Sunday, June 30, 2013

Circular Reasoning At Its Best


Here's another installment of my critique of Dr. Isaac Betech's book on the shafan, which will reveal yet another fascinating aspect of irrational thought.

First, a quick summary: In the first post, I discussed the fraudulence of presenting his book as a search for truth rather than as a mission to contrive arguments that will support certain religious beliefs. I also noted his fallacy in presenting the views of Spanish Rishonim, that the shafan is the European rabbit, as evidence for identifying the Biblical shafan as the rabbit (and this comment, I exposed his false claim that he was doing nothing of the sort). He even makes their descriptions of the rabbit into criteria that the shafan must fulfill, e.g. that it must have long ears! (pp. 134-5)

In the second post, I noted that Betech has a habit of arguing that something cannot be conclusively disproved, and then smoothly changing that to mean that it is likely, probable, and ultimately that it is true. I also pointed out that his denial that Rav Saadiah Gaon explained the shafan to be the hyrax has no serious basis.

In the third post, I discussed the reason why every single academic scholar of Biblical zoology, and every reasonable, rational person who is aware of the facts and arguments, dismisses the rabbit as a candidate for the shafan - namely, that the rabbit did not live in Biblical Israel. I also discussed Betech's misrepresentation of the nature of this argument, and his inadequate response.

Betech failed to respond to any of these criticisms, despite his claim that he would respond to difficulties raised with his book, and that he would concede when shown to be in error. He claims that his reason for not responding is that I sometimes makes use of sarcasm. I'm not sure what his alleged reason is for not responding to David Ohsie, R. David Sedley, and R. Josh Waxman, who have been making the same points.

In this post, I would like to address Betech's main argument that the shafan cannot be the hyrax: namely, that the shafan is described as maaleh gerah, bringing up its cud, and the hyrax does not bring up its cud. Now, there are several approaches that have been taken with regard to this point:

1) One approach is to propose that the shafan is not the hyrax. However, this is not viable, because, as discussed at length in my book and on this blog (particular in my second post on his book), there is no other remotely reasonable candidate.

2) Another approach is to say that the hyrax used to chew its cud, and no longer does so. While I don't think that this is reasonable from a biological standpoint, I'm not sure why Betech and co., who believe in rapid evolution (as I shall demonstrate on another occasion), don't consider this as a possibility.

3) Another is to propose that the hyrax practices merycism - a limited form of rumination. But is this actually the case? Having studied my own captive hyraxes for years, and having consulted with zoologists and papers that expressed a range of opinions, I simply can't decide. A hyrax certainly makes many chewing motions at times when it is not eating, but it's not clear if this is related to food or communication. (It should be noted that positing that they are practicing merycism is certainly not as unlikely as, say, proposing that rabbits used to live in Israel.)

4) Another is to say that the Torah "speaks in the language of man," as explained at length in my books. I think that this is the preferable solution for religious Jews. While this approach is well-founded in the writings of Rav Hirsch and Rav Kook, based upon various Rishonim, I can certainly understand why people would not find it appealing. However, if one is to maintain belief in the Divine origins of the Torah, one would in any case have to adopt such an approach in order to account for the Torah describing dew as descending from Heaven, the heart and kidneys as housing the mind, the sky as being a solid firmament, the nesher as carrying its young on its wings, the snake as eating dirt, and so on.

(Or, to put it another way: I'm sure that Isaac Betech can engage in extensive intellectual gymnastics to justify why the Torah describes these phenomena in the way that it does, and far less gymnastics are required to explain why the Torah describes the hyrax as bringing up its cud.)

5) Another is to say that the Torah is simply mistaken, and is thus not Divine. Now, obviously this approach is not acceptable to a believing Jew. However, if someone does not have prior commitment to believing in the Divinity of Torah, and for some reason buys into Betech's rejection of approaches (3) and (4), this would be a far more reasonable explanation than Betech's proposal that the Torah is referring to cecotrophy in rock-dwelling rabbits of South Africa.

Now, Isaac Betech is a devout believing Jew, and therefore option 5 is unacceptable to him. While humans could (and did) mistakenly believe that hyraxes ruminate, the Master of the World could not make such a zoological error; hence, the shafan could not be the hyrax.

But here's where things get interesting. You see, Isaac Betech doesn't merely want to understand the Torah; he wants to use this topic to prove the divinity of Torah. Let's quote his conclusion:
We can recognize with admiration, today as always, that only the Master of the World could state this accurate information thousands of years ago. 
But that means that he is engaging in a classic case of circular reasoning. For it's only because of Betech's a priori belief that the Torah is divine, that he rules out the possibility that the Torah is simply making a mistake about the hyrax! (And the same can be said for Discovery and others who use this topic to prove the divinity of the Torah.) He's saying that we recognize that the Torah is divine, because there are no zoological errors, because we recognize that the Torah is divine!

I'm sure that such circular arguments reinforce the faith of irrational people who are already believers. But to others, it simply makes Torah Jews look foolish. And as Rambam says, using a flawed argument to convince people of something is worse than using no argument.

Amazingly, Betech is explicit about using circular reasoning! On p. 120, amongst a list of reasons as to why the shafan should not be identified as the hyrax, Betech says that if the definition of "bringing up the cud" is broadened to include the hyrax, "then the consequence is that many more animals could also be called maaleh gerah, positing unnecessary challenges against the Torah's and Talmud's exclusive list of one-signed species; hence the importance of understanding that the hyrax cannot be the Biblical shafan." In other words, we recognize that the Torah is divine, because these are the only animals in the list, because to admit that there might be more animals in the list would mean that the Talmud is not divine. Circular reasoning at its finest, and most explicit!

49 comments:

  1. Wonderfully reasoned post.

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  2. Good point.

    It seems to me that similar to this is his rejection, on pg 121, of hyrax as ruminant "because its gastrointestinal tract has anatomical similarity to the multi-chambered stomachs of ruminants".

    His reason for rejection is that, if so, this would "raise the bizarre halachic quandary of whether the peccary is a kosher pig".

    Why should this be a reason for rejection? Forget that he is willing to redefine the Torah's to make kiruv proofs work, such that it should be trivial, if he so desired, to say it is a different min than the chazer.

    Forget that halacha can sometimes be counter-intuitive, such that a "bizarre" question is not out of the ordinary.

    If the Torah is (ch"v) not of Divine origin, then who cares if the author did not anticipate a specific animal, the peccary, found only in America? To reject the hyrax for this reason and then conclude, at the end, that this shows the Divine origin of Torah and Talmudic statements, also strikes me as somewhat circular reasoning.

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  3. Reflecting on your excellent post the following comes to mind:

    1) A commitment to truth precludes one having unshakable a-priory beliefs, i.e. beliefs not subject to revision in light of evidence.

    2) Belief in the divine origin of the Torah is a required unshakable a-priory belief of a religious Jew.

    Therefore,

    3) Being a religious Jew and being committed to truth are mutually incompatible.

    If this is correct then the difference between rationalist and anti-rationalist religious Jews is merely one of degree, i.e. in how much mental gymnastics or irrationality they are willing to tolerate.

    (Unless proposition 2 can be modified. Did not some Rishonim, like Ibn Ezra, accept that parts of the Torah may not be divine? Does not the Gemarah credit the writing of a small part of the Torah to Yehoshua?)

    What do you think R. Slifkin?

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  4. Here is another one, perhaps more central to his thesis:

    1) In order to find a definition of "Maaleh Gerah", Dr. Betech looks to find a common denominator among the 13 animals listed in the Torah, including the rabbit! On page 53:

    "Although the rabbit and the hare are not usually classified as ruminants, they do chew with lateral movements in the same efficient way as animals classified as ruminants...as a consequence, we now have the first common denominator for all of the "maaleh gerah", i.e. lateral mastication (ectental), directly related to efficient digestion.
    ... Additionally, the the rabbit and the hare, just as the ruminants, do redigest their own semi-digested food on a regular basis to obtain the maximum efficiency from the food (caecotrophy). This practice is nutritionally imperative and it is not the consequence of food shortage or any other abnormal circumstance."

    Then in chapter 3 page 71, when evaluating whether or not rabbit is Maaleh Gerah:

    "It is Maaleh Gerah. This is true of the rabbit. It was demonstrated in chapter 3." (Using a definition that was defined based on the behavior of the rabbit).

    Chapter 6 (Why the hyrax cannot be the biblical Shafan), page 118: "thus the hyrax is not "Maaleh Gerah". See definitions in chapter 3.

    So first he chooses a definition of Maaleh Gerah specifically intended to include rabbit and hare and exclude all other non-ruminants. Then he uses this as evidence that that rabbit is Maaleh Gerah and the hyrax is not.

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  5. Here is another example, which I posted as a comment on the Coffer/Betech/Ostroff blog:

    Dr. Betech et al.,

    Another clear instance of circular reasoning in your book is your use of factors to identify the Shafan that are derived from descriptions of the rabbit by those Rishonim who thought that Shafan is rabbit (and lived where there were no hyraxes):

    1) Page 46 (n): "It has long and wide ears". This Rashbatz's description of a rabbit.

    2) Page 46 (o): "Its skin is thin". This again from Rashbatz's description of a rabbit.

    3) Page 46 (p): "The shafan is called 'conilio'". Conilio is just a word for rabbit!

    4) Page 45 (p); "It has many superior (upper) front-teeth." Again, this is a description from the Rashba who may have thought that Shafan was Rabbit. The reasoning of the Gemara that he explaining only requires that the Shafan has teeth, not many teeth.

    If you are going to assume that the Rishonim that described Shafan as rabbit were correct, then there is no need to write a 337 page opus. Just say that these Rishonim are conclusive and end the conversation.

    But if you are going to try to prove those Rishonim correct vs R. Saadia, Malbim and others, then you can't use their conclusions as criteria for defining the Shafan. Your reasoning is circular.

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  6. Yes, it's really funny how he makes a criterion called "it has long ears" instead of simply saying "it is a rabbit"!

    This book may well set a record for the number of instances of circular reasoning.

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  7. we recognize that the Torah is divine, because these are the only animals in the list, because to admit that there might be more animals in the list would mean that the Talmud is not divine

    Right - you can either make the AUTHORITY statement:

    "The Torah is divine - therefore X is the case."

    Or you can make the PROOF statement:

    "X is the case - therefore the Torah is divine."

    But you can't combine them both in a single case of X! So either Isaac Betech needs to make a better non-authoritative case in order to substantiate the proof, OR he needs to drop the idea of a proof here and simply say that in order to preserve (his understanding of) the Torah's divine authority, it must be the case that shafan is not the hyrax.

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  8. This IS circular reasoning, but NOT at its "finest and most explicit."

    As you well know, he is saying two things: 1) I don't think the Hyrax is the best candidate for reasons having nothing to do with the Divinity of the Torah; and 2) The author and many readers of the book believe the Torah is Divine for many reasons having nothing to do with the Hyrax. He therefore concludes why cause problems by choosing the Hyrax when there is another preferable option.

    This still is circular, but is somewhat understandable and doesn't undermine the book -- as the book can be understood as independently both defining and defending the Torah. And you know this but: 1) You believe that his real reason is the Divinity of the Torah so then it IS completely circular; and/or 2) Want to make him look as stupid as possible because this is personal to you. Which isn't very rational of you.

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  9. I made my argument based on explicit quotes from his book.

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  10. I am a bit perplexed at the lack of another argument.
    If one accepts that the Torah is Divine, and if one is of the opinion that Hashem would never write anything in the Torah that wasn't literally factually true (unless the Oral law says otherwise), then why not say that the list of maaleh gera animals is teaching the reader that Hashem calls whatever these animals do "maaleh gera". The more we learn about the animals listed, the more we can clarify the halachah of what "maaleh gera" includes?
    Thus each animal on the list is necessary because they each display a different form of maaleh gera.

    Now, this may make the peccary kosher in theory, but who cares? Noone would start eating them due to the safek anyways.

    This answer would have some nice advantages such as the statement in the Gemara of "was Moshe a trapper?" could mean, not that he couldn't have known that these are the only animals, but that he couldn't have known these widely different behaviors, and that these three very different behaviors are all called "maale gera".


    Would not this answer appeal to literalists?

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  11. Do you know what the ד"ע
    stands for as abbrev. in Betech's book?

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  12. (This is a long comment, and I doubt it will be posted.)

    I finally understand Isaac Betech’s objections to the identification of shafan as hyrax: "then the consequence is that many more animals could also be called maaleh gerah, positing unnecessary challenges against the Torah's and Talmud's exclusive list of one-signed species; hence the importance of understanding that the hyrax cannot be the Biblical shafan."

    In the movie (and book) 2001: A Space Odyssey, an obelisk (black rectangular object) is discovered buried on the moon. For various technical reasons, scientists on earth are in complete agreement that this obelisk could not possibly be of natural origin; it was “deliberately buried millions of years ago (by a vastly superior alien race)”. In the book and movie, the leaders of the U.S. (of course, it is within the U.S. moon base) decide not make the information immediately public for fear of “panic and social disorientation”.

    Now what if G-d had put unequivocal proof in the divinity or otherworldliness of the Torah in the text of the Torah? By unequivocal, I mean that by the standards of modern science there is overwhelming evidence that an ancient people could not possibly have written it. We would have the opposite development to that which we have now: scientific advancement would lead to more belief, not less. From a believer’s point of view, is that how G-d wanted to arrange things? People more learned in Talmud than I can answer whether using statements in Torah to prove its divinity are part of mainstream Judaism.

    If any Chazal did make such statements, then I think it is fair to say that they erred in this point. We may even take it as a principle of Judaism – as paradoxical as it may at first appear – that G-d did not put proof of the Torah’s divinity into the text of the Torah. Now from “G-d’s point of view” how could there be a Torah that does not prove its divinity, but at the same time conveys a meaningful message? The answer is that there must, by necessity, be statements that are meaningful to the direct recipients of the text, but that in later times of scientific understanding are not complete or completely consistent.

    We are then left with the question as to whether modern science has disproved the Torah by pointing out incorrect or incomplete statements of natural law in the text.

    From an Occam’s razor point of view, our scientific understanding of the world does not need the Torah. But the principle above already shows that this has to be the case. For if we needed the Torah for a complete logical and scientific understanding of the world, then the Torah would prove its divinity.

    But if G-d did not put inconclusive prove of the Torah’s divinity in the text, then there must necessarily be statements, which when interpreted from a strictly scientific point of view, that are incorrect or incomplete. The only other option would be for the Torah to be devoid of saying anything definite at all about anything.
    In summary:
    (1) The Torah does not prove its own divinity within its own text.
    (2) By point (1), the divinity of the Torah cannot be disproven using statements from within its own text.

    Of course, a disbeliever has free choice to say that the Torah is not of divine origin, but that is a choice. It may even be a more logically simple choice, but it is a choice.

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  13. Do we know for a fact that people used to think the hyrax chewed its cud?

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  14. In Rabbi Meir Lubin's article trying to identify the shafan as the llama and the arnevet as the Bactrian dromedary, he cites Rashi at the end of Parshat Kedoshim/Parshat Shmini (which in turn is a quote from the Sifri): We don't need the Torah to tell us that a cow is kosher and a donkey is not, since the two are readily distinguishable. We would need the Torah to state something which is a borderline case.

    Although Rabbi Slifkin would probably deem Rabbi Lubin's conclusion also as a non-rational one (the three animals would probably all be grouped in the Torah as "gamal", and it wouldn't make sense for the Torah to talk about an animal in South America), his criteria seem to be rational--there will always have to be some set of assumptions that the researcher makes.

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  15. @Jack.

    Yes, I agree with your hypothesis.

    However, it's not just being a religious Jew, but being a sentient being responsive to and formed by your environment which is incompatible with a search for absolute truth.

    Everyone has their own a- priori experiences - such as the passage of time, the belief in cause and effect, a sense of self consciousness - which are inconsistent with a search for absolute truth. In fact the conception of such a thing as an absolute and universal truth is itself an a-priori conjecture.

    In layman's terms - life doesn't make sense - let's get on with life.

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  16. Do we know for a fact that people used to think the hyrax chewed its cud?

    Well, we can be pretty sure that many Jewish authorities over time have thought that the hare and hyrax/rabbit were ruminants as they identified them as Maaleh Gerah and they thought that Maaleh Gerah meant ruminant.

    We also know that hares and hyraxes chew during non-mealtime which is an attribute they share with the cud-chewers.

    It would be nice to have some proof that hare/hyrax were thought to be ruminants by those not influenced by Torah/Bible, but I don't know of such proof.

    Unbelievers of course would use the Bible itself as evidence.

    A couple of bogus claims to avoid are:

    BOGUS CLAIM #1: Aristotle thought the hare to be a ruminant. This one took me in.

    BOGUS CLAIM #2: Linnaeus originally classified hare as a ruminant. This copy of what I think is his first edition table doesn't seem to agree with that "myth".

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Linnaeus_-_Regnum_Animale_%281735%29.png

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  17. "5) Another is to say that the Torah is simply mistaken, and is thus [believed to be] not Divine. Now, obviously this approach is not acceptable to a believing Jew."

    That's circular reasoning too. You believe the Torah is not mistaken--because you're a believing Jew??

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  18. Daas Atzmo said...
    Do you know what the ד"ע
    stands for as abbrev. in Betech's book?


    Didn't you answer your own question?

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  19. @SQ:

    That's circular reasoning too. You believe the Torah is not mistaken--because you're a believing Jew??

    No, that's not reasoning at all, and thus not circular. The belief in question is that Torah is divine and that no Divinity would pass on facts about the natural world that are simply untrue.

    Thus, to be a believing Jew, one is a-priori dismissing the argument that the Torah is simply incorrect.

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  20. To "Benjamin Bunny" - your comments was mostly off-topic, so I did not post it - feel free to write to me. Regarding the following question:

    "One thing is confusing, first you lament that charedim are uneducated but then when a charedi doctor spends 20 years investigating one animal you shrug him off and say sarcasm is better than what he deserves. I know it must be hard that your notion on chazal/science issue is cracking but does that mean you can just treat him like a rag doll?"

    This has nothing to do with chazal/science, and the shittah of the Rishonim is not cracking. It is to do with the particular style of Isaac Betech, who is consistently dishonest and disingenuous (and was involved in engineering the ban on my books). Don't take my word for it - ask R. Josh Waxman, David Ohsie, or R. David Sedley.

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  21. It's ironic -- The Gedolim banned Rabbi Slifkin's books and he, and his books, became more popular than ever.

    I bet the same thing is happening here -- Rabbi Slifkin is helping sales of Dr. Betech's book and making him far more popular than he would have been!

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  22. Nah, I don't think so. Books become popular when they are banned by authorities who refuse to give adequate reasons, not when they are critiqued and shown to be nonsense.

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  23. But it is pretty funny the primary internet outlet for Dr. Betech is a blog called "slifkin-opinions". Maybe instead of a rabbit, he could have put a picture of you with a big red X through it on the cover to help boost sales :).

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  24. Betech is not guilty of circular reasoning. His reasoning is that if one accepts the Gemara, it is more reasonable to explain that shafan means rabbit than hyrax, because if it means hyrax that will lead to questions on the gemara. If one does not accept the Gemara, one does not have to accept this argument. Thus, he receives haskamot from rabbis who accept the gemara, b/c his explanation fits with it, whereas other explanations leave it with difficulties. Now, you will say that his explanation also has its difficulties, but that doesn't make it circular.

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  25. You are not presenting Betech's argument accurately.

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  26. Jeremy, Stanmore, UKJuly 3, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Re: Circular reasoning. This is a common practise with those involved in debate. When one side (in this case RNS) find themselves loosing ground as a result of the facts that seem to back up the opposing side, they will start to claim the logic of their opponent is twisted.
    I have borrowed the book from one of my mates, to me it reads with pretty sound logic.( i am only up to page130)
    By the way i doubt Rabbis Ben David and Levinger who know 1 or 2 things about animals would be taken in by a book that you call "nonsense"

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  27. In fact, Jeremy, if you believe that the logic of Betech's book is sound, perhaps you could prepare detailed rejoinders to the numerous criticisms that have been presented. You can start with explaining why a proposed candidate for the shafan would have to correlate with descriptions given by the European Rishonim.

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  28. Re: Circular reasoning. This is a common practise with those involved in debate. When one side (in this case RNS) find themselves loosing ground as a result of the facts that seem to back up the opposing side, they will start to claim the logic of their opponent is twisted.

    I'm forced to agree with Jeremy. After all, when two politicians are running against each other for political office, which candidate requests the debates and which one avoids them? Of course, it is only the losing candidate that requests debates and the more behind they are, the more they demand to debate. Clearly, this shows that debating your opponent's logic is a loser's tactic.

    Furthermore, our Gedolim have shown us that the way to debate controversial topics is through the use of Pashkevilim, attacks on character, name-calling, and outright bans on our opponents. Dr. Betech, who, unlike R. Slifkin, understands Torah-true Judaism, properly follows these guidelines in his post Lacking in derech eretz and in knowledge with bon mots such as "Additionally, there is no need now that I would try to operate as a 'religious polemicist', since as everyone knows, you have publicly shared your pictures eating locust which reveal your hallachic standards" and "I would like to know how you explain the Gemara in Sanhedrin which seems to declare you Apikorsim."

    One might ask "But David, don't we see a tradition in Mishneh, Gemorah, Gaonim, Rishonin, and Acharonim of attacking the opponent's logic in order to come to a correct conlusion?" The answer, of course is that they were operating with a level of "Ruach Hakodesh" that we no longer possess. Thus, they could attack their opponent's logic, we cannot.

    I have borrowed the book from one of my mates, to me it reads with pretty sound logic.( i am only up to page130)
    By the way i doubt Rabbis Ben David and Levinger who know 1 or 2 things about animals would be taken in by a book that you call "nonsense"


    R. Slifkin, Jeremy is taking the right approach and arguing by authority, not by the logic of a locust-eater. When will you see the light?

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  29. David, I fear that your sarcasm will be totally lost on him!

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  30. WFB: (Betech's) reasoning is that if one accepts the Gemara, it is more reasonable to explain that shafan means rabbit than hyrax, because if it means hyrax that will lead to questions on the gemara. If one does not accept the Gemara, one does not have to accept this argument. Thus, he receives haskamot from rabbis who accept the gemara, b/c his explanation fits with it, whereas other explanations leave it with difficulties.

    In other words, Dr Betech set out to deceive by formulating a religious argument in support of a particular opinion, one supposedly with fewer difficulties and one prefered by some rabbinical authorities, whilst telling us that he is presenting scientific evidence, one arrived at by the strict rules of science. This is what you seem to be saying. And by your own criterion, it stands to reason that if one does not accept the rules of science, one does not have to present a scientific argument, as Dr Betech imagines to have done.

    You also appear to have missed the fact that Rabbi Slifkin's position is that his conclusions are also supported by Gemara.

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  31. David, I fear that your sarcasm will be totally lost on him!

    Another one of your cheap debating tactics is to characterize my heartfelt arguments as sarcasm. Jeremy was right. Please go crawl back under the rock you were sharing with your hyrax friends and don't come out until you are ready to admit the error of your ways as I have done.

    Your devices have been neutralised. So it shall be with you. I am Landru.

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  32. Betech is not guilty of circular reasoning. His reasoning is that if one accepts the Gemara, it is more reasonable to explain that shafan means rabbit than hyrax, because if it means hyrax that will lead to questions on the gemara. If one does not accept the Gemara, one does not have to accept this argument. Thus, he receives haskamot from rabbis who accept the gemara, b/c his explanation fits with it, whereas other explanations leave it with difficulties. Now, you will say that his explanation also has its difficulties, but that doesn't make it circular.

    The part that you are missing is that he is trying to show that the Torah's exclusive list proves its divinity. That is what closes the circle.

    If try to prove that I am a prophet by making predictions, and then the predictions don't come true, my later followers can't save my "proof" by re-interpreting the prediction to match what happened. For a proof of this kind to work, the definitions must be known in advance. Even if they assume I am really a prophet and their reinterpretation is correct, the chance to "prove" my prophethood has been lost, since the very premise for changing the definitions to sustain my prophethood assumes the prophethood.

    Example: "Serena is a lock for the women's title." Since we know he is always, right, he must not have meant Wimbledon.

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  33. B”H
    Natan

    You wrote:
    …He claims that his reason for not responding is that I sometimes makes use of sarcasm.
    I'm not sure what his alleged reason is for not responding to David Ohsie, R. David Sedley, and R. Josh Waxman, who have been making the same points.

    IB:
    As you know last week I answered many comments to the three bloggers you mentioned.
    Besides that, I answered a comment you made in our blogspot.
    Nevertheless despite repeated requests, you have not answered yet there.

    Here are the “links”:
    http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/the-shafan.html

    You wrote on our blogspot:
    Natan Slifkin July 3, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    I answered to you:
    Dr. Isaac Betech July 3, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    You have not answered to me, even when repeatedly requested:
    Dr. Isaac Betech July 4, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    IB:
    Natan,
    Are you planning to answer my last comment to you?

    Otherwise, at least, please retract from your “dishonest in the extreme” accusation.

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  34. Restating what you said earlier, without actually addressing my points, is not called "answering" me!

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  35. B"H
    Natan

    Are you retracting from your “dishonest in the extreme” accusation?

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  36. You mean, when I wrote that it's also dishonest in the extreme to pretend that you're only "suggesting" that the rabbit matches the description of the shafan, and that you're not trying to prove that the rabbit actually is the shafan.

    No, why would I retract from that? It is indeed dishonest in the extreme.

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  37. But rest assured, I'm not trying to prove that you actually are being dishonest in the extreme. I'm just suggesting that you match the description of someone who is dishonest in the extreme.

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  38. B”H
    Natan

    You wrote:
    No, why would I retract from that? It is indeed dishonest in the extreme.

    IB:
    If you are not answering the four points I wrote in my above mentioned answer, then at least I will copy your false accusation and then my response to it.

    I hope now you will support your false accusation.

    You wrote:
    It's also dishonest in the extreme to pretend that you're only "suggesting" that the rabbit matches the description of the shafan, and that you're not trying to prove that the rabbit actually is the shafan…

    IB:
    Sorry, I not only pretend that, but I wrote it explicitly in the subtitle of the book in the front cover, so why is it “dishonest in the extreme”?

    You may disagree with the conclusions of the book, but you can not accuse me of being dishonest on pretending something that I wrote it explicitly in the subtitle of the book in the front cover.

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  39. That's exactly what is dishonest! Claiming that you are only "suggesting" that the rabbit is "compatible" with the description of the shafan, and that you are not arguing that the rabbit actually is the shafan!

    (and, even if you were only "suggesting" that the rabbit is "compatible" with the description of the shafan, your arguments would STILL be circular, for the reasons stated in this post.)

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  40. B”H
    Natan
    Now we are not analyzing if my claim is circular or not.

    You wrote:
    That's exactly what is dishonest! Claiming that you are only "suggesting" that the rabbit is "compatible" with the description of the shafan, and that you are not arguing that the rabbit actually is the shafan!

    IB:
    It is not dishonest.
    I am claiming that I only suggested that the rabbit is "compatible" with the description of the Biblical shafan.
    In the book I did that and also I informed the reader of this important point by writing it in the subtitle of the book in the front cover.

    Where is the dishonest act?

    So why is it “dishonest in the extreme”?

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  41. ...and now explain what you claim NOT to be doing...

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  42. The following are direct quotes from you:


    "Suggesting means only suggesting, not a proved statement."
    "... I did not write that the rabbit and hare are the shafan and arnebet."
    "I only wrote there is no objection; I did not write that I have proved that the shafan is the rabbit."
    "the book does not try “to prove”..."

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  43. B"H
    Now, please point why is it “dishonest in the extreme”?

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  44. As I said, I'm not trying to prove that you actually are being dishonest in the extreme. I'm just suggesting that your behavior is compatible with the description of someone who is dishonest in the extreme. See the difference?

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  45. B"H
    Excellent!

    Now please retract what you originally wrote:

    “It's also dishonest in the extreme to pretend that you're only "suggesting" that the rabbit matches the description of the shafan, and that you're not trying to prove that the rabbit actually is the shafan…”

    You wrote "It's also dishonest in the extreme..."

    Please retract.

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  46. This is surreal.

    To quote you again: "If some of my words written are ambiguous or imprecise, and could be interpreted as if my purpose is “to prove”, I am ready to correct them B”H."

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  47. B"H
    Excellent!
    Quoting me, you are proving that I am honest.

    So why is it “dishonest in the extreme”?

    Please retract.

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  48. Simon M: Having read the comments I came across the exchange at the end between R Slifkin and Dr Betech.

    I do not claim the level of expertise of either of the protagonists. I have read the relevant books and articles.

    I would be much more impressed if Dr Betech actually addressed the issues. The clear purpose of his comments is to argue semantics in order to persuade R Slifkin to withdraw an allegation of behaviour compatible with dishonesty. The way to persuade anyone to do anything is to show substantively why you are not behaving in the way alleged. This contrasts with what Dr Betech has actually done, which is to try and dissect the words in such a way as to show that they have a meaning he attributes to them, and no other meaning.

    Ironically, that tactic simply reinforces R Slifkin's criticism that Dr Betech will not deal with substantive arguments. It makes me, at least, think that what is happening here is not real debate or argument for the sake of Torah, but rather an attempt to produce a concession that can be exploited later (or at least to be able to claim that 'every opportunity' was offered for a withdrawal but that no withdrawal was forthcoming). That also suggests that the actual issues are not something Dr Betech can deal with.

    Dr Betech's reasoning is patently circular, because it relies on each strand of his argument as if it were true and therefore proves a different strand. Ultimately we end up with about 4 'ifs' all of which are only said to be 'ifs' once and are then assumed to be true and thus to prove the next 'if'.

    That concerns me, because the issue moves away at this stage from what the Torah means and focusses, instead, on whether the reasoning is rigorous or sloppy. Sloppy reasoning obviously proves nothing, except perhaps that the reasoner isn't intellectually up to the task. That isn't so terrible in itself, but that the sloppy reasoner then attacks the bona fides of the other party to the debate is appalling. It is, in sporting terminology, playing the man not the ball.

    I am concerned that Torah argument is being used for such a purpose. It is difficult for me to conceive of a person using such a tactic as doing so unknowingly. Rather, it seems overwhelmingly likely that the inability to answer the substantive point is being camouflaged by an attack on the opposing argument which characterises that argument as religiously wrong/sinful and is then buttressed by allegations of name calling.

    I find it difficult to see how this is defensible. If there is a substantive answer it would be given. If there is not, that fact is hardly likely to be obscured by saying that the person expounding the true position is a bad person. Using the Torah to do such things is, surely, a perversion of every quality the Torah urges we should demonstrate.

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