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Dr. Jeremy England

Science & Religion | November 17, 2020

Listen to “Dr. Jeremy England: What Does a Scientist See in the Torah? [Science 1/4]” on Spreaker.

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SUMMARY

In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we sit down with Dr. Jeremy England, physicist and biologist, to discuss his lives as a Jew and an academic, and how, if at all, those lives interact.

Jeremy grew up a barely-affiliated Jew and obtained a degree in biochemistry from Harvard, but discovered his love for Judaism and began reading authors like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Ruth Weiss. He is an accomplished scientist, having posited the theory of dissipative adaptation to explain abiogenesis, but still sees a depth and meaning to the words of the Torah. Though science plays an important role in his life, he feels that has managed to find a role for Torah despite this fact without compromising on the ideals of either.

What are the abilities and limitations of science? What are the abilities and limitations of Torah? As a scientist, how did Jeremy reconcile the two as he became more religious? How does the study of each compare to the other? And what role should they ultimately play in one’s life? Tune in to hear Jeremy England discuss his theory of abiogenesis and of living an intellectually complete life.

For more, visit https://18forty.org/science/#england.

TRANSCRIPT

David Bashevkin:

Hello and welcome to the 18Forty Podcast, where each month we explore a different topic, balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin, and this month we’re exploring science and Torah. How do science and Torah interact, cohere, relate to one another? This podcast is part of a larger exploration of those big, juicy Jewish ideas, so be sure to check out 18forty.org, where you can find videos, articles, and recommended readings.

David Bashevkin:

So I wanted to introduce the topic of science and Torah, and I guess I would lay out that the way that this topic is normally explored is going through the litany of perceived contradictions – some real, some imagined – between scientific discovery and, whether it is Torah in the way that the physical universe is described in the Torah, or perhaps contradictions between the way that Halakha, Talmud, Jewish texts describe and relate to scientific phenomena that maybe seem to be contradictory.

David Bashevkin:

And we’re going to get to a lot of those more nitty-gritty contradictions, but I wanted to introduce the idea more generally, as I always do, with my personal orientation towards this issue, and towards this idea, without getting into the nitty-gritty, which we’ll dive into both in the texts online, you could check us out at 18forty.org, 1-8-F-O-R-T-Y .org, we have plenty of resources there, and the book recommendations, and videos, and all that great stuff.

David Bashevkin:

But I wanted to really give you my personal orientation to this, because I’m not that science and Torah guy, I’m not the person whose religious angst, or religious motivation, or religious anything is all that connected to science. This is probably a good time to admit: I’m fairly awful at math, not because I’m not good at math, I just think I have so much math anxiety that I’m just unable to do it quickly, I had to drop out.

David Bashevkin:

I grew up in New York state where we have the regents, and most kids in the class took the regents in eighth grade, and I had to leave the class because of my math anxiety. When they introduced negative numbers, I tapped out, I’m out, I’m not involved in this anymore. And I switched out and I took the regent eventually in ninth grade. I did great on all my Regents, and I’m fine with math and numbers, it just, on those tests. It would make me so nervous. So I never became a math or science person, but I’ve always been fascinated and read, I don’t want to say a great deal, but I’ve read a fair amount on the history of mathematics, the history of science, and I found a lot of those works and ideas incredibly important and valuable, not only for understanding the physical world, but really understanding Torah and what it means to be a human being and what religious life is about, I think all of those are important.

David Bashevkin:

But there were three stories that all converged at the same time, and they’re not dramatic stories, but there was a point in my life where this issue was incredibly, I don’t want to say important to me, I wouldn’t put it on a pedestal as, this is the vexing existential threat facing Judaism, but it was definitely a source and a center of my curiosity. And I’ll tell you those three points now.

David Bashevkin:

I was studying in the yeshiva called Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, and this is probably 2005, so 15 years ago, and we were learning Tractate Gittin, Masechtas Gittin, Tractate Gittin in the Talmud that talks about the laws of divorce. And if you read the beginning of the seventh chapter of Gittin, there’s something very unusual, it’s not unique to this tractate in Talmud, but it’s certainly unusual, which is that if you read through the beginning of that seventh chapter, you will find a list of medical treatments and potions and cocktails to treat different digestive problems. And I was reading this, and this was the first year that I was all the way plugged in to mastering every page of one tractate. I was just astounded, what do we do with this? Why is this here? Now there were a lot of commentators who would say, “Don’t try this at home. Not a good idea, don’t drink this cocktail if you have digestive problems,” and that’s helpful, and maybe the nature of the world has changed, or a host of things. Basically said, “Don’t try this at home, these don’t work nowadays and don’t do them.” And there’s a lot of traditional commentators, and you could probably open up in your local ArtScroll Gemara, I remember had a fabulous footnote that dealt with all of this, and you could check it up inside on your own.

David Bashevkin:

But I was bothered by the fact of, so if these aren’t relevant now, why are they included? Why is this a part of our Talmudic story if this is not relevant for all generations? I would have assumed that the only thing that was canonized, that was put in for all generations, were things that were almost timeless. We talk about timeless Jewish wisdom, and here I was confronted with pages and pages of things that were very much not timeless. And there are definitely different approaches. Some, as we’ll discover more, we’ll say, “Ok, they used the scientific wisdom of their time, and it is actually incorrect.” Some might do a more mystical reading of this, less dismissive. I honestly haven’t found any altogether satisfying mystical readings of this, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not out there. And others will just say, “Look, it was good at the time, it’s not good now, and that doesn’t pose a problem.” But it did bother me, I’d be lying if it didn’t. Why, in this corpus of Jewish ideas, the Talmud that we canonized, why did these remain?

David Bashevkin:

And it got me poking down the rabbit hole of how scientific knowledge and religious knowledge interact with one another. Is our religious knowledge always founded on correct – or “accurate”, in contemporary terms – scientific knowledge? And should it bother me if it’s not? Is that something that should shake the ground of my religious commitment?

David Bashevkin:

So that was story number one, learning Tractate Gittin. There was a second story, and that was the story that really blew up in the world, and that was what has become known as the Slifkin controversy. The Slifkin controversy was a controversy that broke out at the time where an author, Rabbi Natan Slifkin, who wrote a series of books that were critical of the way that science… I don’t even want to say critical. He tried to reconcile the way science is commonly understood in contemporary times, and the science that appears, whether it’s in the Chumash, in the Bible, or in the Talmud, and try to reconcile those two, and this just blew up.

David Bashevkin:

There were people who signed letters against some people who I admire to this day and have deep, deep reverence towards, who banned his books, which is the best way to get somebody to buy your book. If anybody wants to ban any of my books, you are welcome to, just hang up the posters near a bookstore please. But they banned his books, and this story has been told many, many times, but at the time, as a young, impressionable yeshiva student, I was paying close attention to this, because he was saying things that, I guess in my mind, I didn’t think were all that controversial, I didn’t think that they were all that worrisome. I think that the dialogue and the tone, certainly his tone escalated a great deal since then, I haven’t really followed, I don’t read his stuff anymore. It’s not really the tone or the issues that I’m all that excited about, but this opened up a pressure point in many segments of the Jewish community about how we should be thinking about the scientific knowledge that’s contained in the Talmud and contained in the Torah.

David Bashevkin:

And I remember, I think at the time when this was really exploding I wasn’t even in Baltimore, I was studying in Toronto at the time under an unbelievable scholar, talmud chacham, a really special person named Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz, who is just a one-of-a-kind thinker, two brothers who both learned in Ner Yisrael, one is based in Silver Spring and then moved to Israel, and the other, Rabbi Breitowitz, who I studied with, lives in Toronto and runs a Yeshiva called Darchei Torah. And I remember, I would sneak out after we would study and I would go… This is the heyday, this is the golden age of blogs, and I would sneak out and I would read Gil Student, who we’ve had on this podcast, his blog, Torah Musings, and look at the updates, and he was like the referee of the whole thing going back and forth. It was really, really fascinating to watch the Jewish community contend with this controversy. I don’t know if it was 500 years too late when the church dealt with this most significantly, but it was fairly fascinating. What are we expected to believe? Most Jews, as far as I know, believe in science.

David Bashevkin:

I grew up in the home of an oncologist. My father treats cancer, he’s a hematologist and oncologist, and he treats primarily the, not primarily, but a great deal of the yeshiva and Hasidic community, and anytime somebody says or dismisses the reverence that the Hasidic or the yeshiva community has for science, I always like to say, pump your brakes for a second. I grew up in a home where people who are being treated by a doctor with scientific knowledge and treatment, they stand up when he walks in the room, they talked to my father in third person. They have deep reverence for science and medical developments and all of these things, not dismiss it. They don’t roll their eyes, they’re not looking to the seventh perek of Gittin to treat their cancer, God forbid, they go to doctors, and they go to the best doctors, and they take it quite seriously.

David Bashevkin:

So it was just interesting to watch the way, at this point, and again, this is for most people water under the bridge. If you’re hearing it the first time now, you’re like, “What? What was this about?” But it was a big controversy about how should we be ascribing or looking at the scientific knowledge in the Talmud and in the Torah, and should it shake your faith to say that there were, the people, the personalities, and the ideas in the Talmud don’t always cohere, and sometimes are contradicted, by contemporary scientific knowledge. How much did that shake the ground of your religious commitment? Which is another issue that we’ll discuss.

David Bashevkin:

And the third, that was the second story. The first story was learning seventh chapter of Gittin. The second story, all happening at the same time, was the story of the Slifkin affair and going to the Torah Musings blog. I would sneak into the teachers’ faculty room in Darchei Torah where I was studying, Rabbi Breitowitz’s yeshiva, and I would sneak in and get updates on the blog. Blogs were, in some segments of the Jewish community were like, and it was associated with a lot of cynicism and negativity, but I love that, and this is really where Gil stepped out into the public square, and I loved his updates and just thought they were very sharp and balanced, and he took over there a very unpopular opinion.

David Bashevkin:

But the third story, and I’m so upset that I cannot find these, was an email exchange that I had with a really, really top flight mathematician named Shmuel Weinberger. We have not been in touch since then, it’s probably been 15 years, well over a decade. And Shmuel Weinberger, I don’t know enough about the math world to say whether or not he is world-renowned. He’s got his own Wikipedia page, so maybe that counts for something, but is a major, major mathematician, and observant and committed Jew, who I think at the time was teaching at the University of Chicago. And his nephew was in yeshiva with me, and his nephew would always see whether it was my questions about the seventh perek of Tractate Gittin, or the books that I had on my shelf. I was always interested in books that discussed the history of mathematics. There’s an author named Amir Aczel, I’m probably mispronouncing his last name, called The Mystery of the Aleph that talks about the history of infinity and Georg Cantor, and I was reading Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. I just love these books about scientific development, Thomas Kuhn, and Popper, Wittgenstein. I loved it. At that point, I guess there’s something atypical and typical about this segment of questioning when you’re in your early 20s, trying to find that ultimate philosophical truth.

David Bashevkin:

And I started a fairly long email exchange with Shmuel Weinberger asking him about his commitment to Jewish life. Now, again, it’s a tease to tell you that I had this long protracted email correspondence with him. I’m not making it up, it’d be a strange mathematician to make it up for, but I did, and I cannot find them. I just tried to log into my Yahoo account, we all remember Yahoo, God bless Yahoo, and I was unable to find it. But the conversations that we had were really me trying to figure out through the eyes of a scientist: What makes Torah different and unique than scientific discovery?

David Bashevkin:

And I was dealing with, are scientists, are they smarter than rabbis? Do they think differently? Are the disciplines different? Is the system of mathematics a different system than the system of Halakha and Torah? And I always was intrigued by this conversation, and it led me, many, many years later, that I saw an exchange between Stephen Colbert and Ricky Gervais about the difference between scientific and religious knowledge, and it’s an exchange worth paying close attention to.

Ricky Gervais:

Science is constantly proved all the time. You see, if we take something like, any fiction, any holy book and any other fiction, and destroyed it, in a thousand years’ time, that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if we took every science book, every fact, and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would be the same result.

Stephen Colbert:

That’s good, that’s really good.

David Bashevkin:

I think that what that exchange is talking about, and I actually find this inspiring, is that the world of mathematics, in many ways, and the world of science exists independent of human experience, and there is something deeply human deeply embedded into the human experience that religion is addressing that I’m not sure that I could imagine the religious universe that we inhabit without humanity. Meaning, obviously there’s something very godly about it, and that’s what revelation is.

David Bashevkin:

But underneath the Torah that we have in front of us today, and we have countless passages in Talmud that talk about this, is addressing human beings and the human condition. We don’t have an esoteric transcendent Torah, though we certainly have passages in Talmud and the Torah that seem to suggest that one exists. We have a Torah that addresses human frailty, the human condition, our envy, our greed, our difficulty, the difficulty of preserving moments of inspiration, preserving moments of commitment, that I believe the whole Halakhic system, the whole Jewish legal system is trying to preserve those moments, whether they’re moments in our national consciousness in history, or they’re moments in our own personal lives that we want to preserve and continue those values throughout.

David Bashevkin:

And there is something deeply human about it, as opposed to, I think mathematics and science exist independent of human experience, they’re interpreted. And this was a big battle in early mathematics, whether numbers were created by man or by God, so to speak, and you can research more on that big debate in early Greek mathematical history. But I’m not afraid of the fact that there’s something that religious life, religious texts, are deliberately addressing the human condition and couldn’t be reconstructed without that human condition. Obviously we need revelation as a part of it, but so much of the development of that revelation came through our process and struggle of trying to connect that initial moment of revelation to our daily lives and build that. That’s the entire corpus of the oral law that we have, of that human interpretation of taking that moment of revelation and reconstructing it and how it applies to our personal lives and our national consciousness.

David Bashevkin:

So my email exchange with Shmuel Weinberger was eye-opening because it allowed me to see what makes Torah different and unique from the discipline of science, because Shmuel Weinberger is not only, again, I’m using the word “world-renowned”, but I don’t know that he actually is world-renowned. He’s a serious mathematician, that’s what he gets paid to do every single day in serious universities, the University of Chicago. I guess if you’re hanging out in the mathematics department of the University of Chicago, you are not the kind of person to drop out of your eighth grade regents because of the presence of negative numbers, so he knows more math than I do.

David Bashevkin:

And it was an absolutely fascinating exchange that I’m going to continue to look for. But what was underlying that exchange was trying to figure out: How does a scientist maintain that reverence, maintain that seriousness towards the discipline of Torah, when in my eyes, science, I guess it seemed more complex, it seemed more difficult to me? I can’t open up a science book, it seemed even more abstract. And it was an important email exchange that I still think about today, about how our own experiences, our own personal orientation, serves as a lens when we approach Torah, no matter what that is: whether you’re a scientist, or whether you are a rabbi, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or somebody who had terrible experiences, they all serve as a lens to view that all too human condition and experience that ultimately religious life, religious law, and religious texts are coming to address.

David Bashevkin:

So these three stories, learning the seventh chapter of Tractate Gittin, the Slifkin affair, and my email exchange with Shmuel Weinberger, all were that founding story of how I came to enter into this very fraught, somewhat controversial, but I think exciting discussion about how a Torah lens can approach scientific ideas, and how a scientific lens looks at the experience of religion and Torah.

David Bashevkin:

And that’s why I’m so excited for the four conversations we have this month on 18Forty. We’re beginning with Jeremy England, who is, in fact, a world-renowned scientist. He’s been mentioned and his research has been thrown around for a Nobel prize, he has not been awarded one though. I’m sure our listeners, after hearing him, will try to call in and push that ahead. But Jeremy England is an absolutely world-renowned scientist. He’s mentioned, I just read Brian Greene’s Until the end of Time, which is basically a scientist’s own grappling with how to find personal meaning through a scientific lens, a fascinating book. And you see the limitations of where scientific reasoning can lead you, but he quotes Jeremy England in there and his research, but Jeremy England is also an accomplished writer – he just came out with a book, which we’ll have links to – and a beautiful Jewish thinker and communicator, and it was such a privilege to speak with him.

David Bashevkin:

Our second interview is with Allison Coudert, who I’m going to have a much longer – I have a longer introduction for all of these people, but Allison Coudert is, she is not Jewish, she is a scholar of the scientific revolution, and her incredible book explores how mystical ideas trickled into the Christian community, mystical ideas from the Jewish community trickled into the Christian community, and ultimately served as a catalyst for the scientific revolution, reframing the entire way in which we see science and Torah interacting.

David Bashevkin:

And next, I talk to Rabbi David Fohrman, who you probably know from Aleph Beta, and his incredible work in explaining both Torah texts and the Talmud. He’s one of the translators for the ArtScroll Talmud, I believe Tractate Kiddushin, a brilliant scholar who talks about: What kind of book is the Torah, and is it teaching scientific ideas?

David Bashevkin:

And my final conversation is with one of the most eclectic, enigmatic, and not so well-known thinkers. I wish he was more well-known, but he’s one of a kind, and we’re going to have to unpack the interview, because he speaks fast, and you have to hold on tight for his ideas, and that is Rabbi Meir Triebitz, who teaches in Machon Shlomo and Machon Ya’akov in Israel as well as being a Rosh Kollel. He is a brilliant thinker who talks and thinks in such iconoclastic ways about what the Talmud actually means, what scientific discovery is, and he himself possesses a PhD in, I believe, physics from Stanford University. So no slouch in scientific understanding himself, and really such a pleasure and privilege to speak with Jeremy England, Allison Coudert, David Fohrman, and Meir Triebitz, four incredible personalities with different perspectives of the age-old question of how scientific understanding and ideas cohere, contradict, and can be brought together in unison with the ideas we find in our Torah. So I hope you are all excited for the conversations this month, and I will now introduce my conversation with the incredible scholar, scientist, Dr. Jeremy England.

David Bashevkin:

Welcome everybody to the 18Forty podcast, I am with today an amazing personality at the cutting-edge of science, and the cutting-edge, I think, of a sophisticated religious identity, Professor Jeremy England, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Harvard, he got a Rhodes Scholarship, studied at St. John’s College in Oxford, a PhD in physics from Stanford, where he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT physics department, as an assistant professor. In 2019, he joined GlaxoSmithKline as a senior director in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and he has a forthcoming book, which may already be out when this drops, called Everything is on Fire.

Jeremy England:

Sorry, it’s Every Life is on Fire.

David Bashevkin:

Jump right in there, thank you so much. It is called Every Life is on Fire, by Basic Books. You could find him on Twitter, @lifelikephysics, and we’ll have links to all of this, of course, in the text. Jeremy, thank you so much for joining us today, it really means a great deal.

Jeremy England:

My pleasure.

David Bashevkin:

So I want to begin, your theory, which we’ll get to in a second, and you have such a masterful way of explaining how the theory works to a layman, but I wanted to begin, not with your theory, which relates to the origins of life, but I wanted to begin with the origin of your life, a distinguished career in academia, and now in the corporate world in artificial intelligence. How did you get interested in this, and how did you come to your current state and positioning, not just vis-a-vis science, but your Jewish identity?

Jeremy England:

So trying to break that a little bit into pieces, I think as far as my evolution as a scientist, I shouldn’t say that that came first, because obviously I grew up first with some notion of Jewish identity, but I think I grew up with a Jewish identity that was originally a bit uncertain to me for reasons I can explain, and then as I became a young adult, I think the thing I was very focused on first was learning about science, I was really excited by it, and I think that probably the first seed of what eventually became the kind of scientist that I am now is that I couldn’t decide between physics and biology because I liked different things about them.

Jeremy England:

I really liked that in physics you can find ways of predicting and explaining seemingly very complicated things from very simple principles and very precise principles with mathematics, and at the same time, I think in biological systems, what you have is this incredible sense of intricacy of function, that when you start to study how living things work, it’s just marvelous to find out how all the parts fit together and how they’re arranged in this way that seems both hopelessly complicated but also incredibly elegant at the same time. And so I didn’t, as I got exposed to each of those subjects, want to put either of them down, which was a challenge at first, because there’s a big bridge to build between simple ideas in physics and the complexity of biology.

David Bashevkin:

You have a great analogy, if I could jump in –

Jeremy England:

Sure.

David Bashevkin:

In the long tradition of using cats to suffer in your experiments. Maybe we could come back to that when we jump into your theory. Start even earlier. Where did you grow up?

Jeremy England:

Yeah, so I was born in Boston, I grew up mostly in New Hampshire, and I think I grew up in a home where on the one hand we had a clear sense of our connection to the Jewish people, and my mother was born in Poland to parents who’d both been through the war, surviving and escaping in eastern Europe, and then she and her family escaped from behind the iron curtain in the late fifties. They ultimately made it to America in the sixties. So she grew up here starting as a teenager and she met my father, and at the time that they met, I think it wasn’t clear to them how much Judaism was going to play a role in how they raised their kids. My father wasn’t born Jewish. We had this very, on the one hand clearly Jewish to some degree identity growing up, but also we were living in New Hampshire, we weren’t very connected to very active Jewish communities. And so on the other hand, it didn’t figure every day in my life as the most important thing about what I was doing.

David Bashevkin:

Fun fact, my great aunt and uncle lived in New Hampshire, and New Hampshire’s Jewry probably represented most by Sarah Silverman. It sounds like you had something fairly typical for a New Hampshire Jew.

Jeremy England:

Yeah, yeah, I would say so. And I think what that meant was that when I reached young adulthood, I was studying in university, the point that I was at was, I think I was in the Hillel House at Harvard maybe two out of four years for Kol Nidre and that’s about it. It did measure my level of interest in what was going on. And so I had learned to read some Hebrew at some point, didn’t really know what it meant. I had a bar mitzvah, I didn’t learn much about what was in –

David Bashevkin:

Did your bar mitzvah have a theme? I need to ask that.

Jeremy England:

Not that I remember.

David Bashevkin:

Didn’t have a physics themed bar mitzvah?

Jeremy England:

No, no, it was just… But at the end of the day, what happened was that I was studying in the UK after I finished my first degree, and this was around 2003 or so, and probably just books I started to read, partly feeling very much like a foreigner to some degree, for the first time living outside of anywhere close to where I’d grown up, and also being in Europe at a time when there was a lot of consciousness about what had been going on in Israel with the intifada, and more generally global politics having to do with the US and Israel and attitudes on campuses there. There was just a lot of political current swirling, and I think that I really felt provoked to ask myself the question, first of all, what I knew about Israel and whether I cared about it, because I hadn’t really had a lot of exposure to it previously, and also in connection with that, what I felt about being a Jew and whether it mattered to me.

Jeremy England:

And so there was this progression of a few years where I was reading people like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and also Ruth Weiss, so different kinds of intellectual streams that were nourishing my sense of, okay, there’s a way for me to discover how being a Jew matters to me. And that just sent me on a whole journey that still hasn’t finished of getting more deeply in love with the land of Israel, the Jewish people, the Torah, and everything else that comes with it.

David Bashevkin:

It’s absolutely fascinating, your origin story, and how the language that you use, and we’ll come back to this I think a few times, your life story as a story of translation of sorts, of moving into different languages. And given that premise, maybe we can just, at the outset, so we don’t lose all the listeners, try to explain in an easy way what exactly your theory that put you on the map explains. I have in front of me, as I showed you, Brian Greene has a fascinating book called Until the End Of Time, which is about mind, matter, and our search for meaning in an evolving universe. He gives your theory about three pages in an overview of all of contemporary science, and almost presents you as the next Charles Darwin, who we know, Charles Darwin’s religious beliefs were shaken to the core when he first began to realize the implications of his theory. Your theory has a fancy name that I hope I don’t butcher called dissipative adaptation.

Jeremy England:

Dissipative adaptation.

David Bashevkin:

Already butchered. So that was my shechita, my ritual slaughter of the pronunciation, which I knew I would do. Tell me, what did you discover? What is your theory that had other scientists almost looking at you like a Charles Darwin?

Jeremy England:

Sure. So I think the main idea is this: when we look at living things, we see in the structure of these living things things that they’re good at that we, these days, wearing the hats of scientists, tend to explain in terms of, all right, this living thing had parents and grandparents, et cetera, and there were things that helped those parents and grandparents to survive and reproduce in the environment where they lived. And so if you go through many iterations of having offspring and trying out different forms then you eventually get some really great talents that you accumulate over time because those talents are what helped your antecedent, or your ancestors, to create you, in essence, and give rise to you.

Jeremy England:

But I think then there’s this question of, can we find other ways of explaining structure that looks talented in some sense, that looks like it’s very good at things it’s hard to be good at, unless you’re in a very specially selected shape, but where we can understand the physical mechanism for the emergence of that structure that doesn’t really involve the biological explanation of having had parents and grandparents. Because if I have a pile of marbles, so to speak, that are just sticking together in different ways, and I’m just banging on them with a hammer according to some pattern, you wouldn’t imagine, necessarily, that a system that’s described could end up in a special shape. It sounds like everything should just knock around at random and get arranged into no shape in particular. And then, if you somehow have solved the chicken and egg problem, and things can have parents and grandparents, then suddenly you have this explanation of how structures can become better and better and more and more talented at certain kinds of activities.

Jeremy England:

So I think that the main idea in dissipative adaptation is, looking from the perspective of physics, you start to get an idea of, how could it be that a collection of matter that doesn’t have parents, but just has shapes that it used to be in, that there’s a physical argument for how you can end up, under pretty normal circumstances, getting a bunch of bits or building blocks or particles to get assembled into shapes that look very special, they look very good at accomplishing tasks that it seems like you’d have to be in a very rare and special shape in order to be good at. Tasks like absorbing energy from their environment in a way that is usually difficult, or following a pattern in the environment that’s hard to predict, or things like that. So that’s the claim, and I haven’t given you anything about the explanation of how that happens yet, but that’s the basic idea of what kind of an explanation it proposes to be.

David Bashevkin:

Just to understand, meaning, that your theory relates to why, under certain circumstances, certain types of matter are good at becoming life, so to speak?

Jeremy England:

Yeah, although I think we have to widen the field a little bit. Instead of saying “becoming life”, what I would say is, there are certain behaviors that living things engage in that we think of as being very distinctive of life. Living things fall in gravity, but that’s not distinctive of life because rocks also do that. But living things do things like attach themselves to sources of energy in their environment that are difficult to extract and find ways of extracting them, or they do things like make copies of themselves that reproduce a pattern form that they themselves have in their own shape, or they do things like predict somewhat accurately the likely future of their environment given the pattern of the past that they’ve experienced. So there are different kinds of aspects of life that we could separate and put on different barrels, and actually, a lot of them fall into this rubric where you start to say, let me think about the physics of how these behaviors could come into being in a setting where I don’t have life initially and I don’t have specially crafted structures to –

David Bashevkin:

Like a clump of mud in your example.

Jeremy England:

Yeah, yeah so to speak. A foamy lump of mud, right? How do you start with something that’s dust of the earth and seemingly, relatively speaking, formless, and then what are the minimal ingredients to get a form that looks specialized in these lifelike ways? And so for example, we have a paper that, it’s out in a pre-print archive and it’s been submitted to journal now, but it’s basically about a simulation of a collection of balls and springs that pop open and closed where you can think of it as a giant tinker toy with lots of different pieces. And then you take a piece of the tinker toy and you just start wiggling one piece of it with a certain frequency, so in other words, a certain timing, and then the whole thing jumbles and rearranges. And at first it seems like it’s jumbling and rearranging very randomly, but then it ultimately gets settled into this very particular shape, and the very particular shape, when you study the rhythms of how that shape likes to move, they’re actually very well matched and well tuned to the patterns of the way you’ve been wiggling the piece of it that you’re holding on to. So in a sense, the system has learned to find a shape that moves in step with and matches the timing and motion of the pattern and its environment. And there are more specific ways one can talk about in that example.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah. And that gives it like a cadence, so to speak, to become life, so to speak?

Jeremy England:

Well, so the aspect of lifelike behavior maybe that’s most striking in that particular example is that if you think about what living things are, there’s systems that have energy constantly flowing through them, but where somehow the way they absorb the energy doesn’t blow them to smithereens. So if I just said, okay, instead of eating my lunch today I’m going to get an equivalent dose of gamma radiation, same amount of energy, and I’ll be fine. The reason that would be stupid is because gamma radiation is sort of a bull in a China shop, it’s energy that will randomly run through the matter that I’m made of and rearrange it into no particular shape, and so the special shape that I’m in doesn’t get preserved by the flow of the energy. But if I instead say, well I’m going to eat bread, and that has energy stored in chemical bonds, but I have a whole system set up to let that energy flow through me in a way that preserves and even kind of repairs the special shape that I’m in, that’s a particular lifelike behavior. It’s not the only lifelike behavior, and it’s not the case that everything that does that is alive, but it’s a particular lifelike behavior.

Jeremy England:

So with this example that I just described, what you have is a structure which learns the characteristics of the energy source in its environment, and then it ends up finding a stable way of allowing that energy to flow through it without getting randomized and knocked around into a new shape. So there are these specialized shapes that match the pattern of the environment in very particular ways. And it’s not the only way of being lifelike, but it’s certainly one of the ones I would put on the list.

David Bashevkin:

That’s absolutely fascinating. It tells you a little bit about my own scientific training that what caught my attention most was gamma rays and I was just thinking about the incredible Hulk. So I don’t have the training quite that you have, but I’m absolutely fascinating by your positioning almost in contrast to Darwin. And I want to speak about that for a moment. I mean, Darwin had a legitimate crisis of faith when he started looking into the origins of the universe, that the mechanisms that for so much of history were assumed to be God, he realized that he pulled that peg out of people’s thinking. And obviously speaking with you, you did not have that crisis of faith as far as I know, maybe you did. And I’m wondering, a lot of people have grabbed at your theory, which talks at the ultimate origins of life, and tried to say, “Well this is for sure undermining religion,” and other people are saying, “This is for sure proving religion,” and it sounds like you have almost a different approach. I was wondering if you could tell us how you translate the implications of your theory to religious and non-religious audiences?

Jeremy England:

Sure. So I think the part of it for me is that because I became an adult as a scientist before I took much of an interest in studying the Torah, when I discovered Torah and took that interest for the first time, I wasn’t taking the attitude that, well I want to use this to replace the things I already know and sort of jettison all of my previous thinking. I think to some degree I had to be open and I had to say, I have to be willing to question some of the things that I thought were true, because even when being educated as a scientist, you’re taught things sometimes more as doctrine than as things that are well-supported or reasoned out. But I think that I was, to a large degree, especially initially, kind of saying, okay, I don’t want to stop being a scientist, but let me try to work hard to make the Torah make sense despite that, and despite the things that I’ve heard, and see where that leads. And so I think that I haven’t felt a crisis of faith as a result of being a scientist because I think I entered from the opposite direction of more trying to say, let me develop an understanding of Torah that coheres with what I feel like I know about the world, reasoning about it scientifically.

Jeremy England:

And I think what’s been very rewarding in that journey is that it’s helped me to, I think, discover ways, at least that are convincing to me and hopefully to some others, that the Torah is very deeply aware of what it is to reason about the world scientifically, and it understands that it’s a path to knowledge about the world, but it allows you to situate that understanding of how to seek knowledge that way within the broader context of the other kinds of choices and commitments you have to make about how you decide what’s true. And I mean, we could drill down in a lot of different ways on that, and it’s hard to know exactly where to jump in, but just to focus us back on what we were talking about with the example in the physics before, I could say, “Oh, well Sefer Bereishit describes the creation of the world in certain terms, and clearly when I talk about it in terms of physics, it must be that only one of them is true because they’re not saying the same thing.” But clearly, you also could take the attitude, well, I have to be sure first whether two texts that I’m comparing are really speaking the same language when they’re talking about the subject. And if they aren’t speaking the same language, then I need to pay close attention to how I translate. And I also shouldn’t necessarily assume that the thing in Torah that is most engaged with my physics ideas is necessarily going to be found in the first pages, because maybe the Torah finds it more important to talk about the founding of the world in terms that are less physical and rooted elsewhere.

Jeremy England:

So I do think there actually are things in the Torah that provide very interestingly relevant concepts to talking about the physics of lifelike self-organization, and that’s been very rewarding to unearth. So this book that we mentioned before that I have coming out in the fall, Every Life Is on Fire, one of the things that it tries to do is simultaneously teach about the physics of lifelike self-organization, but then it also goes to this moment in Har Chorev, where Moshe Rabbeinu is encountering the burning bush and receiving this first revelation from Hashem, and he’s given these signs by Hashem to bring to the people. And if you look at them the right way, then they’re a remarkable roadmap for how to think about, in a naturalistic sense, what it is to explore the boundary between life and unlife, because he’s given –

David Bashevkin:

What’s an example of that? What’s an example of that balance? Because again, I’m still fascinated, I want to come back to this analogy of translation. I find it so fascinating how it threads through your life. But you do have an absolutely fascinating example about how the signs, the osos, so to speak, that Moshe was given, how they are analogy, so to speak, for what the beginning of life is. So maybe take us through one of those analogies and then I want to go back to translation.

Jeremy England:

So the first sign that Moshe is given, the first ot, is that he has a mateh, a staff, in his hand, and he’s told to fling it to the ground. And it says, “…vayihi linachas, vayanas Moshe mipanav”, that it turned into a serpent and Moshe recoiled from it. And then he picks it up by the tail and then it turns back into a mateh, into a staff, in his hand. So there are many different things that you could talk about in that passage, and I don’t ever think that when we say one thing about what the Torah means that it excludes other ones. But I think one thing you have to admit that this is talking about is the boundary between something that seems lifeless and inanimate, and it’s like a kli, it’s an implement in Moshe’s hand, and something that seems to be a living thing that has agency. And it’s not even just an animal, it’s the animal that talks. We have the Edenic idea of the speaking serpent, and so it’s this whole bundle of ideas of agency and lifelikeness and even communication.

Jeremy England:

But the point is that it’s also true that this wasn’t a trick of turning a boulder into a serpent, and it wasn’t a trick of turning a staff into an elephant: it was the trick of turning a staff into a serpent. And I think one of the things the text is drawing our attention to there is that this can be thought of, perhaps, as a shifting in perspectives on the same thing, right? That we’re really talking about one object, and that there are different ways we can react to it, there are different accounts we can give of it, and that may depend to some degree on what language we’re using. So that already is true, as it happens, within the realm of natural science, that when I think about talking about the world in the language of physics, I’m talking about counting things, I’m talking about measuring distances and times, and I’m talking about these basic numbers out of which I build an account of what’s happening, and then I can make predictions of these numbers from those numbers. Biology is really rooted elsewhere. You can do lots of numbers and quantification in biology, but the fundamental of biology is that we assume the phenomenon of life is a thing that we already know how to identify, and then we try to do the science of what stops things from being alive, like cutting off a chicken’s head, as we have in Halakha, psik reisha, you’re not going to have a living chicken afterwards 100% of the time.

Jeremy England:

And that’s scientific reasoning that you can discover, that beheading chickens will lead to chickens no longer being alive. And you didn’t really need math for that, but you absolutely need math to talk about the world as a physicist. And so even just the difference between talking about a living thing as a living thing versus breaking it into the inanimate pieces that are described by very simple numbers that you conceive of it as being constructed out of, that already is a translation between biology and physics that you have to be aware of if you want to do biological or biophysical science correctly. And I think it’s an underappreciated point even within the sciences. So the point is that – Sorry, go ahead.

David Bashevkin:

Let me jump in on that translation point, because in a previous interview, you used a really beautiful analogy that I’d love for you to speak more about, and how you frame physics and biology. These are your words. “I think I would liken it to someone who takes a black and white photograph of a rainbow and says there’s no such thing as color, or they look at all that I have to understand about this rainbow. I have its shape, there are parts of it that are darker and lighter, I could know you know how it’s positioned with respect to the southern clouds, but there’s something missing that from the fullness of our own experience is obvious.” And to me, you talk a lot in your scientific career about translating physics to biology, which is kind of what your theory is about, but you also talk about the different languages of religion, God, spirituality, and science. And I was wondering if, within this analogy, you could tell me: What is the language of spirituality, of humanity, that I think so many scientists are beginning to grapple with now, and what’s the language, what are the problems, and how are they measured in the way that you approach religion and spirituality?

Jeremy England:

Sure. Yeah. So I do think that the starting point for this discussion is to say, when I choose to describe a subject, when I choose to use language to talk about it, I’m always going to end up being better at capturing some aspects of it than others. I’m choosing a mode of representation, and some are well-suited to certain tasks and some are well-suited to other tasks. And I think that this subject is taken up in fascinating ways to me in Tanach, in the Hebrew scriptures, because there is this playing around with a question of whether that means that there’s no such thing as one true language that maybe would capture everything about what’s true about something, or whether there could be.

Jeremy England:

So what I think is being reached for when you read Tehillim, you read Psalms, and it talks about the idea of d’var Hashem, the word of Hashem, as having the power to melt ice, or that we say in the blessing of “asher bidvaro ma’ariv aravim”, when Hashem, through his word, brings on the evenings, that there are these things in the world that maybe seem like such bright, clear distinctions that they’re not flexible, and they might just be like… In any language you’re going to have a word for night and a word for day, and the idea of d’var Hashem is that the word of Hashem is really the notion of some ideal language that could really capture everything that’s true.

Jeremy England:

But in fact, we don’t have a lot of d’var Hashem to work with. What we have is a lot of d’var b’adam, right? We have words that are made up by people. We have languages that people have developed, and all of those are going to be less complete and less perfectly aligned with the true and real distinctions that exist in the world. And so that doesn’t mean we can’t get around with them, and we’re not supposed to use them, but it means we need more than one of them, and then we have to be willing to accept the trade offs of what different languages can accomplish for us. Now if we’re talking about humanism, or we’re talking about various kinds of languages or ways of talking that people have, obviously they’re the ones that you don’t even have to think of as being religious, but are just very social or humanistic, where they talk about the world differently than in the language of physics. Physics would look at me and say, I’m a pile of particles and there’s some attractive interactions and some repulsive interactions and the particles bounce around. And physics can’t a priori say why that’s more special than when the particles in the table are bouncing around and sticking together.

David Bashevkin:

That’s what I want to get to. Let me jump in. Where do you see the biggest gaps in the language of science that even allow for another language? And this is kind of where you’re going now, but the magnitude of what we’re able to explain through science, especially over the last, since the scientific revolution, is just, it’s incredible. And I want to get to this soon, especially in the world of AI. So where do you find mystery in the world? Isn’t it all laid out in front of you?

Jeremy England:

Yeah. So I would divide that into two parts. First of all, talking about things we say spirituality or mystery or there’s a bundle of words that often come together touching that area. I think that what I would say in those terms is that I wouldn’t want to divide the world into, let’s say, the spiritual and then unspiritual, or the religious and the non-religious understanding of what the world is. I think that there’s a more complicated and difficult task that lies before us when engaging with that subject that the Torah is very aware of and interested in, because I think what we’re taught ultimately by the Torah and our sages is that our whole understanding of what the world is and what is possible to know about it and what is true in it has to be connected to our choice to be part of a community of people who share a language and have shared commitments for how they deal with each other. You can’t just say, let’s talk about what’s true and not talk about how we speak to each other or how we deal with each other. It seems at first like maybe you could separate those things, and maybe in some kind of more Greek way of thinking you could imagine separating those things, but I think that the understanding of the Hebrew Prophets and of Chazal and whoever else, the understanding of Torah is that one comes from the other. So there’s this Rashi, this famous commentary by Rashi, which is, why is it not the case that the Torah begins with the first mitzvah, the first commandment given to us way over in Sefer Shemot, we’re being told how to set the month right before leaving Mitzrayim.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah, why is it that the opening to all of scripture?

Jeremy England:

Why didn’t it start with the first rule? Because this is, how are we going to regulate our action? And then the answer that he relays from the Talmudic sages is, well, because we had to first find out that, in a sense, the world was created by Hashem, and therefore belongs to him, and therefore he can give us the land of Israel, which will become our inheritance. And I think obviously there’s a way you can read that where it sounds preposterous, because you say, well, so it’s not a deed to a piece of land if other people don’t buy into it. So just the fact that I’m holding up a document that says, “This land belongs to me because it was created by a creator who gave it to me. If someone else says, “Well, I don’t think that document is authentic,” then I can’t use it to actually convince them. I don’t think that it’s as simple as that.

Jeremy England:

It’s not about convincing other people in that simple way, or at least not only about that. I think it’s also about just the whole idea of, you’re not going to even be able to talk about the task of avodat Hashem, serving Hashem by keeping the Torah, et cetera, unless you first talk about what the world is. Letting someone else tell the story of what the world is, and what it’s made of, and determining that language, and determining how you’ll communicate with others about what’s in the world will tremendously shape and constrain how you can act in the world and what you can know to be true in the world and all of that. And so I think that it’s not really about spiritual versus non-spiritual, but more like, where do you plant your feet? And I think Torah tries to be this place where you can plant your feet there, and there are different things you can talk about in that language, which will break out into sub languages.

Jeremy England:

And there’s a way of talking about things scientifically, and there’s a way talking about things in other ways, and they all have a common foundation. But I think that there’s a separate point that you were reaching for initially, which is how science today seems like, can it explain everything is it –

David Bashevkin:

Like what’s left for us, yeah.

Jeremy England:

Because there’s just so many things now where it seems like you can reason about them scientifically. And I think that one of the things that it’s very valuable to keep track of is that, scientific reasoning is something that you can apply in different settings where you have somewhat different sub languages that you’re using. Like I mentioned before, this thing with physics versus biology, that I can drop a cat off a tower and I could ask how fast it’s moving when it hits the ground, or I could ask whether it’s alive afterwards. Maybe I appreciate that [inaudible 00:58:47]

David Bashevkin:

I love a good cat experiment.

Jeremy England:

Yeah, exactly.

David Bashevkin:

It’s my favorite.

Jeremy England:

I appreciate that maybe one is related to the other, but at the end of the day, it will never be the case that asking whether a cat’s alive is the same thing as asking how fast it’s moving, and I have to be the intuitive translator between those two ways of talking. So, some things are more dry and maybe relatively easier to render objective, like measuring distance and measuring mass, so it might be that there’s a relatively easy common foundation on which you can set physics, although you can make that complicated if you want. But when you start trying to reason scientifically using more and more, let’s say, rarefied and socially entangled languages, so you’re not just talking about what’s alive, but maybe you’re just also talking about human social phenomenon, trying to study those things scientifically, psychology, social psychology, economics.

Jeremy England:

It’s much more fraught, it’s much more complicated, I don’t think the onward march of scientific understanding has the same traction there. Which is not to say people can’t understand things, or can’t make progress, or can’t argue for different ways of supporting a discovery or a claim, but it’s just that it starts to be so much more a question of what we agree upon as definitions of terms to begin with. And so I don’t think that the onward march of science ever exhausts these questions, especially as we can start to, things bleed over into the realm of what should people do, what’s the best policy, what’s the best arrangement of social order. Those questions are not ones where we just need better science to find the answer, because they start to be ones where you can determine the answer completely differently just with the shell game of how you define terms and how you conflate two ideas that actually are different and all the things that become very murky if we’re not careful.

David Bashevkin:

That’s absolutely fascinating and brilliant. I just love the way that language features so prominently in your story and the way that you describe science in your own life, and I want to come back to it as it relates to your work in AI, but for a moment, I want to almost take a detour and talk about your experience in a Jewish life. And I’ve always been fascinated by this. You have grappled with some of the largest questions about life and science, and I almost want to talk about, what are you thinking about when you perform, in whatever way that you do, Halakha? When you perform the minutia, I don’t know, washing your hands before bread, or taking a lulav and esrog. I grapple with this when I read a lot of books on science, and I’m a total novice, like I read popular books, but there’s an attraction to the grandiosity of what science is tackling with, and then you’re told to pick up a palm frond and a citrus fruit, and then you’re told the details of Halakha, and like, how do you manage to feel that, wow, and that this is doing something for me, for the universe, however you conceptualize it, when you’ve actually spent so much time in the actual world of, not metaphysics, but actual physics?

Jeremy England:

Sure. Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m sure that this for many people will bound to be a personal thing where different people relate differently to these practice, and so I certainly don’t think that I have a programmatic recommendation for everyone, or even most people. I think for me personally, I’ve never related to an understanding of the performance of mitzvot as having a hidden spiritual physics to it, so to speak. I think sometimes people want to talk about these events or these actions and buttress them, or give them a sense of purpose and meaning by invoking the idea of mystical events that happened in parallel, which you can think of as being the consequence that you don’t see. Like that malachim, or that emanations, or what have you, are doing things that you don’t see and producing consequences in some other ledger or some other balance sheet in the sky.

Jeremy England:

And there’s a lot of stuff you can drill down on there. And some of it, I think, when it comes from Chazal, there are very profound insights that can come from ideas that sometimes sound like that. I think there’s some other things that are handed around that sound like that, where they’re much more recent additions to Jewish conversation about this stuff, and by recent I mean in the last 1000 years, and personally I don’t relate much to that way of talking. Maybe that is partly because I’m coming from this background of talking in physical terms, and I think part of what I had to do to pull myself out of the group think of physics enough to be very open to Torah is to realize how much of how physicists talk about physics is almost like mysticism, and decided that I wanted to reject that kind of mysticism too.

Jeremy England:

So that’s like a very long preface, but I think for me, the way that I would look at it more is it’s about how meaning comes from the production of signs that you show to yourself, you show to other people, that you show to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that you see your life and your actions as a dialogue with the creator of the world, which has a grammar to it, and has a vocabulary to it, and that the Torah is basically trying to teach us that language, teach us how to be in that process of communication. And so part of that can, you can talk about it in simpler terms and just say that if I want to attach myself to this tradition, there are always particularities to traditions and there can be something very satisfying about taking hold of that particularity and making it a priority and directing your effort towards it, because all the things that we attempt to do, from a certain perspective, you could say there are arbitrary choices to make about which things to prioritize, and which things to refuse to do, and which things to make your goal. And so partly it’s a personal sense of connecting to being a Jew, and I think that earlier in my life, when I was first taking interest in this, I just said, I want to become part of my people, and this is what our book tells us about, so I’m going to do it, and I’m going to really enjoy the fact that I’m doing it because it connects me to my people.

Jeremy England:

And I think I got started that way, and there’s lots of satisfaction that’s very real and important that comes from that. I think more recently, maybe in the last five or ten years of my life, I think more in terms of, in addition, of it more in terms of thinking of the whole world as being a message, like the idea that we have in Chazal and in the Talmud of “ha’olam nivrah bishvili,” like the world is created for me. Which doesn’t really mean, like, it’s mine, it’s all for me, but more like that, the tapestry of all that you perceive and experience is a conduit of, let’s say, communication in principle that allows you to know something about how the world’s creator answers you. That you make choices, you act in the world, you see the consequences, you do that over and over again, and you have the Torah as a guide. And what it’s trying to guide you to do is to have some inkling of a starting idea of what he wants you to do.

Jeremy England:

And so you can try to do what you think he wants you to do, and then sometimes you succeed and sometimes you fail, and sometimes you wish you hadn’t succeeded and sometimes you’re glad you did, and all the different variations of that. And this process of dialogue through Talmud Torah, through the attempt to design one’s actions according to what you understand about what Hashem wants from you, and then trying to sift through the details of what he gives back to you and in the form of an answer, that makes for a very rich and engaging pursuit of a relationship.

David Bashevkin:

Absolutely brilliant as always. I had a question about the way that the physics community versus the Torah community interacts. When I learned in yeshiva, I learned in Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, and when I was there, I actually corresponded with a fairly prominent mathematician named Steven (Shmuel) Weinberger in the University of Chicago, and I asked him if he ever feels insecure that in the scientific world, you’re naturally surrounded by brilliant people, you can’t really get into that world without that brilliance. And in any other community and even in the rabbinic world, do you ever have doubts or concerns about the brilliance, so to speak, of rabbinic wisdom given the fact that you’ve been in the upper echelons of scientific and academic discovery, does that ever weigh or gnaw at the way that you relate to Judaism?

Jeremy England:

That’s a very interesting question. I think you can give a more historical answer to that question, and then there’s more the question about, in current times, the economics of how this worked. I think that throughout the ages, for a long time, the Jewish people were very early adopters of the idea that you should just prize a certain kind of learning as being part of the point of what you’re trying to do in life, and you’re trying to create in medieval poverty enough of a little bit of an opening so that some of that can happen, even though everyone just needs to be scrabbling in the dirt all the time just to have enough food. At a certain point in history within the Jewish people, you probably could be more confident that if someone, in terms of you’re talking about some notion of intellectual prowess, that if they were really brilliant, they probably got pulled into Talmud Torah because there was nothing else being offered to them that could tempt them and get them excited, if that’s what they were looking for or they were good at.

Jeremy England:

And obviously the situation is very different today in the sense that it’s not just about whether there are other kinds of intellectual pursuits that are fascinating, potentially, and enjoyable to a mind that wants a lot of intellectual challenge, it’s also just more lucrative to, I don’t know, be the founder of the next Google than it is to engage in Talmud Torah all the time, clearly. And so I think you have this double competition that exists in the present era, and probably much more so than it used to. So I think if I’m looking at like the year of the Rambam, I’m not worried that there were lots of people just as potentialy intellectually deep as the Rambam who got pulled into other professions and how terrible that was at the time. And maybe now moreso you see there was a question of, how do you tempt people who are looking for intellectual depth and maybe have the potential to dive deep? How do you engage them in Talmud Torah if there are other things that seem to be making very persuasive offers to grab onto all their time? So I see that tension in the present day, and I think it is an important question that the Jewish community has to struggle with.

Jeremy England:

And I guess before talking about that as a contemporary issue, I’d say at the same time, when I look at hanging around other scientists and knowing lots of brilliant scientists, it’s so clear once you just allow yourself to pivot outside of how scientists tend to talk to each other about the world and study a bit of Torah, and especially plumb the depths of what Chazal, the talmudic sages, have to offer, and Torah, and the rest of Tanach, once you’ve had the chance, or at least I have felt, having had the chance to engage seriously with those kinds of sources, it’s so clear to me that that is a much broader and more capacious kind of intellectual pursuit than any given academic field I’ve ever been exposed to. Academic fields are these little, relatively constrained playing fields where people learn very, very carefully and very well to play games according to particular rules, and they learn to do them very skillfully. But then there can be a great challenge of getting someone to widen their view of things a little bit. And of course, you have academics who are very broad minded or polymaths, but I think increasingly, and also generally, if someone’s really, really, really, really good at physics, that doesn’t mean necessarily that they think broadly in every way, that’s not guaranteed.

Speaker 1:

If I could jump in because –

Jeremy England:

Sure.

Speaker 1:

I love what you’re describing, for me, I’ll almost state it more crudely. I know people far less intelligent than you who have trouble almost like listening to a rabbi, what they have to say, because they’re like, I’m so much smarter than you, I know so much more than you. And I’m curious, and you just come off so humble and decent and open to the world, but I’m curious if you’ve struggled with the intellectual superiority, there’s a good chance you’re smarter than nearly every rabbi that you may be talking to, and how does that not breed a type of dismissiveness so to speak?

Jeremy England:

Yeah. So I think there’s certainly a risk of someone becoming dismissive if they prize too much a particular muscle that they might have that is particularly strong. The question is, what is the activity that we’re talking about engaging in, and what are we ultimately setting the greatest store by? I think there’s no question that it is not easy, no matter how intelligent a person is in the sense of, they can recite these digits of pi or they invented the computer, no matter how much someone has some kind of almost athletic, so to speak, like a mentally athletic ability to jump very high in a certain way, they’re not going to have deeper thoughts about the whole sweep of the human condition and what the world is than are contained in the trove of tradition that we find in Torah. I feel completely convinced of that.

Jeremy England:

And I think that doesn’t mean that such people can’t have new ideas, and it doesn’t mean that such people can’t be disappointed with an interaction where someone who’s trying to bring them into Torah, maybe, isn’t bringing them in the way that matches what they need, the kind of conversation they need to have. I think what’s there in the tradition, no one’s going to be unsatisfied by that. It’s not the sources that are lacking. I think in some cases what’s true is, in a given conversation between a person whose trying to teach Torah and a person who’s trying to decide if they are interested in what they’re learning, there may be some instances where someone feels like, this isn’t getting me at my level, that argument doesn’t make sense to me, I feel like it’s low brow.

Jeremy England:

Yeah, and I think you see a fair bit of that, and sometimes people who might be more interested in Torah get turned off because they talked to the wrong person. And probably there are some issues that we have to struggle with that do have to do with communities of people that develop with separate kinds of expertise, and so they each feel like the other person they’re talking to maybe isn’t bringing enough to the table, because the thing that you’re describing –

David Bashevkin:

Who do you mean by that last example?.

Jeremy England:

Yeah. So what I mean is that, there are some things I’m better at than other things.

David Bashevkin:

Let’s say physics.

Jeremy England:

And some of those things are part of being a physicist. So if we can stipulate that I’m good at being a physicist, the fact that I might be good at being a physicist doesn’t necessarily mean that I can’t learn a tremendous amount about Torah from someone else who knows more than I do about the subject at hand, who is not particularly strong in their grasp of physics, or necessarily would be good at it if they tried to learn about it. It depends on what subject we’re talking about. So if we’re talking about particular areas in Torah, someone could have vastly greater knowledge than me and be much more agile in engaging with certain questions, the same way that, if I meet a lawyer, I might say, “Oh, they’re much better than I am at X, but much worse than I am at Y, and like we can learn from each other – ”

Speaker 1:

And you’re still able to respect the edifice of the discipline. That’s what I’m –

Jeremy England:

Yeah. But I think that what probably is the most destructive to that kind of dialogue is when, if you have people who are coming in and their expertise really is in, like they can take you through a daf of Gemara and talk to you about the implications down through the rishonim and modern-day Halakha, and that’s their expertise, but then they also have some tricks, so to speak, like how do you explain to someone why they know that God exists. And they are trafficking, to some degree, in maybe mushy understanding of scientific concepts, but trying to work that in, that can obviously really put someone off if they feel like they’re being talked to in a way that seems really flimsy. I don’t think the flimsiness there is coming from the Torah itself, I think it’s coming from the mistake. Everyone feels so much pressure today to find ultimate proofs of the truth and validity of things on language that sounds scientific, because there’s tremendous cultural pressure to do that –

David Bashevkin:

Yeah, you’re getting at a really crucial point, yeah.

Jeremy England:

And so I think trying to engage in the discussion –

David Bashevkin:

Why is that a mistake? Wait, finish that thought, because that is, I think, so important. Why is that a mistake to try to use scientific proof language to describe spiritual, religious, whatever you want to call them, truths?

Jeremy England:

I don’t know. I think the basic point here is that if Hakadosh Baruch Hu wanted to make the world in such a way that it was completely self-evident to anyone who was very intelligent that all the things that he tells us about in the Torah are true and deserve the commitment of the Jewish people or the faith of humanity, then he could have set things up that way. But he clearly did it, he clearly made a world in which some extremely intelligent people see no contradiction, it’s clear to them, understanding why things in the Bible should have to be true, and they may even see a lot of evidence that they are not true. And there are other people who are extremely intelligent who perhaps see how they can make it work. When David HaMelech says, “Ma rabu ma’asecha hashem kulam b’chochmah asita”. When he says that Hashem, how manifold are your works, you made them all of wisdom.

Jeremy England:

He’s articulating an attitude that can behold the world created with a chochmah, with a natural order to it, that can be discovered. “Chochmah”, in that language, I think is referring to the scientizability of the workings of the world, at least in part. It’s the chochmah of the crafts, of how you make the different implements for the Mishkan it’s the material science of how you build things. You can have that attitude, someone else can clearly have a lot of chochmah, and they’re not using that chochmah necessarily to discover the truth of Torah, and they can still be really good at melting gold and pouring it into different shapes. So I think that the tradition certainly leaves open for us the possibility of having extremely great chochmah that doesn’t necessarily automatically lead to a religious encounter that’s authentic and well founded.

Jeremy England:

But I don’t think that that means that that can’t happen, it just means it’s about our brit, our covenant, our choice. I have found it always for myself more sensible, personally, to say, if I start by committing myself to using this way of talking about the world and this way of acting in the world as a foundation for everything else, then I can exert the intellectual effort to make it all square and hang together, and I find it can do so in the ways that are satisfying. Not like, you’re all done and there are no remaining questions or things one grapples with, but where one feels like one makes progress down that path and deepens one’s sense that this can all work together. But I think that that starts with committing to the promise and committing to the brit, committing to the Torah as a marriage, so to speak, that you take on at the outset. And then the rest can unfold, it doesn’t come by proving it before you start.

David Bashevkin:

So I want to come to this question, and this is what I was thinking about before, it was at the tip of my tongue, and it really relates, not to the content of your book, but your choice to write a book on this subject. Your book, Every Life is on Fire, again, coming out from Basic Books. You are a scientist, and your renown is from science, and I’m curious why you resisted the temptation, what I would think as the easier path, of keeping your religious thoughts private, keeping your religious thoughts intimate. Why, do you find it exhausting as somebody, a, who came to a more committed religious life later in life, and now you have people like me reaching out to you for interviews, and you have to weigh in on religion and what Halakha means to you and what Judaism means to you. I mean, frankly, if I was in your shoes, I would be absolutely exhausted. If I had to explain to everybody what religion and Halakha means to me every waking, you know? And you’ve kind of been, this has been foisted on you. You went to Oxford. You had a private, healthy, satisfying religious life as many people do. Being forced to describe your religious and Halakhic commitments can be exhausting. So I’m just so fascinated by, what on earth would compel you to not just be willing to talk about it, but to actually write a book about it? Why not stick to your bread and butter, like, “Hey, I’m there with Darwin…”

Jeremy England:

I think I get the sense of the question, I think that …

David Bashevkin:

And let me be absolutely clear: I’m so happy you didn’t make that choice and that you chose to write a book, I’m not discouraging you.

Jeremy England:

I appreciate that. I think the way I would put it is that I don’t like the idea that by, first of all, by shrinking from weighing in that way and saying, “Let me just write a book that focuses entirely on the physics,” that I’d be putting something out there that would allow someone to mistake my own attitude about the implications of what I’m saying, because I think that there is a lot of eagerness to take anything that sounds like an explanation for where life might come from in a language that doesn’t sound like the way Torah talks about it, to say, “Ah, this is the final stake in this heart of the creationist vampire, and we can dispense with further discussion about this. God is dead, et cetera.”

Jeremy England:

That is something that I’ve seen more than once come up in reaction to popular press about some of the research that I’ve been involved with. And I have to admit, if I’m going to write a book, I would rather not have it be that you can disentangle my own commentaries on some of these issues from the whole discussion because I think that it would feel a little bit irresponsible to me, and I feel more comfortable with the idea that if someone is going to be interested to have to know what I want to say about the physics, that they should see it as best I can communicate in the context that I see it so that they don’t feel like they’ve just been sent to reading on this course where someone else can then pick up on it and be like, “Oh yeah, so we have more science disproving biblical religion.” Because I think that’s actually a very silly –

David Bashevkin:

Which to be clear, we don’t need to – I don’t want to be coy about it. This was actually done with you as a personality with a famous author, a wonder, I love his books, Dan Brown, and the author of The Da Vinci Code used you as a character.

Jeremy England:

Indeed. A character by my name was put into the book, and with a story wrapped around things that –

David Bashevkin:

Even if you believe in randomness, it’s hard to square that together.

Jeremy England:

Oh, it caught me by surprise, let me tell you, and that was really picking up on some other earlier things that had happened in the real world in reaction to some press about some of the research coming out of my group when I was at MIT. But I think that the point is that, I do actually have, not just an opinion that I might otherwise prefer to keep quiet, but I feel like I’ve gone through a very peculiar trajectory to land where I am in terms of being a scientist, but also being someone as enthralled by Torah as I am. And so I feel, as a result, there might be people who would be interested to know what things looked like along that path as I was traversing it, and so I always in general feel like I should be grateful that I’ve gotten to have that weird perspective, and maybe it actually is one that might be needed in this time to some degree, because I see a lot of different versions of struggling with the question of, “Is science the only way of knowing what’s true?” And if it isn’t, then what else is there? And if it is, then can it tell me how I should act, or can it erase or uproot the authority of traditions that I thought maybe were more fundamental? And I think it’s a very significant question for the Jewish world in this era, and one where it feels to me like it’s an ongoing conversation that I’ve been given the opportunity to be able to make some kind of contribution to, so I should be trying to do that. And so I think it’s also that, it’s not just in like, I don’t want someone running in the wrong direction, it’s also that I feel like there are some things that I enjoy sharing, and I enjoy that discussion, and I should take the opportunity.

David Bashevkin:

I was almost more worried, not just about how the scientific community is going to view you because you weigh on on this. I wonder if you get fatigue from the Jewish community. Meaning, like…

Jeremy England:

That I think, I don’t know, I love being drawn into those conversations, because I learn new sources from people when I have these discussions, and I get new perspectives on what it sounds like I’m saying, I refine my own understanding just by getting to have these discussions, like this one, with so many of its excellent questions, and I think that’s a purely rewarding thing for me. The thing that I guess I would also add is that I’ve been very gratified in addition to discover that it’s not even just like, I’m not putting a square peg into a round hole in the sense that trying to simultaneously write the book as a book about physics and explaining that to people, and also at the same time, trying to stay engaged with a roadmap of these concepts that I can unearth from a particular passage in the book of Exodus, that might’ve sounded like you’re just trying to put two things together that don’t really mix. But what’s been wonderful to discover is that it’s almost easier to explain to a layperson what one is talking about in the physics if you have, as a tool, like a conceptual, explanatory tool, some of the examples that are provided, because Tanach is always oriented towards the experience of the individual person as they perceive the world in this unfiltered and unadulterated way.

Jeremy England:

It’s not about what you see with microscopes, it’s not about what you detect with scintillator counters, it’s about what you see with your eyes, and what you feel with your hands, and what you can smell. And so, if you think about the sign that’s given to Moshe where he’s told to take the Nile river water and mix it with the dust of the earth and it will become blood in the dry ground, right. There are a lot of different things that that can mean, and they may mean all of them, or at least many of them. But one of the things that is quite pertinent, if you’re going to talk about the physics of life, like self-organization, that it’s not just water, it’s river water. It’s water that’s flowing, right? And so it’s water that is carrying energy. It’s the flow of matter and energy through the medium, which is the dust, which is particulate matter that can be assembled together in different ways. And so you immediately have this very tactile, everyday way of thinking about, what’s an example of something in the world which has basic physical characteristics that are more lifelike than just a rock sitting on the floor?

Jeremy England:

Well, I have a physical medium with particular matter that can clump together in different ways, and I can cause water to flow through it, and that carries energy and matters for it. And then when you do that, you get things like spontaneously emerging branched structures that are remarkably complex in their organization. Then there’s a whole way you could go down into that discussion from the standpoint of science, and it’s not the same thing as discussing it from the standpoint of how the Torah talks about it, but I think the point is just, it’s been wonderful and rewarding to me to discover that it’s not a difficult fit to get together, I think the Torah actually wants to talk about some of these subjects. And the even more interesting thing is, why? Because it’s not a science textbook, it’s not just trying to be like, “Oh, by the way, the Torah knows about that too, just in case you were curious.”

David Bashevkin:

Like what’s called biblical concordism, like transposing scientific theory onto… That’s not what you’re saying?

Jeremy England:

Yeah, I don’t think the point is just to show that it all lines up, I think whenever the Torah takes up something as a subject it’s because of the mission of avodat Hashem, right? It’s trying to teach you how to serve Hashem, which means that if it’s going to talk about something, it must mean that there’s a reason you should be contemplating this topic in a way that the text presents to you so that you can come to new conclusions about how to do a better job doing what the Torah is trying to get you to do.

David Bashevkin:

Beautiful.

Jeremy England:

And I think that is… The culmination of the book is trying to engage with this question, it’s not a simple one to engage with, but I think that that’s sort of the…

David Bashevkin:

The crux, and I’m so excited to read it.

Jeremy England:

I wasn’t initially imagining, when I first started writing, and then it sort of came out, that this is where this is leading, that you can talk about life as being made up of stuff that is dumb particles bouncing off of each other, but if that’s all it is, then why does life matter? And if that isn’t all that it is, then how is the Torah helping you to discover what else it is?

David Bashevkin:

Absolutely beautiful. We’re already overtime, and I still have the very quick rapid-fire questions, but I want to ask one more substantive question that you may or may not want to weigh-in on, and it has to do with your last, your most recent job change, which is into the world of artificial intelligence, a world that has long fascinated me since I was in probably 11th grade and read Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, and David Chalmers. I’m curious for you, I’ve noticed a lot of religious language in the world of artificial intelligence, when people talk about the singularity, about the ability of machines one day to replace us, when people talk about… Nick Bostrom talks about this a lot, the possibility that we’re in a simulation already. I’m curious how you view the uniqueness of being human as a scientist and as somebody specifically involved in artificial intelligence. Where do you see, where do you find, if at all, the uniqueness of the human experience?

Jeremy England:

I think that that is probably… In order to answer a question like that, well, it would probably require a whole discussion of the duration that we’ve already traversed, so I’ll try and kind of only to say something brief, acknowledging that it’s not adequate to the task. But I think just to say briefly two things about that. One is that I think machine learning is… You just have to think of it as a way of using computers to make predictive models that are more complicated than the ones you can write down when you just are using pen and paper with simple equations, but it’s still ultimately about, do I have a model that allows me to predict something about the world from something else about the world? And I judge it by how frequently it’s successful. And the thing we always have to remember is that the models that we make of the world are always our constructions, whether that’s Newton’s laws or whether that’s a machine learning algorithm.

Jeremy England:

And so they’re ma’aseh yedei adam, they’re made by the hands of people, and they can be very effective, but they never replace the world just because they work well. The full-blown complexity of what the world is is never subsumed and replaced by our approximation of it or our attempt at summarizing it. And I think that when we make the mistake of thinking that we have successfully substituted, that we figured out, this equation is the world, or this computer algorithm is a full account of the world, that is our era’s most potent and tempting version of idolatry, right? That you used to be able to make a molten silver, golden statue, and that in its own way, in a way it’s hard for us to relate to at this remove, perhaps, was an attempt at summarizing what was true about the world in a way that was tangible and complete and the details of the idol and the details of the myth, where we’re supposed to be a full account of what there is.

Jeremy England:

And then you could devote yourself to that and rely on it completely, and I think what our prophets have told us accurately is that that path is a false one, and that it leads you to ruin, but it may take a while to get there and there are twists and turns. So I think it’s both the case that machine-learning is an incredibly powerful tool and a predictive method, which if you combine it with the right kinds of scientific questions, there are just whole new vistas that you can explore that are very exciting, that’s how I got drawn into it. Now, the intersection of genomics and machine-learning and trying to figure out new ways of designing medicines, when you have all of these data and you have to use algorithms that are adequate to handling data on that scale, that’s a very thrilling scientific opportunity, but I think when talking about artificial intelligence and machine-learning more as, will it replace people, or is it some kind of new path to…

David Bashevkin:

Enlightenment and…

Jeremy England:

And fully explaining what the world is or summarizing it? That’s where it starts to be… Look, people for a long time have been making things in the form of people that they want to claim are Gods or that they want to claim are powers greater than a human being. And that’s not a new challenge for humanity, it’s a very old one, and it’s one where I think our tradition can provide us with a lot of guidance if we approach it in the right way.

David Bashevkin:

Absolutely beautiful. Okay. So we’re going to go on to the easier questions. This has been an absolute…

Jeremy England:

I have to apologize, I think I do need to run pretty soon.

David Bashevkin:

Okay. So these will be really, really quick, and this has been such a delight. Your daily schedule. What time do you usually go to sleep? What time do you usually wake up?

Jeremy England:

Our kids are getting older, so that’s a rapidly fluctuating and changing thing, but I don’t know. I guess, fairly typical day I get up between six and seven, and depending, maybe go to bed, hopefully before midnight, it depends, our two-year-old is a bit unpredictable.

David Bashevkin:

Gotcha. Okay. What books would you recommend for… You came to this later in life. What books would you recommend for somebody who identifies with your mode of thinking, is attracted to science and these ideas, what books using religious language have you found to be most helpful, would you recommend?

Jeremy England:

At a certain point was definitely very influenced by reading Halakhic Man and Halakhic Mind by Rav Soloveitchik, and also, it was called in the UK Radical Then, Radical Now, I think it’s called, A Letter in the Scroll, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was something that also… and that made a very early first impression on me.

David Bashevkin:

Where do you go now? What books are you immersed in now?

Jeremy England:

Just tracing through, since then I think Daniel Deronda was a novel that I read by George Eliot that was really powerfully important to me at a certain stage, thinking about Israel and Zionism, and really an amazing amount of philosophy of science.

David Bashevkin:

Which novel?

Jeremy England:

Daniel Deronda by George Elliott. Once we start getting into the more recent era where, especially once we started having our boys, that the time that I have had to read has gotten squeezed down to point where a lot of the reading that I do or a lot of the study that I do is Talmud Torah because it’s what I have time for and I’m prioritizing it. And so I’m trying to think of whether…

David Bashevkin:

So stay there for a second and we could almost end with that. What are you learning in your Talmud Torah? Daf Yomi, Mishna? What do you find stimulating? I’m just curious. Like in your daily routine of practice.

Jeremy England:

I try to do a mix of different kinds of things. I think that, over the last several years, I did the Semicha course in the WebYeshiva of Rav Brovender, and because I wanted to deepen my understanding of Halakha, and so that is always important. And just for me practically, because I want to do a better job with that aspect of life in the family and everything. But I really enjoy just sitting down with Tanach and trying to find puzzles in it myself. And I don’t always succeed, but I try to do that. Because I think it’s also obviously fascinating to read the commentators, but I think sometimes we put so many layers of commentaries on top that we forget what’s there in the text, and what was [inaudible], what was something that Ramban said. And just going to the text of Tanach itself and saying, this is strange, or this is connected, these passages are talking to each other, what is the meaning of that relationship? That’s a very satisfying and often challenging thing to do. And then Gemara also, and listening to shiurim from favorite people, like Rabbi David Fohrman, or Rav Menachem Liebtag. So I did a lot of, or Rabbi David Bar-Haryim also. There are lots of different kinds of shiurim that I listen to on the internet just to get a lot of different perspectives, whether it’s more like reading Tanach or talking about how Halakha or whatever else.

David Bashevkin:

Final, final question, I’m going to let you go, and I’m so appreciative for your time, it really does mean a great deal. What is a good introduction to science that you would hand somebody who maybe didn’t have a appreciation or understanding of science? Where would you tell them to start? I assume it’s not from your archived paper. Something, an entry point to understand and appreciate that, to show that you don’t have to be afraid of this.

Jeremy England:

So I guess if we’re talking about…

David Bashevkin:

You’re very careful with your words, I feel bad.

Jeremy England:

So I guess I’m a little bit missing the introduction to science, in general like, how to reason about the world scientifically, or…

David Bashevkin:

No, the contemporary developments.

Jeremy England:

Subjects in science?

David Bashevkin:

The contemporary developments in the world of science and how that should be digested and integrated into life. I mean, are there other writers who are writing about this well? That you find that…

Jeremy England:

I’m sure there are but I’m not… I don’t know what it actually

David Bashevkin:

Put out a book, it should be instinctive at this point, so…

Jeremy England:

The way that I would put it is that, the things that come most to mind actually are not scientists writing about science but maybe more like philosophers of science or philosophers who have written things that I think…

David Bashevkin:

Can you give me one example?

Jeremy England:

A foundation for thinking about science, but it’s more academic, I don’t know that I have a recommendation that’s more sort of…

David Bashevkin:

Like for a layperson.

Jeremy England:

What I’m thinking of is, I, to start thinking about science in a helpful way, well, if I can back out of this one. I’m just –

David Bashevkin:

You want to back out. We’ll stay in reverse, I’m going to let you off the hook. You’ve stayed with us for nearly an hour and a half, so I’m so appreciative for that. Thank you so much for taking the time out, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with Dr. Jeremy England. Thank you so much. Have a great day.

David Bashevkin:

Thank you so much for listening to our conversation with Dr. Jeremy England, and I think the question that overall in a large way the conversation poses is, first, you don’t need to be scared of the magnitude and the depth and the very rigorous component that science is. That’s not a question, I know that. But I think that, and maybe this is just for me, but when I listen to a scientist of such higher order, I guess when I was younger, I would always try to gravitate and assume that the smartest person in the room is necessarily right. And I think that what he’s done so masterfully is, yes, scientists are brilliant, yes, there’s no need to diminish or to push aside the expertise of science, it’s just a theory or any of that stuff, but it leaves you with the question of, in any discipline, you have to ask yourself, what are the masters in that field good at? What are they teaching you? That when you stack up and you say, “Oh, the greatest scientists all say X.” And if X doesn’t relate directly to science, do you know that scientists are in fact the best-equipped to answer that question?

David Bashevkin:

And I don’t think that relates just to religion, I would say the same thing about marriage. Would you take marriage advice from the world’s leading scientists? I’m not sure I would. And I think that that’s okay in the same way that I wouldn’t take scientific advice from the greatest marriage counselor in the world. And learning to appreciate the depth of every discipline that we have without diminishing it, without diminishing it at all, but realizing that different disciplines give you different expertise without diminishing one from the other, I think is just an overall perspective and a general question that you should be asking when you seek to different academic or expert fields or experts in any given field, you want to make sure that the questions, you’re posing them are in fact within their field of expertise.

David Bashevkin:

So thank you all so much for listening. It wouldn’t be a Jewish podcast without a little bit of shnorring, so if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and review, tell your friends about it. It really helps us reach new listeners and continue putting out great content. If you’d like to learn more about this topic or some of the other great ones we’ve covered, be sure to check out 18Forty.org. That’s the number 1-8, followed by the word “forty”, F-O-R-T-Y .org. You’ll also find videos, articles, and recommended readings. Thank you so much and stay curious.

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