Seeing the Cracks in our Existing Systems
Karl Popper, the Austrian-British philosopher
of science, writes that “Science is not a system of certain,
or well-established, statements; nor is it a system which steadily
advances towards a state of finality. Our science is not knowledge:
it can never claim to have attained truth, or even a substitute
for it….We do not know: we can only guess. And our guesses
are guided by the unscientific, the metaphysical (though biologically
explicable) faith in laws, in regularities we can uncover/discover…The
old scientific ideal of episteme—of absolutely certain,
demonstrable knowledge—has proved to be an idol. The demand
for scientific objectivity makes it inevitable that every scientific
statement must remain tentative for ever….”
The physicist, Werner Heisenberg showed that in
physics laws are at best probabilities. And the great mathematician,
Kurt Goedel demonstrated the same in mathematics. In his famous
Goedel’s Theorem he proves that there exist meaningful mathematical
statements that are neither provable nor disprovable, now or
ever. That is, not simply because human thought or knowledge
is insufficiently advanced but because the very nature of logic
renders them incapable of resolution, no matter how long the
human race survives or how wise it becomes. “No axiomatic system
containing arithmetic can demonstrate its own consistency, so
we can never know for sure whether our system is consistent.
Any such system must have true statements which are unprovable
within the system.”
You may be surprised, but this principle – that
logic is built on supralogical axioms – is stated in this week’s
Torah portion. What is even more surprising is that the Torah
teaches us this invaluable wisdom with the addition of one single
This week’s portion, Mishpotim, begins with G-d’s
words to Moses: “And these are the laws that you shall put before
them.” The Midrash (oral interpretation of Torah) – cited by
the classical Torah commentator, Rashi – explains the addition
of “and (these are the laws).” Wherever it says “V’eileh”
(“and these” - in Hebrew the letter vov at the beginning
of a word means “and”), the word comes to add to that which
was before. “And these are the laws” teach us that just as the
first ones [the Ten Commandments] were received at Sinai, so
too are these laws from Sinai.
What is the significance of this addition? Why
would we think that these laws were not given at Sinai that
the Torah needs to emphasize it with the additional vov
Because “mishpotim” (the word used here
for ‘laws’) refers to the Torah’s rational and logical laws.
The argument could be made that religious law needs to be received
from Sinai, but rational laws can be initiated by man. Tells
us the Torah: No! The foundation of logic is the supralogical
One letter in the Torah – one and only one letter
vov – tells us what the brilliant thinkers, Popper, Heisenberg,
Goedel concluded thousands of years later…
The logical fact is that true logic is built on
the supralogical. Now the supralogical is not the same as illogical.
The illogical is beneath logic – plain stupidity. Supralogical
is above logic, preceding logic. The most logical thing of all
is that something precedes logic.
Why is that the case? Because there is no true absolute basis
for morality if it is created and driven by human logic alone.
Anything created by human logic can be destroyed or altered
by the same logic. If morality is based on consensus and basic
human freedoms granted to us by man-made institutions, those
same men can decide to retract those freedoms. “All men are
created equal” the American Founding Fathers declared, because
they knew that if the freedom does not come from the Creator,
then it cannot be inalienable. If King George granted them freedom,
than he can choose to take it from them as well.
Now if logic itself is built on supralogical axioms,
why then are we so mesmerized by logic?
The answer is: We aren't. We fake it.
Love, mistakes, passions, all our vices, music, romance, magic
-- are all driven by forces that are beyond the logical.
Why is it then, when it comes to G-d so many people
become so very logical? They demand rational or empirical proof
for G-d’s existence?
I always wondered why I resisted the organization
argument when it came to proving the existence of G-d. The argument
goes like this: Anything organized directs us to someone that
created that organization. A building points to an architect.
A book to an author. A sonnet to a composer. How much more so
does our universe – which is infinitely more organized than
anything in existence – point to a Creator, a cosmic engineer
that put it all in place.
Why do so many people reject this argument which
seems to be as good a proof as any in science?
Answer: We don’t reject the argument. We reject its conclusion,
its consequences. G-d implies personal responsibility. If G-d
exists that means that I may be responsible for my behavior
– responsible and accountable to G-d and to others.
Suddenly, we become highly logical…
Most of our choices and activities are not determined
by logic alone. Yet, when it comes to G-d we become enamored
Is it possible that entire generations of thinkers
have denied G-d’s existence and built philosophies and social
systems based on their beliefs – all in order to conveniently
avoid the personal responsibility that G-d demands of us?
If that is true, what does that say about our
political and economic structures? What kind of security can
we expect from a world that is built on a logic that denies
its supralogical axiomatic source?
And while we’re at it (asking some difficult questions),
I might as well add: How often do we use logic to smokescreen
our real intentions? To hide irrational and irresponsible behavior
behind rational excuses?
What has all this to do with our times? Plenty.
If September 11th wasn’t enough to
shatter the illusion of our invulnerability – notwithstanding
our unprecedented prosperity, technology, military might and
material successes, the collapse of Enron has now challenged
the very foundation of our cherished economy. It has shaken
to the core the principles of trust and confidence upon which
Capitalism is built. And more upheaval is sure to come.
With our man-made logical systems and institutions
under attack, with our security under question and all the uncertainty
brewing – the vov that begins our Torah portion (“v’eileh”)
looms larger than ever. Our man made logical structures have
wandered away from Sinai. They need to reconnect to the mission
statement given at Sinai and reinstated by our Founding Fathers:
In G-d We Trust. One Nation Under G-d.
In an insane world like ours, where innocent suffer
and wicked prosper, a world full of contradictions and paradoxes
– we can take comfort in knowing that the insanity is a result
of a logical system refusing to acknowledge its supralogical
Creator. If we cannot sense that G-d is the true reality of
all of existence, and we have the ability to resist it because
it makes us uncomfortable – then it surely makes more sense
that our world be insane than sane.
True sanity means embracing the world beyond
So let's do something not logical together: Let us defy all
the fear and insecurity around us by passionately embracing
our absolute foundation of faith in G-d. Let us crawl out of
our comfort zones and shake up the world a little – with a revolution
of goodness. For every negative thought you have, counter it
with two positive actions. As we witness wild behavior of different
sorts, let it inspire us to go beyond our own norms of kindness.
Instead of doing the logical thing – being overwhelmed by all
the uncertainty, or battling fire with fire, let us transcend
our logic and just become better people.
It may be the most logical thing we have ever