Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Torah of Science

As many of you know, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman of Yeshivas Toras Moshe was one of those who condemned my books. In fact, of all those who opposed my books, Rabbi Meiselman was one of the most vitriolic. His ire was aroused by the fact that I had mentioned him in the acknowledgments of one of the books, thus putting him, as he said, "in an extremely uncomfortable position." (As it happens, his contribution was negligible, and I explicitly mentioned that the people listed in the acknowledgments were only those who had given some sort of input and were not being presented as endorsing the book's thesis.) As a result, he felt forced to give a series of shiurim that would make it clear that he was on the side of the Gedolim and condemned my work.

Rabbi Meiselman's condemnations of my material reflected exceedingly poorly on him, for a number of reasons. One was that, while he doubtless has genuine differences of opinion with me, every single one of his criticisms was based on a serious distortion of what I wrote. Furthermore, he issued a number of personal insults, quite unbefitting anyone, let alone a Rosh Yeshivah. Worst of all, he issued some appalling motzi shem ra about my personal history, which subsequently was spread by others.

I sent a letter of protest to Rabbi Meiselman, to which he did not respond (you can read it here). A number of people thought that I was exaggerating his distortions, or wondered if perhaps he has more credibility than I made it appear. I therefore uploaded all his shiurim about me to my website, so that people could listen to them and hear his rhetoric for themselves. Rabbi Meiselman subsequently sent me his only communication, via an intermediary - a request that I remove the audio recordings from my website. I sent a message back that I would be quite willing to do so once he retracts his false accusations. There was no response. However, a number of people, including parents of students at Toras Moshe, complained to Rabbi Meiselman about his disgusting attack.

Possibly as an effort to regain credibility, he has written a book with his own views on Torah and science. "The Torah of Science" is due to be published soon by Feldheim Publishers. Apparently, he argues in the book that the world is 5770 years old and that evolution is false, amongst other things. I don't know if the book also contains overt attacks on me or my own work. According to my informants, Rabbi Meiselman also claims in the book that the famous passage by Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam about Chazal's knowledge of science is a forgery!

Here are my predictions about what the book will NOT include, even though one would expect these to be included in a book presenting itself as the authoritative guide to this subject matter:

  • A citation of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh's important letters about Torah and science;


  • A discussion of the most fundamental discussion in the Gemara on this topic, that of the sun's path at night, with mention of all the Rishonim on this sugya;


  • A discussion of specific problematic statements in the Gemara that my books address, such as the mud-mouse, the gestation periods of different animals, Rashi's explanation of mermaids, and so on. There will be generic platitudes about the wisdom of Chazal and the folly of scientists rather than an analysis of the most difficult statements by Chazal that are challenged by science.


  • An explanation of all the diverse biological phenomena that evolution so neatly explains, such as the nested hierarchy of the animal kingdom, fossils, vestigial limbs, the geographical siting of specific animal groups such as marsupials, and so on. Why do whales need to come to the surface to breath, rather than being able to breath underwater like fish? Don't expect this book to provide any framework for answering such questions; it will just be a list of kashyas on natural selection, presented as a fundamental disproof of the entire evolutionary model.

One person who saw the manuscript told me that I will have absolutely no difficulty in exposing the fundamental fallacies and errors of the work. Still, I do think that the book is cause for concern. Many people will be under the mistaken impression that since Rabbi Meiselman has a PhD in mathematics (and I heard one rabbi mistakenly claim that it was in physics), this means that his opinion on the age of the universe and evolution carries weight and authority.

On the other hand, when I (and probably others) do expose the mistakes in Rabbi Meiselman's book, the resultant publicity will doubtless lead many people to my website, where they will learn about Rabbi Meiselman's disgusting personal slander of me. This is not good PR for him or his yeshivah - especially since his book makes it look as though he is trying to "get back at me" for exposing his low behavior. So I think that, aside from the errors in science and rabbinic scholarship, Rabbi Meiselman is committing a strategic error.

62 comments:

  1. I look forward to it. Your response, I mean.

    Baruch Pelta
    bpelta.blogspot.com

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  2. I think this post really shows just how hurt you were by Rabbi Meiselman and that you really dislike him.

    That being said, his book is just more of the same ideas that some Rabbis put forward. Whoever reads what he has to say most likely already agrees with him. People who don't read him most likely already disagree with him.

    I am curious at how much he will say that is easily refutable, semi-intellectual and, even, correct. But in truth, there is no waaaay I am wasting my time reading something like that. If I want to learn about science and Torah I will read something written by people who do research in science as well as Torah.

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  3. "According to my informants, Rabbi Meiselman also claims in the book..."

    I don't mean any disrespect but i think that expression is a little over-dramatic...This isn't the cold war (although with recent events in the news one can never know!)

    Yoni

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  4. A PhD in mathematics does not make one knowledgeable in science. The latter is based on empirical facts, the former is not. I have a PhD in biostatistics so I am on the edge of the two and I see the difference.

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  5. You know that and I know that, but unfortunately the average person doesn't.

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  6. This book will really change nothing.
    Those who believe the world is literally 5770 years old and that this belief is a fundamental principle of Judaism will hail his book as a great work of religious literature, a strong defence of authentic Torah Judaism, blah, blah.
    Those of us with our brains turned on to a higher voltage than that will either ignore the book (given that I have lots of other stuff to read) or write eloquent rebuttals (that would be you) that will amount to preaching to the choir.
    Instead, can I recommend some books you'd like instead?

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  7. With all due respect, I believe this post is just wrong. What is this, a preemptive strike? "Here are my predictions"?

    If your posts are to be taken seriously, a review needs to be written based on the final published version, not based on hearsay.

    Just wondering: Were any of your guesses and predictions be proven wrong, will you publish an official apology to Meiselman?

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  8. Of course I would! That's why I only made predictions that I feel very confident in.

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  9. You know...I read this post, and the first thing that came to my mind was NOT "these are the words of a clearly rational individual." Chazal say that one should be "min hane'elavim velo min haolvim." You come across as a little boy who was hurt and is yelling on and on about it. How about taking the (rational) high road and posting about something that will benefit all of us as we are about to face Tisha B'av? I have no doubt that you can truly justify your rant - but is it in the true spirit of Torah and Chazal?

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  10. As a grad student in mathematics, I'm a bit appalled that anyone would think that having a degree in our discipline qualified us to talk about any of these issues. I'm not actually sure that a physicist would necessarily be more qualified- it would depend on the area of physics they did and even then all that they could comment on would be some things related to the age of the earth. A physicist who specializes in superconductors for example will about as much background as the mathematician (maybe slightly more).

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  11. Maybe the next book could be "The Creation of Challenge"

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  12. I don't see anthing wrong with this posting. Those who actively worked to ban someone based on at least partially false pretenses need to be rebutted very publicly.

    Hello, smell the coffee-the ban is still in effect and so long as it remains so then those who were behind it and operate under false pretenses must be exposed and critiqued in as public a fashion as possible.

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  13. The cause of truth is served well by Rav Slifkin exposing the intellectual dishonesty of those who atack him.

    I can't take those whose attitude to the victim is-how dare you expose the truth? how dare you expose those who persecute you?

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  14. Why do whales do have to breathe?

    That's an interesting question. Why?

    Is it about respiration being more oxygen-efficient than the breathing of fish?

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  15. R' Slifkin:

    Without minimizing the slanderous things said about you, I'd strongly recommend leaving this volume alone. As you've noted in your own lectures, not all seforim are for all people, and this is not a volume meant for rationalists (as long as Feldheim doesn't put a picture of a fossil on the cover :) ). Your biggest strength has been your refusal to charedi-bash, despite the call to do so from many of my MO colleagues: continue to refrain.

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  16. "I don't see anthing wrong with this posting...."

    So when Chazal said that one should be "min hne'elavim velo min haolvim" they were wrong? They didn't really mean it?

    In this case, Rabbi Slifkin already exposed what he had to, previously. Rabbi Meiselman did not renew anything now against Rabbi Slifkin; he simply plans to put out a book on Torah and science. There is no call for repeated attacks by Rabbi Slifkin, especially based on what he *projects* the book will contain. I ask again - is this in the spirit of what we should be doing as we face Tisha B'av?

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  17. In my younger days when I would discuss these matters (i.e. the paucity of scientific knowledge among many talmidei khakhomim) with my dad (whose background was from the “chassidishe oilom”), he would say that the dictum of “sod Hashem l’rei’ov” (i.e. Hashem imparts knowledge of nature to the God-fearing) simply proves that these people are not all that God-fearing, as many have unfortunately shown in your particular case.
    I concur with many posters here, please stick to the “high road”

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  18. interesting.

    you could have also pointed out that the title, "The Torah of Science", is a play on your book, "The Science of Torah".

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  19. To "Please...":

    1. To be "min ha'ne'elavim" is a high madrega - not an obligation. May I remind you of what Chazal say elsewhere: Don't judge a person until you are in his place.

    2. "Min ha'ne'elavim" refers to insults. My grievance with Rabbi Meiselman is not with his insults, but rather with a specific false rumor that he spread about me. Chazal were not objecting to a person wanting to clear his name.

    3. In any case, the main point of this post was not Rabbi Meiselman's slander, but rather his book and the threat that it represents to rabbinic scholarship and the rationalist tradition.

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  20. Rabbi Slifkin, the smartest thing you can do is not allow your dispute with R. Meisselman to remain personal. Mit a na'ar hockt zich nisht. When his book is published, review it, expose its errors. But do so on scholarly grounds. If at that point he continues with personal attacks etc. Your true audience, intellectuals and those of us who aspire to be intellectuals will see that the emperor is in fact naked.

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  21. I strongly disagree with Efrex. Non-haredi Orthodox Jews find our hashkafas constantly under attack (and in your case, Rabbi Meiselman and his talmidim have been especially consistent on this front) while we are expected to be silent or pretend we retract from our positions in favor of their logic. Efrex would, as his comment makes clear, allow this pattern to continue. I believe it spells the decline, if not eventual death, of Modern Orthodoxy (which I'm not sure Efrex doesn't hope for...I don't know if he's haredi).

    VE RI TAS.

    Baruch Pelta
    bpelta.blogspot.com

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  22. I strongly disagree with Efrex. Non-haredi Orthodox Jews find our hashkafas constantly under attack (and in your case, Rabbi Meiselman and his talmidim have been especially consistent on this front) while we are expected to be silent or pretend we retract from our positions in favor of their logic. Efrex would, as his comment makes clear, allow this pattern to continue. I believe it spells the decline, if not eventual death, of Modern Orthodoxy (which I'm not sure Efrex doesn't hope for...I don't know if he's haredi).

    VE RI TAS.

    Baruch Pelta
    bpelta.blogspot.com

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  23. Why a speculative post before the book comes out? How does this do anything besides, as E-Man says, show how hurt you feel?

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  24. The point is to show that with these kind of books, one can know about them even before seeing them.

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  25. I don't even understand the title, the torah of science. So is he going to explain how the torah fits with science? No, he is going to say how science is unreliable, so the title makes no sense.

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  26. Baruch:

    Thanks for the laugh (me, charedi! Whoo, boy!). Seriously, though: I absolutely agree that the MO world needs to vigorously defend itself (take another look at my comments on the Honestly Frum post regarding R' Lander Zt'l, for example, or my comment on Hirhurim on the same topic - still think I'm such a shrinking violet?).

    From the description given here, however, R' Meiselman's book is not a direct attack on MO. I may completely disagree with his viewpoint, I may question Feldheim's wisdom in publishing it, but I see no reason to get worked up over it. The charedi world publishes a great deal of material that I consider to be pure unadulterated narishkeit, but it may well serve that community well; indeed, I hope it does. I don't need to let that bother me: I've got my own problems, and I'm confident enough in my mesorah and the gedolim who exemplify it to not worry about someone else promoting a different approach.

    I've long admired R' Slifkin's refusal to mudsling. In his "Anatomy of a Ban" shiur (which I've heard two variations of live) he pointedly takes, if anything, a more reconciliatory stance than the one I advocate. I'm genuinely impressed by that, and would like to see that continue. That's all

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  27. Mr. "Please": I apologize to the Mussar nicks (and lehavdil the liberals) but a well known Posek has quoted Rav Elyashev (you should confirm this on your own, obviously) that sometimes if someone gets hit he may and it is even recommended(!) that he hit back. "Other cheek"? No way! Rav Elyashev went so far to say that this should be told to children if necessary.

    And neelavim etc. obviously has its place also but things are not as simple as you would believe.

    On a more subtle level, neelavim etc. is a lesson a person should put to himself. If someone ELSe is neelav, Poskim (RSZA?) based on Chafetz Chaim, Lashon Hara 10:14, note, say that if someone expresses his complaints to you, you may, and are perhaps obligated, to hear out the person's Lashon-Haraic frustrations, instead of correcting him, moralizing him, bring him to reason, etc.

    As to the book itself, it depends if it will also have fresh ideas which address the rationalist questions. Otherwise it would just be peaching to the choir (which might not be a problem, if there is no intent of aggression).

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  28. You'd think Meiselman would realize that he's only providing the rope on which to hang himself, but I guess this PhD just hasn't done the math.

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  29. Efrex, I'll take you at your word that you're not haredi (I wasn't saying you were, I was saying I don't know). FTR, as a recent Touro alumnus, I know haredim who would vigorously defend Dr. Lander. I imagine his son would count himself in that number...

    It's one thing to defend the kavod a gadol biTorah, something which some of my good haredi friends do. It's another to defend important hashkafic positions, where you seem more wary unless somebody is directly attacking Modern Orthodoxy per se. Make no mistake about it, R' Meiselman's book is part of a larger and very important critique of Modern Orthodoxy, and whether it is "direct" or not is irrelevant.

    (btw, while I have your attention, in regards to our previous correspondence regarding the Sridei Eish and synthesis: I still maintain the source I quoted proves my point, but I apologize, I should've quoted a better source...see Kitvei R. Weinberg vol. 2, p. 342)
    bpelta.blogspot.com

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  30. My first thought after reading Rabbi Slifkin’s post above was “Oooh! Time to grab some popcorn and watch the fun!” I thought that the general “feeling” that the post gave off was emphasizing “the fight” together with the emotions that were betrayed.

    However, in defense of Rabbi Slifkin – although 99% of what he writes is rationally based, and strictly intellectual in nature – he IS human. Humans have emotions. How many years has it been that Rabbi Slifkin has been under attack? And the attacks came not from “the enemy” but from the religious hashkafah and leaders under which he learned, respected, trusted, followed and molded his life by during his teen and young adult years.

    How many of us can bear living under such attack for so many years without “fighting back” from a place of emotional hurt every now and then?

    So many of us respect Rabbi Slifkin for NOT getting into the mudslinging. However, his name is covered in mud, and mud is constantly being hurled at him. Are we fellow humans, rational as we claim to be, really going to deny him grabbing a handful and throwing it back every now and then? Is that not human?

    Rationalism may claim some form of perfection, but humans can not. Humans are imperfect, especially because we have emotions to deal with. Rabbi Slifkin has shown incredible, almost super-human restraint. And if he throws some mud back every now and then for every million fists full that have been thrown his way, then I say by all means let him!

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  31. Michapest, I really, really appreciate your defending me. However I must say that I do not think that I was "throwing mud" at Rabbi Meiselman in this post. I did not use a single insult about him as a person, as he did with me, nor did I slander him. Instead, I criticized his words about me.

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  32. R Slifkin, no matter how much to attempt to defend yourself and your ideas, you will always be a magnet for attacks by elements in the Heredi community.

    Your ideas represent a threat to their way of life (although you don't necessarily see it that way) and they will therefore use all means to deflect this threat. They know they are very vulnerable to intellectual challenges to their rigid and dogmatic ideas, and in the age of the internet they cannot prevent their followers from being exposed to this criticism.

    You should then find it no surprise that you will continue to be condemned and attacked. They will continue to try to discredit you as a scholar.

    I am MO, and I agree with many other comments here which suggest that you not waste too much effort and time in responding to R Meiselman's nonsense. Both you and he are preaching to the choir...

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  33. I think this is a great development. Silence has been used much too long as a veil. Let them address the issues. Let it be known where there is knowledge and wisdom, and where there is not.

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  34. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Point taken. Slicha.

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  35. Dr J,

    You wrote: "Your ideas represent a threat to their way of life...and they will therefore use all means to deflect this threat."

    One of the biggest problems is that it's not HIS ideas - as in Rabbi Slifkin's own ideas - it is the ideas of Rishonim which Rabbi Slifkin is quoting which they are using “all means to deflect” because they “represent a threat to their way of life”.

    Those Rabbonim who are against Rabbi Slifkin are trying to hide the fact that there WERE Rishonim who said these ideas, by using outright lies, distortions, and issuing personal condemnations of Rabbi Slifkin (for his crime of being the messenger who quoted those Rishonim who say differently than what their own hashkafah holds).

    There is a very basic struggle for TRUTH here.

    How can Divrei Torah be based on lies and still be called Torah?

    How can those very Rabbonim who represent Torah which is Emes, outright lie about divrei Rishonim and divrei Torah?

    How can “Daas Torah” be resorting to lying to support their hashkafah and be followed blindly by the masses of unsuspecting good Orthodox Jews who refuse to believe that their esteemed Rabbonim would ever lie or distort the truth in any way?

    It is not simply Chareidi hashkafa vs Modern Orthodox hashkafa. It is distortions and lies about Divrei Rishonim and Torah sources vs the truth about Divrei Rishonim and Torah sources.

    If we believe that Torah is truth, then lies and distortions of truth which masquerade as truth will disturb us.

    If those Rabbis were to say, “There are other valid opinions but we do not currently follow them” it would be a simple difference of opinion in hashkafa. But if those Rabbis state that those writings of Rishonim which don’t agree with their own hashkafa are forgeries, and when those Rabbis quote the Rambam as saying something which he did not – all distortions and lies to support their hashkafa – this distortion of Torah is simply appalling and horrific. Where is the intellectual honesty? This is Torah!

    I fully support Rabbi Slifkin’s efforts to reveal the truth. And while I do not envy the position Rabbi Slifkin is in – he is standing up for the truth, and holding as high as he can the banner of Emes – even while those strong winds of “reform” are trying to break him.

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  36. Look, he's a sad case. Pretty much all of his success in life is due to someone (his uncle, the Rav) whose hashkafa he rejects entirely. (He has, in the past, tried to distort the Rav's views to fit his own, but the truth is the truth.)

    This is a man who banned his own mother's book from his yeshiva.

    So I feel sorry for him more than anything, but that doesn't excuse him.

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  37. Many people will be under the mistaken impression that since Rabbi Meiselman has a PhD in mathematics (and I heard one rabbi mistakenly claim that it was in physics), this means that his opinion on the age of the universe and evolution carries weight and authority.
    Natan:
    Might I ask where you received your PhD in paleontology?

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  38. Rabbi Slifkin's vigorous defense of his ideas in the wake of the publication of distortions indeed accomplishes something important. The world is not so neatly divided into rationalists and non-rationalists as some would have it. There are many who overlap into both categories or those who are borderline or undefined. Rabbi Slifkin's clarifications can help many thinking Jews come to more educated conclusions.

    Rabbi Slifkin's promotion of his positions is as legitimate as those rabbis who stake out a different position. Lively and vigorous debate is also perfectly legitimate.

    Claiming that Rabbi Slifkin must not rebut and refute so as not to cause sinath hinam is a "wonderful" way to stifle intelligent discussion.

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  39. Might I ask where you received your PhD in paleontology?

    I don't have any personal authority in science either. However, the entire global community of physicists, geologists, paleontologists and so on, certainly does have authority. And it is their unanimous view that I accurately relate in my books.

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  40. Rabbi Meiselman, his school and most of the rebbeim there are totally agenda driven to re-write history and distort the views of the Rav on many topics. It is no surprise then that he would also deny realities and publish books that ignore basic facts. Perhaps he will eventually do tshuva for this book as he did for the one he wrote on Jewish Women in Jewish Law. Hopefully the hamon am will ot take this book too seriously.

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  41. > "However, the entire global community of physicists, geologists, paleontologists and so on, certainly does have authority. And it is their unanimous view that I accurately relate in my books."

    Near unanimous, that is. Those who disagree are somehow "not included" in their ranks.

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  42. R' Slifkin,
    Nobody seems to be pointing at that elephant in the room.

    Since you quoted For the Glory of G-d by Rodney Stark, you must know how the evolution/creation debate has been waged. Specifically, it's been waged as an ideological struggle, not like a scientific discussion aimed to arrive at the truth. This applies to both sides. Evolution and creation.

    Of course Chareidim and right wing Bible Believers of all stripes are going to oppose evolution, and all works that support evolution as long as the idea that "evolution necessarily implies atheism" is prevalent.

    I think it necessary to point out not only the strong points of evolution as you do in your book, but also the underhanded tactics these evolutionists used in support of their theory, and their contention that it makes religious belief untenable. And it has to be pointed out exactly why they're doing it.

    Perhaps you have done so in your books. But this needs to be stated frequently and repeatedly.

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  43. Lawrence Kaplan

    I think it would have been wiser had you waited for the book to appear, and at that point subject it to a stringent critique. In any event, I look forward to your doing so.

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  44. Near unanimous, that is. Those who disagree are somehow "not included" in their ranks.

    The only ones who disagree are fundamentalist Christians who obviously do so for religious reasons, not scientific reasons.

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  45. An Enlightened JewJuly 12, 2010 at 3:50 AM

    "the entire global community of physicists, geologists, paleontologists and so on, certainly does have authority. And it is their unanimous view that I accurately relate in my books."

    The very near unanimous view of the community of physicists, geologists, paleontologists and so on is that the bible is altogether false mythology, miracles are not possible, and the idea of a personal God, prophecy, etc., are nonsensical. Do you accurately include that in your books as well? I haven't seen it in the books of your that I have read. Why not? Be an honest rationalist, and take the ideology to its rational conclusion. Otherwise, you are no different from religious fundamentalists who use science when it suits their purposes and ignore the parts that don't.

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  46. They are not speaking in their capacity as physicists, biologists and paleontologists to make such statements.

    Besides, you are missing the point. My point is not that Rabbi Meiselman is a "religious fundamentalist who use science when it suits his purposes and ignores the parts that don't." My point was that his PhD in math does not give him any credibility on scientific issues. To which someone responded that I have no credibility either. To which I replied that this is absolutely correct, but entirely irrelevant, since I am reporting the position of those who do.

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  47. > "The only ones who disagree are fundamentalist Christians who obviously do so for religious reasons, not scientific reasons."

    I disagree with this. Some of them become fundamentalist (or simply regular) Christians after seeing challenges to the prevailing theory. Like Dean Kenyon, for instance. And probably Douglas Axe.

    Should they lose their standing as scientists once they become Christians? Or even if they turn out to be wrong?

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  48. Michapesset said:
    "If we believe that Torah is truth, then lies and distortions of truth which masquerade as truth will disturb us."

    I hate to sound too post-modern, but, "truth" is a funny thing. That's the truth (sorry for the pun:)

    Every groups beliefs and ideologies are based on certain "myths". By myth I don't mean "false", but rather an unproven assertion based on faith and ideology. A true Heredi would say that his manner of practicing and belief is the "true" Judaism. Same with MO or non-orthodox groups.

    So while I share your passion for Rabbi Slifkin to expose "lies" , in reality "truth" is much more multidimensional. I would remind you of the psychology of cognitive dissonance, which causes a person to hold on to his beliefs, however irrational, at all costs...

    There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Exposing the "truth" about their religion wont change anyone's mind.

    I believe that Rabbi Dessler once said that "truth" is defined by that which leads to good (whatever you happen to think that is). Reality doesn't matter!

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  49. A Ph.D in math doesn't mean that a person knows a thing about science.

    Pure mathematics has nothing to do with anything at all.

    Dr. Ted Kaczynski (aka The Unabobomber, Mathematics, Harvard, U of Michigan, Prof. UC Berkeley) called math a "monstrous swindle, a game, a reckless prank"

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  50. Some of them become fundamentalist (or simply regular) Christians after seeing challenges to the prevailing theory. Like Dean Kenyon, for instance.

    As far as I know, Dean Kenyon does not disagree that the world is billions of years old, nor that all creatures evolved from a single ancestor. His disagreement is only on the mechanism.

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  51. Dr J,

    You got me there.

    As I was writing that sentence I glanced back at it and realized it was subjective, but was too lazy to change it. But I stand by the general point of my post.

    What I should have written was: “It is disturbing even for those of us who are Modern Orthodox and do not subscribe to the Chareidi Hashkafa, to see Chareidi Rabbis say outright lies and distortions of facts about what Rishonim wrote. Attaching different meanings, explanations, excuses and apologies to what those Rishonim may or may not have MEANT is a far cry from lying about what the actual words of the Rishonim were. As a religious Jew, this is disturbing to me, even though the Rabbis who are writing these lies and distortions are not in my particular subculture of Orthodoxy. ”

    And yes, “truth” is defined differently when it comes to Torah and faith – even by different subcultures of Orthodoxy. It was actually the Yeshivish (Agudah) who coined the term “Torah True Judaism” (much to my chagrin). And even Rav Dessler’s definition of “good” would be different from other’s.

    Cognitive dissonance is one of the strongest psychological forces I have yet to observe on my religious journey. Especially since I can’t seem to get any of my Chareidi friends to even hear me out on certain topics. It’s the classic line: “I’ve made up my mind, please don’t confuse me with the facts.”

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  52. I doubt that anyone who has followed R. Meiselman's career arc from Boston Latin to ToMo and his effortless rewriting of both his personal history, and that of the Rav is surprised to the extent to which he has gone with this. This is a person who has been fighting his younger self for 20+ years. His attacks on you are merely a sideshow.

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  53. I still think it would be safer for you to say "nearly unanimous" instead of holding to the belief that there have been no good in-the-field scientists of late who have become Christians (or more staunch Christians) only after reviewing the challenges to the prevailing theories.

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  54. Michapeset wrote: "It was actually the Yeshivish (Agudah) who coined the term “Torah True Judaism” (much to my chagrin). "

    Actually, that's not accurate.
    See here:
    onthemainline.blogspot.com/2006/07/torah-truetm.html

    "This was a creative mistranslation of the German "Thoratreu" (faithful to the Torah), used by the neo-Orthodoxy of Germany. It was first used by modern Orthodoxy but subsequently attained far greater currency among, what is called, right-wing (though not haredi) Orthodoxy. See Jenna W. Joselit, New York's Jewish Jews: The Orthodox Community in the Interwar Years (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), p. 4."

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  55. I still think it would be safer for you to say "nearly unanimous" instead of holding to the belief that there have been no good in-the-field scientists of late who have become Christians (or more staunch Christians) only after reviewing the challenges to the prevailing theories.

    George - this is only with regard to mechanisms of evolution, not with regard to the antiquity of the universe and the historical fact of evolution (which is what R. Meiselman is disputing).

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  56. >>To which I replied that this is absolutely correct, but entirely irrelevant, since I am reporting the position of those who do.

    And he is not quoting the position of those who do? Just asking.

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  57. He is disputing those with authority in this area. I am quoting them.

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  58. I understand the whole point of this post, but this one:
    “ till, I do think that the book is cause for concern. Many people will be under the mistaken impression that since Rabbi Meiselman has a PhD in mathematics (and I heard one rabbi mistakenly claim that it was in physics), this means that his opinion on the age of the universe and evolution carries weight and authority.”
    why is it a “concern” that other people will c”v think that he is right and it’s really 5760 years

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  59. Um, because it's not scientifically correct?

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  60. Why does this bother you so much? The age of the universe is not one of the ikrai haemunah. There is no question in my mind that the universe is billions of years old. But someone who believes it is 5770 years old, while he is mistaken, is not violating any fundamental principle. And if that belief causes him to stay strong and "in the fold" why must you crusade against it? To put this another way - I strongly doubt that anyone who knows the science is going to be convinced by what Rabbi Meiselman is going to say. So what is your "mission" here? It seems to me that someone who espouses the "dibra Torah b'lashon bnai adam" as you have interpreted it - that the Torah makes accommodations for people's mistakes - should allow the mistakes of people which enable those people to remain strongly frum, would not disturb them. That is, to your mind, the Torah's view. Why deviate from that? What is your "concern"?

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  61. Excellent points. The truth is that if it were a super-charedi book geared towards super-charedi people, telling them that science is nonsense, then I probably wouldn't respond. But it looks like it is going to be presented with a veneer of science, and with his MIT credentials, aimed at convincing people "in the middle" that from a true scientific perspective, the world is 5770 years old. Plus, from the parts of the manuscript that I have seen, there is appalling historical revisionism concerning the positions of various Torah authorities. Plus, it seems that the goal of the book is not just to present a certain approach, but also to render other approaches as unacceptable/heretical.

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  62. uninvolved onlookerOctober 21, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    I think it should be noted that this entire saga has remained an irrelevant sideshow in Rabbi Meiselman's life. His days and nights are mostly dedicated to the study and teaching of our holy Torah and support of others who do the same. He certainly feels this is the most worthy cause in this world. Any individual who is not devoted to the work of understanding gemora on a deep, responsible level, cannot begin to appreciate what the man is all about. This context is indispensible in forming an opinion on his participation in these matters.

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