Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Founded on the Principles of Rav Hirsch"

Here is a quote from Ami magazine, April 30th, discussing how some schools in Antwerp are able to qualify for government subsidies and accreditation:
"The largest school, Yesodei HaTorah, boasts a student body of over 800 students, and its secular program does make the cut. Founded 120 years ago on the principles of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, it is the largest school of its kind in Europe. Teachers there have been able to include references to evolution by framing this belief as heresy rejected by Yiddishkeit."

And here is a quote from Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, in Collected Writings, vol. VII, p. 264, discussing how evolution is not to be rejected as heresy:
"...If this notion were ever to gain complete acceptance by the scientific world... Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus, and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures."
If you are going to claim that a school is founded on the principles of Rav Hirsch, it's not a good idea to contradict his principles in the very next sentence.

104 comments:

  1. It is again a pity that the illustrious dead cannot defend themselves or clarify positions or even say, "I never wrote that."

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  2. I wonder how the school in Antwerp teaches Rav Hirsch's comments on Bereshit 12:11-20 (when Avram pulls the "Sarai is my sister" stunt for the first time):

    Rav Hirsch writes:

    "The Torah is not an 'anthology of paragons.' It relates events not because they are worthy of emulation but simply because they took place.

    The Torah does not attempt to hide from us the faults, errors and weaknesses of our great men and precisely thereby it places the stamp of credibility upon the happenings it relates. The fact that we are told about their faults and weaknesses does not detract from our great men; indeed, it adds to their stature and makes their life stories even more instructive. Had they all been portrayed to us as models of perfection, we would have believed that they had been endowed with a higher nature not given to us to attain. Had they been presented to us as free of human passions and inner conflicts, their nature would seem to us merely the result of a loftier predisposition, not a product of their personal merit, and certainly no model we could ever hope to emulate. Take, for instance, the humility of Moses. If we did not know that he was also capable of flying into a rage, this humility would seem to us an inborn trait not within our capacity to emulate. It is precisely his outburst (“Hear now, you rebels!” Num. 20:10) that lends to his humility its true greatness, for it shows us his humility as the product of a mighty labor of self-control and self-refinement which we should all emulate because it is within our capacity to do so. Also, the Torah relates no sin or error without telling us also of its consequences, great or small...We must never attempt to whitewash the spiritual and moral heroes of our past. They are not in need of our apologies, nor would they tolerate such attempts on our part."

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  3. Didn't the Rav of the Hirsch shul in New York recently announce that TIDE was a hora'as sha'ah and therefore now just as unJewish as any other non-Chareidi theology? The kashering line for Rav Hirsch will eventually be "And he was alive today he'd also reject TIDE"
    No doubt the people running the school would respond by saying "Well if Rav Hirsch was alive today..."

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    1. That was a few years ago. The kehilla's long-time president resigned in protest, but I think the rav is still there.

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  4. The theory of evolution in the time of Darwin and the neo-darwinian theory of evolution (known as the Modern Synthesis) are not one and the same theory (at least not as far as the issue of Rav Hirsch's position goes).

    In the time of Darwin, it was possible to imagine some sort of internal, guided mechanism behind evolutionary change. He talked about random variations -- without any ability to even guess what would drive those variations. One could imagine that the driving force would be some sort of pre-programmed law of biology -- and that is probably why (in the English translation) Hirsch refers to heredity and adaptation rather than random variation and natural selection (but it's hard to know without being able to read the original German or know how the term was discussed in Germany in the time of Rav Hirsch).

    The Modern Synthesis, however, has no such law-like internal mechanism. In that version of the theory, the engine for novel forms are mistakes that the cell is trying not to make. In short, the theory states that life is the bi-product of a mistake. That theory can very easily be defined as heresy and it is very difficult to defend it as being in line with the Torah (read below). Furthermore, one cannot learn from Rav Hirsch's statements about Darwin's version of the theory to its modern formulation in the Neo-Darwinian version.

    As to the goral mentioned in Mishlei and Megillas Esther which Rabbi Slifkin wishes to point to as evidence that randomness is capatable with the Torah. The randomness discussed there is NOT the type of randomness that the theory of evolution is referring to. In the case of the goral we are talking about one roll of the dice (so to speak) in a situation involving human affairs. In such a case, the Torah lets us know that even in events where chance CANNOT produce the desired outcome, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will intervene with chance and set the desired outcomes according to the needs of Providence.

    This has nothing to do with creation nor with the type of randomness being discussed in evolution. The Torah's description of creation is one of purposeful guidance, not manipulation of random forces. Furthermore, as far as evolution is concerned, the theory is referring to multiple rolls of the dice -- trillions upon trillions of rolls. What's more, it is claimed, beneficial rolls are then locked into place by natural selection.

    In other words AND THIS IS THE CRUCIAL POINT, the theory claims that randomness (plus blind fate) CAN account for the creation of life (exactly the opposite in the case of the goral). As such, G-d is no longer needed. What's more - to now bring G-d in and claim that He is managing the random events would be a violation of the principle of parsimony (or Occam's Razor). In science, one doesn't bring in another force or factor if the explanation already works without that force or factor.

    And therein lies the heresy -- the neo-Darwinian theory has banished G-d from creation (and the pasukim in Mishlei and Megillas Esther do not bring Him back). At best one can allow for G-d to have set up the heavens and the earth and sat back and watch as random mutations plus natural selection run its course and 'hope' that it ends up producing a creature like man. That is NOT the Torah's view of creation.

    Of course - the neo-darwinian theory of evolution has gone under heavy (I would say devastating) attack - but as far as I understand it is still the foundation of the reigning theory (although there is a group of scientists who are looking for what they call a Third Way: http://www.thethirdwayofevolution.com/). So, at the every least, the reigning theory of evolution can very easily be construed as heresy and I have yet to read a convincing argument that it cannot.

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    1. As I explain in The Challenge Of Creation, I don't think that your objections are valid. Besides, do you really think that the Antwerp school is teaching that common descent via a naturalistic mechanism is fine, as long as it's not random mutations?

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    2. I would like to make a request. When referring to your book in response to objections, could you a) refer to the relevant page or chapter and/or b) summarize the point you made in your book. That way it is possible to have an intelligent conversation. It's a bit hard to have a conversation with a book :).

      In terms of the school in Antwerp -- I assume not, but my issue is more the use of Rav Hirsch without noting the difference between the theory in his time and today (not to mention the situation in his time and today) as well as trying to argue that the neo-darwinian theory can be made kosher.

      Also, common descent through a naturalistic mechanism is (for my mind) too broad a term. What sort of naturalistic mechanism? One that makes embryonic development look simple or one that relies on randomness and blind forces of nature. Not all mechanisms are created the same from a Torah point of view.

      And how far back does the common descent go -- to the Cambrian Explosion, to the first cell [although I don't see this as big as an issue, although the Cambrian Explosion works much more simply with the simple peshat (albeit with some issues)]

      And finally, why is the theory of common descent via a naturalistic mechanism being taught or pursued -- because it is solid science or because the biologists made a decision in the 19th/20th that G-d was not allowed in explanations of the origin of life (no matter what the evidence suggests). [I know you think the evidence is good, I am less impressed by it -- but that's a separate issue].

      Specific answers to those questions will make a theological difference. Unfortunately, specific answers can't be forthcoming until we actually have a much more sophisticated understanding of how one, single fertilized cell becomes a 3-dimension living being and what it would actually take to transform that one fertilized egg so that it produces a different 3-dimensional living being.

      Be well,

      Moshe

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    3. "In other words AND THIS IS THE CRUCIAL POINT, the theory claims that randomness (plus blind fate) CAN account for the creation of life (exactly the opposite in the case of the goral). As such, G-d is no longer needed. What's more - to now bring G-d in and claim that He is managing the random events would be a violation of the principle of parsimony (or Occam's Razor). In science, one doesn't bring in another force or factor if the explanation already works without that force or factor.

      And therein lies the heresy -- the neo-Darwinian theory has banished G-d from creation (and the pasukim in Mishlei and Megillas Esther do not bring Him back)."

      Saying that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution cuts out the need for G-d from evolution is not the same as saying that G-d is not involved in evolution. All that occam's razor does is say that you cannot provide evidence that G-d exists from evolution. Bereishis is not claiming that he you can provide evidence for G-ds existence from the creation of life. Rather it is claiming that G-d did do it. Occam's razor is not relevant to that claim. Besides such a claim would be a G-d of the gaps argument.

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    4. "At best one can allow for G-d to have set up the heavens and the earth and sat back and watch as random mutations plus natural selection run its course and 'hope' that it ends up producing a creature like man. That is NOT the Torah's view of creation."

      This is a fallacy caused by looking at G-d from mans point of view.
      a) G-d cannot 'sit back'. He exists outside of time so even if he is only 'interacting' with the universe at a specific point in our time, it makes absolutely no difference to the level at which G-d interacts with the world.
      b) furthermore he knows everything, so if he set up the rules at the beginning he would not be leaving the rest to hope it turns out all right. He already knew that man would turn up.
      c) Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah Perek Alef
      "Halacha 1
      The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.

      Halacha 2
      If one would imagine that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.

      Halacha 3
      If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their [existence] would not nullify His existence, because all the [other] entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them nor any one of them. Therefore, the truth of His [being] does not resemble the truth of any of their [beings]."

      Therefore since the very existence of the universe at any point in time depends entirely on G-d, he is constantly 'creating' or 'interacting with' the world. Just because in some ways this is more visible then others does not effect the fact that G-d is actively keeping the world in existence all the time.

      In my opinion the best way view G-d's relation to the world is as kevayochol somebody producing a film. The relation of the producer to all points in the film is the same-to the producer there is no 'first point in time' when the film came into existence, and all the rest just followed on afterwards (even if the entire film could somehow be predicted from the first instance). Rather every shot in the film is entirely down to the producer, and is exactly how he wanted it.

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    5. Hello Yavoy,

      When one looks at the cardiovascular system and sees how the hearts, lungs, veins and more work together to filter oxygen out of the air and deliver it to the various cells of our body one can easily and clearly point to G-d as the one who set up that system. G-d hasn't been pushed aside -- He has been revealed.

      This remains so (or actually is enhanced) by the fact that the process of creating that heart from a single, fertilized cell is more miraculous and wondrous than the cardiovascular system itself. Everything points to design, purpose, intentionallity.

      But once someone claims that you don't NEED a purposeful, intelligent being to produce results that look purposeful or designed then you have challenged G-d. If random, unguided forces can produce hearts and lungs, then why bring up G-d? What need is there. The system and explanation works just fine without him.

      In other words, the theory says that you do not need G-d involved in evolution in order to produce the results of evolution. The system can take care of it just fine by itself. So, occam's razor would ask you the question -- why are you bringing G-d in? Leave G-d out and I have the exact same result. That's the heart f Occam's Razor -- don't add in factors when the explanation works just fine without that factor.

      So, if evolution can create brains and eyes and cardiovascular systems without G-d, then why bring him in.

      On the other hand, if you say that chance and unguided forces (alone or together) can't do it, then you have a very good reason for bringing G-d in. Nothing else can do the job.

      Now, the only place I can think of that one can fit G-d into the theory of revelation is in the need to set up the system of evolution in the first place. Now, it's not at all clear to me that this is true (I need to give it more thought), but as a theoretical possibility it's the only place I see for Him in the process.

      But even that doesn't jive with the Torah, for once the system of evolution is set up it (the system) has no idea where it is going. Man can come or he cannot. Birds can fly or they cannot. As Gould said, if you replayed the tape life might look rather different.

      That does not at all sound like ''Let Us Make Man".

      In terms of Bereiishis stating that the briah has evidence for G-d's CREATIVE input (not existence) -- I think it may. The notion of G-d SPEAKING creation into existence needs to be thought about as well as the comparison to the 10 statements of creation to the ten plauges and the ten commandments.

      Creation - in the eyes of the Torah - is a form of revelation. G-d is revealing something about Himself in His creation. But that revelation can only exist if the creation itself is able to reveal it. To say that at the heart of creation are random, unguided forces is to say that at its very heart the creation does NOT reveal the will of a Divine Creator.

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    6. Given that G-d is infinite and knows everything, I can easily fit G-d into any and every conceivable story of creation. Give me a good cosmic battle between the heavens and the sea or tell me about the planets and stars vomiting man into existence, it makes no difference. I can easily say that G-d set it up that way and G-d knew that it was going to happen because G-d knows everything. The same, by the way, is true for randomness - give me enough random throughs of the cosmic dice and I can explain anything. Infinity (whether an infinite Mind or an infinite number of random trials) allows for a wide variety of explanations.

      But the Torah has content -- it doesn't just tell us THAT G-d created the world, but tells us something about the TYPE of world that He created and the MANNER in which He created it. And the clear message of the Torah is that G-d WANTED there to be a universe, life and man, that G-d was INVOLVED in the creation of that univesre, life and man.

      When I talk about G-d 'sitting back', I mean that He is no longer needed to be involved in the creation process. When I talk about him 'watching', I mean that the process proposed is an unguided one, one whose ends is not determined by laws of nature or G-d's direct or indirect input. To say otherwise is to UNDERMINE THE THEORY! This point has to be understood. For G-d to involved and set up what the end result will be is to say that the theory doesn't work. If the outcome is not unpredictable, then the theory breaks down.

      That is why G-d has to watch -- He may 'know' what randomness will do, but He did not determine or dictate to randomness what to do.

      THAT IS THE PROBLEM!

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    7. Moshe
      You are bringing a G-d of the gaps argument. Since X cannot be explained, G-d must exists. This has big philosophical problems.
      a) what if we find an explanation for it? Does G-d get smaller because science gets bigger then science is the enemy of religion, and your faith is based on week evidence.
      b) on the other hand there will always be some things we can't explain in science. So even if G-d didn't exist we would be able to prove his existence.
      c) If G-d could set up a few laws at the beginning so that a heart is developed out of an embryonic cell, why couldn't he do the same for life itself.
      d) Aren't you limiting G-d by saying he is only needed for X,Y and Z, but nothing else.So the creation of life needs a G-d. But the deterministic creation of a heart from an embryo doesn't require G-d once he's created the first human.

      Also, to say that life doesn't provide evidence for G-d, but other things do would anyway's not be heresy according to any definition.

      The last point abut Bereishis is hanging upon weak threads. Read RNS's book.

      Also you clearly haven't read my points carefully. I dealt with your problem with evolution's blindness.

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    8. You are confusing explanations with randonmess. The issue is not whether or not something is explained, the issue is the type of explanation. If I explain the workings of nature by sophisticated mathematical laws and finely tuned constants I have revealed G-d. The laws and the fine tuning clearly and directly relate to a law giver and a fine tuner.

      In short, G-d is indicated by what we observe in nature when we find aspects of creation that clearly indicate the necessity of an intelligent and foreward thinking agent to account for their existence. Not knowing how something works is not an indication of G-d. Knowing how something works and based on that knowledge understanding that mental input is required is an indication of G-d.

      With that said, it is possible to undermine that clear and direct indication by stating that random events were responsible. Given enough random trials basically anything is possible. That, indeed, is at the heart of the multiverse. Give me enough universes with enough variation and I can explain anything WITHOUT the need to resort to intellectual foresight and involvement.


      Now, Rabbi Slifkin wants to say that randomness does not pose such a problem -- after all, we have the story of Purim and the example of the goral. In those cases we see G-d USING randomness and HIDING himself to guide the affairs of man.

      I respond that that is a DIFFERENT type of randomness than we have in the theory of evolution. That is a ONE ROLL OF THE DICE type of randomness where chance CANNOT do the job required. Thus, for the end results to be met G-d has to get INVOLVED.

      That is NOT the type of randomness in evolution. In evolution you have a MULTIPLE ROLL OF THE DICE type of randomness where chance CAN do the job required. Therefore, for the end results to be met G-d does NOT have to get involved.

      That is the point I am making, you do not have a pasuk to support randomness from the goral or from the Purim story.

      With that said, I followed up that perhaps one could posit that G-d set up a system of randomness -- just like He set up laws of physics, etc. To that theoretical possibility, I noted that such a system contradicts the Chumash's account of creation.

      The Chumash talks about a clear, purposeful act of creation -- or what one might call miraculous creation in the sense of the word 'neis' -- where G-d's creative input is clearly seen (like a flag raised on a banner during war -- see Isaiah). That is what And G-d said indicates -- that G-d was involved. He was like a King directing His servents. He was expressing His desire and will.

      Comparing the ten statements of creation to the ten plagues and the ten commandments is a clear indication of a REVELATORY type of creation, not a hester panim type of creation. In galus G-d may act with Hester Panim, but not in the Creation. To say that G-d used evolution to create life and man would be to argue that G-d HID His hand in creation.

      You and Rabbi Slifkin then respond that he dealt with that point in his book.

      And I respond, either point out the page number or chapter or summarize the point and I'll be happy to consider it. I cannot have a conversation with a book.

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    9. One other point -- you do not, indeed cannot, get a heart just by a few simple laws. To create a heart from a single cell requires a feat of engineering beyond anything we could contemplate mimicking today.

      If one wants to argue that the creation of all of life required a similar type of system, albeit one for developing all of life rather than just a single life -- that is fine and sounds to me like a reasonable scientific hypothesis (although I have no idea how it could really be tested before we get a much more solid understanding of embryonic development.

      But that process would presumably be even more sophisticated and complicated than the process of bringing a single living creature out of a single fertilized cell. As such, it would be an even bigger revelation of G-d than embryonic development is. It would also be the type of idea or theory that would fit very well with what we read in Bereishis.

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  5. It seems to me that the same same Hashkafa that claims that 'there are no coincidences' and that there is 'an angel that manages the movement of every blade of grass' should have the LEAST problem with random variation driving evolution. To this view, EVERYTHING, no matter how random-seeming to us is actively directed by Hashem -- the fact you lost your keys, the salmon made you sick, you bump into a childhood friend -- why would (seemingly) random mutation at a cellular level be any different?

    I think that Ultra-Orthodoxy's problem with evolution has really more to do with scientific claims around the timing and sequence of evolution rather than the mechanism. If the tradition claimed that Hashem created life and then changed it 'a thousand thousand times over a thousand thousand days' before coming up with Man, Darwin and modern evolutionary theory would be be claimed to prove the authenticity of the Torah and not be seen as a challenge at all!

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  6. Just because R Hirsch allowed for this possibility, does not mean that he would want it taught in the schools. Do you believe that it was taught in his own schools?

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  7. Hi Natan,

    Surely you're able to realize that just because an institution is broadly founded on the principles of a particular individual that does not mean that they are obliged to agree with and run their institution according to absolutely everything he wrote.

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    1. They are not obligated. But surely it would be appropriate to do so. And it's very jarring to see them contradict what he wrote in the sentence immediately after the sentence about them running the school according to his principles!

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  8. To Yannai Segal:

    The mutations that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution relates to are not seemingly random, they are inherently random. When the cell copies DNA it has very precise machinery to make an accurate copy. However, mistakes get through.

    But, no worries -- that same machinery has a proof reading mechanism to catch and repair those mistakes.

    But even then, sometimes mistakes get through both the first round copying and the first round proof reading.

    But no worries,there is another mechanism which can detect the mistakes that get through the first proof reading system and correct those.

    However, sometimes mistakes even make it through this second (and final) round of proof reading. According to the TOE, these are one of (if not the) main source of novel structures in the natural world. Eyes, lungs, hands, feet -- they are all the biproduct of a mistake that the cell worked very hard not to make.

    It's hard to find a more random, less planned mistake than this in the natural world.

    Now, either these mistakes can do the job without G-d's help or they can't. If they can do the job without G-d's help then you don't need G-d to be in charge of or even involved in the process. Real, unplanned, undesired, random mistakes can get along just fine without Him. That, at least, is what the theory claims (it is a claim challenged by mathematics and modern discoveries in biology, but that's what the theory says).

    On the other hand, if these mistakes cannot make eyes, hearts, hands and feet then you don't have a theory. To bring in G-d and say that he directed the mistakes would be to use G-d to save the scientific theory. But, of course, if one needs G-d in order to save a scientific theory then obviously he doesn't have a scientific theory.

    In short, it's either G-d or the mistakes.

    Now, this is not at all like G-d setting up a logical, rational system that helps to run and maintain the natural order (such as a blade of grass growing).

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    1. The same point could be made about all mechanisms in science.

      Now, either this mechanism can do the job without G-d's help or it can't. If it can do the job without G-d's help then you don't need G-d to be in charge of or even involved in the process. The mechanism can get along just fine without Him.

      On the other hand,the mechanism can't explain what it's meant to then you don't have a theory. To bring in G-d and say that he directed the mistakes would be to use G-d to save the scientific theory. But, of course, if one needs G-d in order to save a scientific theory then obviously he doesn't have a scientific theory.
      The point Yannai was making was that however random something appears to us G-d is still behind it. Yes I can't prove this is the case, but given that I believe this is the case, I will have a very different theological glasses on when I look at events that you may think (and have good evidence to show that) are totally random. I and atheist scientists believe in gravity. Just I believe is was G-d that decided gravity should exist and they don't. Can I prove this is true just by looking at the theory of gravity? No.
      "

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    2. In other mechanisms you need G-d to set up the mechanism SO AS TO ACHIEVE THE DESIRED RESULT. The mechanisms EXISTENCE also requires G-d's input.

      Not so with the theory of evolution -- the desired result is NOT determined by the mechanism. And the mechanism (at least the random part) itself is not wanted (the cell is trying NOT to make mistakes). And, even if G-d did set it up (which is not clear that He is needed to do that), the end is NOT in sight.


      That is why Dawkins et al say that you can design without the Designer and creation without the Creation -- because you do NOT need foresight in order to reach the desired ends.

      That is radically different than, say, the mathematical laws of nature or the fine tuning of the fundamental constants. And even there we see the same issue -- with some physicists postulating an infinite number of universes with each having a randomly determined laws of physics -- i.e., the multiverse. In short, give me enough roles of the dice and I can drive G-d out of the design and wisdom we see in the natural world.

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    3. Moshe,

      My point is that the typical Hareidi hashkafa attributes EVERYTHING to Hashem's active intervention anyways. You might argue that you specifically winning the lottery is inherently random - but they don't. The same goes for all sorts of 'random' events and experience of varying level of significance such as whether traffic made you late for a flight or whether a hurricane took out a small Asian country. Haredim don't say, "you NEED God to explain why you missed a flight" but they never-the-less attribute the missed flight Hashem's will.

      For you, a scientific evolutionary mechanism might take out the requirement God's participation in the process via Occam's Razor, but from a Hareidi perspective that's totally irrelevant because they are already attributing God's involvement to a whole bunch of other things where it's totally unnecessary from an explanatory perspective and Occam's Razor is being trampled ona regular basis.

      So Breishit story/timelines aside, Haredim should be able to teach evolution and say "it looks scientifically explainable but it was guided by Hashem in an imperceptible manner" in the same way they say "sickness or weather or a whether my half-court shot goes in looks scientifically explainable but is governed by Hashem".

      Which proves that the real underlying issue is really more to do with the timeline or other literalness issues with the creation story rather than evolutionary mechanisms per se.

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    4. Moshe,

      My point has nothing to do with whether you NEED a God to make evolution work, I am arguing that God's entirely unnecessary and imperceptible intervention in a scientifically-explainable random-mutation-driven evolutionary process is consistent with their general worldview.

      It's clear that for a whole lot of other scientifically well-understood phenomena Hareidi hashkafa nevertheless attributes final outcomes to Hashem's will. To Haredim "it's all part of Hashem's plan" equally applies to a hurricane taking out an Asian coastline as it does to you making a half-court shot. A Hareidi yeshiva can teach the high school physics of a perfect basketball shot and still ad the caveat, "but it will only go in if Hashem wills it". All the more so for complex systems like weather where they can accept the various scientific components (condensation, rising lower-density warm air, Bernoulli effect) and yet still attribute final outcome to Hashem.

      Inherent randomness has no bearing on this Haskafa. To you, a specific person having won the lottery is inherently random, but to Haredim it's not - Hashem wanted that person to win.

      So why the big issue with evolution? They should be able to teach that evolution of life is governed by a seemingly sound scientific process (random mutation + natural selection) but that in reality Hashem guided outcomes like he does on an ongoing basis for everything else.

      Which goes to show that evolution is a really a (major wedge) issue because of the timeline and narrative challenges to teh creation story, not because of the "Theory of Evolution" per se (i.e. the real issue is with the idea of an ancient universe and with the timeline of earthly evolution not the mechanism).

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    5. Sorry for double post, Blogger claimed to lose my original.

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    6. Moshe, please see chapter 22 of my book (fourth edition).

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    7. To Yannai (part 1):

      Winning the lottery is an event in the act of human affairs. As such, it is an event that is under G-d's providence. The pasuk in Mishlei that Rabbi Slifkin referred to talks about the goral. The goral is essentially a lottery. Put some 'cards' in a bag with everyone's name on them, shuffle them up, and then chose them at random to (say) divdie up the nachala in Eretz Yisrael. It is a one-time, random event. What the pasuk in Mishlei states is that G-d intervenes in such affairs. To speak of it metaphorically -- G-d tells lady luck which card to pick. From our perspective it is random, but since it relates to the affairs of man, G-d intervenes.

      In the Purim story, we see the Goral again as well as the notion of G-d working via hester panim. G-d is hidden, but (if you know how to look at it), you can see that G-d is running things from behind the scene. The reason why G-d is working via hester panim is because we were in galus. Before Galus, G-d worked more via open miracles.

      All this relates to PROVIDENCE. There is a system for how G-d interacts in the affairs of man. What you attribute to a Hareidi hashkafa (not sure I agree that it's just a Hareidi hashkafa) is a description of how G-d intervenes and acts in history.

      The question is, can you learn from how G-d interacts in history to how G-d created the world. Well, it depends. When chazal compare the 10 statements with which the world was created to the 10 makos and the ten commandments, they are comparing how G-d created the world to how G-d interacted in history AT THE TIME OF THE MAKOS and to how G-d revealed Himself on Har Sinaii. That is an opening to make a comparison.

      Where, I ask, is the opening to make the comparison between how G-d created the world and the story of Purim or the verse in Proverbs? I have not seen that opening. Rabbi Slifkin referenced Chapter 22 of his book -- I will take a look at it and see what it says. Until then, I am making a comment on parshanut -- on how we learn and understand the Torah. Creation is one type of way that G-d interacts with the world, revelation is another way, providence is a third way. Those ways may overlap at times -- but they may not. What is needed is a clear analysis of the relevant sources to understand what we can learn from and what we cannot.

      In terms of Occams Razor -- I do not agree that attributing G-d's involvement to WHO wins the lottery is a violation of Occam's Razor. According to the laws of statistics, we CANNOT explain why a certain person chose the right numbers and someone else didn't. If one wants to claim that that particular person was meant to win the lottery, then you need to invoke HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

      In terms of why people miss planes and the like -- those are not random events. Those are events that are effected by numerous factors, including conscious, human decisions. Mishlei is full of examples of how the decisions of people relate directly to their outcomes in life.

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    8. In terms of being able to say 'it looks scientifically explainable but it was guided by Hashem in an imperceptible manner...'

      I do NOT think it looks scientifically explainable. I think it has always been a weak scientific theory and I think it is kept alive by non-scientific criteria [see below]. But for now, I'm just focusing on the question of whether or not it is legitimate to reconcile the Torah with such a perspective -- not to whether or not it is a scientific valid or strong theory. In terms of guided by Hashem -- I have ventured to explain why I do not think that is a reasonable idea -- please see my comments and responses above again as to why that is.

      All I will add is that one needs to take the time to understand WHAT TYPE OF RANDOMNESS we are talking about and THE THEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS of that randomness (and when doing so, the thinking needs to be sharp -- not easy to say, but hard to understand statements like 'G-d guided it').

      That is why disagree with you about the problem with evolution, the mechanism is a big problem -- particularly (although not only) its emphasis on random copying errors to be at the heart of creation. A related problem with evolution relates to its history -- to that extent I'll quote from the opening pages of Professor Shapiro in his book Evolution: A View from the 21st Century:

      "[Darwin's] followers...declar[ed] all genetic change to be accidental and random. With the discovery of DNA...the accidental view of change received a molecular interpretation as arising from inevitable errors in the replication process. As many professional and popular press articles attest, the accidental, stochastic nature of mutations is still the prevailing and widely accepted wisdom on the subject.

      In the context of earlier ideological debates about evolution, this insistence on randomness and accident is not surprising. It springs from a determination in the 19th and 20th Centuries by biologists to reject the role of a supernatural agent in religious accounts of how diverse living organisms originated. While that determination fits with the naturalistic boundaries of science, the continued insistence on the random nature of genetic change by evolutionists should be surprising for one simple reason: empirical studies of the mutational process have inevitably discovered patterns, environmental influences, and specific biological activities at the roots of novel genetic structures and altered DNA sequences. The perceived need to reject supernatural intervention unfortunately led the pioneers of evolutionary theory to erect an a priori philosophical distinction between the "blind" processes of hereditary variation and all other adaptive functions."

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    9. To Yannai (part 3):

      What Professor Shaprio is describing here is that there is a philosophical position that has been taken by many biologists over the last 100+ years. It is a position that G-d is not allowed in the story of creation as a matter of principle (not as a matter of scientific discovery or knowledge) -- and for them, embracing and emphasizing a method of random mistakes and errors was a powerful tool in that battle against G-d. It is also a tool that blinds them to advances in science.

      What I will add is that whether or not the position works within the naturalistic bounds of science is irrelevant if there is NOT a naturalistic explanation to be had. One can't banish G-d's direct involvement in creation because G-d's direct involvement doesn't work within the confines of what makes up a good scientific theory. It has to work the other way around, one needs to first discover a workable theory and then note that the idea of direct, special creation doesn't fit into that theory. In short, you can't declare that there is a scientific explanation on philosophical grounds.

      Now, a scientific theory which ignores the facts of biology and insists on a mechanism which we know to be inadequate for the purpose of making sure that G-d is not allowed in the door is a theory which is at great loggerheads with the Torah (and, I will add, science). I imagine it as a sort of intellectual tower of battle -- they have gone up to the heavens to fight G-d. They have told him that He is not welcome in our understanding of creation and have erected a huge intellectual tower to force Him out.

      A theory whose raison d'etre is to banish G-d from the story of creation by insisting on a process which is as devoid as possible of Divine input to the extent that they will blind themselves and others to what is happening at the heart of biology is a theory that should be rejected on scientific, intellectual and religious grounds.

      Be well,

      Moshe

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    10. Moshe,

      I still don't understand why evolution is categorically any different than all other forms of science in terms or the relationship with God or religion. The philosophical position that God isn't, and hasn't been, actively mucking about is inherent to all science, not just evolutionary biology! The whole scientific process of disocvery through experimental prediction and reproducable results requires God to be hands-off in every perceptible way. The unexplainable can never be attributed to 'well God made it happen differently (that one time)' because it destroys the whole interprise if we have that out. We don't claim that medical or pharma research is heretical because the possibility of God's direct involvement is excluded from the analysis.

      I also don't follow the distinction between Providence and Creation (post a set-things-in-motion Big Bang) in terms of God interacting with the world in a way that (imperceptably - let's keep revelation out of it) inteferes with His Laws of Nature. If you hold by 'an angel for the motion of every blade of grass' then the human/non-human difference is irrelevant. Hows is a hidden hand guiding a seemingly scientific process getting is to exactly where we species-wise any different than it doing the same to get a mountain range just so-so, or it to rain on a particular place at a particular time.

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    11. To Yannai,

      The difference is in the proposed mechanism. In other areas of science, the mechanisms are directed towards and focused on the end results. That is not the case in the neo-darwinian mehanism. The mechanism is NOT directed towards the end result, the end result is a bi-product of mistakes and unguided forces.

      In terms of providence and creation -- the issue is one of parshanut.

      Be well and good shabbas,

      Moshe

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    12. The difference is in the proposed mechanism. In other areas of science, the mechanisms are directed towards and focused on the end results. That is not the case in the neo-darwinian mehanism. The mechanism is NOT directed towards the end result, the end result is a bi-product of mistakes and unguided force

      Huh? All science focuses on 'unguided' force and 'mistake' has no scientific meaning because at the level where science operates (and really everything is physics) there is no purpose. The mechanism of erosion is also not directed towards the end result and the precise geology of a mountain range is also the bi-product of mistakes and unguided forces.

      So some stray radiation that breaks a molecular bonds that alters a protein that changes a gene that changes an organism that gives it an advantage that leads to species-wide change is no different than stray radiation that hits a water molecule that causes it to excite and evaporate which leads it to join a cloud which then precipitates on you on a day you had an important meeting but forgot your jacket. Or maybe it breaks a molecular bond in a cell that leads to someone getting cancer. Or maybe it causes your computer to malfunction.

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  9. What about the formation of the earth, from coalescing star dust, or the moon, from an asteroid randomly striking the earth? Why is that any less "random" than evolution?

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  10. I don't know anything about the theories of how the earth formed.

    In terms of an asteroid randomly striking the earth -- that is a one time event. An unlikely, one time event that just happens to happen at the right time in the right place in the right way can certainly be interpreted as having been guided.

    The Theory of Evolution doesn't say that. It says that given the number of trials, random events can mimic the actions of a purposeful, intelligent agent.

    If I find a deck of cards arranged in order (ace through king one suit following another) I can deduce that an intelligent agent set them up. If, however, someone tells me that they were shuffled trillions upon trillions of times I no longer need to resort to intentional action. Given enough random shuffles, all possible combinations are EXPECTED.

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    1. So it's impossible for God to let someone to shuffle a deck of cards a million times? Or it's impossible to say God would know the eventual outcome, or be happy with the eventual outcome?

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    2. Not impossible, but definitely far-fetched. It's not the type of thinking that is considered useful our constructive.

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    3. G-d can let someone shuffle a deck a million times. G-d can know the eventual outcome. G-d can be happy with the eventual outcome.

      In none of those scenarios is G-d INVOLVED in determining the eventual outcome. In none of those scenarios is G-d's desires or wishes REVEALED in the outcome.

      You need G-d's involvement and you need his revelation in creation.

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    4. Good analogy. How about viewing G-d's interaction with the world via randomness in the same way as the Monty Hall problem. The goat is randomly placed behind a door, but the presenter knows the outcome of the placement and can reveal/not reveal the goat at whim.

      Were we to replay evolution, we may get different results each time but if G-d controls the infinite replays and 'selects' one outcome to reveal that can demonstrate a combination of random action with omnicient intervention combined.

      In the analogy above of shuffling a deck, while knowing that a deck has been given to be shuffled a million times means that there is a very high chance the deck will at one point be in order, the fact that it is given to you in your hands in that order implies that the giver intends you to receive an ordered deck. There is no real difference if the order was achieved by him shuffling until he randomly get there and stopping, or purposefully sorting it that way.

      (Monty Hall problem describes a game show where a goat is hidden behind one door out of, lets say, 100, and you pick a door at random. If you pick the goat you win. Before opening the door you picked the presenter walks along all the other doors and opens 98 of them to reveal no goat. He then asks you if you want to swap your unopened door with the remaining one. Of course you do. The presenter knows where the goat was placed - though initially it was a random event - and purposefully opens only empty doors. Thus there is only a 1% chance of your original door being the winner and 99% of the remaining door having the goat)

      By looking at the randomness in evolution in this manner, it is little different to fine tuning constants of physics to ensure that after 13.8 billion years, this specific earth coalesces in the exact spot and nature that it did to sustain us. It is only by knowing that every slightly different constant might trigger a cascade of events that provides a different earth or outcome that G-d could fine tune in the first place.

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  11. R' Slifkin -
    Are you unaware that R' Hirsch was, in fact, a charedi? Please see R' Frankfurter's editorial in the August 28, 2013 issue of Ami Magazine. He shows clearly that it's Reform who claim RSRH to have been, G-d forbid, "Modern" (shudder!).

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    1. Are you unaware just how far out of your depths you have swum? Instead of throwing around simplistic labels, you would be well served by familiarizing yourself with the evolution of, and conflicts within, German Orthodox thought, as well as those between German Orthodoxy and the range of views within the Eastern European yeshiva world.

      Arthur R.

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  12. Contributors to the discussion here about the role of or not of "random" might benefit from this article http://www.askamathematician.com/2012/06/q-if-quantum-mechanics-says-everything-is-random-then-how-can-it-also-be-the-most-accurate-theory-ever/

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  13. I am not presenting the following to rebut any argument made in this post. Rav Hirsch on Gen: 19:24 --> "One who visits the Dead Sea region today and sees the sulphur springs and the volcanic terrain will interpret the destruction of these cities as an ordinary natural occurrence... The causes would then appear natural, without need to refer to God... But the words from God, from Heaven show that this view is incorrect... You are confusing the cause with the effect... You hold that the catastrophe was caused by the character of the terrain as you see it now, when in truth the present form of the terrain is only an effect of this catastrophe... The geological theories of the origins of the Earth are probably based on similar errors. The visible phenomena upon which these theories are based are real, but the conclusions based upon them are false. These theories, too, confuse the causes with the effects. The phenomena which they interpret as the causes of geological upheavals are in reality only the effects of upheavals called forth by God when He formed the Earth"

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  14. Washington Hieghts JewJune 11, 2014 at 11:23 PM

    Rabbi, I find it quite extraordinary that you criticize this school in Antwerp for not being consistent with all of R Hirch ideas that he put forward in Frankfurt. Are you not aware that in his letters regarding teaching secular subjects (Torah im Derech Eretz) to children in Eretz Yisrael he clearly writes that one cannot compare Frankfurt to Yerusholayim and (swallow hard) he continues one must consult with the rabbonim of that particular town with which material to educate their youth.
    Don't take my word for it... check it up yourself in his teshuvos on chinuch.....he brings up this point a few times.
    So comes out this school in Antwerp are completely consistent with Rabbi Hirch by following their own rabbonim in what the Antwerp youth need......

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    1. Washington Hights (sic) Jew-

      There is nothing uniquely Hirschian about the idea of allowing the rabbis of a town determine how to educate their youth. The only reason to mention R' Hirsch is to try and tie in his idea of TIDE, and it's clear here that that's what this school is claiming...only apparently, it's a particularly warped version of Hirsch.

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    2. Washington Hieghts Jew (aka JT?):

      Following your argument, "so comes out" every community in chutz Frankfurt that makes educational decisions in accordance with their local rabbonim is following the principles R' Hirsch, no matter how extremely they may differ from R' Hirsch's view of Judaism. Please be sure to inform Rav Shteinman and the Chasidim of this.

      Arthur R.

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  15. Kabbalistical MonikerJune 11, 2014 at 11:57 PM

    Moshe's question can be more precisely framed as how can an omnipotent God be reconciled with a universe in which there are phenomena with no cause - random phenomena. The question is more clear cut cut in quantum physics than the large scale macroscopic sequences of cause and effect which is cell division. It bothered Einstein as well, who famously remarked that he couldn't believe that God played dice with the universe. I think what Einstein and Moshe are missing is the outcome of an event cannot be predicted by man, it does not follow that God cannot predict it.

    There is a side philosophical Maimonodean type question that Moshe raises which is that God would surely take the simplest and most direct route to achieve a cause, being a perfectly simple Being. Actually the whole of creation is an ostensible deviation from the perfect singularity of unity to a complex multitudinous and changing world where independent free choice was ostensibly granted to the created. Kabbalists refer to this as the mystery of Tzimtzum, and believe that the essential avodah of man is precisely to reconcile these two worlds.

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    1. The issue is not merely one of whether or not G-d can predict the outcome -- his perspective and ours are not the same -- but whether or not G-d's will and hand are visible in the briah.

      Now, the world of quantum physics is certainly a world that works differently than the one that we interact in the macro world. Also, I believe that we do not really understand WHY we cannot predict the actions of the electron -- we just know that we cannot. On the other hand, we know perfectly well where the randomness comes in copying DNA -- it comes from mistakes in the copying process. We also know that the cell is made to try and minimize those mistakes as much as possible.

      This is a point that I do not think that people are focusing on -- the cell is trying NOT to make mistakes. It is designed to be as accurate as possible. It's not just that the process is random (that is part of it), but it is random MISTAKES.

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    2. Just Pointing OutJune 12, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      " the cell is trying NOT to make mistakes. It is designed to be as accurate as possible. "

      How can you possibly say what it is ultimately "designed" for? Maybe the universe was set up such that evolution would operate in this way and the result would be complex life and intelligence.

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    3. The same way that I know that it was designed to duplicate itself [take a look at the first video on this article: http://morethinking.com/2011/08/08/ill-take-two/]

      You have numerous molecular machines working in conjunction with each other to bring about the effect of creating as accurate a copy as possible.

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    4. It is meaningless to say that a cell is 'trying not to make mistakes'. It is not a rational agent. For the sake of describing what is happening to an object we may use the anthropomorphism of "The cell is trying not to make mistakes", but this is no truer than the statement "the earth wants to be closer to the moon but the moon is trying to go in a straight line".
      Cells don't try to do anything. They just do it. If you want to phrase what you are trying to say in an accurate way you would say.
      " A cell is most likely to produce a large number of descendants if it copies its genetic code almost, but not quite perfectly. If the copy is too perfect the descendants will not be adaptable enough to survive a change of environment, but if it is too imperfect, too great a proportion of its descendants are likely to be nonviable. Various mechanism's exist which cause the accuracy of the copy to be at the desired level."
      Anything heretical with that?

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    5. To Yavoy:

      What I mean by 'trying not to make mistakes' is that there are multiple proof reading mechanisms included in the cell which gives it an extermely high rate of accurate copy of something like one mistake for every billion nucleotides (and I think it can get as high as one in ten billion, but I have to double check that).

      It is clear that the mechanisms of the cell are designed to produce an extremely high rate of accurate reproduction of its DNA. They are not 'balancing' accuracy with the desired number of mistakes so as to allow for evolutionary change, it is simply a very impressive, accurate system of faithfully reproducing DNA. [not to mention that you can't change the biological form of an animal one step at a time -- the nature of embryonic development doesn't allow for it]

      This is a fact that needs to be dealt with, not reformulated in a manner that makes it fit in with the theory of evolution. It works the other way around -- the theory of evolution needs to fit into how the cell works. If the theory doesn't work with what we discover in the cell then either we reformulate the theory or throw it out.

      Be well,

      Moshe

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  16. In other words AND THIS IS THE CRUCIAL POINT, the theory claims that randomness (plus blind fate) CAN account for the creation of life (exactly the opposite in the case of the goral). As such, G-d is no longer needed. What's more - to now bring G-d in and claim that He is managing the random events would be a violation of the principle of parsimony (or Occam's Razor). In science, one doesn't bring in another force or factor if the explanation already works without that force or factor.

    And therein lies the heresy -- the neo-Darwinian theory has banished G-d from creation (and the pasukim in Mishlei and Megillas Esther do not bring Him back). At best one can allow for G-d to have set up the heavens and the earth and sat back and watch as random mutations plus natural selection run its course and 'hope' that it ends up producing a creature like man. That is NOT the Torah's view of creation.


    By this reasoning, the Rambam would still believe in Aristotilean physics today. Inertia explains how the "spheres" rotate without a prime mover. And anyhow the "spheres" are slowing down due to friction and eventually the universe will be unlivable high entropy place. Thus Newton banished the need for God to rotate the spheres and Newton's laws should be "heresy".

    That does not at all sound like ''Let Us Make Man".

    Frankly, that pasuk doesn't sound monotheistic either.

    Rabbi, I find it quite extraordinary that you criticize this school in Antwerp for not being consistent with all of R Hirch ideas that he put forward in Frankfurt. Are you not aware that in his letters regarding teaching secular subjects (Torah im Derech Eretz) to children in Eretz Yisrael he clearly writes that one cannot compare Frankfurt to Yerusholayim and (swallow hard) he continues one must consult with the rabbonim of that particular town with which material to educate their youth.
    Don't take my word for it... check it up yourself in his teshuvos on chinuch.....he brings up this point a few times.
    So comes out this school in Antwerp are completely consistent with Rabbi Hirch by following their own rabbonim in what the Antwerp youth need......


    The children of Eretz Yisrael and modern-day Antwerp need to be told an untruth whereas those in a past Antwerp were sophisticated enough to handle it? And this is the reasoning of the current administration? I doubt it.

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    1. By this reasoning, the Rambam would still believe in Aristotilean physics today.
      The Rambam would have to revise how he defines מעשה בראשית as being Aristotle's Physics. But we can't revise the text of the Torah.

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    2. With Rambam and the spheres -- G-d is moving the final, outer sphere (with that sphere moving the inner sphere). You need to go to the foundation of the system and then you will find G-d.

      With Newton started the discovery of a rich body of mathematically precise laws coupled with finely tuned physical constants. And the most straight forward, obvious explanation of those laws and constants is that G-d set them up. And so, once again, we go to the foundation of the system and find G-d.

      In terms of being taught an untruth -- I agree, the kids of Antwerp, Eretz Yisrael, America, England, France and the rest of the world should not be told that random genetic mistakes are at the heart of an evolutionary process. I think it is terrible that for philosophical, anti-religious reasons the biological community has insisted on a mechanism and mode of thinking which are clearly inadequate for what they wish to explain. And I for one will join you in insisting that they stop trying to indoctrinate our kids with their philosophical preconceived notions.

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    3. Washington Heights JewJune 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      David, my point which still stands is that the Antwerp school are following Rabbi Hirch that its up to the rabbonim of every town to decide what style/content of chinuch is to be presented to the youth. They have decided that evolution is not conducive to the quality of a good rounded jewish education. Now I understand this is hard for you to admit as it has far reaching repercussions eg: with the current debate in Israel, teaching secular subjects in chinuch atzmai schools etc. So we have it again where Rabbi Slifkin chooses one line of Rabbi Hirch and omits the other.
      In more general terms this is a major flaw with this blog. Its inconsistency and lack of honesty is sometimes astounding
      You see Rabbi Slifkin brings a letter of the Gerrer rebbe written in the 1930's on the importance of working for a living yet when someone shows him a tshuva of Rabbi Fienstien on the importance of kollel he shoves it away saying it was written in 1964 and not applicable for our generation....yet the gerrer letter of the 1930's he holds on with 2 hands.
      The examples are countless but for brevity just one more, Rabbi Slifkin condemns the bnei kollel for not following jewish tradition of working for a living yet eating locusts in chrayne has not exactly been the ashekanazi tradition for a millennia....
      So the only difference between RNS and your fellow ben torah, is the former breaks from tradition by eating locusts, the latter breaks from tradition by learning Torah!
      I feel this whole blog is completely inconsistent, and is more guided by emotion than anything really mature and rational.

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    4. Washington Heights Jew, that is a ridiculous comparison.
      Eating locusts is perfectly permissible al pi Torah and there has been a constant tradition to do so amongst communities where locusts exist. Ashkenazi Jews just didn't have locusts available.
      Creating a culture in which men don't learn a trade and demand communal support is prohibited according to Chazal and there was never any historical tradition for it. It was a hora'as sha'ah done in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

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    5. By this reasoning, the Rambam would still believe in Aristotilean physics today.
      The Rambam would have to revise how he defines מעשה בראשית as being Aristotle's Physics. But we can't revise the text of the Torah.


      With Rambam and the spheres -- G-d is moving the final, outer sphere (with that sphere moving the inner sphere). You need to go to the foundation of the system and then you will find G-d.

      I think you both may be missing my counter-argument. The claim was that since natural selection obviates the otherwise ostensible need for God to directly create man and/or other species, then it is heresy:

      And therein lies the heresy -- the neo-Darwinian theory has banished G-d from creation

      The Rambam saw the "constant" rotation of the spheres as requiring divine intervention. Inertia + the fact that the rotation is not actually constant "banishes God" from his constant involvement in that rotation. Thus, these should be heresy by Moshe's expansive definition of heresy.

      The fact that a new discovery uproots someones "proof" doesn't make it heresy.

      In terms of being taught an untruth -- I agree, the kids of Antwerp, Eretz Yisrael, America, England, France and the rest of the world should not be told that random genetic mistakes are at the heart of an evolutionary process. I think it is terrible that for philosophical, anti-religious reasons the biological community has insisted on a mechanism and mode of thinking which are clearly inadequate for what they wish to explain. And I for one will join you in insisting that they stop trying to indoctrinate our kids with their philosophical preconceived notions.

      Your opinion about evolution is irrelevant here. R. Hirsch did not find evolution to be heresy and this school is teaching it as being so. Your explanation that "he clearly writes that one cannot compare Frankfurt to Yerusholayim". It makes no sense to say that in one time and place one can teach that evolution is not heresy and in another place that it is, unless you feel that teaching untruths is OK depending on the time and location.

      How much math to teach can vary by time and location. "1 + 1 = 2" cannot.

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    6. To David Oshie:

      I would like to request that you please reread my original comment before responding to it. If you do, I think you will notice that did not focus on natural selection, I focused on random mutations. [although it is worth noting that natural selection is a blind, unguided force -- unlike forces like the strong nuclear force which are directly aimed at the result that they produce]

      My point is NOT that a natural cause eliminates G-d, my point is that having RANDOM MISTAKES at the heart of a mechanism eliminates the cause and effect relationship and thereby eliminates G-d.

      If I create a machine that produces a watch then I can attribute the existence of the watch to my purposeful action. If, however, I create a machine that is trying to cut tomatoes, and by accumulations of mistakes in the cutting process a watch appears then I can not attribute the existence of the watch to my purposeful action.
      NOT

      Finally, I did not write: "he clearly writes that one cannot compare Frankfurt to Yerusholayim".

      What I did write about Rav Hirsch is that the version of evolution he discussed in 1871 was fundamentally different to the current reworked theory of evolution known as the Modern Synthesis (or the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution).

      Again, please reread my initial comment to see what I actually said.

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    7. Moshe, before I write anything else, I apologize for putting words in your mouth. I discussed multiple commenters in my first post and then I must have conflated you with another commenter.

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    8. My point is NOT that a natural cause eliminates G-d, my point is that having RANDOM MISTAKES at the heart of a mechanism eliminates the cause and effect relationship and thereby eliminates G-d.

      If I create a machine that produces a watch then I can attribute the existence of the watch to my purposeful action. If, however, I create a machine that is trying to cut tomatoes, and by accumulations of mistakes in the cutting process a watch appears then I can not attribute the existence of the watch to my purposeful action.


      Here is the flaw in that reasoning: cells do not operate with a "purpose". They don't have brains and thought processes inside of them. So the notion of a "mistake" is misplaced.

      In fact, if an organism had a mutation rate of 0, then this would be a bad thing. Genetic diversity within the population enables the population to adapt to changes in the environment. The mutation rate is something that enables this diversity. The result is that there may actually be an optimal mutation rate. Here is some short discussion from wikipedia:

      Second, higher mutation rates increase the rate of beneficial mutations, and evolution may prevent a lowering of the mutation rate in order to maintain optimal rates of adaptation.[13]

      The fact that there are multiple layers of protection against mutation in some organisms just means that the optimal mutation rate for those organisms are so low that multiple independent protections must exist to achieve that low rate. That doesn't mean that a rate of 0 is optimal or that a rate greater than 0 is a "mistake".

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    9. Washington Heights Jew:
      Lets assume you are right that RNS breaks with tradition by eating locusts and your kollel guy breaks with tradition by learning Torah the whole day.....big deal! just because one has a fault in one area does that mean one must remain shtum the rest of ones life and never criticize someone else in the same area?
      Just because RNS breaks with tradition does that prevent him the rest of his life criticizing others guilty of the same sin? If you don't like this site there are plenty of other places you can visit

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    10. Natan SlifkinJune 12, 2014 at 2:11 PM
      Washington Heights Jew, that is a ridiculous comparison.
      Eating locusts is perfectly permissible al pi Torah and there has been a constant tradition to do so amongst communities where locusts exist. Ashkenazi Jews just didn't have locusts available.


      I laugh whenever anyone brings this up. The last time I saw it was with Dr. Betech. It seems to me to be a sign of someone who either can't think straight or can't be bothered to. The reason for the permit to do this is so obvious that one who raises this objection against you can't really be serious (either due to lack of commitment or ability).

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    11. To David Ohsie,

      Understood about the mistake -- it happens :).

      In terms of cells acting with a purpose. Well, the machinery in the cell certainly looks designed to accomplish certain ends. For instance, watch the first video in this article: http://morethinking.com/2011/08/08/ill-take-two/. The molecular machines that enable copying of DNA seem clearly there in order to copy DNA -- just like the machines in a watch factory seem clearly there in order to make a watch. The mistake is that sometimes the machines make a mistake when copying the DNA and the wrong nucleotide is inserted. The machinery is built NOT to make that mistake. What's more, there are other molecular machines which are built to detect and fix mistakes that do get through. Now, if one finds a machine that performos a certain task it is quite reasonable to assume that the machine was built with that end goal in mind. Obviously the machine doesn't have a brain or intellect, but its mechanical puprose is clearly the end goal that it is designed to achieve.

      In terms of the mutation rate -- I'd have to see the source inside and see the evidence for that. It sounds more like a declared fact than an observed or deduced fact. From what I've read and learned, animals adapt to their environment by sophisticated, built-in feedback systems that have nothing to do with mutations. I would check out Professor Shapiro's book -- it's hard reading, but he goes through the literature.

      Also, I don't think there are multiple layers of protection in some organisms -- I think there are multiple layers in ALL organisms. The system I described relates to prokaryotic cells. In Eukaryotic cells I understand the process is even more sophisticated.

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    12. Obviously the machine doesn't have a brain or intellect, but its mechanical purpose is clearly the end goal that it is designed to achieve.

      This sentence makes no sense, because your reasoning is not coherent. How do you tell what results of the mechanism are the good "designed to achieve" ones and which ones are the bad "randomly result" ones. If the machine can both reproduce itself accurately enough and also be a source for slightly varied organisms that can fill other or changing ecological niches, who is to say what the purpose is?

      From what I've read and learned, animals adapt to their environment by sophisticated, built-in feedback systems that have nothing to do with mutations.

      Within a single organism. For a species to be resilient requires genetic diversity. Hence the advantages of sexual reproduction which results in offspring which are not copies of either parent.

      Also, I don't think there are multiple layers of protection in some organisms -- I think there are multiple layers in ALL organisms. The system I described relates to prokaryotic cells. In Eukaryotic cells I understand the process is even more sophisticated.

      My point is that the mutation rate varies. For example: "Rates of spontaneous mutation per genome as measured in the laboratory are remarkably similar within broad groups of organisms but differ strikingly among groups."

      http://www.genetics.org/content/148/4/1667.full

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  17. "Rabbi, I find it quite extraordinary that you criticize this school in Antwerp for not being consistent with all of R Hirch ideas that he put forward in Frankfurt."

    Rabbi Slifkin had a specific point, that the sentence about Rav Hirsch was *immediately* followed by a sentence disagreeing with Rav Hirsch. He did not complain that the school has some or many particulars that R Hirsch didn't agree with.

    It is also clear that the intention was not that they follow R Hirsch'es view that one obey local Rabbonim. That is a pretty universal idea and not especially connected to R Hirsch.

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  18. I'm assuming Washington Heights Jew is being facetious. What Rav Hirsch wrote in those letters has nothing to do with what Rabbi Slifkin's post is about. Rabbi Slifkin didn't say that a yeshiva should teach evolution as G-d-given truth. He merely said that a yeshiva that claims to be founded on Rav Hirsch's hashkafa shouldn't do something that is in direct opposition to that haskafa.

    (If we wish to be generous to this school, we can suggest that Rav Hirsch mainly stood for Torah im Derech Eretz. His views on evolution have, at best, an indirect connection to Torah im Derech Eretz. In other words, a person can claim that he's following someone's hashkafa even if he happens to disagree with that person on a small, almost unrelated point.)

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  19. On the other hand, see Hirsch on Numbers 25:3. He is one of our most misunderstood thinkers. http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2010/03/the-mission-of-the-jews

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  20. I don't understand the focus in the comments on TIDE this, TIDE that.
    Is it not obvious that the travesty being committed here is that kids are being told that a non-ikkar is kefirah? So now, if one of those kids comes to the conclusion that actually, it's intellectual dishonest to refuse to believe in evolution (i'm not even addressing whether that's correct or not, just say it happens) he now thinks he's a kofer and why bother keeping other things... Perhaps more importantly, his /classmates/ now think he's supposedly a kofer and either:
    1. Believe this, and therefore have to struggle with treating him like a kofer is supposed to be treated (can he be counted towards a minyan, for starters?)
    2. Think that it's ridiculous, and from that line of thought proceed to everything else ridiculous that they no doubt were taught in this school...


    In short, the principle of "one who is inappropriately machmir in one area is inappropriately meikil in another" continues to hold true, and a school has undermined her students' frumkeit for no observable purpose.

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    1. > ...treating him like a kofer is supposed to be treated (can he be counted towards a minyan, for starters?

      I know this is beside the point, but in the real world, no one cares what you believe, only how you look/act. It doesn't matter if I tell people I'm a kofer. They still want me to help them make a minyan, will be motzei with my kiddush, etc.

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  21. Moshe appears to have a very limited understanding of the scientific process. It is almost axiomatic in science to avoid any mention of divine intervention in an attempt to account for physical phenomena. The scientific enterprise is based on the premise that the physical world can be understood on its own. After all, if it were an acceptable argument, then the usual frum attitude of "GOD willed it that way" could be used to deflect any attempt at understanding the physical world based on scientific principles and mathematical exposition. This exclusion of the divine from scientific discourse doesn't imply belief in non-existence or non-intervention. Science has little to say about one time events such as the miracles described in the torah, including the creation of Adam and Eve. Their creation by direct divine intervention doesn't contradict the scientific findings that homo sapiens existed long before 6 millennia ago and that they are physically related to earlier hominids. What was unique about Adam and Eve was their formation and the implanting of a soul into their makeup. Again, souls are not subject to scientific study or even questions of existence. That is a subject matter of metaphysics rather than physics (or other sciences). Hence the theories of evolution can have no relevance to the issue of a deity or His role in the world. A biology book or teacher who attempts to draw evolution into such a theological issue is ignorant of the proper role of science in advancing human knowledge. I can see a religious school objecting to or censoring out such mistaken and harmful references, but not at the expense of eliminating the teaching of evolution in biology.
    Y. Aharon

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    1. It is one thing to claim that the scientiific enterprise is based on the premise that the physical world can be understood on its own. It's quite another to just declare that the creation of life fits into the scientific enterprise (please see my quote from Professor Shapiro above). It is when direct intervention by G-d is conisidered an illegitimate position that the biologists have gone too far. It's only illegitimate if it is not true. It is not illegitimate because it doesn't work into the scientific method. Such a position is as fruitful and makes as much sense is as Aristotle claiming that the heavens have to be in the shape of spheres because the sphere is the perfect shape. When science is based on what philosophically has to be it is on rather shaky ground.

      Secondly -- comparing creation of the human sould to the mechanism of evolution is to confuse physics with metaphysics. My point is that the mechanism of evolution is one which removes G-d from the job of Creator. That certainly has 'relevance to the issue of a deity' and 'His role in the world'. Noting those areas that science can't reach in response is TO IGNORE THE POINT I AM MAKING.

      When Rabbi Slifkin quotes a verse in Mishlei he is relating to this point. He is trying to say that it does not remove G-d from creation. He understands that there is an issue that needs to be dealt with. My initial comment (and others that I have since made) are to indicate that I do not think his solution works and why I don't think it works. He then countered that he has dealt with my suggestions and sent me to the chapter in his book where he does so (I have since started reading that chapter).

      This is called a conversation -- point, counter-point.

      What I would like to suggest is that many other people here are having a hard time seeing that there is actually an issue to deal with. If you (and others) want to argue that there is not an issue, fine -- but please do so by related to the issues of RANDOMNESS that I have raised. If you think there is a problem, but that there is a solution, then mention it. But at the very least relate to the issue that I am raising and discussing.

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    2. Your problem with randomness IS also metaphysical. I would like to reiterate that you are confusing your own mind's inability to predict random outcomes with that of God's. You believe evolution to be too inefficient and unaesthetic in its operation to be a reflection of the Will of God. There is something unaesthetic about many aspects of life which you do believe in including, lo oleinu, stillborns and the severely disabled. Were they RANDOM MISTAKES? We accept the world as it is. As to your disapproval of scientific evidence for common descent, I suggest a quick Google (survival of the fittest I agree remains a hypothesis.)

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  22. Moshe
    My final attempt at explaining my views, before I give up in desperation. Please tell me what is heretical about the following set of beliefs.
    a) I believe in evolution
    b) I believe that evolution in no way provides evidence for G-d's existence or his interaction in this world (actually I do, but that is irrelevant to the argument I'm making here).
    c) Based on other pieces of evidence, such as the way the universe is perfectly crafted to allow life to exist, and the survival of the Jewish people, I conclude that G-d exists and that he control's everything.
    d) Given that G-d control's everything, he must control even things which seem completely random, such as evolution. Thus he decided that evolution would end up with humans.
    Note that occam's razor is not being trampled upon here. I agree that if I were looking at evolution alone I would see no reason to conclude that G-d is involved behind the scenes. But once I accept that he is behind everything (based on evidence from other sources), by default he must be involved here. This is not bad science. It's good science.
    Lemoshul, if all the evidence at a crime scene points to X being the culprit, there is no reason to suggest the evidence is fabricated. But if I know there is a famous 'crime-scene-fabricator' in town, the logical thing is to assume he is behind this too.

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    1. Let me focus on point d:

      d) Given that G-d control's everything, he must control even things which seem completely random, such as evolution. Thus he decided that evolution would end up with humans.

      I think herein lies the problem. If I came up with a theory that the sun and the moon vomited man into existence (which I believe was an ancient African creation myth), can't I make the same statement? Since G-d controls everything, he must hae controlled the seemingly purposeless vomitting up of mankind. Does your understanding of G-d and the Torah lead you to the position that there is absolutely no version of creation which can contradict either a) the Torah or b) G-d's role as the Creator? If so, then I think we have hit an impass. I think there is a boundary beyond which we can no longer reconcile a particular understanding of creation with G-d and the Torah.

      Furthermore, to say that G-d must control the seemingly random when the theory states that the seemingly random can do it without control seems to me a mistake in reasoning (as well as a violation of Occam's Razor). According to the theory of evoluiton, there is no need to bring G-d in, the random events locked in by unguided forces of nature can do the job on their own. Indeed, from what I've read so far of Chap. 22 in Rabbi Slifkin's book, this is one of the main points he makes about other laws of nature. We don't say that G-d directly melted the snow, we say that he did so vis-a-vis the known physical mechanisms. That statement works and makes sense because there is a CAUSAL CHAIN at work. G-d sets up a physical system, this system is aimed at producing a desired end. We can therefore attribute the final end to the one who set up the system.

      With the randomness and UNGUIDED forces of evolution you cannot make such a connection. You can have G-d set up such a physical system, but you cannot say that that system is aimed at producing a desired end for the simple reason that the system is not end or goal oriented. The mistakes are not aimed at improving the organism. Indeed, no one knows what mistakes will pop up. Similarly, natural selection is not aimed at locking in beneficial errors. It is focused on the local, immediate needs of survival.

      To turn around and say that you think G-d decided that evolution would end up with humans is another way of saying that UNLIKE the case of snow, when it comes to evolution G-d did NOT allow His mechanism to work on its own and that G-d intervened with it for His own purposes. As such, you have abandoned the neo-darwiinian theory of evolution. On the other hand, if you say that G-d let His mechanism run its own course, then you are disconnecting G-d from the end product for the simple reason that the mechanism is not end or goal oriented. The mechanism does not know where it is going, it can end up anywhere.


      In short, you have to choose. If G-d did it then evolution didn't do it. If evolution did it, then G-d didn't do it. My objection is that you are smoothing over this fundamental issue rather than face the inherent conflict.


      Note that occam's razor is not being trampled upon here. I agree that if I were looking at evolution alone I would see no reason to conclude that G-d is involved behind the scenes. But once I accept that he is behind everything (based on evidence from other sources), by default he must be involved here. This is not bad science. It's good science.

      I think we have found one area of partial agreement. You note that evolution alone does not lead to reason to conclude to G-d. That is along the lines of the point I'm trying to make, except that I am taking it one step further. I am stating that not only does it not lead to G-d, but it removes and separates Him from the process of the creation of life. It denies G-d. It denies G--d not because it is a mechanism, but because of the TYPE of mechanism that it is.

      Be well,

      Moshe

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    2. Moshe, unfortunately I don't have time to reply at length, but there are at least two ways of explaining why you are wrong. One is that you can posit that God undetectably intervenes to direct the seemingly chance process of evolution in whatever way He also undetectably intervenes to direct the seemingly chance process of human history. The other is that evolution is easier than human history - you could just say that God indeed allowed it to be a random process, because He knew that given enough time, such a random process will result in intelligent life.

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    3. But Moshe where is the causal link when Adam sinned? Your Aristotelian model of God is being taken a little literally.

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    4. Hello Rabbi Sifkin,

      My first question would be whether or not positing that G-d undetectably intervenes to direct the seemingly chance process of evolution is actually consistent with the theory of evolution.

      If chance mutation plus natural selection can do the job without G-d's intervention, then why even posit that He is intervening. After all, He doesn't need to intervene -- just like He doesn't need to directly intervene in the sun melting the snow.

      If, however, chance mutation plus natural selection cannot do the job, then why are we bothering with the mechanism -- it isn't up to the job and it isn't a good scientific theory since it needs G-d to do the job.

      What I imagine one could say is that the mechanism is up to SOME job, but does not necessarily lead to life as we know it. That is, it can create life, but whether or not it creates humans is not determined by the mechanism and that is where G-d comes in. So it's a partially mechanistic explanation -- it can create life, but G-d dictates to it what type of life we can say.

      If we say that, then what we are saying is that at the heart of creation is a big question mark. Was life as we know it created purely by random, undirected processes or was G-d involved at some point. What the third option states is that that question is inherently unanswerable from looking at the creation. I think that contradicts the type of creation that the Torah describes (but, as I have said before, I"m still in the middle of chapter 22, so I don't know what you have to say about that question yet).

      In terms of chance processes in human history -- I have endeavored to show the difference between the type of chance that takes place in human history and the type of chance that the theory of evolution are talking about. They are not one and the same type of random event -- and the difference is significant.

      The second answer I need to think about more before I respond.

      Be well and good shabbas,

      Moshe

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    5. "With the randomness and UNGUIDED forces of evolution you cannot make such a connection. You can have G-d set up such a physical system, but you cannot say that that system is aimed at producing a desired end for the simple reason that the system is not end or goal oriented. The mistakes are not aimed at improving the organism. Indeed, no one knows what mistakes will pop up. Similarly, natural selection is not aimed at locking in beneficial errors. It is focused on the local, immediate needs of survival.

      To turn around and say that you think G-d decided that evolution would end up with humans is another way of saying that UNLIKE the case of snow, when it comes to evolution G-d did NOT allow His mechanism to work on its own and that G-d intervened with it for His own purposes. As such, you have abandoned the neo-darwiinian theory of evolution. On the other hand, if you say that G-d let His mechanism run its own course, then you are disconnecting G-d from the end product for the simple reason that the mechanism is not end or goal oriented. The mechanism does not know where it is going, it can end up anywhere."

      In short, what I understand you are saying is that the whole point of the theory of evolution is to explain how life can exist without a guider. Therefore if I will say that there is a guider then evolution is superfluous. Therefore occam's razor tells me there is no need for evolution.
      I agree that I have not addressed that side of the argument adequately. I did not fully understand the point you are making. I will now attempt to address it.
      Firstl I believe you could say the same point you are making about almost anything. We currently know of mechanisms to produce hurricanes. But these mechanisms are unguided and random-there is no way of knowing when and where the hurricane will hit. So either you accept this, in which case G-d is not involved in deciding who gets killed by hurricanes. Or you say he does guide the hurricane, in which case what need for a mechanism. You can reply that G-d can set up the initial conditions so that a hurricane is produced in the desired place, but you can say the same about evolution. The philosophical question still remains though, why does G-d work through such mechanisms? I will explain my own ideas below, but they are not the main point I'm making, and are easy to disagree with, so please don't focus on them. Focus on what I just said above. And I don't think mentioning stuff about neodarwinian theory being dependant on mistakes helps-that is just semantics.

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    6. I agree with you that there are strong problems with our current understanding of evolution, and that big changes are needed to fix it. However I also believe that all cases we always find that G-d works behind the scenes. In other words he set up the universe so that the earth would come into existence 'by itself', and although he guides world history, he does so in a very behind the scenes manner, such that one could argue that it was just chance. When somebody falls ill we say that G-d decided he should be ill, yet the statistics and etc. of who falls ill does not in any way indicate a pattern. So I can come to the conclusion that G-d hand is always hidden from us.
      Thus I would be very shocked if G-d was overtly involved in the process of producing life, but rather he must have only been involved subtly, in a way that you could deny his involvement. Thus even if our present theory of evolution is incorrect there must be some theory which explains why some form of intelligent life exists, so that G-d would be hidden. Once permission has been given to the disbeliever to deny, G-d can set up the initial conditions, or tweak the universe, or whatever to make sure that humans specifically are the end product.

      Similarly I think this is true of everything. As a good friend once said to me "working is the best segulah for parnossoh-but it is only a segulah". In other words everything in the universe has to look like it could occur without G-d al pi derech hateva. Once this is the case, G-d can do whatever he wants. Therefore so long as there is a valid theory of evolution, G-d can make sure it ends up with what he wants.

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  23. This whole debate is futile to say the least. Anyone who has worked within kiruv in general and with rebels in particular will no doubt understand that Rabbi Slifkins & Mr Ohsies support of the evolution theory comes not because of its "compelling evidence" rather its a way of showing the world that they have broken away from the narrow minded charedi and have become "broad minded"
    Its like a toddler who kicks up a tantrum, often there is an underlying cause and a point the child is trying to make its not so much the chocolate that he didn't get.
    If charedi judaism would have been arguing for 5000 years in support of evolution I bet my bottom dollar this post would have been how ridiculous it is to believe in that theory. Again as a way of showing how primitive charedim are.
    Now you may ask how I can read the minds of R' Slifkin and Mr Ohsie. The answer is I have experience with adults going off the derech for many a year. It doesn't always come out with the removal of the kippa.

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    1. Seed's point is futile to say the least. Anyone who has worked with charedim in general and with baalei teshuvah in particular will no doubt understand that Seed's opposition to the evolution theory comes not because of its "fatal problems" rather its a way of showing the world that they are right and the goyim are wrong.
      Its like a toddler who kicks up a tantrum, often there is an underlying cause and a point the child is trying to make its not so much the chocolate that he didn't get.
      If charedi judaism would have been arguing for 5000 years in support of evolution I bet my bottom dollar his comment would have been about how ridiculous it is to deny that theory.
      Now you may ask how I can read the mind of Seed. The answer is I have experience with charedi fundamentalists.

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    2. Seed, is it not remotely possible that I came to accept evolution (in terms of common ancestry; I'm still not sold on neo-Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms) because, as someone who studies animals, it helps me make much more sense of the animal kingdom? It explains why bats and whales are fundamentally similar to land animals. It explains why I get goose bumps when I'm cold or scared. It explains why we find fossils of intermediates between reptiles and birds, but not between mammals and birds. Etc., etc. Is it really impossible for you to conceive that I find the evidence convincing?

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    3. Seed's timeline of the events in the Torah/Science debate is faulty--Rabbi Slifkin was very much part of the charedi world when he published "The Science of the Torah", which received haskamos of charedi Rabbanim. So his "break" with the charedi world was more a reaction to how other Rabbanim received his works.

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    4. Natan - Just to clarify: are you including random mutation as a neo-Darwinian evolutionary mechanism that you are skeptical about? (From what I understand, there is far less evidence for random mutation, than common descent, anyway.) If so, that certainly leaves room for God.

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    5. The argument here is that people go OTD, then accept evolution because it's part of the "secular dogma". That may be true for some. But for many others, it actually STARTS with evolution, and other evidence-based scientific disciplines, and people go OTD when it gets dismissed as "Kefirah".

      This is a classic case of blaming "rebels" for their folly rather than looking inward and acknowledging that maybe your attitudes have something to do with the rebellion.

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  24. Anonymous (hey, remember the policy here) wrote: "Science has little to say about one time events such as the miracles described in the torah, including the creation of Adam and Eve."
    This is true. However, scientists have said quite a bit about them. I guess they reject NOMA.

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  25. Seed, if you are a troll, I have no further need to address you. If you aren't, then some introspection is in order. You present as a smug, judgmental individual who doesn't care if he offends. You claim to have experience with OTD people. Hopefully, you haven't pushed too many in that direction by your attitude. It is ridiculous and offensive to imply that Rabbi Natan Slifkin and Dr. David Ohsie have gone 'off the derech' because they accept at least some aspects of evolution theory and have made some other critical statements about current Hareidi hashkafa. Such views may conflict with your opinion or that of your rebbe'im. It has no bearing on the matter of following or not following accepted halacha. Your attitude is a great example of the 'my way or the highway' approach which is a great way to turn people off Judaism.
    Y. Aharon

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  26. This whole debate is futile to say the least.

    Undoubtedly true for some; others have claimed great benefit to their religious observance from R. Slifkin's books.

    Anyone who has worked within kiruv in general and with rebels in particular will no doubt understand that Rabbi Slifkins & Mr Ohsies support of the evolution theory comes not because of its "compelling evidence" rather its a way of showing the world that they have broken away from the narrow minded charedi and have become "broad minded"

    While I post under my real name, I don't post Facebook updates on crunchy vs. creamy preference for my peanut butter sandwich on any given day. So I won't say much more about my life other than that your imagination as to my background is just that: imagination on your part.

    Its like a toddler who kicks up a tantrum, often there is an underlying cause and a point the child is trying to make its not so much the chocolate that he didn't get.

    I find this bit of pop psychology very convincing. I'm convinced that you have no argument.

    If charedi judaism would have been arguing for 5000 years in support of evolution I bet my bottom dollar this post would have been how ridiculous it is to believe in that theory. Again as a way of showing how primitive charedim are.

    So if an anonymous poster is willing to hypothetically bet his figurative bottom dollar on an odd contrafactual, does that make it more or less likely to be true. I'd bet that it makes it less likely.

    Now you may ask how I can read the minds of R' Slifkin and Mr Ohsie. The answer is I have experience with adults going off the derech for many a year. It doesn't always come out with the removal of the kippa.

    Interesting approach. First, imagine that you can read the minds of others whom you've met. Then wildly overgeneralize from that supposed "evidence" to pretend to read the minds of others whom you've never met.

    More seriously, I truly hope that you are not a kiruv professional, and that if you are, that you have a good poker face and don't allow your attitude to get in the way of your work. Unfortunately, based on how you seem to describe your failed projects, I fear that you do.

    Nevertheless, let me try to explain something. For most educated people in the US, saying that the world is 5000 years old is equivalent to saying that the sky is green and this has nothing to do with psychological state. If you can understand that, and if you can understand that, despite your personal opinion and that of your Rav (possibly), great Rabbinic leaders have accepted these facts, then you might be able to improve your success rate. Good luck!

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  27. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Another reason the argument of Washington Height's Jew (what a terrible name!) is weak is because eating locusts or not eating locust is not exactly central to a Jew's oveall duty in this world. Working for a living (or not working) very much is!

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  28. Seed-
    This may be difficult for you to understand, but for many people, the Torah is TORAT EMET....people searching for the truth. I am well aware that the currently popular philosophical movement called post-modernism says there is NO TRUTH and this explains why many people, including highly educated people, are attracted to the Haredi hashkafa, because too many (but not all) Haredi teachers feel that it is appropriate to rewrite Jewish history and even the biographies of great Jewish scholars in order to strengthen people's loyalties to the Haredi group. A good example is the law that it is permitted for a scholar to falsely quote a great authority in order to get people to do "the right thing" (see Rav Aryeh Kaplan's book "The Handbook of Jewish Thougth" , page 251-Rav Kaplan severly circumscribes the conditions in which this may be done but we see that people feel free to make false claims, all for the "greater good" of the group.)
    Many people are happy with the situation, but many others, including Rav Slifkin, David Ohsie and myself are not. That's the way it is. I am convinced, and history has proven that ideologies and groups whose education system propagate untruths and values and perceptions that blatantly contradict the reality that everyone sees around them CAN NOT LAST.
    Finally, many people have a G-d given curiosity about our world and want to see how G-d's hand is found operating the universe that he created and this means studying things like science, history, sociology, psychology and other fields and they will not be held back. It is human nature. All attempts in the past to stamp this out in the name of some "higher cause" and ideology ultimately collapsed in the end. The human spirit will NOT be eradicated. TORAT EMET is what we seek,.

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  29. Getting back to the blog topic. I agree with R' Natan that the school in question has an attitude about evolution that is not truly consistent with its claim to represent the hashkafa of Rav SR Hirsch. I also agree that evolution theory should be taught at least for high school age students. However, it is true that the theory presents more conflicts with some traditional hashkafot than other scientific subjects. For example, it is often considered that divine supervision extends to all people, creatures, and things. At least, that is the classical Hasidic approach to the matter. Such a view does not appear to be consistent with the idea of seemingly random DNA changes in the germ cells of higher organisms that lead to characteristics that have survival value. While such changes are more varied than the point mutation changes that Moshe appears to focus on, and include more serious changes involving the switching on and off of genes that are induced by the invasion of certain viruses, they appear to be undifferentiated from random type occurrences - rather than something that must have been deliberately induced by divine intervention. While such a view of hashgacha pratit is not that of the Rambam or his rationalist successors, it behooves some of us 'rational' types to be more sympathetic to the religious feelings of those who disagree. However, calling acceptance of evolution as heretical is to aggressively promote your brand of Orthodox Judaism as the exclusive path to the truth, which should be combatted. While I, personally, don't treat the narrative in Genesis 1-11 as monotheistic mythology, I won't label those who do as harboring heretical notions.
    By the way, I am not Anonymous. It's just that it is the simplest way of getting Disqus to accept my comments.
    Y. Aharon

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  30. Steven (David's brother) OhsieJune 14, 2014 at 2:00 AM

    For the record, David Ohsie prefers crunchy peanut butter. At least as far as I remember anyway :-)

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  31. Okay, I have finished chapter 22 of Rabbi Slikin's book. Let me now summarize what I understand to be the issues, the proposed solutions and why I think the solutions don't work.

    First, the issues.

    The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution employs two mechanisms -- one, chance mistakes when copying DNA. Two, natural selection [I know there are other aspects of the theory like genetic drift, but for now we'll focus on these two mechanisms].

    The problems with these mechanisms are two fold:

    (1) The theory holds that random, chance mistakes are at the heart of biological form and novelty

    (2) Each mechanism on its own (and collectively) looks purposeless and undirected.

    Now, several solutions have been proposed to this solution -- most of them involve taking on one of these two problems. Here are the ones I can remember:

    1) G-d manipulates the random mistakes. They look random, but really G-d is channeling or guiding them behind the scenes
    2) They aren't really random -- they just look random to us, but that's just another word for our saying that we don't really know what is going on
    3) The mistakes are random, but the environment (land, air, sea, etc.) is set up in such a way as to filter and guide the chance changes
    4) G-d allowed enough time for randomness to work
    5) A combination of 3 and 4 -- namely, G-d gave chance a long time so as to come up with a variety of changes and then created an environment designed to channel those chance changes in the right direction [I think this is the strongest of all the arguments -- although, as I will show, I don't think it works]

    I believe that all of these answers indicate that there is actually a problem to be dealt with. I have endeavored above to indicate some of those problems (I believe there are more than I have articulated) and my answers below are designed to explain why I think the problems still stand with each of the solutions offered above. If need be, please visit my comments comments to see what exactly some of the issues are.

    With that said, let me note the problems with each of these answers (see part 2 below):

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  32. [PART 2 -- PROBLEMS WITH THE PROPOSED SOLUTIONS]

    1) Either one has a working mechanism or one doesn't.
    If the suns light melts the snow then I don't need G-d to manipulate the light waves. If I need G-d to manipuate the light waves then the light doesn't melt the snow. So too with randomness, either it can do the job (in which case G-d is out of the process) or it can't. If I need G-d to manipulate or guide the mistakes, then evidently the mistakes can't do the job (it which case I do not have a scientific theory which I need to reconcile with the Torah). If the mistakes can do the job on their own then I don't need G-d to maniuplate the mistakes - and at best He can be relegated to a Creator Who set up the mistakes or knew that they were going to happen. A middle path is to say that the mistakes can do the job, but G-d tweaks them every now and then to get a resulit that He wants (such as man). This, though, leaves many creatures having been created by a chance mechanism and states that when one looks at the creation it tells him nothing about whether or not G-d was involved. [see my comments above for more on the problems associated with this answer]

    2) I don't take #2 very seriously. From what I understand, these mistakes are random in the mathematical as well as common sense usage of the word. I think the proof reading mechanism shows that they are not suppose to happen - it is design to prevent, catch and fix mistakes -- not create them. If one can point to something which indicates that these are anything but random, then please let them do so. But if not, it's just trying to deal with a problem by avoiding it or denying that it exists.

    3) This is clever, but as far as I understand, the theory of evolution does not state that the environment is fine-tuned to cull the errors that arise and direct them towards a guided end. Indeed, at times its hard to imagine how this can work. There are a lot of different birds in the world with a lot of different types of wings. What exactly in the air is guiding the chance mutaitons to perfect the wing? While there are differences in air current, etc., the air doesn't seem to me that varied to account for the variety of forms of wings and birds bodies that we see. The same goes for the animals that swim in the open sea or walk on the wide-open-plains. In short, I do not think that there is enough complexity (or, I would say, information) in the form of the environment to allow this to be a viable idea (scientifically speaking). In short, what I think this solution does is change the theory so that there is not a theological problem. What it does NOT do is answer up the theory that is actually proposed.

    4) This might be able to bring G-d back in as designer in the sense that He purposefully created the system of random mutations plus natural selection knowing that with enough time it would work. However, the flaw with this argument is that it requires the mechanisms or chance mutation plus natural selection to be deterministic in some sense or other in particular, that it will definitely produce a creature like man). But it is not at all clear that this system would come up with an intelligent being -- if so, one has removed G-d from creation once again. What's more, it's not enough to come up with an intelligent being, you need man with his unique form (see Rashi). It is the combination of mans intellect and his form (his thumb/hand, walking upright, etc) that enables man to rule over the fish of the seas and the birds of the heavens, etc. According to Gould (and, I believe, others) there is nothing in the theory which indicates that this would NECESSARILY happen. As such, four on its own is not a great candidate -- but four in combination with 3 is something else (see part 3).

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  33. [PART 3]

    5) This is the strongest answer (and, I believe, is the answer of Rabbi Slifkin in his book -- at least as I understand chapter 22). It is the strongest because we know that such a mechanism could work from none other than Richard Dawkins himself. In his famous Me Thinks It Is a Weasel experiment he shows (not argues, but actually shows) that the combination of a random generation of letters PLUS a FORWARD LOOKING filter can produce intelligible, complex results. But, as Dawkins himself noted (as well as David Berlinskin in his criitique - see The Deniable Darwin), in evolution there actually isn't any forward looking mechanism. So, it is true -- if one produces enough random variables and then has a built-in mechanism to search, analyze and filter those variables he can come up with intelligent results. But, again, this is NOT the theory of evolution. It is a theory which doesn't exist and which (as far as I know) no one proposes (and, as I mentioned above, does not seem even plausible given what we know today).

    So, at the end of the day -- the solutions above reconcile the theory of evolution by changing the theory so that it is reconcilable (or, in the case of #2, by just denying the problem). The fact that the theory cannot be reconciled as it is in and of itself indicates that there is a real problem with the theory while at the same time showing how hard it is to find a real solution.

    Be well,

    Moshe

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  34. @Moshe. I confess that I didn’t really read your comments, nor those of your disputants. But I have something else to ask, do you a difference between {falsehood, nonsense, a lie, an error, idiocy, stupidity} and {heresy}? Secular arguments that—in your view—prove that evolution is nonsense etc. are not relevant to whether or not evolution is heresy. It isn’t heretical to believe in nonsense. To find out if something is heresy you close your science text, leave the lab, and consult religious authority. A leading religious authority in the nineteenth century was Rav Hirsch, or as known to many Lithuanians HaGaon HaTzadik Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch Zecher Tzadik LeVrachah. (If you disagree on that point please say so.) He ruled that evolution per say is kosher as long as one believes that the Creator made it happen. People may certainly follow him. Finished.

    The only thing is that 1- believing in nonsense is indeed a fundamental flaw that may create other problems. However, it should be described correctly as nonsense, not as heresy.

    And 2- belief in evolution has indeed deteriorated into heresy for manyn. However, you came to the wrong place. Certainly as regards creation this is a strictly religious site. Elsewhere you’ll find much to accomplish.

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    1. I know my comments are long (and many). However, I have dealt with your questions in them.

      In particular, I noted the difference between the theory of evolution that Rabbi Hirsch was discussing and the current theory of evolution. In the 1930s and 40s the theory of evolution went through a major overhaul. Rabbi Hirsch did not (indeed could not) discuss that theory. That theory, I argue, is heresy -- and the attempts to reconcile the theory with the Torah do so by CHANGING the theory so that it can be reconciled.

      Be well,

      Moshe

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    2. "I have dealt with your questions in them."
      I finally read your comments and true, you indeed dealt with them. But WADR i do not think that your debating partners responded inadequately.
      Kt.

      Delete
  35. Moshe

    You have spent considerable time and space arguing what is essentially a straw man.

    R' Slifkin has consistently and repeatedly stated that it is the theory of common descent that he champions. Arguments for or against neo-Darwinian approaches to the mechanism behind this overarching theory are pretty much aside the point.

    Irrespective of the above, I would point out that your comment to point "#2" above ignores that it is unknown whether such a thing as "true randomness" even exists (when looking at it from G-d's perspective). By this I mean is there an intrinsic state of the universe, down to undetectably fine properties that will lead in a 1-1 mapping to a specific future state. In fact, given the uncertainty principle it would seem that we will never actually know whether true randomness exists in that sense – I have heard very well respected theoretical physicists argue fervently for both sides of this issue. As such, it is quite easy to believe that G-d in fact does guide evolution within the randomness while not having any detectable (even theoretically detectable) involvement. The "proof" for such a belief would be the type of statements that you refer to above, i.e. the fact that Man is created in a way that specifically allows him to serve a higher purpose. I say "proof" at this would be a theological not a mathematical proof given that we will never be able to model evolution in full (again this is a physical not a technical limitation on our modelling abilities).
    This very much equates the subject of evolution with that of e.g. the weather, human history etc. Of course all of this is assuming that the type neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory that you refer to is the correct explanation for common descent, a fact that itself is subject to huge amounts of dispute within the scientific world.
    With regard your comment “I think the proof reading mechanism shows that they are not suppose to happen”, it is obvious that these mechanisms are required in order to allow complex life to reproduce – or even exist. As such they are not evidence at all that the “mistakes” that guide evolution are not a wanted effect, just that they need keeping to sufficiently low levels.

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    1. Rabbi Slifkin has also argued that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is not heresy and has cited Rav Hirsch as someone who said that the theory of evolution is not heresy (and in that quote, Rabbi Hirsch was referring to the mechanism of evolution, not to the idea of common descent).

      As such, I think it is legitimate (not to mention important) to argue that the neo-Darwinian mechanism is indeed heretical and that Rav Hirsch was talking about a different version of the theory.

      In terms of true randomness -- let's say that true randomness does not exist and, as such, the the copying errors in DNA are not truly random. They are still, though, the same type of 'randomness' as any other type of randomness and the claim is that that type of randomness is capable of and responsible for creating all of the novel life forms and structures we see in life (with natural selection only serving as a conservative force, not a creative one). We are thus still left with a mechanism which does not in any way show any purpose, direction or intention for life. After all, no one is suggesting that this non-random version of randomness is directed towards the right type of mutations at the right time, in the right place, etc. (not to mention that it's a totally speculative idea based solely on the side that randomness is not truly random)

      Furthermore, if it is to be a real scientific theory, then we cannot bring G-d into actively manipulating the processes of the mechanism of that theory. This is true regardless of the true nature of randomness. So, either we have a theory which has no direction, purpose or intention visible in it or we do not have a scientific theory. That means that either the theory contradicts the Torah or there is no theory (and thus nothing which contradicts the Torah). Either way, there is no reconciliation.

      At the end of the day, the randomness of the neo-Darwinian mechanism remains a problem. Now, it doesn't bother me since I think the mechanism was never well establish and is falsified by the findings of embryonic development (not to mention mathematical and other challenges). But it's important to understand it for what it really is.

      I agree with the point that the fact that man is obviously created for a higher purpose then that indicates that G-d was involved in His creation. What follows from that statement is that the mechanism and/or means by which G-d created man need to be the type of means in which G-d can and was involved. One cannot have a unguided, guided process. If G-d was clearly involved then that means that G-d either used a mechanism directed towards the ends which He wanted or else He directly created man.

      In terms of the proof-reading mechanisms. Everything about the mechanism indicates that it is guided towards obtaining as accurate a copy as possible. Nothing about the mechanism indicates that the mistakes are wanted.

      In order to argue that they are known about or wanted one needs to either bring in proof that doesn't exist or speculatively argue that somehow or other in some unknown way they are guided. Now, the only motivation for doing this is to make this observed fact shtim with the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution. A much more logical and reasonable response is to argue that the facts indicate that there is something wrong with the theory.

      In the merit of our trying to understanding G-d's Torah and His world, may he speedily return our missing boys home to their family and friends.

      All the best,

      Moshe

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  36. Here, (page 3) as cited by Rabbi Slifkin, Rabbi Hirsch has a more blanket allowance for evolution, that “[T]he rabbis,… were willing to live with any theory (emph. added) that did not reject the basic truth that “every beginning is from God.” (p. 265 in Collected Writings vol. VII)"

    This more clearly puts Moshe’s case to rest for it includes future theories and asks for no more than that “every beginning is from God.” The good rabbi apparently wasted everyone’s time because he only cited the other Hirschian quote in the post... or he made for a stimulating debate…. :) Maybe because the quote in the post he collected from here and the “every beginning is from God” quote is absent there. So maybe it should be added, IMHO.

    Kt.

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    1. The problem with the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is that you cannot connect its beginning to its end. Even if you say that G-d set up the system, that system does not necessitate a particular end. Therefore, it is difficult to fit it into the phrase 'every beginning is from G-d'.

      What needs to be understood is that this theory is a theological problem. One does not deal with problems by ignoring them, denying them, explaining them away, etc. One deals with them by understanding them and relating to the issues that they bring up head on. In this case, the most reasonable response is to note the weakness of the mechanism (to put it mildly) and, as such, not be bothered by any theological challenges that the mechanism may pose.

      Be well,

      Moshe

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    2. "Therefore, it is difficult to fit it into the phrase 'every beginning is from G-d'. "

      Here we part ways.

      Kt.

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    3. Correction:
      I wrote "Maybe because the quote in the post he collected from here."
      I meant "... from here."

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  37. Though I don’t have the time & energy to indefinitely continue this discussion (which is basically over for now), I would like to add a few points.

    1- The students of R Aaron Kotler once suggested that he divide his famously complex Shiur into 2 parts. On one day he should say only the ideas, so the students could absorb that, and on a later day he should say his dazzling, difficult, proofs—that only the advanced students would fully comprehend. R Aaron said, “Chas V’shalom – Talmidim will then think that a svara is hefker.”
    here page 113.

    IIUC, R Aaron held that it’s poor education to train students to say svaras that wouldn’t be proven immediately. And even if they were good svaras. He would certainly oppose good svaras that are never proven. When I sifted through this discussion, it seemed that some of the good svaras were only good svaras, or even excellent svaras, but without proof.

    2- It’s also important to realize that if you’re talking to believers in evolution with a long track record of not budging from their beliefs when those beliefs are challenged, but the challenges succeed only to make them relive their pain and disgust from when their beliefs were cheremed by leading rabbis, your arguments (unless they are understatements) had better be stronger than what the passuk sounds like. If not, what have you accomplished? –Prolonged their feelings of alienation from those rabbis (and their followers). Thank you….

    3- As regards relevance, it’s fascinating to know how the Creator ages ago originally made human life and the lives of all the creatures around us. But more important is if there is purpose to creation and what we are doing or could be doing to realize that purpose. Our allies should be those with the same idea or a sufficiently similar idea of what to do in the present, even if we disagree about the bygone details of the bygone creation.

    Kt to all.

    (especially to our three boys! They should quickly come back safe and sound!)

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