Throughout this book we have been discussing “Scientific Thought in Messianic Times,” talking about aspects of the Geula that can be seen in developments in modern science and technology.
But modern science itself is not the last word. Recall the Rebbe MHM’s letter to the conference of Jewish doctors in which he wrote:
"True science whose purpose is only to seek the truth - its conclusions cannot contradict the Torah which is the Torah of truth. Rather, on the contrary, the more that [the scientists] will deepen their research, the more they will increase their recognition of the truth of both the principles and the details of our religion.”
Modern science is indeed converging to Torah as we have seen throughout this book, but some of the sciences still have a bit of a way to go. Consider string theory, for example. We like it because it fits the Rebbe MHM’s description of the final theory which must be built on two concepts – a concept of force (or energy) and a concept of matter carrying the force. This may be the vibrating string of string theory where the two concepts are the vibration and the string carrying the vibration. But string theory is not fully developed and, in fact, has a long way to go as explained at length in Lee Smolin’s book. It may not turn out to be a successful theory.
There are other theories that are well established but faulty for other reasons. Relativity theory, for example, restricts anything from moving faster than the speed of light. The Rebbe MHM objects to this saying that we cannot put a limitation on G-d by saying that He can’t make anything go faster. (Particles, called “tachyons,” that can only go faster than the speed of light have been hypothesized but have never been observed.)
The Torah’s statement that the earth is the center of the universe – geocentricity – once thought to contradict science, is consistent with relativity theory, as we explained earlier. But here too some work remains because according to relativity both perspectives (that the earth is the center or that the sun is the center) are equally valid. But the Torah says that it is specifically the earth that is the center. So a revised theory of gravity and celestial motion is needed to make science consistent with Torah.
Perhaps the dark matter and the dark energy would be useful to this end, but it is not certain that they even exist. Indeed, a theory proposed by physicist Mordehai Milgrom of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, called Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), that involves a slight modification to Newton’s inverse square law of gravitation, would make the postulation of dark matter unnecessary. In any case, the theory of gravity is not complete. (There are also problems with relativity as a theory and we will discuss this shortly.)
And what about the weather? We quoted the Alter Rebbe’s statement that the extreme heat in the summer and the extreme cold in the winter have no scientific explanation, giving clear proof of the existence of G-d Who makes the weather as he pleases. But the scientists are not yet all convinced of the existence of G-d. They admit that even with all the sophisticated models and advanced supercomputers that weather cannot be accurately predicted but they claim that this is due to the complexity of the situation. They still think that in theory it is predictable. So improvements must be made in the theories of meteorology and climatology so that they make completely accurate predictions – which will then be seen to fail. “On that day, G-d will be one and his name will be one.”
In mathematics, the theory of infinities must be refined. In discussing infinities, the Rebbe MHM has said that since there are infinitely many points on a line, and infinitely many lines on a plane, the infinity of points in the plane is greater that the infinity of points on the line. But current mathematical theory does not distinguish between these two infinities; it considers the line and the plane to have the same infinity of points.
Beyond Quantum Mechanics
Quantum mechanics has been a very successful unifying theory, making very accurate predictions with many applications in the use of modern technology in everyday life. But according to quantum mechanics the laws of nature are not precisely determined. All one can say is that there is a certain probability that a given action will have a particular result. This one “flaw” has been accepted as a fact of life and its paradoxi cal conclusions as an inherent “weirdness” in nature.
To be sure, the Rebbe MHM has pointed out that since this is the way modern science defines itself – that all of its statements are only probabilistic – no challenge can be raised from science against Torah whose statements are certainties.
However, the Rebbe MHM has an objection against quantum mechanics. It is not the objection of Einstein who insisted that the laws of nature must be precise – not probabilistic – because, as Einstein said, "G-d does not play dice with the universe.” Regarding this, Dr. Naftali Berg once asked the Rebbe MHM if Einstein was correct in this statement and the Rebbe MHM responded that Einstein was not correct since G-d can do whatever He wants to.
The Rebbe MHM’s objection has an entirely different basis. It is based on the difference between nature and miracles. He once explained in a letter to Prof. Herbert Goldstein, a prominent nuclear physicist, that the point of view of modern science that the laws of nature are only probabilistic, “is at variance with the concept of nature and our own knowledge of it (science) as espoused by the Torah since the idea of miracles implies a change in a fixed order and not the occurrence of the least probable event.”
Thus quantum mechanics is not the last word on physical law. Ultimately, it will be modified or replaced by a theory that gives precise statements and precise predictions.
Here, surprisingly, many physicists are in agreement. Einstein’s objections were overruled by the majority of physicists in his time who sided with Neils Bohr and the Copenhagen school, and the “Copenhagen interpretation” prevailed. The scientific community suppressed the opposing “hidden variables” theory according to which there is a precise hidden reality behind the equations of quantum theory. As Lee Smolin writes, “since at least the 1950’s the leading journals have only very selectively published papers on this subject, while several journals have excluded such papers by stated policy. The granting agencies and major government foundations have typically not supported this work and university departments have tended not to hire people who are doing it.”
But there is a growing movement among many of the world’s leading theoretical physicists to question quantum mechanics. “Many leading physicists admit private misgivings about quantum mechanics,” writes Smolin. “Among them is the Nobel laureate Gerald t’ Hooft who believes that quantum mechanics will be replaced with a deterministic theory, and the famous mathematical physicist Roger Penrose who “like t’ Hooft, much of his work in the last two decades is motivated by his conviction that quantum mechanics is wrong. And like t’ Hooft, he has a vision of what should replace it.”
Smolin himself is of this opinion: “I am convinced that quantum mechanics is not a final theory. I believe this because I have never encountered an interpretation of the present formulation of quantum mechanics that makes sense to me. I have studied most of them in depth and thought hard about them, and in the end I still can't make real sense of quantum theory as it stands…. Quantum mechanics must then be an approximate description of a more fundamental physical theory. There must then be hidden variables, which are averaged over to derive the approximate, probabilistic description which is quantum theory.”
And then there is Holger Bech Nielson, one of the inventors of string theory. He believes that, “Everything we think of as intrinsically true, such as relativity and the principles of quantum mechanics …are just accidental facts that are emergent from a fundamental theory so beyond our imagining that we might as well assume that its laws are random.” This seems to me reminiscent of the statement of the Chacham Tzvi that what we call nature is just a repeated sequence of acts of G-d, or miracles.