of interpretations.  For example, the most current theories say that the rate of expansion has been decreasing, until recently when it again began increasing.  lyabao.graph5That is shown in the graph to the right from the link in the prior sentence.  This theory has only been widely posited for about 7 years.  For purposes of simplicity, I’m going to go with constant deceleration of an expanding universe.  It shouldn’t change the data too much, and further, there are many more approximations going on here which create far bigger problems including massive gaps in human knowledge.

Now when we get to geology, this is also based on very limited amounts of data.  Try and research a question like “when did the oceans form?” and you’ll find that the range of current range of scientific estimates have about a 13% difference between them, and suffer from the problem of piggybacking off of the same absurdly tiny data set being used to form the conclusion the first place.  No one was there four billion years ago to make direct observations and much may have effected the present time observations that we haven’t a clue about.  I have even less knowledge than a person who spends their life on this stuff (why one finds an interest in dedicating their life to a pursuit that gets us nowhere in human development except for maybe making arguments for/against G_d’s existence is beyond me).  So I wrote to both the Museum of Natural History in New York, NY and the American Geological Association requesting an accurate timeline of events and how they know it from geological digs.  Let’s just say the answers are quite disappointing.  In cosmology the experts publish all sorts of timelines and mathematical calculations.  In chemistry, Mendelev arranged the periodic table and predicted elements yet to be found.  Geologists and evolutionary biologists don’t seem to like math or neat organization of very disparate data from all over the place which makes me highly suspicious when the experts in the field stopped just shy of writing to me that I should take a leap of faith and just believe them.  They confirmed that there is no place you can bore a hole in the earth and see a complete picture of the 4 billion years of earth development, but even worse, there isn’t even a published place, according to the experts I asked, where the biostratography is put together to paint a complete picture.  The claimed there isn’t much interest in such a thing, but yet, it’s the claim in every textbook.  So I’m defaulting to the every-man source, Wikipedia and the article, History of the Earth … and making another assumption that Wikipedia has accurate information on the beliefs of geologists and evolutionary biologists.

As for the words of the Torah, all of creation is summed up even more concisely.  It’s 26 sentences.  The description of the mishkan in the desert is far longer than that, and that was a temporary physical structure.  Conclusion: The latter is more important to learn.  That teaches us how to live and is a metaphor for a body with arms, legs, and a heart.  Meanwhile, when the Torah says with regards to creation, statements like, “”Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear, and it was so” does that mean that it occurred all at once, over more than one epoch of time, or was it a command which was only actually fulfilled later in another day?  (The Malbim discusses much of this.)

A Day by Day Attempt At Reconciliation Using Relativity

Relativity of Time from Big Bang ("G-d Time Clock") vs. Earth - Click for Large Image

Relativity of Time from Big Bang (“G-d Time Clock”) vs. Earth – Click for Large Image

With those disclaimers in mind, a theoretical person viewing the earth from the point of creation would be like the person standing on the train platform watching the train pull away immediately at it’s fastest, and steadily slowing down.  It’s an exponential decay curve. and is, according to Schroeder’s hypothesis, how the Creator is narrating the opening verses of the Torah.

With apologies to my high school calculus teacher for not updating the answers on the review sheet after graduation like I said I would (I guess I should forgive myself at this point…), I’ll do my best to explain – constant decreasing acceleration (picture a line going down and to the right on a graph) results in an increase in distance over time, but the increase comes slower over time.  Now, the time it takes for light to reach back to the observer takes longer and longer but the space in time between the first epoch (between “day 0” and “day 1”) is much greater when acceleration was faster and the percentage of distance change is highest.  If the “train platform” is also moving away, you have a further shift in observed time of the earth (or what will be the earth) from such a vantage point.  According to Jewish sources, in fact, the Creator did “remove Himself” to allow a physical space to be created.  Combine that with the rate of acceleration of the universe might not have been constant, and there’s an infinite number of ways to match up the “G_d timeline” to the “human timeline”.  I’m going to stick with Schroder’s theory to make it easier – time in the Torah is told from the point of the Big Bang, and earth is moving away at a decreasing accelerating rate.  (For more on the math of integrals and derivatives, that part is explained here.)

The final step is matching up what the first 26 verses in the Torah say for each day within those time frames.  I am using the current accepted number of 13.75 billion years for the age of the universe (Schroeder uses the now outdated 15 billion in his books, as far as I know).  In a decelerating frame of reference (again, assuming constant deceleration) that gives us a nice decay curve like you see to the right.  Viewing a photon traveling back to you after traveling for 24 hours at a rate much, much greater than the speed of light (by a power of 10 to 12) and it’s actually been traveling 7 billion years from it’s frame of reference.  If you want to view a photon traveling for two days from your perspective, and it’s 3.5 billion years from it’s frame of reference.

Here’s how it fits:

Time from Creator View Time from (pre-Earth) Perspective English Torah Original Hebrew Wikipedia Desc Fit?
Day 1 0 to 7 billion yrs (approx) 1. In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. א. בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ: big bang to formation of stars and galaxies
Perfect fit
2. Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water. ב. וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ עַל פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם:
3. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. ג. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי אוֹר:
4. And God saw the light that it was good, and God separated between the light and between the darkness. ד. וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאוֹר כִּי טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחשֶׁךְ:
5. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and it was evening and it was morning, one day. ה. וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים | לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד:
Day 2 7 to 10.5 billion yrs (approx) 6. And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, and let it be a separation between water and water.” ו. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי רָקִיעַ בְּתוֹךְ הַמָּיִם וִיהִי מַבְדִּיל בֵּין מַיִם לָמָיִם: formation of solar system
Separation of the ‘rakia’ which is debated in Jewish sources would be the solar system and perhaps the matter that would form Earth, from rest of matter
7. And God made the expanse and it separated between the water that was below the expanse and the water that was above the expanse, and it was so. ז. וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָרָקִיעַ וַיַּבְדֵּל בֵּין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מִתַּחַת לָרָקִיעַ וּבֵין הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר מֵעַל לָרָקִיעַ וַיְהִי כֵן:
8. And God called the expanse Heaven, and it was evening, and it was morning, a second day. ח. וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָרָקִיעַ שָׁמָיִם וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם שֵׁנִי:
Day 3 10.5 to 12.25 billion yrs (approx) 9. And God said, “Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear,” and it was so. ט. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יִקָּווּ הַמַּיִם מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמַיִם אֶל מָקוֹם אֶחָד וְתֵרָאֶה הַיַּבָּשָׁה וַיְהִי כֵן: oceans form; simple life to eukaryotes (complex cellular life)
Formation of oceans generally belived to be a little earlier but we’re pretty close given the overall timeline. As for vegetation and trees, the wording in Hebrew is more literally translated as, “said G_d [the controlling forces in this word aspect thereof] there will be grasses and vegetation from offspring of offspring [zera m’zera]” – Evolutionary theory says that plants come from simple eukaroytic life which could be what is being described here. Is is the beginning of the process and leading to grasses and trees in the “offspring of offspring”.
10. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas, and God saw that it was good. י. וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים | לַיַּבָּשָׁה אֶרֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵה הַמַּיִם קָרָא יַמִּים וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי טוֹב:
11. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed yielding herbs and fruit trees producing fruit according to its kind in which its seed is found, on the earth,” and it was so. יא. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע עֵץ פְּרִי עֹשֶׂה פְּרִי לְמִינוֹ אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ בוֹ עַל הָאָרֶץ וַיְהִי כֵן:
12. And the earth gave forth vegetation, seed yielding herbs according to its kind, and trees producing fruit, in which its seed is found, according to its kind, and God saw that it was good. יב. וַתּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע לְמִינֵהוּ וְעֵץ עֹשֶׂה פְּרִי אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ בוֹ לְמִינֵהוּ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי טוֹב:
13. And it was evening, and it was morning, a third day. יג. וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם שְׁלִישִׁי:
Day 4 12.25 to 13.13 billion yrs (approx) 14. And God said, “Let there be luminaries in the expanse of the heavens, to separate between the day and between the night, and they shall be for signs and for appointed seasons and for days and years. יד. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם לְהַבְדִּיל בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים: multicellular life; sky becomes visible
The sun and moon were created earlier, however, geology tells us that it is the bacteria which produced oxygen and made our current “third atmosphere” in this time period. During the “second atmosphere” it was filled with ash and thus, the luminaries would not have been “in the expanse of the heavens, to sepearte between day and between the night” or “for appointed seasons”. This, in fact, happened during the time which falls into day 4.
15. And they shall be for luminaries in the expanse of the heavens to shed light upon the earth.” And it was so. טו. וְהָיוּ לִמְאוֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם לְהָאִיר עַל הָאָרֶץ וַיְהִי כֵן:
16. And God made the two great luminaries: the great luminary to rule the day and the lesser luminary to rule the night, and the stars. טז. וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת שְׁנֵי הַמְּאֹרֹת הַגְּדֹלִים אֶת הַמָּאוֹר הַגָּדֹל לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַיּוֹם וְאֶת הַמָּאוֹר הַקָּטֹן לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַלַּיְלָה וְאֵת הַכּוֹכָבִים:
17. And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to shed light upon the earth. יז. וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם לְהָאִיר עַל הָאָרֶץ:
18. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate between the light and between the darkness, and God saw that it was good. יח. וְלִמְשֹׁל בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה וּלֲהַבְדִּיל בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחשֶׁךְ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי טוֹב:
19. And it was evening, and it was morning, a fourth day. יט. וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם רְבִיעִי:
Day 5 13.13 to 13.46 billion yrs (approx) 20. And God said, “Let the waters swarm a swarming of living creatures, and let fowl fly over the earth, across the expanse of the heavens.” כ. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם שֶׁרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה וְעוֹף יְעוֹפֵף עַל הָאָרֶץ עַל פְּנֵי רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם: simple animals, fish and proto-amphibians, land plants, insects and seeds, amphibians, reptiles
Fish <-> “mayim sheritz” (water creatures) fits perfectly; birds said to form 310 million years ago; seems to be perfect fit
21. And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that crawls, with which the waters swarmed, according to their kind, and every winged fowl, according to its kind, and God saw that it was good. כא. וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת הַתַּנִּינִם הַגְּדֹלִים וְאֵת כָּל נֶפֶשׁ הַחַיָּה | הָרֹמֶשֶׂת אֲשֶׁר שָׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם לְמִינֵהֶם וְאֵת כָּל עוֹף כָּנָף לְמִינֵהוּ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי טוֹב:
22. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters of the seas, and let the fowl multiply upon the earth.” כב. וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים לֵאמֹר פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת הַמַּיִם בַּיַּמִּים וְהָעוֹף יִרֶב בָּאָרֶץ:
23. And it was evening, and it was morning, a fifth day. כג. וַיְהִי עֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם חֲמִישִׁי:
Day 6 last 220 million years 24. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind, cattle and creeping things and the beasts of the earth according to their kind,” and it was so. כד. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה לְמִינָהּ בְּהֵמָה וָרֶמֶשׂ וְחַיְתוֹ אֶרֶץ לְמִינָהּ וַיְהִי כֵן: mammals, flowers, primates, people
Fits perfectly with mammalian
25. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kind and the cattle according to their kind, and all the creeping things of the ground according to their kind, and God saw that it was good. כה. וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ לְמִינָהּ וְאֶת הַבְּהֵמָה לְמִינָהּ וְאֵת כָּל רֶמֶשׂ הָאֲדָמָה לְמִינֵהוּ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי טוֹב:
26. And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.” כו. וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל

This article was actually far more difficult to research and put together than I had imagined.  While I have gone over it a number of times and made many edits, I am still not satisfied with it.  I also recognize that I am an expert in none of the areas I am describing.  Thus is the nature of a Patent Attorney.  We’re good at quickly learning all sorts of topics about everything and then writing at length about it.  Then we send it back to the inventor, the expert in the field, to make sure it’s all correct.  Given that this article spans many very different disciplines, there are a lot of different experts that will have opinions! Therefore, I am not insulted if you argue against anything I have said vigorously in the comments.  I welcome it (when done respectfully) so that you and I can both better come to finding truth.


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17 Responses

  1. Rafi says:

    I thought you should know that your post contains some errors.

    First, you seem to misunderstand the approach of Gerald Schroeder. He gets from 6 days (actually 5.5 days, strangely) to 15 billion years using the redshift of light in an expanding universe. He does not use the relativity of time in different frames of reference, as you seem to understand him. And your summary that “time in the Torah is told from the point of the Big Bang” doesn’t make sense. The Big Bang is an event, not a reference frame.

    Second, your discussion of a “decay curve” sounds confused. Linear acceleration doesn’t give you an exponential curve, it gives you a cubic curve. An exponential curve has exponential acceleration.

    Third, you write: “Viewing a photon traveling back to you after traveling for 24 hours at a rate much, much greater than the speed of light (by a power of 10 to 12) and it’s actually been traveling 7 billion years from it’s frame of reference.” In special relativity, the speed of light is the maximum possible velocity. Photons always travel at exactly the speed of light, no matter what reference frame you view them from. From the photon’s own perspective at the speed of light, there is no time or motion at all.

    I also think that his/your approach to the pesukim of Bereshit doesn’t fit the peshat of the words, but that’s another discussion.

    • tostien says:

      On “first” I think it’s saying the same thing in different ways.

      On “second” … I don’t see why it’d be cubic, but it could be. I realized how much of this stuff I forgot.

      On “third” … yes, I agree. If I said that, it’s a mistake. I’ll have to go back and look at that.

      • Rafi says:

        Relativity and metric expansion are not the same.

        It’s not clear to me what you’re trying to integrate, but the derivative of a polynomial is a polynomial and the derivative of an exponential is an exponential.

  2. Matt says:

    Mike, your section titled “Limits to Human Knowledge and Assumptions Inherent in Cosmology, Geology, Torah” is truly disappointing and baffling to me. I recommend striking the whole thing.

    Do you really think your statements are informed? On what possible basis?

    • tostien says:

      We’ve had this discussion many times – we’re not going to agree. I did ask experts in the field and was given very poor answers, as I wrote about. Is that the baffling part?

      We can’t convince each other of the others’ position and short of a time machine to travel back a billion years and make observations, neither of us has enough evidence to prove the other one wrong. I simply believe that I wasn’t there and I don’t know, nor does anyone else who wasn’t there. I think we should leave it at that.

      • Matt says:

        The baffling part is that nearly all of your statements in that section demonstrate a basic lack of understanding, and yet you feel informed enough insult the intelligence, motives, and credibility of the people who actually make the effort to study these subjects. I am baffled that you believe the limited “research” you have done (writing letters to museums, really?) suffices to make any of your condescending generalizations. To me, this isn’t a philosophical disagreement about “standards of evidence”. If you require a time machine, that up to you. To me this is about someone ignorantly attacking the scholarship of others, and it’s wrong.

        When you write things like “why one finds an interest in dedicating their life to a pursuit that gets us nowhere…is beyond me”, it makes me sad as a person who values curiosity. In so doing, you convey a closed, uncurious, and anti-intellectual brand of Judaism that I find completely foreign. It is not the “Torah of truth” that attracted me to Yiddishkeit.

      • tostien says:

        Because I don’t spend my life studying geology or see the point in it? I also skipped earth science in 9th grade. I didn’t see the point in it then either. That had nothing to do with the Torah as I thought it was all fairy tales in 9th grade, but my view on geology has stayed pretty consistent. This is a personal preference. It’s not anti-intellectual … I just have limited time on earth and don’t see the point in dedicating myself to a ‘dead’ topic. Now physics … there’s a very worth area of study! Again, this is just a personal preference. No need to get up in arms.

      • tostien says:

        I also want to add that your statement “I recommend striking the whole thing.” is promoting censorship. You don’t agree with the view, so say it shouldn’t be there. Not fair!

      • Matt says:

        I think that your attitude is unfortunate to broadcast, no matter when or how you came to it. There are plenty of things I have no interest in spending my time on, but I don’t see the need to bash them.

        None of this changes the fact that distorting or misrepresenting a subject where you have little understanding is a ignorant thing to do.

        I’m not “promoting censorship”. I’m recommending self-censorship, on the grounds that if you don’t have anything informed to say on a subject you should be careful not to slander it. If you have a point to make amid your misunderstandings of geology and cosmology, I would recommend that you rewrite it, perhaps with the help of folks who who actually do have some understanding.

      • tostien says:

        I’m not sure what’s in error about saying “I asked the society of experts who do X for a living for data in their filed and they told me it doesn’t exist, so I’m relying on wikipedia as a fallback.” It happened, it’s true, and I’m not distorting or misrepresenting any of that. The presenting of information in this filed is no periodic table as I explained. If I wrote about chemistry, and I did, I have much better things to say about that field. It always boggled me why so little math is used in geology and biology (which my major is in… that was a mistake) when it’s so underlying so much of it. It seems math-type / more-analytic people are more oriented towards physics and other things than digging holes. SAT scores by major might reveal some of this, but anyway, completely off topic.

        Did I misrepresent information? I don’t think so but instead of beating me over the head about it, why not state how you know my information to be misrepresenting something. It was just an explanation for why I was relying on Wikipedia after being frustrated trying to find better information. (Finding it cosmology, by contrast, was very easy.)

        To quote someone from AGI when I asked them for data show a history of biostratography, “Thank you for asking these critical questions – I think you are apt to point out that we often take things based on trust in science teachers without direct knowledge of their ideas.” If you are able to get more direct knowledge, go for it. I think you have a lot more trust in science than I ever did even when it was my religion. I’ve always been more questioning than to believe it because the experts say it. We are allowed to criticize and not take things for granted. The AGI had less problems with my probing questions than you do (and I also gave them more prodding that, really, the info isn’t available).

        Why do you assume that anything I write that you disagree with must be wrong and that I haven’t consulted with experts? I read a lot in preparation and linked to a whole lot of sources to support my contention. We are both trying to arrive at truth. Different approaches lead to different things and different ways of looking at the rest of the evidence. That was the point of the first article on being rational which you played into, and now your bashing religious people when it’s for reporting facts of what happened and holding beliefs that have nothing to do with religion.

        As for calling me “ignorant” … thank you. Yes, we’re all ignorant. Just not all of us realize it. Now let’s become less ignorant by discussing substantive points rather than call each other ignorant.

      • Matt says:

        Oops: “a ignorant..” —> “an ignorant thing to do.” The irony is not lost on me.

      • Matt says:

        “Now let’s become less ignorant by discussing substantive points rather than call each other ignorant.”

        For me part of the problem is that a lot of the offending content is not substantive. Making sweeping and disparaging remarks about the mathematical abilities of geologists and biologists is not fair and its not substantive. Asserting that science is based on “belief” or “sloppy guesswork” is not only not substantive, but it fundamentally misrepresents how science works. On what basis, other than your 10-year-old undergraduate studies and angry letters to museums, makes you see fit to make claims about the motives and scholarship of entire scientific communities? I’m not “assuming”, I’m asking.

        Your anecdote about getting a lukewarm response from AGI to your email is not a sufficient basis to judge the quantity, quality, or organization of stratigraphic data. Your tone may very well be responsible for the “disappointing” response. I have no way of knowing. What I do know is that I found a phenomenal site in 5 minutes of a google search (, and lots of great regional databases. Even if you were right about failures in the geology community’s public outreach, this still has no bearing on the evidentiary support for claims they make.

        And if you continue to insist that there’s no math in geology and evolutionary biology, I will send you some of my favorite papers on the subject, and we’ll see how well you can handle the math.

        “The presenting of information in this field is no periodic table”

        There *is* a nice schematic table produced according to the standards of the International Commission of Stratigraphy and Union of International Geological Sciences ( Just as Mendelev’s periodic table was used to discover elements that were later found, so too has the stratigraphic record been used to discover transitional fossils as predicted by “common ancestry” (Tiktalik being a wonderful example).

        “there is no place you can bore a hole in the earth and see a complete picture of the 4 billion years of earth development…yet it’s the claim in every text book”

        I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that the stratigraphic record goes back 4 billion years. To my knowledge, I don’t even think it goes back a billion (I need to check that). Please show me a claim in a textbook that the stratigraphic record goes back 4 billion years. Show me any textbook claim about the geological column that cannot be corroborated with published data. Given your admitted avoidance of the subject of geology, I’m not so confident you are really aware of what is or is not in the textbooks.

        “The AGI had less problems with my probing questions than you do”

        In this post, you do not ask *any* questions, and you fully admit to a complete lack of genuine curiosity. I have no problem with questions. It is your disparaging comments that I have problems with.

        It is clear that you are “challenging the authority” of those silly geologists, but what have you done to understand their answers to your challenges? Do you think that your effort is enough, given the complexity and difficulty of the subject? Again, I’m not assuming, I’m asking..

      • tostien says:

        The last paragraph of the article readily acknowledges that I am an expert in none of the vast numbers of fields which are discussed to put it all together. I merely tried to find as many direct sources of information in the different areas to put it together.

        In stratigraphy, no direct sources are available to my knowledge or that of those whom I asked. Your link is not a direct source either. It is a chart that we’re supposed to believe at face value. Sorry, I’m not willing to do that with out question. That’s blind faith and it seems that in this field scientists expect us to do that. If not, just like some Muslims will argue with regards to the Koran and Hindus with the Gita, if you spend your life studying it, you’ll see it’s so beautiful that it must be true. (XKCD best covers this – ).

        Unless you’re misinterpreting my words, I don’t know why you are so up in arms. I’m not a stratography connoisseur – true. I’m more into cosmology, but even there, I don’t see the point unless it’s to try to come closer to G_d. Summary chart:
        No G_d –> world is all there is –> you die with little effect on world –> heat death and it’s all gone.
        Yes G_d –> meaning and purpose, must transcend this world –> better to study things that help the future of this world and the next.

        Neither result leads me to a conclusion that I should dig in the dirt and estimate how old something is. It was needed for the article, but no, I’m not willing to spend 120 years on it when there are so many cat videos on the internet I haven’t seen. Cute, furry, lovable cats.

      • Matt says:

        “Your link is not a direct source either. It is a chart that we’re supposed to believe at face value.”

        Did you actually LOOK at the website? They posted all of the standard candles used for that chart, linking to downloadable copies of the primary sources. These papers contain the relevant data, techniques, maps, pictures, and additional bibliographic sources. You asked for the periodic table of geology and I gave it to you. You asked for the source data and I gave it to you. It took my five minutes to find.

        “That’s blind faith and it seems that in this field scientists expect us to do that.”

        Here you go again with the baseless accusation. See my previous comment: The primary sources for that table are available and freely downloadable. As a scientist and educator who spends time and energy encouraging people to critically evaluate scientific claims, I find this accusation to be utterly insulting and so off base that I don’t even know how to address it. Again: what is your experience with scientific culture? A few annoying letters to geologists, and hanging out with some profs during office hours ten years ago? Your view of scientists is a straw-man.

        “The last paragraph of the article readily acknowledges that I am an expert in none of the vast numbers of fields which are discussed to put it all together.”

        If you admit that you don’t understand it, then why are you bashing it? Why accuse the entire community of geologists of insisting that stratigraphy be accepted on authority? Why slander the math competence of a field that you have zero experience with? Why insist that you can’t access the data or that there is no analog to the periodic table, when you couldn’t even make the effort to find them? I’m “up in arms” because you are speaking loshon hora about my colleagues. As a scientist and as a Jew, I find it very problematic.

  3. I enjoyed the summaries but your own approach suffers from nearly all the fatal flaws of Schroeder as pointed out by Slifkin in his book “Challenge” and Rabbi Yoram Bogacz in an e-book called “Genesis and the Big Bluff.

    Also, I’m not too comfortable putting G-d at any physical coordinate anywhere in the physical universe (or even just outside it) to measure anything physical from where He is allegedly “standing”.

    • tostien says:

      While researching the argument and seriously re-visiting Schroeder for the first time in about 15 years, I realized, as I tried to convey, that there are so many changing and competing theories in cosmology and so much of our understanding of Bereshis is also not well understood that any reconciliation is built upon a lot of approximations and assumptions to begin with. I tried just to paint a general idea with a smooth curve as how it might work. I am not saying that G_d is at a physical coordinate, nor do I understand what it means for G_d to “remove himself” to allow the physical. I suspect even the terminology is overly simplistic and more for our benefit of understanding. Still, Bereshis is told from some point in physical space (or so I am assuming). The point was to show that there is enough leeway to make any timeline of Bereshis fit with with any cosmology, though I used a ‘perfect’ exponential decay curve because it’s simplest to prove the point and is what Schreder used based on cosmology circa. 1990s when he wrote his first books. (The fact that cosmology has changed so much in 20 years, but we’re discussion 15 billion says something.)

      I wouldn’t go so far as to call trying to do so “fatal”. As I understand Slifkin’s critique, it’s that Bereshis is out of order, in his view, so he summarily dismisses any explanation using relativity as being overly complex. As I understand from Rabbi Gottlieb, Slifkin has a business degree from Touro. I don’t know where he’s even taking a high school level physics class, but suffice to say, relativity is so prevalent in our observations (see previous article with the GPS satellite example) that it doesn’t make sense NOT to use relativity to describe creation. To answer the ‘out of order’ argument, which is the only Slifkin argument against relativity that warrants a real answer, a Slifkin supporter brought it up in the comments on the previous article … I dealt with it there and here. From an earth perspective, the sun and moon would be the same size… we often speak in geo-centric terms even today, as your Rebbe points out (e.g. we still call it ‘sunrise’ when from a heliocentric point of view it’s ‘earth-spin’ … why should we suppose the bigger object should be the center of attention, anyway?). Then it says “zera m’zera” regarding the first plants … why can’t that be the first eukaroytic life and ‘zera m’zera’ is referring to the results of the act of creation of eukaroytes? Do I know these things are right? No … but it’s certainly easy enough to ‘make it fit’, which both R’Meiselman and Slifkin don’t like. The actually agree on a whole lot.

  1. March 31, 2015

    […] thoughts on creation and evolution to other Judaism-based beliefs.  Still, there are of course questions and nothing is a proof, though I choose, with reason to place my belief over […]

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