Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rav Aviner on Dinosaurs

http://www.ravaviner.com/2009/07/were-there-dinosaurs.html

I don't agree with everything he says, but the basic approach, which is Rav Kook's, is very valuable.

15 comments:

  1. http://garnelironheart.blogspot.com/2009/07/articles-of-faith.html

    It's time to remember that there are 13 ikkarim as laid out by the Rambam. Not 46 or so as laid out by successive chumros.

    Believing that God created the world ex nihilo and is the First Cause is mandatory. A literal reading of Bereshis chapter 1 is not.

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  2. Thanks for sharing, R' Slifkin!
    The article mentions mermaids, and I thought your readers would like to see a short video of a modern, err, mermaid:

    http://videos.komando.com/2009/02/16/
    "This interesting YouTube video features a bizarre twist of nature. Shiloh Pepin is much like any nine-year-old girl. She goes to school, plays football and attends dance classes.

    But Pepin has one of the rarest conditions known to man, Sirenomelia. The condition is also known as Mermaid Syndrome. Pepin was born with her legs fused together. She is one of only five known survivors worldwide. And she is the only one not to have a leg-separation surgery.

    This clip comes from a documentary on Pepin and her family. Despite her condition, she has a plucky attitude. And that shines through in this short clip."

    R' Aviner also writes something I've never heard before: "Some say that the Atheists made dinosaurs from plastic in order to challenge us and claim that they were from long ago. This is nonsense." Did anyone truly say such a thing?

    It's neat that the T.Y. mentions Baltimore in his commentary.

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  3. I wish the Tiferet Yisrael would have taken it one step further. What many people seem to overlook is that the individuals most prone to speaking in code and parable are the kabbalists (of old.) For instance, if we were to take the Zohar literally, we would be utterly convinced that there is more than one God (or at least more than one completely autonomous governing entity) and that God has clear and distinct body parts, namely fingers, arms, a face and flaring nostrils. This conclusion is patently absurd, and per force, the kabbalists, and baalai aggadah are speaking in parable. Why must the statement that 4 worlds were created prior to our own be taken literally, when it has been clearly demonstrated that often, literal translations lead to absurd results? Perhaps 4 worlds means 4 epochs, or 4 evolutionary stages, or 4 of anything that would neatly fit into what we know to be true and indisputable: that there are "four distinct layers of rock, and between the layers [there are] fossilized remains of creatures." Certainly these findings deserve a plausible explanation from the Torah perspective. The most plausible explanation is staring us right in the face if we simply adopt the well established mesorah of taking things non-literally.

    (Pardon me Rabbi Slifkin if I have inadvertently written something that you have already addressed in your books. Assume that where ever I did not give credit that I meant to but was too ignorant to know where it was appropriate.)

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  4. On the face of it, Shmittos does not work well at all with the findings of modern science. I would say that a strict "Goesse" type of approach works better scientifically than shmittos. If one read Drush Ohr Hachaim carefully, it is clear that the time periods he refers to are "dafka" 7 periods of 7,000 years and not an elastic "lots" of years. Obviously, there are many others that take on "shmittos" in one form or another but I have never seen one that really works well with science, including Rav Aryeh Kaplan z"l. Such a brilliant person presumably had a way to make his peirush "glatt" with science but it for isn't in is written words.

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  5. > R' Aviner also writes something I've never heard before: "Some say that the Atheists made dinosaurs from plastic in order to challenge us and claim that they were from long ago. This is nonsense." Did anyone truly say such a thing?

    You've really never heard of the Great Dinasour Conspiracy? Its a pretty standard beleif in right-wing circles. The dinasours were invented by the evil scientists to bolster their heretical claim that the world is millions of years old.

    > This conclusion is patently absurd, and per force, the kabbalists, and baalai aggadah are speaking in parable.

    Ah, but what if they weren't? Can you imagine!

    I've said it before, chas v'sholem that we should misunderstand a sefer as a saying exactly what it says.

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  6. After quick googling, I see that G3 is right about the conspiracy theory (though I don't know about "pretty standard belief in right wing circles.") See:
    http://internet.ocii.com/~dpwozney/dinosaur.htm

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  7. Dear The Leader, Garnel Ironheart,
    The Rambam can state what he wants people to believe. But there is certainly no good rational reason to pretend to believe that which s/he does not. Indeed, the Rambam did not, himself, believe these "icarim" in the same way that others did [i.e. moshiach, techias haMeisim, etc].

    Somehow, Rabbinic Judaism existed for 1300 years before these "icarim" made their entrance to the world through the pen of the Rambam. Perhaps 1/2 the Jewish world were Karaites. Now, we have Rabbinic Judaism or the rejection of Rabbinic Judaism to varying degrees. But there isn't any viable alternative. Even with tthe threat of Karaism, the "icarim" didn't really become widely used until the debates with Christians [such as the Ramban's] when it seemed important that we had to have a credo like the goyim.

    I know I'm probably a minority of one, but I think it's time to stop forcing people to pretend we believe all these icarim in order to have good standing. I promise you that almost all the observant people you know would have difficulty if they were asked to verbalize their precise true beliefs and have them compared to the "icarim". I believe, with full faith, that belief in all the "icarim" is not necessary or sufficient to being Jewish.

    Sincerely,
    Gary Goldwater

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  8. "Believing that God created the world ex nihilo and is the First Cause is mandatory. A literal reading of Bereshis chapter 1 is not."

    A "literal" reading of all of Torah is mandatory unless one has compelling reason, if not demonstrative proof, otherwise. Even if we are compelled to accept a non-literal approach, to be dismissive about preserving the pshat is in and of itself objectionable. Rav Sa'adia Gaon certainly felt we should maintain the pshat of the first chapter of B'reshis.

    At that, other than concluding that this chapter need not be understood literally, and citing a source in common (which apparently in turn cites "mystics") I'm not sure there is much common ground between Rav Aviner's position and that of Rabbi Slifkin. The most striking difference it seems to me is that Rabbi Aviner essentially dismisses the question while Rabbi Slifkin has several books which recognize the "challenge" it presents. And, while I may be wrong in my analysis, I really don't think there is much similarity between how Rabbi Aviner reaches his conclusion and how Rabbi Slifkin does. As such I would ask what is the relevance. If the issue is the correctness of the argument then the agreement in conclusion isn't all that relevant. If the issue is establishing the conclusion as not heretical then the sources probably just make it preaching to the choir.


    "I would say that a strict "Goesse" type of approach works better scientifically than shmittos."

    Challenge of Creation points out that the Gosse Theory, strictly speaking, has the additional baggage of rejecting the standard scientific view regarding interpreting nature. The apparent age approach in general is harder to maintain once one continues into conflicts after the first chapter of Genesis, but I believe that it is less so than maintaining a continual march of textually unsupported non-literal interpretation through the first quarter of Genesis (which maybe why Challenge of Creation didn't deal with those issues).

    Incidentally, I believe that many of the concepts/outlooks Rabbi Slifkin used in Challenge of Creation to support his conclusion could be used to answer some of the "why's" used to dismiss the apparent age approach.

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  9. "I've said it before, chas v'sholem that we should misunderstand a sefer as a saying exactly what it says."

    Taking Midrash k'peshuto while not passing over the peshat of the Mikra? That's "rationalism"?

    :)

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  10. Rabbi Slifkin -with all do respect how do you allow such blatant Minus on your blog within the comments??

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  11. Which minus are you referring to? Please be precise.

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  12. Which minus are you referring to? Please be precise.

    Don't be silly; there are many obvious examples. See, e.g., the character following "Rabbi Slifkin " in the comment from July 22, 2009 7:32 PM.

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  13. Gary Goldwater's comment has a certain persuasive appeal on it's face, but is severely undermined by logical errors.

    First and foremost is the problem that the late formulation of the 13 Ikkarim in no way negates the fact that the halchic status of a heretic had already existed for a considerable length of time. Accordingly his inference that we should not be/feel compelled to affirm and particular set of beliefs from the late dating of the 13 Ikkarim is a total non-sequitur.

    His statement, "I promise you that almost all the observant people you know would have difficulty if they were asked to verbalize their precise true beliefs and have them compared to the "icarim"." clearly falls into the category of an ad populum fallacy. The success or failure of people to accept something does not negate it's truth, nor does people's lack of faith negate the obligation to have faith.

    The truth is that, "rationally" speaking the question isn't whether one should affirm ikkarim when one finds them, well, less than compelling. The much more significant question is why on earth would someone affirm a world view which asserts numerous points which they disagree with even if they are inclined to agree with a skeleton of "fundamental" views? The question isn't whether the ikkarim are sufficient or necessary for being Jewish, it is whether it makes any sense to affirm Judaism when one disagrees with it on any issue up to [and maybe including] the ikkarim?

    It is especially perplexing when there is an alternative religion, Conservative Judaism, where such a theology is normative and one's observance is considered acceptable. Don't get wrong, I guess I'm kind of a big tent guy, but that is a matter of wanting to see people closer to the truth rather than farther. From a logical standpoint I just fail to see the appeal for people to affirm a belief system when it requires so many astrixes.

    I believe Gary Goldwater's comment raises some significant questions for Rabbi Slifkin on how to proceed in actualizing a modern day "Rationalist" Movement he has envisioned. The fact is that many of those most excited by the prospect, and active in the dialectic, are those who have a tenuous relationship to fundamental principles of Yiddishkeit. I'm not talking about those who question the Rambam's enumeration, but those who have effectively dismissed the notion of heresy. This was an issue for the Rambam's version of Rationalism as well, with people who considered themselves his successors denying that which he affirmed (such as creation Yesh M'Ayin), and attributing such beliefs to him.

    Such people help with momentum but compromise the theological integrity of a neo-Rationalist movement. And while it may not be exactly a logically inevitable, it is realistically inevitable that the halachic integrity will be compromised. While one might argued that committed orthodox rationalists will conform to kabbalisticly influenced halachos in anticipation of the day when a kosher Sanhedrin returns things to their "proper" order, this strikes me as highly unlikely and unattainable once we introduce a significant number of members who do not really anticipate the coming of Moshiach or are otherwise not ideologically committed. (I do not mean to limit halachic compromise to kabbalisticly influenced psak, but it would be the first.)

    I guess what I'm saying is, Rabbi Slifkin, be careful what you wish for.

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  14. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/071203-dino-mummy.html

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  15. Phil wrote: "Pepin has one of the rarest conditions known to man, Sirenomelia. The condition is also known as Mermaid Syndrome."

    Sadly, the girl has died this week.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/6440069/Mermaid-syndrome-girl-born-with-fused-legs-dies-aged-10.html#

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