Haredim Alert: more is not always better

One thing everyone should learn from genetics is that having more genes does not by itself make a species either better or more advanced.

The number of protein-coding genes in a human is 22,333. The number of protein-coding genes in a banana is 36,542.

But if you are looking for species with truly massive numbers of genes, look at conifers in general, and at the loblolly pine in particular.

Conifers are the predominant members of the 300 million year old Gymnosperm clade. Conifers are also distinguished by their giant genomes.

The loblolly pine’s massive genome is the largest genome sequenced to date; and the most complete conifer genome sequence ever published. (The draft genome is described in the March 2014 issue of the journal Genetics and in the journal Genome Biology.)

The loblolly pine genome is about seven times larger than the human genome.

What I as a religious Jew learn once again from all this, is that the spiritual principle that having or doing much more of something does not always result in becoming much better off.

The Bible tells us, “Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16)

This is the spiritual form of the scientific and economic principle of the law of diminishing returns. It explains why attempts to make something ideal, or become someone perfect, not only always fail, but often lead to unexpected results, unanticipated consequences and even counterproductive disasters.

People with a perfectionist parent know this. Religions that advocate constantly striving to achieve the ideal and produce extremists, know this.

Religious institutions and movements that believe they are doing good; so that more good is always better and any errors must be covered up for the greater good: must learn humility.

This is the greater lesson we should learn from the Talmudic statement: Tafasta meruba lo tafasta (Hebrew: תפשת מרובה לא תפשת) “If you have seized too much, you have not seized anything” (Chagigah 17a and Rosh Hashanah 4b)

Religious leaders who claim to speak for God must always remember: Religious power tends to corrupt and total religious power is totally corrupting.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.