Ignorance is a form of darkness. Verifiable and undeniable truth dispels such darkness. In the Jewish mind, the universe begins with “let there be light” because we want to know. We strive to understand. There is a form of truth that is incontrovertible. The Jewish mind naturally seeks such truth.

A Jewish billionaire, Yuri Milner, and Stephen Hawking have sort of teamed up. They have similar interests even if their individual interpretations of possible outcomes may vary. Milner is donating $100 million toward a scientific search for extraterrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise.

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Although such a search may not yet have earned the same credibility as, let’s say, the physics experiments at CERN, it is an attempt to learn the relevant facts by the scientific method. Milner, who is a physicist by training, wants to find the truth about what he calls “the most interesting technological question of our day” regardless of how many of us deride him or argue that $100 million could be better spent elsewhere.

Milner says, “If we don’t find them, we can learn other lessons.” So he’s not convinced that they are really out there, but if we don’t look with our very best scientific instruments and methods, then we may never know. Some of our most amazing discoveries sometimes occur when we are trying to find an answer to what initially seems an unrelated question.

Some of the most inspired scientific minds have been Jewish minds. Priority can be given to verifiable truth while receiving inspiration from ancient wisdom. Fortunately, Israel is often on the cutting edge of scientific research and discovery. In fact, Israel is the only non-European nation granted full membership in CERN. This fact is a testimony to Israel's search for verifiable truth. The closer we get to undeniable truth, the closer we approach the sacred principle.

What is truth? This question has been asked for thousands of years. Philosophy can make an answer seem impossible. Yet incontrovertible truth that is recognizable by the average unbiased mind for all practical purposes is truth we can act on. What other truth do we need? We often have nothing better than opinion until the data are known. An expression of opinion is the result of freedom, but facts dispel the darkness.

Will Milner succeed in finding extraterrestrial life or will we discover that we are alone and need to cherish even more the precious biosphere we inhabit? The search will face many technological challenges. When scoffed at for supposedly failing so many times to find a durable filament for his light bulb, Thomas Edison responded that he had not failed once. He would find the solution when he had eliminated the ways that wouldn’t work. In so doing, he dispelled the darkness.

Success can sometimes result from spectacular failure. Columbus never found India because America happened to stand in his way. Ponce de Leon never drank from the fountain of youth, but in the age of European exploration, his expedition was the first to land on what would become the continental United States. When one is searching for the fountain of youth, discovering Florida may seem a failure, but not totally. Herzl never realized the Zionist dream or lived to hear Ben-Gurion announce the establishment of the Jewish state. Yet the name of Herzl will be remembered as long as Zionist blood flows through Israeli veins.

Let us continue our journey in search of incontrovertible truth and our Jewish destiny, knowing full well that we ourselves can only get closer and closer without ever having all of our questions answered. Recognition of such human limitations will neither discourage, nor deny us the search because in the search we can learn other valuable lessons. Such an endeavor seems worthwhile to me.

Let us search for spectacular failure if the end result is undeniable truth. May we do our part to help dispel the darkness. In so doing, we help fulfill the Jewish destiny. Let there be light.

Eli’s Challenge: Leave your mark, make a difference for the good, and do your part to make sure that they never again devour Jacob or make his habitation waste.

Email Eli Kaufman at ocfidina@yahoo.com


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