Sunday, September 12, 2010

An Expert in Science

One of the problems with successfully conveying the rationalist approach is that, when it comes to science, many people do not understand how to assess expertise and authority. There are various rabbis around the world, some quite prominent, who are often portrayed as being "experts in science." Some of them support my work to a greater or lesser extent, some of them oppose it to a greater or lesser extent. But do any of their opinions carry weight as being "experts in science"?

The reason why these great Torah scholars are presented as also being great experts in science is that they have all read much popular scientific literature. One of them was given the task of addressing the a conference of kiruv professionals on Torah-science issues a few years ago, due to his alleged expertise in this area; as one participant told me in awe, "He's read every issue of Scientific American for the last fifteen years!" But does this mean that he is an expert in science?

It should first be noted that it is pretty meaningless to talk about "knowing science." There is physics and biology and astronomy and archeology and paleontology and a host of other fields. And within each of these, there are a multitude of subdivisions. The body of scientific knowledge is so huge that nobody gains expertise in more than a small fraction of it.

The problem with claiming these people to be "experts in science" is (A) their lack of credibility, (B) their lack of systematic knowledge, and (C) the difference in epistemology and worldview. That may sound like a lot of meaningless jargon, so allow me to explain.


The first point is credibility. None of these people possess formal qualifications or a formal education in science. Now, that alone does not mean that they do not possess expertise. After all, I consider myself to possess a certain expertise in various zoological matters, and yet I too lack formal qualifications and training in this area. On the other hand, I would never expect that people would respect me as an authority whose opinion should be relied upon, since they have no way of knowing if I am truly an expert or just a crank.

I am not a scientist. I am, however, someone who accurately reports the state of scientific knowledge, as can easily be verified. The credibility of my scientific positions does not rest on my personal credibility as a scientist (of which I have none), but rather on the credibility of the global scientific establishment that I am quoting. But when a Posek who is not a scientist disputes the entire scientific establishment, his acceptance is based upon his own credibility (which I would also argue to be non-existent). Thus, when people say, as they often do, "So what that Rav X is not a scientist? Slifkin is not a scientist either!" - it completely misses the point. It is truly laughable when a certain popular rabbi from Jerusalem tells his audience that "people who know science" - by which he is referring to a Rosh Yeshivah with a PhD in mathematics (not one of the natural sciences) and a physician - have declared that my science (referring to my belief in the antiquity of the universe and evolution) is wrong! The mathematician and physician are not disputing me; they are disputing the entire scientific establishment. And they have zero credibility in doing so.


The second factor is systematic knowledge. Systematic knowledge means that one possesses knowledge about a topic that is not only extensive, but which also fits together to provide a thorough, cohesive understanding. As an example, I'd like to pick my own field of zoology, and the sub-field of taxonomy - classifying animals. A person may be able to name a multitude of species, from pangolins to pottos, but this is not systematic knowledge. Systematic knowledge would mean understanding the larger patterns, the difference between an order and a genus, between a rodent and an insectivore.

Systematic knowledge is particularly relevant in the case of evolution. Non-scientists, reputed to be "experts in science," can toss out a lot of scattered data in the form of objections to evolution. But they have no systematic knowledge of the animal kingdom, which is what evolution is based upon and addresses. Evolution (in terms of common ancestry) addresses - exceedingly well - the overall pattern of life; the nested hierarchy of the animal kingdom, the geographical distribution, the fossil record, the patterns of homologous versus analogous similarities in physiology. Not only do these people have no overall model to address any of these; they've never even addressed them at all. Their knowledge is scattered, not systematic.


The third factor is epistemology and worldview. Modern science rests upon a particular epistemology and worldview - the scientific method. Hypotheses are offered, which must make predictions that can be tested. Conclusions are drawn based upon evidence, not based upon the social/ religious status of people. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The stability of the natural order is taken as a given without evidence to the contrary. Etc., etc. It is these differences in epistemology and worldview which account for far-reaching differences between the conclusions of modern science and the conclusions of the aforementioned Torah scholars.

It's difficult for many people to grasp these points. So perhaps some parables would help. Imagine someone from an Eastern culture claiming expertise in Western medicine due to having watched and memorized every episode of House MD. To someone who knows nothing about medicine, their knowledge of facts would sound very impressive - but they are not an expert in Western understandings of physiology or medicine! Or imagine a non-Jew claiming expertise and authority in paskening halachah against all Jewish poskim due to having read every English halachic guidebook. To another non-Jew, they would sound very knowledgeable about Jewish law - but learned Jews would know that this person has no credibility in issuing halachic rulings that run contrary to all Jewish poskim!

This may provoke the following question: Okay, so these Rabbis are not "experts in science." But what about Torah? How can regular learned Jews possibly dispute Torah scholars who are vastly superior to them in Torah knowledge?

That will have to wait for another post.

163 comments:

  1. And that's *really* the post that needs writing. Because if your attitude is "kulo ba," then whether or not the mathematician and the physician tell you that those scientists don't even make sense on their own terms is just a bonus; the real reason you reject science is because Torah addresses every single aspect of reality, from nominalist metaphysics to the effectiveness of a graduated income tax in redistributing wealth and everything in between, and Torah says the world was created in 6 days 5771 years ago; and unless Torah adds the disclaimer that scientific issues are addressed by science and that the history of the universe is not what Bereshit 1 was ever talking about, then it doesn't really matter whether science is infinitely more coherent than the Torah's view on the matter, because it just doesn't have the authority to compete with Torah to begin with. So if science does or doesn't make sense - well whatever, if it doesn't I have fewer emuna challenges, if it does I have more. If the Torah experts state that science is wrong, then what's there to talk about?

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  2. I t would be interesting who would remain as an 'expert' in Torah if the same rigors required in science were applied. If we take the your three categories, I think many of the Torah sages of today only answer to credibility. These sages are vastly knowledgeable in the information contained in Jewish texts. There are far fewer who have systematic knowledge that deals more with how that information is processed. As such we have a lot of stagnation in the development of halachic interpretation.

    Jon- it seems you are taking a very strong and absolute reading of 'kulo ba'. Can't it also be read as saying that the Torah has what to say, a perspective, on all that the world has to offer. I don't know that it has to be read, all information exists in the Torah. Furthermore, saying that 'everything exists in the Torah' does not logically lead to 'therefore all Torah experts know everything'.

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  3. My favorite personal story in this regard. It was only a high schooler but I think his opinions are pretty normative in that world:

    A student at Rabbi Zweig's yeshiva high school once wanted to shmooze it up with me. He mentioned to me that at his family's congregation there was a scientist who knew "everything about science" and said I should ask him any questions I might have. I asked the bachur which branch of science the scientist specialized in. "ALL OF THEM!"

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  4. I think the easiest way for a yeshiva-educated person to understand the difference is to read some of the critiques leveled by atheists/skeptics at various parts of the Torah/Talmud. These critiques are often very superficial and ignorant of the fact that the Torah is a rich and complex system that internally deals with and resolves issues.

    As an example, atheists are typically critical of the Torah when it says "an eye for an eye," taking this as proof that the Torah is violent and vengeful, and that God is the same. Any religiously educated Jew knows of the Talmudic statements regarding this passage, and that the matter of interpreting these words of the Torah, and how these words are taken in the everyday moral lives of committed Jews, are much different than the plain understanding of the verse.

    The same way one who believes in the Torah would not accept as valid the above interpretation of the Torah if proffered by one with no Torah knowledge, one should accept the statements of scientists on scientific matters, and be skeptical of those that make claims where they have no expertise, experience or authority.

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  5. "I think (this teenager's) opinions are pretty normative in that world"

    The world of South Florida?
    Frankly, I'm skeptical of your assessment. Of all the talmidim of Rabbi Zweig that I know, I can't think of one who falls into that category you're painting.

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  6. Question for Rabbi Slifkin-has any evidence ever been proferred regarding he possibility of instability of the natural order at any time in history (or pre-history)? Is it possible for a reasonable person to suppose that there might have been changes in the natural order for which evidence will perhaps eventually be found?

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  7. Not anything that would make the world 5771 years old or that would mean that lice and mice used to spontaneously generate.

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  8. The difficulty between Torah and science is based on different forms of methodology.
    Before Einstein came along and showed otherwise, every physicist held that time was an absolute. After Einstein we don't say that those older physicists were idiots who don't know what they were talking about. We say that they did their best with the date and materials they had available to them. Science is built on demolishing previous assumptions and facts and replacing them with new ones but without attributing a lack of importance to the older scientists. The respect we feel for them does not change.
    Torah works in the opposite fashion. The older the source, the more authoritative. An acharon cannot argue with a rishon, an amora cannot argue with a tanna, etc. As a result, halachic progress is based on building up already established rules and principles because to demolish them would be disrespectful to a tremendous degree.
    When poskim and others talk about "Science" I believe they believe that it should function the way halacha did. By saying Isaac Newton did not know about relativity I am impugning his character and knowledge. They simply cannot understand it in any other way. As a result, they develop hostility towards a system designed to develop and prove previous scientists wrong. How terrible would that be in their eyes.
    In addition, there is a disregard for non-Torah knowledge that shows through. While these people are well away of the depth and complexity of the Torah, they cannot comprehend that science also has a tremendous breadth and depth. It's not Torah so it can't be that complex.

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  9. DF

    This is a good attempt to codify the definition of an expert. But I would disagree with point 1 [and you yourself seem wishy-washy about it.] This notion about "credentials" or "credibility" is a modernist idea, that grows out of nanny-state, regulated society beliefs. When the internet was starting to blossom some years ago, journalists were fuming that people were turning to "uncredentialed" bloggers for political commentary, that is, men who had not gone to Columbia Journalism school. Yet everyone knows some of the sharpest and most astute political writers not only didnt go to J-school, but didnt go to college at all.

    The last point, about arguing with torah scholars with so much more Torah knowledge, is complicated by the elusive definition of "torah scholar". Let us assume most of the Charedi world's rabbis are experts in halacha or pilpul. I myself dont think that is the case, but let us assume it. That gives them no knowledge whatever in the broader fields of hashkafa/machshavah which you and others like you are involved in. Thus, insofar as it concerns your areas of interest your combattants are generally not torah scholars at all.

    DF

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  10. “I would never expect that people would respect me as an authority whose opinion should be relied upon, since they have no way of knowing if I am truly an expert or just a crank.”
    This sounds very ad-homonym –y. As you plainly state, qualification is for status signaling, not a truth barometer of the claims being made. There are many people with “qualifications” that make crazy claims, for example, not to vaccinate.
    In the age of the web, information and verification is very cheap. It took a mere few hours to asses, albeit superficially, one of the most complex mathematical problem, “n = np” mathematical proof.
    “But when a Posek who is not a scientist disputes the entire scientific establishment, his acceptance is based upon his own credibility (which I would also argue to be non-existent)”
    I am not defending them, but this is academia elitist hogwash. Would we say this regarding Einstein as he was working in a post office?
    I do not agree with their “opinions” and clear fallacies. But judge them on what they say, not on what you consider academic priming. There are people in the world that know a lot more than “the experts”, but with the tenure establishment in place, have been pushed aside due to their untraditional “knowledge”. The academic structure has biases too, and will not accept evidence contrary to their theory. God bless the internet!
    In the words of Richard Feynman titled “cargo cult science”:
    “We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops….If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

    Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history—because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong…..

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that”

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  11. There are many people with “qualifications” that make crazy claims, for example, not to vaccinate.

    I didn't say that qualifications automatically lend credibility!

    Would we say this regarding Einstein as he was working in a post office?

    His material was accepted on its merits, not on his authority!

    judge them on what they say, not on what you consider academic priming.

    I do. My point was regarding others who are incapable of evaluating the material, and are basing their opinion on the credibility of these people.

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  12. "But judge them on what they say, not on what you consider academic priming."

    Fortunately for them, their criticisms are typically so insubstantial that it's impossible to scientific evaluate. Occasionally, however, such as when they prove how scientifically knowledgeable chazal were when they said that semen comes from the brain, they reveal their scientific aptitude and rigorous logical thinking.

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  13. Actually Einstein was working at a Patent Office, not a post office. And he already had a PhD at that point.

    Actually some of the patents he was working on may well have turned his thinking to relativity as they had to do with things like like syncing clocks over telegraph wires and so on.

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  14. Anonymous 5:28PM wrote

    'This notion about "credentials" or "credibility" is a modernist idea, that grows out of nanny-state, regulated society beliefs.'

    That there is no such thing as "credentials" or "credibility" is postmodernist garbage. Not everyone is equal and not all ideas are deserving of a hearing. This relativism (which is of course completely antithetical to Torah) leads to holocaust deniers getting an airing of their junk history and young earth believers getting an airing of their junk science. The amazing thing is how so many have bought into this -- even President George W. Bush.

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  15. “I didn't say that qualifications automatically lend credibility!”

    I am sorry if I misunderstood your statements, and I apologize for the comment format being so unreadable.

    “His material was accepted on its merits, not on his authority!”
    I sense hindsight bias. If you look at the history, I venture to say that many threw out his claims. He himself threw out claims regarding quantum physics. Point I am making, is that schools tend to be homogeneous in the way they view the world, and discount other ways of deciphering information. Some epistemological humbleness is essential when analyzing claims.

    Let me be clear, when it comes to religion I am firmly in your corner, but the idea that what goes contrary to the “scientific mainstream” must be patently false, is also a fallacy.

    To quote the economist:” The contest is not a zero-sum game: the shortcomings of science do not make it rational to believe cranks instead. It’s a fair bet that many of today’s scientific beliefs are wrong, but only your grandchildren will know which ones, and in the meantime, science is the only game in town.”


    Avi,

    I was not attacking Natan from the religious perspective, rather from the secular one. The “must go to collage” in order to be a “thinker” and be “verifiable” crowd.

    http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/RelativityofWrong.htm

    “Since the refinements in theory grow smaller and smaller, even quite ancient theories must have been sufficiently right to allow advances to be made; advances that were not wiped out by subsequent refinements. …..

    Naturally, the theories we now have might be considered wrong in the simplistic sense of my English Lit correspondent, but in a much truer and subtler sense, they need only be considered incomplete.”

    How we fit that into our Torah perspective is yet to be understood, although I hope Nathan can figure it all out.

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  16. 'There are many people with “qualifications” that make crazy claims, for example, not to vaccinate.'

    Yes and from the beginning the entire scientific establishment questioned these claims. It was the non-qualified people who bought into the nonsense.



    'There are people in the world that know a lot more than “the experts”, but with the tenure establishment in place, have been pushed aside due to their untraditional “knowledge”.'

    I am well known around my institution as a big contrarian who says what he thinks even when it is neither politically correct nor in agreement with the majority. But I came to the institution as an Assistant Professor and am now a full Professor. Furthermore I chaired a promotions committee at my institution and I can safely say that never was there ever any consideration of political correctness in any decision. The simple fact is that a lot of what is promoted as "untraditional knowledge" is not knowledge at all, at least in the scientific sense.



    'The academic structure has biases too, and will not accept evidence contrary to their theory.'

    Thomas Kuhn addressed this issue almost five decades ago. It is indeed an issue, but in the end the evidence does win.



    "they reveal their scientific aptitude and rigorous logical thinking"

    If you start from the perspective that a particular existing text is the only accurate explanation, that is not science.

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  17. when it comes to religion I am firmly in your corner, but the idea that what goes contrary to the “scientific mainstream” must be patently false, is also a fallacy.

    Can you please tell me where I said that 'what goes contrary to the “scientific mainstream” must be patently false'?! And if you can't, then please stop putting words into my mouth!

    What I said that what goes against the entire scientific community and is being said by rabbis, not scientists, has no credibility. Sure, it's theoretically possible that they are right, but it has no scientific credibility and there is no reason for anyone to take it seriously from a scientific standpoint.

    I was not attacking Natan from the religious perspective, rather from the secular one. The “must go to collage” in order to be a “thinker” and be “verifiable” crowd.

    Can you please tell me where I said that?! And if you can't, then please stop putting words into my mouth!

    And by the way, it's "college," not "collage."

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  18. I think that the epistemology issue is probably the most significant. Who is an authority and what they say can be argued about. But the scientific method, as a means of discovering the nature, is really incompatible with the fundamentalist religious method of discovering such things. Why?

    Because of inductive reasoning.

    Most scientific knowledge, in fact, has been established through induction and inference. We have data points, and we interpolate and extrapolate. This allows us to study the past and the future. We rely on patterns and models. Sometimes they're not entirely accurate and we change or refine them with time. But this method relies on our ability to make inferences about things we can't measure directly.

    If one claims that the world is 5771 years old, or that olives in the time of the talmud where the size of large eggs, all scientific methodology would be suspect, since we would be unable to rely on inductive reasoning and patterns.

    Scientific reasoning and induction can be very threatening to the traditionalist. It challenges not only the "scientific" knowledge of the ancient rabbis. It also challenges many other claims in the torah and talmud about supernatural events which are not witnessed nowadays, since by induction one has to justify how and why the world changed so much.

    So many of these so-called "experts" in science in the rabbinic world, I suspect, reject this crucial aspect of the scientific method

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  19. " If you look at the history, I venture to say that many threw out his claims."

    Not regarding the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, or special relativity. They explained nature too well.

    And not regarding general relativity after the empirical test he proposed confirmed it in 1919.

    Unfortunately Einstein did not make any major contributions to science during the last 30 years of his life.

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  20. "Question for Rabbi Slifkin-has any evidence ever been proferred regarding he possibility of instability of the natural order at any time in history (or pre-history)? Is it possible for a reasonable person to suppose that there might have been changes in the natural order for which evidence will perhaps eventually be found?"

    I just read this over rosh HAshana... really fascinating.

    http://www.economist.com/node/16930866

    The comments are also a good read.

    Also, I completely reject anyone who suggests that the Torah says or implies that the world is only 5771 years old.

    The history of why we don't date our ketubot with "in the 2nd year of the reign of Barack Obama" instead of 5771 is important in these types of discussions. And that is all I will say about that without going off topic.

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  21. This post over-generalizes to the extreme.
    Many rabbis who claim to "know science" quite often cite scientists with proper credentials published in prestigious journals. They do not typically stand exclusively by their own credibility in science.
    Please be more specific about who you are talking about and what credentials he is claiming to have.
    Otherwise we are going to go in circles.
    Critiquing general impressions people have is ad hominem.

    The third factor is epistemology and worldview. Modern science rests upon a particular epistemology and worldview - the scientific method. Hypotheses are offered, which must make predictions that can be tested. Conclusions are drawn based upon evidence, not based upon the social/ religious status of people.


    Rabbis who have been academically trained in the scientific method should be credible to attack the mainstream opinions when there is clear indication of a failure by the mainstream to live up to the rigors of the scientific method.

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  22. Perhaps there's a further difference that should be mentioned although it's quite obvious: science is quantifiable and formatted while Torah isn't.
    Take the example of Einstein being bandied about. Let's say he was working in a post office but he submitted a paper to a national science magazine on his theory of relativity. Now, if the journal is honest and open (too many today are not as Climategate showed us) they would examine that paper on strict criteria, look at his claims, the data he presented, his methods of statistical analysis, etc. if they felt his paper met those standards they would publish it and his current occupation wouldn't matter one whit.
    Torah, however, does not have that kind of standardization. The kind of teshuvah one group of frum Jews would find acceptable would be unacceptable to other groups. Imagine trying to convince a Lubavitcher that men shaking hands with women in certain circumstances is acceptable because Rav Yehuda Herzl Henkin wrote a teshuvah on it. Imagine trying to convince a Satmar that something is acceptable because Rav Kook,zt"l, said it was. This lack of standardization, and the ability to reject an excellent halachic position simply because it's not "my rebbe's position" or "Daas Torah" or whatever, is not found in science but perhaps those trained in the yeshiva and who don't understand thinking apply this methodology when they say "Ah evolution, I don't hold by that!"

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  23. Sorry, that last comment was me. I hit [enter] too soon.

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  24. B”H
    Dear Natan.
    I am Isaac Betech, as you know, I am a physician…
    My email is

    In this post you wrote (emphasis mine):
    “…a PhD in mathematics (not one of the natural sciences) and a physician - have declared that my science (referring to my belief in the antiquity of the universe and evolution) is wrong! The mathematician and physician are not disputing me; they are disputing the entire scientific establishment. And they have zero credibility in doing so.”

    Since I have many times publicly stated that I do not know scientific evidences that prove the evolution of the species, and I do not want “to dispute the entire scientific establishment”, I invite you to a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate; then our rationalist audience will not have to rely on my “zero credibility”, but they will be able to arrive at their own fact-based conclusions.
    Please let me know when and where this scientific encounter will take place so I will B”N make all my personal arrangements.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech
    P. S. By the way, your statement that I am disputing “the entire scientific establishment” is not accurate…

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  25. "How can regular learned Jews possibly dispute Torah scholars who are vastly superior to them in Torah knowledge?"
    The answer is that we don't worship people, no matter how great they may be. Anyone who honestly studies the Torah, and uses a normative methodology of halacha can decide the halacha. Of course it isn't advisable for someone who is new to learning to pasken, he may miss major points. Furthermore, it may be advisable to think twice before arguing on a major posek, not because of who he is, rather because of his knowledge, and he may have a point that you may have missed and a bit of humility is necessary. Never the less, in theory and in practice we are allowed to argue on great Torah scholars. In R M Feinstein's introduction to Igros Moshe, he considers arguing on others due to the fact that we don't agree with their reasoning, part of the "Torah lav min hashamayim."
    Also, another thing to point out, is that few halacha or hashkafa questions are new (of course there are some new sha'ailos in tech and medical fields). Most great Rabbis are deciding (machri'ah) between a major poskim that have already argued the major points.

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  26. This is a _superb_ analysis!

    I await the discussion of what it means to be an "expert in Torah".

    Thank you! --

    Charles P. Cohen
    Richmond, BC, Canada

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  27. Jon, you wrote:
    "and unless Torah adds the disclaimer that scientific issues are addressed by science and that the history of the universe is not what Bereshit 1 was ever talking about, then it doesn't really matter whether science is infinitely more coherent..."

    So, Jon - You choose Bereshith 1 over Bereshith 2 as the definitive/authoritative "history" as recorded by Torah? What, then, is Bereshith 2?

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  28. "...systematic knowledge of the animal kingdom, which is what evolution is based upon and addresses."

    Yet:

    "Modern science rests upon a particular epistemology and worldview - the scientific method. Hypotheses are offered, which must make predictions that can be tested."

    It's unfortunate that you focused on evolution (let's say 'macro'), when that is one of the few fields of modern science in which it is awfully hard to make testable predictions. Rather, it is, as you say, based on systematic knowledge of the animal kingdom.

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  29. "I am not defending them, but this is academia elitist hogwash."

    No, it isn't. I think you missed the Rabbi's point.

    " Would we say this regarding Einstein as he was working in a post office?"

    No, because Einstein actually did have an expertise in physics. He was not a mail-specialist challenging scientific principle. He was someone who understood physics and brought new ideas and equations to the table within the principles and rules of science. There is no comparison. You can't just claim that Torah scholars have expertise in science by default by virtue of their being Torah scholars. Similarly, no one would have said by virtue of being a mail man, Einstein has credibility in physics. He had credibility in physics because he actually studied it.

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  30. It's unfortunate that you focused on evolution (let's say 'macro'), when that is one of the few fields of modern science in which it is awfully hard to make testable predictions. Rather, it is, as you say, based on systematic knowledge of the animal kingdom.

    Macroevolution does make testable predictions. For example, it predicts that if I dig in a layer of rock of a certain age and location I will find a certain class of fossils. These predictions are made and confirmed all the time by paleontologists.

    Any historical claim is a prediction. The claim that George Washington lived from 1732 to 1799 is a prediction that any document you will ever find with his signature will be dated to that period.

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  31. I don't argue with what you wrote, Rafi, but what I said is still true -- percentage-wise.

    In Nature, Birch and Ehrlich wrote in 1967:
    "Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus outside of empirical science but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training. The cure seems to us not to be a discarding of the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, but more skepticism about many of its tenets" (Ehrlich and Birch, p. 352).

    Ehrlich and Birch presented many objections to distinct hypotheses explaining certain aspects of contemporary evolutionary science, but not to the overarching theory itself.

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  32. This post over-generalizes to the extreme. Many rabbis who claim to "know science" quite often cite scientists with proper credentials published in prestigious journals. They do not typically stand exclusively by their own credibility in science.

    Isaac September 13, 2010 11:10 PM

    Isaac,

    What you say is true, however, what these lay (to science) people do is cherry pick ideas, that are often radical and often rejected by the majority of "experts" in the field. True radical ideas over time may come to be accepted (witness "multiverse") but by cherry picking whom they cite, the lay person is not evaluating the quality of the evidence that is being promugated, but rather is focusing on an outlier that says what they want to be said.

    In other circumstances, lay people continue to cite ideas and "data" that has been superseded. One very prominent example related to Metziza Ba'pheh. Often times I have heard those who insist that it is an integral part of the Brit Milah cite some MD (or MBBS, for those from the Commonwealth) who said that it has health promoting effects. Nevermind that this medico died over 100 years ago, and his knowledge of microbiology and viruses are, at best, flawed by todays standard.

    Citing one "authority" whoes ideas where cherry picked because they complied with your pre-pre-existant ideas, rather than on the merits of the evidence, is hardly intelectual honesty.

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  33. Unfortunately Einstein did not make any major contributions to science during the last 30 years of his life.

    Charlie Hall September 13, 2010 10:56 PM

    That is really unfair. Einstein made major contributions to Quantum physics and "non-locality",(e.g Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen incompleteness hypothesis 1951 http://www.nature.com/milestones/milespin/full/milespin11.html) even though, or perhaps because, most of his "arguments" in the area were wrong (or were they?)

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  34. "Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it."

    This is not true. For instance, if the ERV (Endogenous RetroVirus) insertions in the DNA would not have fit filogenetic trees that would have been a falsification of the theory of evolution.

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  35. Evolution, in terms of common ancestry, is being tested in a way that could potentially falsify it all the time, in one of two ways:

    1) Discovering a species entirely out of place in the fossil record

    2) Discovering a species that cannot be fitted into the nested hierarchal classification of the animal kingdom, e.g. Rashi's mermaid.

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  36. Many rabbis who claim to "know science" quite often cite scientists with proper credentials published in prestigious journals.

    Sure, I do that. But I was talking about rabbis who are said to "know science" and are therefore assigned credibility when they, for example, say that evolution is false or that creatures spontaneously generate.

    ReplyDelete
  37. From Cell and Molecular Biology: Concepts & Experiments, 3rd edition (Prof. Gerald Karp, Univ. of Florida).
    Preface:
    "As I wrote each chapter, I included enough experimental evidence to justify many of the conclusions that were being made...Even though only 3 years have passed since the publication of the 2nd edition, nearly *every* discussion in the text has been modified to a greater or lesser degree." (Kal v'chomer for 100 years!)
    To the Student:
    "To a large degree, cells are like tiny black boxes. We have developed many ways to probe the boxes, but we are always groping in an area that cannot be fully illuminated...we are always left with additional questions. We generate more complete and sophisticated constructions, but we can *never* be sure how closely our views approach reality.
    "In this regard, the study of cell and molecular biology can be compared to the study of an elephant as conducted by 6 blind men in an old Indian fable...Although each new piece of information adds to the preexisting body of knowledge to provide a better concept of the activity being studied, the total picture remains uncertain.
    "Don't accept everything you read as being true. There are several reasons for urging such skepticism. Undoubtedly, there are errors in this text that reflect the authors ignorance or misinterpretation of some aspect of the scientific literature.
    "But more importantly, we should consider the nature of biological research. Biology is an empirical science; *nothing* is ever proved.
    "We compile data...and draw some type of conclusion. Some conclusions rest on more solid evidence than others. *Even* if there is a consensus of agreement concerning the "facts" (not my emphasis) regarding a particular phenomenon, there are often several possible interpretations of the data.
    "*Most* hypotheses that remain valid undergo a sort of evolution and, when presented in the text, should not be considered wholly correct or incorrect. Remain skeptical."

    ReplyDelete
  38. That's the kind of quote which is utterly abused by frum people who don't understand science.

    ReplyDelete
  39. It's cultural - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914102114.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

    ReplyDelete
  40. I have often been stupified by the superficiality of Talmudic scholars when making statements about Science. I feel that it is not only an issue of lack of expertise. Talmudic study is a rather verbal/textual enterprise, whereas Science is not. The two fields attract different minds, and develop minds differently. A top scientist might well make a stupid impression when engaging in Talmudic Pilpul, for the same reason.

    The above suggests that there is a symmetry, but it is not a complete one. The Scientist does not think that Torah is in his realm. The Torah world appears to think that Science is within its realm. That leads to an audacity to speak and act in unfortunate ways.

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  41. Dear Natan.
    I am Isaac Betech, as you know, I am a physician…


    Actually, I wasn't referring to you in my post, but rather to someone in the UK.

    Since I have many times publicly stated that I do not know scientific evidences that prove the evolution of the species, and I do not want “to dispute the entire scientific establishment”, I invite you to a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate;

    Please see my post "Futile and Misleading Arguments."

    By the way, your statement that I am disputing “the entire scientific establishment” is not accurate…

    OK, how about this: You are disputing all those scientists who are not Christian fundamentalists (as well as quite a few who are).

    ReplyDelete
  42. "Macroevolution does make testable predictions. For example, it predicts that if I dig in a layer of rock of a certain age and location I will find a certain class of fossils. These predictions are made and confirmed all the time by paleontologists."

    I used to think this statement was true, but recent history has proven otherwise.

    The discovery of the Ardipithecus does not fit current human evolutionary theory. However, a more recent discovery of a homo habulis in South Africa does.

    Those scientists who are working on the new possible homo habilis, will keep working with current theories, while those working on the Adriptichecus will reject them and try to create a different narrative.

    Even if they know the theory is wrong, it is still the most "usefull", and that is all they will deal with.

    ReplyDelete
  43. That's something very minor. Find a Ardipithecus in some Jurassic rocks and you've destroyed evolution.

    ReplyDelete
  44. B"H
    Dear Natan
    In my post (see above September 14, 2010 1:01 AM) I invited you to:
    “…a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate; then our rationalist audience will not have to rely on my “zero credibility”, but they will be able to arrive at their own fact-based conclusions.

    You answered:
    Please see my post "Futile and Misleading Arguments."

    I saw it, and I quote from your own definition (in that post):
    “A scientific discussion, on the other hand, means drawing conclusions from the physical evidence without any preconceived notions.”

    And I write again:
    I invite you to a scientific discussion.
    Please let me know when and where this scientific encounter will take place so I will B”N make all my personal arrangements.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  45. Dr. Betech, please let me know what you feel the Torah perspective on evolution is.

    ReplyDelete
  46. משה רפאל said... "The Scientist does not think that Torah is in his realm. The Torah world appears to think that Science is within its realm. That leads to an audacity to speak and act in unfortunate ways."

    Scientists may not think that Torah is in their realm, but many among them think that Torah is in a realm populated by uninformed scholars of the past and small-minded imbeciles of the present. Such an assumption lead to an audacity to speak and act in equally unfortunate ways.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Tzurah, I am a theoretical physicist and a computer scientist. I have only encountered respect for Torah. Not for the imbeciles of course.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Tzurah, I am a theoretical physicist and a computer scientist. I have only encountered respect for Torah. Not for the imbeciles of course.

    ReplyDelete
  49. People who have never practiced in the natural sciences tend not to realize how many interlocking beliefs are used to make a given inference. So in that sense there is no such thing as approaching every bit of evidence without any preconceptions. Anymore than one could walk into his house and notice that the door is busted and the TV missing and conclude there was a burglary, without preconceptions. That is how inference to the best explanation works.

    Evolutionary theory is not tangential and is not confined to studying fossils. It unifies various sets of interlocking beliefs and informs everything from zoology to molecular biology. If you take away evolutionary theory you can certainly do much research in biology, but you have lost the unifying 'why' and consequently lose a lot of rationale justifying many of the inferences that scientists make.

    Why exactly do we use animal models in drug testing? Why can we predict the function of a gene based on its homology to a gene in another organism? Why do we study the molecular machinery in bacteria to understand animals? etc. etc. etc.

    If you remove evolution you have no reason to think, a priori, that, any of these investigations will bear fruit.

    Now people tend to be confused in that when you propose the particular conditions that led to a given series of mutations to confer a competitive advantage you are indeed often (but not always) making a claim that is not falsifiable. But that the change occurred is demonstrable, and the mechanisms that allow for such changes to occur are not only demonstrable, but are the foundation of molecular biology and genetics.

    Many rabbis I know who are skeptical of evolutionary theory 1) don't really 'get' what it is that scientists do. They tend to imagine a bunch of people sitting around arguing over a fossil the way that you sit and argue over a tosfos and that evolution is some svara that gets thrown out and batted around. 2) They are not really familiar with the kind of inferences made in the natural sciences which is very different from legal reasoning in psak or casuistic reasoning in a sugya.

    Anyway, R. Slifkin, I think your conclusion that there is no point in arguing about this topic is long overdue.

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  50. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Your write, "OK, how about this: You are disputing all those scientists who are not Christian fundamentalists...."

    I never understood why on occasion you seem to cast aspersions on "fundementalists." Don't you agree that no matter what one's personal beliefs and motives are, one can still fairly judge evidence on its merits? I'm not saying all fundamentalists are honest when judging the evidence, but I imagine at least some are.

    Second point, suppose a fundamentalist is committed to a certain view. Suppose he then examines the evidence and comes to the conclusion that the opposing view is more likely based on the evidence. I still think there is value to an argument that says: Here is how one can rationally continue to maintain the fundamentalist view without being a "flat earther."

    In other words, an admission that the evidence seems to support one view, but providing arguments that the other view should not be placed in the category of "crackpot theory" -- that although not the most likely conclusion, it is still reasonable.

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  51. I think a debate between Dr. Betech and R' Slifkin would be quite enlightening. We would finally hear some of the beliefs which so enthralled R' Belsky.

    You just have to make sure it's a clear proposition, something along the lines of "Proposition: Macroevolution never happened and is inconsistent with Torah" or "Proposition: The Talmud never makes any inaccurate statements." If it's in front of a rationalist audience which Dr. Betech feels he can convince (as implied), you should definitely consider doing the debate with an up-or-down audience vote at the end.

    ReplyDelete
  52. "Evolutionary theory is not tangential and is not confined to studying fossils. It unifies various sets of interlocking beliefs and informs everything from zoology to molecular biology. If you take away evolutionary theory you can certainly do much research in biology, but you have lost the unifying 'why' and consequently lose a lot of rationale justifying many of the inferences that scientists make."

    The problem today is the "evolution" is used to explain everything from economics to psychology to computer programming.

    When the average person talks about "evolution", what they really mean is "small changes over time via random mutation." i.e. non-directed chance.

    Evolutionary psychology in particular is full of nonsense. See the recent scandal with the evolutionary moralist in Harvad for an example.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Regarding what Ish Emes wrote:

    "From Cell and Molecular Biology: Concepts & Experiments, 3rd edition (Prof. Gerald Karp, Univ. of Florida)."

    etc.

    It's amazing how people who are uninitiated in science (and who have agendas) can misinterpret and completely misunderstand comments like Professor Karp's.

    When someone claims that "evolution didn't happen," it amounts to denying that cells exist or claiming that cells don't have nuclei. Dr. Karp would certainly not give legitimacy to a view like that on the basis of his comments. These wacky claims about evolution not existing (or insisting that spontaneous generation can occur) cannot be compared with disputes about very specific details regarding the role of actin filaments to regulate cell transport (for example), or some other intricate topics *Within what is already known with certainty about cells* that Karp refers to.

    ReplyDelete
  54. B”H
    Dear Natan
    In my posts (see above September 14, 2010 1:01 AM and September 14, 2010 7:55 PM) I invited you to:
    “…a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate; then our rationalist audience will not have to rely on my “zero credibility”, but they will be able to arrive at their own fact-based conclusions.

    Now, (September 14, 2010 8:11 PM) you answered the following:
    Natan Slifkin said...
    Dr. Betech, please let me know what you feel the Torah perspective on evolution is.
    And I answer you the following:
    I am inviting you to a scientific debate on the evolution of the species, I am not inviting you to a theological or religious debate. I am a scientist used to speak to academic audiences and have had many scientific discussions with secular scientists. I know the meaning of drawing conclusions from the physical evidence without any preconceived notions.
    So please let me know when and where this scientific encounter will take place so I will B”N make all my personal arrangements.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  55. Dr. Betech, please don't waste my time. Obviously if you feel that evolution is rank heresy, you are not going to find the scientific evidence convincing!

    ReplyDelete
  56. Dr. Betech:
    I want to know why you call yourself a scientist. Clinical practitioners are not scientists any more than an engineers are scientists. The orientation of the clinician, like the engineer, is practical and pragmatic. I can find no articles in pubmed listing anyone named Betech as an author.

    If you are a scientist, then Instead of challenging R. Slifkin to a debate, why not write a thorough critique of current evolutionary theory and publish it. Better yet, why not take one major article in any area of biology written in the last ten years that makes significant inferences based on evolutionary theory and write a thorough critique of it.

    One cogent thing you have said is that you "do not know scientific evidences that prove the evolution of the species." Well, that much is quite clear. However the significance of that fact is rather limited.

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  57. "I want to know why you call yourself a scientist. Clinical practitioners are not scientists any more than an engineers are scientists. The orientation of the clinician, like the engineer, is practical and pragmatic. I can find no articles in pubmed listing anyone named Betech as an author."

    Why the hostility? And why would someone from Mexico be published in pubmed?

    The difference between a scientist and an engineer are just about meaningless. What exactly would an "evolution engineer" look like?

    ReplyDelete
  58. Dr. Betech wrote:
    I am inviting you to a scientific debate on the evolution of the species, I am not inviting you to a theological or religious debate. I am a scientist used to speak to academic audiences and have had many scientific discussions with secular scientists.”

    Dr. Betech –

    You say that you are not inviting Rabbi Slifkin “to a theological or religious debate” - why then do you want to have this debate with someone who is a rabbi? (Although you address Rabbi Slifkin only by his first name, he does hold the qualification and title of “Rabbi”.) If you claim to be a scientist, and evolution of the species is what you wish to debate, why not set up your proposed debate with another scientist? You can then invite Rabbi Slifkin, rationalists, theologians, scientists and readers of this blog to view the debate.

    ReplyDelete
  59. To understand animals without the narrative of evolution, I might suggest reading up on the Cladists.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics#Cladistics_in_taxonomy

    ReplyDelete
  60. How on earth does cladistics shed light on the animal kingdom in the same way as evolution? Does it explain why whales come to the surface to breath air? Why marsupials are in Australia? Why people get goosebumps? Why there are no mermaids?

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  61. Dr. Betech:
    I think Rabbi Slifkin made it clear his reasons for not wishing to debate you, though you took steps to try to sidestep this.

    But let me ask you -- here is a debate between Dawkins and Wright about creationism,

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dawkins+vs+wright&aq=f

    in a lengthy, seven-part interview.

    where she repeatedly makes the same assertion that there is no evidence to prove evolution. for example, that there are no transitionary forms. And every time they find a transitional fossil, this just makes the problem deeper, for now there are two gaps!

    do you agree with Dawkins or Wright in this? who came out looking better, in this lengthy exchange? are Wrights arguments similar or identical to your own arguments? what about her rejection of the evidence Dawkins brings up? it seems to me that this debate has occurred many times in the past. I don't think Rabbi Slifkin needs to put himself through the aggravation of a futile and frustrating argument, just so that you can set yourself up as a bar plugta.

    kol tuv,
    josh

    ReplyDelete
  62. "How on earth does cladistics shed light on the animal kingdom in the same way as evolution? Does it explain why whales come to the surface to breath air? Why marsupials are in Australia? Why people get goosebumps? Why there are no mermaids?"

    I'm not sure what you are asking.

    Earlier, MJ wrote..
    "Why exactly do we use animal models in drug testing? Why can we predict the function of a gene based on its homology to a gene in another organism? Why do we study the molecular machinery in bacteria to understand animals? etc. etc. etc."

    My comment about Cladists was in reference to the line of thinking represented by that comment.

    The evolution narrative, is not the same thing as the facts observed regarding adaptation.
    Why whales breath air, or why people have goosebumps, or why mermaids don't exist are not explained by evolution. They are just facts and any random "why" is as good an explanation as any other, and none are proveable. The whole point of Cladism (sic?) is to ignore the narrative and just look at the observable facts. Having a narrative, any narrative at all clouds one's judgement.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Why whales breath air, or why people have goosebumps, or why mermaids don't exist are not explained by evolution. They are just facts and any random "why" is as good an explanation as any other

    That's just not true! Please give me the alternate explanations that are "just as good."

    ReplyDelete
  64. >"Why the hostility? And why would someone from Mexico be published in pubmed?"

    Hostility? I don't think that people should misrepresent their qualifications.

    Not only do scientists from all over the world publish in English language journals -as this is the lingua franca of contemporary science - most foreign language journals provide pubmed with English abstracts.

    >"The difference between a scientist and an engineer are just about meaningless. What exactly would an "evolution engineer" look like?"

    Why are the differences meaningless? Sure there is a lot of common shared knowledge and often inter-reliance, but engineers are not trained to do the research that scientists do and scientists are not taught many of the techniques that engineers learn.

    I'm not sure what you are asking in the second part of that question. I have no idea what an evolutionary engineer is either (any more than a string theory engineer). A genetic engineer applies recombinant DNA technology to produce specific practical outcomes such as a genetically modified organism.

    >"any random "why" is as good an explanation as any other, and none are proveable."

    So then you would support the invisible fairy explanation of gravity? Again you don't seem to understand science. Science is not about simply making local observations. It is about understanding the unifying "why". Understanding the "why" is what took us from Newtonian physics (which are laws with no underlying theory to explain them) to general and special relativity, to quantum mechanics, and to the search for a unified theory.

    In biology the search for the unifying "why" has led to evolutionary theory, which has proved itself incredibly robust, providing a consistent explanatory framework at all levels of biology. In part, the strength of the theory is attested to by the fact that it was proposed even before any mechanisms of trait transmission or mutation were known via later developments in genetics and molecular biology and still provides the best explanatory framework available.

    (Contra the case of physics where laws of Newtonian mechanics were shown to make incorrect predictions. The analogue in biology would be laws of Mendelian trait transmission which are really just a special case.)

    ReplyDelete
  65. Dear Ameteur,

    To be honest, I'm a spelling amateur, but I recommend you look up the spelling of your moniker.

    "Why the hostility? And why would someone from Mexico be published in pubmed?"

    For the same reasons that people from all over the world are published in pubmed. Perhaps you have not yet reached the level of amateur?

    "The difference between a scientist and an engineer are just about meaningless. What exactly would an "evolution engineer" look like?"

    No; the difference is not meaningless. In fact, it is obvious to anyone who knows even a small amount about the scientific process. Your argument is similar to insisting a firefighter is a chemist because he can use water to put out a fire.

    P.S. Evolution engineers are very funny looking.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Mr Betech,

    Frankly, having a rabbi (with all due respect) debate a scientific matter with an unpublished physician would be a useless endeavor. May I suggest you convince R' Belsky to debate R' Slifkin on the scientific knowledge of chazal. There's a far more appropriate and useful dialogue (though even less likely to occur).

    ReplyDelete
  67. B”H
    Dear Natan
    I am going to answer by now, only some of the commentaries that are relevant to your original post and our main issue. Please see below where I am going to intersperse my short answers (preceded by initials IB 15/Sept.’10) in between the bloggers´ commentaries.

    MJ said...
    Dr. Betech:
    I want to know why you call yourself a scientist.

    IB 15/Sept.’10
    Because I follow the scientific method in my debates.

    Michapeset said...
    Dr. Betech –
    You say that you are not inviting Rabbi Slifkin “to a theological or religious debate” - why then do you want to have this debate with someone who is a rabbi? (Although you address Rabbi Slifkin only by his first name, he does hold the qualification and title of “Rabbi”.)

    IB 15/Sept.’10
    I am inviting him to a scientific debate on evolution of the species, because he has written two books on this specific issue, besides many posts on the same issue, like this one.

    Michapeset said...
    If you claim to be a scientist, and evolution of the species is what you wish to debate, why not set up your proposed debate with another scientist? You can then invite Rabbi Slifkin, rationalists, theologians, scientists and readers of this blog to view the debate.

    IB 15/Sept.’10
    You are right, this is a very good idea, I have done it many times and I am ready to do it again as you propose. Please suggest an expert scientist (Jewish or not) on evolution and tell me when and where we will have a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate.

    joshwaxman said...
    I don't think Rabbi Slifkin needs to put himself through the aggravation of a futile and frustrating argument, just so that you can set yourself up as a bar plugta.

    IB 15/Sept.’10
    My rationalist education has taught me that honestly looking for the truth can not be aggravating, futile or frustrating.
    One always enriches his scientific knowledge, especially in this issue that is so fundamental to any human being.

    Natan Slifkin said...
    Dr. Betech, please don't waste my time. Obviously if you feel that evolution is rank heresy, you are not going to find the scientific evidence convincing!

    IB 15/Sept.’10
    I appreciate my time so much that I am very careful not to waste other people’s time.
    Please read again what you wrote to me at Sun, 15 Aug 2004 12:15:28 +0300, and you will remember that you did not feel like “wasting your time” answering my emails.
    Date: Sun, 15 Aug 2004 12:15:28 +0300
    From: Zoo Torah
    Subject: RE: Fins in the larval stage
    To: "'Dr. Isaac Betech N'"
    Dear Dr. Nissan,
    Don't worry about bothering me, you are keeping me on my toes!

    Also please read again what you wrote in your own book: The Camel, the Hare, and the Hyrax, on page 20, last line: “My gratitude also goes to Dr. Isaac Betech Nissan of Mexico for discussing several aspects of the manuscript,…” and you will remember that you did not feel like “wasting your time” in interchanging bibliographically based commentaries.

    Finally, honest rationalists can be above cognitive dissonance when they evaluate facts.
    So, please let me know when and where this scientific encounter will take place so I will B”N make all my personal arrangements.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  68. Dr. Betech:
    "My rationalist education has taught me that honestly looking for the truth can not be aggravating, futile or frustrating.
    One always enriches his scientific knowledge, especially in this issue that is so fundamental to any human being."

    Then alas your rationalist education has mis-taught you. A debate can indeed be aggravating, futile, and frustrating. I have had several such debates myself, and have wasted days of my life. This occurs not because debates often are NOT "honestly looking for the truth". That does not mean (necessarily) that *I* was not ""honestly looking for the truth". Look at the Dawkins - Wright interview. Do you think Dawkins learned anything from this? Or was Wright being exceedingly stubborn in conceding to even simple points, such that this was a waste of time for him?

    Rabbi Slifkin does not need to respond at length, with a public lecture, to every random person who feels like challenging him. Even people who have written books. There are too many people who are willing, and not enough time in this life.

    BTW, You didn't respond to the rest of my comment, which was questioning whether your arguments were akin to those of Wright.

    kol tuv,
    josh

    ReplyDelete
  69. "Finally, honest rationalists can be above cognitive dissonance when they evaluate facts."

    Is it conceivable that the debate will cause you to admit that the evidence contradicts your dogma-based position regarding evolution? If convinced, would you be able to publically draw the honest conclusion?

    ReplyDelete
  70. Natan Slifkin said...
    Dr. Betech, please don't waste my time. Obviously if you feel that evolution is rank heresy, you are not going to find the scientific evidence convincing!

    IB 15/Sept.’10
    I appreciate my time so much that I am very careful not to waste other people’s time.
    Please read again what you wrote to me at Sun, 15 Aug 2004 12:15:28 +0300, and you will remember that you did not feel like “wasting your time” answering my emails.


    Dr. Betech, the fact that I did not think it was a waste of time to discuss coprophagy in lemurs does not have any bearing on whether it is a waste of time to discuss the scientific merits of evolution!

    Finally, honest rationalists can be above cognitive dissonance when they evaluate facts.

    The question is whether someone committed to a certain religious perspective can be rated as an "honest rationalist." I notice that you refuse to address my point about your considering evolution to be utter heresy. How on earth can you maintain that even though it's heresy, and you have a religious conviction that it must be false, nevertheless you will evaluate the evidence honestly?!

    ReplyDelete
  71. Avi,

    I am aware how to spell the word amateur which means a person who is not an expert. However my moniker is Ameteur, not Amateur. Perhaps you can try reading it with a hebrew accent to get the joke.

    Many scientists are engineers, and many engineers are scientists. A scientist is a person who utilizes the scientific method as a means to discover the correct result.

    In fact, the scientific method is so removed from the practitioner that any idiot with time and money can be a scientist. And that is why we trust the scientific method.
    I'm not saying that researchers and academics are idiots, I'm just saying that the label of "scientist" is not reserved for great thinkers or ingenious people.


    R Slifkin,
    Since we do not know the mechanism which creates drastic changes in an animal (such as turning a wolf into a whale), and we only know -that- it happened, not how or why, any given reason is just as supported by the evidence as any other reason.

    Why for example did whales experience nasal drift but alligators did not? And how do we know that a mermaid is not possible some 2 billion years from now? Perhaps they have just not come about yet. What exactly prevented a marine monkey from evolving? When global warming reaches its limits, and the world is flooded, perhaps we will evolve into human whales and become mermaids.

    There is no way to predict what trait of a species will evolve and what will remain as vestigial. We only know that certain things have changed but the why and the how of it are completely unpredictable.
    The butterflies of england could have just as easily developed a chemical which would give them a bad taste, or developed to be smaller. But instead they just turned black.

    My point is not that aliens gathered animals from across the universe onto earth, or that previously suggested and disproved theories are true. My only point is that we don't know the "why" of it, and are only guessing, and I respect more the taxonomists and researchers that are willing to ignore the narrative and focus on the facts.

    I would think that rationalist people have learned enough from history to be willing to just accept a lack of knowledge about something and leave it at that.

    R Slifkin, if the tone of this comment is not one that you want to continue in this post, then feel free to not post it. I've realized after writing it that it was probably a waste of time, but can't bring myself to delete it.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Rabbi Slifkin, I disagree. You can think something is heresy (based on religious reasons), but still concede that most of the *scientific* evidence seems to point in the opposite direction.

    (Nor is this absurd since what we call scientific evidence is not the only source for determining truth. If G-d appeared to you and told you evolution was false, all the scientific evidence in the world wouldn't convince you otherwise. You would say, all the observable facts point to evolution being true, but G-d told me otherwise and that overides everything else.)

    ReplyDelete
  73. B”H
    Dear Natan
    I am going to ask by now, only a short question, because I am trying to understand your position.
    Please see below where I am going to write my short question (preceded by initials IB 16/Sept.’10) after your commentary.

    You wrote:
    Natan Slifkin said...
    Dr. Betech, please don't waste my time. Obviously if you feel that evolution is rank heresy, you are not going to find the scientific evidence convincing!
    I answered:
    IB 15/Sept.’10
    I appreciate my time so much that I am very careful not to waste other people’s time.
    Please read again what you wrote to me at Sun, 15 Aug 2004 12:15:28 +0300, and you will remember that you did not feel like “wasting your time” answering my emails.
    Date: Sun, 15 Aug 2004 12:15:28 +0300
    From: Zoo Torah
    Subject: RE: Fins in the larval stage
    To: "'Dr. Isaac Betech N'"
    Dear Dr. Nissan,
    Don't worry about bothering me, you are keeping me on my toes!

    Also please read again what you wrote in your own book: The Camel, the Hare, and the Hyrax, on page 20, last line: “My gratitude also goes to Dr. Isaac Betech Nissan of Mexico for discussing several aspects of the manuscript,…” and you will remember that you did not feel like “wasting your time” in interchanging bibliographically based commentaries.

    And you answered:
    Dr. Betech, the fact that I did not think it was a waste of time to discuss coprophagy in lemurs does not have any bearing on whether it is a waste of time to discuss the scientific merits of evolution!

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Please explain the difference.
    Thanks
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  74. Dear Mr Slifkin this is unbelievable!,
    Dr Betech invites you openly to an "to a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate", and instead of accepting the opportunity to express and rationalize your ideas in an objective scenario like the one he's proposing, you come with a series of excuses, followed by some others that want to avoid this debate because, you are not a scientist or because he's a Doctor, what kind of nonsense is this?
    Why you don't put the same kind of obstacles to the people that write in your forum???

    The only difference between this forum and a public debate is that a public debate will make much easier the communications, the flow of questions and answers!

    The fact that you are rejecting this debate reminds me the position of certain sectors during the Medieval Age...

    And by the way, I think it is not respectful to tell someone that is inviting you with respect to an open debate ("which is also forum!") that he could make you "waste your time", I think WE will be wasting the time by following a forum like -in which sometimes need to wait 24 hours to get just ONE answer from a previous question! - instead of watching to an open debate in which the moderator won't be one of the parts (contrary to this forum in which obviously you have an extra advantage)

    Dear Mr Slifkin to be honest I think we all understand why you are avoiding a public debate.... But you still have an opportunity, that will clarify to MANY of us your position.

    Writing books (monologue), and having a controlled forum is one think, being in a public, "protocolized", bi-directional debate with equal conditions for both sides is another...

    Take the opportunity, we'll record it!
    Help us no to "waste" more time

    E.Akerman

    ReplyDelete
  75. IB 15/Sept.’10
    You are right, this is a very good idea, I have done it many times and I am ready to do it again as you propose. Please suggest an expert scientist (Jewish or not) on evolution and tell me when and where we will have a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate.


    Dr. Betech – You, not I, are pursuing such a debate. I am not volunteering to organize a debate for you. It is therefore up to you to tell readers of this blog when and where you will have a debate if you choose to do so. In terms of suggesting an expert evolutionary scientist, that is not my field of knowledge and I do not know any personally. I was merely pointing out that debating evolutionary science should be done with an evolutionary scientist, and not with a rabbi.

    IB 15/Sept.’10
    I am inviting him to a scientific debate on evolution of the species, because he has written two books on this specific issue, besides many posts on the same issue, like this one.


    Dr. Betech – You are mistaken. Rabbi Slifkin did not write two books on the issue of the evolution of the species. R. Slifkin wrote one book on the various Torah perspectives relating to creation, and quotes therein evolutionary theory, biology and other sciences as it they are currently understood by scientific experts and when they do not agree with the Torah, Talmud and commentaries. R. Slifkin then goes on to give us perspectives of Rishonim, Acharonim and other Torah authorities by quoting those rabbis whose statements would help to balance and reconcile the differences between Torah and science. The other book R. Slifkin wrote is about various mythical creatures and their appearance in the Torah, Talmud and commentaries. In this book R. Slifkin quotes Rishonim, Acharonim, and rabbis who say that the science quoted by Chazal is not Toras Moshe MiSinai, but rather based on the science of the times in which Chazal lived, and is merely quoted by Chazal to illustrate a point; and saying that Chazal could err in science, even while they do not err in their halachic rulings.

    In any case, Rabbi Slifkin clearly has no interest in debating you. I would suggest you stop beating a dead horse.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Yehudah said...
    Rabbi Slifkin, I disagree. You can think something is heresy (based on religious reasons), but still concede that most of the *scientific* evidence seems to point in the opposite direction.


    Yehudah, you or I could do that, but not the anti-evolutionists. It's a matter of critical religious importance for them that evolution be *scientifically* false.

    ReplyDelete
  77. And you answered:
    Dr. Betech, the fact that I did not think it was a waste of time to discuss coprophagy in lemurs does not have any bearing on whether it is a waste of time to discuss the scientific merits of evolution!

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Please explain the difference.
    Thanks
    Isaac Betech


    The differenceS are:

    1) that at the time I did not see coprophagy in lemurs as being of critical religious importance to you (and I may have erred in that)

    2) I didn't know that you were so anti-rationalist that you believe that the universe is less than 600 years old

    3) it was only since then that the ban on my books happened, and I discovered that you are connected to the kannaim who organized it.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Dr Betech invites you openly to an "to a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate", and instead of accepting the opportunity to express and rationalize your ideas in an objective scenario like the one he's proposing

    There's not going to be anything objective about it. He believes that it's kefirah! Obviously he is not going to be evaluating it objectively, based on the scientific evidence.
    As for the opportunity to rationalize and express my ideas about the antiquity of the universe and evolution, this has already been done in my books and in many others.

    Incidentally, I offered a few years ago to debate Betech about the HASHKAFIC validity of my books, but only if he acts in the official capacity of representative of the Gedolim. (He is connected to them - he convinced some of them to sign on the ban).

    I think WE will be wasting the time by following a forum like -in which sometimes need to wait 24 hours to get just ONE answer from a previous question!

    Excuse me??!! Are you paying me for my time?

    Dear Mr Slifkin to be honest I think we all understand why you are avoiding a public debate

    Well, the rationalists certainly do. It's because it's a farce to have a "scientific" debate with someone who comes to the table insisting that this is heresy. If you want to learn about the scientific merits of evolution, there are plenty of books available. If you want to learn all the creationist arguments against it, there's plenty of material available for you too.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Dr. Betech, may I ask you a question? Do you believe that there is such a creature as a mouse that is generated from dirt, as Chazal describe?

    ReplyDelete
  80. B”H
    Good morning to everyone!
    I see that when I am working or sleeping you are posting so many interesting commentaries. Thank you to all of you.
    I hope you will be patient with me until I answer to you; I am interested in answering to all of you. I hope that in between my medical practice I will keep posting B”N. Please check online.
    Of course, by now, priority will be given to commentaries related to the issues related to the original post that we are commenting.
    As usual my new commentaries will be preceded by my initials (IB 16/Sept.’10) in between the bloggers´ commentaries.

    Michapeset said...
    IB 15/Sept.’10
    I am inviting him to a scientific debate on evolution of the species, because he has written two books on this specific issue, besides many posts on the same issue, like this one.

    Dr. Betech – You are mistaken. Rabbi Slifkin did not write two books on the issue of the evolution of the species. R. Slifkin wrote one book on the various Torah perspectives relating to creation, and quotes therein evolutionary theory, biology and other sciences as it they are currently understood by scientific experts and when they do not agree with the Torah, Talmud and commentaries. R. Slifkin then goes on to give us perspectives of Rishonim, Acharonim and other Torah authorities by quoting those rabbis whose statements would help to balance and reconcile the differences between Torah and science. The other book R. Slifkin wrote is about various mythical creatures and their appearance in the Torah, Talmud and commentaries. In this book R. Slifkin quotes Rishonim, Acharonim, and rabbis who say that the science quoted by Chazal is not Toras Moshe MiSinai, but rather based on the science of the times in which Chazal lived, and is merely quoted by Chazal to illustrate a point; and saying that Chazal could err in science, even while they do not err in their halachic rulings.

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Sorry but I am not mistaken, I know very well which books he has published, related to evolution there are 2!
    The Science of Torah. (Targum-Feldheim) ’01
    The Challenge of Creation (Yashar Books) ’06

    Michapeset said...
    In any case, Rabbi Slifkin clearly has no interest in debating you.

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Sadly you are right, but I keep trying.

    Michapeset said...
    I would suggest you stop beating a dead horse.

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Sorry, by now you already know that I am Mexican and I do not know the meaning of a “dead horse”.

    Now I have to take care of my duties.
    Keep online.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  81. A scientist is a person who utilizes the scientific method as a means to discover the correct result.

    No, a modern scientist is someone who is trained as a scientist - which in part part includes training in formulating and testing theories. Becoming a scientist today is really a process of getting abroad education in the field followed by specialized education, followed by what is essentially a long apprenticeship.

    In fact, the scientific method is so removed from the practitioner that any idiot with time and money can be a scientist. And that is why we trust the scientific method.

    That's not only insulting to scientists, who tend to be -at least- a tad more intelligent than the common idiot, it's pure baloney. This isn't the 18th to mid 19th century where scientific knowledge was so thin that you could become a scientist by reading a few books and conducting a few experiments in your spare time. It is unfortunate that so much science miseducation of children in America revolves around easy to understand folk heroes like Benjamin Franklin or even Louis Pasteur. I would venture that unless you have spent a decent amount of time in a lab or in the field with scientists and can actually understand journal articles in a given field then you probably don't really understand what most scientists do.

    That's one unfortunate consequence of the vastness of the knowledge base and the complexity of the actual methods used in many fields.

    We trust science today because it uses methods that have been very successful and because scientific results are repeatedly tested and retested both directly and indirectly by thousands of people.

    Since we do not know the mechanism which creates drastic changes in an animal

    Of course we know the mechanism. It's called genetic mutation coupled with selective pressure over millions of years. Over a smaller time scale we can directly observe this happening and we make the reasonable inference that this explains what happened over millions of years. This theory has accurately predicted other results. This is not "just guessing" Do you have an alternative mechanism to propose instead?

    I don't often say this online: but you really don't seem to have any idea what you are talking about whatsoever, and confuse and conflate many different issues. Even your reference to cladistic taxonomy is bizarre given that today it is intimately intertwined with evolutionary theory.


    Dr. Betech: Scientific truth cannot be adjudicated in two-hour debate. It is determined in the community of experts over a long period of time and through many challenges, responses and refinements. If you are qualified as an expert in the field then you should be publishing scientific works that critique the consensus.

    If you think that accepting this consensus is assur then you have a halakhic or hashkafic disagreement with R. Slifkin, not a scientific one.

    [And if you are one of the people behind the ban on R. Slifkin's books, then I look forward to reading about you in the news sometime in the future.]

    ReplyDelete
  82. MJ said...
    Dr. Betech:
    … [And if you are one of the people behind the ban on R. Slifkin's books, then I look forward to reading about you in the news sometime in the future.]
    September 16, 2010 5:25 PM
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Regarding what you wrote, I am wondering:
    1.-Your last words came from a rationalist Jew?
    2.-Are these kind of “wishes” permitted in a moderated rationalist website?
    3.-Kilelat Shav lo Tabo (don´t worry MJ, I wrote “Lo” with an Aleph and not with a Vav).
    4.-Nevertheless, I will continue with my rationalists posts B”H.
    5.-I will answer the other points of your posts in between my medical activities, B”N.
    Isaac Betech.

    ReplyDelete
  83. B"H
    Dear Natan:
    I am going to comment in between your last three points you wrote regarding my last question to you. Please see below.
    As usual, my new commentaries will be preceded by my initials IB 16/Sept.’10

    Natan Slifkin said...
    And you answered:
    Dr. Betech, the fact that I did not think it was a waste of time to discuss coprophagy in lemurs does not have any bearing on whether it is a waste of time to discuss the scientific merits of evolution!

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Please explain the difference.
    Thanks
    Isaac Betech

    The differenceS are:
    1) that at the time I did not see coprophagy in lemurs as being of critical religious importance to you (and I may have erred in that)
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    I see that you did not follow my suggestion of reading again the above quoted email you sent me in August 2004, you are confusing subjects and times.

    2) I didn't know that you were so anti-rationalist that you believe that the universe is less than 600 years old
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    I can say publicly that I consider myself a rationalist, and even though I know that the Universe is more than 600 (six hundred) years old.

    3) it was only since then that the ban on my books happened, and I discovered that you are connected to the kannaim who organized it.
    September 16, 2010 12:27 PM
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Your discovery is not so precise. I am related to the “later letters” against your books signed by some Gedolim a few months later than the original 23 signatures.
    I did a very simple task. I presented to the Gedolim what you wrote about a certain scientific issue and also presented them documented facts against what you wrote. The Gedolim studied the issue a few days and they signed the letters that everyone knows.
    By the way, I am amassed to see that bibliographical information presented by someone that you have not identified as an “opponent”, is welcomed by you, and when the same person wants to present bibliographical information after he was identified as an “opponent” is not considered valid by you anymore…
    Is this according to the definition of a rationalist approach?
    Isaac Betech.

    ReplyDelete
  84. I can say publicly that I consider myself a rationalist, and even though I know that the Universe is more than 600 (six hundred) years old.

    Obviously it was a typo and I meant 6000 not 600. And I know that you believe the universe to be less than 6000 years old.
    And obviously you consider yourself to be a rationalist. However I do not consider you to be one, not remotely.

    Incidentally I noticed that you did not respond to the question about the mouse that is generated from dirt. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about that.

    I am related to the “later letters” against your books signed by some Gedolim a few months later than the original 23 signatures.

    That's odd, because Rav Dan Segal claims that he signed the original letter due to you.

    I did a very simple task. I presented to the Gedolim what you wrote about a certain scientific issue and also presented them documented facts against what you wrote.

    Which Gedolim, and which issue?

    By the way, I am amassed to see that bibliographical information presented by someone that you have not identified as an “opponent”, is welcomed by you, and when the same person wants to present bibliographical information after he was identified as an “opponent” is not considered valid by you anymore

    I'd still be interested in any relevant bibliographical information, and I'd be glad to acknowledge your contribution if you provide it. What I'm not interested in is a pseudo-scientific debate with someone who believes the scientific proposition to be kefirah. And if you claim that, despite considering it kefirah, you are going to evaluate the evidence objectively, then you are either lying or deluding yourself. At least have the honesty to admit that no evidence at all would change your mind, and the only reason you want to debate is to have a chance to score points against me.

    ReplyDelete
  85. Dr. Betech Wrote:

    Kilelat Shav lo Tabo (don´t worry MJ, I wrote “Lo” with an Aleph and not with a Vav).

    First, it was not a curse. It was an inductive inference based on the Eidoh that you joined in pushing for a ban of R. Slifkin's books.

    But as a rationalist I think that you make your own "mazel" in the world and I would be pleased to read a headline in a major publication that says: "Mexican Doctor Disproves Evolution; Shows that World is only 6000 years Old; Amazes Scientists by Growing Mouse from Dirt."

    I did a very simple task. I presented to the Gedolim what you wrote about a certain scientific issue and also presented them documented facts against what you wrote.

    Finally, a first-hand account of someone manipulating Gedolim.

    Imagine this: I am your colleague in the NICU. You decide to to treat a neonate with a spinal malformation which will leave the patient a paraplegic if untreated. You believe based on a recent article in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery that this therapy has a 60 percent success rate and only a 2 percent chance of mortality. I disagree with this treatment modality based on a small study that calculates the risk of sudden death at 25 percent.

    Instead of bringing this up with you I go to the rabbi of your community, claim that you are doing risky treatments that are ossur l'halakha based on a the scientific data from the small study I show him. I urge him to sign a letter banning you from proceeding with the surgery, and that if you proceed to put you in cherem and proclaim you a rodef and prohibit anyone in the community from using you as a doctor. You go ahead with the surgery anyway because you trust that having weighed the evidence you side with the consensus delineated in the recent review article and fulfill your obligations to your patient. That's the Moshol. Here's the Nimshal:

    Dr. Betech: If you felt at the time that R. Slifkin was relying on scientific conclusions that are invalid why did YOU not author a book or article challenging these scientific claims? Why at the time did YOU not challenge him to a debate before the ban? Why did YOU run to the Gedolim to have them ban his book?

    And why do you, a person who is partly responsible for creating a chillul HaShem and terrible suffering to R. Slifkin and his family expect him to debate you as if you are some unbiased bystander to the whole thing? Haragta v'gam Yarashta?

    ReplyDelete
  86. What I find especially interesting is that Dr. Betech wants to have a debate about evolution "so that people can hear both sides" but is apparently quite happy with the process of his going to the Gedolim about R. Slifkin even though they didn't get to hear R. Slifkin's side.

    ReplyDelete
  87. "In biology the search for the unifying "why" has led to evolutionary theory, which has proved itself incredibly robust, providing a consistent explanatory framework at all levels of biology."

    Well, I would argue, not so much "why," but "how." I think "how" is really the relevant question there, which evolution answers.

    "Why" is a philosophical question.

    ReplyDelete
  88. To those arguing about scientists and engineers: This argument is based on semantics and really has no relevance but is leading us all on a tangent. "scientist" is a very general term with many meanings because there are many TYPES of scientists. An engineer is one type of scientist. I biologist is another type of scientist. There are also zoologists, chemists, physicists, etc. Biologists are usually the ones with expertise in evolution. An engineer cannot be expected to have such an expertise unless he has done some additional work or systematic studying. So why are we talking about engineers? Can we move on now, please?



    As to Dr. Betech, given your past history with Rabbi Slifkin, (which of course you yourself neglected to share with us), don't you think your posts here are just a bit disingenuous? Or if you don't think they are, don't you expect that the readers here will consider them disingenuous!?

    I am truly amazed at what is transpiring here.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Rabbi Slifkin, I still don't understand your position. Is it your opinion that an Orthodox Jew cannot objectively evaluate the current evidence on biblical criticism or biblical archeology? If yes, I find this position very strange.

    As far as I. Betech goes, if it is true that he helped organize the ban against you, I wouldn't respond to a single thing he says. What chutzpah! To use strong-arm tactics to silence you and then ask for a respectable debate to discuss the issues.

    ReplyDelete
  90. B”H
    Dear Natan
    I am going to answer by now, only some of the commentaries that are relevant to your original post and our main issue.
    Natan Slifkin said...
    I can say publicly that I consider myself a rationalist, and even though I know that the Universe is more than 600 (six hundred) years old.

    Obviously it was a typo and I meant 6000 not 600. And I know that you believe the universe to be less than 6000 years old.
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    I see that you claim to know a lot of things… again you are not accurate.
    Glauben heisst nicht wissen.
    I do not believe, I know that the universe is less than 6000 years old, because nobody has showed me yet scientific bibliographic evidences, I will be very interested if you or anyone will be the first.
    Please do not hesitate; I am ready to read the scientific evidence even in these so important days.
    Natan Slifkin said...
    And obviously you consider yourself to be a rationalist. However I do not consider you to be one, not remotely.
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    This is an unproven subjective appreciation. Please present any evidence, for example show me incontrovertible scientific evidence that the universe is older than 6000 years old.
    Natan Slifkin said...
    Incidentally I noticed that you did not respond to the question about the mouse that is generated from dirt.
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    The Mishna and Gmara that you are trying to paraphrase, as well as many Torah –science issues is a subject I like to study objectively. I will enjoy to debate all these issues with you in a public, intellectual, respectful, protocolized debate after we finish the debate on the issue of evolution (see your original post that we are commenting, and please see also your recent post on Comments policy).

    Natan Slifkin said...
    That's odd, because Rav Dan Segal claims that he signed the original letter due to you.

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    I see that you claim to know a lot of things… again you are not accurate.
    Although I know him and appreciate him, I have not hear or read your claim. Please provide a reliable source.

    Natan Slifkin said...
    Which Gedolim, and which issue?

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Please read point 4 of your recently published Comments policy.

    Natan Slifkin said...
    By the way, I am amassed to see that bibliographical information presented by someone that you have not identified as an “opponent”, is welcomed by you, and when the same person wants to present bibliographical information after he was identified as an “opponent” is not considered valid by you anymore

    I'd still be interested in any relevant bibliographical information, and I'd be glad to acknowledge your contribution if you provide it. What I'm not interested in is a pseudo-scientific debate with someone who believes the scientific proposition to be kefirah. And if you claim that, despite considering it kefirah, you are going to evaluate the evidence objectively, then you are either lying or deluding yourself.

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Excellent, finally you agree at least to a bibliographical interchange on relevant information, so let’s begin with the issue on this post.
    Please send me a scientific article that describes any incontrovertible proof that there was evolution of the species. And we will analyze it in a protocolized neutral public forum.

    Natan Slifkin said...
    At least have the honesty to admit that no evidence at all would change your mind, and the only reason you want to debate is to have a chance to score points against me.
    September 16, 2010 8:49 PM

    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Sorry, but I do not think that anyone is looking to score points against you. I have not read any written letter of any migdole hador supporting your present-day approach. Even Rab Belsky shlit”a is strongly against evolution.
    If I am not well informed, please provide me a reliable written source.
    The reason I want to debate is because I want to know the truth, and this has been one of the main mottos in my whole life.
    Isaac Betech
    P.S. To the rest of the bloggers: Please be patient with the posts that I have not answered yet.

    ReplyDelete
  91. Dr. Betech: Make up your mind. Is this a scientific issue or a question of whether the Gedolim support R. Slifkin's approach.

    If it's a scientific issue then your evaluation of data is not germane. In scientific matters we follow the consensus of scientists - especially when the minority constitutes a "miut she'ayno matzui."

    And if it's a question of whether "The (chareidi) Gedolim" support R. Slifkin's approach then we already know that they do not. We already know that they reject modern science. And we already know that R. Slifkin follows another tradition which you think is Kefirah which claims (among other things) that portions of Bereishis are to be understood non-literally and that Chazal's statements about nature often were simply reflecting science as was understood in their day -not conveying some eternal truth about nature.

    So what is left to debate? You have your position which is fixed to the opinions of the Chareidi Gedolim, and he has his position which is a continuation of the rational beliefs of the Sephardic Rishonim, now held by the community known as the "Modern Orthodox."

    If you want to know "The Truth" as currently understood by scientists go read a college textbook.

    ReplyDelete
  92. I had written:
    "Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it."

    Moshe Rafael wrote: "This is not true. For instance, if the ERV (Endogenous RetroVirus) insertions in the DNA would not have fit filogenetic trees that would have been a falsification of the theory of evolution."

    It would have? Or would it only have falsified one aspect of the theory?

    ReplyDelete
  93. Applause for MJ and major support of his last 3 comments!

    Can I second the motion?

    Bravo! Well said!

    ReplyDelete
  94. Dr. Betech,

    The very fact that Rabbi Slifkin has allowed any of your comments to appear on his blog, is an honorable gesture on his part.

    By contrast, you can not claim to have acted honorably in the ways you have by your own admission dealt with Rabbi Slifkin or his work.

    If someone had been involved in the orchestration of a ban on my work, my livelihood and my personage, such that occurred with the ban on Rabbi Slifkin's books, the cherem and the resulting controversy, I would not allow that person's comments to appear on my blog unless it was an apology.

    Further, those of us who are regular readers of this blog, or who are supporters of Rabbi Slifkin have no interest or tolerance for the continued efforts of his opponents to undermine his work.

    I speak only for myself as a reader of this blog and supporter of Rabbi Slifkin's work - you are not welcome here. I will not be reading nor responding to any of your future posts until I have heard that you have publically apologized to Rabbi Slifkin for the damage you caused him, have worked towards rectifying the damage you did, and have worked towards having him compensated for that damage.

    ReplyDelete
  95. "It would have? Or would it only have falsified one aspect of the theory?"

    It would have.

    ReplyDelete
  96. I do not believe, I know that the universe is less than 6000 years old, because nobody has showed me yet scientific bibliographic evidences,

    Nobody has to show you anything. Certainly here, after seeing the nature of your postings and the revelation of your history, I don't think anybody here cares to show you anything. If you want to know why the age of the world is more than 13 billion years, go study the sciences.

    ReplyDelete
  97. I think that Dr Betech's comments speak for themselves.

    Others may be wondering why my opponents refuse to get into any public debate about Chazal's views on science, rabbinic authority or other such matters, but are eager to have debates about the scientific merits of evolution. The reason is as follows: Evolution is a huge, overarching explanation for the entirety of life. As such, there are, of course, many details that have yet to be filled in - that's why scientists are still studying it! Creationists like to use debates in order to ask a whole string of kashyas. They also ask for "just one piece of evidence" that proves evolution - whereas of course there is no single piece of evidence that can prove something about the entire animal kingdom, but rather there is a convergence of evidence. Creationists believe that by asking lots of kashyas, and showing that there is no single piece of evidence, they have disproved evolution. (I plan to explain all this at more length in a future post.)

    It might be interesting to invite a Creationist to instead debate the scientific merits of their own explanation of the development of the universe - e.g. what is the evidence for the universe being 5771 years old, how they account for all the varied features of the natural world that evolution explains so well - why are marsupials concentrated in Australia, what is the function of goosebumps, why do male mammals have nipples, why is there a nested hierarchy in the animal kingdom, etc. I think that they would be more reluctant to engage in such a debate! But ultimately, any debate is futile, because their minds are already made up.

    ReplyDelete
  98. It might be interesting to invite a Creationist to instead debate the scientific merits of their own explanation of the development of the universe Such a debate has happened, in a US Federal court, See the case Kitzmiller v Dover, or the Nova Episode "Intelligent Design on Trail".

    It was a very one sided debate the creationists didn't even have an argument.

    And by chance the judge that was assigned to the case was a Bush appointed conservative republican

    ReplyDelete
  99. "I do not believe, I know that the universe is less than 6000 years old, because nobody has showed me yet scientific bibliographic evidences, I will be very interested if you or anyone will be the first."

    In one run on sentence you show why debating you would be absolutely useless. At first, I had some sympathy for your stance. In contrast to RS, I see no reason that someone with a religious belief cannot also provide rational reasons for his belief. However, to insist you "know" something, in contrast to simply believing, because no one has proven to you otherwise is simply a poor (irrational, faith based) argument. And for a physician "scientist" to argue that he hasn't seen the scientific ("bibliographic?") evidence means that he is being disingenuous. Debating with someone both illogical and disingenuous can only lead to frustration.

    P.S. Now that I know you were a party to "the ban" I can only applaud RS for his continued patience with narrow-minded zealots.

    ReplyDelete
  100. Dr. Betech's comments about evolution are worthless. But it would be worth a great deal to have him elaborate on his "innocent" role in the orchestrating of the ban.

    Lawrence Kaplan
    Gemr tov to all

    ReplyDelete
  101. Dr. Betech wrote:
    "I have not read any written letter of any migdole hador supporting your present-day approach. Even Rab Belsky shlit”a is strongly against evolution."

    So, are you saying, Dr. Betech, that if one of the "migdole hador" (however you define that) did support Rabbi Slifkin's approach, that would change your opinion of his approach, and suddenly you would concede that it might be true? If so, that is by definition, NOT an objective rational approach or pursuit of truth. And if so, you are basing your opinion of the veracity of a scientific idea on whether or not any great rabbi agrees to it or grants it legitimacy. You insult our intelligence if you refer to this as rationalist or an honest pursuit of truth.

    ReplyDelete
  102. With respect, I disagree with the assertion that any debate is futile. You get the on-the-fencers and those-who-are-rethinking who have been indoctrinated to one extent or another.

    Anyways, shameless self-promotion of the day:
    http://bpelta.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-challenge-you-to-debate.html

    ReplyDelete
  103. "Creationists like to use debates in order to ask a whole string of kashyas."

    Rabbi Slifkin, when I see this term used by Dawkins and the likes to describe all opponents of evolution, I take offense because not all "creationists" deny evolution. Are you yourself not a creationist? (Ie, one who believes God created the world)? I humbly recommend using the term "evolution-denier" or something similar instead of adding to the stigma that already exists for "creationists" and all the beliefs that get ascribed to creationists but which aren't always their beliefs. Just a suggestion.

    ReplyDelete
  104. Student V - I figured that everyone would realize that it's just a convenient synonym for evolution-denier.

    ReplyDelete
  105. > "It might be interesting to invite a Creationist to instead debate the scientific merits of ... why do male mammals have nipples,"

    For what it's worth, I've seen a Creationist website answer this one. The answer was quite plausible from a God-as-Designer perspective. Of course, they have no shortage of unproveable answers. Then again, the answer from an evolutionist's perspective is also only plausible. Why do I say this? Because if men did not have nipples, evolutionists would have a perfectly plausible answer for that, too. Rudyard Kipling was on to something with his just-so-stories.

    ReplyDelete
  106. Don't start with "just-so" stories. Creationists beat evolutionists hands-down with those.

    ReplyDelete
  107. Stories like, say, water coming out of a rock, tsaraas occurring because of lashon hara?

    Hey, I know that many Creationists' explanations of the natural world are just-so stories. (I purposely didn't mention their opinion of goosebumps because it seemed flat-out weird to me.) But there is one field of evolution, evolutionary psychology, that would win the just-so-story-contest hands down.

    I mentioned "just-so stories" because I was thinking of Richard Lewontin's quote about just-so-stories:

    "Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

    (By the way, yes, I've seen this quote "in context," but I don't think it changes the meaning of his statement.)

    ReplyDelete
  108. I think that it's stretching things to call evolutionary psychology a "field of evolution."

    ReplyDelete
  109. Dr. Betech, I am seriously considering having a debate in a "protocolized neutral public forum" about the scientific merits of YOUR theory regarding the age of the universe and the development of life. Would you be open to this? It seems appropriate to begin with debating your theory; first of all, it came before evolution, and second of all, you are the one insisting that everybody must accept your theory.

    ReplyDelete
  110. Stu-V, I'm quite familiar with Lewontin's writings and your quote is out of context, obscuring both what he is attacking and what he is defending. He defends the fact that science only looks for natural explanations instead of the supernatural, and he uses this to explain its somewhat overeager acceptance of evolutionary psychology, which he attacks.

    Still, evolutionary psychology is a field of evolution. One just needs to make it clear that while its explanations for certain behaviors, particularly in animals, can be very plausibly explained as useful adaptations, as you get to more complex behaviors, animals that are more behaviorally adaptable, and especially humans, those explanations become much less convincing. And of course the leap from some evolutionary explanation of a behavior (say cuckoldry) to justifying it from a normative perspective is fallacious.

    Unfortunately when you look at the popular literature that has recently sprung up around evolutionary psychology it is almost always guilty of making these kinds of invalid inferences.

    ReplyDelete
  111. > "I think that it's stretching things to call evolutionary psychology a 'field of evolution.'"

    I don't think so. See
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology#Related_disciplines

    (In case the URL got cut off)
    wiki/Evolutionary_psychology
    #Related_disciplines

    I happened to find such a (what I consider to be a) just-so story about goosebumps here. [This goes back to regular evolution, not evolutionary psychology]:

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091123115609AABuYGB
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/
    index?qid=20091123115609AABuYGB

    Interestingly enough, the story wasn't from the "Best Answer" section, but from the questioner himself.

    ReplyDelete
  112. B”H
    Good morning to everyone!
    I hope everyone have had a meaningful Yom Kipur.
    I see that when I am working or sleeping you are posting so many interesting commentaries. Thank you to all of you.
    I hope you will be patient with me until I answer to you; I am interested in answering to all of you. I hope that in between my duties I will keep posting B”N. Please check online.
    As usual my new commentaries will be preceded by my initials (IB 19/Sept.’10) in between the bloggers´ commentaries.

    MJ said...
    Dr. Betech: Scientific truth cannot be adjudicated in two-hour debate. It is determined in the community of experts over a long period of time and through many challenges, responses and refinements. If you are qualified as an expert in the field then you should be publishing scientific works that critique the consensus.

    IB 19/Sept.’10
    Scientific truth is not determined by consensus; it is evaluated by the proofs that support it.
    The truth does not become more authentic even though the whole world will accept it.
    Guide of the Perplexed 2:15, Maimonides.


    MJ said...
    I did a very simple task. I presented to the Gedolim what you wrote about a certain scientific issue and also presented them documented facts against what you wrote.
    Finally, a first-hand account of someone manipulating Gedolim.

    IB 19/Sept.’10
    Sorry, that I disagree with you, but if you read again the “account” I wrote, including the final line that you omitted, may be the conclusion will be the opposite… you are the person who are manipulating my “account” by shortening it...
    Following is again my original “account”:
    I did a very simple task. I presented to the Gedolim what you wrote about a certain scientific issue and also presented them documented facts against what you wrote. The Gedolim studied the issue a few days and they signed the letters that everyone knows.

    Regarding your mashal-nimshal there a few differences that I do not think now are relevant.


    MJ said...
    Dr. Betech: If you felt at the time that R. Slifkin was relying on scientific conclusions that are invalid why did YOU not author a book or article challenging these scientific claims? Why at the time did YOU not challenge him to a debate before the ban?

    IB 19/Sept.’10
    I see that you do not remember what he himself wrote in his official website:
    http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/Response%20to%20Rabbi%20Segal.pdf
    Rabbi Segal writes (to Dr. Betech) that I vigorously and easily ignored the latter’s words. Actually, although Dr. Betech strongly disagreed with the idea that Chazal could have made erroneous statements on scientific matters, we had a very constructive and respectful correspondence spanning several months, in which we exchanged ideas and information. I also showed him several versions of the manuscript in order to hear his comments. I am ready to make this correspondence available to anyone who wishes to see it. In fact, Dr. Betech helped me so much that I thanked him in the acknowledgments of the book.

    Now I have to take care of my duties.
    Keep online.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  113. Dr. Betech, you ignored the three most interesting and relevant comments/ questions. Let me cut-and-paste them:

    1) What I find especially interesting is that Dr. Betech wants to have a debate about evolution "so that people can hear both sides" but is apparently quite happy with the process of his going to the Gedolim about R. Slifkin even though they didn't get to hear R. Slifkin's side.

    2) So, are you saying, Dr. Betech, that if one of the "migdole hador" (however you define that) did support Rabbi Slifkin's approach, that would change your opinion of his approach, and suddenly you would concede that it might be true? If so, that is by definition, NOT an objective rational approach or pursuit of truth. And if so, you are basing your opinion of the veracity of a scientific idea on whether or not any great rabbi agrees to it or grants it legitimacy. You insult our intelligence if you refer to this as rationalist or an honest pursuit of truth.

    3) Dr. Betech, I am seriously considering having a debate in a "protocolized neutral public forum" about the scientific merits of YOUR theory regarding the age of the universe and the development of life. Would you be open to this? It seems appropriate to begin with debating your theory; first of all, it came before evolution, and second of all, you are the one insisting that everybody must accept your theory.

    ReplyDelete
  114. "Stu-V, I'm quite familiar with Lewontin's writings "

    You have the wrong guy, but interesting comment. I think you meant "Pliny."

    ReplyDelete
  115. Dear Mr Slifkin could you post this on your blog with today's date (I sent it 3 days ago but I can't find it):

    Do any scientists with Ph.D. degrees reject the theory of evolution? Yes, they do!


    In Six Days : Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation by John F. Ashton
    It is a collection of fifty essays, each written by a different scientist.
    Each author’s (impressive) academic credentials are listed at the beginning of his or her essay.
    They span a wide variety of academic disciplines. They aren’t all engineers! (But some are.)
    "There is no question that some of the most famous scientists of all times believed in creation.
    Ann Lamont has written a book entitled 21 Great Scientists Who Believed The Bible.
    She devotes chapters to Kepler, Boyle, Newton, Linnaeus, Euler, Faraday, Babbage, Joule, Pasteur, Kelvin, Maxwell,
    and Werner von Braun. These men weren’t dummies, and they believed in

    And if you want to see a VERY interesting video with Testimonies from leading scientist and 3D nimation Models that will
    shock you watch "Unlocking the Mistery of Life":

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5585125669588896670#

    ReplyDelete
  116. Natan Slifkin said...
    Dr. Betech, you ignored the three most interesting and relevant comments/ questions. Let me cut-and-paste them:

    IB 19/Sept.’10
    And you ignored the introduction I wrote in my last post, i. e.
    “I hope you will be patient with me until I answer to you; I am interested in answering to all of you. I hope that in between my duties I will keep posting B”N. Please check online.”

    And you ignored the 3 answers I wrote in my last post, see there.

    And you ignored the conclusion I wrote in my last post, i. e.
    “Now I have to take care of my duties.
    Keep online”.

    Thank for you patience.
    Isaac Betech.

    ReplyDelete
  117. B"H
    Dear All:
    I am interested in answering to all of you. I hope that in between my duties I will keep posting B”N. Please check online.
    As usual my new commentaries will be preceded by my initials (IB 19/Sept.’10).

    DP said...
    What I find especially interesting is that Dr. Betech wants to have a debate about evolution "so that people can hear both sides" but is apparently quite happy with the process of his going to the Gedolim about R. Slifkin even though they didn't get to hear R. Slifkin's side.
    September 16, 2010 10:05 PM

    IB 19/Sept.’10
    1. Please tell me on which date I wrote: "so that people can hear both sides"?
    2. Apparently you are forgetting that all this issue began when he posted that someone like me has “zero credibility” on his declarations… (if you want you can read again the original post we are commenting), then I wrote my first post on this blogspot.
    3. “Quite happy…”? It is good that you wrote: “apparently”.
    4. All the Gedolim I met, read the original, unedited, unabridged “Science” article written and published by him.
    All of them studied the issue for many days before they did what they considered appropriate.

    Dear DP, please answer my 4 points, and do not be like many other bloggers in this blogspot that do not answer my points.
    It seems that they are only interested in asking, but not in reading answers…

    Now I have to take care of my duties.
    Keep online.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  118. Rabbi Slifkin,

    With all due respect, Dr. Betech is playing you, manipulating you, and using you and your blog for his 10 seconds of fame. He is relishing in the attention. Can’t you see it? Just look at what he wrote:

    Good morning to everyone!
    I hope everyone have had a meaningful Yom Kipur.
    I see that when I am working or sleeping you are posting so many interesting commentaries. Thank you to all of you.
    I will keep posting.... Please check online.
    Keep online.


    Now that he got some attention he’s thirsty for more. He is using you. His 10 seconds of fame wasn’t enough, he wants 10 hours, or 10 years of it. And he wants to piggyback on you to get it. If he wants to debate evolution in a “protocolized neutral public forum” he can go find himself an evolutionary biologist and do so. But he knows that nobody will care and he wont get “the oiylam” to watch it because his name is recognizable to no one. You are the “famous” one, the name everyone knows, and he is the nobody. He wants a public debate with YOU so that everyone in his club will recognize him, pat him on the back and say “Hey, great job, you showed that kofer, Slifkin, what ‘Torah true’ hashkafa REALLY is and that science proves it!” The choir he will be preaching to will be unmoved by your evidence, but he will get his name in the spotlight, and that is all he wants. Next thing you know Mishpacha Magazine and Hamodia Magazine will be scrambling to do articles and interviews with him. Then he’ll be writing a book about “Dah mah l’tashiv l’apikores”. Yated will praise him with accolades of making a great Kiddush Hashem, and he’ll become the new sought-after speaker, a “scientist” who reveals the “truths” about the “falsehood” of evolution, all accomplished by goading Slifkin into a “debate in a protocolized neutral public forum”.

    Prophetess Michapeset has spoken. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Seriously – I urge you to reconsider and not feed this.

    ReplyDelete
  119. PS - Dr. Betech is using the same tactic as those serial TV shows which want you to keep returning, so they never show the ending. They ask you keep coming back to see the end, and that’s how they get you to keep coming back to watch the show.

    Clearly Dr. Betech has too many "duties" which prevent him from posting a clear response to the questions posed to him. He asks readers of this blog to "keep online" and to keep coming back.

    Stay tuned for the next episode of "Dr. Betech Answers Some Questions, But Avoids Answering Others" brought to you by the Rationalist Judaism blog. And now, a message from our sponsors.

    I say we stop playing into Dr. Betech’s manipulations and move on to more interesting subjects. Anyway, you know what happens when you feed the trolls…

    ReplyDelete
  120. B"H
    Dear All:
    I am interested in answering to all of you. I hope that in between my duties I will keep posting B”N. Please check online.
    As usual my new commentaries will be preceded by my initials (IB 20/Sept.’10).

    Student V said...
    Dr. Betech wrote:
    "I have not read any written letter of any migdole hador supporting your present-day approach. Even Rab Belsky shlit”a is strongly against evolution."

    So, are you saying, Dr. Betech, that if one of the "migdole hador" (however you define that) did support Rabbi Slifkin's approach, that would change your opinion of his approach, and suddenly you would concede that it might be true? If so, that is by definition, NOT an objective rational approach or pursuit of truth. And if so, you are basing your opinion of the veracity of a scientific idea on whether or not any great rabbi agrees to it or grants it legitimacy. You insult our intelligence if you refer to this as rationalist or an honest pursuit of truth.
    September 17, 2010 7:26 PM

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Again, as many bloggers in this “rationalist” blogspot, you are taking my words out of context and then constructing big buildings over it (if so… if so…).
    By the way, this is the typical approach of the articles of the evolutionists (if so… if so…).
    Let’s see what I wrote and in which context:

    On September 16, 2010 8:49 PM
    Natan Slifkin said...
    At least have the honesty to admit that no evidence at all would change your mind, and the only reason you want to debate is to have a chance to score points against me.

    And I answered:
    IB 16/Sept.’10
    Sorry, but I do not think that anyone is looking to score points against you. I have not read any written letter of any migdole hador supporting your present-day approach. Even Rab Belsky shlit”a is strongly against evolution.
    If I am not well informed, please provide me a reliable written source.
    The reason I want to debate is because I want to know the truth, and this has been one of the main mottos in my whole life.

    So my short answer was very simple:
    Please do not suspect that I am just trying to score points against you, because points against you are not needed anymore, since all the Gedoley Hador that I know have already expressed their disapproval to your present-day approach for solving apparent contradictions between Torah and Science.
    Then I added, that if you suspect that Rab Belsky shlit”a, a renown Torah authority with great knowledge in many fields of Science approves your approach, you should know that he is strongly against the evolution of the species.
    Finally, I recognized that I may be wrong, and maybe there are some Gedole HaDor (from any Orthodox filiations) that still support his approach, as he has hinted many times; in that case, I asked him for a reliable source.
    If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us.
    I am still waiting…

    Dear Student V, please answer my points, and do not be like many other bloggers in this blogspot that do not answer my points.
    It seems that they are only interested in asking, but not in reading answers…

    Now I have to take care of my duties.
    Keep online.
    Regards.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  121. Why would you think that Rav Belsky's opinion on evolution is relevant? The entire point of this post was that it isn't!

    Now, please respond to this: I am seriously considering having a debate in a "protocolized neutral public forum" about the scientific merits of YOUR theory regarding the age of the universe and the development of life. Would you be open to this? It seems appropriate to begin with debating your theory; first of all, it came before evolution, and second of all, you are the one insisting that everybody must accept your theory.

    ReplyDelete
  122. Also, you keep ignoring the main point, which is that you claim to want to have a scientific debate, but is that really the case? In other words, supposing I were to present overwhelming evidence that evolution is true. Would you then accept it? And what would you then say about Bereishis?

    ReplyDelete
  123. To E. Akerman: You are trying to make an argument from authority with your "fifty Phds"; after all, in that book they don't actually present comprehensive evidence against evolution. But I think that you will find that all fall into one of the following categories:

    1) Fundamentalist Christians who are determined to interpret the Bible literally, and thus there is no reason to take them seriously;

    2) People whose PhDs have nothing to do with the relevant fields of science, and thus there is no reason to take them seriously;

    3) People who accept that the universe is billions of years old and that all animals evolved from a single ancestor, but reject neo-Darwinian explanations for the mechanism by which this occurred and propose that there must be some other, as-yet undiscovered, mechanism.

    You will also find that none of them actually present evidence in favor of the creation theory that you support.

    ReplyDelete
  124. Isaac Betech wrote:
    "The reason I want to debate is because I want to know the truth, and this has been one of the main mottos in my whole life."
    You told the readership you already "know that the universe is less than 6000 years old." I think we should be dan lekav schus that Dr. Isaac Betech isn't lying, but just doesn't realize the incoherency of his comments.

    As for the 50 scientists:
    http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

    ReplyDelete
  125. B"H
    Natan Slifkin said...
    Why would you think that Rav Belsky's opinion on evolution is relevant? The entire point of this post was that it isn't!

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Yes, you are right, this is a side point, but it was intended to prevent people from being mislead, because many people erroneously think that you have the support of Rabbi Belsky (one who is simultaneously Gadol in Torah and also in Science) on this issue.

    You keep saying that I ignore your points, even thought it is not true, you can see that constantly I am answering your many commentaries or the commentaries of other bloggers.
    So there is no need to suspect that I do not want to answer, please be patient.
    By the way, you ignored what I have already written twice, here is the last one:
    If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us.
    I am still waiting…
    Please answer me this point.
    Isaac Betech.

    ReplyDelete
  126. many people erroneously think that you have the support of Rabbi Belsky (one who is simultaneously Gadol in Torah and also in Science) on this issue.

    Oh, I don't think so. And I don't think that anyone here thinks that he is a Gadol in science.
    You may want to read my letter to Rav Belsky at
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/05/letter-to-rav-belsky.html, which a response to the letter that he wrote to you.

    If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us.

    I think that most people in this forum have different definitions and requirements re. "Gedolim" than you. In other words, you won't get anyone who meets your requirements and definitions, but we don't see this as important.

    What we see as important is your classification of the approach of numerous Rishonim and Acharonim as kefirah.

    ReplyDelete
  127. "If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us."

    I do not believe that in our times there is even one Gadol who denies basic truths such as the anciency of the Universe, or common descent.

    ReplyDelete
  128. Dr. Betech, your statement that none of the gadolei hador have supported Rabbi Slifkin's approach in a written statement is not relevant to the question we are dealing with here (ie, is Rabbi Slifkin's approach to evolution correct by scientific standards - what you challenged him to debate) unless one adopts a non-rationalist approach to evaluating the truth of the scientific idea. So I'm not sure I follow what you're saying. You cite gedolim who do not support Rabbi Slifkin's approach as a way to express that you do not want to merely "score points" against him? How is any of that relevant?

    And then you stress Rav Belsky's "knowledge in many fields of Science" to make sure that no one suspects he supports Rabbi Slifkin's point of view either.

    NONE of this is relevant to the question which you challenged Rabbi Slifkin to debate - namely, is evolution supported by scientific evidence. Quoting these various rabbis, even one with, in your opinion, "knowledge of science," such as Rabbi Belsky Shlita, is simply not relevant to the question unless we discard the rational approach. "Scoring points" or not "scoring points."

    If Rav Belsky was in favor of Rabbi Slifkin's views, or at least granted them legitimacy, would you still want to debate Rabbi Slifkin?

    A scientific idea can be true even if thousands of people, including great people like the greatest rabbis, are shouting that it's not true because of certain theological beliefs that they believe contradict the idea. The veracity of the scientific approach or theory is not evaluated based on statements of opinion for or against it.


    "Dear Student V, please answer my points, and do not be like many other bloggers in this blogspot that do not answer my points.
    It seems that they are only interested in asking, but not in reading answers…"

    Dr. Betech, what points would those be?

    ReplyDelete
  129. I would also like to inform Dr. Betech that most if not all of the people commenting here also have our own duties and responsibilities and lives, and we comment in our spare time, when we have moments free from those responsibilities - just like Dr. Betech is stressing. So there is no need to constantly remind us that you have other duties or that you will write again the next moment you have free from those duties. I think it's fair for me to say that we all assume that to be true about anyone posting here. It is superfluous to constantly state this.

    ReplyDelete
  130. I do not believe that in our times there is even one Gadol who denies basic truths such as the anciency of the Universe, or common descent.

    Moshe Raphael, that's the "no True Scotsman" fallacy.

    ReplyDelete
  131. B”H
    Dear Natan:
    I am going to comment in between the last three points you wrote regarding my last question to you. Please see below.
    As usual, my new commentaries will be preceded by my initials IB 20/Sept.’10

    Natan Slifkin said...
    many people erroneously think that you have the support of Rabbi Belsky (one who is simultaneously Gadol in Torah and also in Science) on this issue.

    Oh, I don't think so. And I don't think that anyone here thinks that he is a Gadol in science.
    You may want to read my letter to Rav Belsky at
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/05/letter-to-rav-belsky.html, which a response to the letter that he wrote to you.

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Thank you for the link, it is very interesting, but I could not understand from where you arrive to the conclusion that he is not Gadol in science (he has a lot of scientific knowledge in many fields).

    Natan Slifkin said...
    If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us.

    I think that most people in this forum have different definitions and requirements re. "Gedolim" than you. In other words, you won't get anyone who meets your requirements and definitions, but we don't see this as important.

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    If you read again my question you will see that I am very open-minded. I will copy again my question:
    If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us.

    Please feel free to answer my question according to your own definition.

    Natan Slifkin said...
    What we see as important is your classification of the approach of numerous Rishonim and Acharonim as kefirah.
    September 20, 2010 7:45 PM

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Again you claim to know a lot of things about me…
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  132. "Michapeset", I really feel sorry for you, for what you have said...
    You told Mr. Slifkin " You are the “famous” one, the name everyone knows, and he is the nobody",
    May H" have Rachmanus on you...
    To make a Bizayon, and be Motzi Shem Rah in Public on a person of his level is not something Pashut...
    Dr. Betech, is a unique Tzadik Talmid Chacham, and Yere Shamayim in the world. He has dozens of thousands of baale Teshuva in the whole world, including Canada, US, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Austria, Spain, and Israel.
    He is not a simple Doctor, he was the head of ICU for newborns in one of the biggest hospitals in Latin America, and he left almost everything for the sake of Klal Yisroel!
    Major communities were literally mekarev such as in Caracas, Malaga, and Montevideo thanks to his conferences and seminars.
    His baale teshuva include PhDs, Doctors, Engineers, Architects, Genetic Researchers, Mathematicians, Computer Scientists...
    Some of them are now Roshei Kollelim in America and Israel, amazing Talmidei Chachamim in Lakewood, Yerushalaim and Bnei Brak.
    He has been interviewed on the Radio and main TV Channels in different countries! He has been referenced by major Kiruv writers such as Lawrence
    Kelemen (Permission to Believe & Permission to Receive) even though he constantly tries to avoid any kavod.
    Gedolei HaDor respect and recognize his greatness. Even according to your bloggers Gedolei Hador followed his advice (which I don't really know),
    but if according to you Gedolei HaDor followed him, do you think he's a "nobody"? Do you want to try, you, or your "bloggers" or Mr. Slifkin to tell
    the Gedolei HaDor what to do??? May H" forgive you... I'm sure YOU DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA OF WHAT YOU HAVE DONE.
    I have known Dr. Betech for close to two decades and one thing I can tell you is that he has always fought for the truth and only the truth in every area of life.

    Dr. Betech’s career for Klal Israel began before Mr. Slifkin probably left elementary school, you don't know what you have said.

    ReplyDelete
  133. Dr. Betech, I will repeat the question that I have asked numerous times already - indeed, the very first point that I made to you - which you still have not responded to.

    You keep ignoring the main point, which is that you claim to want to have a scientific debate, but is that really the case? In other words, supposing I were to present overwhelming evidence that evolution is true. Would you then accept it? And what would you then say about Bereishis?

    ReplyDelete
  134. Natan Slifkin said...
    What we see as important is your classification of the approach of numerous Rishonim and Acharonim as kefirah.
    September 20, 2010 7:45 PM

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Again you claim to know a lot of things about me…
    Isaac Betech


    You mean that you don't think that it's kefirah to say that Chazal erred in science? I'm so happy to hear that! But what about following the Gedolim?

    ReplyDelete
  135. B"H
    Natan Slifkin said...
    What we see as important is your classification of the approach of numerous Rishonim and Acharonim as kefirah.
    September 20, 2010 7:45 PM

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Again you claim to know a lot of things about me…
    Isaac Betech

    You mean that you don't think that it's kefirah to say that Chazal erred in science? I'm so happy to hear that! But what about following the Gedolim?
    September 21, 2010 1:21 AM

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Again you claim to know a lot of things about me…
    Paskening (hallachic decisions) is the responsibility of the Poskim, I am not a posek, ask a Posek if it is kefira or not, and please do not post what I have not said.
    I am inviting you to a scientific debate, not to a religious one; please see again my first post.

    By the way I am waiting for your answer to my last question:
    If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us.

    Please feel free to answer my question according to your own definition of Gadol HaDor.
    Isaac Betech

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  136. In other words, supposing I were to present overwhelming evidence that evolution is true.
    Natan Slifkin said... September 20, 2010 6:09 PM
    To be fair, Rav Slifkin, from a Scientific perspective, all the evidence in support of evolutions does not prove that it is true. One piece of datum against evolution could unravel the whole edifice (well it wouldn’t, but it would justify a major reformulation to account for the errant datum). Scientifically “Evolution” is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence, and has withstood a variety of attempts to falsify it, but in reality could never be proven. (To do so would require an experiment the proceeded for millions of years, and whose results would be argued over for almost as long.) It is “scientifically” assumed to be true on the basis of (a) the weight of evidence supporting the concept from a plethora of disparate source and fields and (b) it robustness in the face of countless attempts to falsify it.
    On the other hand, any other theory of “where we came from” fails to meet two of the axiomatic requirements of science; falsifiability and Occam’s razor. Intelligent design, at least in the versions I am familiar with, postulates everything evolution does (and the Big Bang theory, or the Multiverse or whatever other scientific theory of the origin of the universe there is out there) but suggest that such complicated events could never all have happened without some element of intent or design. The implication of design implies a designer. Scientifically this is problematic because (a) adding a Designer adds nothing to the explanatory power of whatever phenomena is being explained, rather it adds something “ontop” of the otherwise purely materialistic explanation (fails Occam’s Razor), and (b) no experiment could ever be designed that could produce a result that would disprove the existence of the designer (fails falsifiability).
    On the other hand I can design an experiment that could disprove evolution as we know it. I could put sterilised sand in a sterilised jar under sterile conditions. If the experiment is technically perfect, and I come back at any time and see any form of life in the jar, then I have likely demonstrated “spontaneous life”.

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  137. In reference to my proceeding post; Awe and wonder at the “miraculous” nature of the universe, and the ability of science to provide materialistic explanations for does not preclude a belief in a god or designer. The point I was making was that postulating such a designer fails any normative standard of what Science is and is able to do. Science can only address materialistic questions. Question of How we came into existence are Scientific questions. Questions of Why we came into existence are philosophical/theological. Attempts to co-opt god into a scientific explanation of reality are always fallacious (by definition). But as Steven Jay Gould wrote, theology is a different “Magistracy” that can provide answers to questions that science is unable and (likely) uninterested in.

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  138. Rav Kook:

    "The theory of evolution (hitpattehut) is increasingly conquering the world at this time, and, more so than all other philosophical theories, conforms to the kabbalistic secrets of the world. Evolution, which proceeds on a path of ascendancy, provides an optimistic foundation for the world. How is it possible to despair at a time when we see that everything evolves and ascends? When we penetrate the inner meaning of ascending evolution, we find in it the divine element shining with absolute brilliance. It is precisely the Ein Sof in actu which manages to bring to realization that which is Ein Sof in potentia." (Kook, Orot Hakodesh II:537)

    "Even if it were clear to us that the order of creation was through the evolution of the species, there would still be no contradiction. We calculate time according to the literal sense of the biblical verses, which is far more relevant to us than is ancient history .... The Torah obviously obscures the account of creation and speaks in allusions and parables. Everyone knows that the account of creation is part of the secrets of the Torah. And if all these statements were taken literally, what secrets would there be? ... The essence [of the Genesis narrative] is the knowledge of God and the truly moral life." (Letters of Rav Kook, Letter 91.)

    Taken from http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Issues/Science/Creationism_and_Evolution/Kabbalah/Rav_Kook.shtml

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  139. "Scientifically “Evolution” is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence, and has withstood a variety of attempts to falsify it, but in reality could never be proven."

    Which scientific theory has been proven beyond the failure of falsification attempts?

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  140. Again you claim to know a lot of things about me…
    Paskening (hallachic decisions) is the responsibility of the Poskim, I am not a posek, ask a Posek if it is kefira or not


    I wasn't referring to you having paskened anything; I am well aware that you are not a posek. I am referring to what you believe to be the case.

    You believe that it is obligatory to follow the charedi Gedolim. They have paskened that it is kefirah to say that Chazal erred in science. Hence I was correct to say that you classify this view as kefirah.

    I find it odd that you are so reluctant to give straight answers about your beliefs.

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  141. Can anyone corroborate the following:

    I seem to remember reading a translated essay into English of Rabbi Kook. In the essay he not only said the idea of evolution is not Kefira, rather, he supported the general idea strongly and seemed to be accepting it as truth. Rabbi Slifkin also quoted Rabbi Kook in his book and in the quotation, if i am not mistaken, Rabbi Kook clearly supports evolution. It could be that Rabbi Slifkin's quotes/or one of them come from the same essay that i read. Anyway, perhaps you,Isaac Betech, would be interesed in reading Rabbi Kooks thoughts on the matters - unless Rabbi Kook is not a Gadol in your mind. You can find the quotes and bibliography for Rabbi Kook in The Science of Torah and i assume also in The Challenge of Creation. If anyone has any other sources for Rabbi Kook please post them so Isaac Betech can read them. If i miunderstood Rabbi Kook, please let me know - this is an appeal to anyone reading this.

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  142. I see now that as i wrote my previous comment משה רפאל already beat me to it and posted a quote from Rabbi Kook. Great!!

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  143. Menachem O.,

    Dr. Betech may be a wonderful person who has done great things in his life.

    On this blog, he has contradicted his own statements, avoided answering questions posed to him numerous times, claimed to be searching for the truth, only to then state that he knows the truth, claimed to want to take an objective approach, only to then take a subjective approach, and other inconsistencies which give me pause to think that perhaps Dr. Betech’s stated goals in his expressed interest to debate Rabbi Slifkin is not what he is stating it to be.

    I mean no disrespect towards Dr. Betech personally and apologize if I caused any.

    But I would like to point out, Menachem O, that in terms of respect, you continually address Rabbi Slifkin as “Mr. Slifkin”, thereby insulting and disrespecting the process by which Rabbinical Smicha is granted, as well as disrespecting Rabbi Slifkin in particular who holds the title of Rabbi, and on whose blog you are posting.

    It is interesting to note that most of those who have defended Dr. Betech in these posts have not had the common courtesy to address Rabbi Slifkin with the title of “Rabbi” and continually use “Mr. Slifkin” when directly addressing or referring to Rabbi Slifkin.

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  144. I just put up a new post specifically directed to Dr. Betech.

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  145. "If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us."

    I think that a better question would be, has there been any Gadol HaDor who has given any reason as to why there is anything hashkafically wrong with evolution? As far as I know, there isn't.

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  146. Which scientific theory has been proven beyond the failure of falsification attempts?

    משה רפאל September 21, 2010 7:23 AM

    None, which is sort of the point. And also why they continue to be refered to as theories. (Tangentially, I think that "Cell Theory" has been conclusively prooven. Indeed I was somewhat nonplussed the first time I heard it refered to that way, as I always assumed that the idea of The Cell as the basic unit of life as being axiomatic rather than a theory.)

    Interestingly, the only Laws that Science has (to my knowledge), Newtons Laws of Motion have to greater of lesser degree been falsified (with the exception of the Law of Thermodynamics). Which realy demonstrates the value of the concept of falsification.

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  147. "why there is anything hashkafically wrong with evolution?"

    here is one example.

    http://parsha.blogspot.com/2009/06/should-we-reject-evolution-because-of.html

    kol tuv,
    josh

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  148. "Interestingly, the only Laws that Science has (to my knowledge), Newtons Laws of Motion have to greater of lesser degree been falsified (with the exception of the Law of Thermodynamics)."

    There are lots of (unfalsified) laws in physics. In more developed theories than Newton's, his laws become equations of motion, geodesal equations, variational principles. Further, there are gauge-theory principles, and symmetry breaking principles, minimal-substitution rules, and normalization requirements, and causality requirements. Further, there are laws of measurement (of Quantum-Mechanical systems). There are conservation laws of all kinds of quantities and quantum numbers. Not all of the above is independent, but neither is the list encompassing.

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  149. B"H

    Student V said...
    Dr. Betech, your statement that none of the gadolei hador have supported Rabbi Slifkin's approach in a written statement is not relevant to the question we are dealing with here (ie, is Rabbi Slifkin's approach to evolution correct by scientific standards - what you challenged him to debate) unless one adopts a non-rationalist approach to evaluating the truth of the scientific idea.

    IB 21/Sept.’10
    Dear Student V, now I have to acknowledge that you are right, this is not relevant to the question we are dealing here (ie, is Rabbi Slifkin's approach to evolution correct by scientific standards - what you challenged him to debate)…
    So, I invite him to provide scientific proofs in an adequate forum.

    Student V said...
    So I'm not sure I follow what you're saying. You cite gedolim who do not support Rabbi Slifkin's approach as a way to express that you do not want to merely "score points" against him? How is any of that relevant?

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    It was relevant only in the original context these words were written, see there.

    Student V said...
    If Rav Belsky was in favor of Rabbi Slifkin's views, or at least granted them legitimacy, would you still want to debate Rabbi Slifkin?

    IB 20/Sept.’10
    Yes, I would still want to debate him, I still want to debate him.

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  150. Yossi,

    Here are some lists of laws:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_science
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_laws_named_after_people

    In physics any mathematical equation becomes a law if it describes some phenomenon. We don't care if it is fundamentally true as long as it works.

    Thus Newton's laws are still considered laws. I wouldn't say they have been "falsified," but rather recognized as approximations. They are still our primary tool in most engineering projects, like building bridges or putting satellites in orbit.

    Many scientific theories are just collections of laws, like electromagnetic theory or relativity theory. A law is generally a specific analytical relationship (like E=mc²), whereas a theory is a broader perspective on a class of phenomena (like evolution). They have similar standards of "proof" (ie. predictive power, etc.), it's just that evidence for a law is usually much more direct than evidence for a theory.

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  151. To Michapeset

    If referring a person by the title of Mr is “insulting and disrespecting” while calling a person “a nobody” it is not, then with ALL my respect I don’t have much to tell you because I don’t understanding your reasoning. I just remind you that even the Gemara called Mor (equivalent to Mr) referring to Chazal.

    Anyway I think it is good that at least you apologized.

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  152. There are rashei yeshiva in the MO camp who support the idea of an extremely ancient world and universe. To my knowledge, they haven't expressed such beliefs in print (with one possible exception)in order to avoid entanglement in controversy such as what R' Natan Slifkin experienced.

    Rav Belsky is in an anomalous position in that he has alluded to earlier stages on earth which contained the plants and organsims from which coal and oil are derived (Einei Yisroel - Bereishis). He also gave his haskama to R' Slifkin's book, " The Camel, the Hare, and the Hyrax" although the author differs from Chazal, as I recall, in enumerating species with and without the simanei kashrut, and their interpretion. Nor has he retracted his haskama following the great uproar in the Hareidi world against the 3 books, including the one he supported. I interpret the above stances as indicating an at least equivocal position on the age of the earth and the fallability of Chazal.

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  153. "If referring a person by the title of Mr is “insulting and disrespecting”"

    it absolutely is, because by choosing this title, you are making a statement that you don't want to call him rabbi. this is disgusting behavior on your part.

    nor is this the first time people have tried to figuratively strip semicha from someone they disagreed with, nor the first time I objected to it. (even while I disagreed with the actions of the rabbi in question.)

    "I just remind you that even the Gemara called Mor (equivalent to Mr) referring to Chazal."
    sorry. that is just trying to be clever, while saying nonsense. that is not how you intended it.

    The same goes for E Akerman.

    kt,
    josh

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  154. Dr. Betech,

    I appreciate that latest response and clarification. Thank you.

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  155. B"H
    משה רפאל said...
    "If someone has any written reliable source that there is any Gadol HaDor, from any Orthodox camp that supports his approach, please share it with us."

    I do not believe that in our times there is even one Gadol who denies basic truths such as the anciency of the Universe, or common descent.
    September 20, 2010 8:15 PM

    IB 21/Sept.’10
    I do not want to doubt what you believe, but this does not answer the question.
    Please provide any written reliable source.
    P.S. I am sending again this answer, because it was filtered by the moderator when originally posted.

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  156. "Please provide any written reliable source."

    See the quotes of Rav Kook, above.

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  157. On reviewing the relevant pages in Rav Belsky's book, "Einei Yisroel" (pp. 12-16) I see that he appears to subscribe to the "infallibility or very advanced knowledge of Chazal" thesis. When views of the world expressed in talmud conflict with what we have subsequently learned, he would, apparently, reinterpret their words rather than attribute error to them.

    On the other hand, he uses the thesis proposed by the Tiferet Yisroel in the 19th century and R' Aryeh Kaplan in the 20th that there were earlier phases of life on this planet that were destroyed in cataclysms [Rabi Avahus's 'boneh olamot umachrivam']. He specifically mentions a large "meteoritic" impact. The creation story, in this view, doesn't explicitly deal with those earlier epochs [they were deliberately hidden]. Hence, Rav Belsky could assume that they lasted the billions of years determined by scientists.

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  158. I found Rav Belsky's discussion to be extremely unclear.

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  159. By the way, I think all should know that the new blog for Dr Betech discussion is HERE:

    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/09/case-of-dr-isaac-betech.html

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  160. Y. Aharon said...
    Rav Belsky is in an anomalous position…
    I interpret the above stances as indicating an at least equivocal position on the age of the earth and the fallability of Chazal.
    September 21, 2010 10:12 PM

    IB 22/Sept.’10
    You can read the following link and will see that regarding fallibility of Chazal, Rab Belsky has a very clear position.
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/05/letter-to-rav-belsky.html

    Isaac Betech

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  161. משה רפאל said...
    "Please provide any written reliable source."

    See the quotes of Rav Kook, above.

    IB 22/Sept.’10
    I suppose you forgot the original context of the question. If you want, you can read the original post above, dated: September 17, 2010 12:21 AM
    Isaac Betech

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  162. 65%rationalist 35%anti-rationalistSeptember 27, 2010 at 10:26 PM

    Of course you are an expert in Evolutionary Biology, Astrophysics and such. I guess you don't need a degree to become the rationalist rebbe?

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  163. Whew, I finally found a non-Creationist, non-IDer give a non-evolutionary answer explaining male nipples. (Not like I was hunting for it non-stop for the last year or anything like that.)

    http://anatomynotes.blogspot.com/2006/02/male-nipples-and-round-ligaments-of.html

    Excerpt:
    "Whether or not male nipples are a relic of evolution, they are almost certainly a relic of development. In the earliest weeks following conception, the male and female embryo follow a virtually identical developmental trajectory. Then at about 7 weeks, the production of testosterone kicks in and the male diverges anatomically from the female. By then it's too late: nipples have already formed in both sexes. Biologically it's conceivable that random mutations could reverse the continued growth of the male nipple, causing it to involute and disappear completely by the time the baby boy is born, but apparently there hasn't been pressure for such mutations to take hold, if they have occurred. There are occasional mutations that lead to the absence of one or both nipples (in both males and females), but they are typically associated with other defects such as missing muscles and sweat glands and webbing of the fingers."

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