Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Accept Dr. Betech's Proposal!

I know that many people here have already had enough of Dr. Betech, the Mexican pediatrician who claims 25 years of 100% success in disproving evolution even to scientists and insists that everyone must reject evolution, yet is strangely uninterested in actually accomplishing this objective by publishing articles in scientific journals, writing a book, or even explaining what his view of the history of life on earth actually is. Nevertheless, there are still one or two more things to take care of, and I must first recant something that I said.

When Dr. Betech declared himself willing to explain and defend his view of the history of life on earth, even though this was (for reasons that I never understood) conditional on my first doing the same with evolution (which Dr. Betech had heard me repeatedly refuse to do), I realized that the good doctor had taught me something about how to phrase and present our positions. So, adopting Dr. Betech's approach, I hereby declare myself willing to discuss the scientific value of evolution of the species in an intellectual, multimedia, respectful, protocolized, neutral, public forum, as per his request!

I only have two minor preconditions, just as he had a precondition to explaining and defending his view of the history of life on earth. Moreover, while I think nobody here understood his reasons for his preconditions, I think that everyone will appreciate mine, especially since they are consistent with Dr. Betech's own values.

The first is that Dr. Betech must show that he is being honest when he claims that he is willing to draw the necessary conclusions based on the evidence. Now, Dr. Betech has a reputation for being a Torah-observant Jew. And I am sure that he would agree that the Torah prohibits believing certain things, such as that Jesus is divine, etc. So before debating evolution, Dr. Betech must declare that he is not Torah- prohibited from accepting evidence for evolution - i.e., he must declare that there is nothing theologically critically problematic about evolution, and that the Gedolim who declared otherwise are mistaken.

The second precondition relates to Dr. Betech's communication to me several years ago when I proposed debating the halachic/ hashkafic issues of my books, i.e. whether evolution is theologically problematic, and whether it is theologically acceptable to say that Chazal erred in some of their statements about the natural world. Dr. Betech responded that, as a medical doctor, he is not qualified to have such a debate. This is similar to the approach of the Charedi Gedolim who refuse to debate this with me because they consider me to be insufficiently qualified. Based on Dr. Betech's values in this, I request that Dr. Betech suitably qualify himself before debating evolution. That is to say, he must either receive formal qualifications in paleontology, evolutionary biology, etc., or publish papers on these topics in recognized scientific journals. (Alternatively, he can nominate somebody else, who has these qualifications, to take his place.)

So I regret and recant my earlier refusal to debate with Dr. Betech. I hereby accept! I look forward to his confirming his desire for this, and fulfilling the preconditions, and then we can begin!


  1. Good change in strategy. You be the open guy. At this point everything is just proper PR positioning because it seems that nothing is going to cross the wide chasm which separates between you two.

  2. When I first saw this, I was disappointed. Then I read it. Yes! Very well done R. Slifkin!

  3. what were his preconditions?

  4. Rabbi Slifkin how about you debate Christopher Hitchens (assuming he feels better soon)? Hitchens does religion debates with many different theists, including Rabbi Boteach. Since you are kinda known in the Jewish community you can perhaps give Hitchens the word and have a debate with him. I am sure he would accept. I would be interested in seeing it.

  5. with all do respect,you two guys,sound like two kindergarden kids arguing in their classroom,
    please stop this nonsense,you are insulting our inteligence


    Rabbi Slifkin: You know that on the substantive issues at stake here I side with you. But this post strikes me as too celever by half. You, of course, do not really accept Dr. Betchh's proposal. And your two supposedly "minor" pre-conditions are, as you know very well, not minnor at all. As you further know very well, there is not a chance in Hell that Dr. Betech will accept either of the pre-conditions. Please stick to your straightforward and cogent presentations of your views. Dot't try to outmaneuver Dr. Betech in the PR game. It is NOT your strong suit.

  7. Dr. Kaplan - Betech also set a precondition that he knew I would not accept, and is now proclaiming on various email lists that he was ready to debate my preferred topics, but I refused to debate him on his. Some of my supporters were distressed at this seeming PR coup by him. I want to show that his sneaky, disingenuous maneuvers can be used back at him.

    Also, I think that it's a valuable formulation for any evolutionist to have when an anti-evolutionist wants to debate him on allegedly scientific grounds and claims to be open-minded - that the anti-evolutionists first declare that there are no religious barriers to his accepting that evolution is true.

  8. IB 17/Oct.’10
    Dear Natan:
    I read your new post, but I found nothing new in your position.
    Since you quote my summary letter, and argue that you do not understand my reasons, please publicize my updated version of the summary letter, and please answer it point by point.
    Do you want me to post my updated version?
    Isaac Betech.

  9. Dear Isaac,

    I don't want you to post your updated version (I found nothing new in your position). I want you to confirm that you accept my acceptance of your proposal! (And you can correct your summary, now that I have accepted your proposal.) So let me know if you are willing to draw the necessary conclusions based on the evidence i.e. that there is nothing in the Torah that you observe which would prohibit it, and let me know when you have the necessary qualifications, or which suitable person you are nominating.

  10. Baruch Spinoza:
    Rabbi Slifkin is one my favorite rabbis in the world. He's awesome. But Hitchens always wins. It's why the only rabbi (I'm aware of) who has debated him is R' Boteach and R' Boteach -- at the 92nd Street Y and the City of Ideas debates -- was shown up rather badly.

    Baruch Pelta

  11. Boruch Pelta said:

    "Hitchens always wins."

    Well I guess that settles that.

    Your highly subjective appraisal isn't particularly relevant.

    But beyond that, I don't think Polemic debates are a particularly useful means for determining truths. I think well thought out written positions are far better, if not perfect. Hitchen's and his fellow "New (and mostly angry) Atheists" have published theirs, and a number of theists have published their rebuttals. The public is now free to decide who has the better arguments - to the extent it is relevant.

  12. Lawrence Kaplan comments:

    I see yout point. What you are in effct saying is "You Dr. Betech made a dishonest proposal. Now I-- tit for tat-- am making an equally dishonest counter-proposal. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."

    I still think you do not look good here.I think you should have ignored those of your supporters who were distressed by Dr. Betech's supposed PR coup. Don't get down into the gutter with him.

  13. What if Dr Betech agrees to say "teyku" Rav Matisyahu Solomon style, should the evidence for evolution be found to be overwhelming. Would that satisfy precondition 1?

  14. It does sound somewhat childish, but I understand your move. You just want to be able to say, I accept. Now the balls in his court.
    When the next vomume of the talmud is compiled, this argument will surely be included.
    מאי קמיפלגי?

  15. This whole Betech thing has gotten awfully boring and is bring down the energy of your blog. Move on.

  16. I haven't been following this but received a mass e-mail from someone named Boruch Gross denouncing Rabbi Slifkin for refusing to debate Dr. Betech. Why not agree to a debate without any preconditions whatsoever? If Dr. Betech refuses because he insists on preconditions, that's his problem.

  17. I think that R. Gil Student's comment shows why I can't move on yet.

  18. B”H
    Dear Gil
    If you read my summary letter you will see that I do not insist on preconditions, but on an orderly debate.
    Isaac Betech

  19. Dr. Betech claims to just want an "orderly" debate. But it is a very, very specific order that he insists on: that the debate about evolution MUST be first. His condition for explaining his model of the universe and subjecting it to critical appraisal is that I first accept questions of evolution. This is therefore a precondition to his debate!

  20. R. Gil - if you read all the previous Betech-related posts, you'll see why I insist on my preconditions (which satisfy Betech's own claimed values), and why Dr. Betech is incredibly disingenuous. I will be putting up a summary at some point.

  21. AFTP - Anonymous For This PostOctober 19, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Rabbi Slifkin, with all due respect, you can not move on because you got into a discussion with a scoundrel. Your intentions were pure – you wanted to show others how to deal with the opposition. But you may not have realized the extent to which Dr. Betech would go in terms of his distorting the facts of the matter.

    Yaakov Avinu was sincere in his dealings with Lot. But he got tricked and burned because he had not yet realized that no matter how sincere or smart you are, when you are dealing with someone deceptive who is willing to lie, you will lose, no matter how careful you are.

    Dr. Betech has been deceptive time and time again in this ongoing dialog. While you dealt with Dr. Betech in your usual straightforward and honorable manner, he continuously made statements that misrepresented the facts and made claims that distorted the truth (and then accused you of doing so!).

    Your mistake was allowing Dr. Betech a foot in the door in the first place. You knew that he was part of the team which banned your books. You knew that if he was truly straightforward and honorable he would not have gone behind your back to work on banning your books. And yet you gave him an opening and an opportunity to take another stab at you.

    If someone approaches you with genuineness and sincerity, by all means spend your time and efforts with that person. But if someone has in the past proven to be a disingenuous back-stabber, and you then allow him another opportunity to do so, it should come as no surprise that you are subsequently wounded by his deceit.

    That being said, I remain a steadfast supporter and am sorry you “fell in” and had to learn this lesson the hard way.

    Perhaps it is indeed time to move on and admit that attempts at dialog with someone who has proved to be dishonorable, disingenuous and deceptive and whose aim is clearly to hurt you, is a mistake and something which should be avoided.

  22. B”H
    Dear AFTP
    You wrote:
    You knew that if he was truly straightforward and honorable he would not have gone behind your back to work on banning your books.
    And I ask you please read again point VI 2 on my summary letter.
    If after that you still maintain your accusation please let me know.
    Isaac Betech

  23. AFTP - As Isaac Betech writes, he did indeed claim to me several years ago that many Rishonim and Acharonim disagree with Rambam (that Chazal can err in science) and as a result objected to what he claimed to be the "general message" of my book "The Camel, The Hare and the Hyrax" (although in fact, I don't think it was the general message of that book at all.) However he never once suggested that Rambam's view was kefirah, nor did he present any sources to that effect. Nor did he indicate that if I did publish it, he would go around campaigning for my books to be banned - in fact, he wrote to me at the time that "you are free of doing whatever you consider right."

    So once again, Isaac Betech claims that his summary letter answers an objection, whereas it does not remotely do so.

  24. B”H
    Dear Natan.
    You quoted:
    "you are free of doing whatever you consider right."
    And I ask you please publish the whole email and not just a few words.
    Isaac Betech

  25. Here you go:

    "Of course you are free of doing whatever you consider right, but I would like to remind you that we continue finding a lot of rishonim and acharonim that disagree with the Rambam, and even the Sefer Habrit that explains the Rambam ("prooving" that he had a girza meshubeshet)."

    By the way, may I recommend that you read my critique of Chaim B'Emunasam, which shows that in fact the dominant view on this amongst the Rishonim, and shared by many Acharonim, was in accord with Rambam. The author of Chaim B'Emunasam - someone I think you may be connected to - engaged in egregious distortions.

  26. AFTP - Anonymous For This PostOctober 19, 2010 at 6:51 PM


    Yaakov Avinu was sincere in his dealings with Lot.

    Should have read: Yaakov Avinu was sincere in his dealings with Lavan.


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