Email from Adam

Adam Penrod wrote me an interesting email. I received his permission to post it, and below I present an edited, slightly-shortened version of the letter. 

Dear Rabbi, 

My name is Adam Penrod and I have recently found your website. I began by reading Genesis and the Big Bluff and I must say that I really appreciated the sources and comments you made. While I was in college, like most other religious people, I was very distressed about the relationship between science and religion (specifically science and Torah). I came across Dr [Gerald] Schroeder’s books and read them all. They were a life-saver for me at the time because, frankly, there wasn’t anything else. Other books about science and religion that were available were usually written by Christians, but where was the Jewish scholarship? Where were the Rabbis? I took it for granted that Dr. Schroeder was correctly representing the scientific view and the Torah view. I had some initial problems with the book but because it brought me so much comfort – it told me what I wanted to hear – it told me that it’s okay to believe in the [complete agreement between] Torah and science. Any conflict between the two is a misunderstanding. Oh wow did I feel so much better! But there were some things in the book [Genesis and the Big Bang] that I just didn’t agree with and so I always had a lingering doubt about some of Dr. Schroeder’s answers. I knew that relying on Dr. Schroeder’s books was just putting off the inevitable need to look for another solution, but like I said, there wasn’t anything out there that I could find and, as Descartes says (to paraphrase) if you’re going to build a house you still need to live somewhere!  

One problem I had with the book was this: If I agreed with Dr. Schroeder’s presentation then I was essentially trapping myself within the context of current (current meaning when Dr. Schroeder wrote the book) beliefs about certain things. Having taken a philosophy of science course and having read the likes of Alfred North Whitehead and Thomas S. Kuhn, I knew that science wasn’t simply progressing. It was a process of new theories revolting against the old theories. Just because the majority of scientists were confident about a particular theory didn’t mean that they would always be confident… It seemed like a mistake to hitch myself to a presentation of the Torah and science discussion that seemed to mirror the faith that scientists had in the current theory. This scepticism was further strengthened when I learned that there were approximately 25 competing theories for the origin of the universe, 25 theories in competition with the cherished prize of religious folk – the big bang theory! 

Over the last ten years I have quietly been developing my own opinions and thanks to having the chance to learn with Rabbi [Dovid] Gottlieb at Ohr Somayach I began to discover the other point of view in a clear and steady voice. When Rabbi Gottlieb posted one of your articles on his website I began reading it and continued reading other articles on your website. I was really excited about how strong the Mesorah is and how it isn’t crazy to have legitimate disagreements with scientists, since they are not infallible. I knew this to some extent, but reading the material on your site and Rabbi Gottlieb’s site has increased my excitement and encouraged my resolve to continue learning so that I can make others aware of this important information.  

Thank you very much for your work and as soon as I am able I will buy a copy of your new book [Genesis and Genes] and look forward to reading it.  

Channukah Someach, 

Adam

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