Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Dangerous Gamble

(Apologies for the delay in posting - I've been overwhelmed with my lecture tour as well as under the weather.)

Many readers misunderstood the point of the previous post, When The Winds Below. Which is my fault entirely, because I didn't spell out what my point was.

I was not getting into the topic of whether Rav Moshe Feinstein and others intended the term nishtaneh hateva as a euphemism for saying that Chazal were mistaken. I've heard Rav Moshe Tendler insist that he did, and others insist that he didn't. That's a fascinating issue to ponder, but it wasn't my point.

I was also certainly not making any point about changing halachah. On the contrary; I favor the approach of Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog, in which halachah does not change even if based upon mistaken beliefs.

My point was as follows: It can be very risky and problematic to insist, and make Judaism depend upon, science being wrong about something. Because maybe there's another way of looking at things. And maybe science will turn out to be correct, after all.

Rav Kook writes about how, when faced with a scientific theory that appears to challenge the Torah, one should not take a knee-jerk approach of insisting that it must be false. Instead, one should "build the palace of Torah above it." One should figure out how, even if the scientific theory turns out to be true, Judaism still survives. Then, when one is not religiously threatened by the scientific theory, one is in a better position to honestly assess its merits.

People who insist that the truth of Judaism depends on scientists being wrong about terefos, that the cessation of respiration is never reversible, or about there being no additional animals in the world with one kosher sign, or on there being no fish with scales and no fins, are taking a very dangerous gamble. And also an entirely unnecessary one.

Ride request: If anyone can drive me from Baltimore to New York on Monday, please be in touch!

52 comments:

  1. The Rav and Rabbi Rackman had a most ferocious argument if the nature of woman had changed and perhaps today a woman does not want to be married "just to be married" (as Rabbi Rackman opined). [Rabbi Rakeffet has lectures on this.]

    This subject (if a woman would rather be married to anyone then to be alone) would be a psychological change in Teva, and here we are discussing a physical change of Teva, or is it a change in science - knowldge we are discussing? Thanks

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  2. Once again you are arguing with Rashba the Scientist/Philosopher NOT Rashba the Talmudist/Theologian. Rashba's view in this respect is obviously a lingering idea from the days of Parmenides. We all know there are thousands of arguments demonstrating its fallacies. Like I said before: yawn.

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  3. The nature of a woman hasn't changed! The social conditions have. Read the 'Choice before her'. Where can I find that shiur?

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  4. firstbase613 wrote: "This subject (if a woman would rather be married to anyone then to be alone) would be a psychological change in Teva..."

    I don't think the change would be psychological at all but rather sociological. As the potential for a woman in society has changed so has their view on marriage.

    If you lived at time where (1) a women could not support herself because there was a lack of opportunity and (2) if you were not married by an early age then your chances of ever getting married were greatly diminished;-- it becomes conceivable that some might think it's better to be married to a jerk than not at all.

    In our day, where women can succeed in the work place, marry at any age, and society (unfortunately) has devalued marriage to the extent that many choose to remain single, it's completely inconceivable to say that a woman would rather be in an undesirable marriage than not be married at all.

    I will assume the Rav was resisting this sociological change that he must have felt would have a negative impact on family life.

    However, there's no change in "Teva", as in brain chemistry, or more measurable physical phenomenon. It's society that's changed, dramatically.

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  5. "a fascinating issue to ponder"?! How can ANYONE without a flat out, serious, obvious agenda, bordering on a fixation, say that when R' Moshe says "nishtaneh hatevah" he means Chazal were wrong?! On second thought, someone who has not ever opened an Igros Moshe in his life may possibly be given the benefit of the doubt that its a reasonable idea. Otherwise, anyone who has read R' Moshe's opinion (this example is just off the top of my head) on kazaysim (that Chazal knew with Ruach Hakodesh the fate of the future Kazayis etc.) could NOT possibly make such a mistake!

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  6. In other words, "Credo quia absurdum est" is not, and should not be, a Jewish saying.

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  7. Rabbi Slifkin i am deeply dissapointed with your article on Reb Moshe. I just switched over to "The Slifkin Challenge" and can see you have ommitted very important parts of his Teshuva. So before you condemn Rabbi Sherer and others for not quoting correctly perhaps get your own house in order first.

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  8. Well, that point underlies a pretty large portion of your work and outline, correct? And it's such an important point. The opponents of this outlook have painted themselves into a position in which they have to constantly attribute evil motivations to practically the whole academic community, in order to provide some kind of an explanation of why science so often seems to conflict with a literal view of Torah. People like Yaakov Menken and Avi Shafran will always be able to find some example of intellectual dishonesty in the world of science to "prove" the bias of science, but one could just as easily use that kind of proof against Torah - chas v'shalom - by showing how seforim and history have been tampered with in recent years to eliminate problematic viewpoints. The bottom line is, it's simply untenable to look honestly at the world and believe that the academic world is engaged in some kind of an anti-Torah conspiracy. That requires Orthodox Jews to confront science and history, and to react with the same type of intellectual rigor that the Rambam and his conteporaries showed in reacting to the philosophies of their day.

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  9. i used think little of the Rashba until I saw him quoted in Rabbi Akiva Eigger. This did not exactly change my mind completely but at least I understood that in the view of Rabbi Akiva Eigger the Rashba did not simply copy over the notebooks that came over from France of the Baali Hatosphot but in fact added significant insights of his own.

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  10. Mirrer Guy - I am deeply disappointed in how people insist that I am making claims about Reb Moshe that I am not making at all, in order to challenge me. I no longer expect any better from Kornreich, who is rabid in his obsession, but I would hope that other people would not fall for his distortions of my claims.

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  11. Carol,
    Try http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/709654/Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff/1997-11-04_The_Rav_and_R_Rackman___4-Nov-97

    Rav Rakeffet often has referred to the controversy. In the search box at yutorah.org, simply enter "rackman" and you'll see that he has several shiurim on the topic.

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  12. On a slightly tangential note: I've noticed that quite a few of your posts are misunderstood and then followed up by explanations "because [you] didn't spell out what [your] point was." If you want to avoid this happening in the future, a good tip that I've often found helpful is to assume that your readers are idiots. This wouldn't necessarily apply to your published works (though even then you can't be sure...), but it certainly applies to your blog posts. Make sure to spell out exactly what you're trying to prove or discuss, and then spell out exactly how you've proven it.

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  13. Real nishtaneh hateva (evolution) is assur anyway :-)

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  14. "it's completely inconceivable to say that a woman would rather be in an undesirable marriage than not be married at all."

    Not at all. Their are women who do marry just for the sake of marriage, even though they don't expect to be happy. I guess it depends who (also maybe cultural background as well).

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  15. Response to Natan Slifkin's response to Mirrer Guy:

    Just to clarify, your post seems to state that Rav Moshe is pointing out that the Rashba's position is untenable given what we now know. I'm assuming you think that Rav Moshe means that what we now know has always been the case in nature. Is this a correct understanding of your blog post?

    On the other hand, The Slifkin Challenge site seems to be arguing that Rav Moshe's point was that nature has changed, and what was in the time of Shas is no longer.
    This appears to be the intent of the words he has bolded. He therefore believes that Rav Moshe is not saying that Chazal were mistaken, since animals in their time had a biology that agreed with their statements.

    Is this the dispute?

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  16. distortions of your claims? You have not responded once to the protest of over a dozen comments that this is a scientific question NOT a Hashkafic one! And once again I'll ask (as in the previous post) do you have no restrictions on what sort of anti-religious comments go up on this site?! (see milhouse trabajo of the previous post his first comment not his insincere apologetic second one, and Adam Zur of this post). And what is your response to Shlomo Fine?

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  17. Sorry, I'm on the road and under the weather, I'm moderating comments via smartphone instead of computer and not even reading all the comments and have very little opportunity to respond. I will hopefully have time later today.

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  18. I'm assuming you think that Rav Moshe means that what we now know has always been the case in nature. Is this a correct understanding of your blog post?

    NO!

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  19. Considering this post merely boils down to Rashba versus some reasonable version of Pythagoras/Heraclitus, may I suggest your next post be about Eddington and the Chandrasekhar limit, or Einstein and quantum mechanics?

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  20. distortions of your claims? You have not responded once to the protest of over a dozen comments that this is a scientific question NOT a Hashkafic one!

    This post is a clear response to that "protest".

    The Rashba's statement is "hashkafic". He statement was *not* "treif animals can't live". That would be a scientific statement.

    His statement was "we are not permitted to believe that treif animals can live". That is a hashkafic statement which R' Moshe makes clear was mistaken.

    Again, it is easier to comprehend when taken to a simpler context:

    "The earth doesn't move": false scientific statement; not the subject of this post; yawn.

    "It is not permitted to believe that the earth moves": false hashkafic statement which is of the type that this post is referring to; important to avoid repeating.

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  21. Hmmm, so the Rashba should have been aware of modern conceptions of science, is THAT your point?

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  22. What about how you interpreted Rav Moshe in your book "Sacred Monsters"?
    Didn't you align him with Rav Glassner's shitta?

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  23. If I didn't have three yeshiva tuitions to pay, as well as property taxes of 1k a month, I'd drive down to Baltimore just to be able to drive you back north so I could pick your brain a little...

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  24. Response to your "No":

    Take two:

    Then is the point of the your post that Rav Moshe believes that the Rashba would have to now admit that nature has changed from the time of Shas, and the lesson is that we should not take absolute-sounding statements (like the Rashba's) as absolute?

    Would this mean that your response to the other website is that it is framing you as not agreeing that nature changed and instead claiming that you think Chazal and the Rashba were simply wrong in their scientific beliefs?

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  25. My point was this alone: The Rashba's insistence that terefos today still cannot live was misplaced, and Rav Moshe Feinstein was aware of that.

    Thank you, David Ohsie, for being one of the few people who didn't force any additional words into my position!

    What about how you interpreted Rav Moshe in your book "Sacred Monsters"?
    Didn't you align him with Rav Glassner's shitta?


    No!

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  26. In response to David Ohsie, the ONLY commentor here who is actually attempting to substantively defend R' Slifkin (and R' Slifkin himself says provides an accurate assessment of his position): As Ohsie admits in his comment to the previous post, "[he doesn't know] what Rashba believed about 'nature changing'." Considering his lack of knowledge regarding this question, Ohsie then continues to make an astounding claim, "What he [the Rashba] seemed to have believed is the following: 'Judaism requires in some way that it be true that halachically Treif animals could not possibly live. Therefore, all evidence to the contrary must be false'". Now let us examine this question that Ohsie dismisses out of hand due to professed ignorance. If we propose that the Rashba thought that science had fixed, unchanging rules, then since he assumed (due to his hashkafa) that the science was correct at the time of chazal (that treifos do not live), then SCIENCE ITSELF dictated (in the eyes of the Rashba) that that is how it must be in his own times! This is what all the many commentors (besides for Ohsie) understand as obvious!

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  27. Thank you for your response.

    I was actually wondering about David's comment, as it doesn't seem sensible that one could say "we are not permitted to believe that treif animals can live" if one also asserts the fact that "we see treif animals live in real life". Holding both beliefs contradict each other in terms of common sense, even if they are not technically mutually exclusive. If the Rashba believes the first, he must deny the latter, unless he used an argument like Nishtaneh Hateva, and he changed his statement to "we are not permitted to believe that treif animals lived in time of Shas".

    Without some such qualification it seems like the scientific fact would make his statement seem foolish, regardless of whether he thinks that it is an accurate Hashkafah requirement of Jewish belief. Is that really what he thought?

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  28. The confusion lies in your juxtoposition of Rav Moshe right after the Rashba such that one assumes you are positioning RMF as opposing the Rashba's premise when in fact he is only opposing one argument. Both the Rashba and RMF agreed that Chazal could not err in science. RMF, living centuries later, has the luxury of saying "nishtaneh hateva" but he doesnt really disagree with the Rashba.

    BTW, I hope you dont believe that RMF used "nishtaneh hateva" as a euphemism for "Chazal erred in matters of science."

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  29. When statements such as " all women want to be married" are used to prove something in Torah, I grow concerned. I offer the following carefully as i certainly do not want it seen as k'firah.
    The Torah is true and speaks in absolutes. The application of halacha is less absolute as specific actions must be evaluated in context. For example, homicide is assur yet a soldier is allowed to kill an enemy. General rule, specific exceptions.
    Human nature being what it is, we can talk about general tendencies (women want to be married) but we know that individual women are just that: individuals. Some want to be married, some accept it, some don't want to.
    Exceptions to the rule do exist. That doesn't invalidate the rule, it just requires a more nuanced understanding. While Torah can be absolute (Le'havdil "digital" with yes/no, right/wrong, emet/sheker), life is more analog: Bell curves, statistical distribution, standard deviation, etc.
    Absolute belief; nuanced halacha.

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  30. re Rabbi's Glasner and Herzog's approach to keep the halacha the same regardless of mistake, there is a recent similar issue running in the US Courts. http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/02/10/rakoff-scotus-may-have-been-misled-in-immigration-case/

    If the SC rules in a case based on misinformation, how is the ruling fixed, is it disregarded, or do we need a new rule/legislation to require the factual inaccuracy to be cured so the ruling works.
    Luckily in this case the facts can just be fixed to fit the opinion, while in jewish rulings based on erroneous science, it's a little harder.

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  31. I hope you dont believe that RMF used "nishtaneh hateva" as a euphemism for "Chazal erred in matters of science."

    I don't know why people would think that I do believe that. If I did believe it, I would say so!

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  32. Okay, not to unduly annoy, but I'll give it another go:

    Rav Moshe's position is
    that the Rashba's 'insistence is misplaced'- meaning his current statement is wrong, and if he were here today instead of denying trief animals can live he would have to adopt Nishtana Hatava (or some similar argument).

    In this way the Slifkin Challenge site would be incorrect in claiming that you think Rashba was "proven by medical science to be wrong in declaring that Chazal must be factually correct about treifos", since your claim is only that the Rashba would have to change his way of supporting Chazal, and you are not proving Chazal wrong.

    I realize that you don't represent the Slifkin Challenge site, I'm just trying to understand what the exact difference of opinion is.

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  33. I've noticed that from about a dozen penetrating questions on your positions, you've very comfortably chosen the few that are the easiest to answer. I think that you weaken your own position when you refuse to answer the tough questions.

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  34. Ohsie admits in his comment to the previous post, "[he doesn't know] what Rashba believed about 'nature changing'." Considering his lack of knowledge regarding this question, Ohsie then continues to make an astounding claim, "What he [the Rashba] seemed to have believed is the following: 'Judaism requires in some way that it be true that halachically Treif animals could not possibly live. Therefore, all evidence to the contrary must be false'".

    I'm not sure why think that this claim is astounding. This is simply a description of what the Rashba is saying and doesn't depend on analysis of "why" he said it:

    And since this is so, even if many were to come and say that they have seen [animals with these defects living longer than twelve months] we would deny it, such that the words of the Sages should be established, and we should not raise suspicions on the Sages’ words by establishing the words of these people… Let this person testifying and a thousand like him be invalidated, rather than invalidating a single thing from that with the holy Sages of Israel have agreed upon, the prophets and the descendants of prophets, and the words that were spoken to Moses at Sinai… the conclusion of

    the matter is that it is better to chase after arguments in order to establish [the Sages’] words rather than to dispel their holy, true and established words in favor of establishing the empty words of these people


    Do you really think he is saying that we would not accept any evidence or testimony to the contrary because it contradicts his (as you suppose) Parmenidean view of science and that his religious views are not implicated?

    On the contrary, it seems clear to me that he is saying that accepting this scientific claim would imply a change in the Halacha, and that since permitting what was previously a forbidden animal is not theologically acceptable (for whatever reason), one should not accept this evidence no matter how strong.

    If this is true (that he considered a potential scientific fact unacceptable for theological reasons), no matter why he claimed it, this is enough to establish R. Slifkin's point: make theological claims about science with care, since you may be wrong about the science.

    The following is not important to the analysis, but I will point out that R. Moshe is quite clearly arguing with the Rashba about a point in Halacha (according to R. Moshe). R. Moshe holds (based on the Rambam) that the halahos of Treifos were fixed at Har Sinai and specifically included that idea that that future changes of any sort (including medical advances) would not alter the list of Treifos. Rashba seems clear (according to R. Moshe) that the Halacha would need to change. Again, this is not important to my argument above; I'm mentioning it because there is a Halachic argument between R. Moshe and the Rashba, not only a scientific one.

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  35. I was actually wondering about David's comment, as it doesn't seem sensible that one could say "we are not permitted to believe that treif animals can live" if one also asserts the fact that "we see treif animals live in real life".

    You are 100% right. This is why the Rashba felt compelled deny the truth of the second sentence now matter what the evidence.

    You are also demonstrating R. Slifkin's point. Statements of the form "You may not believe scientific claim X" are dangerous. If it turns out X is proved true, then the theological system that led you say "You may not believe X" is thrown into doubt.

    This is *not* theoretical. There are otherwise intelligent Rabbis out there claiming that heliocentrism is an unacceptable belief. My son's 11th grade Rebbe devoted a Sunday morning Shiur to this proposition. My son was rightly skeptical :).

    Anyone with a modicum of scientific education who takes that seriously as a mandated belief of Judaism will have a hard time accepting that the system as a whole has any validity.

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  36. I've noticed that from about a dozen penetrating questions on your positions, you've very comfortably chosen the few that are the easiest to answer. I think that you weaken your own position when you refuse to answer the tough questions.

    I have very little time and energy right now, and I see no need to spend it on responding to people who don't even appear here under their own names, and who are basing themselves on a maniac who deliberately misinterprets everything that I write. If you think that this weakens my position, so be it. But you ought to realize that I am at least allowing these questions to be posted here; certain other people wouldn't even give voice to those who oppose them.

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  37. how do you know they are not their own names? Also, only one or two people here are quoting said "maniac". Sir, you are deeply damaging yourself when you pin all your criticisms on one person! There is a major consensus here among independent minds that this post is misconstrued!

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  38. "I was not getting into the topic of whether Rav Moshe Feinstein and others intended the term nishtaneh hateva as a euphemism for saying that Chazal were mistaken. I've heard Rav Moshe Tendler insist that he did, and others insist that he didn't. That's a fascinating issue to ponder, but it wasn't my point."

    There is no way to interpret this paragraph other than to conclude that you are not really sure as to what RMF meant.

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  39. Correct. I have no way of knowing if Rabbi Tendler is right or wrong. But it's entirely irrelevant to the point that I was making.

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  40. >>>> Statements of the form "You may not believe scientific claim X" are dangerous. If it turns out X is proved true, then the theological system that led you say "You may not believe X" is thrown into doubt.

    OK so why do OJ’s require people to believe in TMS, as per the Rambam’s 13 principles, or else they are “kicked out” of the fold.

    Can one confidently say that in time the evidence against TMS will never become indisputable?

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  41. OK so why do OJ’s require people to believe in TMS, as per the Rambam’s 13 principles, or else they are “kicked out” of the fold.

    Can one confidently say that in time the evidence against TMS will never become indisputable?


    A religion has core beliefs, that yes, would invalidate the religion (or at least that view of the religion) if they were proven false. Otherwise, it is not a belief system.

    Adding additional core beliefs which may not actually be true, especially when related to science, is thus risky, and unnecessary for adherents to that belief system. And this is a practical, not theoretical, consideration.

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  42. "In this way the Slifkin Challenge site would be incorrect in claiming that you think Rashba was "proven by medical science to be wrong in declaring that Chazal must be factually correct about treifos", since your claim is only that the Rashba would have to change his way of supporting Chazal, and you are not proving Chazal wrong."

    Rabbi Slifkin's response: "correct."

    But isn't it nonetheless clear that chazal were indeed wrong about this matter? What am I missing here? I know you are not claiming Rav Moshe would say that (because unlike some here I am not trying to put words in your mouth for the sake of "scoring points" against you in some petty rivalry that an egomaniac has constructed from thin air), but wouldn't you say it, or, isn't it obviously the case to us (even if you feel the halacha should remain the same?). You're a zoologist right- so either the phenomena they describe exist/existed in nature or they do not. Please help me here.

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  43. >>>> A religion has core beliefs, that yes, would invalidate the religion (or at least that view of the religion) if they were proven false. Otherwise, it is not a belief system.

    Agreed…but who made up or decided what are the core beliefs of Judaism?? Certainly NOT the Torah. And who made up or decided that if I choose to not believe one or two of this set of core beliefs, i lose my membership rights in the religion. Certainly NOT the Torah.

    For example. Say I believe in God and that doing Taryag mitzvot in general is a way of getting closer to Him, and actually am shomer Torah u’mitzvot, but I don’t believe in many of the narratives in the Torah or that they are exaggerated stories. Am I less of a Jew?? and Why?

    >>>> Adding additional core beliefs …

    But isn’t this exaclyly what the Rambam did, he added existing beliefs to you what he determined should be the core beliefs, and them made them a requirement of membership in the fold. And isn’t this what some chareidim are doing, even today…eg. if you don’t believe the world is 5772 years old only then you are a heretic, or that if you don’t believe that Chazal were uber-scientists, etc.

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  44. But isn't it nonetheless clear that chazal were indeed wrong about this matter? What am I missing here? I know you are not claiming Rav Moshe would say that (because unlike some here I am not trying to put words in your mouth for the sake of "scoring points" against you in some petty rivalry that an egomaniac has constructed from thin air), but wouldn't you say it, or, isn't it obviously the case to us (even if you feel the halacha should remain the same?). You're a zoologist right- so either the phenomena they describe exist/existed in nature or they do not. Please help me here.

    I would not claim to speak for R. Slifkin here. But the cases discussed in the Rashba may have been accurately described differently by Chazal at their time. I presume here that there may have been advances in either the methods of raising livestock (e.g. diet or living conditions) or else advances in veterinary medicine that would make conditions fatal at the time of Chazal no longer fatal at the time of the Rashba. I believe also that the virulence of various micro-organisms changed over time as they evolved so as to perpetuate themselves without wiping out their hosts while at the same time the hosts have evolved resistance to some infections.

    Certainly, as R. Moshe points out, today's medical science can enable animals (and people) today to live who would certainly have died at the time of Chazal.

    As the Rambam says "But I will not on that account [the fact that science was deficient in the past] denounce what they say correctly in accordance with real fact, as untrue or accidentally true. On the contrary, whenever the words of a person can be interpreted in such a manner that they agree with fully established facts, it is the duty of every educated and honest man to do so."

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  45. Agreed…but who made up or decided what are the core beliefs of Judaism?? Certainly NOT the Torah.

    Your questions are going in a direction that I am certainly not qualified to answer. However, here is a naive suggestion: I would say that the current week's Parsha with the Asereth HaDibroth does lay down at least some principles (e.g. Anochi...)

    My point (and perhaps R. Slifkin's point as well) is that various Jewish thinkers of the past and present have included scientific statements in their set of core beliefs (or as implications of their core beliefs) and this was (and is) demonstrably a mistake. The result is that you have those clinging to geocentrism and moon-landing denial in the 21th century.

    It is also true that, e.g. the Ra'avad took issue with the Rambam for including the belief that God has no body as a core belief. Others took issue with him including the requirement to pray only directly to God. Again, these outside the scope of the discussion here and are certainly above my pay grade.


    >>>> Adding additional core beliefs …

    But isn’t this exaclyly what the Rambam did, he added existing beliefs to you what he determined should be the core beliefs, and them made them a requirement of membership in the fold. And isn’t this what some chareidim are doing, even today…eg. if you don’t believe the world is 5772 years old only then you are a heretic, or that if you don’t believe that Chazal were uber-scientists, etc.


    Again, I am not qualified to answer, but here is some speculation: they are actually taking opposite approaches. The Rambam attempted to reconcile and harmonize the latest scientific and philosophical knowledge of his day with his core beliefs from the Torah (broadly the rationalist approach). Today's (non-rationlist? traditionalist?) approach seems to be avoid reconciliation and harmonization and instead to deny the value of modern thought. I think that this description is broadly correct whatever you think about the correctness or value of each approach.

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  46. Natan:

    Thanks for your response. The clarification is appreciated.

    David:

    Thanks also. The more I read that translation of the Rashba, the more it sounds like he realizes that denying might not always work, but he's willing to keep at it until it's impossible, and at that point he's willing to adopt any position that will defend Chazal so as to protect Halacha P'suka. His words almost feel like the science is merely a source of annoyance to him that is getting in the way of the Mesorah, and really any handy answer will do, as the science it not really what's important in the big picture.

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  47. David:

    You wrote: "I presume here that there may have been advances in either the methods of raising livestock (e.g. diet or living conditions) or else advances in veterinary medicine that would make conditions fatal at the time of Chazal no longer fatal at the time of the Rashba. I believe also that the virulence of various micro-organisms changed over time as they evolved so as to perpetuate themselves without wiping out their hosts while at the same time the hosts have evolved resistance to some infections."

    And for those of us who do not make these assumptions (assumptions which I feel do not really have any compelling basis)?

    On your quotation,
    ""But I will not on that account [the fact that science was deficient in the past] denounce what they say correctly in accordance with real fact, as untrue or accidentally true."

    I have added bold emphasis to the word and italics to the adjoining phrase which causes me to question whether that quotation is applicable in this case.

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  48. And for those of us who do not make these assumptions (assumptions which I feel do not really have any compelling basis)?

    If you feel that there is no compelling evidence of advances in medical science over time and that both micro-organisms and their hosts evolve over time, then I can't help you there :). I don't even know what cases the Rashba was talking about, so I can't say at all whether these explanations would apply to his cases, so I can agree that I don't have a compelling reason to go one way or the other about his specific issues (perhaps that is what you mean?)

    I will say that I doubt that Chazal made gross blunders on easily observable phenomenon about animals with which they were familiar. I would speculate that differences in this area derive from differing circumstances or from the fact that the Mishneh is not accompanied by photographs and that something was lost in the translation. I don't doubt Chazal e.g. believed in spontaneous generation as this was a common belief of the time, but I do doubt that they could not tell whether an animal lived or not given a certain observable condition.


    On your quotation,
    ""But I will not on that account [the fact that science was deficient in the past] denounce what they say correctly in accordance with real fact, as untrue or accidentally true."

    I have added bold emphasis to the word and italics to the adjoining phrase which causes me to question whether that quotation is applicable in this case.


    My only point was to say that I would not simply assume that there was a mistake because we can't line things up exactly. There are many possible explanations. I suppose each person will have their own opinion here.

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  49. I just saw this news today that Life started on Land and not in the ocean.

    I feel bad for all those people who used the fact that life started in the ocean as their theological reason to not believe in the Torah :)

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/02/120213-first-life-land-mud-darwin-evolution-animals-science/?source=link_fb20120214news-lifebeganonland

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  50. Ameteur, the issue is not that the torah places the origin of plant life on land on 'day' 3 prior to the appearance of life at sea on 'day' 5. It is that the plants appear before a functioning sun on 'day' 4. Nor does the torah preclude the appearance of microscopic plantlike organisms (phytoplankton) in the seas prior to land. It simply doesn't mention oceanic plant life, but, instead, refers only to animate life on the sea. That teaming life is dependent on the prior existence of much phytoplankton, which presumably appeared earlier.

    The issue of the origin of the first cells is a contested topic among the specialists in the field of life origins. Whether or not the first microscopic cells appeared on land is largely irrelevant to the issue of matching the sequence of events in the torah's creation narrative with scientific evidence. In my own view, the torah doesn't describe the history of the earlier ages of the earth. Rather it starts with the 'modern' cenozoic era, which started after the destruction of the earlier eras of the dinosaurs (Jurassic/Cretaceous Eras, and was based on the survivors from the earlier era. The sequence of land plants, sea animals, and land animals is, then, a sequence of large-scale changes to the earth's appearance and population. The sun's appearance within the sequence is then just a statement of when the blanketing layer of debris and mist from the great asteroidal impact had cleared to the point where the sun and other 'heavenly' bodies became visible.

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  51. Mirrer Guy--

    Keep reading the Slifkin Challenge. I'm sure you'll come across the article where Kornreich advocates suicide for homosexuals. By all means, reject Slifkin's opinion. Everyone is entitled to their view and if you are not compelled by Slifkin's analysis, you are free to disagree. I'm sure he wont mind. But please, at the very least, don't go citing Kornreich as a legitimate source for anything. You can't call yourself a reasonable person and still take seriously the views of someone who thinks it's OK to say the homosexuals should kill themselves before succumbing to sin. I'm more than happy to provide the link to the article if you unaware of what I am talking about. A careful reader of the 'original' article will see that his response/retraction is nothing more than a desperate scramble of a monster trying to hide what he really is.

    Fortunately, other blogs have saved files of Kornreich's article. Kornreich attempts to defend himself by saying that his article was simply meant as a 'theoretical exploration.' Read the originals and see if that defense hold up.

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