11- Seeing Behind the Veil of Nature

Ancient Man saw G-d

In ancient times man saw G-d. When he planted a seed in the ground, and mysteriously a tall wheat stalk later appeared—ancient man saw G-d. When a cow gave birth to a perfectly formed, miniature cow, with all of the body parts imitated in small scale—ancient man saw G-d.

There was nothing in his understanding that could explain it. It was all so perfect. It was all so ordered. From the sun rising each morning, to the rains falling in their time, from the deer mating in the spring, to the bees bringing home pollen to the nest. Ancient man saw such wonder in the world that couldn’t be explained. And so in his sincerest voice he called out—“That’s G-d!”

Modern man

Then began the scientific revolution. Man was no longer satisfied with things just happening. He needed to know the reason “why”. There must be a mechanism; there must be a system. So, man set out to find the way that everything functions. And knowledge began to flow: First came the germ theory and then the cell. Next came chemistry, biology, and physics. Then the concept of genetics and neuroscience. Finally the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics—man now understood how it all worked.

The cow giving birth to a calf is simple: it’s DNA and cellular division. The wheat shaft is just biomechanics. It’s all simple levers and pulleys, genetic coding and cellular mechanics. There is nothing mysterious, nothing hidden. The secret is out. And now man no longer needed G-d.

Without realizing it, what man did was treat Creation like a cheap vaudeville act.

Sleight of hand

There’s a reason why a magician never reveals his secret. Once you know his trick—you see it’s not magic. In fact, it’s not a big deal. The card didn’t magically appear. It was up his sleeve the whole time. The boy didn’t just vanish. There was a trap door under the stage.

In a sense that is the way that many scientists today approach G-d. We have found your trick. We have discovered how you do it, so we are no longer impressed.

The folly of this is hard to describe. Yes, you have found the mechanism through which G-d runs the world. But, that mechanism is astonishing. It is sophisticated beyond imagination and brilliant beyond description. Modern man, can you write the coding of the DNA? Can you synthesize a single protein? You haven’t replaced G-d, you’ve uncovered a tiny, tiny sliver of the wonder of G-d’s Creation.

Creative in name, but not in principle

When a couple decides to have a child, they use a system that HASHEM put into place to bring forth a baby. They don’t claim to be knowledgeable enough in anatomy to synthesize the proteins needed for growth. They don’t allege to have sufficient understanding in physiology to weave the neuron pathways in the brain. And they certainly don’t contend that they are learned enough in pathology to create the immune system that develops within their fetus.

When we say they made the baby, we mean they used a pre-existing system that was set up with great wisdom and forethought. They pushed the button, and the gears and flywheels went into motion. Nine months later, out came a perfectly-formed, complex marvel called a human. They had the baby, but they didn’t create the baby.

This is true of any creative act that a human engages in, whether it be a couple having a child, a farmer growing corn, or an entrepreneur creating an industry. We take pre-existing elements, use pre-formed systems, turn a switch, and take the credit for the result. In our minds’ eye, it is our effort that brought forth the product, but in reality, we did little but use the machinery already in place.

An analogy to this would be:

Frank the cookie baker

Every day, when Frank leaves work, he takes home two packages of freshly baked cookies for his kids. His children love to brag about the delicious cookies their father makes. Frank’s kids are the envy of the entire first grade. Naturally, when the class is planning on having a bake sale, who do they ask for help with the recipes? Frank!

Unfortunately, Frank doesn’t know that much about baking cookies. You see, Frank works in a factory. Every morning exactly at 4:20 AM, Frank pushes the switch that starts the operation rolling, and exactly 35 minutes later, out comes the first batch of Stella D’oro Chocolate Fudge cookies.

Frank didn’t create the process; he doesn’t even know which ingredients go into the mixture. He wouldn’t be able to tell you the different preservatives and flavoring that are used. He wouldn’t be able to explain to you the difference between radiant and convection heat and their effect on the crispness of the cookie. He certainly isn’t capable of creating the intricate system of conveyer belts, mixers, and feeder chain ovens needed to produce that cookie. His job is to flip the switch. The machine does the rest.

Columbus discovered America – he didn’t invent it

When man harnesses a force of nature, we look at him with awe and reverence. What a brilliant thinker! He invented something that wasn’t! Inadvertently, we attribute the wisdom of the system to the one who harnessed it.

This is a fallacy. It’s much like Columbus’ finding America – he discovered it, but he didn’t create it. When man taps into a powerful force in HASHEM’s world, he has created nothing. He has uncovered some of the intricacies of the systems that HASHEM uses to run this world. Using laws, principles, and entire machines already in place, man comes along and changes a gear. The effect may be significant, but he created nothing. He discovered a bit of the elaborate machinery that HASHEM brought forth in the six days of Creation.

And even more. This man spent his entire career, forty years or more, crawling into one tiny hallway, of one small passageway of an underwater cave. There he found a thimble full of water, analyzed its contents and shouted “Eureka!” You forget that you’re in an ocean, miles and miles deep, spreading out for distances that you can barely imagine

It’s Hashem’s World

This is Hashem’s world. He formed it and He fashioned it. He wrote the laws, and He alone maintains its existence. If man uses the world, he is using a system that Hashem has created. When man discovers the steps that Hashem uses in the running of the world, he hasn’t replaced G-d. He hasn’t found the trick and now the act is debunked. Quite the opposite, now man begins to see some of the astonishing sophistication of Hashem’s world. And if man alters one of the steps and brings something new about, he must understand his place. He isn’t its’ Creator. He is using Hashem’s world.

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