Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Wisdom of Rav Hirsch


In 1873, just fourteen years after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains how it does not conflict with Judaism. Especially significant is that Rav Hirsch did not even consider evolution to be true. He described it as “a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact.” For anti-rationalists today, that's all that need be said. But Rav Hirsch declared that while certain stated implications of the theory were wrong (such as that there is nothing special about humans), the essence of evolution is by no means incompatible with Judaism:

Even if this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world, Jewish thought, unlike the reasoning of the high priest of that nation (probably a reference to Thomas Huxley, who advocated Darwinism with missionary fervor—N.S.), would nonetheless never summon us to revere a still extant representative of this primal form (an ape—N.S.) as the supposed ancestor of us all. Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus, and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures. (“The Educational Value of Judaism,” Collected Writings, vol. VII, p. 264)


Rav Hirsch's criterion for reconciling a scientific theory with Judaism is not that he personally should consider it proven true. He provides the reconciliation even while he considers it “a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact,” and even before it was accepted by the scientific community. He also states that the obligation for Jews to relate to God differently - as the ultimate engineer of an ingenious process, rather than the craftsman who made each species separately - will occur when evolution "gains complete acceptance by the scientific world." He did not say that this occurs when it is "scientifically proven," but rather when it gains complete acceptance by the scientific community.

There are two possible reasons for him to have said this. It may be that he considered this to be the best way of determining scientific fact. Alternately, it may be that he did not consider acceptance by the scientific community to mean that something should be considered true, but rather that it means that it is reasonable for other people to consider it true, and therefore something that Judaism should deal with. I don't know if he would deny individuals the right to personally dispute the scientific world. But when something has attained complete acceptance by the scientific world (and there is no issue of anti-religious bias involved, since many of these scientists are themselves religious), people are understandably going to accept it, in the same way as they rely on doctors and aeronautical engineers for medicine and aeronautical engineering. It is therefore the responsibility of the rabbinic establishment to reconcile it with Judaism (if this can be done).

This is an elaboration of one of the several reasons that I gave for not debating evolution with Isaac Betech. Even if he could out-argue me with regard to evolution, and even in the extraordinarily unlikely case that he could convince me that it is false - it is irrelevant. Evolution (at least in terms of common ancestry, and all the more so for the antiquity of the universe) has met Rav Hirsch's criterion of gaining complete acceptance by the scientific world. Software engineers, aeronautical engineers and pediatricians are not part of this scientific world.

One of the Gedolim who banned my books told a friend of mine that he couldn't understand why people should need the approach of Rav Hirsch, when there are "scientific experts" such as Dr. Betech who render it unnecessary. This is a tragic example of the disastrous effects of utter naivete. Rabbanim rely on the greatest experts in medicine and technology, even for paskening halachah such as breaking Shabbos - why would they be mystified when people do the same with geology, paleontology and biology? The scientific world has not been convinced by the objections of people such as Dr. Betech. People who are scientifically knowledgeable have not been convinced by Betech's objections. And even many people who are not scientifically knowledgeable are nevertheless, for entirely understandable reasons, going to trust the scientific world rather than some non-scientists with a clear religious agenda.

That is just one of the many reasons why I will not debate evolution with evolution-deniers. It doesn't make a difference if Natan Slifkin can prove or even believes in evolution. I don't care if evolution is a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact. That's exactly what Rav Hirsch thought of it, and that's more or less what it was in his day. But he still realized that it was essential to point out that it does not conflict with Judaism. Over a century later, when evolution has gained complete acceptance by the scientific world, this is all the more essential.

60 comments:

  1. And yet, Rav Hirsch has this interesting thing to say:

    "One who visits the Dead Sea region today and sees the sulphur springs and the volcanic terrain will interpret the destruction of these cities as an ordinary natural occurrence... The causes would then appear natural, without need to refer to God... But the words from God, from Heaven show that this view is incorrect... You are confusing the cause with the effect... You hold that the catastrophe was caused by the character of the terrain as you see it now, when in truth the present form of the terrain is only an effect of this catastrophe... The geological theories of the origins of the Earth are probably based on similar errors. The visible phenomena upon which these theories are based are real, but the conclusions based upon them are false. These theories, too, confuse the causes with the effects. The phenomena which they interpret as the causes of
    geological upheavals are in reality only the effects of upheavals called forth by God when He formed the Earth."
    The Pentateuch T’rumath Tzvi, The Judaica Press 1986, page 96 (commentary on Genesis 19:24)

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  2. B"H
    Natan Slifkin said...
    “This is an elaboration of one of the several reasons that I gave for not debating evolution with Isaac Betech. Even if he could out-argue me with regard to evolution, and even in the extraordinarily unlikely case that he could convince me that it is false - it is irrelevant. Evolution (at least in terms of common ancestry, and all the more so for the antiquity of the universe) has met Rav Hirsch's criterion of gaining complete acceptance by the scientific world. Software engineers, aeronautical engineers and pediatricians are not part of this scientific world.”

    IB 12/Oct.’10
    Is this an “irrelevant” issue?
    In that “extraordinarily unlikely case” that I could convince you that evolution of the species is false would you write a caveat in your book clarifying that there are not “compelling reasons” for accepting the evolution of the species as a “scientific fact”, and that your book is directed to those people who erroneously accept evolution as a fact?
    Isaac Betech

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  3. No, I wouldn't, for two reasons. One is that my goal in that book is not to give my personal views on scientific matters - which I am not qualified to do - but rather to accurately report the state of affairs in the scientific community. The second reason is that I wouldn't want to make myself look like an idiot in the eyes of most of my readers.

    Now I have a question for you. Considering Rav Hirsch's words, don't you think that it is important to show that evolution can be reconciled with Judaism, for those (and you must surely agree that there are many) who are not convinced by your anti-evolution arguments?

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  4. Dr. Betech,

    Are you willing to stipulate to R' Slifkin's point that whether evolution is true or not is essentially religiously irrelevant as long as it's popular?

    If not, how do you deal with R' Hirsch?

    If so, your objection at this point sounds like picking nits. You want to hold a public debate between two non-experts about a question of science that the experts have settled, all so that a point with no religious implications can be potentially retracted from a book?

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  5. I think that R. Hirsch was using community-wide acceptance as a secondary yardstick for validity, rather than an actual proof.

    @Pliny: Perhaps he is saying that the phenomena causing the upheavals are themselves designed by God to call forth upheavals. In other words, while the physical principles caused the upheaval, the laws responsible are only there to bring about the desired effect.

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  6. Although evolution itself (i.e. common descent) can be resolved with the Torah, the Darwinian model cannot. Darwinism says that all of life came about by random processes. The Torah says, if it says anything at all, that the world and all that is in it was planned. These two views cannot be reconciled. There can be no doubt that Rav Hirsh is discussing common descent, not Darwinism.

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  7. Darwinism is the easiest thing in the world to reconcile with Judaism. I take it that you haven't read my book.

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  8. "One of the Gedolim who banned my books told a friend of mine that he couldn't understand why people should need the approach of Rav Hirsch, when there are "scientific experts" such as Dr. Betech who render it unnecessary."

    I didn't know that something viewed as unnecessary deserves to be banned. And assuming it is necessary to ban it, why not a ban on Rav Hirsch?

    As for understanding Rav Hirsch's yardstick, I think he wrote that because not all science is 100% accurate. What one person considers proof is not going to convince everyone. It isn't math where we all agree that 1+1=2. Therefore, Rav Hirsch's criteria is fair; "complete acceptance by the scientific world."

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  9. Looking at the last few posts I realize that still need some definitional help.



    So I'm hoping someone can answer the following for me:

    By the convestions of this forum, if someone believes that common ancestry is true, and that it took place in incremental steps, but that the process was driven by acts of divine will with specific results intended, rather than by random chance, than that person is:

    a) a Slifkinite
    b) a supporter of ID
    c) neither

    Thanks.

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  10. Questions for Dr Betech:
    Do you or do you not believe that Darwinism is irreconcilable with Torah Judaism?
    If you do believe that it is not reconcilable, as you have been inferring in your posts, here is another question. Do you believe that Rav Hirsch was a heretic?

    Can I get a clear answer to both? One word answers are always the clearest.

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  11. Because R Hirsch mentions the one law of adaptation and heredity, it would seem that he is in fact endorsing Darwinism.

    That the mechanisms of heredity and selection might be viewed as "random" or the result of Divine intervention, he does not discuss, so there is certainly doubt that he sides firmly with one or the other.

    Since Darwin did not know the mechanism for heredity, and did not describe in perfect detail all the ins and outs of natural selection, it is unfair to create a distinction in R Hirsch between Darwinism and common descent.

    Regarding the mechanisms of evolution, there are certainly more than two options. Heredity follows patterns and is not entirely random, and the same is true of natural selection, so the accusation of randomness is false. These patterns may be naturally occurring, or God may step in to ensure them. The actual history of human evolution may have been a result of unseen Divine providence, or perhaps it was entirely natural, but started by God. Perhaps God's involvement ended with the Big Bang, but the conditions of the early universe were crafted so as to ensure patterns of nature that would result in a being with the likeness of God.

    We don't have answers to all these questions, whether from science or Torah, we can only inform the discussion and speculate.

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  12. ([When] the lot is cast in the lap, its entire verdict has been decided by God." (Proverbs 16:33)

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  13. I have read your book, but I don't recall your explaining there how the development of life can have been both random and planned. Are you saying that Darwinism does not entail randomness? I think most evolutionists would strongly disagree.

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  14. I basically support Itick's reply to Menachem G. and would add that even according to the sages not everything that developed was planned. We have the talmudic statement cited by Rashi in Genesis I that the fruit trees altered the divine instruction and produced wood that didn't have the taste of the fruit. More importantly, we have the statement by R' Avahu in Bereishit Rabbah that GOD is the "builder and destroyed of worlds" as if to say, "these please Me, and those do not". That phraseology is consistent with evolutionary development interrupted occasionally by catastrophic events which ushered in new life forms.

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  15. Of note:
    I was at the Asimov Lecture at the AMNH about the occurrence of life in the Universe last Sunday, and the following was the accepted DEFINITION of life:
    1. Not at equilibrium with environment.
    2. Reproductive of self.
    3. Undergoes Darwinian evolution.

    Darwinian evolution (ie. evolution by mutation and selection) is well accepted and is scientifically vital.

    So Dr. Betech:
    1. It is "extraordinarily unlikely" that you would be able to prove evolution false, simply because it apparently isn't.
    2. Supposing you were right (and evolution did not occur): How would you clearly define "life" such that an unknown could be rigorously identified as life or not?

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  16. Although evolution itself (i.e. common descent) can be resolved with the Torah, the Darwinian model cannot. Darwinism says that all of life came about by random processes.
    Menachem G said...

    This is a semantic point. Whether G-d "drove' evolution or whether evolution is random is not a scientific question. Occam's Razor dictates that scientifically the simplest hypothesis that explains the data is the preferred hypothesis. Speculating about G-d adds a complexity to the theory (notably one that cannot be tested)that us unnecessary in understanding the data, thus it is discounted. But that is a scientific argument. The data supporting evolution and descent from a common ancestor is overwhelming. NO EVIDENCE EXIST FOR G-D (and that is just the way G-d wants it). Scientifically we can, therefore talk dawinism, while theologically we can talk directed evolution (Intelligent design).

    Rav Hirsch's point
    Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus, and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures.

    is very well stated.

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  17. Dear R. Slifkin,

    So, if man come from ape....
    can I call you "Mr. Monkey"?

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  18. So, if man come from ape....
    can I call you "Mr. Monkey"?


    Sure! And your name must be Dirt!

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  19. In physics, from a fundamental quantum-mechanical view, randomness only occurs if the world is not described as one system.

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  20. R. Slifkin - you gave him too much credit. At least according to him, man actually came from dirt.

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  21. That phraseology is consistent with evolutionary development interrupted occasionally by catastrophic events which ushered in new life forms.

    More likely, allowed some existing forms to prosper while destroying others.

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  22. So, if man come from ape....
    can I call you "Mr. Monkey"?


    October 13, 2010 6:56 AM

    Just to correct your ignorance, man is not a descendent of monkeys. Monkeys and men hold the same place on the evolutionary tree (at the end of their respective branches). Monkeys and humans do, however, share a common ancestor.

    One need only look at the DNA sequence of both man and monkey to identify when that ancestor lived.

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  23. Jon and Yossi - I find that technical correction to be irrelevant. After all, the common ancestor of man and monkeys would certainly have looked like a modern monkey!

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  24. Dr. Betech, where are you? I answered your question above, now please answer mine. (October 12, 2010 7:19 PM)

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  25. Atually, Rav Slifkin, it probably looked more like a lemur, rather than a monkey

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  26. True! But either way, it's irrelevant. I see no point in criticizing those who attack the evolutionary claim that "man is descended from monkeys" by saying "No, it was lemurs, not monkeys!"

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  27. Yossi said:

    "Scientifically we can, therefore talk dawinism, while theologically we can talk directed evolution (Intelligent design). "

    Actually this goes back to the definitional question I asked earlier (which I'm still hoping Rabbi Slifkin or someone else can answer for me).

    Is ID what Yossi describes above?

    I thought directed evolution is what you get if you attempt to reconcile Darwinism with G-d, while ID is an attempt to demonstrate that some thnigs are so "irreducably complex" as to have to have come about in a single act of divine creation rather than as the result of a step-wise process.

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  28. Theistic evolution accepts the scientific process as described by modern biology, while perceiving God as ultimately behind it, just as with everything in the world.

    Intelligent Design has a range of meanings, but usually it refers to the idea of irreducible complexity and God interfering with the natural order in order to create various aspects of creatures.

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  29. Natan Slifkin said...
    One is that my goal in that book is not to give my personal views on scientific matters - which I am not qualified to do - but rather to accurately report the state of affairs in the scientific community.

    IB 13/Oct.’10
    In that “extraordinarily unlikely case” it would not be a question of “personal views” but expressing scientific demonstrations.

    Natan Slifkin said...
    The second reason is that I wouldn't want to make myself look like an idiot in the eyes of most of my readers.

    IB 13/Oct.’10
    What is more important for you, what people think about you or sticking to the Truth?

    Natan Slifkin said...
    Now I have a question for you. Considering Rav Hirsch's words, don't you think that it is important to show that evolution can be reconciled with Judaism, for those (and you must surely agree that there are many) who are not convinced by your anti-evolution arguments?

    October 12, 2010 7:19 PM

    IB 13/Oct.’10
    I do not know any Jewish or non-Jewish person, scientist or layman, who accepted to seriously hear “my anti-evolution arguments” who was not convinced. I am doing this B”H for close to 25 years.
    Would you like to try?

    Isaac Betech

    (Edited by siteowner to remove extensive cutting-and-pasting of earlier comments)

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  30. In that “extraordinarily unlikely case” it would not be a question of “personal views” but expressing scientific demonstrations.

    It would be my personal views of those scientific demonstrations, which are not shared by the scientific community.

    What is more important for you, what people think about you or sticking to the Truth?

    Even if I personally were to reject evolution, there is no falsehood describing that the scientific community believes in evolution.

    I do not know any Jewish or non-Jewish person, scientist or layman, who accepted to seriously hear “my anti-evolution arguments” who was not convinced. I am doing this B”H for close to 25 years.

    You must be joking.

    First of all, hasn't it occurred to you that most scientifically-knowledgeable people are not even going to bother seriously listening to your arguments? Rightly or wrongly, they view you as being no different from a moon-landing-denier or flat-earther. So what about them? Wouldn't Rav Hirsch's principle apply for them?

    Second, do you really think that you have new evidence and arguments against evolution that the fundamentalist Christians have not already offered? And if you do, why haven't you had it published in scientific journals?

    The bottom line is that nobody in the scientific community has yet accepted your view, and nor are they likely to. In fact, most people have never even heard of you are not likely to ever hear of you. So I ask you again: Considering Rav Hirsch's words, don't you think that it is important to show that evolution can be reconciled with Judaism, for those (and you must surely agree that there are many) who have not been convinced by your anti-evolution arguments, and are not ever going to be convinced, in many cases because they won't even be interested in listening to a religiously motivated non-specialist such as yourself?

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  31. B"H
    IB 13/Oct.’10
    You are speculating, I am speaking of facts during the last 25 years.
    Again Natan, would you like to try?
    Isaac Betech

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  32. Isaac, you are SPECULATING that you are going to convince the entire scientific community that evolution is false. (Considering that in 25 years you have not published a single paper on this, and virtually nobody outside of Mexico has even heard of you, that would seem to indicate that you are delusional.)

    I am speaking of FACTS. The FACT that in 25 years, you have not published a single paper refuting evolution (and I suspect that you have not even submitted or written any). The FACT that the scientific community accepts evolution. The FACT that many people on this forum consider your views to be lunacy and are no longer interested in hearing anything that you have to say. Given these FACTS, what do you have to say to Rav Hirsch's point?

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  33. B"H
    Rambam (one of your favorite rationalists)said:
    Shema et haemet mimi sheamara.

    Do you want to try?
    This is the third time I am asking you:
    Do you want to try?
    Isaac Betech

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  34. No, I don't. (And I'm not contravening Rambam's dictum; he certainly did not believe in wasting his time listening to everybody who feels that they have Truth, just as most people I know aren't interested in having discussions with missionaries. His point was that if you hear something that is true, don't deny it just because of the person who said it.)

    But why did you avoid my question?

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  35. Come to think of it, if you think that Rambam's dictum means that people should always be ready to listen to new ideas from others, even if they a priori think them to be wrong, why don't you think that the Jewish community should be able to hear my ideas?

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  36. Dr Betech, Can you please respond to my 2 questions posted above at October 12, 2010 9:32 PM?

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  37. Rabbi Slifkin, this post was excellent. It seems you were waiting for the opportune time to strike with this post, and I must say it was a perfectly timed knockout punch.

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  38. > "That is just one of the many reasons why I will not debate evolution with evolution-deniers."

    I was wondering if you'd make a distinction between evolution-deniers and evolution-challengers. I ask, because in your post about Dr. Avital, you called him both. (Also, you didn't say whether Rav Kook or Rabbi Herzog ever challenged (not denied, but challenged) evolution.)

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  39. I'd wager that most evolution-challengers are really evolution-deniers who wish to appear more sophisticated.

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  40. Issac (not Dr. Betech)October 13, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    Whether G-d "drove' evolution or whether evolution is random is not a scientific question. Occam's Razor dictates that scientifically the simplest hypothesis that explains the data is the preferred hypothesis. Speculating about G-d adds a complexity to the theory (notably one that cannot be tested)that is unnecessary in understanding the data, thus it is discounted. But that is a scientific argument. The data supporting evolution and descent from a common ancestor is overwhelming. NO EVIDENCE EXIST FOR G-D (and that is just the way G-d wants it). Scientifically we can, therefore talk dawinism, while theologically we can talk directed evolution (Intelligent design).

    This means that Rabbi Slifkin's model cannot make predictions and is not testable. If so, why does he insist that Dr. Betech's model be held to a higher standard?

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  41. The very fact that you said "most" means that you could make such a distinction. Anyway, are you going to state which one of the two Dr. Avital is, denier or challenger? (And were R' Kook and R' Herzog complete evolution accepters?)

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  42. Rabbi Slifkin – thank you for this EXCELLENT post. More important than serving as a “knockout punch” to a man who seems to be a legend in his own mind, it helps those of us who learn about and have discussions with our peers about the matter to have a Torah authority to stand behind. Again, thank you for this excellent post.

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  43. I find some of the comments a bit strange when people are in doubt whether Rav Hirsh would agree to "randomness" in evolution or whether or not there is a distinction between Rav Hirsh and Darwin. Whatever order the descent of species occurred in according to evolutionary theory, whatever forces were at work (what selection pressures and which ones caused which changes) and no matter what the mechanisms by which evolution occurred, the notion of "randomness" is a philosophical one. So too it is philosophical to say it was all God-directed. There is no way to prove whether an event that took place was "random," or if, in the big picture, God caused the events to come about or brought about at least the final result.

    To concede to the notion of "randomness" would seem to be adherence to a philosophy at odds with Judaism. Why would any rabbi, (and certainly not Rabbi Hirsh) take God out of the picture?

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  44. "I'd wager that most evolution-challengers are really evolution-deniers who wish to appear more sophisticated."

    Or they just don't believe that random chance can cause more order into a system instead of less order.

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  45. To concede to the notion of "randomness" would seem to be adherence to a philosophy at odds with Judaism. Why would any rabbi, (and certainly not Rabbi Hirsh) take God out of the picture?

    Student V said...
    October 14, 2010 2:15 AM

    Student V,

    Theologically G-d in or out, it is still a theological not Scientific question.

    Scientifically (materially) evolution lacks "direction". (Unless, as pointed out by wiser heads than me, you come up with an evolutionary outcome that would be physically (as in Physics) impossible.)

    Theologically, once we believe (i.e. faith not evidence) in G-d, direction becomes an obvious conclusion.

    It is nor a contradiction to say the physical evidence supports randomness, but the theological conclusion is direction. The theological conclusion is a matter of faith, the scientific one is a matter of evidence.

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  46. Those who claim to have the Mesora have no problem with Rav Hirsch. They simply state that Rav Hirsch did not have the Mesora. I actually heard an infamous acclaimed carrier of the Mesora make this statement.

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  47. Issac (not Dr. Betech) said:

    This means that Rabbi Slifkin's model cannot make predictions and is not testable. If so, why does he insist that Dr. Betech's model be held to a higher standard?

    I have no idea what you mean. Common ancestry makes sweeping predictions and is totally testable (and has been tested for a long time.)

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  48. Regarding randomness:

    My philosophy professor (a frum Christian) once made a tangential remark that he sees nothing theologically problematic with asserting that evolution is random.

    By analogy, he pointed out that a lottery is random. And yet, being that G-d is omniscient and knows the future, He knows at what precise second to stop the balls from juggling around in the lottery container to get the result He wants.

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  49. I do not know any Jewish or non-Jewish person, scientist or layman, who accepted to seriously hear “my anti-evolution arguments” who was not convinced. I am doing this B”H for close to 25 years.

    If Dr. Betech has 25 years of experience convincing Jewish and non-Jewish people (“scientist or layman”) with his anti-evolution arguments, it would seem to be a pity that he has withheld this information from the entire world (and especially from those who are not sure whether or not to believe in G-d).

    Even if he did not write a scientific paper to a respected scientific journal, I wonder why Dr. Betech would not have at least written a book with his arguments in order to widely disseminate this vital information to the general public (for Jews and non-Jews alike).

    What is he waiting for?

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  50. Yossi, you wrote:

    "Theologically G-d in or out, it is still a theological not Scientific question."

    Yes, exactly my point. So why would any rabbi adopt as a position theologically God "out" instead of God theologically "in" (in, meaning "involved"). That was basically my question.

    "Theologically, once we believe (i.e. faith not evidence) in G-d, direction becomes an obvious conclusion."

    Yes, I thought this was an obvious point, which prompted my comment, given some of the other comments which I thought may have been questioning that or suggesting otherwise (I'm open to hearing a reason, mind you, if they have any in suggesting otherwise, but I just wanted to float this formulation and see the response). I think we are basically in agreement on this point.

    Then you also wrote:
    "Scientifically (materially) evolution lacks "direction". (Unless, as pointed out by wiser heads than me, you come up with an evolutionary outcome that would be physically (as in Physics) impossible.)"
    and "It is no[t] a contradiction to say the physical evidence supports randomness, but the theological conclusion is direction. The theological conclusion is a matter of faith, the scientific one is a matter of evidence."


    I hear what you're saying, but "random" to me implies a type of value judgment rather than an observation. In other words, suppose selection pressure A causes a bottle neck effect on a given subpopulation. Was that selection pressure random? How does one know? That pressure existed due to factors x, y, z. And were these random? They had their own natural causes. It seems this line of reasoning can continue ad infinitum. I think the "random" language only comes over-the-top as a philosophical assertion. But I do see what you mean that these natural pressures and events are 'random' scientifically in the sense of the... maybe call it the bigger picture. This particular pressure did not have a "reason" to impose itself upon the sea turtle. It just happened because the pressure existed and by nature of its existence, it acted on the sea turtle. And the sea turtle population exhibited a change in response to the pressure. Or in terms of mutation, it happened randomly based on probability inherent in its genetics without a reason like someone coming and pouring radioactive material onto it to promote mutation. But even with this, it's difficult to determine scientifically the "randomness" of that genetic mutation event, isn't it?

    I may not be fully understanding the application of the term "random."

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  51. I have a new post up about randomness. And, of course, for a full treatment, I recommend my book!

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  52. Student V

    I guess Random mean unpredictable.

    In the Laboratory, I can set up an experiment that will select for flies that can tolerate high heat. Here, I have made the decision about which characteristic has been selected for, so in a sense the evolution is directed.

    Never the less, the mutation that underlies that competitive advantage emerged through a random process, i.e. although I changed the environment the flies lived in, I did not cause the mutation that allowed some flies to survive/thrive. Every finite amount of time/replication, and mutation will emerge in the DNA of the fly. This mutation may have beneficial, neutral or negative effects on the fly. I can predict the frequency of the mutations, but I cannot predict where the mutation will be or what the mutation will look like (at a molecular level). The mutation, for all intents and purposes is "random".

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  53. Yossi,

    "This mutation may have beneficial, neutral or negative effects on the fly. I can predict the frequency of the mutations, but I cannot predict where the mutation will be or what the mutation will look like (at a molecular level). The mutation, for all intents and purposes is "random"."

    Very good points. Indeed, the predictability (where and what) and also the value/utility of the outcome can be labeled as "random," scientifically. I see what you mean.

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  54. Hello, Dr. Betech, where are you? You never answered my question:

    The FACT is that in 25 years, you have not published a single paper refuting evolution (and I suspect that you have not even submitted or written any). The FACT is that the scientific community accepts evolution. The FACT is that many people on this forum consider your views to be lunacy and are no longer interested in hearing anything that you have to say. The FACT is that most people have never even heard of you are not likely to ever hear of you. So I ask you again: Considering Rav Hirsch's words, don't you think that it is important to show that evolution can be reconciled with Judaism, for those who have not been convinced by your anti-evolution arguments, and are not ever going to be convinced, in many cases because they won't even be interested in listening to a religiously motivated non-specialist such as yourself?

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  55. B"H
    IB 15/Oct.’10
    Dear Natan.
    Your question was addressed in my summary letter II 6.
    If sometime you are ready to discuss with me the scientific value of evolution of the species in an intellectual, multimedia, respectful, protocolized, neutral, public forum, please let me know by email, you know my email since many years ago.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  56. While we're waiting for Dr. B., let me just point out that for purposes of American law, acceptance of a theory by the scientific community is a key factor in a judge's decision whether to admit expert evidence based on that theory. In other words, the court doesn't have to try to decide for itself whether the theory is actually true. So it would seem that Rav Hirsch (an ancestor of mine) was using a valid criterion when determining, as a non-scientist, how to deal with the theory of evolution.

    ReplyDelete
  57. B"H
    IB 15/Oct.’10
    Dear Natan.
    Your question was addressed in my summary letter II 6.
    If sometime you are ready to discuss with me the scientific value of evolution of the species in an intellectual, multimedia, respectful, protocolized, neutral, public forum, please let me know by email, you know my email since many years ago.
    Isaac Betech

    ReplyDelete
  58. In your summary letter, you said "If evolution is false, why would we want to show that evolution is consistent with Torah?" I answered that in this post. The point is, who is to decide whether evolution is false? According to Rav Hirsch, if the scientific world has decided that evolution is true, then it is important to show that it is consistent with Torah. So I ask you again:

    The FACT is that in 25 years, you have not published a single paper refuting evolution (and I suspect that you have not even submitted or written any). The FACT is that the scientific community accepts evolution. The FACT is that many people on this forum consider your views to be lunacy and are no longer interested in hearing anything that you have to say. The FACT is that most people have never even heard of you are not likely to ever hear of you. So considering Rav Hirsch's words, don't you think that it is important to show that evolution can be reconciled with Judaism, for those who have not been convinced by your anti-evolution arguments, and are not ever going to be convinced, in many cases because they won't even be interested in listening to a religiously motivated non-specialist such as yourself?

    With regard to your request to debate evolution - which, in light of the above, becomes entirely irrelevant to the question of whether my book should be published - I have nevertheless decided to accept! See my latest post.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Just to clarify what I wrote above - I agree that if YOU have decided that evolution is false, then there is no need for YOU to reconcile it with Torah. However, Rav Hirsch's eminently reasonable position was that if the generally recognized experts - the scientific world - has decided that it is true, then it is indeed important to show that it can be reconciled with Torah.

    ReplyDelete

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