Monday, April 4, 2011

Something to Ruminate Upon

Here are two true accounts that I heard first-hand, regarding Discovery's "animal proof" of the Torah's divine origins.

The first is with a neighbor of mine. She was very distressed to hear that the animal proof doesn't actually work. Nevertheless, she told me that she was glad that Discovery used it with her. She told me that although she had many reasons for wanting to become Orthodox, at the time she needed to justify it to herself as being scientifically legitimate, and the animal proof served that purpose. Now that she is happily Orthodox, it doesn't shake her that the proof doesn't work, and she's glad that she had it when she needed it.

Another story is with someone that I met a few years back in the US. He had become Orthodox via a different organization than Discovery, but one that also used the animal proof. When he discovered (independently of my book) that there were serious problems with this argument, and was given the usual run-around by the outreach workers who had "converted him," he was fundamentally shaken to his core and felt that the Rabbis had tricked him into becoming Orthodox. He lost his trust in the Orthodox enterprise, and began drifting away from observance; but he had already gotten married to an Orthodox girl, which caused some problems, as can be imagined.

I happen to know more stories like the latter, and I know of no others like the former, but I don't think that that is so relevant. Nevertheless, I personally don't think that the former justifies what happened with the latter. Still, it's something to ruminate upon.

56 comments:

  1. I became frummer at a young age (pre-Bar Mitzva), and had heard and was influenced by the 4 animals theory.
    I don't remember who I heard it from, and it probably wasn't "THE" reason that I became frummer, but I do remember quoting it to others when they asked me why I was so happy to accept the Truth of the Torah.

    Now, many many years later I guess that I am similar to your neighbor, I am happy enough with my lifestyle that the fact that one of the "Proofs" that influenced me when I was younger may not prove anything doesn't really bother me.
    What does bother me is that there are so many "Kiruv professionals" who are happy to deliberately lie (not just about the 4 animal-species, but with many other issues as well) - I think that the beauty and truth of Torah should be strong enough to speak for itself without having to make up or emphasize theories that are easily disproven.

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  2. I don't understand the second story.
    I mean, I understand it, as in, I understand that it happens, but I don't understand why it happens.

    People are wrong about things all the time. Misinformation gets passed along and repeated on a daily basis with everything we do. Science, religion, politics etc.

    That somebody is wrong about something should not be a reason for a complete rejection of anything. I have strong feelings, that the person in the second story had other problems with orthodoxy and the animal proof was just a catalyst, just as the animal proof for the first person was just a catalyst for what they wanted.

    Three examples of wrong information I heard this week:
    1. There are 4 taste regions on the tongue.
    2. "3rd Intifada" has no connotation of violence.
    3. Tzarat was a disease that only existed for Lashon Harah.

    None of these examples have made me loose complete faith in either
    A. The school system
    B. Facebook
    C. The person I heard the dvar torah from.

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  3. Nevertheless, I personally don't think that the former justifies what happened with the latter
    ==============================
    I've assumed that at least some in kiruv know it isn't factually true but calculate that the price of your case B is worth alll those who never get to A but just accept orthoxy and move on.
    I'd love to see a study of both my hypothesis and the one i ascribe to kiruv folks. i don't expect it anytime soon.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  4. I have always suspected that how such information will affect a person strongly depends on their personal convictions. I see this as falling into the following categorizations:

    If they are religious because of these "proofs" they will cease to be religious without them. These people usually come from backgrounds with limited to no Jewish exposure in my opinion, and needed the proofs as their reason for being Jewish in the first place.

    If they are religious because of their belief in Torah and, as your first example claimed, was simply looking for a "scapegoat" for their new or growing religious observance, it won't matter that it wasn't true as it was merely their excuse. These people often come from much stronger Jewish backgrounds and didn't integrate the proofs into their identity.

    Of course, the 4 animal proof is merely one of many deceptions used to misrepresent Judaism in a light that sounds more modern, ancient, or proven through evidence than it really is.

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  5. The whole idea of trying to prove the divinity of the torah and basing your religiosity on it is absurd. If someone becomes frum because of such proofs is that really true Judaism? Isn't there supposed to be a measure of real faith in ones religious convictions?

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  6. Some people are more bothered by lapses of sexual morality, some by financial dishonesty, some by intellectual dishonesty and so on. In each instance, to be personally betrayed in the sensitive area can be devastating.

    The commenters who dismiss the guy in Rabbi Slifkin's second story in this post are displaying contempt for someone who was so naive as to believe what he was told by a kiruv worker.

    Rather, one should feel sympathy for someone who feels seduced and abandoned when he realizes that he has possibly, maybe even certainly been deliberately treated as an object rather than a person by people and institutions that represent themselves as offering a life in which respect for the individual is paramount.
    What's wrong with the betrayed person's judging the Torah world by how it deals with the seducer?

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  7. I think people who leave because the 4 animals feeling is false may be using that as a shorthand for a bunch of related issues. In particular, the idea that the Torah is supposed to act as an agent to make those who follow it more moral. If you discover that the 'proofs' that attracted one to Torah are not only false, but should reasonably have been known to be false by those who taught it to you, then two of the fundamental reasons for staying O fall away, not just one.

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  8. I thought Discovery's big finale was the Purim thing with the 10 sons of Haman. Purimfest, small letters in the Megillah, and all that. No? Not the case anymore?

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  9. "The commenters who dismiss the guy in Rabbi Slifkin's second story in this post are displaying contempt for someone who was so naive as to believe what he was told by a kiruv worker."

    There is nothing wrong or naive about believing wrong information. As I said before, people do it all the time.

    The problem is blaming your life choices on other people's wrong information. Your life choices are your own and nobody can really trick you into them.

    The difference between the first person and the second person is not in the conclusions they reached. It was the self awareness to be honest with R. Slifkin in explaining why they reached the conclusions they did.

    If someone today where to ditch Torah practice because the 4 animal argument is false, and then 10 years from now there is some amazing discovery which somehow explains without a doubt that the argument was true... does it seem logical for them to become upset with people who told the arguments are false? Can they really blame the truth or falsehood of that one argument on their life choice?

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  10. The story of your neighbor validates my view that one's observance is predicated on one's satisfaction with the lifestyle. If you are satisfied with your lifestyle, no proofs or disproofs will make you look elsewhere. On the other hand, if things in your life are going imperfectly, you may reevaluate your beliefs and lifestyle in light of new information. It doesn't mean that life problems directly cause a person to go "off the derech", but life problems may be a catalyst for seeking and acting upon information that wasn't previously known to the person.

    Someone who has suffered life traumas may find solace in faith and actually become more observant; in this case, the religious lifestyle is very satisfying to the person. It's a mistake when people make blanket statements about why people go off the derech. (I haven't seen any such statements here, just commenting).

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  11. 'If someone becomes frum because of such proofs is that really true Judaism? Isn't there supposed to be a measure of real faith in ones religious convictions?'

    Kierkegaard, how will a secular person come to believe in Torah?

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  12. "The whole idea of trying to prove the divinity of the torah and basing your religiosity on it is absurd. If someone becomes frum because of such proofs is that really true Judaism? Isn't there supposed to be a measure of real faith in ones religious convictions?"

    Some rational basis for belief is necessary, even if it's perhaps unreasonable to pursue rigorous, unasailable, mathematical proof.

    There are plenty of other religions out there. Why practice Judaism?

    Rational people also want to believe that Judaism offers a compelling alternative to atheism. Not that every question on every midrash, or passage in the Torah must be explained with absolute clarity, but that such belief can be adopted by a reasonable person.

    It's true that most people don't feel a powerful need to advance formal proofs when adopting a lifestyle preference, but if Judaism is to be reduced to a mere lifestyle preference, with no rational basis whatsoever, flubbing halachah here and there, including biggies like violating shabbos, intermarrying, etc. shouldn't be regarded with so much gravity.

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  13. The question of to what extent faith should be based upon knowledge is a wide-ranging dispute throughout the ages. That's not the topic of this post. Please keep the comments focused on the topic of this post.

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  14. Ameture said: 'The problem is blaming your life choices on other people's wrong information. Your life choices are your own and nobody can really trick you into them.'

    When idealistic young people are told to abandon their carriers, get married, have kids, learn in kollel and that Hashem will provide for their needs aren't they being tricked into an unsustainable lifestyle? Do you think this can be called their own choice?

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  15. I agree people should take personal responsibility and not blame others for their life choices. This is not in dispute. However, perhaps just as we tell young people to look out for charlatans such as Nigerian email scammers, we should warn them that religious outreach workers may present them with "facts" that are not accurate.

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  16. I also became more observant around the time of my Bar Mitzvah, partly influenced by proofs so as the 4-animal proof. Looking back now, the most interesting thing to me is not the falsity of the proof itself (my faith is based on other reasons). Rather, it is the resulting implications about the Torah.

    Year ago, I was much more likely to see the Torah as an omniscient and universal document commenting on absolute truth and all morality (all animal creations included). Now, it seems more of a relativistic document written directly for a very specific near eastern group during a specific time period (only known animals are mentioned). Any thoughts?

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  17. When it comes to conversion, the consensus amongst Orthodoxy today seems to be that the end does not justify the means; why is this not the case for kiruv?

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  18. There is nothing wrong or naive about believing wrong information. As I said before, people do it all the time.

    Wrong to believe, no. But what's wrong is someone in a "uniform" and working for an organization that holds itself out as representing eternal truth, that if you follow it will improve your character and make you wiser who knowingly -- as Rabbi Slifkin made clear in a previous post that some Discovery types do when presented with the refutation of their 4 species argument -- present falsehood as truth to induce people to join a particular group.

    And naive? What other word can you use for someone who expects anything other than the full range of human behavior from the Orthodox world just because some guy in a black hat and a beard stands there and says "because we follow the Torah we're different?"

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  19. your term usage of "relativistic" is very vague. What exactly do you mean by that?

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  20. Y. Yadan offers a particularly egregious example of someone who was completely alienated from Judaism by the irrational posture of leading Hareidi figures. According to what I have read, he was once close to Rav Moshe Shapiro and even became the head of a yeshiva in Israel. In time, however, he realized that the alleged infallibility of the sages that he was taught was false, given the many examples of incorrect statements in the talmud about nature. He not only left his large family and religious observance, but started a website to actively and scathingly attack all the fundaments of Judaism. He is particularly dangerous in that he has enough knowledge of texts to convince the unwary.

    It is alleged that the animus that Rav Shapiro appears to have for the banned works of our blog owner stem from fear that the poison spread by his renegade student will find easier entry due to such critical writings. In truth, however, such conflicts can't be hidden. It would be far better to assume a realistic posture as what the sages knew, rather than attack anyone who offers a more objective evaluation. It is hard, however, to let go of strongly held beliefs, no matter how irrational they may seem to others.

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  21. "I happen to know more stories like the latter, and I know of no others like the former"

    My experience, and thinking, is very similar to Michael Sedley's (see the first post), though I became "frummer" in my 20s.

    The only difference is that I don't think "so many" of the kiruv workers who use the four species argument deliberately lie. I think that's going too far.

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  22. Same goes for the "Torah codes."

    I heard about those at the Discovery seminar. When they were busted, I was upset. (I didn't abandon the faith, partly because I heard them busted by an Orthodox Jewish speaker brought to my congregation at a Chabad shul).

    When the codes were busted the busting of Discovery's other "proofs" has not surprised me in the least.

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  23. I have a simple principle about these things:

    . . . It's bad to tell lies.

    I know that, when dealing with children, "the truth" sometimes needs to be simplified.

    But when dealing with adults, there's no excuse for it. And to lie, in the name of an "eternally truthful doctrine", is a nasty kind of hypocrisy.

    Charles

    charles

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  24. 1) There is nothing surprising about these stories. Religion is a fundamentally emotional/psychological experience. These two stories are perfect illustrations of that. Even the Rambam, as well versed in the philosophical discourse of his time as he was, did not bother trying to 'prove' the truth of Judaism. Yes, he went to great lengths to show that the particulars could be maintained philosophically, but he did not try to prove that Judaism, as a system of belief, was true.

    2) Natan, although science is the area you are most familiar with, would you try taking on the Kuzari argument? In order to adequately deal with this argument you would need to move to the areas of philosophy and history. I only ask because 'proof' is something anyone with a rationalist disposition should deal with especially when it refers to religious truth.

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  25. "If someone today where to ditch Torah practice because the 4 animal argument is false, and then 10 years from now there is some amazing discovery which somehow explains without a doubt that the argument was true... does it seem logical for them to become upset with people who told the arguments are false? Can they really blame the truth or falsehood of that one argument on their life choice? "

    If there were some semblance of intellectual honesty in the charedi world, you would have a point. As it stands, they brainwash young people with lies. If they were a cult with a name other than aish, you would probably understand.

    P.S. I do believe it is a societal problem and not a personal one. I assume most aish kiruv workers actually believe the garbage.

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  26. I don't think "so many" of the kiruv workers who use the four species argument deliberately lie.

    I don't think so many reform rabbis deliberately lie either. I don't think so many bank CEOs deliberately made bad mortgage loans. But when you are in a position of leadership, especially when the stakes are so high (Jewish lives, neshomas), there must be accountability.

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  27. "He is particularly dangerous in that he has enough knowledge of texts to convince the unwary."


    Funny, you sound like a cult member talking about a deprogrammer.

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  28. Michael A. SingerApril 5, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    I never heard of this "4 animal species" discussion, probably because I had become more observant around the age of 16 under the influence of a wonderful hasid and his family who had moved to my hometown from NYC.

    If in my early 20s I was presented with such a thesis, I probably would have dismissed it rather quickly. "Proofs" for the validity of any religious tradition, in my opinion, are not convincing to me in the slightest, nor do I require them to practice my Judaism in the ways I choose.

    Best,
    Michael A. Singer

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  29. " Carol said...
    When idealistic young people are told to abandon their carriers, get married, have kids, learn in kollel and that Hashem will provide for their needs aren't they being tricked into an unsustainable lifestyle? Do you think this can be called their own choice? "


    Most definitly. These people are not "tricked." They sincerly believe in what they are doing, and those who follow should believe it as well. If they don't believe it, they shouldn't do it, or they should stop when they stop believing. However, the situation today is that many do this even without belief, and so they do "trick" others. However, that is a minority.

    " tesyaa said...
    I agree people should take personal responsibility and not blame others for their life choices.
    April 4, 2011 8:25 PM"

    Obviously, you should warn people about being viligent about what they are told. But again, thats nothing specific to this issue. a summary R. Slifkin's book should be all you need. (for this instance)

    " Barry said...
    Year ago, I was much more likely to see the Torah as an omniscient and universal document commenting on absolute truth and all morality (all animal creations included). Now, it seems more of a relativistic document written directly for a very specific near eastern group during a specific time period (only known animals are mentioned). Any thoughts?"

    I think you go too far. It is true that the Torah is written for a specific group of people in a specific place. That group of people are the Jewish people, and that place is Israel. But it is only relativisitc in regards to non-Jews and places that are not Israel. This is one area where I think Christianity and it's idea of universal application got things messed up, and influences too many Jews. Also, the version we have today, was not written for only one specific time period.


    "IH said...
    When it comes to conversion, the consensus amongst Orthodoxy today seems to be that the end does not justify the means; why is this not the case for kiruv?"

    The issues are completely different. There is no "need" to have more Jews in the world. There is a "need" for Jews to follow halacha. (according to the orthodox you are speaking about)

    April 4, 2011 8:49 PM

    "YoelB said...
    There is nothing wrong or naive about believing wrong information. As I said before, people do it all the time.

    Wrong to believe, no. But what's wrong is someone in a "uniform" and working "...

    I assume you were taught about the 4 taste centers on the tongue, kids are still taught that today. It was disproved in the 1970s but nobody has stopped teaching it. Your teachers were in a "uniform" and have all sorts of resoncibilities, and tell you that science is the best way to know truth, and that the 4 taste centers are science. Were you naive in believing them? Not at all.


    Avi said...
    "If there were some semblance of intellectual honesty in the charedi world, you would have a point. As it stands, they brainwash young people with lies. If they were a cult with a name other than aish, you would probably understand."

    To call Aish a cult is to live a sheltered life and to not actually have known of any cults.

    " Avi said...
    Funny, you sound like a cult member talking about a deprogrammer."

    Or he sounds like a few well known quotes.

    "A little learning is a dangerous thing;
    drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
    there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    and drinking largely sobers us again."

    "A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion."

    "Twas well observed by my Lord Bacon, That a little knowledge is apt to puff up, and make men giddy, but a greater share of it will set them right, and bring them to low and humble thoughts of themselves.

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  30. Amateur, you're choosing an interesting example. The taste center thing is an interesting example of the growth of an urban legend, albeit within science.
    The interesting thing, of course, is that whenever it is taught as an in-class lab experiment, it is expounded in the form of a falsifiable statement.
    Not only that, in fact, it frequently IS falsified, though I suspect that a child who does so may not necessarily get the best grade.
    It is also generally not being taught by people with enough scientific background to render them competent to do much more than regurgitate the curriculum; nor would such a teacher when pressed be able to appeal to any greater authority than that of the lesson plan and text; a few minutes on a search engine would rapidly change the terms of any discussion which ensued.

    But the taste bud map tends to be presented as an interesting fact about the human body. It is not presented as objective proof of the omniscient reach of the Torah in matters of scientific fact that could not have empirically been known to Chazal: And yet, because the Torah is the original blueprint used by the Creator, when it lists the ruminants and sort-of-ruminants, it is comprehensive!

    And THAT is being presented with rabbinic authority, in the name of Eternal Truth: a higher claim than that of science, and moreover one being made

    Again, Rabbi Slifkin pointed out that some Aish presenters, on being confronted with the speciousness of the 4 animal "proof" stopped using it. Others did not.

    Larry Lenhoff said it better than I did, so I'll repeat his words here:

    In particular, the idea that the Torah is supposed to act as an agent to make those who follow it more moral. If you discover that the 'proofs' that attracted one to Torah are not only false, but should reasonably have been known to be false by those who taught it to you, then two of the fundamental reasons for staying O fall away, not just one.

    Amateur, your four taste centers argument has an unmistakable taste of its own: red herring.

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  31. YoelB,
    I can not understand your arguments. If anything, your arguments are red herrings. You start to make a valid comparison, but then switch into nonsense which I don't understand.

    Lets step back a bit. The Discovery program is a seminar. A voluntary educational experience that people decide they want to attend. It is not required by the government to attend (as school is) nor is it a halacha to attend. Millions of Jewish people have never been to Discovery (or even heard about it) This particular argument of theirs, happens to come from the lesson plan they are given. It also, in another form, appears in the Talmud. I only say this to compare it to your meaningless caveats about school teachers. I am not sure that discovery presenters are really qualified to teach the information they are teaching either, but that has nothing to do with it.

    Science is taught as "the best way to find out the truth" by schools and the teachers who teach it. However, they sometimes get information wrong, and pass on that wrong information with the full confidence of the information they get right.

    I assume that most schools and school planners have access to the internet today, as do most teachers. I would assume that they could look up the tongue map and see that it is false. However, they don't do this. Why not? Should my faith in the teaching system be shaken? Should I now assume that everything they teach is wrong? Should I no longer have faith in the scientific method and peered review journals (of which 3rd grade textbooks are one) to give me the truth?

    If anything, the people who should be most upset with the Discovery's presentation of this issue is not scientists or rationalists. It should be Talmudists who are not given a voice in the corruption of a Talmudic statement, or the Torah commentators, who read no such claim into the words of the Torah.

    Their Torah learning here is more incorrect than their science.

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  32. Ameteur, your school teachers are not telling you that you should make a life change based on the unshakeable, flawless credibility of their claim about the tongue.

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  33. Or, to put it another way: your science teacher does not say that if he turns out to be incorrect about the tongue, then the scientific enterprise should be tossed out.

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  34. "Or, to put it another way: your science teacher does not say that if he turns out to be incorrect about the tongue, then the scientific enterprise should be tossed out."

    You are right, they say something much worse. If your personal experience differs from the text book, you fail.

    What they teach you is that scientific consensus is more important than truth.

    And whats worse, is that they are manipulative about it. They don't even tell you this, you have to figure it out on your own, or face the consequences.

    I still remember being told that my tongue must just be abnormal, and to stop wasting the class's time.

    It was my father, not the school system, that told me "If there is a contradiction between the book and the frog, the frog is right."

    And yet, if I stopped believing in science because of this one bad experience, you would blame me, not my teachers.

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  35. It seems that lying to make Jews religious is both morally objectionable and usually counterproductive.

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  36. Michael A. SingerApril 5, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Purely out of curiosity...could you, Rabbi Slifkin, or any other commenter state a "proof" presented at/by Discovery that is convincing or at least defensible? Having never heard of Discovery or its proofs until recently (although I've heard of Aish for years), I would find this very helpful.

    Best,
    Michael A. Singer

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  37. "state a "proof" presented at/by Discovery that is convincing or at least defensible? "

    Most of what they say is defensible. Little of it is convincing.
    Just about all of it, is a more absolutist spin on things other people say often.

    It runs the gamut from history of the Jewish people, the influence of the Torah on Western society, the "absurdity" of laws like Shmita from a human perspective, Torah codes. The main basic line of reasoning of the Discovery seminar is "probability" which is a concept nobody really understands properly and everyone missuses. (From Journalists, to Scientists)

    Most of the logical failings from Discovery fall into the category of "false dichotomy"

    You can see the basic arguments in the titles of their sections on their website. If the blurbs don't convince you, the details are unlikely to convince you either. If you find the blurbs convincing arguments, then you will be wowed by the details.

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  38. The Discovery argument which stands strongest in my opinion is the miraculous survival of one sheep among seventy wolves. As history unfolds this miracle only increases.

    In regard to the quote from Francis Bacon, "A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion," George Santayana rejoinder resonates greatly with me:

    "He forgot to add that the God to whom depth in philosophy brings back men's minds is far from being the same from whom a little philosophy estranges them."

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  39. I find the recent focus on Discovery-like topics to be quite a co-incidence as I just wrote an article about Aish Hatorah and their practices as a Kiruv Organization.
    Please give it a read, comments are welcome:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/52348564

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  40. Ameteure, I don't understand. The people are not told what it really takes to live a kollel lifestyle. They are accepting it as naaseh venishma. If they were honestly explained how people really manage many would have made a different choice. How is this different from a Nigerian scam?

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  41. "Or he sounds like a few well known quotes. "

    Or like a person who can scrounge around for a few quotes.

    Too bad Yadan was considered knowledgeable enough to be a rosh yeshiva before he went off "THE DERECH." And too bad those who have ostensibly drunk deeply are unable to counter his claims. (Oh yeah, they have time for bans but not logical arguments).

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  42. Here are my thoughts on the essay.

    I completely understand the conflicting feelings about humbug kiruv "proofs" of Tenach's divine origins. But the original texts are known to not be factual either...though they are presented as if they were.

    I want to be clear that I am not being disrespectful of Torah. So I'll provide one example... that of the Mabul 4000 yrs ago and an arc upon which there were 2 or 7 animals from which all present animals descended. It is presented as fact but isn't.

    The fictive narrative of the mabul is SO obvious as to be easily falsified by the knowledge base of any high school student worthy of a degree. Yet we think that humbug proofs that appear to mock the primary texts and/or the audience will be the source of disillusionment?

    Discovery is not my thing. But I know so many people who took a light-hearted joy in the gee-whiz atmosphere and, especially, being together with nice Jewish people who didn't have to pretend that they were chachamim or parnessim in order to get some kavod. I don't really think people take the antics so seriously. They get kosher food and get to live a Shabbat [maybe for the first time] in an halachic fashion.

    I wish they didn't have all the antics, but it is what it is. & if they didn't have all the power point antics, what would they have? The attendees really don't want 2 1/2 days of devarim Torah.

    I'd be curious how Aish came up with the formula and why all the humbug. But there is no doubt that people almost universally have a really good time.

    Gary Goldwater

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  43. Rabbi Slifkin, you wrote: "he was fundamentally shaken to his core and felt that the Rabbis had tricked him into becoming Orthodox."

    Did you ask him why he felt that the rabbis knowingly and deceitfully tricked him as opposed to felt that the rabbis didn't do their homework well enough, "cognitive-dissonanced" themselves into rejecting the counterarguments, and unwittingly taught this faulty argument?

    What's with the lack of dan l'kaf zchus in the posts by HaRazieli, Michael Sedley, Charles P Cohen, and Avi?

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  44. Mir Chosson,

    You wrote, "The Discovery argument which stands strongest in my opinion is the miraculous survival of one sheep among seventy wolves."

    When that nation happens to be tied to a specific religion, it doesn't seem so miraculous at all. Do you think Christianity could ever be wiped out? I highly doubt it. By the way, Isaac Breuer writes explicitly that the Jews' survival is not miraculous per se.

    Re the tounge: I have a hard time imagining there's no truth to it. Put salt on different parts of your tongue and tell me you don't see a difference. All that said, the comparison is horrible anyways, as others have pointed out.

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  45. "Ameteure, I don't understand. The people are not told what it really takes to live a kollel lifestyle. They are accepting it as naaseh venishma. If they were honestly explained how people really manage many would have made a different choice. How is this different from a Nigerian scam?"

    Evidence? I don't think anyone told me, or honestly explained how people really manage with a job. Infact, as I look back, I'm 100% certain that I figured it out as I went along. How is this different from a Nigerian scam?

    If I had known then what I know now I would have spent my college years very differently, and saved myself a bunch of money.

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  46. "Re the tounge: I have a hard time imagining there's no truth to it. Put salt on different parts of your tongue and tell me you don't see a difference. All that said, the comparison is horrible anyways, as others have pointed out.
    "

    Look it up, there is 100% no truth to it. Yet it still exists in textbooks even today.

    And honestly, I see the continuation of the tongue map as a much worse event then being given a false proof at a weekend seminar. You are telling children that the teacher and establishment are always correct, even when their own experiments show them that they are wrong. And people wonder why some follow science as if it was their religion.

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  47. Yehuda said:

    'Isaac Breuer writes explicitly that the Jews' survival is not miraculous per se.'

    This is interesting. What's his reasoning?

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  48. The question of faith vs. proof is, as Rabbi Slifkin says, for another day. But I hope we can all agree that lying to people in order to trick them into belief is still lying. When it is discovered it will naturally damage or destroy the basis for their faith, their trust in the people who told them and their good opinion of Jews in general.

    As a teacher of mine said in another context (martial arts as it happens) "The truth is hard enough. Don't give them BS."

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  49. Y. Yadan

    Is that the guy who runs the Anusim HaChadsim group in Tel-Aviv?

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  50. But I hope we can all agree that lying to people in order to trick them into belief is still lying.
    =====================
    Actually a lomdish chakira (see the I've been aished piece) - do they hold it's dchuya (it is lieing but it's ok) or hutra (this is not defined as a lie by chazal)
    nafka mina may be if you think it's likely to be discovered.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  51. Avi,If you have been paying any attention to my posts in this and other blogs you would appreciate that "sounding like a cult member" is a particularly bad description of my approach.

    As to your reaction to my adamant rejection of Yadan's opinions, I fail to understand your stance. To my knowledge, Yadan rejects all of Judaism - including key mitzvot of the torah such as circumcision. His various arguments against the torah and talmud aren't new, nor is there some inability to counter them. Gil Student has a lengthy essay in the Avodah website that offers one such response.

    I would rather not get into any specific response so as to avoid publicizing his material any further. Let me just offer the observation that situations change and so do values. Those that were appropriate at the time of writing some authoritative texts need not be governing today. I refer specifically to values rather than observances. While the two can't be entirely disentangled, there is a basic difference between them.

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  52. Carol,

    I forget where eactly he writes about it. It's somewhere in the English collection of his writings (it's mentioned in passing). I apologize I can't be more specific. By the way, do you find the cotinued exitence of a religion (which is not fully tied to a certain land) miraculous?

    Do you think Christianity or Islam could ever be wiped out?

    Amatuer,

    I looked it up. And I also have put salt on different parts of my tongue. I'll take my own experience over the Internet. Your comparison is absolutely horrible, however, and I have a hard time believing that you don't see that.

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  53. Anonymous, it's alright to do something which could very well undermine a person's faith and drive him away from God and Torah? Or saying something which you know to be false is not a lie?

    I'll admit to not being the best Jew in the world, maybe not even the best Jew in any random group of two or three yidden.

    To the best of my limited theological knowledge I thought we weren't supposed to drive Jews into apostasy. And I would really appreciate a useful definition of "lie" which does not include conscious falsehoods.

    Seriously, you're using technical terms here with which I'm not familiar and which seem on the face not to make sense

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  54. I find existence of a Jewish nation unique and unprecedented in the annals of world history. We are not just a religion. To me it's a powerful argument for the truth of our mission.

    I am re-evaluating my understanding of what is a miracle and cannot answer your question right now. I am not sure about Christanity and Islam, but I would think not.

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  55. I haven't seen anyone comment on Discovery's "Shmitta" argument -- you know the one: "It makes sense that it was God Who commanded this mitzvah because... Similarly, the mitzvah of shalosh regalim. "Who would protect their homes, if they weren't truly protected by God..."

    You did great work with their Four Species quote-unquote proof. How about the above arguments?

    I'd like to make one more comment about Discovery. With all their problems, the folks there were the ones that got me thinking of Ahavas Hashem. I can't wait for one of your posts, R' Slifkin, to promote Ahavas Hashem.

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  56. Just look at the Stone Chumash commentary and you'll see why that one doesn't work.

    I can't wait for one of your posts, R' Slifkin, to promote Ahavas Hashem.

    Duly noted. But I think you'll find several of my books that do that. Also, I had another blog that did that, zootorah.blogspot, but that wasn't anywhere near as popular as this one.

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