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Torah & Science

The Enigma of the Laws of Nature

Published on Wednesday May 9th, 2018

Nature is governed by very specific and fine-tuned physical laws. A scientist's mission is to reveal nature's secrets to us laymen. Who is the legislator who set these laws in motion? How do energy and matter particles know they must adhere to the laws of nature that rule our world?

Ancient philosophical thinking sustained that the laws of nature are independent of matter. These laws were in fact established in the spiritual and infinitely intellectual realms. In the eyes of philosophers, such as Descartes or Leibnitz, their permanent and cyclical applications on all physical matter served as proof of divine intervention, via an unfathomable and immutable intelligence that we call Creation.

This axiom expresses the foundation of Jewish thought, which claims that Hashem in his infinite kindness renews Creation cyclically every single day.

Fast forward to today, the existential question regarding the reality of the laws of nature remains unanswered. There are indications of the existence of dimensions, lying above our material and physical dimension. Dr. Stephen Hawking wrote: "Who breathed life into mathematical equations and created a world in which to contemplate them". This astonishing remark led an Australian scientist, Professor Paul Davis, to publish an article in the New York Times, whereby he expresses that the most refined and rational definitions of the existence of the laws of physics are reflected in the "behavior" of nature:

 “Nature's laws and mechanisms are formulated in beautiful and perfectly ordered mathematical equations. But what is the origin of these laws? Where did they come from? And how come their intricate forms are manifested to humankind?

When I was a science student, I was told that a scientist's mission is to unveil and apply the laws of physics. Not to unravel their origins. One must believe that life is governed by logical, immutable, universal mathematical laws, whose origins remain a mystery to us. One must believe that these laws are infallible. A kettle on an open fire will boil its contents; it won't suddenly decide to freeze them. This question has haunted me throughout my life and I have asked other scientific colleagues about the origin of these statements.

Some of them dismissed my question as being non-mathematical. At best I was told that "nobody knows". But the most ridiculous answer was: "Nature has no origin, it simply exists."

A theory claiming that the laws of nature have no origin is superlatively aberrant. After all, the motive for studying scientific phenomena is to make perfect sense of reality. If we follow these criteria in research and ultimately abandon logic when we reach an enigma concerning the basis of the essence of reality, we are making a joke out of science. Is it possible that the powerful foundation of the order of nature, which we contemplate every moment, is groundless and built on absurdity? If so, it means nature is devilishly cunning: it is completely implausible on the one hand but makes perfect sense on the other.

Scientific approaches to these questions are rapidly changing. Basically, we now understand that the emergence of life and the existence of humankind substantially depend on the laws of nature. If these laws were just a random collection of accidental events, the chance for the emergence of life on Earth would be nil. Questioning the origin of the laws of nature is therefore of paramount importance.

Religion and science are based on faith and in the existence of a higher intelligence that is beyond our understanding, whether we decide to call it God or a highly intricate system governing the laws of nature. This approach is not very surprising since the laws of physics draw their source from religion, even if this affirmation may disturb a few scientists. Isaac Newton's discovery of universal laws was synchronized with his faith in a God who created the world in a perfect and rational way. For Newton, the existence of a Creator is the basis of the reality of creation."

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