The tension between religion and science in the history of human knowledge is at its most intense, but perhaps also most fruitful, when it is examined at the level of the most fundamental science of physics.
Dr. Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the President of the California Institute of Technology and the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair of the Department of Physics there, is a physicist who throughout his career has worked at Bell Laboratories, IBM Watson Research Center, and the University of Chicago. He has gained a particular understanding of this subject, coming at his profession from a Brooklyn Jewish background. Rabbi John Carrier, meanwhile, provides a Talmudic perspective on Dr. Rosenbaum’s insights, while fielding audience questions about the relativity of time, determinism and free will, and what really makes an act of faith.
(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. “Physics and Faith with Dr. Rosenbaum,” on September 11, was the first event offered by Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center under the auspices of Scientists in Synagogues).Read Transcript
John Carrier: All righty, bruchim habaim, everybody, a blessing of welcome on all of you who have come to this inaugural event of our Scientists in Synagogues. And I have to keep this straight, because Sinai and Synapses is bringing us Scientists in Synagogues, and I’ll say a little bit about both of those things here in a moment. But first, I’m just really glad to have you all here, really glad to have you all on the Zoom, and we are really excited about this especially to have one of our one of our very own landsman Dr. Thomas Rosenbaum, who is going to be speaking. He’s the president of Cal Tech [and] needs no introduction, [but] I’ll give him one anyway in just a moment.
But what I do want to tell you about is the reason we’re doing this, maybe the effective cause of how this is possible, is that this year we became a part of this bigger nationwide program, called Scientists in Synagogues, which is a program that was created by a group called Sinai and Synapses. And to tell you more about Scientists in Synagogues, Scientists in Synagogues is a program that provides communities with generous grant funds, along with mentorship and guidance and connections, in order to run grassroots programs just like this one that offer Jews opportunities to explore the most pressing and most interesting questions surrounding Judaism and science. And its aim is to share how some of the most thoughtful Jewish scientists integrate their Judaism and their scientific work, so that they can be role models and ambassadors for productive conversations surrounding Judaism and science.
Just to give you a little info on where all that money comes from, this project was organized by Sinai and Synapses, which is a project that was incubated at Clal, which is the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science program called Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, and funded by the fine people of the John Templeton Foundation as well as other individual donors. Any questions so far?
So this is a really wonderful thing. We applied for this grant program a few years ago – we were still incubating, and this year we finally made it happen, due in no small part to all the wonderful staff and volunteers here, especially our adult education director Judy was instrumental in this, Bonnie was instrumental – I saw her a second ago there she is. Really happy that everybody’s been involved in this, and to make this happen. We are going to have a number of speakers throughout the year, but among all those speakers, our next guest is the first one.
So tonight, we have our Cal Tech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, who is the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair of, and professor of, Physics. He is an expert on the quantum mechanical nature of materials, conducting research at Bell Laboratories, IBM Watson Research Center, and the University of Chicago, where he served as Vice President for Research, and for Argonne National Laboratory, and then provost before moving to Cal Tech in 2014. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Physics with Honors from Harvard University and a PhD in Physics from Princeton University. I’ve heard of both of those places, good work. He serves on the Board of Governors for Argonne National Laboratory, the Board of Trustees for the Society for Science and the Public, as General Member of the Aspen Center for Physics and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences here in Los Angeles, on their Program Committee. Without further ado, a man who needs no introduction, even though I gave you one anyway, I hand it over to you, Dr. Rosenbaum. Thank you so much for joining us here.
Thomas Rosenbaum: Thank you, and thank you Rabbi Carrier, for the very generous introduction. It’s really fun to be able to engage and to be with people in person. I heard a comment from a colleague recently that this is the first time in a couple of years that he knew he wasn’t on mute. So we are all living in the Zoom world, but also benefiting from these kinds of interactions. And in particular, it’s a great pleasure to be able to kick off PTJC’s ambitious series, as Rabbi Carrier explains, Science and Synapses, devoted to the intersection of Judaism and science – coexisting searches. I have benefited from Rabbi Carrier’s insights and wisdom and Cantor Ruth’s transcendent music for the last two years almost exclusively on my computer via Zoom. So in that way, there is perfect coexistence of Judaism and technology.
Yet, we all know that individuals of faith and individuals who use scientific inquiry to illuminate the mysteries of the universe rarely share the same assumptions, methods or even language. I appreciate Judy Callahan providing me the opportunity to offer some personal reflections. And I do want to stress these are personal, not institutional, reflections, as a physicist and as a Jew, on science and faith, with the hope of finding modest reconciliation and meaning, and to learn from your comments.
We are at a time when tensions between science and religion are at a very public high. What should have been a triumph for science in developing vaccines against the coronavirus in record time, harnessing new technologies, was confounded by a good segment of the public’s suspicion of and politicization of science. 60% of the American public claim not to believe in evolution. School boards in Kansas and Texas debate the topic and ban books, an accelerating trend across America. A very public court case reminiscent of the Scopes Trial confronted the issue of whether intelligent design could be considered science. As the technological revolution races on, a good number of Americans believe that dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time as the Neanderthals, fossil record or not. And there is the famous and all-too-true story of the congressman who opposed funding for the National Weather Service because “You could just get the weather on your local TV show.”
The story is not any prettier on the other side of the debate, if you can call this a debate. The British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, a media darling, an outspoken atheist, highlights the harm that religion has caused to human beings, from the Crusades to 9/11, a particularly resonant reference today. In his book “The God Delusion,” Dawkins contends that belief in God qualifies as delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. He is fond of quoting the American writer and philosopher Robert Pirsig’s observation that “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion.”
My fellow physicist, the late Nobel Laureate Stephen Weinberg at the University of Texas Austin, is celebrated for his work towards a final theory: a complete unification of all of nature’s particles and forces. In his book The First Three Minutes, Weinberg’s description of the first three minutes of our universe’s existence, he argues that “The search for scientific truth can give meaning to life; the effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.”
Science, Weinberg believed, has changed our values and beliefs in a fundamental way. Nothing in the last 500 years has had so great an impact and effect on the human spirit as the discoveries of modern science, he avers. This sort of transformative language is usually reserved for religion. Yet Weinberg was outspoken on religion’s shortcomings, telling a New York Times interviewer in 1999, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
Nastiness aside, there is a fundamental tension between science and religion, at least in the mode of inquiry. A proper scientific theory must be falsifiable. A scientific theory can’t refer to God or any other supernatural beings, or depend upon revelation as fact. If one is trying to model unusual events like avalanches or earthquakes, one can’t properly propose a theory involving the intervention of angels or seraphim or messengers of God to explain them, unless it is possible to make testable predictions about the subsequent behavior of the angels and seraphim and messengers of God, and their effect upon the future occurrences or qualities of earthquakes and avalanches.
This distinction lies behind a good deal of the fight about intelligent design: the claim that certain biological developments, such as the bacterial flagellum or certain features of the universe, are so irreducibly complex that they cannot evolve via natural selection but require an intelligent designer (read: creator of the universe) are difficult, if not impossible, to test, and are not particularly useful to make predictions that can be falsified. Hence, in a conventional sense, they would not be classified as science. This conclusion was even certified legally in a scathing opinion rendered a number of years ago by U.S. district judge John E. Jones III in Kittzmiller v. Dover Area School District. The extreme limit of these arguments is captured by the literary critic Harold Bloom:
“All religion, Western and Eastern, is founded upon miracle; all religion depends upon revelation; all revelation is supernatural. If you wish to be a hard-rock empiricist, then you should not entertain any religious doctrine whatsoever.”
This is sometimes expanded to include any sort of intellectual matter. The threat of the more extreme argument here is the claim that one cannot be a proper intellectual and accept any religious doctrine, because if you ask enough questions, it breaks down into implausible claims and illogical arguments, hence the tendency for religious powers to quash an intellectual and questioning approach to religious matters.
This tension between religion and science is hardly new. Think of Galileo. And it may in fact be instructive to turn to Galileo as we seek common ground in this modern debate. At his inquisition trial in the year 1633, Galileo argued, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Or as the sociologist and economist Thorstein Bevlin wrote at the turn of the 20th century, “The first requisite for constructive work in modern science, and indeed, for any work of inquiry that shall bring enduring results, is a skeptical frame of mind.”
My personal reference point in this debate is Judaism, which as a religion has developed a powerful tradition of belief, but also of inquiry and intellectual skepticism. Take the approach of the sages in the Babylonian Talmud, where there is the famous question of the Oven of Akhnai. Is an oven made out of two coils, separated by sand, susceptible to defilement? Rabbi Eliezer‘s interpretation is the correct one. His arguments in the debate achieve remarkable emphasis and support from a carob tree being uprooted and thrown, followed by water in an aqueduct flowing uphill, and finally, and one would think definitively, by the divine voice that cries out from heaven in his support. But the sages reject his argument the truth is not in heaven, they declare, God has given the law into the hands and to our hands at Sinai. And we – really, the sages – must discover the truth using our own faculties.
Another good example comes from the great Rabbi, philosopher and physician Maimonides, who strove in the 12th century to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy and science with Torah. In answering an inquiry concerning astrology addressed to him from Marseille, he responded that “People should believe only what can be supported either by rational proof by the evidence of the census or by trustworthy authority. He affirms that he has studied astrology and that does not deserve to be described as a science. Free will cannot be subsumed by stellar configurations.” If only large parts of today’s population were so enlightened.
Where does this leave us? I would argue that we must, best as we can, try to reconcile the worlds of science and religion – in a looser sense than Maimonides or the Talmudic sages probably would approve, but I hope consistent with their spirit. One approach is to take religion and science as separate worlds – “non-overlapping magisteria,” in the words of Stephen Jay Gould. I do believe that there are some questions that science cannot answer – the existence of the Creator, for one, and that they are indeed the domain of faith. But I also believe that religion and science are starting to tread very closely on the same turf, and ignoring that this confluence is not only unwise but limiting. Astrophysicists now measure properties of the universe back to microseconds after creation, well before Weinberg’s first three minutes. The announcement of the observation of small ripples in the temperature of the cosmic background radiation consistent with Big Bang theory was headlined in Newsweek as “the handwriting of God.” The chief scientist for the cosmic background explorer satellite that made the discovery, George Smoot, elaborated it really is like finding the driving mechanism for the universe. And isn’t that what God is?
As another insalubrious example: my colleague at the time at the University of Chicago Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman chose the title “The God Particle” for first popular rendition of particle physics.
I should like to eschew this simplistic shotgun marriage of science and religion, but would like to suggest that a properly chaperoned courtship is advantageous. As Einstein put it at a 1941 symposium on science, philosophy and religion, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” In science, the premium is on posing new questions far more than providing answers. Hypotheses must be continually tested and refined, verified, modified or abandoned, with the accumulation of data. And in this manner, we approximate more and more closely the nature of the world around us. This approach lies at the heart of the scientific method. There are, however, certain types of questions that do not lend themselves completely to scientific scrutiny. Even if we have learned the language that is mathematics and understand the background that is the scientific method.
The philosopher of science and philosopher of language, Sylvain Bromberger, who died just a couple of years ago, devoted his life to these so-called “why” questions. Informed by his family’s almost miraculous escape from the Nazi invasion of Belgium, and then Nazi occupied France, Bromberger considered the conditions that make knowledge possible or impossible. Bromberger summed up his approach in this book “on what we know we don’t know: explanation theory linguistics and how questions shape them.” “Answers to certain types of questions may be obscure but the process of formulating questions to understand what we need to know to understand what is worth knowing.”
To formulate questions, to understand what we need to know, to understand what is worth knowing, provides depth to human experience and situates us in the cosmos. It lodges faith in the framework of science but ventures where science cannot easily go. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that “Judaism is not a science of nature, but a science of what man ought to do with nature.” He viewed the Sabbath as a fulcrum, the culminating experience of creation that provides a glimpse of the eternal through its timeless nature. We are invited to discover the truth through our own faculties and in community, to join the ongoing colloquy of the sages that stretched over thousands of years, and in this expression of faith, to probe what is worth knowing by asking the questions that are more powerful than any answer. Thank you.
And all theological questions go to Rabbi Carrier.
John Carrier: (laughs) It’s a deal, as long as all physics questions go to Dr. Rosenbaum. Thank you, Dr. Rosenbaum. And I don’t know what physicists say instead of yasher koach, so I’ll just say yasher koach, and you know what I’m talking about, so what I forgot to say before, we get started, is we are going to be taking questions for Dr. Rosenbaum both over the Zoom and in the room. And so I believe we have Phil with some note cards to pass around. If you have any questions for Dr. Rosenbaum, or any strictly theological questions for me, and I know a little bit. I probably know more math and physics, but not a lot of either. And also we’ll be collecting questions on the Zoom, and just to maybe give people time to do that, I just want to make a couple of remarks based on your presentation, and also ask you a question myself, even though I don’t have a note card.
First off, I really appreciate your bringing in the oven story. This is one of my favorite passages of Talmud, and we didn’t talk about that at the time. I just want to add a punchline to that story that I think is very valuable – and do we talk about this I saw Emily’s eyes light up when we were mentioning that story. Okay, so he was talking about this debate that they were having in the Talmud about whether a certain thing could be cautious, right, just like we do a Passover every year. And one who had all the reason on his side plus miracles was defeated by the other scholars that were present. And the final blow was when they proved their point by saying “The Torah is not in heaven.”
And what’s so beautiful about that is that they were actually quoting Torah to say that our opinion as human beings matters. And so there’s a little a side story in that part where one of the Rabbis who is present bumps into Elijah the Prophet in the marketplace. There are a few of these stories in the Talmud, because Elijah the Prophet, by our tradition, never actually died but was sent into heaven. So every once in a while, he comes into the marketplace and talks to regular folks. And so I believe it was Rabbi Natan – I could be wrong – who says to Elijah the Prophet, “Hey, something I’ve been dying to ask – that time when we were in the Beit Midrash, and Rabbi Eliezer made that argument about the oven, and the tree got up and walked away, and the river went backwards, and then the heavens called out. What did God think of that argument?”
And Elijah Hanavi replies, “God laughed, and with a smile on God’s face, said, ‘My children have defeated me, my children have defeated me.’” But not with any sense of loss or anger, but the tone that Elijah said – it’s like the first time your kids beat you in chess when you’re trying to actually win. That kind of spirit pervades Jewish literature from the Talmud onward. And so I really appreciate you bringing that story.
I do have a question for you, and you were talking about Rabbi Heschel. There’s another idea that Heschel presented that I was thinking about, where Rabbi Heschel says that the proper disposition of human beings in this universe is one of radical amazement, whether amazement at things that we observe or things that we cannot observe. And so my question for you is: in your vast history of scholarship, what is it that still leaves you radically amazed?
Thomas Rosenbaum: It’s a wonderful question, and I would answer by saying it’s not necessarily the most profound observation. It’s when you’re working late at night in the lab, or talking to your students, and trying to understand their data, and you realize that at that moment, you know, something clicks, and you’re probably the only person in the world who understands. You always hope it will be important what you understand it may not be, but it’s amazing – those times, if I can use the phrase, of revelation. And you know that kind of amazement is not exclusive to science, but given that we’re in the business of constantly asking questions and sometimes finding the answers or at least asking a better question, you have an opportunity to engage in that way that I think is privileged.
John Carrier: I love that. Thank you very much. So we do have some questions from the audience that I’d like to share with you, and I’ll just go in the answer in which they are received.
“Dr. Rosenbaum, what are your thoughts on the relationship between creation ex nihilo and the Big Bang?”
Thomas Rosenbaum: Well, so, relating Genesis to the Big Bang is a fraught question. Obviously, I would say that although there’s no definitive answer, the fact that we understand that the Big Bang comes from a hot universe, and that everything was an energy and then the energy, as the universe cooled, got converted to mass, to particles, does give one some way of thinking about the divergence between the two descriptions. But it would not bother me, but it may bother many others, if it turned out, I don’t know, how we’d ever find it out, that the story of creation is allegorical in Genesis. And I understand – I can say that as a Conservative or Reform Jew and not as north, actually, well, not it’s all Orthodox shoes and but I do find that knowing physics enriches at least my personal reading of scripture, in that there are at least analogies and ways that, you know, you start from just fluctuations in the vacuum and the Big Bang because of all the energy. And there’s an uncertainty principle. So particles are coming in and out, they coalesce, then, you know, not presumably over six days, but they coalesce over time. There’s the light at the beginning of the universe – there are actually two lights, just as in Genesis. In that way – which is not a claim that Genesis had a scientific rendition, but just in terms of depth of thinking about it – you’re at the light at the beginning, then you have the inflationary expansion of the universe, and then you have new light. And there are discussions of the original light, of course, and then the difference, the light that’s the difference between night and day and in Beresheit.
And so I view that as metaphorical. But it adds a certain dimension that I would recommend to people that they should study science to understand what we know about the universe formed, and think about in terms of the depth that adds to when you’re reading the story of the creation of the world on Rosh Hashanah.
John Carrier: Thank you. And I’ll just add a couple of notes to that one. It is often observed that, perhaps not so much in the timing and the elapsed time involved, but people have noted that in many ways, the order in which species appear in the creation story in Genesis tracks with the fossil record, at least in terms of order if not in speed. Let’s say, but even there’s a Midrash where they’re discussing this idea. You know, is it really possible that God could have accomplished so much in six days, as we think of days, meaning six sequential 24-hour periods? And one Rabbi’s answer was, “Well, maybe their days were not our days,” right. We call them “days,” as a convenient unit, but it could be that these are six periods in which creation happened. And even discussing ex nihilo is a part of Jewish theology. But it’s not the only Jewish theology. Even when you look in Beresheit, it says not so much “In the beginning God created the universe,” but “In that beginning, when the universe was being created, there was chaos, there was matter, and God organized that matter.” So that’s just another way of looking at it.
Here’s a philosophical question for you, but maybe physics has an answer: “Can free will exist in a deterministic universe? Is the universe deterministic?”
Thomas Rosenbaum: So, that is well beyond anything I can say – I mean, the issue of free will, right, has been debated for thousands of years, and I fear I don’t have much to add to it. But I do think, if you go back to the point I was trying to make in the conclusion of my brief remarks tonight, those are the kind of questions that you want to ask, and you want to think about, and you want to try to illuminate and learn from others. But I’m sorry, I don’t have much to add personally.
John Carrier: I’ll say we’re all still working on it. I mean, I believe strongly that humans do have responsibility for their actions, but even Maimonides, especially, wrestled with this question. Seeing that the universe was so ordered by a divine intelligence, could there really be free will? And that one thing that Maimonides could assent to was that we have a freedom of belief, let’s say. We still get to decide whether we believe in the universe, whether deterministic or free or not. But that is on us.
Thomas Rosenbaum: So if I could just add one comment – thank you. You know, quantum mechanically, I mean fundamentally, the universe is probabilistic – on the microscopic level. So I don’t know if that informs the deterministic aspect of it. It’s deterministic in the sense that the laws of quantum mechanics, at least as far as we understand, apply, but they are fundamentally probabilistic. And as you know, there are various theories trying to reconcile which come from trying to reconcile quantum mechanics with gravity that posit the existence of multiple universes, and so on and so forth. Again, I have nothing much intelligent to say about that, except I do think it bears on the notion of determinism.
John Carrier: So in a slightly different field, although it’s all physics all the way down at some point or another.
Thomas Rosenbaum: That’s what I’d like to think. (laughs)
John Carrier: I thought you’d appreciate that. In the area of climate change, climate change deniers often refer to Biblical injunctions such as – again, back to Genesis briefly – “be fruitful and multiply” – in support of their non-belief in climate change, and our responsibility for, let’s say, for example, curbing consumption to stop climate change, because we need to be fruitful and multiply. How would you respond to that?
Thomas Rosenbaum: It’s hard to have an argument when the belief systems are so different. I certainly believe that if you are driven by data and evidence, it’s incontrovertible that human activity is leading to change in the climate, with disastrous effects for humanity for our children and our grandchildren, and that perhaps a better argument is in terms of people who are not evidence driven or data-driven or succumb to the attractions of the scientific method, to argue that if you care about your children’s lives and your grandchildren’s lives and your great-grandchildren’s lives, then we’re going to have to do something. There are really no arguments about that. And I find it personally hard to believe that the word of God would want us to self-destruct. But again, that’s a faith statement, not a scientific statement.
John Carrier: I’ll say “amen.” You mentioned the scientific method. We have a question here on the regarding the scientific method. “Could step three of the scientific method – that is, the establishment of a hypothesis – be considered a kind of act of faith?”
Thomas Rosenbaum: I wouldn’t quite call it that way, because when I think of faith, that involves prediction, or statements that are untestable. Well, when you’re doing a scientific hypothesis, it’s not an hypothesis unless you can test it, unless it makes predictions that are scientifically verifiable or modifiable. So I think that’s the main distinction between a statement of faith and a hypothesis in terms of the scientific approach.
John Carrier: Thank you. Let’s see. We’re going from philosophy to metaphysics, which I hope some physics touches on as well. Wow, this is a smart crowd. “Is the present an illusion? Do the past, present and future exist simultaneously, according to Einstein?”
Thomas Rosenbaum: The question of the arrow of time, which way it points, and the fact that the microscopic descriptions of the world are similar if you run the movie forward and backwards, do present problems, but there are certain things that define time – I mean, the second law of thermodynamics runs in one particular direction in terms of the loss of order and the increase in randomness. And so there are ways to establish eras of time in that way. Now, whether we’re an illusion or not, there are some people who believe that, in essence, that the universe is a big computer game where we’re avatars and somebody’s pulling the strings from a higher dimension and things like that. There’s no evidence for that. I’m not sure it’s testable. So I think that’s a metaphysical statement or philosophical statement, not a particularly scientific statement. And so there’s not much – so I don’t find it terribly convincing. But I have no argument against it, per se, because I don’t know how to test it. But that was really should be on your side of the bimah.
John Carrier: Well, I was actually just studying that last term in metaphysics, and I forget if it’s – it’s not presentism or another theory. The thing that blew my mind was this notion that we all exist as a four-dimensional worms in space-time. So what I appreciate is, in Einstein’s work, is the conjoining of space and time, like dissolving that border between them, since in the fabric of the universe, they are the same thing. And that’s kind of something to get our heart, our heads, around, especially when we’re looking at our watch while driving through space. But that these things coexist are important to understand in making the math work elsewhere.
And I’ll just add that I also appreciate that when it comes to Hebrew translation, because we often use the word olam both in a spatial sense and in a temporal sense, like “Kol Ha’Olam Kulo,” – we’re talking about the whole world in a spatial sense and maybe the whole world of people or the whole world of existence. But we also say things like le’olam va’ed, “into futurity,” and so that makes me think that maybe in the original authorship of Hebrew, wherever that’s coming from, olam means “space-time.” And so that was an idea that was native to Judaism before another Jew picked it up in the 20th century, Mr. Einstein – Dr. Einstein, I should say out of respect. And I just got an update, breaking news! – in terms of free will, Liad Mudrik is going to be one of our speakers in this series from Israel, the Mudrik Institute, and the topic will be neuroscience and free will. That will be a spring program of ours, so stay tuned for free will and neuroscience.
And let’s see we have just a couple more questions here… “Are we traveling through time at the speed of light?” That sounds exhausting. Are we traveling through time at the speed of light?
Thomas Rosenbaum: If we have mass, we’re not traveling at the speed of light. So that’s – so no, we personally, no. But of course, photons, you know, particles of light which are masses to travel at the speed of light, and in fact, the excitement – I can do a Cal Tech advertisement! – the discovery of gravitational waves, which was Cal Tech – well, with MIT, Nobel Prize, the really exciting part of it is that there are only two ways to transmit information across the universe at the speed of light, which is the maximum speed you can travel, and that is either by electromagnetic, as light, x-rays, radio waves, or by gravitational waves. So it gave us a completely new way to look at the universe and understand some of the most violent activities, number of which don’t emit light. And so it is possible to transmit information, but not human beings, at the speed of light.
John Carrier: So I have one more question, and then I think “spooky action at a distance” will describe the speed at which I get to the cookies over there. And it’s so – I just want to warn you, I know it’s somewhat more comfortable answering questions about theoretical particles, this last question is about the real you. And our audience is curious: where did your Jewish education come from?
Thomas Rosenbaum: So I grew up in New York City, my parents were refugees from Nazi Germany, and we belonged to a synagogue in Manhattan that basically consisted of refugees from Nazi Germany, not exclusively, but largely, although we lived in Queens. And I went to Hebrew school, in the usual way – and I would say, in terms of teachers outside of Hebrew school, I’d say I was certainly influenced by two incredible Rabbis – now, I should say three. Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, who was head of KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, and actually the best Talmudic teacher I’ve ever heard, and I would go with two sons, I would bring them, even though they were a little young to appreciate it, but just to hear him speak, on Saturday mornings where there was a brief service and then mostly a Torah discussion. And then Peter Knobel, who was at Beth Emet in Evanston, and both were incredibly scholarly and learned a lot from what their reflections were on, whether it be the parsha or other more general issues.
John Carrier: So, thank you. Thank you very much. And I hope one day to merit joining that constellation. So thank you for your kind words. I just want to just give our thanks to you, Dr. Rosenbaum, for making such a wonderful presentation tonight, for answering some really hard questions with grace and and with menschlichkeit. So thank you very much for being here.
So before we conclude, I just want to note that our next program that is tentatively scheduled for the night of Thursday, December 1st – stay tuned and read your emails from us – is called “Because We Can, Should We?” And that is a panel highlighting some of the latest advances in medicine and the bioethical challenges that arise from some of these discoveries. So once again, that’s “Because We Can, Should We?”, tentatively scheduled for Thursday night, December 1st. I want to thank all of our good friends at Sinai and Synapses for bringing us into the fold of Scientists in Synagogues, and I want to thank all of you in the room and on the Zoom for being here for this wonderful presentation. Thank you so much.