Well, some of you may recall the last time my son stumped me with a complex question. He did it to me again today when he asked me whether God is made of atoms.

I told him I have no idea but that I’d check with some people…

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themiddle

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  • Responses:-

    Ben-David: This question betrays itself as part of the secular- Communist- Marxist plot to destroy Israel.

    JM: This is why we need to have more Jewish babies!!!

    CK: Mmm… Hummus… Aaah Shakshuka!!

    CK: This demonstrates that Orthos Rule and Reform(& Conservative) Drool!
    Barefoot: I find that offensive.
    CK: *(&*(&(*^%^%&*!!!

    Esther: (Makes witty joke showing intimate knowledge of the principles of Torah and the principles of Improv comedy)
    T_M: (Wonders whether he should send his kids to Esther’s yeshiva)

    Joe Schmo: This is obviously a result of not accepting Torah M’Sinai.
    Muffti: You do realize that G_d doesn’t exist right?

    Laya: Dirty Israeli Hippies are HOT!

    Mobius: This is an obvious consequence of the occupation!

    😉

  • I nominate Steve for Jewlicious Soothsayer. Very funny, S.

    Seriously, TM, I think I would say that God can be made of whatever God wants. And then, when the kid said “even chocolate pudding?” I would have to call in a rabbi.

  • ‘Round here we believe G-d is in the empty spaces inside the atom, and everywhere else. So yes, and no. But introducing the idea of subatomic particles without consulting the rabbi might not be the best idea. 😉

  • As it turns out, from my limited engineering-style understanding of atomic physics, atoms are made up of energy, which is an intangible, indefinable phenomenon, kinda like G-d. So is it possible that G-d is an even more basic building block of matter than atoms themselves?

  • What are atoms made of?
    Electrons, protons, neutrons.
    What are electrons, protons, and neutrons made of?
    Quarks.
    What’s a quark?
    A quark (somewhat simplifying for a non-scientific audience) is an unmeasurable theoretical construct. Quarks cannot be studied in isolation. The mass of quarks is dependent, as another poster implied, on the energy environment of the larger particle in which they are contained, and on their “spin”.

    So: first the atomic theory told us that most of the matter we see is empty space between molecules, empty space between atoms, and empty space between electron orbits and nucleus.

    Further study has lead us to the point where the subatomic particles themselves are made up of theoretical, unmeasurable bubble-particles whose spinning energy generates the effect of weight.

    These are tough times to be a materialist.

    Of course, at your kid’s level this is an obvious question – and no doubt the science curriculum is pronounced with great confidence, whereas the somewhat spacey notion that “G-d is everywhere, but unseen” seems less real.

    But we don’t really know what atoms are made of. They remain (almost as) mysterious as G-d.

    It is a great, snappy line to say that “the atoms are made of G-d” – and it has the nice effect of tying together 2 mysterious loose ends quite neatly – but as an Orthodox Jew, I refrain from sentences that confidently state what “G-d is…”, especially when the sentence refers to an aspect of physical reality. G-d is ultimately beyond our comprehension. G-d is unlimited by our limited physical purview.

    So my more theologically acceptable snappy answer is:
    G-d is not made of atoms, G-d made the atoms.

    • Very well explained and i am not religious but feel i am quite spiritual. I absolutely agree with you. G-d is not made of atoms, G-d created atoms.

  • Well, that ought to shut the kid up!

    My favorite conundrum is when my little brother asked my mom if G-d is the same kind of magic as the Easter Bunny. (We were raised secular)

    I don’t think she ever did give him a satisfactory answer. 😉

  • P.S. This vort is best understood by adults only after some a few good drags on a joint. Kids get it though, if not just park him in front of the t.v. and he’ll forget he ever asked.

  • Simple answer: no.

    But, any smart child is going to ask why. So, how about trying the following:

    (1) Atoms have not always existed in the universe. In the early universe, for example, atoms were not present. If God is made of atoms, then God could not have created the universe.

    (2) If God is made of atoms, then God certainly didn’t make those atoms. That something physical exists that God did not create is not consistent with our belief.

    (3) Atoms are physical. Believing that God is made of atoms is that same as believing that God is tangible and physical. Again, we don’t believe that.

    (4) There are many things not made of atoms. Light, for example, is not made of atoms. That would imply that there are things in this universe that are entirely distinct from God and can affect God (for example, break apart God’s atoms). That doesn’t work.

    One could explain that God is not “made” out of anything…in the same way that “love” and “beauty” are not made out of things.

  • Enough science! Please go back to discussing whether or not hummus is jewish anymore, or how kosher Scarlett Johanssen is. And 1.5: Don’t forget about the particle wave duality, k? I’m serious here.

  • Esther, don’t look now, but there’s a huge vort crawling up your back.

    Or, alternately: OHMIGOD, it’s the morning before the Sig Ep party and I woke up with this disgusting vort on my face! Who’s going to want to roofie me now?

    TM, don’t worry, in a few short years he’ll have outgrown the “difficult metaphysical question” stage for the “Hey Dad, can I have the car tonight?” stage.

  • Sorry Esther, just showing off my extensive knowledge of “Yeshivlish”…will use the word “essay” in the future. But Rabbi Aaron’s essays are always “gevaldig” and sorry if you hate that word also.

  • A monk asked Chao-chou, “Has the dog Buddha nature or not?” Chao-chou said, “Mu.”

  • Jewish Mother,
    Can G-d create a rock that he himself can’t lift?

    If yes, then he is limited; if no then he is limited…run your brain in circles on that one.

  • TM is raising a wonderful son.

    This is what I would have said: “G-d is not made of atoms, G-d made the atoms.” – Ben David said that in post # 6.

    Ben-David, do your kids ask this kind of question?

    Comment by Ben-David — 8/1/2005 @ 3:37 am

  • I’d guess that God has much more to do with carrier or exchange particles, such as gluons, photons, and the as-yet-undiscovered Higgs boson. It’s the fundamental forces which are universal.

    But hey, y’all don’t want to talk about physics . . .

  • Chutzpah,

    That old theological “quandary” is nonsense. The phrase “a rock that [God] Himself can’t lift” is a contradiction. A rock is a limited, physical entity, which, by definition, an omnipotent being can lift. You might as well ask: “Can God make the statement ‘If A, then B. If B, then C. Therefore, if A, then C.’ false?” Or better yet: “Can God sdtoidfxidfdoij?” None of these questions even makes sense, because they are either gibberish or self-contradictory. Hardly the source for theological confusion, eh?

  • Tiff,

    “Wave-particle duality?” Um… That wouldn’t make light an atom. It would make light a particle of light. Space isn’t an atom. Time isn’t an atom. God made those. So, how could God be atomic?

  • check out “wrapped in a holy flame” by reb zalman shachter-shalomi. the book gives a basic rundown of the paradigm shift in jewish thought — particularly in the hasidic world — from general deism to pantheism.

    pantheism states that god is everything that is and everything that isn’t; all being and all non-being; all possibility and every lack thereof. god is every atom and every space between atoms. the secret of the universe is that we are all god manifest in this moment, but engineered to be ignorant of our divinity, yet vigilant seekers of that divinity. we navigate existence somewhere between the umbilical cord being cut and remaining intact. such are the tensions which keep this narrow bridge aloft.

  • For all we know, heaven is the reason for “dark matter”.

    My Muslim associate takes the position that he has so much to do worrying about his relationship with G-d that he doesn’t have time to worry about what G-d is made of or where G-d lives. Of course, he’s a grown-up and this is a child’s question…

  • another way of looking at it is from the kabbalistic angle: god contracted — withdrew himself — to make room for the universe. but what god make the universe from when there is nothing in existence and non-existence other than god itself. our creation is like the munchkin resulting from god’s poking a whole in itself. god took the sephirot — 10 eminations of god’s slef — and shattered them to create the universe. this is all god. to make a tikkun is to recognize this — to see the grand divinity, the holiness in everything, the god-nature of all existence — and to draw it forth, to call it out, to make it known, and to elevate it.

    god is an atom. and god is you too.

  • er “but what god make the universe from when there is nothing in existence and non-existence other than god itself” should be “but what COULD god make the universe from…”

  • I’m not saying light is atomic! I can’t remember what I was thinking but I’ll try. Umm, maybe that since there is a little bit of energy in our matter and a little bit of particle in our energy, maybe god is mostly wavelike but also has ummm, some momentum. But again, like all of you here, I have no idea what the composition of god is. So far I have concluded from the above comments: god is neither time, a vacuum, particulate, or light. So that leaves…nothing? Nope we already ruled out vacuum. Or maybe light is still in the running…Yup, I have no idea what I’m talking about.

  • To clarify a bit on space, time, matter, and energy:

    Reb Einshtein 🙂 demonstrated that space and time are better understood as a single fabric of ‘space-time’ in his Special Theory of Relativity. Actually, this year is the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s “Miraculous Year”, but I digress… Also, his famous equation of E = m*c^2 demonstrated that there’s a fundamental and proportional relationship between matter (m) and energy (E). Experiments on the “wave-particle duality” demonstrate this dual nature of matter. The current work in theoretical physics is trying to reconcile these two relationships (represented by Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity), which would equate space, time, matter, and energy into one all-encompassing system, or a ‘Unified Theory of Everything’.

    On that note, I would state that my view, which I borrow from Reb Aryeh Kaplan (himself a noted physicist), that a belief in HaShem isn’t exclusive of a scientific understanding of the world around us.

    Also, there is a (Chassidic?) Jewish teaching that HaShem didn’t “create” the world in the sense of a discrete moment in the past, but is constantly creating the world, so that everything around us is constantly proppped up by HaShem. And that if this effort was stopped for an instant, all would be gone. So, HaShem isn’t atomic, HaShem didn’t merely create all atoms and then walked away, but is constantly making it possible for all of the universe to exist through continuous support. Apologies if I’ve butchered this teaching…

  • Thanks E, but I think you are a much better soothsayer than I.

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned the critical relevance of 11-dimensional Kaluza-Klein String Theory to resolving this question.

    Also the curvature of the space-time continuum in General Relativity seems quite important here.

    You see if the curvature is positive then obviously G_d exists (because G_d is positive, DUH!!) but if it is negative then all bets are off.

    Of course that doesn’t take into account the ramifications of The Uncertaintly Principle…

  • On a more serious note, it seems easier to think of God as being outside the universe.

    If the Universe started from a very small point in the Big Bang, then presumably there could exist things outside of the universe?

    Since we have no way of observing outside our universe we have no way of knowing what kind of materials God might be made of. God can see and affect everything but is not necessarily composed of the same materials as those we see around us.

    It would be like me making an intricate mechanical clock. I can see and move every part of the clock, but the clock is made of metallic alloys and I am made of organic units(cells).

    Of course in that case both are ultimately made up of atoms but that wouldn’t have to be the case with God and the Universe.

  • Tiff, If nothing else, your getting flustered about God’s wave-particle duality was kinda cute.

  • Whoa, Steve, slow down. When the universe was created, according to physical theory, as well as mainstream Jewish belief, that creation included the creation of space and time as well. Hence, the concepts of “before the big bang” or “outside the universe” are nonsensical. When the universe was infinitesimally small, all space was still contained within. There was no physical outside.

    The important thing to note, here, is that space, time, matter, and energy are all “creations.” If God is a Creator, He cannot be made of (solely) of creation.

    Plus, Steve, you are dipping into a deist model: God as entirely transcendent–beyond the universe. That model is like the watchmaker God of the rationalists. That is the opposite of pantheism–God as entirely immanent–that is, God is the sum total of universe and no more. Mobius, you make a little mistake in referring to Hasidic belief as pantheist. Hasidism, especially Lubavitch, adheres to a panentheistic belief, which you describe somewhat aptly. Panentheism holds that nothing exists other than God. Everything that is, was, etc. exists as an extension or projection of God. Traditional Judaism is theistic, believing in a God both present and personal in the universe and transcending it. Panentheism is not necessarily non-theistic, I believe.

    How about this? God created it all: space, time, matter, energy, the laws of nature, etc. We understand those laws to be constant; hence, the success of Western science. But, God also maintains everything. Without God, nothing could continue existing. God provides the order, the transcendent glue which makes it such that the universe does not hop around chaotically, changing its rules by the minute. That powerful Creator and his unifying force are “Y-H-V-H”, that source of all being that is and was that we pray to. On the other hand, we humans have managed to achieve consciousness, able to see the order and unity in the universe. The result of that high level of thought is that we perceive God and feel commanded. We see ourselves as bound by God to behave in particular fashion. That aspect of God, knowable and commanding, is “Elokim.” And we Jews consider those aspects, transcendent and immanent, universally powerful, natural, and creating, and personal, commanding, and loving, Y-H-V-H and Elokim to be one Being.

    Of course, TM, don’t try that on the kid.

  • I’m supposed to be a scientist, too. Does that preclude my being cute? I’ll have to ask my wife tonight.

  • “Cute in general” and interested in wave particles!

    Wow.

    Can you make cholent?

    We have some very intelligent people here who talk in the third person because their brains are so full. Would you mind that? Probably wouldn’t do it at home.

  • Interesting discussion so far. But I do think at least some of the point is being missed by some commenters. First of all, at this point he doesn’t know that there are building blocks to atoms. He thinks atoms are the smallest building block of the universe and that everything from the air to the house windows is made from atoms. We can get into electrons, I guess, but then he’d simply ask whether God was made of electrons.

    The second point is that the question is a superb one. I’m not trying to flatter him here, rather to say that this question truly encompasses our understanding of what God is. Is God a physical being? Then God is made of atoms. If so, who created atoms and God? If God isn’t a physical being, how does God exist in our world? What part of matter is God? Can there be anti-matter or non-matter?

    In some ways, of course, this leads us to the question of God’s existence. However, my son was not questioning that at all and I will frame my response to him accordingly.

    Steve, your condensed Jewlicious post #2 was very funny.

    Ck, you chicken, answer the question instead of feeding me pablum. You think my son would be satisfied with your answer? “Son, God is when I look in your eyes.” “Daddy, I know, but that’s not what I asked. Is God made of atoms?”

  • God provides the order, the transcendent glue which makes it such that the universe does not hop around chaotically, changing its rules by the minute. — 1.5 opinions

    I think that your comment stands in contrast to the uncanny randomness of the world, on the particle scale, as predicted by quantum theory. This ‘disorder’ so disturbed Einstein that he made the famous quote (as I also saw on Jewschool; good job Mobius), “G-d does not play dice with the universe”, to voice his disbelief in the predictions of QM.

  • Oh my God, she is NOT trying to set up ck’s sister with Muffti. First she tries me and Laya, now Tiff and Muffti? Jewish Mother, don’t you have some cholent to make or something? Never too early to get a jump start on Shabbat.

  • Did I dig without a map and strike sister? SORRY. Didn’t know.

    Just because I favor weddings does not mean I favor DANCING.

  • Taltman: Did you ever see the die rolling simulation that ALL first year science profs use? Well, the result is a guassian distribution. So even though each outcome in itself is equally probable or random, there is still a most probable total outcome. Like when roling two dies, there are lots more ways to get a sum of 6(3&3, 4&2, 5&1) than a sum of 2 (only 1&1)…So, well we can kinda resolve randomness and disorder and the fact that some outcomes are still favored…But it’s been so long since stat. mech. and even longer since gen. chem., so please anyone feel free to correct me…
    JM: Sorry to disappoint but I HATE kitten heels and I can’t make cholent. Anyways, cholent is yucky.

  • (I know. But it is very convenient to come home to already cooked if done right. You must be one of those shakshuka women. I will make that one of these days when the weather cools off so I don’t mind lighting a fire to scorch the peppers. The rest of what you said was totally over my head. Oh, and dancing is great, I was just running away from Michael because he frightened me. Don’t tell anybody.)

  • Well, the result is a guassian distribution. — Tiff

    Since the event-space is discrete, I believe that it would be a binomial or hypergeometric probability distribution, actually. 🙂 But I know what you’re getting at. I definitely am not one to flout quantum mechanics by claiming that it predicts a chaotic universe. For given problems and scales, the quantum wave function collapses to a very stable prediction of the outcome. But that’s for some cases, other cases can be quite bizarre, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog. 😉

  • taltman,

    Quantum mechanics, for all the randomness inherent in it, has been one of the most powerful predictive tools ever thought up. Quantum mechanics underlies most technologies we now use in our everyday lives. It’s randomness is, as Tiff pointed out, quite probabilistic and repeatable.

    Thank God. 😉

  • Really.

    I can’t SEE you lot. I have NO idea of anybody’s age. I just feel the souls a little, or at least I think I do. My quantum is still pretty good but my mechanics are not what they were.

  • taltman:
    Hypergeometric??? Damn, that’s a big, crazy word! But I am intrigued…Where else, besides the calssical limit, does the quantum wave function collapse?

  • Tiff:
    Off the top of my head, I believe that the two-body/particle problem can be solved exactly using QM. There are many more, though. Here’s a link which probably would do a better job of offering explanations and examples than I would:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavefunction_collapse

    1.5 opinions:
    I would only differ with you with the notion that, “Quantum mechanics underlies most technologies we now use in our everyday lives.” QM explains a lot of phenomena that are utilized in our everyday lives, but there are relatively few technologies that are widespread which were enabled due to our understanding and manipulation of QM in their construction or utilization.

  • “Son, G-d made everything. G-d made atoms. G-d is made of spirit. He is not made of anything that can be touched or seen. We will talk about this some more, any time you want. People talk about this a lot even when they are grown up and even when they are old and know a lot.”

    Say that.

  • Far-out Chassidic thought and far-out quantum mechanics meld very nicely!

    But we must watch out for reductionism and scientism! To explain is not to explain away.

    You SEE how much fun it is to raise children?

  • And it is especially important not to fall into a Cartesian well. I pray, therefore I am, froggy.

  • Does that mean people who don’t pray don’t exist? Somebody tell Muffti. It’s going to be hard to set him up with Tiff if he’s immaterial.

  • T_M:
    I would explain it by means of an analogy: “Son, HaShem is a power greater than ourselves, so it is hard for us, even adults, to understand HaShem. For example, you see ants on the ground. How aware are they of humans? How much do they understand about who we are, and why we do the things we do? In the same sense that it is hard for that ant to understand our lives, so much more is it hard for we as humans to understand the nature of HaShem.”

    This concept was recently popularized in a film called, “The Mothman Prophecies”.

    My apologies if this analogy offends anyone’s anthropomorphic sensibilities. 😉

  • Muffti tried to stay out of this ridiculous fascinating discussion but JM dragged him in. Please, please, please don’t ever use the expression ‘ol Muff’ in order to refer to Muffti 🙂

    Are you guys using God as the ultimate observer who ensures collapse (sort of like a hyper modernized version of Berkeley)? Muffti is totally confused.

    And Michael, as Muffti tells logic students, please don’t commit the fallacy of denying the antecedent. From:
    If one prays, they exist
    and
    Muffti doesn’t pray
    you cannot validly derive
    Muffti doesn’t exist.

    Muffti isn’t immaterial. Only what he says is.

  • taltman: Yeah, the only problem that can be solved exactly is a 2-body system…but what I meant to say was how I am intrigued by the “bizarre” scenarios you alluded to. So like, do you mean everything besides the hydrogen atom doesn’t have a predictable outcome? Because, with a few assumptions, the solutions to all the problems I’m familiar approximate the physics pretty darn well….But, I’m far from an expert on the subject.
    JM: I would never let my shakshuka burn! But maybe I’d drop it while stumbling around in my kitten heels…

  • Are you guys using God as the ultimate observer who ensures collapse (sort of like a hyper modernized version of Berkeley)? Muffti is totally confused. — Muffti

    At least that is not what I am trying to say. I eschew the “G-d of the Gaps” notion that might lead one to think, “Oh, unless we want to believe in the ‘many-worlds’ interpretation of QM, let’s introduce G-d as the ‘grand observer'”.

    The ‘Many-Worlds’ interpretation of QM:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation

    Also, from my 5 years living in Berkeley, CA, I would definitely not portray it as ‘hyper modernized’ in a philosophical sense (yeah, yeah, I know that you were referring to the city’s namesake). 🙂 I mean, look at those photos from the Berkeley protest post! Actually, don’t look. *Sigh*, saw waaaaay too much of that while a student there…

  • Taltman, that is going to be the cop-out, backup answer. It’s not saying anything about the nature of God other than he’s too great to know or understand. It certainly doesn’t address a very legitimate question.

    “Dad, is Ol’ Muff made of atoms?”

    “Well son, I’d answer but Ol’ Muff is too great for us peons to understand, just like a fly doesn’t know that it is lounging on a huge Picasso portait of one of his ex-wives, we have no idea what painting we’re on except that it ain’t Picasso’s but God’s.”

    I don’t think this will hold his curious mind for long.

  • G-d is the fundamental forces that govern the behavior or particles; not the particles themselves.

  • but what I meant to say was how I am intrigued by the “bizarre” scenarios you alluded to. — Tiff

    This was the best part of my QM class, the paradoxes!

    The EPR paradox:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPR_paradox
    (implies faster-than-the-speed-of-light communication)

    Schroedinger’s Cat paradox:
    http://www.mtnmath.com/faq/meas-qm-3.html

    Time-travel:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_travel

    Teleportation:
    http://www.research.ibm.com/quantuminfo/teleportation/

    A caveat: not all of these are truly paradoxes (they just dictate that sub-atomic reality doesn’t conform to the assumptions that we make about our macroscopic existence), and not all of them are 100% substantiated. Also, note that most of this applies to the world at the atomic / sub-atomic scale, not at the ‘macroscopic’ scale that we inhabit.

  • I don’t want to re-get into all of this but you can look at https://jewlicious.com/?p=1127
    where it has already been gone through.

    In short you tell him similar to what taltman, ben-david, 1.5 opinions and others said.

    Tell him: “G-d is not made of atoms or anything you know about in the world. He created and continues to create them- and you.
    Even though we don’t know His exact nature we know for sure he is not made up of anything physical because He created everything physical” You can also give an analogy of a deaf person from birth who can never comprehend what a song is having no experience to compare it too. That is why we can’t comprehend G-d even we can know things that He certainly cannot be.

    I want to point out something interesting and important to note:
    TM said “In some ways, of course, this leads us to the question of God’s existence. However, my son was not questioning that at all …”
    -Note that G-ds existence is not even a question;
    children ask good questions and are naturally intuitive. Its a given to the chold that there is a G-d in this world. Its only later when people start getting all types of ideas in their mind and try to answer questions such as why do bad people have it good or after trying to study theories of some philosopher- only then later can they slowly change what is really something obvious.

    Children are smart.

    In either case I’m going to bow out of this one -I’ve already had my share in the link above(unless Im directly addressed) and wish everyone a good week.

  • Yo Jew Speak… nice post for August 1st. Totally off topic I know, but still, you have no comments on your blog so I wrote it here.

  • Thanks for highlighting that, ck. Nice post, Jew Speak!

    Hey Schmo, children can’t all be smart, some are and some are not. Children are, however, innocent and uninformed about the world and its hardships. When my son asks about death, he thinks it’s a person lying in the mud for all time. He doesn’t understand what it means and as a result cannot fathom what it means for a whole family to be destroyed by a soldier killing them simply because they are of a certain faith.

    When he does understand this, he will ask me, “Daddy, where was God?” Or he will ask, “If God was there, why did he let this happen.”

    How will I answer those questions?

  • Muffti wants no part of this one either; but he found what Joe said interesting regarding children and God. Muffti isn’t very sure that children would generally believe in God if they weren’t told too; however, he did see an intersting story (with a downloadable study embedded inside it) on how children’s concept of God’s mind differs markedly from their concepts of human minds. This suggests that even children don’t understand God by extrapolating from their model of human minds. See: here if you are interested (and download the study here)

  • I admit that I sometimes see god in the ocean. But what do I do when I see a tsunami kill tens (hundreds) of thousands, including many innocent children? What do I think when war causes innocent and good people to die, or for cancer to kill loved ones? For some these bring out deeper faith, but for some it simply depersonalizes god or causes disbelief in her existence.

    And Muffti, why do you want no part of this?

  • Nature is a veil. You can learn a lot about the craftsman by examining the work, but the craftsman is not the work.

    Middle – if I understand correctly, you’re willing to feel awe at G-d’s incredible power, what bothers is the seeming lack of justice and/or mercy.

    But the veil of nature has been specifically created to obscure G-d’s presence, to introduce and make plausible the notion that there is no morality, that all is random. That is the purpose of the material creation – it is also the purpose our souls go through this period of being inseparably wrapped in a physical body.

    Don’t expect to find the higher, transcendent values – justice, mercy, and other expressions of unity – in the physical world, or in your own physical sensations and drives.

    The goal is to transcend this material reality – and to elevate it by living by transcendent rules.

  • First answer the question. Atoms are things. Very small things, but things. G can not be made of things. He’s way more impressive than that.

    Be prepared for the next question. What is G made of? Give the honest answer. I dont know. (viz moshe ben maimon).

  • If this question generated so many comments I can’t wait to hear what you are going to tell him when he asks you what sex is and if God has it…or do you and Mommy!?

  • ONCE AGAIN – Jsirpicco is CALLED IN to solve YET ANOTHER JELICIOUS PROBLEM…MAN – The answer is: Read: The Hidden Face of God by Gerald Shroeder. Period. (not that 5 year old will understand it, or even a 35 year old…but it sounds good to say, Oh – you MUST read the HIDDEN FACE OF GOD!!! He addresses this question so well!

  • “Hey Schmo, Children are, however, innocent and uninformed about the world and its hardships. When my son asks about death, he thinks it’s a person lying in the mud for all time. He doesn’t understand what it means and as a result cannot fathom what it means for a whole family to be destroyed by a soldier killing them simply because they are of a certain faith.”

    –Thats my point. Children are fresh without emotional baggage. The simple knoledge that there is a G-d and what troubles you about people being killed are not related. Why people got killed is an unrelated question which if you don’t know why what does it show? Nothing just that you don’t know.

    When we deal with adults we often have to deal with conclusions reached that are a result of emotion not only logic. You say ‘innocent and uninformed about the world’ in a negative way but I see it as positive as the thought is not yet Befuddled by emotion.

  • Of course, along with God, children also believe in the tooth fairy, easter bunny, boogy man, ghosts and just about anything else. Muffti probably wouldn’t take them as the ultimate guide to truth about what exists.

  • Well, eventually they come to know that their belief in such entities was a little hasty. But they certainly believe they exist when they are young.

    The rumours of the tooth fairies non-existence have been largely exagerated, B-D. Doon’t worry.

    (Actually, Muffti has a funny story about the brief period of time he started believing in Santa Clause when he was younger because, to his amazement, his non-jewish cousins predicted that there would be presents under their christmas tree. Muffti stayed over with his cousins and to his amazement, there were gifts waiting for everyone. Muffti had not yet learned to consider the plausibility of alternative explanations.)

  • taltman,

    If you are still in on this discussion, let me point out that you are stuck thinking of Quantum Mechanics as some nice, powerful theoretical physics. It has been estimated, however, that technologies from QM drive at least 30% of our Gross National Product.

    Allow me to quote Leon Lederman (Nobel Laureate in Physics):
    “Without that understanding, we would never have had transistors and therefore microprocessors, and the whole microelectronics revolution wouldn’t have taken place. Our computers wouldn’t be what they are. The biotechnology revolution was catalyzed by Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, which was stimulated by a book by [Austrian physicist] Erwin Schrödinger on the quantum theory of large molecules. The core products of twenty-first-century technology–electronics, computers, biotech–all relate directly to an understanding of quantum theory.”

    Yes, your computer, your blog, your cell phone, your, well, you get the point, are all products of the quantum revolution. Without QM, they wouldn’t exist.

    My point? QM is not some weird, paradox and randomness-filled theory that has muddled our understanding of the universe. QM has allowed us to control and explore the universe in greater ways than ever before.

    I hope God’s proud of us for that particular advancement.

  • Thanks T_M, I am working on a jewlicious for dummies 😉

    1.5 #32

    Whoa, Steve, slow down. When the universe was created, according to physical theory, as well as mainstream Jewish belief, that creation included the creation of space and time as well. Hence, the concepts of “before the big bang” or “outside the universe” are nonsensical. When the universe was infinitesimally small, all space was still contained within. There was no physical outside.

    Very interesting. So basically you are saying that TIME, SPACE etc. did not exist before God created them, so the question of what was God doing BEFORE creation or WHERE God was are non-sensical(like dancing to architecture or something like that)? Very interesting.

    (Parenthetical: Could God have created himself/herself?!)

    This still doesn’t answer the question of WHAT God is made of and whether God is made of the same material as our universe.

    Is Pantheism or Panentheism the traditional Jewish view? Does anyone have any sources on this?

    Oy. My head is hurting.

    T_M, perhaps you should just tell the kid you don’t know and nobody knows and hope he forgets about it;)

  • Umm, that blockquote should have ended after the first paragraph.

    Sigh, why doesn’t WordPress have preview again?

  • Steve,

    According to “physics”–yes, time and space were created in the Big Bang. I believe that is also the “mainstream” traditional Jewish approach as well, if there is such a thing.

    Neither pantheism nor panentheism are the traditional Jewish view. Pantheism is considered to border on nature idolatry by many traditional sources. Spinoza was one proponent of pantheism. Panentheism is more of a kabbalistic, hassidic theology. It is more in line with traditional theism than is pantheism.

    Pantheism: God is the sum total of “creation,” the universe.
    Panentheism: Nothing exists but God. Creation is but one aspect of God, though God is much more than just “creation.”
    Theism: Creation exists seperate from God. God is involved in the created universe but exists independent of it.

  • Mufti,
    quote: (Actually, Muffti has a funny story about the brief period of time he started believing in Santa Clause when he was younger because, to his amazement, his non-jewish cousins predicted that there would be presents under their christmas tree. Muffti stayed over with his cousins and to his amazement, there were gifts waiting for everyone. Muffti had not yet learned to consider the plausibility of alternative explanations.)

    –I see that you’ve come a long way since those days. At least then you understood that you needed an alternative – you understood enough not to say that the gifts came by themselves.
    But now you just say the world came by itself.

    Its the emotional baggage I am talking about – that can allow someone to say things that they never would have said before.

  • God is not made of anything. Everything is made from God. it seems obvious to me that all things are extensions from a single, primordial source of being.

    Anything you can name “atom”, “ball”, “star”, “galaxy”, “God” must be an object of thought which corresponds to some restricted portion of the overall space-time of the World.

    And the more you know about one aspect of something, the less you know about its other aspects: is light a particle or a wave? Both. Neither. Yes and no. It is not controversial from a hard science perspective to say that all objects are “made of” matter and energy that exist not as absolute reality, but as a field of probability that responds to the consciousness of the observer.

    Ideas inherent in thermodynamics, quantum theory, and cosmology really force you to see God as a more Eastern than Western being: integrated in all things as opposed to above and apart from the universe. Atoms are merely one face (phase?) of God.

  • It’s a RELIGION. We are allowed to believe the non-provable. Relax! You won’t fail the exam!

    We can say to the kid, “G-d is spirit. Not made of anything you can touch. Spirit is like your thoughts and feelings. Those aren’t made of atoms but they are important.”

    Now I am braced for a lecture on the biology of mind.

  • (Of course He can. Maimonides’s said that G-d is first and last, and doesn’t need anything else to exist, to exist.

    However, maybe I should start the cholent.)

  • Oh, Schmo, Muffti hopes you know how much Muffti likes you despite your occassional lapse into sheer goofiness 🙂

    I see that you’ve come a long way since those days. At least then you understood that you needed an alternative – you understood enough not to say that the gifts came by themselves.
    But now you just say the world came by itself.

    Muffti thinks that’s a hypothesis worth considering and probably true. YOU say that God just came by itself. So we all have to say taht something was JUST THERE and not brought by anything.

  • OK Mufti let’s rephrase comment 86:

    I see that you’ve come a long way since those days. At least then you understood that you needed an alternative – you understood enough not to say that the gifts came by themselves.
    You didn’t need to know the nature of the alternatives or where they came from to know that that the gifts did not come by themselves.

    -But now you just say the world came by itself.
    Why? Because you don’t understand the nature of the alternative.

    Its the emotional baggage I am talking about – that can allow someone to say things they never would have said before.

  • Muffti-
    The physicists now tell us that not just matter appeared out of nowhere, but so did space and time.

    Time as we conceive it did not exist “before” the Big Bang – the word “before” is in quotes because it is only relevant to the reality that appeared with the Big Bang.

    So: why are you worrying about what came “before” G-d? You are applying an irrelevant conceptual framework to a reality that is uncomprehensible in terms of space, time, or matter.

    And because our thought is heavily influenced – or even limited – by the space-time-matter frame of reference that is our reality, you are forcing a “rational” answer to a question basically unanswerable by human reason.

    You insist (for emotional reasons, I suspect – there are many nowadays who have a religious faith in science and rationality) on asserting the supramacy of your rational mind in an area where the scientists themselves take care not to tread.

  • Oy, JS and B-D,

    Muffti isn’t worry about anything! He made one simple point: if we are too avoid an endless regression of ‘what made what’, something had to just be. And there has to be no explanation of why the thing that just was was there insofar as that explanation points to something outside of itself.

    Muffti says ‘here’s how Muffti thinks it started. No act of creation before or during time. Just matter and time are there. AsBD rightly says, there is no sense in asking what came BEFORE.’ Here’s what you say: God exists and then the world does after him.

    The point? Unlike the christmas gifrts, something had to exist without anything created it. You say it was God, Muffti says it was the world itself. Advantage on this issue? No one.

  • I apologize Mufti but your argument is illogical.

    We went through this before https://jewlicious.com/?p=1127

    I don’t want to retype all of that but I’ll repeat my analogy with children in a little clearer way- after that you will do what you want. Hopefully you let your mind win over your emotional desire that there not be a being that knows all your actions and that will hold you and all flesh accountable in the end.

    Children see things and they ask how did that happen? What made it? When there is a gift they understand intuitively that something put it there- but they don’t know how or why. At 4 yrs old they see that they get food on the table- they know that their parents provide it. They haven’t yet seen stores and have no idea that their parents bought it – but they intuitively know that it didn’t come by itself and that their parents provided it. It is irrelevant how their parents got it- they have no idea how. Would they think that since they don’t know that therefore maybe the food came by itself? Of course not.

    Later on they understand about stores and at 8 they know that the food is first bought and then prepared – do they understand about farms and that the bread was originally a form of grass? No. Does that stop them from knowing that it came from stores and was then prepared for them? No their not knowing how it got to the stores does not lead to think that it just was in the stores-they know it was placed there somehow. They get older say 12 and understand that it first grows as grass-stalks and then threshed. Never does the child in any of the stages think that it just got there -they knew that it couldn’t be there by itself they just didn’t yet know how.

    I am that child. I’m just older and at the point that I know about the farm and the threshing. I even know about plowing, planting and fertilizing. But I still don’t understand how and why the stalks appear and grow just because a seed gets water and fertilization. I have no idea why that happens. I know that its not by itself even though I don’t yet know how.

  • Muffti wrote:
    something had to exist without anything created it. You say it was God, Muffti says it was the world itself.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    But the scientists say that space, time and matter most definitely did not always exist. They say that these… things, concepts, dimensions WERE CREATED at the Big Bang.

    So can Muffti please clarify what he means by “the world” in the passage above – since the only “world” we know of definitely did not exist as a first cause – not just the matter in it, but the very dimensions of space and time. The reality of it.

    So: what “world” always existed as a first cause?

  • “I don’t understand, thex. Can God exists w/ out atoms?”

    No. Because that would be a little like saying a rain storm can exist without raindrops. My view is that all things are essential: every person, every grain of sand, everything that exists is necessary to God.

    And when I say “God” I am not talking about some guy with a white beard. I am talking about the thing that the Taoists were smart enough to call “The Way” and say of it “The way which can be named is not The Way.” That kind of poetic strangeness is what I have come to feel is the underlying essence of divinity: comedic and tragic, loving and hostile, beautiful and terrible: never one thing without its opposite.

    And there is no place in space or time in which the underlying (overarching?) meta-reality of God-being does not extend. If you want a kind of taste for my conception of divine nature, read a little Baruch de Spinoza.

    One heretical question is: if there are other universes, with potentially different conditions/Laws, is the God there the same as God here? I would think not, because I feel that God is the essence of all Being, and as such is restricted to the shell of this Universe.

    Another question: if ideas can represent things that could never exist in our universe (ie: lies, fantasies, etc.), then can’t we say that the realm of ideas only intersects with the realm of being, not that they are necessarily the same thing? If anything is possible in the imagination, and yet the world of being (physical reality) has many restrictions on what can exist, then are they really co-existent in the same Universe? Where does God live, then, in our minds, or in Nature?

    I will take the reverse postion from most people and say that the true divinity exists in Nature. I think most people would say that God only exists in our heads: I think the opposite: that our ideas only touch on that source of Truth when they are adequate and correct, and usually incompletely even then.

    Our words games are like a dance around the a Maypole, and it is only in the dancing that we wind ever closer to what we are talking about.

  • …oh, do Taoists have Maypoles? How very interesting.

    The name of this blog is Jewlicious. It’s about Judaism. Jews don’t believe that G-d needs the world – certainly not the material aspects of the world. G-d is not a storm that depends on any of *our* raindrops, or grains of sand, or ideas… or, uh, Maypoles.

  • jobber,
    I don’t understand. If God needed the atoms becasue the atoms are God as you are saying – does that mean that if there were more atoms in the world there would be more God?
    Clarify.

  • If theoretically half the world (with the atoms) ceased to exist does that mean that we have a
    half-god left? You see my confusion?

  • You’re right, Schmo. We shouldn’t do this again. Muffti was pretty sure we said about as much as we could. Muffti was making a very limited point: everyone who doesn’t think that there was no beginning to the universe has to say that something existed for all of time. Muffti says it was space and time that resulted from the big bang, so whatever the big bang resulted from (infinitely dense matter? 1.5, what dot he physicists say these days?) was the thing that was there at the beginning and nothing else. Theists say that God was there. Eitehr way, something had to just be without explanation of how it got there, right? See, very limited. No need to rehash all we have been through because we will just clash again over the one premise we didn’t agree with in the first place: that we can know that everythign physical has a cause.

    BD, you asked:

    So can Muffti please clarify what he means by “the world” in the passage above – since the only “world” we know of definitely did not exist as a first cause – not just the matter in it, but the very dimensions of space and time. The reality of it.
    So: what “world” always existed as a first cause?

    Muffti’s appologies: he was using slightly archaic terminology. He didn’t mean earth. He meant that the universe, given that it has a beginning (and not an infintely stretched back series of contractions and expansions) started with the big bang and nothing preceded it, so whatever matter was around in the beginning, that was what came first and was ungiven.

    These things, of course, are very hard to speak of coherently because, as you point out, we can’t really speak of what happened ‘before’ the universe began to exist. It simply doen’t make sense given that the fabric of space time begins there. So in the end we will end up speaking paradoxically. But it’s equally paradoxical to say taht there was nothing and then there was something. So, in a sense, the universe has always existed since ‘always’ just means ‘at all times in the past’ and given that time begins when the universe begins, its around for all time. Ok, that wasn’t so coherent but Muffti isgonna leave it.

  • quote: “Either way, something had to just be without explanation of how it got there, right?”
    -Sorry Mufti you just don’t get it. You are saying something had to ‘just be’ but I am not saying that. You are not understanding MY limited point. I am a child who doesn’t know how it started- I recognize that there is more out there than what I comprehend- you see I am not claiming like you that the world just started.
    When I (or theists as you term it) use the term G-d it not a thing I can comprehend like a ‘big bang and whatever matter there was before that’.
    I am like the 5 year old who asks mommy and daddy how did I get here? To the child it appears that he just somehow came since he has no concept how it started. I am just like that. When I use the term G-d it in fact means ‘I don’t know how or why but I know there is something-if I don’t know it I am satisfied maybe later I will know.’
    You on the other hand attempt encapsulate what you can’t comprehend and say I do comprehend: ‘it just happened’- something which is obviously impossible!

    So the distinction between us is not that you say matter just is and I say G-d just is. No that’s because you misunderstand what I mean by G-d.

    The accurate distinction is you say that you say that there is nothing beyond your comprehension and therefore matter just is. Whereas I recognize that I am but a child and not everything do I comprehend. I know that there is something -more I can’t claim to know.

  • Muffti wrote:
    we can’t really speak of what happened ‘before’ the universe began to exist. It simply doen’t make sense given that the fabric of space time begins there. So in the end we will end up speaking paradoxically. But it’s equally paradoxical to say taht there was nothing and then there was something.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Yet that is what the physicists say. You asked 1.5 to help you out:

    whatever the big bang resulted from (infinitely dense matter? 1.5, what dot he physicists say these days?) was the thing that was there at the beginning and nothing else.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    … but the physicists will tell you space, time and matter all appeared ex nihilo, something-from-nothing, at the Big Bang.

    Not only was there no primordial matter before the Big Bang. There was not even a CONCEPT of matter, nor a CONCEPT of 3 dimensional space in which what we call matter can occupy volume. There was no volume.

    And no time to sense or measure anything’s existence.

    Neither 1.5 nor the physicists can help you formulate your primordial matter, muffti – because all our physical sciences are based on measurements of space, time, and matter – that is, they study our reality. They have traced that reality back to its origins. “Beyond” or “before” that point of creation – none of the tools of physics apply because THERE IS NOTHING REFLECTING OUR REALITY TO STUDY.

    No primordial playdough – or even a primordial empty room – or even a primordial moment of existence/awareness.

    So when you write:

    whatever matter was around in the beginning, that was what came first and was ungiven.
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    There was no matter, or space for it to exist, or time for it to be given or ungiven.

    No reality as we know it – and then suddenly our reality appeared. None of our science or intelligence can penetrate past that point of creation, because all our tools (including our brains) are inherently rooted in our reality. And that did not exist before the Big Bang.

    The only people who can describe what “existed” before – and what “existence” even meant! – are the mystics and the poets. Here’s what our Sages say:

    “And there was evening and morning, Day One.”
    Why does the Torah say ‘Day One’ instead of the more grammatical ‘The First Day’? Because at the time of creation, G-d was alone in his “Olam”.

    How to translate Olam in this context?
    Universe?
    Reality?

    Muffti – there was no primordial playdough. No playroom. And no time for recess.

    And that’s what the physicists say, not the Rabbis.

    Get it?

  • JS,
    I don’t know that it makes sense to speak of “more” God. For example, the universe is getting bigger and bigger over time, so does that mean that God is changing in size? I don’t think so, because God would be timeless, so temporal changes that seem important to us would already be integrated into the eternal nature of God.

    In a way, I suppose, I believe God is “already” existing in the future as much as God is “still” existing in the past. Our perception of the universe based on our individual and collective points of view leads us to think that we are at the center of time and space, but I think that is an illusion created by the ego.

    Personally I believe that the determination to scientifically prove or unprove God has two sides. He doesn’t exist and that’s that. Or, he does exist, but it’s somewhat like the Tower of Bable where God changed the circumstances (their languages) and the population was not able to achieve their goals of obtaining God or the proof that he exists, since God’s entire premise in many religions is based on the prospect of faith. Either you have it or you don’t and who cares about the people who believe otherwise.

  • jobber I really didn’t follow you. If you are saying that more atoms does not mean more God and destoying atoms does not diminish God then why are you connecting God to atoms?

    In other words if half the atoms disappear God doesn’t diminish; if 3/4 diappear the same and if there is 1 atom left God didn’t dimish according to you…wouldn’t it follow that if the last atom disappeared God still didn’t diminish?

  • BD,

    Look, we both slip into paradox. As you say:

    No reality as we know it – and then suddenly our reality appeared.
    That’s not quite right by your own lights, at least not insofar as ‘then’ means what it normally means (i.e. temporal sequence). We all want to say ‘there’s a beginning and BEFORE it…’ and it’s impossible if there is no space time before hand. So Muffti wasn’t putting things well because there isn’t really any good way to put it: the universe was always there because there was no pre-there to talk about. Muffti is still putting it badly however.

  • “The universe was always there because there was no pre-there to talk about.”
    – – – – – – – – – – –

    Assuming that by “universe” you mean “a reality that cannot be comprehended or described by us”.

    If by “universe” you mean our reality of space, time, and matter, then the physicists and cosmologists have basically proven that it was NOT “always there.”

    From within the bubble of our material reality, we can figure out that this bubble itself had (what we call) a beginning.

    But we cannot say anything about the reality outside our “universe” – outside the bubble of space, time, and matter.

    I get the impression that muffti is desperately afraid to admit that the great beyond is unknowable, that how our bubble Big Banged into existence is inexplicable, that the physicists – upon whose science all other science depends – have admitted they have reached an impenetrable barrier.

    This is a common problem in an age that has replace religion with the veneration of science and technology. It is particularly common among a sort of young person who embraces staunch rationalism in their 20s and 30s, while trying to hash out a personal philosophy.

    But it’s true: the physicists themselves have called into doubt the solidity – and demolished the absolute reality – of matter, space and time.

    If previous generations could rely confidently on science and rational thought – and used that support to bolster “irrational, primitive” religious notions and moral strictures – that is no longer possible today, when science itself has revealed the unbearable lightness of material reality.

  • BD,

    Of course science reaches an impenetrable barrier at some point; just as string theorists have to apply mathematical models and search for indirect proof rather than rely on direct observation. as for rationalism, Muffti isn’t desperate not to admit anything; he just thinks that its good policy to follow successful research programs (i.e. physics) as far as they can go. If explanation ends here, so be it.

    All Muffti was trying to say (prior to the character sketches and ridicule) was that having a beginning does not entail not always being there. If you say that time has a beginning, Muffti can’t well ask you what was there before hand. It’s downright paradoxical given that ‘before’ has its normal temporal reading. Muffti thinks the problem is that we like to say ‘first there was nothing then ex nihilo there was something’ but again, that’s not quite right if ‘first’ means termporal priority. So the mistake Muffti thinks we are making is conflating having a beginning with not always being there (which means ‘at all TIMES existed’) While that is generally a good line of reasoning, it looks terrible when applied to time itself.

  • I meant no ridicule. But this period of hyper-rationality is often observed among the young and single, and I myself passed through it. It gives a sense of mastery during a scary period of life. And the Spock-like poise is appealing at at time of loneliness and emotional vulnerability.

    But like the physics, hyper-rationality hits a wall. It cannot explain the complexity of our lives, and if it really were applied to Big Social Questions, morality, and human relationships, the results would be tragicomically inadequate and emotionally stunted.

    More: the true payoff of adulthood is *surrendering* mastery and *welcoming* vulnerability. That’s why this attitude’s real antidote is marriage – the first real step towards transcendence.

    This I wish for you!

  • Thanks, BD, for the kind wishes. Muffti feels he is being a little misrepresented, however. There is no hyper-rationality in his attitude, really. Whether or not the world is comprehensible in scientific terms is, as far as he can tell, as open question. And no one who wasn’t ridiculously out of step with how science actually works would ever think that social problems or ethics can be solved by looking at the behaviour of super strings. And Spock like poises seem about as unnappealing to Muffti as a banana and pickles ice cream sundae.

    Having said that, it doesn’t follow that there isn’t interesting work to be done in the areas we can understand and master. And it certainly doesn’t follow that every belief that can’t be defended by recourse to logical argument should be believed. If Muffti way off on this?

  • JS,
    ^Yes. As you said, there weren’t always atoms in the universe: early on in it’s evolution matter did not exist as we understand it… there wasn’t even any light. This went on for a few hundred thousand years by current models. In this time where there were no atoms or light, was there still a God? I (and traditional religions would agree with me here) would say yes.

    Also, if current cosmological models and observations are correct, the universe will continue to expand forever, and eventually all matter will fall apart because of proton decay. So, one day there will be no more atoms again, just a monstrous sea of subatomic particles filling an ever-increasing volume of space for the rest of eternity.

    The kicker is, in this “heat death” scenario, as the universe gets bigger, and the amount of energy/particles remains the same, the amount of information the universe can hold continues to grow and grow.

    Let me put it this way: atoms are like hair on God’s head. He is still God whether he is a bald baby, a youth with a full head of hair, or a bald old man. Although that is counter to my “timeless nature of God” concept, it does at least represent the idea that atoms are only extensions of divine being.