Comments on Genesis and the Big Bang

Jewish Sources

P 22. There are in fact several letters of our present Torah scrolls which are in dispute. Even in Talmudic times there were variant texts - see Kiddushin 30a; and Rashi on Gen 25:6 where he comments on a vav which is not in our scrolls.

P 59. It would be nice to see the Cabalistic source for six dimensions hidden by being "rolled up" too small to detect.

P 65. Ramban's first creation is Aristotelian "prime matter" which is pure potentiality without any positive characteristics at all. There is no evidence in physics for such an entity. Also, much of the description of the big bang in the Ramban is the product of the author's expansion and interpolation. In particular, the Ramban does not say or imply that as the prime matter expanded, the universe expanded with it.

P 96. Translating Onkelos as "a unified order" is simply a mistake: the Aramaicלחדא  is the standard translation for the Hebrew  מאד  throughout the Torah.

P 129. The generation described as   דור דעה  should have had no trouble understanding bacteria. Rather, categories based on instrument-aided observation are not relevant to the Halacha, and the Halacha represents the will of the infinite Creator which applies ideally to all times and circumstances.

P. 130. Clarification of the atmosphere is not at all peshat in the pesukim. This is a forced reply to a difficult objection, not positive evidence for the author's position.

P 136. The Talmud says that the swamp is the origin of birds only.

P 151. In the Guide those "animals in human shape" are Adam's descendants. This cannot explain the fossils of human-like creatures which preceded  Adam. This is quoting out of context.

P 166-7. Chazal say that the Avos even kept eruv chatzeros. They say that Jacob sent Esau a message that he (Jacob) kept all 613 mitzvos. The author's remarks contradict those statements. Unless he has a source, they are inappropriate. (And his difficulties with milk and meat and Jacob's wives have standard solutions.)

P 169. It is unacceptable to assume that Moses doubted G-d's ability to perform a miracle. See Ramban for a valid peshat.

P 182-3: The quotation of R. Weissmandle's analysis is wrong: it doesn't work for Devarim. The starting point is not the first occurrence of  ה   .

P 184. The explanation of  דרך רחוקה is totally wrong. To make the obligation of bringing the קרבן פםח dependent upon  a subjective  judgment of readiness to exit Egypt is utterly out of context in Halacha.

Scientific Sources

P 32. The impression given is that all the events in Genesis from Adam on can be independently verified. This is far from true. The flood itself, the war of the five vs. four kings, and various aspects of the development of civilization (which the author himself cites on P 147) are not yet reconciled. He also does not take account of Kathleen Kenyon's work which is supposed to show that Jericho could not have been conquered by Israel. (Her work is deeply flawed as a recent review in BAR has shown. But for the author to take no notice is to invite the charge of selective evidence.)

P 39. Light behaves simultaneously as a particle and a wave in e.g. the double-slit experiment.

P 63. Guth's point is not that the early universe was (almost) massless, but rather that the entire universe has zero total energy and therefore could be the result of a random quantum fluctuation.

P 80. The problem of invisible matter is not solved by disposing of neutrinos as a candidate. The behavior of the galaxies is still unexplained, and the ultimate explanation may very well reveal enough new matter to close the universe.

P 160. This use of the "anthropic principle" is incorrect. Even if the nonoccurrence of A implies no life, we can ask why A happened and why life exists.

P 171-2. To describe both quantum mechanics and chaos theory as instances of uncertainty is to confuse two very different ideas: in QM the uncertainty is inherent in the physical system (particularly, in the collapse of the wave-function resulting from measurement) and not just a product of ignorance; in a chaos system (i.e. one governed by nonlinear equations) the system is strictly deterministic and it is only the inevitable approximateness of our measurements (determining the input state to which the equations will be applied) which makes it impossible for us to compute the future state of the system.

            Finally, concerning the author's main new idea in the book that the difference in reference frames can solve the contradiction in the dating of the universe's age, it is totally unclear how Einsteinian relativity can make sense out of an inertial frame embracing the entire universe (P 52). It is the essence of Einstein's method to define any phenomenon in terms of how it is measured. How could one measure time in an inertial frame including the entire universe? Real clocks are affected only by local gravitational fields - e.g. near a black hole. The total mass of the universe does not affect real clocks since each clock is surrounded with rough uniformity by the mass of the universe, so the total gravitational field at the clock is close to zero. That is why the author needs to speak about a clock at the "edge" of the universe. But the universe has no physical edge. The talk of "edge" is a physically nonsensical metaphor for the fact that G-d is not in the universe. If it is poetry we want, this is OK, but it is not science. It needs much more than merely explaining the most elementary aspects of relativity to make this scientifically credible. 

Rabbi Gottlieb