Friday, October 8, 2010

Questions on the Young Earth Model of Special Creation

When I first thought of challenging Dr. Isaac Betech to live up to his claim that he is interested in truth and that debates between us advance that cause, and to explain his model of the development of life and to subject it to the same critical scrutiny that he was demanding to apply to evolution, I jotted down some of the questions that I would pose to him. Inexplicably (given his claims about the value of debates), Dr. Betech is refusing (in the absence of my agreeing to debate evolution with him) to actually explain his model and subject it to critical scrutiny. But I am presenting my list of questions anyway.

Note that depending on what Dr. Betech's model actually is, some of these questions might have been different. Despite the fact that (unlike me) he believes his model to be obligatory for every Jew, he won't explain what it actually is. How many times did the earth rotate on its axis during the six days of creation - six times, or billions of times? How many times did it revolve around the sun - a fraction of a revolution, or millions of revolutions? When did the dinosaurs live? Everyone knows the precise details of the model that I present, but nobody has any idea about Dr. Betech's model! If I knew what his model actually is (and I'm not even sure if he's thought about it), I would be able to ask more precise questions. But since he won't explain what it is it that he insists every Jew must believe, I'm just going to have to make do with the list of questions that I have.

1. What is your evidence that the universe is 5771 years old, and not five thousand, fifty thousand, or five hundred thousand years old?

2. Scientific hypotheses make testable predictions and are thus falsifiable. For example, evolution predicts that all animals descend from a common ancestor and thus fit into a family tree, and thus Rashi's description of a mermaid - a creature that is half human and half fish - will never be discovered and cannot exist. What testable predictions does your model make, and how could it be theoretically proven false?

3. What experiments have been done/ are being done to test the validity of your model?

4. Rambam, Sefer HaChinnuch and Malbim state that no types of animals ever become extinct. Do you agree with this - does your model include extinction, and what are the causes?

5. From when to when did Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, respectively, live?

6. Did the original process of creation, via which dirt transformed into mammals, function according to some sort of scientific laws, or was it entirely supernatural? Does it still continue after the end of the six days - in other words, can dirt still transform into mammals? If yes, is the much smaller process of one type of mammal turning into another type of mammal also possible - and if not, why not?

7. (The precise formulation of the following question depends very much on the exact nature of Dr. Betech's mysterious approach.) Various mineral companies, oil companies, etc., find geologists to be essential. How are they at all effective, if the processes by which various substances and layers in the earth appear are not at all those which are described by geology?

(Before asking the following questions, I want to stress that I am interested in the big picture, not minor exceptions that are themselves debated. For example, when discussing whether dinosaur fossils are found in the same areas as human fossils, one hotly debated set of footprints is not significant, in light of hundreds of thousands of regions where dinosaur fossils have been found without any traces of humans or indeed any contemporary species.)

8. Why are all living marsupials (with the exception of possums) found in Australia, and no placental mammals are found there apart from bats?

9. Why do animals fit into a nested hierarchal system of classification, rather than there being all kinds of chimeras - e.g. whales are fully mammals, and have no homologous analogies with fish? This is especially intriguing in light of the fact that this hierarchy is different from the classification system in the Torah - e.g., bats are mammals, not birds.

10. How do you account for the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists - including many who believe in the Torah - rejected your model? In fact, the first scientists to reject the young-earth model of creation were themselves devout Christians. Why is it that today only those who believe in the Torah/ Bible - and not even all of them - subscribe to it?

Feel free to add more questions to the list in the comments.

54 comments:

  1. > "Why do animals fit into a nested hierarchal system of classification,"

    I've heard they fit according to the bones, and they fit according to the "molecules", but that quite often the two fits (i.e. the two "trees") don't jive with each other. Have you heard of such a claim?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think that the tenth question is rhetorically the most powerful.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good questions. Chodesh tov and Shabat shalom.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "4. Rambam, Sefer HaChinnuch and Malbim state that no types of animals ever become extinct. Do you agree with this - does your model include extinction, and what are the causes?"

    That is an odd wording.
    Type of animal, or species of animal?

    Would you say that reptiles, birds, mammals or fish could become extinct? (the entire category)


    "8. Why are all living marsupials (with the exception of possums) found in Australia, and no placental mammals are found there apart from bats?"

    This makes me curious.
    Why are possums the only marsupials outside of Australia, and why are bats the only placental mammals in Australia?

    ReplyDelete
  5. How do you explain the observation of a supernova in another galaxy? If the Earth was created only 5771 years ago then we are receiving information about the death of a star that never existed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Another question to add:
    When did homo erectus and other early hominids live, and why are they not mentioned in the Torah?

    ReplyDelete
  7. R. Slifkin, can you link to the passages from the Rambam, Sefer HaChinnuch, and Malbim?

    Here's another question: What would be the point of creating a "Young Earth" and giving the appearance of an "Old" one?

    Another: The laws of physics must be the ultimate expression of Hashem's will. Hashem is time independent/does not change. How would a contradiction of the laws of physics (ie. the corollaries of the "Young Earth" theory) jive with those statements?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I know they were introduced relatively more recently but dingoes (which are a type of dog) are also indigenous to Australia.
    The presence of bats may have something to do with their wings

    ReplyDelete
  9. Menachem Lipkin, I like that variation of "the starlight problem," it shows way the "created starlight" answer is unsatisfying.

    I also like question 6, it exposes some important epistemic issues in a creative way.

    Rabbi Slifkin, you left out some of the most straightforward evidence for an older Earth, like dendrochronology and ice cores. I suppose it's hard to use them to challenge a mystery model. Or did they just not make the top ten?

    ReplyDelete
  10. None of these questions are as strong rhetorically as the ones already here, but they show how far the problems with creationism go:


    Do you accept that the universe is expanding at high speed, as implied by redshifts? Can you explain why the time of the implied initial explosion (13.7 billion years ago) correlates with the distance of the farthest galaxies we can see (lookback time of 13 billion years)?

    Do you have an explanation for the cosmic microwave background? Why is its blackbody spectrum the most precise ever measured? Can you explain its temperature anisotropies?

    When do you think the moon was bombarded by meteors? (The moon's surface is saturated with craters, ranging from microscopic size to over 2000 km across. Various methods date many craters as billions of years old.) Was the Earth also subjected to this bombardment? If so, how did life survive this event (I assume it didn't happen before Day 4), and what happened to so many craters?

    When did human culture spread throughout the world? Genesis presents civilization as spreading beyond the Middle East sometime in the last 4,000 years. But Chinese cultures, for example, can be traced back over 10,000 years. When did indigenous cultures spread through the Americas? Competing theories put their arrival as early as 40,000 years ago and no later than 15,000 years ago.

    How did scientists in so many fields get it so wrong?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Rabbi Slifkin, I’m on your side, but – seriously – what do you expect the answers to be? You know the answers “Dr. Betech’s model” gives to all these questions. The general answer is that none of “Dr. Betech’s model” is based on science, it is all based on unconditional belief. It is not a rationalist or scientific model at all.

    But, you asked for the answers, so, here they are. (With a nod to my parents just in case they wonder if they wasted all that yeshiva tuition!)

    1. What is your evidence that the universe is 5771 years old, and not five thousand, fifty thousand, or five hundred thousand years old?

    We do not need evidence, we have bitachon, we believe it to be true. We believe that what our present day Rabbonim Shlita and Gedolim Shlita tell us is Torah-True Judaism.

    2. Scientific hypotheses make testable predictions and are thus falsifiable… What testable predictions does your model make, and how could it be theoretically proven false?

    Our model does not make any testable predictions. You will see when Moshiach comes and everyone then will have knowledge of Hashem and Torah, that our model was correct. We do not need to prove anything scientifically. Science was created by man, and Torah is from G-d. Hashem will prove everything when Moshiach comes. Until then, we have bechira (free choice) and can choose to believe or not believe that which our Torah-True Rabbonim Shlita and Gedolim Shlita tell us is true Torah.

    3. What experiments have been done/ are being done to test the validity of your model?

    We do not need experiments to test the “validity” of our model. Hashem gave our “model” to Moshe Rabbeinu and we have bitachon - we believe it to be true. We believe that what our present day Rabbonim Shlita and Gedolim Shlita tell us is Torah-True Judaism.

    4. Rambam, Sefer HaChinnuch and Malbim state that no types of animals ever become extinct. Do you agree with this - does your model include extinction, and what are the causes?

    There are secrets in the Torah that are not meant to be understood by or exposed to the general public or the layman. If it appears to us that there are animals who have become extinct, but our Gedolim Shlita tell us that it is not possible for an animal to become extinct, then this means that there are secrets of the Torah to which our Gedolim Shlita are privy that we are not. (Furthermore, unless it pertains to a halachah or a teaching of the Torah, the Torah-True layman does not concern himself with the extinction of animals.)

    5. From when to when did Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, respectively, live?

    We do not concern ourselves with dinosaurs as we have no interaction with them and therefore do not need to study them. However, if we were to encounter dinosaurs in our daily lives and they posed a halachic shaiylah, we are confident that our Gedolim Shlita would reveal to us the Torah True halachos pertaining to how to deal with them.

    (continued on next post)

    ReplyDelete
  12. (continued from previous post)

    6. Did the original process of creation, via which dirt transformed into mammals, function according to some sort of scientific laws, or was it entirely supernatural? Does it still continue after the end of the six days - in other words, can dirt still transform into mammals? If yes, is the much smaller process of one type of mammal turning into another type of mammal also possible - and if not, why not?

    The answers to these questions are hidden in the secrets of Ma’aseh Bereishis and are not supposed to be known to the Jewish layman or to the general public. The secrets of Ma’aseh Bereishis are very deep and are of a higher spiritual nature - they are not meant to be publicized. If you feel you need to know the answers you can ask the Gedolim, and if they think you are worthy of having this knowledge they will impart it to you. We need to accept that the secrets of the Torah and of Ma’aseh Bereishis are hidden – they are only for the Gedolim Shlita. The secrets of the Torah are not for our small minds, and even if they were, we are not worthy of them, due to our multiple sins, the sins of our fathers and the sins of our generation.

    7. (The precise...) Various mineral companies, oil companies, etc., find geologists to be essential. How are they at all effective, if the processes by which various substances and layers in the earth appear are not at all those which are described by geology?

    The processes were all created by Hashem and built into the world to appear to be millions (or billions) of years old.

    8. Why are all living marsupials (with the exception of possums) found in Australia, and no placental mammals are found there apart from bats?

    Because that is the way Hashem created it to be.

    9. Why do animals fit into a nested hierarchal system of classification, rather than there being all kinds of chimeras - e.g. whales are fully mammals, and have no homologous analogies with fish? This is especially intriguing in light of the fact that this hierarchy is different from the classification system in the Torah - e.g., bats are mammals, not birds.


    Because that is the way Hashem created them. The ways of Hashem are indeed intriguing and we cannot presume to understand them. If we are confused then our confusion it is a fault in our understanding, not chas v’shalom with the Torah or with Hashem. Our confusion is also due to our aveiros, the aveiros of our fathers and the aveiros of our generation.

    (continued on next post)

    ReplyDelete
  13. (continued from previous post)

    10. How do you account for the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists - including many who believe in the Torah - rejected your model? In fact, the first scientists to reject the young-earth model of creation were themselves devout Christians. Why is it that today only those who believe in the Torah/ Bible - and not even all of them - subscribe to it?

    Torah-True Judaism is not a popularity contest. The fact that a belief or idea is popular does not make it true. For the past 1,500 years most of Europe believed that Oso Ha’ish (yemach shemo) was the son of G-d. Most of the millions of people living in India were ovdei avoda zara mamash for the past 3,000 years. Jews have always been a minority, and we know that we have the truth – we have Torah-True-Judaism. If there are Jews who believe in Torah but who also believe the word of scientists above the word of our gedolim, then they are apikorsim. We can not answer for what apikorsim believe. Again, the fact that an idea or belief is popular does not make it true. Torah True Yidden have always been the minority in the world, and yet we know we are the Am HaNivchar.

    For those who ask why Hashem would have created the world to look millions (or billions) of years old, when it is really only 5771 years old, the answer is because Hashem wanted to give us bechirah (free choice) to have bitachon (belief). If we were faced with irrefutable evidence then we would not get s’char (reward) for our bechirah to have bitachon. Hashem made the world in such a way that all is not clear-cut and obvious, in order to test us. It is a nisayon, and those of us who are Torah-True Jews believe in Hashem even when the rest of the world does not. Those of us who are Torah-True Jews believe that what the Gedolim Shlita tell us is Torah-True Yiddishkeit, and we do not accept the ever-changing opinions of apikorsim. If there are challenges which appear confusing, then that is a nisayon to test our commitment and to give us the chance to utilize our bechirah to choose to have bitachon. Hashem in His infinite wisdom and kindness gave us these opportunities so that we can accumulate tremendous s’char for choosing to be strong in our bitachon. We cannot fathom the s’char we will receive for overcoming the challenges to our emunah and bitachon and for utilizing our bechirah to choose the Torah-True path, as it says in Chumash “Ubacharta b’chayim”.

    In the zechus of our defending Torah-True Yiddishkeit, standing up for Torah and refuting the apikorsim in our midst, may we be zoche to greet the emesdike moshiach tzidkeinu b’miheira b’yameinu amen.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A more "meta" issue is this: If the world was really created to "look old," then for all intents and purposes, it *is*, because we can deal only with what we can experience. So what difference does it make?

    ReplyDelete
  15. To "Chicken" - the answers that you give are those that other creationists would give. But Dr. Betech is claiming to have a "scientific" approach.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Nachum, I think about your question a lot.

    One difference it makes is in how we approach the world. There is a pervasive attitude in the orthodox world that everything outside of "Torah" is an "Olam Sheker". I think that attitude is very detrimental to us and our religion. The attitude metastasizes from science to math to history to literature and worst of all to people. It causes us to become narrow-minded and xenophobic.

    For those of us who are still able to think, there's no reason to add your fudge factor. Let's struggle with the reality of what see vs. the Torah. That struggle expands knowledge in both arenas.

    ReplyDelete
  17. There are two possible answers that I can think of for the extinction issue.

    1. In your book on the Camel, hare and hyrax, you question why there are only 3 kosher animals from the Behaima family, and 7 kosher animals from the Chaya family, when in reality science counts thousands of species. Your answer, IIRC, is that Chazal's categories obviously include more than one specific animal (I am paraphrasing your answer). Hence it is quite possible that when the rabbis say that a specie won't go extinct, they may mean that from the entire grouping, there won't be extinction. For example, the bovine category may include cow, buffalo and aurochs. The aurochs extinction should not pose a question.

    2. In today's world of cloning, it is quite possible that science may eventually figure out how to recreate the mammoth from dna. They may eventually be able to create extinct animals from the dna in the skeltal remains.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dr J. said:

    Another question to add:
    When did homo erectus and other early hominids live, and why are they not mentioned in the Torah?


    Dr. J, In all seriousness, putting sarcasm aside, can you provide a concise presentation of how you would answer the question of why these creatures are not mentioned in the Torah?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  19. It would also help if our creationist could explain some of the terms he demands we take literally. What are tohu, bohu, hoshekh al penei tehom, and ru'ah Elokim merahefet al penei ha-mayim? What is the nature of the or that defined night and day until the creation of the sun? What is the mayim asher me'al la-raqia? What are the taninim ha-gedolim?

    ReplyDelete
  20. "Dr. J, In all seriousness, putting sarcasm aside, can you provide a concise presentation of how you would answer the question of why these creatures are not mentioned in the Torah?"

    True answer: They lived hundreds of thousands of years ago. The authors of the Torah were obviously unaware of the existence of these species.

    Possible fundie answer: These species were among those destroyed in previous lost worlds, on top of which the new earth with man was built. Similar to the answer given about dinosaurs.

    ReplyDelete
  21. ...the answers that you give are those that other creationists would give. But Dr. Betech is claiming to have a "scientific" approach.

    Rabbi Slifkin -

    Disclaimer: I'm playing devil's advocate.

    Dr. Betech is only claiming to have a scientific approach to evolution. I don't see where he said he has a scientific approach to "his model".

    He is fighting evolution with (his version of) science because evolution is science. But that does not mean he would apply science to "his model".

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm not so sure. If he says that the basis for his beliefs is not the physical evidence, but rather "Because God says so," then how on earth is he going to claim that he would accept evolution if there was evidence for it?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Perhaps I'm unaware of the nomenclature conventions of this discussion not having read rabbi slifkin's books. However, when the term "creationist" is used critically in describing dr. betech and others of like mind can I assume that we are referring specifically to young earth creationists? I would assume that anyone who belives in the G-d of the Torah, subsribes to some form of divine act of willful creation, and at least in that sense, are creationist.

    If I am wrong please correct me.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm not so sure. If he says that the basis for his beliefs is not the physical evidence, but rather "Because God says so," then how on earth is he going to claim that he would accept evolution if there was evidence for it?

    Because Dr. Betech is confident that he will bring enough refutations against evolution that he can then say he “proved” evolution is not valid. We have seen from his writings on this blog that he claims to have “proved” something when he did not. Using methods like that, he is confident that he will “disprove” evolution, or at least say that he did, and can therefore say that he “would accept evolution if there was evidence for it.” He simply will twist matters around enough to say that there is no “irrefutable” evidence for it. Knowing this is his modus operandi he has no reason NOT to claim that he would accept evolution if there was evidence for it. He is confident in his ability to twist words and facts around enough, to ignore facts or to claim he disproves something even when he does not.

    If Dr. Betech weren’t a successful pediatrician, I would suggest for him a career in politics or Palestinian diplomacy. He has many of the important qualifications for such positions.

    ReplyDelete
  25. ""Dr. J, In all seriousness, putting sarcasm aside, can you provide a concise presentation of how you would answer the question of why these creatures are not mentioned in the Torah?"

    True answer: They lived hundreds of thousands of years ago. The authors of the Torah were obviously unaware of the existence of these species."

    First, I would like to attempt to answer Cohen's question:

    There are two possible answers to your question.

    1. The Torah DOES mention them, and this is what the torah is referring to by "Nefilim" and "giants" (giant in strength, not in height)

    2. The Torah does not mention them because they are not important for a person to know about. What is gained by viewing these creatures as early humans instead of early apes?

    To Dr J:
    Is it your belief that the author of the Torah did not know about the existence of monkies or apes or scarabs? Did the Author not know about the existence of the citron tree?
    Why are these things not mentioned in the Torah?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ameteur,

    I assume what you labeld "true answer" is what you beliwev Dr. J's answer to be, while the other two answers are yours, correct?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Cohen, you wrote:

    "Perhaps I'm unaware of the nomenclature conventions of this discussion not having read rabbi slifkin's books. However, when the term "creationist" is used critically in describing dr. betech and others of like mind can I assume that we are referring specifically to young earth creationists? I would assume that anyone who belives in the G-d of the Torah, subsribes to some form of divine act of willful creation, and at least in that sense, are creationist.

    If I am wrong please correct me."

    Indeed, I was also confused by this and requested the use of more clear terms, but apparently it's commonly understood that the term "creationist" is being used synonymously with evolution-denier, (presumably young earthers), and Rabbi Slifkin felt that was clear enough or self evident. I can't say I'm convinced of that especially now that I find I wasn't the only one confused by such non-specific language. I think it would be wise if we were more careful about being precise in the terms we use for the discussion. What do you think, cohen?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Ameteur, I happen to like your comments very much. They're quite sensible. I just fear everyone here is going to reject your intelligent comments because you seem to represent "the opposition."

    ReplyDelete
  29. chicken,
    do even joke. I pray that answers of the kind you just delineated never see the light of day.
    the chareidi world is already the laughingstock of the more intelligent segmeent of society, even those that are not "sonei Yisroel" by nature. comments of the sort you describe are just too embarrassing.

    ReplyDelete
  30. >1. How do you know the world is 5771 years old, and not 500?

    Surprisingly, amid all the various arguments and debates of rationalists v. mystics, I've never seen this one tackled. Viz., even if we throw all of science out the window, where do we come up with this number of 5771?

    If you study closely the chief sources - Avodah Zara 9a and Seder hadoros - you will immediately pick up on many problems. In the lazy-hazy way of thinking of our youth, we seem to think that you can simply add up the dates and get to where we need to be. But you can't. There's a lot of assumptions and traditions before you get to this figure.

    DF

    ReplyDelete
  31. > I've never seen this one tackled. Viz., even if we throw all of science out the window, where do we come up with this number of 5771?

    The story is long. Here is a summary:

    There is a connection between the traditional Hebrew dating and the two Mahzorim (cycles) that are observed in Jewish tradition - the "small" 19-year cycle which is the basis of the Jewish calendar, and the "big" 28-year cycle which determines the year in which Birkat HaHammah, the Blessing of the Sun, is recited. Mathematically, if one knows the position of a certain year in both cycles, one can compute the number associated to the year modulo 532 (19 times 28), given that the starting point of both cycles is year 1.

    The story starts with the biblical account of Creation, according to which the Sun was created on the fourth day. Jewish tradition commemorates the creation of the Sun by reciting a special Blessing when the Spring equinox is thought to be occurring at nightfall before the fourth day of the week, the moment the Sun is assumed to have been created (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 59b). Jewish law stipulates that the Blessing be said every 10,227 (28 times 365.25) days. The next date set is April 8 2009 (Hebrew year 5769). Because the astronomical year is slightly shorter than 365.25 days, the date of the Blessing shifts away from the Spring equinox as history proceeds. A simple astronomical calculation shows that 84 cycles of 28 years before 5769, in the Jewish year 3417, the Spring equinox was in the beginning of the night before the fourth day of the week as stipulated by the Talmud.

    It seems that the astronomically astute Jewish sages of the time concluded that the Jewish year 3417 was a first year in the cycle of 28 years. Moreover, these same Jewish sages would have reasoned that year 3421 was a first year in the 19-year cycle, in accordance with an ancient tradition that the world was created in the first week of the month of Nissan. They would have concluded this from the Spring equinox occurring early in the night leading to the fourth day of the Jewish month of Nissan in the Jewish year 3421.

    And so, the Jewish sages at the time could argue for a determination of the position of their years in both cycles and could therefore compute the absolute year-count modulo 532 years. They were left with a number of options, 532 years apart from each other, and they chose the dating closest to what seemed to be the truth according to a literal interpretation of biblical accounts. The sages legally defined future equinox times by instituting the 28-year cycle, to protect the Hebrew dating against future change, and to leave a remembrance to what they had done.

    Most likely, the Nissan dating of Creation was an adaption to the year count. In other words, the year count was determined prophetically, and the Nissan dating of Creation was invented to support it. The Tishrei dating contradicts such support and must have been invented much later, to support the Baharad calendar system.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Why do we live in 5771?

    There is a connection between the traditional Hebrew dating and the two Mahzorim (cycles) that are observed in Jewish tradition - the "small" 19-year cycle which is the basis of the Jewish calendar, and the "big" 28-year cycle which determines the year in which Birkat HaHammah, the Blessing of the Sun, is recited. Mathematically, if one knows the position of a certain year in both cycles, one can compute the number associated to the year modulo 532 (19 times 28), given that the starting point of both cycles is year 1.

    The story starts with the biblical account of Creation, according to which the Sun was created on the fourth day. Jewish tradition commemorates the creation of the Sun by reciting a special Blessing when the Spring equinox is thought to be occurring at nightfall before the fourth day of the week, the moment the Sun is assumed to have been created (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 59b). Jewish law stipulates that the Blessing be said every 10,227 (28 times 365.25) days. The last time was April 8 2009 (Hebrew year 5769). Because the astronomical year is slightly shorter than 365.25 days, the date of the Blessing shifts away from the Spring equinox as history proceeds. A simple astronomical calculation shows that 84 cycles of 28 years before 5769, in the Jewish year 3417, the Spring equinox was in the beginning of the night before the fourth day of the week as stipulated by the Talmud.

    It seems that the astronomically astute Jewish sages of the time concluded that the Jewish year 3417 was a first year in the cycle of 28 years. Moreover, these same Jewish sages would have reasoned that year 3421 was a first year in the 19-year cycle, in accordance with an ancient tradition that the world was created in the first week of the month of Nissan. They would have concluded this from the Spring equinox occurring early in the night leading to the fourth day of the Jewish month of Nissan in the Jewish year 3421.

    And so, the Jewish sages at the time could argue for a determination of the position of their years in both cycles and could therefore compute the absolute year-count modulo 532 years. They were left with a number of options, 532 years apart from each other, and they chose the dating closest to what seemed to be the truth according to a literal interpretation of biblical accounts. The sages legally defined future equinox times by instituting the 28-year cycle, to protect the Hebrew dating against future change, and to leave a remembrance to what they had done.

    In my understanding, the Nissan dating of Creation was an adaption to the year count. In other words, there was a prophetic tradition regarding the year count, and the Nissan dating was invented to support it, as explained above. In the course of Bayit Sheni, this support lost its validity as the Sppring equinox shifted, and the Tishrei dating of Creation was invented to support the Baharad calendar system.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Why do we live in 5771?

    There is a connection between the traditional Hebrew dating and the two Mahzorim (cycles) that are observed in Jewish tradition - the "small" 19-year cycle which is the basis of the Jewish calendar, and the "big" 28-year cycle which determines the year in which Birkat HaHammah, the Blessing of the Sun, is recited. Mathematically, if one knows the position of a certain year in both cycles, one can compute the number associated to the year modulo 532 (19 times 28), given that the starting point of both cycles is year 1.

    The story starts with the biblical account of Creation, according to which the Sun was created on the fourth day. Jewish tradition commemorates the creation of the Sun by reciting a special Blessing when the Spring equinox is thought to be occurring at nightfall before the fourth day of the week, the moment the Sun is assumed to have been created (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 59b). Jewish law stipulates that the Blessing be said every 10,227 (28 times 365.25) days. The last time was April 8 2009 (Hebrew year 5769). Because the astronomical year is slightly shorter than 365.25 days, the date of the Blessing shifts away from the Spring equinox as history proceeds. A simple astronomical calculation shows that 84 cycles of 28 years before 5769, in the Jewish year 3417, the Spring equinox was in the beginning of the night before the fourth day of the week as stipulated by the Talmud.

    It seems that the astronomically astute Jewish sages of the time concluded that the Jewish year 3417 was a first year in the cycle of 28 years. Moreover, these same Jewish sages would have reasoned that year 3421 was a first year in the 19-year cycle, in accordance with an ancient tradition that the world was created in the first week of the month of Nissan. They would have concluded this from the Spring equinox occurring early in the night leading to the fourth day of the Jewish month of Nissan in the Jewish year 3421.

    And so, the Jewish sages at the time could argue for a determination of the position of their years in both cycles and could therefore compute the absolute year-count modulo 532 years. They were left with a number of options, 532 years apart from each other, and they chose the dating closest to what seemed to be the truth according to a literal interpretation of biblical accounts. The sages legally defined future equinox times by instituting the 28-year cycle, to protect the Hebrew dating against future change, and to leave a remembrance to what they had done.

    ReplyDelete
  34. (continuation of previous comment)

    In my understanding, the Nissan dating of Creation was an adaption to the year count. In other words, there was a prophetic tradition regarding the year count, and the Nissan dating was invented to support it, as explained above. In the course of Bayit Sheni, this support lost its validity as the Sppring equinox shifted, and the Tishrei dating of Creation was invented to support the Baharad calendar system.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Ameteur--

    I agree with you that the lack of reference does not prove that the Torah was unaware of something. However, many of these species used tools, had language, and lived very much like early modern humans, so it would seem strange that they would not be mentioned.

    However, the answers you give are problematic because of dating--biblical figures could not have possibly been in contact with these pre-human species just 5000 years ago.

    Regarding your specific question about the Torah author's awareness of those things, it certainly is speculation. In my opinion 'pre etz hadar" being an etrog is a retrojection. The Aramiac name itself, as well as the succot reference in Nehemia 8 which makes no mention of the fruit, would imply that Biblical Hebrews did not use citrons.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Student V

    I'm with you all the way.

    The casual way the term "creationist" is being used here is in my opnion serving a a counterproductuve purpose.

    In most secular settings the evolutionist / creationist debate corresponds fairly strongly with atheist / theist positions. When the evolutionist camp in those fora derides "creationism" it is simultaneously and very deliberately deriding religion as well. I think everyone on this discussion is well aware of this

    No matter how liberal the rationalist position of this forum and it's threads may be in its positions relative to traditionalists, I don't think we want it misconstrued as representing an atheist form of Judaism, even if that is the perspective from which some of the form's participants are coming.

    I am not trying to impose any kind of sanctimonious censorship standard, I'm simply appealing for greater clarity.

    When Rabbi Slifkin lists his potential questions for Dr. Betech he is - unless I've completely missed the point - arguing for the inescapable logic of evolution, not for its incapatbility with divine creation. When other participants' comments take the discussion further in the direction of atheism, I think that delineation should be made clear.

    ReplyDelete
  37. In most secular settings the evolutionist / creationist debate corresponds fairly strongly with atheist / theist positions. When the evolutionist camp in those fora derides "creationism" it is simultaneously and very deliberately deriding religion as well. I think everyone on this discussion is well aware of this
    Come off it, you're being silly. When Dawkins is asked questions about evolution by theists, he refers readers to Kenneth Miller's Only a Theory. Miller is the scientist who joined up with Pennock to debate Dembski and Behe, the Intelligent Design guys. And Miller is a Roman Catholic. Haredim might be frummer than the pope when it comes to evolution, but that doesn't mean most theists are against evolution.

    Baruch Pelta

    ReplyDelete
  38. "Ameteur, I happen to like your comments very much. They're quite sensible. I just fear everyone here is going to reject your intelligent comments because you seem to represent "the opposition.""

    Thank you. But this is only a problem if people reject the words of Chazal/Ben zoma: ""Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from all people, as it is said: 'From all those who taught me I gained understanding' (Psalms 119:99). "

    " Cohen said...
    Ameteur,

    I assume what you labeld "true answer" is what you beliwev Dr. J's answer to be, while the other two answers are yours, correct?"

    --Correct, sorry for the sloppy quoting.

    DrJ:

    1. I am not sure that "using tools and language" is something that warrants mention in the Chumash. Afterall, the Chumash describes the "nachash" as "using language." We are also told a story about the use of language being a means to combat Hashem. The only relevance proto-humans would have with the Chumash would be their interaction with the descendants of Adam. The chumash does not even discuss angels until they come into interaction with Adam.

    2. So then don't date it 5,000 years ago. If tradition holds that the exodus from egypt happened in the year 1300BCE, but then archeology is discovered that proves without a doubt that the exodus happened in 13,000 BCE are you going to argue that the exodus did not happen because it wasn't found to be in 1300 BCE? Or will you perhaps re-think the purpose of our calendar dating system and the numbers given in Chumash? Or will you be silly and think that this proves that our dating of archeology is off?

    3. If Joshua used a citron or used a pomegranate is irrelevant. The point is that the Torah does not reverence everything that a person might assume is important by name. And it's possible that it doesn't reference something at all that certainly existed at the time of its publicizing.

    ReplyDelete
  39. "1. The Torah DOES mention them, and this is what the torah is referring to by "Nefilim" and "giants" (giant in strength, not in height)"

    Mamash moyradick. You can take two different problems you have no good answer to and randomly combine them to form a peledick teyritz. Shkoach.

    (For the uninitiated, the second problem is how Gods marrying hottie women and forming the heros of old fits in with our monotheistic view of the universe.)

    ReplyDelete
  40. Moshe Refael, the calculation that gives rise to the conventional date, 5771 A.M. is ostensibly independent of calendrical issues. The calculation, instead, is based on derivations from biblical passages leading up to the destruction of the 2nd temple, and 'secular' reckoning beyond that point. The calculation is as follows:
    Birth of Avraham -1948 yrs. after Adam - directly derived from the generational listing from Adam to Abraham. Birth of Isaac 100 yrs. later. The Exodus 400 yrs. after that. The 1st temple built by Solomon 480 yrs. later (verse in Kings I). That temple lasted 410 yrs (The reckoning of the Seder Olam based on king listings in Kings and Chronicles). 490 yrs. then elapsed between the destruction of the 2 temples based by the Seder Olam on an interpretation of a verse in Daniel. If the 2nd temple was destroyed in 70 CE, then we need to add 1940 yrs. to bring us up to date. The total is 5768. Now, the difference between when the Jewish and secular or royal new years start may give us several additional years.

    ReplyDelete
  41. " The 1st temple built by Solomon 480 yrs. later (verse in Kings I). "

    The last time that I had a nach open in front of me, and a calculator, the years mentioned in Joshua, chumash and Shoftim don't actually properly add up to 480 years without some creative readings.

    This would indicate to me that 480 (12*40) is a theological dating, not a historic one. Similarly with the 40 year reign of many of the judges and the 40 years in the desert, and the 40 days on the mountain, along with the 40 days of flood... etc.

    ReplyDelete
  42. As I said, the year-count is a prophetic tradition, and you explain it well. I am explaining why there is Nissan dating for Creation, and why the Tishrei dating could take over (the Nissan dating lost its validity wrt to the year count). I am explaining why there is Birchat HaChama. I think I am also explaining why the Sun was created on the fourth day. Probably, I am also explaining why there are two stories of Creation in the Torah.

    ReplyDelete
  43. > "8. Why are all living marsupials (with the exception of possums) found in Australia, and no placental mammals are found there apart from bats?"

    Just thought you'd be interested in the following:

    "Marsupials Not From Down Under After All ... All living marsupials - such as wallabies, kangaroos and opossums - all originated in South America, a new genetic study suggests." That's from:
    http://www.livescience.com/animals/marsupials-family-tree-down-under-100727.html

    And then there's this:

    "Marsupials that have become icons for Australia probably had their roots in Asia, scientists say." -- That's from:

    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/12/11/1071125595997.html

    and:

    "Debates have raged for decades about how to arrange the Australian and South American branches of the marsupial family tree. ... It is still a mystery how the two distinct Australian and South American branches of marsupials separated so cleanly, but perhaps future studies can shed light on how this occurred." -- That's from:

    http://www.physorg.com/news199431266.html

    (I'm afraid that the point, "ahh, but both sides of that debate agree on common ancestry" is hardly going to relieve the creationist of his suspicions. And who knows, perhaps it shouldn't.)

    ReplyDelete
  44. Of course it shouldn't. The debate is entirely irrelevant to common ancestry. It's like saying that the disputes between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel show that Torah is not from Sinai.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Boruch Pelta said:

    "but that doesn't mean most theists are against evolution."

    I didn't say that. I said most evolutionists are against religion which is true.

    And it's a secondary point to my larger point about who is or isn't a "creationist"

    ReplyDelete
  46. Who cares what most anything are? Most religious people in the world are Christian. We're outnumbered more than 100 to 1 both by Christians and Muslims. Since when do we pasken by the rov in religion?

    ReplyDelete
  47. RE Cohen:
    I didn't say that [most theists are against evolution].
    Yes you did. You wrote that "in most secular settings the evolutionist / creationist debate corresponds fairly strongly with atheist / theist positions." Same thing. Maybe it's not what you meant.

    When the evolutionist camp in those fora derides "creationism" it is simultaneously and very deliberately deriding religion as well.
    But come off it, that's silly. Miller isn't deriding religion. The National Center for Science Education, the vanguard in defense of evolution, isn't deriding religion. They link readers to this page:
    http://blue.butler.edu/~mzimmerm/rel_evol_sun.htm

    Baruch Pelta
    bpelta.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  48. Baruch Pelta, you said:

    "Come off it, you're being silly. When Dawkins is asked questions about evolution by theists, he refers readers to Kenneth Miller's Only a Theory. Miller is the scientist who joined up with Pennock to debate Dembski and Behe, the Intelligent Design guys. And Miller is a Roman Catholic. Haredim might be frummer than the pope when it comes to evolution, but that doesn't mean most theists are against evolution."

    So why are the opponents of evolution commonly referred to as "creationists." That's clearly not a precise way to describe evolution-deniers, *Especially given what you write! Are theists not creationists? Cohen (and I) are calling for accurate language to be used. I don't think Cohen was trying to say that "most theists are against evolution" - he was actually saying the exact opposite and that to frame the debate in that manner does a disservice to theists and atheists alike (because it's not correct).

    ReplyDelete
  49. "The last time that I had a nach open in front of me, and a calculator, the years mentioned in Joshua, chumash and Shoftim don't actually properly add up to 480 years without some creative readings."

    This is precisely my point, even though I dont know about this specific example. My point is that the calculation by which we get to 5771 is NOT based on verses, but on various traditions. Traditions can always be disputed. For some reason - and I'm talking only about the strict traditionalists, not the rationalists - we are OK with thousands of debates about variious halachik traditions, but seem to think that the 5771 number is somehow different.

    [Same with the 613 mitzvos number, agav. It's taken for granted today that there are 613 mitzvos, but this is really only an aggadic statement from R. Simlai. There are tens of thousands of aggadic statements in rabbinic literature. For some reason this number was seized upon as though it were the gospel.]

    DF

    ReplyDelete
  50. Student V

    Correct.

    As I said in my first response to Boruch, my primary concern is who is or isn't a "creationist". And As best as I can tell anyone who believes in G-d and the divinity of the Torah believes in some form of creation so I think it behooves us to stop calling the anti-evolutionists "creationists" because it implies that all evolutionists (even the religious ones) are not creationists, and that is patently false. (It is only a trueism to those who do not believe in G-d or the Torah)

    ReplyDelete
  51. I only offered the traditional way of arriving at the conventional dating from Adam with some suggestions as to their origin. I agree that deriving that date from verses in Tanach is problematic. Not only don't we have a record of 480 years from the Exodus to the completion of Shlomo's temple (just the statement about such an interval), but the 490 year interval between the destruction of the 2 temples is based only on a particular interpretation of a passage in Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27). The secular dates of those events are much different (1st temple destroyed by the Babylonians in 586BCE, with the 2nd destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Then the interval between was 656 years (166years more than the traditional count). If so, then we are more accurately at the year 5937 A.M. and children today can expect to live to the year 6000. The latter had been considered by the sages as a limit to the present phase of life on earth ("the world will last 6000 years").

    ReplyDelete
  52. "we are OK with thousands of debates about variious halachik traditions, but seem to think that the 5771 number is somehow different."

    Have no fear. I promise you that in another 230 years the numbering system will have been re-evaluated.

    ReplyDelete
  53. "Have no fear. I promise you that in another 230 years the numbering system will have been re-evaluated."

    While I agree that the purpose of the numbering will be re-evaluated, I highly doubt the messianic ramifications of the year will be.

    The only thing the numbers can do is go up. That is, we can see hints in the Torah that we are more than 5771 years away from Adam, but it would be very difficult to suggest that we are not at least 5,771 years away from Adam leaving the garden.

    ReplyDelete
  54. R' Slifkin, here's one question:
    When did the Sumerians invent glue?

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.