In an interview, French Jewish intellectual Jacques Attali claimed that modern science is partly based on Jewish tradition because like talmudic discussions, it is based on the "search for invariants" (or thing that remain constant). The quote is as follows:

Scientifc education was even to a great extent based on Jewish education. That's because in talmudic analysis, there is the idea that one should be searching for invariants. And that's the basis of scientific thought. (personal translation)

Could someone give me examples of talmudic discussions that would illustrate his point?


Quote in French

La formation juive a été même à la source d'une grande partie de la formation scientifique. Parce que dans le model de pensée talmudique, il y a l'idée de la recherche d'invariants, dans la discussion - et la recherche d'invariants, c'est le fondement de la pensée scientifique.

Link to the interview: Jacques Attali : la France, en tant que modèle éducatif, se situe "au pire endroit"

  • I wonder if he had something like this (fairly typical) discussion in mind sefaria.org.il/Bava_Metzia.21a.14?lang=bi
    – Joel K
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 12:23
  • That seems to be the basis of the extreme heichi timtzah method of reasoning. By selecting an extreme heichi timtzah we can identify those parts of the argument that remain constant under all circumstances.
    – The GRAPKE
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 13:14
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for this very interesting question. Could you give us an example from science?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 15:30
  • I did not look for it, but have a look at here: chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/111581/jewish/… maybe that has some information?
    – Shmuel
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 15:40
  • @RabbiKaii regression analysis? (parameters are fixed, which makes predictions possible for new variables)
    – nayriz
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


Modern science concludes that nature is always optimizing. Between two points, light takes the path it can cross in the least time. Soap bubbles form so as to minimize surface area. When an object is subjected to various forces and follows an odd path as a result, that path is the one that minimizes a function called the “action”. Nature gradually makes changes in the make-up of living things to maximize their chances for survival in their environment. In addition, conservation laws tell us that no matter what changes a system undertakes, some things remain invariant: mass-energy, linear and angular momentum, electric charge, other properties of elementary particles, etc.

So why not assume nature optimizes absolutely everything, including matters where human beings are involved? This is where the word “optimism” comes from. It is the belief that everything that happens is somehow for the best. In the Talmud, Rabbi Nachum ish Gamzu always said “Gam zu l'tovah -- This, too, is for the good”. [Taanit 21a] His student Rabbi Akiva preached the same: "כׇּל דְּעָבֵיד רַחֲמָנָא לְטָב עָבֵיד -- Everything God does is for the good." [Berakhot 60b]

  • Purim Torah season hasn't arrived but I wish it had. +1
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 19:25

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