Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scientific and Philosophical Mistakes

There's a certain mistake that I used to make all the time, out of ignorance, but which now I only make when I'm writing sloppily. It's to describe Chazal as making "scientific mistakes." I now know that Chazal did not make scientific mistakes.

Not every mistaken belief about the natural world is a scientific mistake. A scientific mistake is when one engages in the scientific process and, for whatever reason, emerges with a mistaken conclusion. To quote one definition, science is systematized knowledge derived from observation, and experimentation carried out in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied. But a mistake which did not involve engaging in the scientific process is simply a mistaken belief about the natural world.

I think it could be argued that the steady-state theory of the universe held until the Big Bang became accepted was not a scientific mistake. To my knowledge, it wasn't as though the steady-state theory was based upon any experimentation. Rather, it was simply a holdover from the beliefs of antiquity.

Likewise, Chazal rarely engaged in what we would call science. Statements about the sun going behind the sky at night, or about mice being generated from dirt, are not scientific mistakes; they are simply mistaken beliefs about the natural world. (But it is sometimes cumbersome to write that, which is why I sometimes takes the sloppy shortcut and write "scientific mistakes.")

I noticed a similar error in a different context. I once challenged a certain protege of YBT (a very unusual yeshivah which teaches that Maimonidean-style philosophy is the sole legitimate and traditional path of emunah) to account for Rav Moshe Taku, a Tosafist who believed that God is corporeal. He replied that Rav Moshe Taku "made a philosophical mistake."

For the last few months, I have been working on a translation of Rav Moshe Taku's Kesav Tamim. I'm about two-thirds of the way through, and one thing that I can say for certain is that Rav Moshe Taku did not make a philosophical mistake. That's not to say that I agree with Rav Taku's position that God is spatially located vertically above us in heaven and that God has substance and appears in a variety of human forms; with my education, it's impossible for me to subscribe to such a view. But his corporealist view is a mistake about a theological matter, not a philosophical mistake.

Rav Moshe Taku did not engage in philosophy. He was far more familiar with philosophy that many of his predecessors in Ashkenaz, who had probably never even read Rav Saadiah Gaon's "Book of Beliefs," and certainly did not actively engage in dispute with philosophy as he did. In fact, the early scholars in Ashkenaz were barely aware of philosophy at all. In Prof. Avraham Grossman's article "Rashi's Rejection of Philosophy - Divine and Human Wisdoms Juxtaposed," he writes as follows:

It is generally agreed that Rashi's work contains no direct reference to philosophy, a field that exerted no apparent influence on his writing. Scholarship has customarily held that this is due to a lack of knowledge of the subject on Rashi's part. While interest in philosophy was not prevalent in the Christian Europe of Rashi's time, among the Jews in Moslem lands it enjoyed widespread appeal thanks to the significant role played by science and philosophy within Moslem society. This fundamental statement is certainly true. Apparently, however, although Rashi had no intimate knowledge of philosophical study and its nature, he did possess a general knowledge of it, which generated in him an aversion to the subject. He indirectly urged people to keep their distance from it... I wish to emphasize that Rashi was not familiar with any philosophical works, nor was he acquainted with philosophers in his environment or had read their work. Nevertheless, as someone whose entire literary activity was infused by a rare intellectual curiosity he was exposed to this field, if only by way of general knowledge.


Rav Taku actively engaged those who wrote about philosophy. But he did not engage in philosophy. And thus he did not make a philosophical mistake.

36 comments:

  1. I want to avoid turning this into "well what is philosophy?" because it's a bit cliche. But really - it's hard to see how what the YBT guy said isn't exactly what he meant to say, or how he's wrong. How exactly would you define philosophy so that this sort of "error" isn't a philosophical one? The YBT guy was saying that the position is inherently incoherent, that it contains a logical error. The position itself is a metaphysical one. Logic and metaphysics are philosophical domains. So where are you going with this??? Just because someone doesn't "engage in philosophy" *consciously* doesn't mean they aren't engaging in philosophy altogether.

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  2. Logic and metaphysics are philosophical domains.

    Biology is a scientific domain. And the origin of mice is a biological matter. But that doesn't mean that if someone thinks that mice are generated from dirt, they are making a scientific mistake.

    Just because someone doesn't "engage in philosophy" *consciously* doesn't mean they aren't engaging in philosophy altogether.

    That may be true. But Rav Taku did not engage in philosophy at all. He didn't read any philosophical works, and he didn't engage in systematic study and analysis of metaphysics (or even non-systematic study of it).

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  3. The first part of this interesting post is strikingly similar to Thomas Kuhn's ideas of paradigm shifts vs normal science.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Structure_of_Scientific_Revolutions

    He would vehemently disagree, however, with your application of these ideas to philosophy/theology.

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  4. Another example: Young-earth creationists insist that evolution is wrong. Evolution is science. But the YECs are not doing science!

    (An interesting contrast is some of the 19th century flat-earthers, who, it could be argued, were doing science, even if they were doing it very badly.)

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  5. I am thinking of someone who miscalculates a sum because he never studied it. Would you say he held a mistaken mathematical belief rather than saying he made a math mistake? I think that is letting them off too easily.

    I think you are being too deferential. At best I would say, such an individual renders wrong mathematical conclusions because he is ignorant of the current state of math. At any stage of history the mark of a sage is knowing what they don't know, especially when it is available for the knowing.

    I do not think this is just semantics. Many of your harshest critics take pride in insisting that much of what you advocate should not even be systematically considered.

    What makes is worse is that they readily insist on deriving the fruits of science when it improves their lives or even saves it.

    I agree one cannot fault people for not knowing what was not yet knowable because science had not yet advanced or the existence of some advances is not yet knowable in a particular milieu.

    But at some point, retaining or propagating willful ignorance ought to be called out.

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  6. Perhaps there's a different way of understanding this.
    The scientific method as we currently employ it is not terribly old. Prior to its emergence, there seems not to have been much of a difference between science and philosophy. Consider how the Rambam goes on (forever, it seems) about how Aristotle determined that the universe was eternal and how he (the Rambam) disagreed with him. The question of the age of the universe is certainly a scientific topic, yet it was dealt with entirely as a philosophical subject!
    (As a practical example, review the scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" where there is a discussion as to how to properly determine if a woman is a witch)
    If that is the case, then if Chazal used philosophy and whatever else was the standard method of scientific evaluation in their times, then they did not make any mistakes. They came to the appropriate conclusions given the methods they used.
    Who is to say that a new scientific method will not one day emerge and make us look like we didn't know what we're talking about? Each era does the best it can with the tools it has and should be respected, not disparaged because it didn't see the future.

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  7. R' Natan and all those interested in how "science" became a separate discipline from "philosophy" would probably find The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin a very worthwhile read. It traces the history of human discovery over millenia, including a look at how the study of history emerged as an academic discipline. It's a fascinating book -- a long read but absolutely worth it.

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  8. "But that doesn't mean that if someone thinks that mice are generated from dirt, they are making a scientific mistake."

    You're right - it means they're making a philosophical error by opting not to use the scientific method for a question like this.

    "He didn't read any philosophical works, and he didn't engage in systematic study and analysis of metaphysics (or even non-systematic study of it)."

    If he made claims about God being physical, that's definitely a metaphysical claim.

    "Evolution is science. But the YECs are not doing science!"

    You're right - they too are making philosophical errors. The error is an epistemological one.

    Philosophy just happens to be the catch-all domain of any sort of thought, so using philosophy was a particularly bad way to make the point you're trying for here.

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  9. it means they're making a philosophical error by opting not to use the scientific method for a question like this.

    That's using "philosophical" in the colloquial sense of the term, like describing hashkafa as "Jewish philosophy."

    If he made claims about God being physical, that's definitely a metaphysical claim.

    Only in the sense that a claim about spontaneously generating mice is a biological claim. Taku is making a claim about a metaphysical matter, but he did not engage in the study of metaphysics as a branch of wisdom.

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  10. You recently wrote a paper on pesachim 94b, and I haven't seen it in a decade, but if I remember it correctly, it doesn't jibe with your interpretation. Rebbe determined the path of the sun by judging the effect the sun's proximity would have on nearby water. The method is entirely scientific; he was just really bad at it. If you don't like "scientific mistake" consider "scientifically inept."

    Also, as most likely I'm philosophically inept, why is it that your education allows you to believe in a God who makes decisions, interacts with people personally, and created the universe but not one who is locatable in space?

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  11. "Taku is making a claim about a metaphysical matter, but he did not engage in the study of metaphysics as a branch of wisdom."

    That's davka the point! There is no such branch, because there are no rules in philosophy. In order to be "engaging in the study of science," or whatever we're calling it, you have to relate your work to a set of norms - making a falsifiable hypothesis, testing it, etc, or in terms of a critique, explaining why a hypothesis doesn't make sense, explaining a mistake with a test, or explaining why the test does not indicate the truth of the hypothesis. This, obviously, you know. But no similar set of rules exists for metaphysics, except maybe "a=a" and "a or ~a." You can critique a metaphysical position on whatever grounds you want.

    "That's using "philosophical" in the colloquial sense of the term, like describing hashkafa as "Jewish philosophy.""

    Not at all! People make the opposite mistake of thinking "philosophy" refers to a certain discipline that requires a specific type of training in order for a position to be valid. While there are certain types of topics that interest philosophers, and while it definitely helps (a lot) to have the training, it's not like the training is a pre-requisite for intelligent philosophical claims at all. The lines between philosophy and other disciplines are inherently blurred, and philosophy winds up being the "meta-discipline" that informs others.

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  12. The Random House Dictionary definition of "philosophy" -

    phi·los·o·phy
    1. the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.
    2. any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy, that are accepted as composing this study.
    3. a system of philosophical doctrine: the philosophy of Spinoza.
    4. the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, esp. with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science.
    5. a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.
    6. a philosophical attitude, as one of composure and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.

    Based on entry in the dictionary, R. Moshe Taku did indeed make a philosophical mistake, according to definitions 1, 3, 5, but not according to definitions 2, 4, 6. You are quibbling here, and one wonders the point of that.

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  13. This discussion reminds me of a fascinating book I read about 20 years ago by the scholar David B. Ruderman called "Kabbalah, Magic, and Science: The Cultural Universe of a Sixteenth-Century Jewish Physician". Harvard Press 1988. Selections available on Google books.

    Ruderman writes, in his introduction, "There is as yet no modern work of scholarship on the meeting of Jewish thought and early modern science. This book represents a small part of such a larger undertaking, now in progress. It offers a comparative view of the interplay of the religious and magical with the scientific proclivities of the age, using specific texts and context of an individual embedded in the Jewish tradition. [...] The richness of Yagel's scientific ruminations raises the fundamental questions whether there was a specifically Jewish pattern of response to the study of nature in the late 16th century [...] Yagel read widely in the scientific and medical literature of his day, and he creatively wedded this knowledge to his own religious tradition. [...] Yagel strove to merge Judaism with European science by highlighting the centrality of the former within the latter. For Yagel, Jews since Solomon's time had always demonstrated a keen interest in naturalistic learning; they had always excelled in the occult and medical arts; and their unique kabbalistic heritage allowed them to penetrate the mysteries of the universe in a manner unattainable by the best of natural philosophers."

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  14. Just curious. I think I remember you writing in an earlier paper that according to R. Kanarfogel, the most one could say about R. Taku is that God might or might not be corporeal or that...if He wanted to...God could appear in some physical form. The impression I got there was that R. Taku was parve about the issue [in terms of it having happened].
    Did I get that wrong or, perhaps, you were bringing in another opinion that was countering yours?

    Gary Goldwater

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  15. Rebbe determined the path of the sun by judging the effect the sun's proximity would have on nearby water. The method is entirely scientific; he was just really bad at it.

    I agree, Rebbe was performing some sort of science. I was referring to the Chachmei Yisrael who said that the sun goes behind the sky at night.

    as most likely I'm philosophically inept, why is it that your education allows you to believe in a God who makes decisions, interacts with people personally, and created the universe but not one who is locatable in space?

    Maybe I'm philosophically inept too! My education certainly was.

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  16. Tom, I think that he did not make a philosophical mistake according to any of those definitions.

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  17. Gary - R. Kanarfogel does not say that according to Taku, God may or may not be corporeal. It's that God can choose which form to take on. But He certainly has substance and is certainly spatially located.

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  18. Tom,

    Over several comment threads I sense that you have an overall point-of-view that won't really "fit" into any properly-on-topic comment, as defined by the בעל הבלוג. I'd like to know more about that p.o.v. Would you e-mail me? My e-mail address is on my profile page.

    Thanks.

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  19. For an extremely fascinating, albeit not easy, take on the divergence between scientific thought and philosophical thought and its ramifications for the religious thinker, see the first part of R' Soloveitchik's Halachic Mind.

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  20. Observation: The sun disappears at the west horizon every evening and sky full of stars becomes visible. Next morning, the sun reappears in the east.

    Questions: What is the "sky" and where are the stars located? Where does the sun go and how does it get back to the other side (east in the morning)?

    Possible logical conclusions: The stars are part of a firmament. The sun travels behind this firmament to return to the eastern horizon.

    Now that's science (sure, pretty primitive science) in my book.

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  21. RNS: "I think it could be argued that the steady-state theory of the universe held until the Big Bang became accepted was not a scientific mistake. To my knowledge, it wasn't as though the steady-state theory was based upon any experimentation. Rather, it was simply a holdover from the beliefs of antiquity."

    Perhaps it happens this way sometimes. But not for the best scientists upon whom all of the rest of us depend. Seminal scientific thinking begins with the scientist's personal concern with anomalies(*) which, in his judgment, undermine the universality of the principles of the existing theories. The scientist then has to judge what, of the presently-though-provisionally-known, is most-reliably-known. (E.g.: Einstein judged the field to be highly fundamental.) This judgment always "signals" the scientist's actual, as distinguished from his espoused,metaphysics. This structure of thought-activity exposes that there's always an actual metaphysics at work, whether or not it's articulated, which may differ from the metaphysics the scientist espouses.

    -----
    (*) The anomalies need not be empirical.

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  22. Excellent post.

    I'm getting blasted on Yeshiva World News right now for saying that Rashi had different versions of biblical and talmudic texts. I think I need to go back to reiterate that HE DID NOT ERR.

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  23. Taku, as in teiku, as in we will find out the answer from Eliyahu in the proper time. Which is not now. I seem to recall something about God telling MOshe that "you can not know ME, for no man can know Me and live."
    So what's going on here anyway? Isn't there enough Mishna Berura, Gemara, and RamBam to learn? Halacha l'maaseh is where it's at. Next thing you know you will start asking about the correct ways to conjure up shaydim, or if they really exist even.

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  24. Just a typo correction:

    "He was far more familiar with philosophy that many of his predecessors in Ashkenaz"

    "than", not "that"

    FWIW, about ten years ago, give or take five, either Tradition or the Torah uMadda Journal covered Chazal's use of the scientific method (obviously not the modern definition, but not too far off).

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  25. Shimon S said...

    Observation: The sun disappears at the west ...
    Now that's science ...

    Shimon, that would have been science if Rebbe had then said "how can it test that hypothesis?" Science is more about testing the hypothesis (deductive resoning) than drawing conclusion from observation (inductive reasoning).

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  26. How does it reflect on the Chachmei Yisrael if their science was primitive in comparison to their contemporaries? Can we make value judgements about their epistemology if they approached certain questions in a more primitive fashion than say, the Greeks?
    Doesn't this challenge the narrative of Chazal using 'the best science of their time'?

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  27. Intressante point, and quite subtle. As related to that, here's another common mistake: "chazal" never made any mistakes, period. "Chazal" never said anything at all.

    What we call "chazal" consists of thousands of individuals [a few hundred of whom are primary] in different countries, over hundreds of years. Attributing a statement to "chazal", when in reality it is only the statement of one man, gives it a cachet of acceptability and credibility to which it's not really entitled. To be fair, this is also true of mistakes of "chazal" - they might only be the mistakes of one man, not the entire period.

    This is a very important point I've not seen addressed.

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  28. Hmmm, I wonder if it wasn't Tradition or Torah uMaddah Journal that had that article on Chazal and science, but rather Gil Student.
    http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_method.html

    In the essay, he discusses Chazal's use of experimentation and consulations with experts.

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  29. You are making an historical mistake ( which is unfortunate for someone who studies history) by projecting a post-enlightenment idea of what science consists in onto premoderns.

    The hard distinctions between philosophy and science (empiricism) and between philosophy and theology (Kant) did not emerge until much later.

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  30. Much of this essay appears to me to be mistaken. I believe the foundational mistake ultimately stems from your uncritical extrapolation from “..one definition, science is systematized knowledge derived from observation, and experimentation carried out in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied.” Let me briefly expand – but first dispatch another mistaken assertion about a simple fact.

    You state “To my knowledge, it wasn't as though the steady-state theory was based upon any experimentation. Rather, it was simply a holdover from the beliefs of antiquity”. This is simply false and belittles the ingeniously innovative contributions of some gifted scientists . Whatever a bunch of dead Greeks might have held, the “modern” steady state theory was first promulgated in the late 1940s in direct challenge to the common wisdom at a time when almost all physicists believed in a dynamically expanding universe with a temporal starting point. This latter belief had gained practically universal currency by the late 1920s as expanding Friedman (who took the dynamic solutions to Einstein’s field equations p’shuto k’mashmo’oh, which Einstein himself did not) universes became the baseline norm. It was essentially philosophical uneasiness with the common wisdom that led to the new steady state theories (on Hoyle’s part, it was unhappiness with the then two billion year estimate for the age of universe that flowed from the unmodified field equations, which was approximately the same number back then for the age of the earth. That didn’t seem reasonable. On Gold’s part it was a philosophical conjecture that the universe should look the same everywhere, in time or space – the so called cosmological principle) and new solutions to a modified set of gravitational field equations that exhibited a time axis open to the past.

    Mistakes such as above are easy to dispatch, since, as noted by the late great Patrick Moynihan, people aren’t entitled to their own facts. Arguments about taxonomy – such as what is “scientific” or not falls under “opinion” where Moynihan reminds us we are indeed entitled to our own. So I will not characterize your opinions here as mistakes, only note I disagree with them. Thus it’s my own opinion that not everything that is scientific is derived from experimentation or observation. Else we should have a difficult time justifying, say, string theory - which is so far neither, as a scientific enterprise. (By the way it is for similar reasons that I reject the far more common distinguishing characteristic of a “scientific” theory due to Karl Popper as something that is “falsifiable” or not). Finally I also reject your implied requirement that to make a “scientific” mistake, it is incumbent that the mistaker actually be the one personally engaged in the putative scientific exercise. I believe the language suffers a scientific mistake to be made when one simply quotes the mistaken conclusions of other scientists. Those who believed back when in the phlogiston theory of heat stuff didn’t all work on it themselves, they were just quoting others who developed the common wisdom. Yet most people would agree they were making a scientific mistake. Similarly perhaps when ancients mention dirt-mice or whatever, they are merely quoting common scientific wisdom (perhaps developed by scientists who observed mice crawling out of a pile of dirt or something) and I’d characterize it as a scientific mistake. You may disagree.

    Not being a philosophical kind of guy – sporadic attempts to read such stuff in the past only left me with headaches – I restrict my remarks here to your assertions about the scientific world, although I suspect I disagree with you here too.

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  31. While the issue of "scientific error" may be partly a question of semantics, I tend to agree with R' Natan's position. There is a distinction, in principle between scientific errors and errors about scientific matters or nature. The sages succumbed to the latter. There is little evidence that they carefully investigated some natural phenomena before arriving at erroneous conclusions. Stating that the sun goes above the 'rakia' at night is not a scientific hypothesis. It is pure conjecture presumably based on a reluctance to accept that the sun passes at night under the earth, i.e., the realm of the 'underworld'. Given 2 possible scenarios, they chose the more complicated one. Their model required the assumption that the 'rakia' was opaque, but that there were openings in the east and west for the sun to pass through. In contrast, the assumption that the sun traveled around the earth is simpler.

    I also tend to agree with R' Natan about the likely motivation for the steady-state view of the universe. Besides, the fact that it was the position of the classical philosophers, it avoided the issue of accounting for beginnings. Nor was this hypothesis easily swept away with the advent of the big-bang theory. It only lost adherents as evidence began to mount for the correctness of the big-bang model. The final blow was Penzias' discovery in 1964 (some 2 decades after the onset of the dispute) of the microwave cosmic radiation that had been predicted by the big-bang proponents. Despite that, however, I would agree with Mechy that one can't simply categorize the steady-state model of Hoyle and Gold as 'non-scientific'. The 2 were leading astrophysicists who were able to marshal supportive scientific arguments. It's just that they were working with an incorrect paradigm.

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  32. R' Slifkin - I think there's a slight breakdown in your analogy. Science is an investigation of the natural world by means of a particular approach (the scientific method). Therefore, if one does not use the scientific method as the basis for their conclusions, they simply, as you put it with respect to YECs, "are not doing science."

    Philosophy, unlike science, is not defined by a particular approach, and can be understood as encompassing any thoughts/ideas addressing metaphysics (including the nature of God). There's thus no easy way to describe someone who writes in those areas as "not doing philosophy" or reason not to say that they made a philosophical mistake (even if their personal reaction would be "philosophy? bleh, ptooey")

    (btw, I'm not the "Akiva" who commented on your "cartoonish" diagram :) )

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  33. Well, if you define philosophy that way, then you're correct. But I don't think that most scholars, or even Rishonim, would define it that way. Think about how the word פילוסופיא is used in traditional Jewish sources.

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  34. “While the issue of "scientific error" may be partly a question of semantics, I tend to agree with R' Natan's position. There is a distinction, in principle between scientific errors and errors about scientific matters or nature. The sages succumbed to the latter..”

    Ok. I give up. I don’t see the diyyuq but then you guys are probably just too subtle for me.

    “I also tend to agree with R' Natan about the likely motivation for the steady-state view of the universe. Besides, the fact that it was the position of the classical philosophers, it avoided the issue of accounting for beginnings. Nor was this hypothesis easily swept away with the advent of the big-bang theory. It only lost adherents as evidence began to mount for the correctness of the big-bang model. The final blow was Penzias' discovery in 1964 ..”

    Here we will simply disagree – indeed this time I don’t even understand your position (wait – I didn’t understand the first matter either). I emphasize that we are not talking about a dispute in scientific matters here, but rather a dispute over history – intellectual history if you will. And since Rabbi Natan, I am given to understand, now aspires to more serious studies as a historian, it ill behooves him to toss off historically sloppy one liners that may compromise his future distinguished (I have no doubt) professional standing -unless of course he only aspires to be Rabbi Wein. By the late 1940s expanding universes had long been accepted by EVERYBODY – even Einstein who had by then concluded his earlier rejection of his own solutions was his “biggest scientific mistake”. And with an expanding universe universally accepted, naturally everybody simply wound the equations backward to note the beginning of the expansion and voila, a start to it all. This common wisdom of a start to the universe was the common wisdom of ALL astrophysicists at the time, well prior to the experimental discoveries of Penzias and Wilson some decades later. The ideas of the classical philosophers were indeed “easily swept away” by the late twenties, so there was absolutely no continuity between ancient cosmic speculations by a couple of Greeks who sat around staring at their navels and the new theories propounded decades later almost simultaneously by Hoyle, Gold, and Bondi (I should also have given credit in the first note to the latter, who was Gold’s collaborator. additionally there were distinct differences between Hoyle’s version and G-B). Incidentally, an expanding universe – which led everybody else to assume its finite duration – was also accepted by Hoyle/Gold/Bondi whose insight it was that dynamic expansion could yet be accommodated within a steady state universe with no wind-back to a start to the expansion. The steady state theory gained at least some traction in the physics community until Penzias and Wilson’s discovery convinced almost but not all (certainly not Hoyle) that the hot big bang was correct.

    As a curious and almost certainly irrelevant aside, I can actually claim a sort of tortured 3 degree of separation connection to Penzias. It turns out my kids living in Highland Park NJ, whom reb YA knows as well, bought the Penzias’s old house. So we can try to channel the modern discovery of the universe while washing ham’motzih using the Penzias’s pesach sink. Cool.

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  35. Mechy, I don't know why you're focused on when the hypothesis of an expanding universe was accepted. I agree that Hubble's work on the recession of distant galaxies was generally accepted by the 30s. I (and R' Natan) had addressed only the issue of a steady-state model of the universe. While the Greek philosophers may not have realized that the universe is expanding and considered the system to be static, their view is still analogous to the dynamic universe of modern steady-state theoreticians. For both, the universe always was and always will be with neither beginning nor end. In order to compensate for the increase in space produced by the expansion, the modern steady-staters, apparently, had to assume the creation of sufficient new matter to keep the density constant. It certainly appears to be more of a philosophical approach than one based on evidence , even if the associated astrophysicists used scientific arguments to support their position.

    By the way, regards to BZ and best wishes to all for a Chanukah same'ach.

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  36. The reason i focused on an expanding universe is because it was accepted by everybody to simultaneously require a finite lifetime - by winding the expansion back to its start at 0 radius. And with that acceptance there was no longer any continuity with Plato or any ancient cosmological-philosophical conceptions of eternity of matter or whatever. It was only the work of the new guys decades later (whose introduction of the completely new conjecture of continuous creation of new matter) allowed a break in the lockstep association of expansion with finitude. on Hoyle's part at least, this required clever new modification to the field equations. (let me also make the too technical point that this work was also driven by new observations which had to be explained, namely the value of the Hubble constant, whose measured value at that time made Hoyle mightily unhappy)

    to think this is merely a continuation of ancient greek speculations makes about as much sense to me as suggesting that modern paleontologists studying dinasours and geologic ages of the earth are merely repeating "holdover" ideas of antiquity, such as midroshim about earlier destroyed worlds.

    Anyway, that's it. i've exhausted this topic probably your patience and am beginning to feel like the proverbial dog who won't let go of the bone. So if anyone is still paying attention they can make up their own minds.

    Meanwhile,happy chanukoh to one and all and will pass on regards to Betzalel and Shana who just rolled in an hour ago.

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