Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Theology of Sandy


Recently a very fine rabbi, of chassidishe inclination, disappointed me by ridiculing the idea that last week's weather disaster in the US was due to the human-caused environmental problem of climate change. He further insisted that one cannot attribute it to teva, the natural order. He argued that it is an act of God, not an act of man, and we have to look for the divine cause. He suggested, tentatively, that it was because of Atlantic City, the target of the storm, being a den of gambling. He added that just as the mabul happened because of interbreeding, so too similar natural events happen due to breaches in arayos, such legislating same-sex marriages.

A thought that struck me was, hey, if you're making wild guesses as to the metaphysical cause, why not pin the blame closer to home, as per a real cheshbon hanefesh? You could observe that the original mabul happened because of chamas, violence, and note that water puts out fires. Then you can observe that the hardest-hit Jewish community last week was the Five Towns, and you can note that people there fawn over chassidishe rebbes, including paying one million dollars for the honor of hosting the Skvere Rebbe. Now, Skvere achieved notoriety for the case of the dissident who was set on fire by the Rebbe's assistant, for which no responsibility or appropriate action was taken by Skver. So the hurricane was to punish the violence and symbolically "put out the fire"! Bingo!

Of course, that's ludicrous and offensive; I have good friends in the Five Towns who suffered terrible damage to their homes, and who don't support Skvere. But nor do they gamble in Atlantic City.

So now for the serious discussion. I don't think (as far as I can gather) that there is any basis for attributing Sandy entirely to climate change caused by man. However, the idea that it was exacerbated by changes to the environment caused by man seems entirely plausible. Furthermore, from a religious Jewish perspective, it seems perfectly reasonable and appropriate to draw such a conclusion (if there is adequate scientific basis).

This is clearly the case from the rationalist Jewish perspective. Terrible events can occur as a result of teva, and as a result of people not making the correct hishtadlus. After all, Rambam, in his Letter to Marseilles, says that the Destruction of Jerusalem happened as a result of people involving themselves in silly superstitions instead of working at proper military planning and defense of the land:
This is why our kingdom was lost and our Temple was destroyed and why we were brought to this; for our fathers sinned and are no more because they found many books dealing with these themes of the star gazers, these things being the root of idolatry, as we have made clear in Laws Concerning Idolatry. They erred and were drawn after them, imagining them to be glorious science and to be of great utility. They did not busy themselves with the art of war or with the conquest of lands, but imagined that those studies would help them. Therefore the prophets called them “fools and dolts” (Jer. 4:22).
But even without adopting the rationalist approach, normative Jewish thought clearly sees it as entirely plausible that disasters can occur due to environmental harm caused by man, and no other metaphysical cause need be sought.


Let's start with a simple mitzvah of the Torah (that I will be fortunate enough to perform, with a berachah, in the next few weeks): That of making a fence around a roof that people walk upon. Even mystics, who claim that the reasons for mitzvos are metaphysical and unknowable, would have to concede that there is a clear and obvious reason for this mitzvah. And if someone were to fail to fulfill it, and were to fall from their roof and come to harm, one would obviously not need to look for the metaphysical reason as to why it happened ("ah, it's because he spoke during davenning!").

As I noted in a post of a few years ago, "Safety is Also a Mitzvah," the tragic collapse of the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem, built using the notorious "pal-kal" construction method, need not be attributed to mixed dancing or anything like that. There was no need to divine any cause other than the obvious: It is dangerously irresponsible to look for quick-and-easy shortcuts in something as serious as constructing tall buildings. And responsibility in such matters as construction is also a Torah obligation, be it the mitzvah of maakeh or that of venishmartem es nafshosechem.

The Midrash notes that man's power and resultant responsibilities extend beyond his direct construction, to the environment around him:
“Look at the work of God, for who can rectify that which he has damaged” (Ecclesiastes 7:13) – At the time when God created Adam, He took him around the trees of the Garden of Eden, and He said to him, “Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! Everything that I created, I created for you; take care that you do not damage and destroy My world, for if you damage it, there is no one to repair it afterwards!” (Midrash Koheles Rabbah 7:1) 

Here we see that, from Chazal's perspective, it is certainly possible that man can cause great harm to the world.  Furthermore, man is enjoined not to do so, and warned that if he does not listen, he will suffer the consequences.

It is thus perfectly appropriate, from a Torah perspective, to say that man failed in his obligations to the environment, and suffered great harm as a result. Is that actually what happened with Sandy? I have no idea. But it's at least as reasonable as attributing it to gambling in Atlantic City.


72 comments:

  1. I agree with the sentiment, though not with the facts. Anthropogenic Global Warming is a gigantic hoax, created by fraudulent research with an anarchist political agenda. This is very hot current news with the Mann vs Steyn libel suit. Get out your popcorn and enjoy the fun. We're about to watch the whole house of "global warming" cards come tumbling down.

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  2. And people dismissing anthropogenic global warming don't have a political agenda? C'mon!

    (see too http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2009/12/climate-change-skeptics.html)

    But let's try to keep the thread on the topic of theology, not the science of climate change.

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  3. Rabbi,
    How can you condemn somebody for ridiculing the idea that the storm was caused by man-made climate change?

    Aren't you familiar with "Climategate"? There were not one, not TWO tranches of emails in which scientists were behaving in a most unscientific way in order to promote their view of a very complex issue.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100119087/uh-oh-global-warming-loons-here-comes-climategate-ii/

    How can you trust scientists who clearly showed their determination to cook the books to "hide the decline" (in global temperatures)?

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  4. What on earth does that have to do with ridiculing the idea that the storm was caused by man-made climate change?

    There was a hoax with evolution called Piltdown Man. Does that mean that evolution should be ridiculed?

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  5. What I find more troubling is the assumption that if the disaster is attributable to nature, it cannot be Divine punishment. That is similar to the idea (which I once heard expressed by a pious Jew) that it is apikorsus to listen to the weather forecast, because God decides on the weather.

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  6. 1Climate change is here, and we had better start making plans on how to blunt its potency and deal with its impact.

    Nearly half of the US population is so set on denying this “inconvenient truth” that government has been practically paralyzed on the issue.

    "The catch phrase du jour – Frankenstorm – implies a man-made creature that became a monster."

    This should serve to wake up the American electorate and push it toward a different, more appropriate, and healthier path.

    No need to further pollute the atmosphere regardless whether or not it is believed to be a factor to climate change.

    I believe there will be more such natural disasters, and the underlying need for the US to rouse itself and make some significant adjustments to the new and demanding urgencies of the modern world will be very evident.

    Hurricane Sandy was only the beginning.
    o

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  7. Natan,
    What does it have to do with the idea that the storm was caused by man-made climate change?

    I'd say because there's a lot more counterevidence to that proposition than there is to evolution.

    That the main records of the information that would confirm or deny that proposition come from the very people who are proven to be willing to doctor the books?

    This isn't relevant? This doesn't shake your faith in that proposition?

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  8. He argued that...we have to look for the divine cause.

    If you want to hear someone who argues the exact opposite point, check out this article by R. Shmuley Boteach, where he lambasts the monumental presumptuousness of people who try to "divine the mind of God" and proclaim "why" such-and-such disaster happened. How do we respond meaningfully to tragedy then? Mmm, how about... doing whatever we can to curtail human suffering!

    No great "chiddushim" there, just some refreshing common sense.

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  9. Let's try that again. This article:

    http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/where_was_god_when_hurricane_sandy_struck

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  10. Rabbi, I was always taught that 'Chamas' means stealing. You may not know it, but my friends in law enforcement call firemen "land pirates" because of all the items they steal during fires, & search and rescues. I have this on authority also from Jews I know in the fire department who are flabbergasted when they have found out things their coworkers openly admit to. Breezy Point, which burned to the ground after being flooded had a double rainbow over it. They also had a history of banning Jews from Breezy Point.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-3rB-Oj2Gy9E/UJAcw3RNjkI/AAAAAAAAbl0/2efhGq3JPdA/s400/Rainbow-after-HurricaneSandy-BreezyPointQueensNYC-30Oct2012.jpg

    Would you say that show divine retribution?

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  11. He added that just as the mabul happened because of interbreeding

    Um, see Rashi, and BT Sangedrin:

    for the earth has become full of robbery: Their verdict was sealed only because of robbery. — [from Sanh. 108a] -- Rashi to Genesis 6:13
    theodicy.html

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  12. There is absolutely NO CONTRADICTION!
    One good example: The destruction of the first Bet HaMikdash was caused by the king of Bavel and the political/militar situation of that time... and yet it was the will of G-d according to the Prophets.
    Another example: The Mabul was caused by chamas and corruption, but yet according to the Talmud the physichal cause was the fall of a comet. No contradiction at all.

    However, we must be very carefoul when we search for metaphysichal causes. We are not in G-d's mind.
    Shalom.

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  13. On a totally unrelated subject, looking toward the future, will you PLEEEEASE, pretty please, with sugar on top put up an updated post before Parshas Veyechei on werewolves? :-) I would love some other fun monster related stuff on Birchas Yaakov if you have anything fun. While I love your blog (and books) the comments are always so much fun, and with hte gas lines here in NYC and cold weather, I could use a smile!

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  14. Sandy became unusually large because of the convergence of three weather systems , the hurricane itself, a western front plus a cold front. These things happen.

    As to whether humanity is causing it, well, you`ll have a hard time proving it conclusively, and an equally hard time disproving it. No house of cards here.

    Was it punishment for gambling ? Atlantic city has had gambling for a while, and is registered on the gps system. It shouldn`t have taken this long.

    In some minds the storm was punishment, but you can also say that it`s how Hashem works this world-heat and energy have to be released , and maybe this heads off a greater disaster.

    If you really want a cause and effect for Divine punishment,try this. If the headquarters for google - owners of youtube-were to be swallowed by the earth, live on CNN, then I would say Hashem was sending us a message. Otherwise, they just want to sound as if they`re on His contact list

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  15. Reminds me of something I heard at a yeshiva in Jerusalem in Elul 2003.

    One of the rabbis was giving a speech about why so many awful acts of terror were occurring at the time (eg. the terrible bombing at the bakery that killed the noted physician and his daughter who was about to be married). The reason: because Jerusalem is "closer to the source" - the closer you are to kedusha/holiness, the more you may/will/can suffer.

    I'm sure this is not the first person to express this sentiment nor the first time it has been expressed, but it struck me as so incredibly insulting and I was immediately turned of. I simply do not understand that way of thinking, nor why it appeals to people.

    Best
    M. singer

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  16. For many of your readers, the idea that Hurricane Sandy was caused by Man is just as foolish, and every bit as naive, as saying that it was caused by permitting homosexual marriage and because of lax community eruvin (both of which, I kid you not, I heard from the pulpit this week as the reason for the Hurricane.)

    Do you not read ClimateDepot? Recognize that, just as your blog has shaken up the rabbinic establishment, the internet has also shaken up the entrenched liberal media establishment. There has been a sea change in the way the globalwarming industry is now viewed with suspicion in the US. For the first time in a generation, the democrats didnt mention it in their campaigns. They were afraid to touch it. Cap and Trade is dead. People are waking up to realize what a gigantic fraud global warming is.

    Instead of concluding, as you did, that attributing the hurricane to global warming is as reasonable as attributing it to gambling, I'd say that that both suggestions are equally UNreasonable.

    Gershon Pickles

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  17. It seems like the most traditional Torah approach would be for each person who personally suffered damage by the storm to search their deeds and do teshuvah for whatever they have done wrong, and for any particular Jewish community damaged significantly by the storm to look inward and resolve to do teshuvah as a community. Theoretically, any sin could have triggered storm damage to Jewish communities, from failing to protect against abusers of children to causing suffering among chickens waiting for kapparaot. The idea that we can mainly blame natural disasters on the activities of non-Jews seems more consistent with xenophobic nationalism (which likes to blame its problems on others) than Judaism.

    The same dynamic was at play after the spitting controversy in Ramat Beit Shemesh -- the response of most charedi rabbis was to lash out at the secular and be defensive rather than searching their own community for faults (though one prominent gadol did call for teshuvah).

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  18. @LFD

    Would you say that show[s] divine retribution?

    That's the point. I would not "SAY" it. I very well might "think" it. And then I would say to myself that there is a part of me here that is happy/smug about the suffering of others, and that no "guesswork" on my part is worth making myself into an "achzari" (cruel person), since that is considered to be an anti-Jewish trait. So I would tell myself to stop thinking that way, WELL BEFORE I actually said it.

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  19. Blaming this on climate change makes no sense. There are fewer hurricanes now than there were in other decades.

    http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/october-hurricane-strikes-are-becoming-much-less-common/

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  20. "Let's start with a simple mitzvah of the Torah (that I will be fortunate enough to perform, with a berachah, in the next few weeks): That of making a fence around a roof that people walk upon."

    delighted to hear. may it be the beginning of good things.



    "Even mystics, who claim that the reasons for mitzvos are metaphysical and unknowable, would have to concede that there is a clear and obvious reason for this mitzvah. And if someone were to fail to fulfill it, and were to fall from their roof and come to harm, one would obviously not need to look for the metaphysical reason as to why it happened ("ah, it's because he spoke during davenning!")."

    in the past you've written about anticipating that mystics are creative enough to come up with something. amazingly, in TODAY'S DAF YOMI there's an exegesis on the word נופל to the effect that the person who falls had anyway deserved to fall but the owner of the house is forbidden to be the agent of the deserved punishment. IIUC, if the person is completely innocent he won't fall; if he does fall it's also his own fault.

    [i.e. the gemara blames the victim ;) but seriously, the gemara has the authority to do so. you may also recall that if one spoke during davening that would justify his fear to participate in the military.]

    they also say from chazon ish that not because of the danger is there a mitzvah to build a fence; rather, because one transgresses the mitzvah that creates the danger. this isn't very rationalistic, but a proof is from the absence of such an obligation if there is no dwelling beneath the roof, even if it is a consistently-used walkway. if everything is based on danger why would we care about what is underneath?

    try חזון איש חושן משפט ליקוטים סימן יח and see if he is being quoted correctly.

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  21. "The Midrash notes that man's power and resultant responsibilities extend beyond his direct construction, to the environment around him:
    “Look at the work of God, for who can rectify that which he has damaged” (Ecclesiastes 7:13) – At the time when God created Adam, He took him around the trees of the Garden of Eden, and He said to him, “Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! Everything that I created, I created for you; take care that you do not damage and destroy My world, for if you damage it, there is no one to repair it afterwards!” (Midrash Koheles Rabbah 7:1)
    Here we see that, from Chazal's perspective, it is certainly possible that man can cause great harm to the world. Furthermore, man is enjoined not to do so, and warned that if he does not listen, he will suffer the consequences."


    but in chap. 1 of mesilas yesharim, authored of course by a mystic, this midrash is understood to mean that man damages creation through sin, not by physical means such as using CFCs.

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  22. "Theoretically, any sin could have triggered storm damage to Jewish communities, from failing to protect against abusers of children to causing suffering among chickens waiting for kapparaot...",
    to deciding as a community to stay in Chutz L'aretz

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  23. I posted the wrong graph about hurricanes earlier. I meant to post this one.


    http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/the-us-has-had-285-hurricane-strikes-since-1850/

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  24. I'm surprised you're giving so much space to even the possibility of Sandy being the result of anthropogenic climate change. Not because I'm "for" or "against", but because there's absolutely no need to invoke the issue for this discussion. Hurricanes are a normal feature of the functioning of the Earth. Some are worse than others. Some affect man more than others. As someone else pointed out, Sandy, as a hurricane, was rather ordinary. Several other "normal" meteorological factors combined to make Sandy a "monster". Bigger, more powerful, hurricanes have struck the Northeast, and they struck long before "climate change" could have been an issue. Further, it's perfectly "normal" for large hurricanes to strike and cause damage to the Gulf Region of the US. Yet you still find the same nonsensical theologic pronouncements with those. Discard the issue of man's involvement in creating the storm and you have a stronger argument.

    If you want to talk about man's involvement then talk about man's decision of where to live and build cities. For example there's a reason that Rockaway, Long Beach, Seaside, etc. are called "barrier islands". There's a community on the Northern part of the Jersey called Sea Bright. The community is protected by sea wall. Every time there is a moderate Northeaster the sea wall gets breached. (It's almost comical how in every storm you see a news guy standing at the sea wall getting sprayed with ocean water.)

    I'm not blaming these people for choosing to live where they live. There are huge benefits to living on the shore. But every choice we make has a cost/benefit. (Just ask the folks who live in LA.) To these people the benefit of living on the shore outweighs the risks. (That said flooding from Sandy did affect many people in areas not typically affected.) Same with AC. You build a resort on the ocean in an area where hurricanes do drop by occasionally and you assume the risk. It has nothing to do with gambling.

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  25. Rashi reader said...
    another ambiguous comment. are you saying that the flood was caused by robbery *alone*, or by robbery *also*?

    if *alone*, you've ignored the rashi immediately before yours which says that
    כל מקום שאתה מוצא זנות ועבודת אלילים אנדרלמוסיא באה לעולם והורגת טובים ורעים
    --and rashi to vv. 11 & 12.

    btw, your rashi is explicit only about the flood itself, but by logic it applies to the future, wheras this rashi is explicitly refering to all times.
    [perhaps robbery is only the straw that broke, or breaks, the camel's back, as in "נחתם/sealed". note also that the אנדרלמוסיא doesn't spare the innocent.]

    and if you mean robbery *also*, how would you know that the rabbi wouldn't agree with you?

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  26. I'm terribly disappointed by the opening paragraph of this post.
    Man-made? Really? We're that good?
    Further, isn't it interesting that there is a long history of horrible environmental events going back thousands of years causing tremendous damage to societies but nowadays when a rogue storm does something tragic we automatically shout "Man made global warming"?
    For someone who is usually meticulous about his research and attributions, this seems to be quite a contrast.

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  27. I have no idea what you are talking about. What do you think that I wrote?

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  28. peretz mann said... "Was it punishment for gambling ? Atlantic city has had gambling for a while... It shouldn`t have taken this long."

    by the flood it took at least 120 years, by sodom 52 years, and in yechezkel we read of the שנאה כבושה of 800 years.


    BTW, i'm not coming to advocate for any particular view, only to discuss the various points that are being brought up.

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  29. The passage from Koheles Rabbah that you quoted is obviously a forgery.
    ;)

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  30. in general many people have a preconceived mental list of widespread behaviors that must be fixed asap. [others have no list at all.] when tragedy strikes they take out their list and come up with a connection between the tragedy and the thing(s) on their list. if you have the same list or are willing to modify yours, their theories speak to you.

    a friend of mine once attended a sad funeral for a sefer torah that got burnt. he was culture shocked in a big way from one of the eulogies. the speaker said we can't know why this happened. but, just maybe, we should take note that this happened just when people are starting to grow their hair long....
    this tells you what was on that speaker's list.

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  31. Agreed with your first commenter. It's silly to blame the hurricane on gambling (or whatever) but its also silly to blame it on "global warming." Al Gore has been thoroughly discredited by all but the fervently religious environmentalists. For such people global warming isnt a myth, its a religion. Intressante how the very religious of both camps are willing to attribute natural disasters to man. i wonder what that says?

    Relatedly: If someone today were to say the Yom Kippur was caused by sinnas chinam, or by not making birkas hatorah, or some other religious reason like that, he'd be laaughed out of the park. Yet we seem to accept these as reasons for the Roman/Assyrian invasion of Jerusalem. Now why is that?

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  32. Al Gore has been thoroughly discredited by all but the fervently religious environmentalists.

    Actually, my impression is that the only opponents to the idea of man-made global warming are those who are fervently religious or fervently Republican. But I'm open to being proven wrong.

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  33. A woman wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe after she suffered a loss in her family--I think her son passed away, ל"ע. She wanted to know why it happened. The Rebbe answered that only a prophet could possibly know why some tragedy strikes.

    (I'm sure commenters will be able to find instances where Chassidic Rebbes did tell their followers why a particular event occurred, however.)

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  34. I think what's being missed in many of the posts is this:

    The point of the blog seems to be clear [to me]. That is, if one is doing a cheshbon ha-nefesh s/he should pick something that includes him/her self. It IS plausible that the intensities of hurricanes are increased by the ocean temperature which, in turn, is effected by man made additions to climate change. In addressing a cheshbon ha-nefesh to the human contributions of a group that includes ourselves, there is a mechanism [ocean temperature] that we have some level of ability to effect. That there is a human caused addition to the ocean temperature gives us reason to reflect on our uses of fossil fuels. However, there is no environmental mechanism caused by gambling that can effect the center of a storm to pass near Atlantic City.

    I think it is an apt point.

    Gary Goldwater

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  35. "Actually, my impression is that the only opponents to the idea of man-made global warming are those who are fervently religious or fervently Republican. But I'm open to being proven wrong."

    You are wrong. That comment is revealing, but otherwise not worthy of a response. Perhaps you didnt think it through.

    If you ever have time, suggest reading Real Science or Climate Depot or Climate Realists, and the many articles and papers aggregated therein. Perhaps you will be unable to shift your paradigms. But even if you can't, you will at least be exposed to a whole body of literature you clearly dont really know about, except perhaps from hearing it mocked by opponents. In a way, you remind me of the charedim who are so sure of their view of Torah, because they've never been seriously exposed to other viewpoints, except via the distorting filter of people opposed to those viewpoints. Ironic, dont you think?

    I like this blog very much, but the few times you have waded into this topic, you've received lots of negative feedback. Seems to me most people share your concern of the lack of scientific engagement in the frum community, but havent gone to the other side of the pendulum as you have, by accepting everything [some] scientists say.

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  36. "by accepting everything [some] scientists say"

    Are you claiming that climate change is only proposed by a minority of scientists?

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  37. If you ever have time, suggest reading Real Science or Climate Depot or Climate Realists

    You mean a site aggregator run by a fervent Republican? Is that like Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb's blog, aggregating articles that he thinks discredit evolution, but in fact do no such thing?

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  38. Here's a report on one of the websites that DF recommended:

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/profiles/climate-depot

    Extract:

    Morano authored the report ' More Than 700 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims' for Inhofe. The Center for Enquiry, a charity in the US which promotes "evidence-based reasoning", completed a comprehensive assessment of the names of the 'International Scientists' on the list, which at the time numbered 687, and concluded in July 2009 that the report was not credible given that more than 80 percent of the names had ' no peer-reviewed publication record related to climate science'.

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  39. Rabbi Slifkin ;

    Your Chassidish rav denied the hand of man as capable of having any effect on the environment. Does he also deny us having any effect on our own, personal health. I.e, is smoking harmless ? Does being seriously overweight lead to diabetes and various problems ?Does he go to a doctor on occasion, or is it all in Hashem`s Hand ? If we can change our own condition, why is it beyond reason that we can do the same to the environment ?

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  40. "a site run by a fervent republican . . ."

    Dont you understand that people say the exact same thing about true believers in global warming? That they're all partisan democrats and lefties, who have a financial stake in the game? You dont realize Gore, the High Priest of climate fear-mongering, has made tens of millions off of "global warming"? You're preaching to your choir.

    When you have more than 1000 scientists dismissing claims of global warming, like the study mentioned above [incorrectly using an early 700 figure] only the most blinkered partisan can put his head in the sand to ignore it, with risible whining about "peer review." And that is merely one out of scores of such studies. a more recent letter was sent by 49 former NASA scientists to the agency, saying essentially the same thing.

    Natan - face the facts. The hoax was already on the decline even before the Climate gate emails were revealed. Ten years hence, climate change nonsense will seem as quaint and as foolish as the "star wars" and nuclear war fears we heard all throughout the 80s.

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  41. That they're all partisan democrats and lefties, who have a financial stake in the game?

    Virtually the entire community of meteorologists are democrats and lefties? That sounds unlikely.

    But let's say that you're correct. So both sides are biased. So what makes you so certain that the majority of scientists in the relevant field, who claim that man-made climate change is real, are wrong?

    When you have more than 1000 scientists dismissing claims of global warming,

    If they're not in the relevant fields (or if they are devout religious/republican) then they are irrelevant. You can find plenty of "scientists" who dispute evolution, too. Does Rav Meiselman have credibility, because he has a PhD in math from MIT?!

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  42. http://gizmodo.com/5957831/nasa-gives-the-best-detailed-explanation-of-sandy-yet?utm_campaign=socialflow_gizmodo_facebook&utm_source=gizmodo_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

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  43. NS- "So what makes you so certain that the majority of scientists in the relevant field, who claim that man-made climate change is real, are wrong?"

    - Most "scientists" are atheists as well. Does it make them correct?

    Anyway agree or disagree this is a Rav talking about perhaps why it happened.

    http://www.torahanytime.com/scripts/media.php?file=media/Rabbi/Zecharia_Wallerstein/2012-11-04/Commitment_Phobia/Rabbi__Zecharia_Wallerstein__Scream_if_it_Hurts..._Commitment_Phobia__2012-11-04.wmv

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  44. None of this matters at all. The fact of the matter, and I do mean fact, is that no matter what we do that theoretically helps or hinders ourselves, each other, or the environment, God controls all of it. If there was zero pollution, zero warming, and zero detriments, God can still make a Sandy that will wipe out everything. Man has no effect on any of it. Thats why I smoke, eat sugar even with diabetes, eat schmaltz even though I am 50 lbs overweight. If God wants me to die, theres nothing I can do to change it, so I'm gonna enjoy the minutes I have, and hopefully some kind soul will bury me with a carton of Kools.

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  45. Here's an unambiguous statement by the world's largest scientific organization....the AAAS.
    http://archives.aaas.org/docs/resolutions.php?doc_id=447

    And here's a reiteration after the climate denial craze began:
    http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2009/1204climate_statement.shtml

    The National Science Education Center has a primer on human effects on climate change at:
    http://ncse.com/climate/climate-change-101

    When you click on the underlined phrases, you get linked to the relevant information on which the phrase is based. It's really pretty interesting.

    All the best,
    Gary Goldwater

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  46. "let's say that you're correct. So both sides are biased. So what makes you so certain that the majority of scientists in the relevant field, who claim that man-made climate change is real, are wrong?"

    That's a good question. So I think this:

    1) I dont know if the majority believe in climate change. There are things that, for whatever reason, become so political, that people feel they can no longer express their true beliefs. Racial differences is one example. Gender differences is another. We are just about there with homosexuality too (as in whether its a disorder or entirely normal.) Climate change was one of those before the Internet came along to show people there were many more "skeptics" than once thought. So we dont know what the majority truly think.

    2. Even if the majority accept it, it has become clear there is, at least, a very large and significant minority that disagrees. Large enough that the isse of majority becomes irrelevant. (This is not an election, after all.)

    3. Because of points 1 and 2, individuals who claim no expertise, cannot rely on authority - because it is so divided - and must hence follow what common sense tells them, what their life experience tells them, and what history tells them. And because of all this, I view the global warming (once known as global cooling) phenomenon as one of those passing generational crazes that will pass in time, and is indeed already passing. History teaches that every generation is susceptible to passing crazes, in which even the brightest are often caught up. There are countless such examples. "Global warming" is destined to take its place among them.

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  47. - Most "scientists" are atheists as well. Does it make them correct?

    That's not something which is relevant to their field of speciality.

    You follow the majority of experts in every other field. Why not in this one?

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  48. 1) I dont know if the majority believe in climate change.

    They certainly seem to.

    Even if the majority accept it, it has become clear there is, at least, a very large and significant minority that disagrees.

    That's not at all clear. As was mentioned twice, but as you have apparently ignored, your alleged "thousand scientists who disagree" are virtually all not in this field, and hence irrelevant.

    In every other sphere where you cannot claim personal expertise, you rely on the majority of experts. (Even if not to say that they are 100% correct, at least to say that they are most likely correct.) How come in this one, you act in the precisely the opposite manner and not only do not follow the majority, but are certain that the majority are wrong?

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  49. The climate certainly is changing (and climate changes certainly are causing these rare and dangerous storms), but the changes are not man made. Man isn't in control of everything. The "macro environment" or "macro climate" is one of those things. The man made global warming circus act of Al Gore was proven fraudulent. Why would any rational person still believe in it? It's politicized nonsense.

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  50. "Why would any rational person still believe in it?"

    Er, because the overwhelming majority of qualified experts say that it's real? That seems like a rational reason to believe in it.

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  51. Returning to the theology, Chazal tell us to look into our deeds in response to a tragedy and use it as a vehicle for tshuvah, but that is very different from seeking the Divine cause for it. Explaining the Divine cause for things is the role of a Navi; others who do so are treading perilously close to being liable as neviei sheker. And finding a Divine cause in other people's behavior, that is, using the tragedy as an excuse for smug self righteous behavior is beyond offensive.

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  52. Mike S. - My thoughts exactly! Nicely articulated.

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  53. "you rely on the majority of experts."

    I am just amazed you still dont see the parallel between "climate change" and "Slifkin affair." The vast majority of orthodox Jews think you're a heretic. (That is, they dont know you, but if told of your views, they would call them heretical.) Yet you - rightly - ignore them, because you know there is strong and significant minority, with plenty of experts (ie, talmidei chamchamim) among them, that support your views.

    Natan, dont you see? As the orthdox establishment has the media and most of the pulpits, they either are or at least appear to be the majority. That doesnt and shouldnt stop the rationalists. The same is true of the true believers in global warming, and the need for government regulations to stop it. It doesnt and shouldnt stop the realists

    As the majority of experts ("GEDOILIM") are on the establishment side, the majority of experts are, or appear to be, on the global warming side. But as there are also GEDOILIM on the rationalist side, there are experts on the side of the climate realists side.

    Everywhere you turn, the parallels are precise. Any distinctions you can make are inconsequential. The upshot? Ad hominem attacks, like calling your oppoenents "rabid" republicans, have the same effect as calling you a self-glorifying contrarian - no effect at all. As in one's Torah hashkafa, one's view about global warming - there are only opinions, to which everyone has one, and no facts.

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  54. There is no comparison whatsoever. The people who oppose my work represent a completely different system of thought. If the majority of YU rabbis/academics thought that my work was heretical, I would indeed have serious grounds for concern!

    On the other hand, within science, it's all a single system of thought.

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  55. To NS-

    One also needs to follow the $. By the way not always do we rely on the majority of "experts".
    Many times its the $ behind something including research that influences the studies and outcomes.
    In Soviet Russia for example when they needed certain statistics and other things they made sure to get them in their favor. Perhaps the same with the "global warming" agenda. Their definitely is an agenda and big $ involved as well. I'm not saying I believe they are 100% wrong or 100% correct, I dont know, but their are many evidences that they can be wrong and that the people behind those studies many times have an agenda for $ purposes.

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  56. "Virtually the entire community of meteorologists are democrats and lefties? That sounds unlikely. "

    A simple google search would reveal that it's very likely.
    http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-4-scientists-politics-and-religion/

    Basically, 81% of scientists lean Democrat, and 12% of scientists lean Republican.

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  57. BTW, being Athiests or Materialists does have a large impact on their biases in intepreting data.

    For example, a materialist is more likely to view man's placement in the world in a negative manner. People they believe are an aberation and ruin environments. They destroy the way things are "supposed to be", and believe we should consume less of the world for our own benefit.

    They will actively seek out explanations and data that support their view of things. Mainly because so much of their political thought and what they are taught in school is to be against what they perceive as the evils of the Christian Church.

    It doesn't mean they are wrong, but it certainly means you should be aware of the bias and it's affect.

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  58. "ridiculing the idea that last week's weather disaster in the US was due to the human-caused environmental problem of climate change. He further"

    The above has nothing to do with the mission of this blog and causes nothing but a useless distraction from the theological issues.

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  59. Rambam says the Jews should have studied war and defended themselves. He did NOT say they should go to beis medrash to daven for protection. In other words, the ARMY defends the Jews, not the KOLLEL. Kollel is not a substitute for having a good army.

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  60. The Christian right in America (Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, etc.) have been offering up reasons for hurricanes for years. Most are caused by abortion and homosexuality.

    Pat Robertson once turned back a hurricane by praying.

    A Sunni preacher in Egypt is saying Sandy was divine punishment for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Katrina hit New Orleans because that's Condoleeza Rice's hometown, and she forced Israel to allow Hamas to run in the elections. Hashem was mad about that one.

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  61. "On the other hand, within science, it's all a single system of thought."

    With regard to climate science, that is only true if you ignore the dissenters!

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  62. This post of yours has effectively lowered the entire iq of your blog. Not impressed rabbi not impressed. You sound like Bloomberg. Please just stop. You look foolish

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  63. Rabbi please stop. Your lowering the iq of this blog. Stick to what you know and we'll all be better off

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  64. "You're," not "Your." If you want to impress people with your IQ, it's important to know how to spell!

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  65. @Berry/dave

    If this issue is not a perfect "inyanei d'yoma" example of the gulf in thinking between rationalist and non-rationalist Judaism, I don't know what is!

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  66. Despite the fact that I had the dubious honor of being the person who triggered this climate-change comment war with my initial post, I am trying to keep myself in the rational eye of this little hurricane.

    On the one hand, I am deeply suspicious of the political motivation behind the "science" of climate change. The people most pushing for cap-and-trade, reduced industry etc. have a suspiciously large overlap with the group of leftist anarchists, scientific materialists, humanists and other environmentalist movements that view humans as intrinsically evil and damaging to nature. I have seen too much manipulation of the data for me to take their claims at face value. Since the seventies, environmentalist alarmists have been warning of impending catastrophe from overpopulation, mass starvation, deluges overwhelming Pacific islands due to rising sea levels, etc. Even logically, in an outrageous worst case scenario, where the entire ice shelf of Antarctica melts, and adds maybe one meter to global ocean levels - that's less than the change in ocean levels caused by daily tidal changes! The hype around AGW is too hysterical for me as a rational person not to be deeply suspicious that something is rotten in the "science" of climate change.

    OTOH, there are things are are clearly "anan sahadi". For example, ozone layer depletion. I remember when I was a kid, sure we had to put on sun cream when we went swimming or before a cricket match - but it was usually SPF 6 (or SPF 10 on the nose and cheeks), and you didn't hear much about the dangers of skin cancer ל"ע. Today it's all about SPF 30+, and skin cancer rates have measurably increased. Deforestation is a real and measurable phenomenon, and when you destroy the natural habitats of animals, you don't have to be a climate scientist to see that the consequence will be severe depletion or even extinction of the species, which will have ramifications on the ecosystem. To say nothing of pollution, which is visible to the naked eye from the hills of Ramat Beit Shemesh when you look out towards the sea over the Gush Dan area. Anyone with eyes in his head has got to be asking, are we seriously expecting to breathe in that muck, and not be affected?

    Unfortunately we have a human tendency to break issues into black and white, choose sides and stop thinking. Either we're with the environmentalists, or we're with the skeptics. And either way, we wind up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    R' Natan, I respectfully suggest that you have also fallen prey to this attitude. You made some surprising comments that seem to dismiss the opinions of religious people and Republicans as intrinsically lacking credibility. That's called playing the man rather than the ball. In defining yourself as a "Rationalist Jew", distinct from the non-rationalist mainstream of Orthodoxy, you seem to have placed yourself in some kind of a "contrarian camp", in which you instinctively tend towards the opposite view of whatever mainstream Orthodoxy seems to hold, even when the mainstream view is more rational, such as whether or not to attribute Hurricane Sandy to AGW.

    In summary, being a rational and intellectually honest person requires looking for the emes hadavar, irrespective of preconceived political positions, and an ability to see nuances within a situation. Climate change is not a package deal that you either accept or reject. The way I call it: ozone depletion, pollution and damage to forests and other natural habitats are real issues that we should take heed of; global warming, overpopulation and rising ocean levels are non-issues, and I wouldn't give them time of day.

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  67. Add me to the list of "global warming skeptics". The claim that "there is a consensus among scientists" about the human-caused global warming doesn't impress me.
    It would take a couple of hundred years of intensive data collection to prove to me that if there really is GW, it is due to human C02 emissions. This could be just a "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallicy (a coincidence). There have been monster hurricans long before man became a factor in affecting the environment. There aer long term cycles in the number of hurricanes related to long-term oscillations in ocean circulation which effects the sea-surface temperatures which in turn effects hurrican formation. The mass of the oceans is 100 times that of the atmosphere and so changes in the atmospheric conditions are reflected very slowly in the oceans because of the great inertia in the oceans circulation.

    I do see a correlation between HYSTERIA regarding GW and political orientiation. Non-religious and anti-religious people are attracted to "progressive" ideology and they seem to have a belief that "we are all doomed". This basic pessimism about life is, I believe, connected to their agnostic-atheistic outlook and this, in turn, is related to a common intolerance and even rage towards dissenting opinions that I note in their relationship with those who disagree with them.

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  68. "It is thus perfectly appropriate, from a Torah perspective, to say that man failed in his obligations to the environment, and suffered great harm as a result. Is that actually what happened with Sandy? I have no idea. But it's at least as reasonable as attributing it to gambling in Atlantic City."

    I think I would change "at least as" to "equally".

    Whatever the eventual risks of AGW are it is completely disingenuous to blame Sandy on global warming. Is AGW also to be blamed for the extremely quiet 2006 through 2012 (all things considering) hurricane seasons as well?. What about the 10 named storms that hammered the NE US coast in the late 1950s?

    It IS fair to use Sandy to demonstrate that the damage caused by rising water levels and increasingly powerful storms justifies being extremely cautious today even without AGW certainty.

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  69. Actually there is a high correlation between dyslexia and real world success. A highly DISPROPORTIONATE number of CEOs are dyslexic. A therefore don't think its important to impress with my spelling!

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Dyslexic-Advantage-Unlocking-Potential/dp/1594630798

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  70. Rabbi Slifkin, why do you keep discussing Jewish topics? Haven't you read Stormfront?
    Why do anti-global warming people talk like that? Are they trying to reinforce a stereotype about their intelligence?

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  71. I may be too late to comment here, but here is a small suggestion. Most people, whether they are Haredi or not, respond most strongly in a positive way to two incentives:

    (1) economic incentives
    (2) social and peer pressure

    There are many ideas for item #1.

    For item #2, first, the leadership of the communities must be incentivized to support enlistment, at least not to oppose it. But most importantly, Haredim who do enlist must not be seen as foolish by their peers, but as doing a very positive thing both for their local community and for the nation as a whole. But wanting to help the nation as a whole will not come until a greater percentage serve.

    On the other side, the government must be ready and willing to understand and be sensitive to the special cultural needs of the community. I do believe that the IDF gets this, in spite of one writing calling the IDF a Hellenistic army. But even more can be done, I'm sure.

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