5770 and 13,000,000,000 is a big difference!
I am looking for a good explanation to the difference opinion of the age of the universe. Please help me out!
As an observant astrophysicist (pun intended; I'm actually a theorist), I get this question a lot. Personally, most answers I have heard seem rather contrived and do little justice to either the science or the Torah. The study of physics and the study of Torah are both wonderful pursuits of a "higher truth," but they consist of very different methods and really speak different languages. I am highly skeptical of any that claim proof of a theory in one field based on evidence from the other.
But to answer your question more directly, I view the issue as a classic example of the Torah "speaking in the language of man," a concept found throughout Rabbinic literature. We know the Torah was given to a rag-tag collection of ignorant slaves less than two months after fleeing for their lives, and having only the simplest knowledge of their own history, much less "science." How should the Torah begin? "In the beginning, 13.7 billion years ago, the scalar inflation field expanded by 47 orders of magnitude, then began cooling adiabatically into a quark-gluon plasma"?? Even to the most secular scholar, the Torah is a brilliant study in human nature and emotion. To understand it, we must read it in its own language, not ours. As many medieval commentators point out, the purpose of Genesis is to teach us moral lessons, and at most, political history, not science.
The Seder Olam Rabbah added up all of the generations in the Torah and those in the rest of Biblical history to determine how many years had passed since the Creation of Adam. By that reckoning, 5770 years have now elapsed since that Creation. Genesis 1 describes Six Days between the initial Creation of "the Heavens and the Earth" and the Creation of Adam. If you add six days to 5770 years, you get an elapsed time from the Creation of the Universe to now of 5770 years.
Many different and unrelated scientific inquiries have produced evidence consistent with the Earth and the Universe being orders of magnitude older than 5770 years. In The Challenge of Creation, Chapter Nine: "Evidence for an Ancient Universe," R' Natan Slifkin accessibly summarizes some of the these methods, including analysis of fossils, tree rings, and geological features.
To your point, he describes the evidence for a Universe age on the order of 10 billion years that comes from telescope observations of galaxies that are 10 billion light-years away. The presence of light from a source that far away implies that the light had been travelling for 10 billion years before it reached us, which implies that the galaxy it came from and the Universe containing it are at least that old.
A great deal of ink has been spilled trying to deal with this apparent disagreement between Scriptural and scientific evidence. The following few chapters of The Challenge of Creation describe a number of approaches to this issue as well as the author's approach.
When science says "the world is 13,000,000,000 years old", they are not saying "I was there. I have a video. I KNOW". They say "based on the evidence that I have, and based on the laws of nature that I observe, the world could have been created like this.
Or maybe not. Maybe there are other scientific laws involved that we just don't know about. We don't know everything yet, and it's possible all of our theories wouldn't work under different conditions. Remember, in the Rambam's time, everyone was convinced that the science of his day was absolutely true, to the extent that we had to "show" how we agree to science.
Or one can add, even if you say that from the Big Bang on everything was natural, the original yesh mi-ayin, the something from nothing, must have been supernatural. If creation is supernatural, there is no reason to stop the supernatural involment by the Big Bang, why not extend it to the end of creation. It says that when Hashem created the world, it was created fully formed. Meaning, Adam was an adult. If he would come to a doctor and ask "how old am I?" the doctor would say "middle aged". Was he or not?
In other words, it's not a scientific question, as it deals with "did Hashem perform this miracle or that miracle".
Many would answer: "Ahh... But it's a much smaller miracle for Hashem to create a "Big Bang" than create a world. Why make miracles bigger than they are?"
The answer to that this is not a scientific argument. Why Hashem makes a bigger miracle instead of a smaller isn't a scientific question. Maybe philosophical, but not scientific.
So in the end, there is no scientific evidence of the age of the universe. Philosophically one may find it hard to believe why Hashem would create the world looking old, but there are no questions based on science.
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There are a number of answers to this question:
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan has shown that the tradition of the age of the world is not a simple subject.
Let's stick to Jewish sources only and ignore any other source.
We have two dating systems.
Now, according to the gemorah, option 1 will not tell us the age of the world. It will only tell how long humanity as descendand from Adam has been around. The gemorah tells us that we can not know or study what came before, what is above, what is below, and what will come in the future. As far back as we can know, is how long we as people knowing Gd have been around, and that is all we are allowed to know.
However, the gemorah says that some people, teacher to student can teach each other otherwise, and we have many cryptic statements in the Gemorah regarding the age of the world. One such statement is that the world was created 974 generation before the giving of the Torah. (Or 947 generations before Adam was created) Depending on if you use a generation as defined between Adam and Noach, or between Noach's son's and Avraham, or between Avraham and Moshe, you will get a different calculation on how many years the world existed before Adam. (anywhere from 18,940 years to 177,089 years)
According to another view of the Kabbalists and Ramban:
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan expounds this further based on the writings of Rabbi Isaac of Acco.
The concept of the world being some 6,000 years old comes from Christianity, and Priests. These sentiments, for some reason unknown by anybody, have been adopted by modern day Charedim as the 'Torah True' view... despite the fact that nobody has ever suggested that the world is only 6,000 years old until some Christian priest decided to make that claim despite the scientific findings of Darwin and early Paelontology. The Tiferes Yisroel wrote:
In 1857 Philip Henry Gosse (A Non Jew who had no Jewish sources) was the first person to ever suggest that the world was close to 6,000 years old! He made this suggestion in his book Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot. And now, that Christian book, is somehow touted as 'Torah!' You'd have to ignore at least 6 Gemoras, half the rishonim, a few achronim and your own eyes to say the world is less than 10,000 years old!
To summarize: A debate exists regarding the age of the world, because it is something which we can not know, and are instructed that it is not worth knowing. Despite this, we have many different Agadatas which give us a large variety of options for the age of the world. On top of that, we have a strong influence from Christian scholars convincing certain sects of Judaism, that a literal reading of both Seder Olam and the chumash is the only true answer to the question (despite the Torah Sh'baal peh which tells us otherwise!)
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I had a Discussion with a Kabalist who is also an astrophysicist about this. here's what he said. (you can find it in my translation of shaar yichud in ch.7)
First - to start with - what you write is about a reality as perceived and described by the Torah - so it is obvious that they are coming from very different world-perspectives and teachings. what we write about the "big-bang" and the torah are not "equivalent" in their level of legitimacy.
Second - the "big-bang" is a theory where one of its assumptions is based on a certain and specific "narrow-minded" behavior of time - namely - linearly. The theory "insists" - on inserting a non-linear process in it - while keeping the time-ticks linearly - "squeezing" different amounts of events into the same "ticks" of time. The more you go "back" - the more you need to squeeze into smaller and smaller segments of time. It is inevitable - that is there a point of singularity where there are infinite amounts of "events" in zero amount of time! In equivalent words ("inversion" of the space-time coordinates) - it is like saying that there are finite amount of events within infinite time - precisely the concept of Creation. So how do they go around it - simply - they IGNORE the existence of the singularity - they have NO explanation for it WHATSOEVER except TOTALLY WILD and CRAZY ideas - ideas that they CANNOT EVER check OR prove - they get away from the singularity by "inventing" more and more of those crazy ideas - sounding so "beautiful" and "inspiring" ("free leap of the vacuum" "quantum leap" "strings and sheets" and so many others - totally farfetched and assumptions - just in order to justify their ideas of the expanding universe - deceiving everyone that they "know" everything that happened after it began (which is also ALL FULL of assumptions and a composite (.) structure of pieces of theories that have NO (!) continuity (!) between them - only MORE assumptions - and no matter how close you can get to the singularity - you can never "reach" it - and they make you "believe" that because they supposedly "traced" everything back to the first 10-35 of the "first second" or so (and that process itself is FULL of assumptions and holes) - then it means they "know" "everything" - where EVERY child that knows basics of math will tell you that no matter how "short" and "tiny" the time-interval - you can dissect it "infinite" amount of times and still remain with something finite. Even though it is small, but still there is infinite "ROOM" there for Infinite amounts of events - but they make you "believe" (and "suppress" by this the REAL problem) that if you are "SO" close - it must be that you actually "know" everything - while the truth is that this is NOT the case - they can't really hide the singularity and the fact that it IS their main unresolved problem.
[I asked:] some Physicists claim there was no "time" before the "big bang", therefore, cause/effect is meaningless.
[He answered:] According to torah, there was time - "order of times" - no time in the sense of ticks we know now - but there was "order-of-times/events." Namely, sequence of events did take place - even before the "time" when time as we know it began to "tick." This sequence of events (which are various type of process in the Infinite BB"H like the emanations of higher realms and even prior to it - definitions of certain borders levels etc. as part of certain levels of Infinity where elements of "measurements" of some sort were already part of it as preparation for the lower worlds etc. - these will also exist and take place after the end of the "ticking" era that we know from our limited borders of sensation and connection with Divinity.
We are in the "midst" of a limited era in which the borders and limitations are maximized. And part of it is the existence of the sensation of the "ticking" of time - [which is] one "certain" type of "time-sensation." But there are more types of time - like above - sequence of events priorities first and last order of things etc. - which are different types of time - something the "science" obviously does not include in its "definitions" and is using just one type of time as if it is the only type of time. All the other types of time are not limited to the physical existences and the "ticking"-type-of-time. They are all Infinite in nature (and from them descended the very limited and specific type of our "ticking"-time). Science "insists" on and can deal only with the "ticking"-time - and even that, it knows how to deal with it only in a linear manner - one of the causes for its false description of the "universe" - its size and its date etc.
Trying to argue with them from their own limited system is like trying to explain to a creation that lives on a curved surface which is extremely small relative to the curvature and thinks and even measures its world as flat - even though it isn't. Only from a hugely bigger "astronomical" perspectives is when you can see that the curvature actually is the true description.
In a way - phenomenon related to the theory of relativity in very high speed did to our concept of time a similar change in terms of high speeds - much higher than the speeds we live in and experience - speeds that do not exist in daily life (except the light) that for many years were counted as "infinite." When these speeds were acknowledged as "high but finite" instead of "infinity" - countless realizations of the curved behavior of time and spaced were revealed to the human mind to see that our reality is not at all linear - it is only a good linear approximation for a very very low speeds.
And yet - for all practical senses and even when knowing all these facts - for essentially almost all humans - these curved behavior of space and time are all totally foreign and unaccepted as if it is a fantasy mamash.
The same idea but different is true regarding the nature of time as "ticking" being part of much broader concepts of time which are different in nature - and only in very very "low" "speeds" of time (i.e. "ticking") - it appears as the "only" type of time. However - if time were to "tick" faster than we are used to - much, much faster - our consciousness will be open to naturally see the broader meaning of time and its INFINITE "curve" and nature - something that the limited concepts of it, including accepting its pace of ticking as "constant" "eternal" and "axiomatic" by the limited scientists - are merely "linear" approximation of the actual truth.
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