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Thought for the Day: Emuna P'shuta Vs. Scientific Evidence

The little bit of scientist left in me that has not yet been beaten to a pulp gets its teeth set on edge by the expression, "It's only a theory."  Honestly, it's worse than fingernails on a chalk board (aka blackboard; an ancient reusable writing surface usually made of dark grey or black slate).  After years of suffering, I have developed a new way to explain what a theory is, and here is it's debut.  Scientist use three levels of models: conjecture, hypothesis, and theory.  A conjecture is the girl you met in the bar last night; she definitely looked better before you sobered up and saw her in the light of day.  Hypothesis: the girl you are serious enough to consider marriage, which makes you a little nervous and you are looking for flaws.  A theory is, of course, your wife; problems anyone sees is because of their misunderstanding and you are ready to defend her.  (See end for a G-Rated/Lakewood Cheder version of conjecture.)

Gravity, for example, is a theory.  String theory, despite its name, is a hypothesis.  It took relativity and quantum mechanics about 40 years to go from wild conjectures in the early 1900s to hypotheses, and then to theories after some seminal experiments were done.  The transitions occur on the basis of evidence.  Conjecture becomes hypothesis when enough experiments have been done to make everyone comfortable that here are no obvious errors.  The difference between a hypothesis and a theory is that one negative experiment can disprove a hypothesis, whereas negative experiments regarding theories generally cause us to reexamine either the experiment itself or re-interpret its results to fit our theory.

And there's the rub: the transition from hypothesis to theory is not really based on evidence; rather it requires a leap of faith.  This is not a problem with the methodology, just a fact of reality.  The strength of the scientific method is that is can easily disprove a hypothesis.  The weakness is that it can never prove a theory; it can give you more confidence that it is not false, but never provide proof.  As long as you require more proof, you are stuck at the hypothesis stage.

Noach, Eisav, and the Umos haOlam all base their belief in G-d on evidence of His goodness.  That's why HaShem had to finally shut the door to the teiva Himself before the rains flooded it.  That's why Yitzchak had to give a bracha to Eisav that promised him good regardless of his behavior.  That's why Shlomo ha'melech gave a similar bracha to the Umos haOlam on the dedication of the Beis HaMikdash.  For them, G-d is a working hypothesis as long as He keeps doing good.  One experiment of Him not doing good in their eyes is enough to send them searching for a better gig.

Avrham, Yitchak, Yaakov, and their descendants are "matzdik ha'din" -- look for ways to appreciate HaShem's behavior even when it doesn't feel good.  Both paths bring one closer to HaShem.  The path of the Umos HaOlam brings them closer like a donkey to the feeding trough.  The path of Klal Yisrael brings us closer together; as father and child, as husband and wife, as HaShem and His nation.

Due diligence:
G-Rated/Lakewood Cheder version of conjecture: The girl you saw across the hall at the chasuna last night; she looked much better all done up did and before you got the report from the shadchan.


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