Okay, so I’m probably going to tick some people off, others might feel enlightened a bit, but in Reform Judaism, we acknowledge science in its myriad of forms right alongside religion. Science nor religion has all of the answers to life’s mysteries, but the two combined come pretty darn close if you ask me. So how does a Jew rectify a belief in both? Well neither are mutually exclusive, and there are many religious individuals in the scientific field, be it physics, medicine, computer, biology, astrophysics, etcetera. We justify this by not ignoring that in some cases our ancient ancestors were just looking for answers and using the only explanations they had available at the time to explain things.
Did you know that according to the Hebrew calendar, it is the year 5781? This is because the ancients tried their best to figure out how old the world is, and now that we know it’s closer to 4.54 billion years old, we still use the date of 5781. This isn’t because we pick and choose what to believe, but we do so to honor those who tried their best and are our ancient forebearers in Judaism. Maintaining the calendar of our ancients, even in the face of KNOWING that it’s incorrect, connects us with those who long came before us.
In today’s society, everything has become all or nothing, black and white, but more often life is comprised of varying shades of grey, this is even seen in the realm of science and religion. This “all or nothing,” approach often leads to extremist thinking, “Science is evil and scientists are paid shill,” on the religion side, and “religion is fake and it’s evil and causes people to do bad things,” on the science side. This… is… preposterous!
If science and religion each have holes, if neither has ALL of the answers, then to marry the two wouldn’t seem such a stretch. In Reform Judaism, we do not deny any aspect of science, we embrace it fully, just as we embrace our ever-evolving branch of Reform Judaism. We don’t care if the scientists are Atheist, Muslim, Christian, or Jew, if it is a new find that has been weighed and accepted amongst the majority of the scientific community, there’s a good chance Reformers will applaud. This was especially apparent when a Jew and his team at the University of Penn paved the way for the Covid-19 vaccine in ONE YEAR for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Our Synagogue strongly encouraged us to all get vaccinated, even referring to it as a Mitzvah to do so for others, as well as yourself (for your own wellbeing).
This one way or the other mentality deals in absolutes, and as Obi Wan-Kenobi said, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes!“
Reform Jews bring Judaism into the modern era, alongside bringing Jewish identity to those who have long adapted to their diaspora homes, so accepting science should come as no surprise. A belief in a G-D does not negate a belief in science in any way, shape, or form. Personally, the task of finding meaning and truth from the ancient Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, Midrash, etc… alongside logic and modern reasoning, is one of the things that drew me to the Reform branch of Judaism.