Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Guest Post: P'sak in a Doc, Geocentrism, and Relativity

Posted by David Ohsie

Sorry, I have no "P'sak" for the Geocentrism-Relativity discussion thread, but I have the next best thing:

1. I compiled the series of posts on P'sak and Rabbi Meiselman's thesis into a single document that can be accessed here: http://goo.gl/Deyrfo.  Update: Here is a version with margins that is nicer to look at and can be printed and converted to other formats: http://goo.gl/oEBozN.

2. For those interested in continuing the debate on relativity and geocentrism, here are two links that you should read. I don't know to how reconcile them, who is right, or if they even truly contradict, but they look like they are both written by real physicists and seem to come down on different sides of the issue. Although both refute a fundamentalist "Galieo was wrong" position, they do so on differing grounds:
Hence, my waffling on the issue. In the comments, you can argue with them instead of me :).

P.S. I'm not endorsing Chabad's position here, nor do I agree with it at all, regardless of which of the two articles is "correct" (if not both).

28 comments:

  1. It's not just a matter of choosing t.o or Bad Astronomy as a posek. Here's the meat, the distinction which holes the whole coordinate system "argument" below the water line:

    Reference frames: a reference frame is not just another name for a coordinate system. A reference frame is a collection of imaginary observers, spread throughout space and moving along predetermined, nonintersecting trajectories, each carrying a standard clock. Talking about a physical process in a particular reference frame means describing what such a collection of observers would see. This may be a somewhat anthropomorphic formulation – another definition refers to a system of ideal "rods and clocks" – but the point is that a reference frame labels what a real, physical observer could actually observe.

    Every reference frame determines a coordinate system. We can simply label points by the observers at those points. The converse is not true, though: not every coordinate system determines a reference frame.

    For instance, we can choose coordinates such that the coordinate values of points on the surface of the Earth are not changing in time. (The shorthand is that this is a coordinate system in which the Earth is "not rotating," but keep in mind that this is a statement about the coordinates, not the Earth.). In such a coordinate system, however, distant objects will have rapidly changing coordinates ("rotating around the Earth"). You don't have to go very far – just as far as Neptune – to get to a place where the "coordinate speeds" are faster than light. Since no physical observer can move faster than light, such a coordinate system does not determine a reference frame.

    In short, coordinates are imaginary; reference frames must be at least potentially real.


    Yes, the Fundamentalists - make no mistake, the only geocentrists are Fundamentalists - can have their wish-fulfillment coordinate system. What they cannot have are frames of reference consistent with reality. And The Phipla would agree with this.

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  2. If I understand both articles on geocentrism correctly, they are in complete agreement: using any arbitrary coordinate system is OK, if it fits one's purposes, but not all frames of reference are equally valid. And (very importantly) coordinate systems and frames of reference are not the same thing. Geocentric coordinates are thus fine when it comes to mapping the Earth, but assuming the Earth is the center of the Universe physically doesn't work.

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  3. My understanding is that Plait and Carlip agree on both issues they raise with a geocentric model:

    1. The model's coordinate system cannot be a real observational reference frame, because an observer could not stand at rest at many of its points. It is an imaginary formalism.

    2. Causality is backwards in this model. The distant Universe was in motion billions of years ago in anticipation of all the nuances of Earth's relative orbit and rotation today.

    Most people, myself included, would toss the model on these grounds. But that is a philosophical choice!

    Regarding (1), the physics still works in the rotating coordinate system, as Plait explains. A Croatian physicist bothered to work out the dynamics here. Regarding (2), the correlation between the distant Universe's motion and events near the Earth could be an absurd coincidence. This is an extreme violation of common sense, but we have no objective grounds on which to rule it out.

    As for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, my understanding from these letters is that he believed in a One True Frame. Science may view all frames as valid, but science is a limited source of truth.

    I doubt that the Rebbe appreciated problem (2) above, but I suspect that it wouldn't bother him, just as the possibility that God created ready fossils in the ground 5774 years ago didn't bother him.

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  4. Something that people seem to be missing in the last thread is that even form the perspective of sitting on earth it is not actually simpler to look at the solar system geocentrically. This is the fundamental reason why Copernicus adopted his model: because reconciling the Ptolemaic model with observed astronomical data makes for such an insanely complicated mathematical model and the Copernican system makes for a simple one. This is so even if we have no concept of gravity whatsoever. The fact that you can understand the Copernican system (once modified) using a physical model that can also explain the actions of objects in everyday life makes the case even stronger.

    What people meant when they said the sun goes round the earth is that if you were to go on top (or below) the solar system you would be able to see the sun and planets going round the earth in a circle (or an oval). In fact, this is not so and there is no place anywhere in the universe where you could stand and observe such a thing. Moveover, the laws of physics have to be re-written in a way that is completely out of sync with all human experience. Even if it may be true in some sense to say that Geocentrism and Heliocentrism are just two of an infinite number of valid reference frames, it would not be remotely true to say that by adopting geocentrism we adopting the reference frame of "dibrah c'lashon b'nei adam".

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  5. Yes, the Fundamentalists - make no mistake, the only geocentrists are Fundamentalists - can have their wish-fulfillment coordinate system. What they cannot have are frames of reference consistent with reality.

    From BA:

    "I have two things to say that might surprise you: first, geocentrism is a valid frame of reference, and second, heliocentrism is not any more or less correct."

    "So geocentrism is valid, but so is every other frame. This is the very basis of relativity!"

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  6. This is the fundamental reason why Copernicus adopted his model: because reconciling the Ptolemaic model with observed astronomical data makes for such an insanely complicated mathematical model and the Copernican system makes for a simple one.

    Gabriel M: This doesn't change the science, but, historically, Copernicus actually was an Aristotelian who wanted to reduce everything to uniform circular motion. His model was also quite complicated with lots of epicycles, but didn't have the "non-Aristotelian" "equant" of Ptolemy, which implies uniform angular motion, but not uniform circular motion. There were other advantages to Copernicus, like being able to calculate the relative distances to the planets, which you can't do with Ptolemy.

    But you are right that Kepler and Galileo both saw the advantage of the simplification to eventually get the right answer.

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  7. What people meant when they said the sun goes round the earth is that if you were to go on top (or below) the solar system you would be able to see the sun and planets going round the earth in a circle (or an oval). In fact, this is not so and there is no place anywhere in the universe where you could stand and observe such a thing.

    Take off in a space ship and position yourself directly "above" the earth in a parallel course with it and look "down". You'll see the earth in one spot with the planets doing a dance around it (Ptolemy never though the planets moved in a simple circle or ellipse around the earth). You'll probably run out of fuel soon, but I think that in principle you could do it.

    Of course you don't need to even do that. There is a place in the universe that meets your criteria and you are already there :)

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  8. Regarding (2), the correlation between the distant Universe's motion and events near the Earth could be an absurd coincidence.

    I don't think that coincidence works as an explanation because I can run an experiment "n" times (on a rotating platform) and get the expected results. Also, as Y. Aharon (I think) pointed out, the rotation of the Earth itself is slowing due to tidal friction among other things so we get an ongoing experiment.

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  9. My understanding of the 'traditional' model of geocentrism is that the earth, being the centre of Hashems intent sits still and all rotate around it (like in yosef's dream where all bowed to yosef).

    Even with different frames of reference, there is no way (in my understanding) that this model can be valid. In our Solar System alone, even where we to 'pin' the earth, the sun may rotate around us, but wouldn't the other planets still appear to rotate around the sun - or am I missing something obvious??

    If so, than how does this assist the Geocentrist viewpoint? We may be stationary but in a sense still 'ignored'.

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  10. I can run an experiment "n" times (on a rotating platform) and get the expected results.

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. The assumption here is that rotation effects are relative.

    Also, as Y. Aharon (I think) pointed out, the rotation of the Earth itself is slowing due to tidal friction among other things so we get an ongoing experiment.

    I agree that each apparent cause and effect makes the coincidence more preposterous, and that Occam's razor picks a very clear winner.

    Earth's angular velocity actually constantly varies by small but measurable amounts, due to shifts in the oceans and atmosphere and conservation of angular momentum. But maybe, for some unknown reason, the angular momentum of the Universe is where the change is actually happening.

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  11. Maybe we can not halachicly decide the age of the universe but we most certainly can ascertain what the Torah does not state.

    It is assumed that because the Torah states the world was created in 6 days, that the Torah by all means is saying "within 6 24hr consecutive days."

    As much as we all like to believe, and to take pride in our sages for always having the correct answers, there is no indication that the Torah is stating this.

    1) Shemos 20:11 states, "For 6 days God made the heavens and the earth." it does not state "within" 6 days, i.e. 6 consecutive days.

    2) Nor does it state these days were 24hr days. For It states ויהי "and it was" evening, ויהי "and it was" morning."
    Using the same word ויהי for both evening and morning indicates it was simultaneously, i.e. at the same time.
    It does not state it was evening and "then" there was morning.

    When we look at the world at any given time we will see it is always evening and morning somewhere on this earth. And there is nothing elsewhere in the Torah that indicates these were 24hr. days.

    Therefore, the opinion of those that say that the 6 Days were 6 Eras seems in hindsight more plausible.

    My main point is.
    This whole matter of the age of the universe is obviously not a Torah issue. The Torah is not a science manual. The Torah was written for the sole purpose so we can learn how to live our lives.

    If God wants us to believe that the world was created within 6 24hr. consecutive days, (and that the world is fewer then 6000 years old) He would have stated so directly, and the scientific evidence would be there as well, instead of the other way around.

    Today we have overwhelming scientific evidence that reveals the truth of the Torah's literalness.
    Wouldn't are sages having accessibility to this knowledge not admit to the correctness of the Torah's truth ?"

    In conclusion, in light of all the facts I have laid out here, this whole discussion is taking us nowhere.
    o

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  12. Reuven L said...
    My understanding of the 'traditional' model of geocentrism is that the earth, being the centre of Hashems intent sits still and all rotate around it (like in yosef's dream where all bowed to yosef).

    Even with different frames of reference, there is no way (in my understanding) that this model can be valid. In our Solar System alone, even where we to 'pin' the earth, the sun may rotate around us, but wouldn't the other planets still appear to rotate around the sun - or am I missing something obvious??


    No, you are not missing anything. The Ptolemaic model is wrong regardless of relativity. However, a "tychonic" model is possible, where the planets go around the sun and the sun goes around the earth. In fact, some of the modern geocentrists invoke Tycho Brahe has their champion who "defeated" Copernicus. You are right that this hardly saves the notion that everything goes around the earth because it is the focus of creation, nor does it save the Rambam's spheres.

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  13. I can run an experiment "n" times (on a rotating platform) and get the expected results.

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. The assumption here is that rotation effects are relative.

    You mentioned that it was theoretically possible for Chabad to perhaps save causality because it was just a "coincidence". But you can't invoke coincidence if I can run the experiment at will.

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  14. But you can't invoke coincidence if I can run the experiment at will.

    I'm not sure what your experiment is. But I think the point you're trying to make is something like this: If I do push-ups, and in my frame the Universe moves up and down, it would be silly to say that all the mass in the Universe happened to literally move, and that this caused the forces that I feel. Obviously, I was the one who pushed myself up and down, and I caused the forces myself. But Mach says that the two explanations are equally valid from the point of view of relativity.

    Bringing "will" into the picture just makes the bias of Occam's razor more vivid, I think.

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  15. "Today we have overwhelming scientific evidence that reveals the truth of the Torah's literalness.
    Wouldn't are sages having accessibility to this knowledge not admit to the correctness of the Torah's truth ?"

    Whatever in the world are you talking about? First, what is this "overwhelming evidence" that you speak of? Second, what does that second sentence even mean?

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  16. David,

    I think that you are conflating relative reference frames with relative forces and relative causation. Yes, you can devise many reference frames that mangle the notion of causation, force vectors, rotation, and even perhaps the direction of time. However, those frames are not necessarily correct descriptions of the physical reality in our real world; they only represent theoretical "worlds views" that we can represent mathematically.

    Furthermore, it is not at all clear that rotating reference frames are relative. In fact, they are probably not, since rotating objects generate measurable forces that can be used to measure the degree of rotation. Think about gyroscopes and torques here. Geocentrism requires a rotating reference frame that would make the earth appear to stand still. Such a model also requires the breaking of basic physical laws. Although it is clearly wrong from a physics point of view, it's still valid mathematically. If you adopt that reference frame, you probably need to be OK with time reversal, and you also need to through away basic thermodynamic laws, and basically just say that Newton, Einstein and Gibbs etc. got all the physics wrong.

    In the real world, the evidence shows that forces seem to have fixed causes and effects, and these forces and effects generally have a preferred reference frame for describing them mathematically. Sure, you can use another relative reference frame (e.g., geocentric), but that does not make it a good model of the real world, given our understanding of basic physical laws.

    Your choice of reference frame depends on what you are trying to model. If you only want to model sunrise and sunset, and ignore all else, then a geocentric frame is somewhat reasonable, as a first approximation. Once you add in any other celestial body, it is a terrible reference frame because it ignores the cause and effect of real forces that act on celestial bodies.

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  17. But you can't invoke coincidence if I can run the experiment at will.

    I'm not sure what your experiment is.

    I stand on a turntable, you tell me when and how fast to turn the turntable, and I'll get right results for the "fictitious forces". So coincidence can play no role.

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  18. Furthermore, it is not at all clear that rotating reference frames are relative. In fact, they are probably not, since rotating objects generate measurable forces that can be used to measure the degree of rotation. Think about gyroscopes and torques here. Geocentrism requires a rotating reference frame that would make the earth appear to stand still. Such a model also requires the breaking of basic physical laws. Although it is clearly wrong from a physics point of view, it's still valid mathematically.

    A rotating coordinate system is accelerating, so you will see the fictitious forces. So it appears to be absolute rotation. And revolution around the sun also involves centripetal acceleration, so the same issue applies. This is Newton's bucket. So that seems to clinch it.

    But then General Relativity comes along and says something about being able to view the fictitious forces as gravity. This is where it goes beyond my depth. But if it was as simply as saying "abolute rotation" then I don't know why Plait and Carroll don't just say that. And they don't.

    Instead he says: "I have two things to say that might surprise you: first, geocentrism is a valid frame of reference, and second, heliocentrism is not any more or less correct."

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  19. I stand on a turntable, you tell me when and how fast to turn the turntable, and I'll get right results for the "fictitious forces". So coincidence can play no role.

    But maybe, by some absurd coincidence, the Universe begins to turn at just the speed I told you (or rather: all massive bodies in the Universe began to turn at times in the past proportional to their distance from you, since the gravitational effects reach you at finite speed), and you indeed remain still? Mach's principle claims that no experiment could rule out this possibility.

    I agree that common sense rules it out, so I'm happy to agree that the Earth rotates on its axis. But if one's dogma demands a stationary Earth or a stationary turntable, the dogma is technically valid, as frustrating as that is, assuming Mach's principle is correct.

    As I said, I don't think the Rebbe was aware that a stationary Earth requires this rejection of common sense. He never mentioned motion relative to the rest of the Universe. But Chabad scientists defending him have invoked Mach's principle.

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  20. David Ohsie, sorry for not making myself clear. My point was that the heliocentric frame of reference has two separate advantages.

    1) That it allows us to map the travel of the planets, when viewed from the perspective of us on earth, in a much more comprehensible manner than a geocentric model. (the Copernican argument)
    2) (and separately) we can explain this planetary motion in terms of us a system of physics that is also valid for all our observations of how things act on earth. (The Newtonian argument).

    The upshot is that from the perspective of humans on earth, Heliocentrism is more correct than geocentrism. There may some sense in which each are equally valid, but this is within a system of physics that the human brain cannot really comprehend, though it can describe to some extent mathematically.

    I realise that I am perhaps being outdatedly Newtonian in seeing this as significant.

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  21. David Ohsie:

    I really enjoyed your essays, so thanks for putting them in document form.

    Over the past two days I've discussed the issue of psak in hashkafa with two talmidei chachamim who's thoughts I value very highly. I thought their ha'aros were very on target, and it made me think about this sugya in a completely different light. The following is a composite of my discussions with them plus my own thoughts. (Sorry it's a bit long so it might take more than one post.)

    Before we can talk about how psak in hashkafa might defer from halacha, we need to understand how psak works in halacha. I think we can distinguish three different levels on which psak might operate in halacha:

    1) The first level is that there seems to be some sort of "system" of normative psak that tells us we need to keep certain halachos irrespective of what our best guess at "truth" might be. The primary example of such a system is when the Sanhedrin was in effect. At the time of the Sanhedrin if an individual gadol knew that the Sanhedrin was incorrect he was nevertheless not allowed to act other than what the Sanhedrin said (at least l'chumra - I don't remember Hilchos Mamrim too well).

    Extending this "system" level of halacha beyond the Sanhedrin is controversial - see e.g. the correspondence between R' Elchnonan Wasserman and the Chazon Ish regarding the authority of Talmud Bavli. However, if one would apply this level of systematic, normative authority in the case of the Talmud Bavli, then it is conceivable that one could apply it in regards to other cases as well, such as the Shulchan Aruch.

    It is also possible that some form of "systematic" halacha is involved in the authority of minhag, or in the authority given in certain cases to a rav of a community, or for certain other "rules" of psak.

    2) However, I think it is abundantly clear from reading the poskim that this is not the level of psak that they're usually using. Instead, they are usually just trying to find which shitah is most "mistaver". All of their "rules of psak" are simply rules of thumb that they use to help point towards what's most mistaver. This is why they violate their own rules so often. It's almost never the case that they're saying, "the true halacha should come out to be X, but there are rules of psak involved so do Y."

    This applies even when a posek says he's "mevatel da'as" to a different posek or to the accepted halacha. He's not saying (usually) that there are formal halachic rules forcing him to accept those other shitos against his will, but rather that he recognizes that going against the other gadol or the accepted halacha means that he's probably wrong in his own assessment and intellectual honesty tells him to admit this and be mevatel his own da'as.

    (to be continued ...)

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  22. (continued)

    The following are some of the rules of thumb used frequently by the poskim. Note that some of these might in some cases (like a Sanhedrin) also have a more formal aspect to them, but most of the time they're only used as rules of thumb. Also note that most of these are common sense.

    - Earlier doros were more likely to be correct than later ones, due to the rule of yeridas hadoros. The further back in time they lived the more likely they are to have been correct.

    - If there's a machlokes and there's a clear majority on one side then (assuming the majority saw and understood the minority opinion but rejected it), it's a good assumption that the majority are more likely to be correct. To use a secular example, if most world-class physicists hold of Theory X but a few hold of Theory Y, then the layman or lesser physicist can assume that Theory X is more likely correct (unless the lesser physicist knows of some evidence that the other physicists don't). This isn't to say that Theory X is necessarily correct vs. Theory Y, just that lesser experts don't have the tools to decide one way or the other. In physics of course we could just say "I don't know", but in halacha we need to do one way or the other so the best bet is usually to go with the majority (at least l'chumra).

    - A greater gadol is more likely correct than someone of less stature. This is (usually) true for several reasons: First, their greater depth and breadth of Torah learning probably gives them a better grasp of meta-halachic considerations. Anybody who has learned in a yeshiva will know that more experienced talmidei chachamim have a better grasp of how to read a Rashba or what's a good sevara (within the system of thought of that yeshiva, of course). Any posek can tell you that it takes a lot of learning and experience to understand how to properly weigh different shittos and halachic considerations. These are not things you can read in a sefer somewhere but rather they need to be "picked up" as you go along and gain in learning and experience. Second, greater gedolim probably know more sources, and they probably understand all the sources better in light of that additional knowledge and/or in light of their meta understanding of how Torah works.

    [Note that many academics might disagree with this last "rule of thumb" because they disagree with the traditional "picked up" meta-rules of how Torah works. This, however, places them firmly outside of traditional Orthodox Judaism, and I'm assuming for this discussion that we don't want to put ourselves there.]

    - There's also a concept that HKB"H provides providential guidance (more or less, depending who you ask) to make sure that Klall Yisroel as a whole doesn't go astray. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume (again, only usually) that the accepted halacha is probably correct. Also, accepted shittos presumably have the tacit or explicit approval of many generations of gedolim, and it would take a very powerful argument to argue on all of them.

    [3) There is also a third level on which halacha occasionally operates, and that's "halacha v'ain morin kein". In other words, technically the halacha should be X, but for practical considerations (e.g., it's dangerous to say that or it can be easily misconstrued) we'll say Y.]

    (to be continued again ...)

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  23. (continued again)

    Now back to psak in hashkafa.

    It seems difficult to claim that there should be some formal halachic system (the first level of psak that I mentioned) that would come into play regarding the issues we're discussing. As I mentioned, most of the time the poskim aren't using formal "systematic" considerations at all. In order to apply the "system" aspect of halcha to our issues, one would need to demonstrate that the "system" would be applicable in a comparable halachic issue. There are only two ways I can think of for why the "system" level would apply in our types of issues:

    1) Perhaps one could claim that there's a "systematic" aspect of halacha that requires one to bow before any position that's become the "general consensus". The problem with saying that for our issues is that several recent gedolim have not bowed to the general consensus. So unless it became the "general consensus" after those gedolim (!), or unless they didn't know about the consensus (!), or unless they didn't really mean what they said, then this fact proves that there is no such formal "systematic" rule at all.

    2) Perhaps one could claim that the explicit ruling of a rov of gedolim (or something like that) has the force of a formal psak on the level of Talmud Bavli. But I don't think anybody seriously is proposing this.

    This is not to say that there can't theoretically be a difference between hashkafa and halacha on this level of psak, just that it's probably not applicable to the issues we're discussing.

    On the second level of psak ("whatever's most mistaver") there is indeed an obvious difference between halacha and hashkafa. In halacha one needs to act one way or the other, so a psak of one sort or another is necessary, and we'll just have to judge which opinion is most mistaver. For hashkafa, however, it might not be necessary to pasken one way or the other at all - one can simply say "I don't know."

    I think this is the level where the disagreement lies. R' Meiselman is claiming that a psak is necessary in "hashkafic" issues, while those who disagree with him are saying no psak is necessary at all.

    However, this can be a double-edged sword. Even according to those who disagree with R' Meiselman, the "rules of thumb" are still applicable in full force, just that it's unnecessary to apply them since we can just say "I don't know." But very few people in this debate are saying I don't know. Instead everybody has a definitive opinion.

    Presumably the only way to go against all those rules of thumb (specifically regarding arguing on gedolim of a much greater stature) is if we have information that those gedolim don't have. In this case we can perhaps claim that if the gedolim knew as much science as we did then they'd agree with us.

    However, it's my understanding that many people aren't really arguing this. They think that even if the gedolim did know the science that we do, they'd still argue on us. In which case we're no longer debating the gedolim about scientific issues but rather we're debating them about how the Torah regards scientific knowledge, and even powerfully proven scientific knowledge. In which case we're back to the rule of thumb: How can we presume to argue with people of such great stature regarding their own area of expertise?

    --------

    I don't know if the above helps for anybody else, but for me it helped just to frame the discussion and to understand what we're really discussing here.

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  24. I stand on a turntable, you tell me when and how fast to turn the turntable, and I'll get right results for the "fictitious forces". So coincidence can play no role.

    But maybe, by some absurd coincidence, the Universe begins to turn at just the speed I told you (or rather: all massive bodies in the Universe began to turn at times in the past proportional to their distance from you, since the gravitational effects reach you at finite speed), and you indeed remain still? Mach's principle claims that no experiment could rule out this possibility.

    I don't think that this is right. If you are going to chalk up the results of repeatable experiments to coincidence, then you can never disprove any hypothesis. The negative results of your repeatable experiment were mere coincidental special circumstance that foiled the otherwise predicted results.

    If Mach is right (and there are many statements out there that General Relativity is not Machian + apparently his conjecture is loose enough to lead to contradictory results depending on how you formulate it), then it means something like the following: the rotation of the stars around the earth would also cause the earth to bulge so that it is the rotation of the stars that generates the gravitational field which induces the "fictional" forces. You still end up with the question of how I can be making the stars move by turning the turntable to begin with, but maybe that is just counter-intuitive, but not false. Again, this is where I don't really understand the physics, so I prefer to leave it to the posts that I quoted or other greater experts.

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  25. I realise that I am perhaps being outdatedly Newtonian in seeing this as significant.

    Gavriel M: I agree with what you say and have the same reservations expressed in this last line of yours. I just really don't understand general relativity, so I can't say how that influences the result.

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  26. If you are going to chalk up the results of repeatable experiments to coincidence, then you can never disprove any hypothesis.

    Which bothers me too, but maybe not Chabad.

    But maybe that is just counter-intuitive, but not false.

    Or maybe "wrong" but not "incorrect"? ;-)

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  27. Iarwain:

    Once the decisions are taken out of the realm of P'sak, then this implies two things:

    1) You need to stick to arguments based on reason, not authority.

    2) You can't be a "Min" even if you end up with the wrong explanation.

    As far as a rule of thumb for non-experts, I agree completely. I've never personally measured the red-shift of a star, nor the background microwave radiation. But the experts have and have drawn their conclusions. If one has a counter-argument, then they are free to make it.

    As far as the consensus of "Gedolim", the only way to get that consensus is by a particular definition of Gedolim that excludes all the authorities who say otherwise.

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