Thursday, January 20, 2011

Seriously and Literally.

Several weeks back, I received an email from a prominent scholar. He sent me this link, with the following note:

Is this guy Betech insane? I am asking the question seriously.


Yesterday, a different person, in response to the discussion at this link, sent me the following note:

I am beginning to suspect that Dr. Ostroff is literally (and I use the word "literally" in its literal sense) mentally ill.


It's quite painful to wade through the linked discussions, but those who are willing to torture themselves may find it interesting. The parallels between Isaac Betech and Jonathan Ostroff are quite remarkable. It's not about weird beliefs - after all, one person's weird belief is another person's obvious fact. Rather, it's about the way in which they are incapable of having a sane discussion. When challenged with a simple question, they constantly change the subject to their favorite topic, like a broken record, and yet they claim that they have answered the objection. It's hard to describe; you have to read it to believe it.

But unlike my correspondents, I don't think that this is actually a clinical condition that's somewhere in the DSM-IV. I think it's just a very extreme case of cognitive dissonance - the same condition that makes Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechoffer claim that when Rabbeinu Bechaya describes the kidneys as tools of etzah (which are therefore responsible for sin), this has absolutely nothing to do with the Gemara saying that the kidneys give etzah.

I'd be interested to hear any insights into such people and how to deal with them.

75 comments:

  1. This shows you what you are fighting. You are not fighting people who have a false but honest understanding of science or Torah. You are fighting a spirit of dishonesty and deceit. I suggest you continue the fight the way you do. Do not be irritated (too much). Do it with Simcha! They bring embarassment upon themselves. That is sad, but do not feel bad if it makes you smile.

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  2. If what you are saying is true why do you spend so much time arguing with them in the comments on their blogs?

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  3. I washed my hands of Betech a long time ago, and now I'm done with Ostroff. But I think it was valuable to illustrate how seriously off they are.

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  4. "Rather, it's about the way in which they are incapable of having a sane discussion."

    Actually, they are very capable of having a sane discussion -- if the people they're talking with might eventually agree with them. In a way, you too are incapable of having a sane discussion with those who disagree with you on certain issues -- even if you do use better scholarship and logic -- since, after all, it takes two to have a discussion.

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  5. They're Coming to Take Me AwayJanuary 20, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    I would recommend R. D. Laing's "Sanity, Madness and the Family." The thesis of the book--that double-message, obfuscating communication causes schizophrenia--has been rejected. But its transcripts of such conversations in about ten families show parents engaged in confusing messages meant to control their children and keep them in a state of subservience. These are certainly "crazy making" communications in a general, neurosis-generating way. Communication is never clear, and there are often two simultaneous, self-contradictory messages. I was particularly reminded of this when Rabbi Bechoffer switched from the claim that Chazal's description of the kidneys giving counsel is metaphoric to citing a medical study that people with kidney disorders are depressed--apparently (although not explicitly) contradicting his other thesis. Or, I would say, using both arguments simultaneously. Somewhat similar was his saying that R. Slifkin's thoughts on Chazal's experiences of revelations of Eliyahu was central to the discussion and then stating that for him (R. Bechoffer) this issue was not relevant.

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  6. Actually as I read Dr. Betech's responses I initially thought they were auto-generated, as they clearly reminded me of ELIZA, the original auto-response pattern matching AI-like programs from 40 years ago. Because he is doing EXACTLY what that program does, not answering but including 1 or 2 words of your answer back to you in a question.

    This is complete avoidance. He's NOT trying to analyze or answer the questions raised, EVER. He's repetitively pointing everyone at YOUR (R. Slifkin's) answers, though loading the thought process first with "there's a problem there", but never identifying what.

    It's not insanity, it's obsession.

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  7. I'd be interested to hear any insights into such people and how to deal with them.

    1 – Try to ignore them most of the time.
    2 – If you do engage them in conversation, do not attack them with name-calling under any circumstances (eg: “idiot” ) and no matter how infuriating they are to deal with. Also, do not stoop to their level by publically attacking them with smears as they do to you. Do not refer to them as having mental illness as it does nothing to help you and only makes you look as small and petty as your opponents.
    3 – Continue focusing on your work. Keep your eye on the ball (or the sphere). Your detractors are a dime a dozen. Nowadays few people care about the controversies and politics that abounded in the days of the Rambam. We are left with the immense work of the Rambam, and that is what is studied and what is lasting. Ditto for other controversies in our history. Piskei halacha by gedolim with no explanations as well as the bans, kol korehs and pashkevils all fade into oblivion with time.
    4 – Remember that one of the measures that you are engaged in something worthwhile is when you are branded as “controversial” by detractors, opponents and the ignorant masses. The ignorant masses are sheep, the oiylam is a goiylam. But those of us who have not checked our brains in at the door will appreciate your work. We are in the minority. But then again, so are the Jews in the world. Never mind all that, just keep working. One day your books may be as widely read and studied as the Rambam’s are. Though unfortunately for you, it will probably not be in your lifetime.

    Prophet Michapeset has spoken.

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  8. I'd say welcome to the world of internet trolling, but I know people like this in real life. Many people are simply not intellectually honest. No matter how much proof you may bring, they are only interested in promoting their opinion and rejecting your proofs because they do not sound good to their logic.

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  9. This is very dangerous ground to tread on in public. Accusing your opponents of mental illness takes all debate from an objective level to a series personal accusations. You risk having this kind of accusation rebound on you and having it appear as though you are the mentally ill person, not the people on the other side.

    I think the broader issue is that the assumptions held by both sides are fundamentally different and neither side is actually capable of accepting the other sides basic premises.

    I would consider withdrawing this post quickly and if needed apologize for its posting before things get out of hand.

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  10. Um, it wasn't me that accused them of mental illness, it was two (very serious people) who wrote to me to propose it. But I have modified the post to reflect my view that it is in fact just some very extreme cases of cognitive dissonance.

    I think the broader issue is that the assumptions held by both sides are fundamentally different and neither side is actually capable of accepting the other sides basic premises.

    Did you read the linked discussions? It's way beyond that.

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  11. They have certain belief's that they hold true and therefore everything they read is reinterpreted to fit with their beliefs. Everyone does it. The question is, how much longer are you going to talk about them? The best way to handle it is to ignore it. People like them will never stop and their followers will never stop. The only thing to do is to ignore them.

    I had a discussion with someone a week ago about how could someone be an atheist and a Jew, don't those things contradict each other. He gave me some bogus answer: Anyone has a right to define Judaism any way they want. I guess the same is true about these people. They are defining it in such a way that excludes your views, no matter how many rishonim, achronim or anyone else you bring down, they will say you are a kofer and ignore your arguments.

    It is best to ignore these people. Especially since you can really have an impact on young MO minds or Chareidi minds that are going off the derech. Your time arguing with them could be used to influence some high schoolers that need reinforcement and like biology.

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  12. E-Man, did you read the linked discussions? The point is not that they are closed to different ideas. The point is that they are apparently unable to understand simple questions that have been posed to them, or to recognize that they have not addressed these questions.

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  13. 1. R' Natan, I think it would have been wiser and more appropriate to post the links without the comments from the anonymous scholars.

    2. Michapeset, in one paragraph you mention how "Piskei halacha by gedolim with no explanations ... all fade into oblivion with time" and how "We are left with the immense work of the Rambam, and that is what is studied and what is lasting."
    The work of the Rambam is primarily piskei halacha with no explanations.

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  14. I know they do not answer the questions. However, they THINK they are answering the questions and that their views are right no matter what you say. In essence you are giving "the baby it's bottle" by showing them this attention. Anyone who has a conversation with either of these individuals and they disagree with them will clearly see how pointless a conversation with them is.

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  15. Rav Natan,

    Here's my theory. Betech is very sane. Its a deliberate strategy. He's smart enough to realize that once logic and history are introduced his worldview falls apart. So he takes the approach of Dovid Hamelech. He pretends to be insane, blubbering meaningless statements, making irrelevant statements etc...

    His goal is for you to stop engaging in your critique because you come to realize how futile it is. And indeed we see his strategy is working! Many people (like Moshe Raphael, D, Pliny etc..) are encouraging you to give up the fight.

    I personally don't believe you can give it up as you are in a unique position to expose the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the worldview you are fighting.

    Hazak Ve'ematz!!!

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  16. It took only one or two comments from dr betech until I stopped commenting on their hate-blog. nd after only a few comments of my own I realized that he is deceptive and unwilling to use reason. He is stuck on his thesis that 'rabbi slifkin is kefira' like its a mantra or his 14th principle of faith and no logical challenge to his odd statements and inconsistencies will shake him from that dogma

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  17. In discussions dealing with issues of religious beliefs and dogma people very often strongly disagree with each other. Sometimes the discussions are fruitful, not because one side convinces the other of the correctness of its position (which very rarely happens) but because it clarifies the different paradigms from which each side is viewing the issue. At that point the sides can agree to disagree, happy that their differences have been clarified, and move on.

    That's NOT what's happening in the linked conversations with Betech and Ostroff.

    Those conversations take on a surreal quality, where everything said to them is either ignored or distorted, and a general atmosphere of instability permeates the conversation. They refuse to concede or even address objectively obvious points. They obsessively stick to one point, which they repeat like a mantra. They seem almost like automatons.

    While I don't know if these symptoms are addressed in the DSM, I happen to personally know someone who suffers from the symptoms identified above. People who don't know that person usually find that person to be mildly irritating. But family members consider that person to be "whacko," and don't engage that person in heavy conversation. Family members have to stay on guard not to get sucked in, because sometimes one takes something that the person said seriously, forgetting that the person is "whacko."

    Fortunatley, I don't have to engage such people in heavy conversation if I choose not to.

    I feel sorry for you R. Slifkin inasmuch as you are under constant attack by Ostroff and Betech, and people who aren't in the know are not aware that they are "whacko." You are left with the choice of engaging them for the purpose of defending your reputation and setting the record straight, or ignoring them and letting accusations and distortions against you stand. Neither choice is very pleasant.

    I suggest that you do address their points when they distort your views, for the purpose of setting the record straight. However, after you state your initial position, do not engage them further. Try not to get too sucked in.

    Good luck.

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  18. Have you ever seen RYGB write about the mabul? I have, and that's why I had his number years ago. Just because someone can sound sensible doesn't mean he or she is.

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  19. Don't you see that the very same complaints that you have about your opponents, they could well have about you? And if you respond, "well, of course they do, but I'm right about it and they aren't...after all I have the facts to back me up!" - don't you realize that they could well say the same thing? This type of discussion doesn't produce any valuable results. In fact, as others have already mentioned here, your calling them "insane" debases your role in the discussion, and only makes you look bad. And I don't buy the whole "it's not me who called them insane - it's the anonymous people I quoted." If you quote it, you bought it.

    Based upon what I just wrote, I would say that you should respond to their points, not attack them personally. If you feel that you have responded to all their points, explain why/how that is so, and then ignore them and move on. You will come out looking much better than the way you look by appearing to "whine" about it and allude to the idea that they are "insane." This is no way for a scholar to argue.

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  20. "Don't you see that the very same complaints that you have about your opponents, they could well have about you?"

    No, I don't think so. Did you read the linked discussions?

    Again, it's not about me having the right facts/interpretations and them having the wrong ones. It's about the apparent inability to understand the question being asked, the inability to assess whether one has responded to it, and the obsession with repeating certain statements like a mantra.

    And I don't buy the whole "it's not me who called them insane - it's the anonymous people I quoted." If you quote it, you bought it.

    My point was that I don't think that they are insane - at least, not in the clinical sense. I just think that's very extreme cognitive dissonance that leads to a very bizarre form of discussion. "Insane" in the colloquial sense, but not seriously and literally.

    This is no way for a scholar to argue.

    Ordinarily, scholars are disputed by other scholars, or at least laymen who argue in a rational manner. This is something else entirely. Look, I wouldn't apply this description to Simcha Coffer, even though his views are the same as those of Betech and Ostroff. It's not a matter of their views; it's the very bizarre way of conducting a debate.

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  21. I have to say this blog is a bit of disappointed. I was hoping it would be about "torah and science" and history of rationalist approach (such as Rambam and Ralbag). While many of your posts go that way, more and more entries deal with petty fights and personal insults. My suggestion for a better blog would be:

    1. No posts about pointless attacks. There is nothing constructive about that. This would include posts about failures of your detractors.

    2. No posts dedicated to answers to personal insults and name-calling.

    3. No posts returning to a topic without bringing anything new (just because some comments didn't like the original post).

    Maybe it would be also good to make your papers available for free after 6 months or so... Just a suggestion.

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  22. I think it is vital to listen to multiple viewpoints, especially those you feel are completely wrong, to sharpen one’s own thinking. That said, it is highly unlikely that one will ever convince an ideological opponent by the strength of your argument so one should draw a line at the point of diminishing returns. For some intriguing insights into research on the use of facts in disputation, see: http://tinyurl.com/28pxyka.

    That said, in these matters, I also see another stumbling block. The RW Orthodox have effectively banned any engagement with ideas beyond their own particular “daas torah” for so many years now, that many lack the skills to engage in an intellectual debate without resort to name-calling and intimidation (as we have seen most recently with RYGB). RYGB is surely a smart man with immense book knowledge and Rabbinical provenance, but his ability to argue outside of the comfort-zone of his cohorts fell flat. This was evident from his initial comments on RHM’s blog and became increasingly obvious as the debate continued on your blog.

    Sadly, this is not just a problem in the Charedi/Chassidic world, but in YU’s Centrist Orthodoxy as well.

    בן זומא אומר, איזה הוא חכם--הלמד מכל אדם

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  23. It is difficult to have a discussion with someone who does not share the same basic assumptions. I would hope that most share the assumption that logic and science have value. If your basic assumption is that something somebody once said trumps any other piece of evidence, there is no chance of common ground. I sometimes wonder if anyone ever changes their mind about topics based on what they read in blogs or based on discussions in comments. To do so requires someone who is open to ideas that might be different than their own.

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  24. [Sigh]

    If anyone would like me to explain the pshat in Rabbeinu Bachye to them, I can be reached at 845.481.0613.

    KT,
    YGB

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  25. This is why in formal writing you have to define your terms.

    I believe what you are experiencing is a severe case of cross communication where each participant reads what they assume the other person is going to say before they actually read what is written.

    Just as he thought you were going to be flippant even though you were not, and you thought he believed in super science chazal, even though he did not. Once those assumptions were made, nothing else could be said on the matter.

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  26. I would suggest-to be more humble.
    I would only discuss your facts and point of view and never get personal-even if you are attacked personally.

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  27. Mad Hatter writes: "Many people (like Moshe Raphael, D, Pliny etc..) are encouraging you to give up the fight."

    I wouldn't put myself in this category. All I'm aiming for is for R' Slifkin to examine his techniques of refuting his opponents, not to give up on refuting them.

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  28. I don't think that RYB has been particularly "intimidating," particularly in comparison to R'Slifkin's prior experiences.

    I also appreciate RYB willingness to openly debate these ideas. He can certainly debate primary sources with RNS any day of the week, even if I grant RNS the presumption that he has investigated the Torah/science issue, in general more thoroughly (I don't know if this is true, but I assume this).

    They probably have different underlying assumptions regarding the appropriateness of when, if ever, to assert that chazal erred, and I believe this underlies much of their disagreements.

    The difference between these underlying assumptions becomes very stark indeed when dealing with life or death discussions.

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  29. There's a phrase in English (I don't know how it translates into Hebrew):

    . . . It's like arguing with a drunk.


    You think you've proven something logically, but the drunk just doesn't hear it. And he uses yet another approach to show that you're wrong. And you answer that with logic . . .

    And when the discussion is finished (because you're tired), he says:

    . . . "See -- I won the argument!"

    With a _real_ drunk, you can wait till the next morning when he's sober, or you can walk away.

    With Betech and others, you can only walk away.

    . Charles Cohen,
    . Richmond BC, Canada

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  30. R. Slifkin,

    I had an exchange with RYGB which in the end revealed the fact that he is very suspicious of the motives and yirat shamaym of anyone who engages in any academic study of Judaism. This colors his opinions on anything and anyone who takes an academic approach to a given topic, even the girsa of a gemara.

    Everyone from Chazal to the Rishonim to the achronim to the contemporary gedolim get a major presumption of being right about everything. This, according to RYGB, is the meaning of mesora, and is thus a basic and necessary belief of sincere frum people. And since the academic enterprise dispenses with the idea that anyone simply has a such a presumption to rightness about everything, academics cannot be frum.

    By adopting an increasingly academic approach in which you abandon the presumption to rightness in all matters, you have jumped ship and he no longer has to engage what you say, but simply question your ideological commitments, (which he himself clarified himself as doing on Gil's blog.)

    So any normal conversation is impossible. You are trying to debate the truth, he thinks that your commitment to getting at the truth is itself wrong, so what kind of conversation ensues... the pathetic roundabout circumlocutions that make it seem like your interlocutors are insane.

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  32. On my post-grad studies I've dealt enough with this kind of people. Very briefly (because this go really go for a whole post-grad. course,) on my experience, and based in Aristotle, you should:

    1 - Expose their premises as they put them, rephrasing without adding. This is the initial step of engaging in any discussion. If they are (wrongly) commenting an article of yours, expose how their views on the subject.

    2 - Show your disagreement. It can be:

    2.1 - You hold an ethical disagreement. This means that both of you do not have an absolute proof and each of you DECIDE to stick with this or that position. Of course the decision itself may be argued, but in many cases people just won't. In any case, the roots of ethical disagreement must be fully exposed. I've written about that here in the comments of one of your articles: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6906205856510467947&postID=6188178881693813358

    2.2 - Intrinsic contradiction: A particular position or statement your opponent holds is opposite to his own admitted views.

    2.3 - Extrinsic contradiction: A particular position or statement he holds contradicts mutually accepted data (or data that once introduced would be mutually accepted).

    3 - In the course of this showing you must narrow his "escape routes" as much as possible. Always focus in the source of the disagreement and always expose it.

    4 - Whenever he uses eristic arguments intentionally expose them in all detail. It surely will discourage him to use them again.

    In most of the cases, the problem is that you must recognize what "Reality" does your opponent works with. Statements like: "There are..." or "Scientists believe." or "Gedolim say" are all good examples. Then, you must expose it and say why it is not valid.

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  33. Some worthy books on the subject:

    a - Schopenhauer: The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty Eight Ways to Win When You Are Defeated. This one is a must. Arthur brings these eristic arguments for you to study them and avoid being caught by them or unintentionally use them. He wrote to expose some of Hegel's fallacies but Hegel died before it was published and he forgot about it. Only was published after his death.

    b - Aristotle: Books on Dialetics (Topica), Sofistic and Rethoric. Although I would seriously recommend for you to read his complete works (Barnes translation is great as is bilingual from Loeb Classics. Great books is OK) as all of scientific methodology is still based in Aristotle. (and, yes, not only Aristotle's principles are superior than Popper's falseability he solves the problems that comes with the acceptance of the latter's idea)

    c - Chaim Perelman: The New Rhetoric: Treatise on Argumentation. Personally I have some differences in Perelman's comprehension of Rethorics but it is a very nice book.

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  34. and you thought he believed in super science chazal, even though he did not.

    Rabbi Bechoffer claimed that Ramban knew about adrenal glands connecting to serotonin receptors in the brain. Sure sounds like "super science" to me.

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  35. Rabbi Slifkin,

    “Exploring the legacy of the rationalist medieval Torah scholars, and various other notes”

    Your blog was, ostensibly, conceived for the express purpose of exploring the rationalistic approach to Judaism as explicated by the medieval Rishonim. As such, one would expect to find posts designed specifically towards developing the aforementioned academic pursuit. Unfortunately, it seems you have somewhat misrepresented your intentions. Case in point. Your current post is bereft of any academic substance whatsoever; rather, you have used your venue in a shameless attempt to malign your protagonists while apparently drawing a sense of vindication (and satisfaction?) from supporting comments.

    I understand that some of your works have been banned without detailed explanation from the banners and this irritates you. I understand that on occasion your opinions and views might possibly, in your opinion, be misunderstood and even misrepresented by others and this aggravates you. But this does not excuse the blatant violation of your very own stated mandate. Your post is inexcusable. Frankly I need to strongly reconsider ever returning to your site again. And while this obviously makes no difference to you, I nonetheless choose to inform you of my resentment regarding your behavior.

    You want to run a “rationalist” site? Great. Do so! But be prepared for dissenting views. If you feel they have merit, respond to them. If not, don’t respond to them. But that’s it. Dedicating an entire post to plebian attacks against your detractors falls squarely outside the parameters of your stated mandate for this site and demeans the nature of any dialogue herewith.

    For the record, I have known Dr. Ostroff and Dr. Betech for many years now and I can honestly say that I cannot think of two individuals who pursue the truth to a greater degree than they do. You may not like their style but that’s ok; they don’t like your style either. I can’t however recall either one of them ever publicly intimating that you are insane! And one thing is for sure; they never came onto your personal site and insulted you!

    Anonymous “prominent scholars” notwithstanding, my advice to you is to stick to the substance. Mudslinging doesn’t help your cause. All it does is demonstrate the presence of a deep-seated emotional opposition which often-times clouds one’s mind and does not allow one to see the truth.

    Sincerely,

    Simcha Coffer

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  36. But be prepared for dissenting views.

    It's not dissenting views that bother me. Your views are the same as theirs, and I've never done such a post about you. This post is about their inability to comprehend what people are saying and to correctly assess whether they have responded to it.

    For the record, I have known Dr. Ostroff and Dr. Betech for many years now and I can honestly say that I cannot think of two individuals who pursue the truth to a greater degree than they do.

    That doesn't exactly reflect well on you.

    You may not like their style but that’s ok; they don’t like your style either. I can’t however recall either one of them ever publicly intimating that you are insane!

    Presumably, because I'm not. Look, I had to explain to Ostroff EIGHT TIMES that he was entirely fabricating a position of mine before he acknowledged that I was correct! Why on earth did it take so many times? I was perfectly clear each time as to how he was completely making up my position. And each time he wrote a response to my objection, thereby claiming to have read it. But only after spelling it out eight times did he admit that he hadn't remotely responded to what I was saying! Is that normal?!

    All it does is demonstrate the presence of a deep-seated emotional opposition which often-times clouds one’s mind and does not allow one to see the truth.

    Ah yes, if I comment on Ostroff's self-admitted inability to understand the same simple point until made eight times, it must demonstrate that (unlike him), I am emotional and unable to see the truth!

    Frankly I need to strongly reconsider ever returning to your site again.

    Well then, there's at least one good thing to have come out of this post. But if you don't blog about me, are you sure that you can find meaning in life?

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  37. But be prepared for dissenting views. If you feel they have merit, respond to them. If not, don’t respond to them.

    And what about people who distort my views, and I have to point it out eight times before they acknowledge it, and meanwhile they are also distorting other positions of mine? Such people are not worthy of engaging in discussion, even if I had the time; but since they continue to falsify and distort my views, it is useful to point out how downright strange these people are.

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  38. Simcha Coffer, that is so funny when you say

    "I understand that on occasion your opinions and views might possibly, in your opinion, be misunderstood and even misrepresented by others and this aggravates you. But this does not excuse the blatant violation of your very own stated mandate. Your post is inexcusable. Frankly I need to strongly reconsider ever returning to your site again. And while this obviously makes no difference to you, I nonetheless choose to inform you of my resentment regarding your behavior."

    I feel the same way about you. How you sometimes lie and misrepresent people's opinions. It is so reprehensible that I refuse to return to your site except I wish to discuss some things with Rabbi Lampel. He is probably the only honest and respectful person from your "hate RNS blog."

    The best example of your misrepresentation is claiming no one thinks Rambam held the six days of creation are non-literal. That was a laugh, especially after I brought down source after source proving you wrong and you just happened to reinterpret the blatant statements of rishonim and achronim. That was a hoot and a hollar. Especially after Rabbi Lampel agreed that there were such achronim that interpreted the Rambam in such a way. Maybe you should stay off this site and the internet in general. I don't think you can handle it.

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  39. What personal need do you have to have to continue eight times?
    You have stated your point that someone else distorts what you say.That should end it.
    Unless there are other reasons for continuing.

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  40. For some reason, some of the comments only showed up a long time after they were submitted, so if people want to read all the comments on this thread, make sure to go through it again from the top. Some especially interesting new ones came in.

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  41. Come on you guys (and gals). Look at my comments in that thread with isaac and look at the fraud he perpetrates in response. A suspicion that the manner in which he responds is emblematic of mental illness cannot be ignored, tho I'm no expert on that.

    But this goes WAY beyond an issue of mere "differing assumptions." It's like trying to discuss something with a Communist Regime's chief of propaganda.

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  42. It is so reprehensible that I refuse to return to your site except I wish to discuss some things with Rabbi Lampel. He is probably the only honest and respectful person from your "hate RNS blog."

    Actually I was very disappointed with Rabbi Lampel, with his absurd and slanderous claim that I used a "cartoonish" depiction of the rakia in order to "ridicule" Chazal, ch"v.

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  43. @Josh:
    It's upsetting enough to have your morals and intellect questioned because of what you wrote, but it's absolutely infuriating to receive that same treatment based on a gross, unreasonable and at-times malicious misapprehension of what you meant.

    I've sometimes entertained the thought that it would be great to achieve immortality in olam hazeh by writing a book that will withstand the ravages of time. Then, when I see how badly R' Slifkin's writings are twisted by some into saying things it never said (and this is even when he's alive to aggressively defend himself), I'm relieved of such desires.

    R' Slikin, you're made of sterner stuff than me. Keep up the good work.

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  44. By the way, Rabbi Coffer, I had actually expected and hoped that you were going to disassociate yourself from Betech and Ostroff's style of discussion. I am disappointed in you.

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  45. R'Slifkin,

    As others have already opined, I think Dr. Betech is very sane. He has, probably with the Kaskama of those he considers Daas Torah, concluded that you and your minions are apikorsim, and that it is therefore a mitzvah to treat you with an approach of "Af atah hakheh es shinav". In fact I would not be surpised if Dr. B. and his supoprters sit around and chuckle at the ongoing irritation he manages to continue to casue you with his deliberately nonsensical rhetoric.

    Just my two cents.

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  46. Disappointed and SadJanuary 21, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Dear Rabbi Coffer,

    While I do not sympathize with much of what Rabbi Slifkin writes, those condemning him have undermined emunas hakhamim much more than he ever has.

    I conclude that putting people into cherem for expressing their ideas is wrong if we truly care l'hagdil torah.

    Sincerely,
    Sad and Disappointed

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  47. I read the exchange with Ostroff. It seems to me that his comments represent stubbornness to get his point across first. Many times I've debated a fellow and made a good point to which he had no response. Instead of acknowledging it, though, my opponent would hammer with a point of his own. Every time I'd try and steer the conversation back to my point, he would respond by pounding his point. That's what happened there. It isn't insanity. It's "me first".

    R' N. I call upon you to abandon all name-calling and stick to the merits of your position. I've mentioned before that as a person in the thick of the debate you aren't equipped to recognize malice vs. honest error in your opponents. The truly mature debater will have the humility to accept that "maybe the other guy is right, but I just don't think he is." Your history of posts about your opponents that lack content on substance does not reflect well on you. (Although undoubtedly they are very therapeutic. I cannot imagine what it's like to be in your shoes).

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  48. RNS said

    "Actually I was very disappointed with Rabbi Lampel, with his absurd and slanderous claim that I used a "cartoonish" depiction of the rakia in order to "ridicule" Chazal, ch"v."

    Although foolish, this was not disrespectful or a distortion of your view. It was merely someone reading into a picture for no other reason than he takes part of an Anti-RNS blog. In and of itself it makes him foolish, but not as bad as the other three.

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  49. B”H

    L'maan HaTorah
    Please provide at least one example of my supposed “manipulation of facts” you have mentioned in this comment thread, I am ready to objectively analyze all of them.

    Regarding what you said about HaRab HaGaon Yagen shlit”a, I hope every Jew, will have the merit of provoking at least 1% of the Kidush Hashem he has produced all over the world in the last 50 years.

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  50. Interesting, albeit painful, discussion. I prefer "real" topics as opposed to discussions of "he said/he said" type.
    Nevertheless...
    R' Slifkin: your detractors are not going to stop. You will not argue, convince, prove, or persuade them to agree with you. Some of the more extreme will misquote, selectively quote, or even lie about you. You have chosen a path that is paved with controversy: that is your right.
    However, tacitly engaging in ad hominem attacks by posting characterizations (even by others) is unnecessary and should be avoided. Similarly, ascribing "cognitive dissonace" to others is improper. My advice: take the high road.
    Despite your request about how to deal with these people, my interest is in why you think you will be able to. Do you think that there is a rhetorical technique, a psychological approach, or a magic key that will give you the answer to why other people disagree with you? There are people in the world who don't like you, will twist what you say, and will try to make you crazy.
    Why are you letting them get to you?

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  52. B”H
    Dear L'maan HaTorah
    Thank you for your answer.

    You wrote:
    Is evolution a fact? (don't bother answering.)

    IB:
    Of course I can be wrong, but after 25 years of studying and debating the issue, nobody (including experts) has showed me one scientific proof supporting it. So how can I be accused of “manipulation of facts”?

    You wrote:
    BTW, If you're so sure of your stands, why don't you for once reveal to the world YOUR views instead of "refuting" others'.

    IB:
    If you know me, probably you know that I have B”H more than 3500 recorded public lectures.

    You wrote:
    … or are you denying that he "reveals" people's aveiros publicly?

    IB:
    I do not know your definition of “reveals”, but let me ask you a question, on the premise that we both are halachic Jews: has he transgressed deliberately and systematically any Halacha publicly?

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  53. "and you thought he believed in super science chazal, even though he did not.

    Rabbi Bechoffer claimed that Ramban knew about adrenal glands connecting to serotonin receptors in the brain. Sure sounds like "super science" to me."

    Not to get too far off topic, but there is a difference in suggesting that Chazal knew about adrenal glands and serotonin specifically, and suggesting that they confused the affects of adrenal glands with the affects of the Kidneys.

    It just so happens that the area around the kidneys, if damaged, might show some side affects regarding one's mental state. After all, ancient people thought that kidneys were the source of counsel for some reason. It wasn't just some random organ choice.

    If everyone in the world believed a certain fact for centuries at a time, and that fact turned out to be wrong... I think it is best that people understand why and how it came to be that so many smart people believed that wrong idea for such a long time.

    This has nothing to do with special super divine science that was known but hidden and allowed millions of people to die because of it being hidden.

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  54. Just to give you an idea R' Yagens' lectures frequently include telling people publicly about their sins (mostly masturbation or lack of tznius) thus appearing to be a seer

    Doctor, you sound clintonesque. This is what 'reveals' means. Does he do it or not?

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  56. Rabbi Slifkin,

    There is a reason that statements which go to an opponents' bias, mental health, cognitive dissonance etc. are typically dismissed in serious debate as ad hominem distractions.

    I think there sometimes is a place for claiming that your opponents are clearly biased or misinformed, but if you rely on this too often then it just distracts from the issue at hand. If you think that someone is not with debating, just stop debating them. Write something simple and neutral such as: Unfortunately, my schedule does not allow for me to participate in debates of this kind.

    Thanks for all the good work that you do.

    An Admirer

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  57. B”H
    Dear L'maan HaTorah
    Thank you for your answer.

    You wrote:
    … that by misusing terms like SCIENTIFIC METHOD you undermine real evidence supporting evolution of the species and all other "controversial" issues.

    IB:
    This is a very good point, let’s define the premises.
    My definition of Scientific Method is the following:

    A process that is the basis for scientific inquiry. The scientific method follows a series of steps: (1) identify a problem you would like to solve, (2) formulate a hypothesis, (3) test the hypothesis, (4) collect and analyze the data, (5) make conclusions.
    www.ncsu.edu/labwrite/res/res-glossary.html

    Do you agree?
    If not, please explain.

    You wrote:
    I've personally attended to about 25 of your lectures, and I can confidently say I've never heard what YOU hold, instead you always mislead your audience into thinking that scientist are a bunch of idiots that haven't thought about you OBVIOUS questions.

    IB:
    Since what you wrote, can be conceptualized as your opinion, instead I suggest the following:
    Please specify even one of these 25 lectures (title or at least subject, place, and approximate date) and I will B”H upload the whole recording of that lecture, then people will be able to analyze the contents of the lecture and your previously stated opinion.

    You wrote:
    BTW, this is a clear example of how you try to undermine facts with nonsensical questions.

    IB:
    Sorry, but following a systematic approach, let me ask you (before we continue analyzing this point):
    Do you agree with my premise that we both are Halachyk Jews?

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  58. To 'an admirer' - I think that you and others fail to realize (no offense) that this post is not "serious debate" or an attempt at anything similar because the hate-blog in question is itself not engaging in debate but simply distorting R Slifkins' views and then refuting straw men which are not his beliefs all the while insisting that they are his beliefs even when he publicly demonstrates on his own blog and on theirs that they have misrepresented his views. Such chicanery ceased to dignify or warrant substantive response long ago, and Rabbi Slifkin is partially expressing that with this post of his.

    Hypothetically, why would a scholar need to respond to a clown (a dishonest clown no less) or circus exhibit with serious debate? Debate was thrown out the window by the hate-blog and its propaganda.

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  59. To “L'maan HaTorah”:

    I don’t know who you are, but one thing I can tell you if you had Olam Haba (which I doubt you had due to the nature of your words) before you wrote those comments you LOST IT. To talk in such a way about people that the Gedole HaDor praise show who you are. To talk that way about people who are Mezake Et HaRabim has no easy forgiveness. For your knowledge –you, that suppose to be in “the cultured”- their Baale Teshuva include tens of thousands, not only in Latin America, but in North America, Central America, Europe and Asia, and their audience that you call “mostly uncultured” include PhDs, Doctors, and Assessors to Government personalities, including former US President, Top Scientific Researchers (as one of the top worldwide AIDS researchers), Microsoft Top Executives (that worked together with Bill Gates at the time he was Microsoft CEO), other Worldwide Software Industry Executives (including member of Eric Schmidt team, Google CEO), University Professors and recipient of Main Worldwide Scientific awards such as the Paul Erdos prize, Harvard Business School, Babson Business School, and Wharton Business School alumni among many others. These people not only have been part of what you call “mostly uncultured” audience but became Baale Teshuva and B”H today admirers of the Rabanim you have insulted publicly.
    But you don’t have to worry anymore about this discussion, after your words there’s only one thing you could do, actually you have too much to do in that area, run and ask them forgiveness –it’s not going to be easy-, because for me You lost it…

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  60. to E. Ackerman

    Lets try and avoid the scare tactics that the kiruv professionals thrive on. As an unbiased bystander, I will say that Dr. Betech has an unusual talent of writing full paragraphs that say nothing. Not to mention the ability to deflect any question by either changing the topic or asking the questioner to repeat his question.

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  61. "To talk in such a way about people that the Gedole HaDor praise show who you are."

    The Gedolei HaDor praised Leib Tropper endlessly.

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  62. 'Not to mention the ability to deflect any question by either changing the topic or asking the questioner to repeat his question'

    Or simply ignoring the question. Doctor, please prove me wrong.

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  63. E Ackerman, but isn't revealing people's aveiros in public being malbin pnei chaveiro berabim? Or you also don't know what is the meaning of 'reveal'?

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  66. GOD KNOWS WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE ALONE IN THE BATHROOM

    Assuming this is true this individual is a dangerous pervert and a fraud. Why would anyone with a kezais moach in his head think that he is a seer? Practically 100 percent of men and most women engage in pleasing themselves. This is a no brainer at all. What would be impressive is for mekubalim and various baalei ruach hakodesh to refuse to accept money and dispense blessings to crooks who defraud their customers and stockholders and to reveal their crimes instead. 'Crazy Eddie' is an example for the ones who need one. The most famous mekubalim blessed him.

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  67. I agree with D: "If what you are saying is true why do you spend so much time arguing with them in the comments on their blogs?"

    IMHO you shouldn't make posts like this R Slifkin. These posts just increase the sinat chinam among Am Yisrael and have no benefit. Not to mention possibly being over lavim of lashon hara.

    Please stop trying to show how other people are wrong, but rather your opinion on the truth.

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  68. Dr. Betech: I have not been posting your comments because, as is your way, they manage to present a huge amount of words with little, if any, meaning. Please do not keep submitting them. It only makes me less likely to ever accept any comments that you submit. And, incidentally, it does you no good; it only reinforces everyone's opinion that you are only out to obfuscate and distract and confuse, never to actually give your views.

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  69. To: L'maan HaTorah
    Why are you “rational and cultured” people so scare to show yourself?:

    You said:

    "I hold an important position in one of the main Mosdos HaTorah in Mexico, unfortunately because of that fact I cannot reveal my identity”

    Are you lying to them ? two-faced to them? If you hold the truth why are you so scare? If you don’t agree with your Mosdos why you work for them? Are you consistent?

    Why all of you hide yourselves?

    Like this post started “a prominent scholar”?

    What’s his name? why reject Dr Betech public OPEN debate?

    Is that Rationalist? Is that Science? Or is that obscurantism!

    You said:

    “Why would they be MEKAREV any American president?”, did you actually read my post?

    “ASSESSORS to Government personalities, including former US President”, JEWISH ASSESSOR, no President.

    No problem I can give you all the names, we can even meet in public do you want?

    Obviously I also need to know who you are, fair enough?

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  70. Why all of you hide yourselves?


    Maybe because Betech and his ilk have a habit of campaigning for the Gedolim to publicly condemn those who hold views that they disapprove of?

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  72. A rationalist makes rational decisions based on sound logic and reason. A very irrational decision would be exposing one's identity so that the kiruv posse can publicly ostracize them. Can't you nonrationalist kiruv guys' arguments hold up without getting personal or doing private investigations and wire tapping on your opponents? Oh, right.

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  73. To DR BETECH and L'MAAN HATORAH,

    You seem to agree that the following is a description of the scientific method is:

    "The scientific method follows a series of steps: (1) identify a problem you would like to solve, (2) formulate a hypothesis, (3) test the hypothesis, (4) collect and analyze the data, (5) make conclusions."

    Now, as I stated before, one of the main reasons of the un-productiveness of the debates are because of the misconception of some terms or because both of the people (or groups, doesn't matter) give different connotations to the same terms.

    Sometimes this error can mislead the whole debate and it is a complete necessity that the concept upon the discussion is going on is well defined.

    This definition you gave of what is scientific method is too elastic. I'll try to explain the first and most important issue of when dealing with scientific statements.

    First of all, we must recognize that science is inductive or have a crucial inductive component on it. (even mathematics, the only exception is Logic). In other words, we always have to assume something or to fill some gap or to construct some model to fit the data we have available. In other words, on a ontological level we don't have scientific truths, only approximations of truth. (as I mentioned with the exception of Logic)

    Every test to collect data has some error of measurement and every analysis depends on the statistics that you rely upon (that has their own margin of error) and, of course, supposing your choice was the best possible.

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  74. So, if I follow this definition you gave, I can have a pretty nice example that fits in everything but used a t-test instead of a Qui-Square...that just screw up the analysis and turn everything into garbage.

    Of course, we try to minimize this big messing up using double-blind peer reviewed articles. But this method is not perfect either.

    Here lies one of the problems when dealing with scientific knowledge.

    One one extreme you can reject everything arguing that there is always a possibility of an error and, so a chance that it is not true.

    An another extreme, you end up saying that the call on the "scientificity" of something is the consensus of a certain group or the majority of them regardless of the logic of the idea itself. (which is not always reliable - see the Sokal affair for an example of accepted falsity or the biographies of Leibniz, Tessla or Nesher for examples of unrecognized good ideas)

    Honest debaters will have an agreement beforehand to all of the cases.

    Dishonest debaters will lean towards one extreme or another whenever it is convenient.

    For example, quoting some paper of a 3rd class journal claiming it is scientific because it was accepted and published and, at the same time rejecting his opponents ideas saying there's a slight error level that makes it possibly untrue.

    Whoever engaged in this debates surely have this experiences. And, of course, this is not valid only for what is scientific or not as many of us know, and some of Rav Slifkin's detractors have shown quite well how quotes and statements are valid only in a one-way road.

    When faced with this without the possibility to turn away, you must expose the fallacies and the dishonesty of whoever debates with you.

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