Sunday, August 21, 2016

An Assault On Truth

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. What about when it's a picture of a thousand words?

Several months ago, in a lengthy but popular post entitled The Rav, Cosmology, and Evolution, I reviewed several examples of how Rabbi Moshe Meiselman distorts the views of Rav Soloveitchik in order to give him a charedi spin. Perhaps the most extreme example was in Rabbi Meiselman's book Torah, Chazal and Science. Rabbi Meiselman quotes Rav Soloveitchik as saying that the Biblical view of man's nature is theoretically irreconcilable with the scientific view that he is an evolved animal. But what Rabbi Meiselman does not reveal is that one paragraph later, Rav Soloveitchik explains at length why this notion (of there being a conflict between the Biblical view and the evolutionary view) is entirely incorrect, notwithstanding the fact that many rabbinic scholars believed it to be true!

In my post on this topic, I quoted the relevant paragraphs at length. But it occurred to me that people might accuse me of misquoting, and that it might have more impact to show the actual pages of the books. So here is a scan of Rabbi Meiselman's book, with the quote from Rav Soloveitchik highlighted in yellow:

And here are the original pages from The Emergence of Ethical Man, with the relevant paragraphs, which completely refute the earlier quoted paragraph, marked in red:




The dishonesty demonstrated by Rabbi Meiselman is appalling, and is, unfortunately, symptomatic of the entire book. Yet the distinguished congregation Beth Jacob of Atlanta is hosting Rabbi Meiselman tonight, for a lecture on - wait for it - "Nothing But The Truth: Maintaining Honesty in a Dishonest World"! I kid you not:


Oh, the irony!

122 comments:

  1. More dishonesty here:
    "The editor himself notes that this material was never intended for publication."

    Here's what the editor himself explained:
    "Ten handwritten notebooks, sequentially arranged, and bound together yet not ready for publication, formed the material for this book."

    He then briefly explains, that the notebooks were transcribed, divided into chapters and sections. Citations were located, references were filled out. The editor also separated footnotes from the main text.

    RM implies the editor admitted that the work was never ever meant to be published in any form. But this is not what the editor actually wrote. By RM's standards, are there any posthumously published works that were "intended for publication?" By his standards, we must dispense with תוספות and thus most things בריסק including...

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  2. Yet the red-marked paragraph does not actually assert that man has (even likely) evolved from plant or other species' of animal life.

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  3. It asserts that the sentiments expressed in the earlier paragraph are to be rejected.

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  4. The Rav is saying, that when viewing man in Judaic philosophy, it is ok to view man as both a spiritual being and a physical being. What he rejects is "the almost dogmatic assertion that the Bible proclaimed the separateness of man from nature and his otherness".The Rav is saying man can still be the "bearer of the divine image" through his physical existence.
    This is in no way or form a rejection of the earlier paragraph. What the Rav rejects in the earlier paragraph is, the "equaling of man and animal-plant existence", ie mans spiritual existence cannot be dismissed, something science does.

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    1. Good grief. The entire point of the last red highlighted paragraph is to say that the Christian and Jewish scholars were wrong. It's refuting the idea that he introduced earlier, the notion that the scientific view and the Biblical view are irreconcilable. And that's why he wrote "theoretically" irreconcilable - because he goes on to explain that that's not actually the case.

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    2. I suggest reading it again carefully. If that doesnt help try reading this -
      http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/331/331_Legacy1.pdf
      Also the Dizzy thing would have been a good jab if you had not embarrassed yourself in public by failure to understand the Rav.

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    3. ""Our task now is to investigate the cogency of the almost dogmatic assertion that the Bible proclaimed the separateness of man from nature and his otherness."

      He says that we have to investigation this assertion. That's the assertion that he referenced in the earlier paragraph. And he goes on to say that it's a false assertion, even though many were of this view.

      Or, to put it another way: When the Rav says that "we have always had the wrong idea about what the Biblical perspective is", what do you think he was referring to? What were the earlier medieval scholars rejecting? They weren't rejecting the idea that man bears the divine image! They were rejecting the notion that man can ALSO be an animal-like being.

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    4. Your last paragraph is exactly what i said. The earlier paragraph says "the EQUALING of man and animal-plant existence is theoretically irreconcilable with the Bible. As the Bible says G-d created man in his image. Again what the Rav rejects is completely separating mans physical from his spiritual, you really should check out that link.

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  5. So, Nate, are you trying to say the "Mori veRebbi" was an apikorus? You wouldn't be the first to say it. In fact, I would say that you are in very fine company.

    However, RMM thinks otherwise, and I'm sure that his reading skills are at least as good as yours. The first paragraph is not negated by the second, and the first paragraph is an indicator of the distinction stated by RMM to have been held by Mori veRebbi. So what is dishonest there?

    It seems that your stake is that it is dishonest to hold of Mori veRebbi as anything bust an apikorus. According to you, RMM should not try to reform the twisted mentality of RJBS. Let him remain an apikorus. RMM should just associate with the Neanderthal latter day rabbis such as the simpleminded RMF, etc. AMIRIGHT?

    Well, RMM has a more charitable view of gedolim than you do, and he does endeavor to remove the stain of the apikorsus-sounding pronouncements of his rebbi. That is considered an admirable endeavor among the learned. Nobody really considers it dishonest, unless they desperately need to stake their own world view on the reputation of the "Rav". RMM is too big to need the Rav, so he isn't hung up on turning the Rav into an outcast.

    Sheesh! You'd never understand - it's just to simplistic for you...

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    1. Dear person with dementia,

      Clearly you have difficulty with reading and comprehension. Rav Slifkin's point is that 'RMM' has dishonestly represented that actual writing and intent of 'RJBS' to present him (RJBS) as saying something completely different to what RJBS actually intended. Rav Slifkin ('RNS') has accused RMM of intellectual dishonesty by selectively quoting part of what 'RJBS' has said, but attempting to distort the literal meaning of what was written through emmendation.

      RMM then justifies has mendacity by suggesting that the handwritten notes, the source of the quote, is not authorative!

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    2. I can't tell whether you're being sarcastic or not here, but let me assume you're not:

      Your entire rant is predicated on the assumption that anyone who would believe in evolution is an apikores, and thus Meiselman is doing God's work in "clearing" the Rav of such a terrible charge. Of course, there are any (including the Rav himself) who did *not* think such belief is apikorsut, and thus don't need such "clearing," thank you very much.

      I find your statement that Meiselman doesn't "need" the Rav. I wrote this on my blog years ago, but of course the opposite is true. Meiselman needs the Rav more than anything else. American MO parents know full well what happens to their kids in charedi places in Israel, and there's almost no way they'd agree to send their kids to Toras [sic] Moshe if there wasn't that connection to the Rav to fool them into thinking it was OK. The flip side, of course, is that as an American- and, worse, one connected to secular education and the American Soloveitchiks- Meiselman is completely off the radar for Israeli charedim. So he writes for Americans and pushes his connection. And then, of course, he has to falsely "kasher" that connection because he can't be related to the infamous "JB" of YU. Instead he's related to a fictitious "Yoshe Ber" of Boston who didn't believe in secular studies, was an anti-Zionist, etc.

      (The piece he wrote in Tradition in which he claimed, inter alia, that the Rav was not a Zionist was the subject of my blog post, well over ten years ago.)

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  6. I think that this particular accusation of dishonesty is not justified. Having now read the paragraphs in question over many times, I am still not certain whether the last paragraph enables one to reject the irreconcilability posited above, or whether instead it modifies the issue by distinguishing "anthropological naturalism" from the "empiricism". There is some distance between "does not accent unreservedly" and "completely rejects".
    However, nothing in this passage says anything one way or the other about the Rav's positions on allegory or on "special creation", and if Rabbi Meiselman intends to imply otherwise, he is in error.

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    1. R. Jalap pet. Even if your reading is right, and I do not believe it is, RMM is dishonest in ignoring the surrounding material which casts grave doubt on his point.

      Lawrence Kaplan

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  7. Actually the clearer presentation of RYBS's opinion on the matter of evolution vs. creation is in the sentences prior to the ones cited by RMM. There he explicitly differentiates between evolution as a process and identifying man as merely an evolved animal. It is the latter identification to which he takes strong exception - not to evolution as a process. According to his thinking, evolution may have produced the physical aspect of man - not his spiritual essence.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. Thank's Y. Aharon, exactly my thoughts, but far more eloquent.

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    2. I was about to suggest to R' Slifkin that he mark with red bars that sentence immediately preceding the yellow bars.

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  8. With appropriate respect to all,

    Let us be clear about with Rav Soloveitchik actually meant by “theoretically irreconcilable”.

    Reading the paragraph in situ, ‘… we call this antinomy “evolution versus creation.”… What in fact is theoretically irreconcilable (i.e. the “verses”) is…”

    The purpose of the paragraph quoted by Meiselman is to explain what the anthropomorphic distinction is between ‘evolution’ and ‘creation’.

    A person who is (1) capable of reading English and (2) honest could not possibly read this paragraph as saying that Rav Soloveitchik is suggesting that “modern empirico scientific” thinking is incompatible with “Torah though”. Indeed the great thrust of Rav Soloveitchik’s point is that scientist/rationalist are wrong to conceptualize creation as they do. (“I wish to emphasise that the widespread opinion that within the perspective of anthropological naturalism there is no place for religious act… is wrong.”)

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  9. Rabbi Slifkin,

    Even if your reading is correct, it is possible that RMM simply made a MISTAKE. Accusing him of dishonesty is distasteful and downright wrong.

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    1. Yes but all Meiselman's mistakes confirm Meiselman's preconceived ideas. If the mistakes were sincerely error, they wouldn't show that prejudice.

      When David Irving sued Debrah Listadt for libel, the court judge determined that Irving actually deliberately falsified the historical records because all of his errors and misinterpretations confirmed his thesis. i.e. he was not honestly reading the documents.

      Similarly here, if Meiselman was being honest, his mistakes would not show such obvious bias and consistency.

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    2. "Yes but all Meiselman's mistakes confirm Meiselman's preconceived ideas".

      You assume that there are many such mistakes. That is not true. I've followed accusations against Rabbi Meiselman's representation of Rav Soloveitchik for some time, and most of those accusations range from weak to baseless. Many of his so-called "revisions" were later supported by recorded statements in The Rav Thinking Aloud. The (apparent) discrepancy presented here is the only one I am aware of. I am not saying that Rabbi Meiselman is a carbon copy of his rebbi, but I do not believe that he misrepresents him. There is certainly no basis to accuse him of dishonesty - and doing so is repugnant.

      BTW, Yossi, your own bias is betrayed by your disrespectful refusal to refer to him as RABBI Meiselman.

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    3. Also, of course, he could publicly correct his error and apologize to Rabbi Slifkin.

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    4. Dear Unkown,

      You noticed, good for you. It is telling to me that although you are upset that I refuse to use the honorific title for Meiselman, you make no comment on the fact that I compared him to a proven falsifier of history.

      Intellectual dishonesty, the accusation against Meiselman, justifies the disrespect that I am deliberately showing him. Meiselman claimed authority based on his unique credentials – Rabbi, doctorate and special relationship with Rav Dr Soleveitchik. Based on this authority, he claims to be able to speak for Rav Dr Soleveitchik, with special knowledge about what he thought, that his (other) students lack.

      Now let’s be clear, Meiselman’s error here was not accidental, it was deliberate. This is evidenced by the footnote where Meiselman claims that the published works of Rav Soleveitchik, The Emergence of Ethical Man is somehow flawed, its providence questionable, thus justifying his misleading and selective quotation, and then inverting the plane meaning of the passage. Meiselman’s error here is not simple mistake, it is a deliberate falsification (and as I think about it exacerbated by a suggestion that the published work is somehow a fraud).
      Meiselman’s dishonest brings all the rabbanut into disrepute! After all, if we cannot rely on Rabbis to honestly represent the true meaning of Jewish theology and halacha, then all Rabbis loose our respect. The lay people rely on the “experts” to honestly tell us and retell us the narrative of what Judaism is and how it is practiced. The primary text are opaque to us, often in a foreign language (to our vernacular), hidden away in inaccessible libraries, and full of specialist jargon that we cannot understand. We rely on the expert to retell us the narrative, and in relying on them in this way we bestow trust that they will fairly and honestly interpret the primary sources. To dismiss as false, flawed or fraudulent primary sources, or to misrepresent the intent and meaning of those source is an egregious crime, not just on us, but on all the future generations that need to resolve these contradictions.

      Consider David Irving again. Irving deliberately and knowingly relyed falsified reports of the death toll of the Dresden bombing during World War 2 by an order of magnitude. The average reader of his “History” books assumes that he has fairly interpreted the primary document and has accurately retold its substance in his narrative. The average reader usually does not themselves search out the primary evidence. Unless a person is cognizant of who David Irving is, and the record of his falsification, his “authority” as a historian will be assumed.

      Similarly here with Meiselman, he claims authority, which the reader should trust him with, and then abuses that trust with falsification.

      Sorry he has lost any assumption of honour.

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    5. "I've followed accusations against Rabbi Meiselman's representation of Rav Soloveitchik for some time, and most of those accusations range from weak to baseless."

      No one is really going to be convinced by an anonymous person's personal opinion. If you have some counter arguments to these, then present them:

      Revisionism and the Rav

      Revisionism and the Rav Revisited

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    6. "You noticed, good for you."

      Why the caustic tone, Yossi? Can we not disagree like gentlemen?

      "It is telling to me that although you are upset that I refuse to use the honorific title for Meiselman, you make no comment on the fact that I compared him to a proven falsifier of history."

      I actually pointed out that the comparison is baseless, because Rabbi Meiselman's points are generally quite accurate.

      "This is evidenced by the footnote where Meiselman claims that the published works of Rav Soleveitchik, The Emergence of Ethical Man is somehow flawed, its providence [sic] questionable"

      He does not "claim it is somehow flawed" in the vague sort of way you insinuate. He points out that one should be wary of drawing conclusions from a book that was not fully readied for publication by its author, especially when contradicted by later public statements. I think this is a fair point. One generally more carefully evaluates his content before publishing. (And if the material has been adapted, even with the most honest intentions, subtle differences are almost inevitable.)

      "...thus justifying his misleading and selective quotation, and then inverting the plane meaning of the passage."

      This is pure, and rather cynical, speculation.

      "The primary text are opaque to us, often in a foreign language (to our vernacular), hidden away in inaccessible libraries, and full of specialist jargon that we cannot understand. We rely on the expert to retell us the narrative, and in relying on them in this way we bestow trust that they will fairly and honestly interpret the primary sources."

      Apparently you feel misled, which would explain your evident anger. On the other hand, if you are unable to assess the primary sources, you don't really have a right to conclude that Rabbi Meiselman misrepresents them, and accuse him of dishonesty. Many others have backed his basic position, including Rabbi J. David Bleich, who has great scholarly credentials, and is hardly considered an agenda-driven chareidi!




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    7. "He points out that one should be wary of drawing conclusions from a book that was not fully readied for publication by its author, especially when contradicted by later public statements. I think this is a fair point."

      Indeed. However, he proceeds to quote from said book to demonstrate the Rav's alleged position, without noting that the Rav immediately proceeds to reject this approach. That is the height of dishonesty.

      "Rabbi J. David Bleich, who has great scholarly credentials, and is hardly considered an agenda-driven chareidi!"

      Rabbi Bleich most certainly is indeed an agenda-driven chareidi in many regards. See http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/02/pulling-teeth-and-presenting-opinions.html

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    8. "Indeed. However, he proceeds to quote from said book to demonstrate the Rav's alleged position, without noting that the Rav immediately proceeds to reject this approach. That is the height of dishonesty."

      Or it is an honest mistake, (or perhaps even a different understanding), as my initial comment suggested. And as I have already noted, his citations are generally quite accurate. It is therefore wrong to accuse him of dishonesty. You have surely seen all of this - let's not go in circles!

      I saw the link you have provided. I do not think it establishes that Rabbi Bleich is an agenda-driven chareidi.

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    9. Dear Unknown,
      You must be a talmid of Mieselman! You engage in the same tendentious deception he does.

      Here is what you write

      He does not "claim it is somehow flawed" in the vague sort of way you insinuate. He points out that one should be wary of drawing conclusions from a book that was not fully readied for publication by its author,…

      In fact that is not what Meiselman does; what he actually does is write:

      ”The editor himself notes that the material was never intended for publication.”

      As Ephraim has already written, Meiselman has substantially misrepresented what Michael Berger wrote. For those who want to see the citation itself, read here (https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=rIhh_Rx7utwC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=the+emergence+of+ethical+man+soloveitchik&ots=GCZT2Odr0P&sig=27Yi7aIfIRuZltnjzs7_A8f0kQc#v=onepage&q=the%20emergence%20of%20ethical%20man%20soloveitchik&f=false)

      As Dynamic Weight Loss has already pointed out, Meiselman has used the “it’s a forgery” defence to discredit inconvenient text.

      There is an unbridgeable gap between “never intended for publication” and “not fully ready for publication.” It turns out that Michael Berger tells us exactly what he means by “not fully ready for publication.” In the paragraph, even the sentence, immediately before that he writes “The Emergance of Ethical Man is one of the Rav’s most profound contributions to this enterprise, and the assistance of many was required to bring it to publication.” And who were the people who assisted in bringing this work to publication “[F]irst and foremost, Rav Aharon and Tovah Lichtenstein…” “Never intended for publication” implies that the ten bound and sequential notebooks that provided the manuscript for this work are somehow the personal musing of the Rav Soloveitchik which is at odds with the description that Ephraim has already summarised. It is important to emphasise that Michael Berger has not in any way suggested that the text of the manuscript has been changed, the emendations where limited to “… dividing the work into chapters and section headings, choosing chapter titles, locating citation and filing out references, determining what text should be in footnotes, all to assist the reader in the flow of the arguments.”

      It is clear to me that yet again, a person who can read English, and is honestly representing what is being written could not have mistaken the intended and literal meaning of the passage.

      As you have already conceded Meiselman has not made a simple mistake here, he has engaged in a deliberate falsification.

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    10. Yossi, I think you make a mountain out of a molehill. "Never intended for publication" can be interpreted as (1) having no thoughts of publishing at the outset, or (2) writing essays tentatively, and never taking the decision to publish. Remember that this manuscript was written when the Rav was relatively young. Years passed, and he did not take further steps (as far as I know) to publish it. Again, RMM's citations in general are quite accurate, and this point is certainly not sufficient basis to accuse him of dishonesty. Doing so is very wrong.

      "It is clear to me that yet again, a person who can read English, and is honestly representing what is being written could not have mistaken the intended and literal meaning of the passage."

      It does not seem at all clear to me, nor to David Ohsie who wrote: "I'll conceded [sic] that the misinterpretation of the Rav cited here is mostly due to error driven by the sort of ideological blinders that we all have." (Now THERE is a man who knows how to disagree like a gentleman!).

      "As you have already conceded Meiselman has not made a simple mistake here, he has engaged in a deliberate falsification."

      Yossi, Yossi... Anyone reading this sentence would think that I have conceded that that RMM has "not made a simple mistake here, [but] has engaged in a deliberate falsification." We both know very well that I have done no such thing. I believe that you really mean that I have conceded it is a "mistake", and YOU assert that it is deliberate. Please note, however, that if I shared the very cynical attitude you express in your comments, I would certainly label you DISHONEST.

      [For the record, I did not quite concede a mistake - I only conceded the possibility, and even appearance, of a mistake].

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    11. Dear Unknown, I agree with your comment that we should avoid the name calling, but disagree with the rest.

      While, I admire the detailed references given in the book, I've found that they are nevertheless not to be trusted because they don't accurately reflect the content of the references. This one is a pretty clear example: the section quoted is a strawman that the Rav sets up to in order to knock down.

      If you go back to my essays on the Rabbeinu Avraham sections of the book, the book does this does this multiple times. I note here that the book reversed the meaning of the hebrew translation http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2015/05/guest-post-was-discourse-lost-in.html and I note here that the book misinterprets Rav Herzog and Rav Shlomo Zalman hhttp://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2015/05/guest-post-is-rabbeinu-avraham-outlier.html and here the book misinterprets Rabbeinu Avraham http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2015/05/guest-post-rabbeinu-avraham-vs-rabbeinu.html.

      Overall, I would say that the book's analyses of the references are largely aimed at polemic and not accuracy. If there was no polemic, I don't believe that the book would make the same interpretations.

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    12. Dear Unkown,

      I think the issue of Meiselman’s footnote bespeaks the bigger problem with his cavalier attitude towards either his ability to read English, or his honesty. The fact is that Meiselman has outright falsified the providence of the manuscript that was ultimately published as The Emergence of Ethical Man. Careful reading of what Meiselman claims was written by Michael Berger, the editor of The Emergence of Ethical Man and what Berger actually wrote makes a lie of your claim that Meiselman “generally quite accurate” with his citation. It is important to note that it Meiselman himself who puts forward the claim that the providence of the book is unreliable. I freely admit, that the suggestion that he has done this in order to establish uncertainty about an inconvenient book for his thesis regarding Rav Soleveitchik is my interpretation of his motive. Nevertheless, the accuracy of Meiselman’s testimony is stretched beyond credulity by actually comparing his claims against the actual editor’s introduction.

      Firstly, let me say that I have read through the introduction of The Emergence of Ethical Man several times, I see no evidence that can actually place this manuscript as being written at a particular time. While the editor juxtaposes the content of the manuscript with the letter written to Rabbi Leonard Rosenfeld in 1958, it is not clear from the text that this is the date of when the manuscript itself was written. It could be inferred from the editor’s introduction that The Emergence of Ethical Man comes after The Lonely Man of Faith (“The Emergence of Ethical Man … is a further effort by the Rav to articulate the concept of man as he saw him embedded in the Bible and Halakihic tradition”). But this is only my interpretation, I am not sure that that is what the text actually intends to infer. The point is, however, that it absent some special knowledge that is absent from the book itself we cannot actually know when the manuscript was actually written. It is only Meiselman’s own words that infers that it was from “an early period” in Rav Soleveitchik’s life. But let’s assume that that it does derive from 1958, Rav Soleveitchik was 55 at the time, hardly a young man experimenting with radical ideas. “Relatively” young, perhaps, but not naïve or immature.

      Meiselman’s characterization of the manuscript as an ”anthology of the early unpublished writings of [Rav Soleveitchik]” is a gross misrepresentation of the ”ten handwritten notebooks, sequentially arranged and bound together…” The manuscript that became The Emergence of Ethical Man were a single piece of work, not a collection of unrelated writing that Meiselman would have us believe. Further Meiselman writes that the editor describes the work as never intended for publication (pxxi) when in fact Berger writes not ready for publication. Further Meiselman cast doubt on the authenticity of the works by suggesting that the manuscript had been ”adapted and not merely transcribed, as the editor himself acknowledges (pp xix and xxi)” The editor makes no such admission. In fact the editor writes specifically ”Rabbi Reuven Zeigler … skilfully transcribed the manuscripts for editing”. So in Meiselman’s lexicon “editing” becomes “adapted”, when in fact “editing” was “dividing it into chapters….” As I had written in my earlier post. Thus when Meiselman writes ”the reader has no way of knowing where the author’s ideas end and the editor’s interpretation of them begins” is an outright lie!

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    13. (Continued)

      An analysis of this footnote is consistent with the modus operandi of Meiselman. He selectively quotes and then imputes meaning into written text that are not actually there or intended. Thus in Meiselman’s conception an out of context quote about the “theoretical irreconcilable” becomes a rejection of “evolution and creation” when in fact the pshat clearly rejects the ‘antinomy’ of “evolution versus creation”. By quoting Rav Soleveitchik out of context Meiselman inverts the meaning of the passage.

      Unknown, my suspicion is that if you have found Meiselman’s citations “generally quite accurate” it is only because you haven’t looked hard enough!

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    15. Dear Yossi,

      I have read Rabbi Meiselman's book, and I have looked up a significant percentage of the citations, and taken the time to analyze the ones I considered most crucial to his basic arguments. I generally found his presentation of these sources to be very reasonable, and usually quite compelling.

      I don't know on what basis you have formed your view - which sadly causes you to interpret any inaccuracies you find in the most negative possible light - of RMM's `modus operandi’. I suspect that it is based on blog posts such as the present one; if so, you have been presented with a very biased picture.

      Whatever the case may be, your evident anger towards RMM makes me feel that continuing this discussion is rather pointless; I am a busy person (I am sure you are, as well).

      All the best,

      Unknown

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    16. I have read Rabbi Meiselman's book, and I have looked up a significant percentage of the citations, and taken the time to analyze the ones I considered most crucial to his basic arguments. I generally found his presentation of these sources to be very reasonable, and usually quite compelling.

      Dear Unknown, I'm curious to see your responses to the issues that I mentioned above. I found the opposite to be the case.

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    17. Dear David,

      I have perused the links that you provided above. I don't see what those critiques have to do with the current discussion. Rabbi Meiselman accurately cites the sources he addresses and explains exactly where he is coming from. You strongly disagree with his reasoning. That is all.

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    18. Dear Uknown,

      Thank you for your discussion here. I note that you write, regarding my understanding of Mieselman's distortions of the primary sources that I ... interpret any inaccuracies [I] find in the most negative possible light.

      Unknown, I think I have identified about five misrepresentations that Meiselman made in about half a page of written text. Let us presume that due to my jaundiced prejudice of Meiselman that I have imposed an understanding that is discordant to the true motive of Meiselman, can you please provide an alternative explanation for substitutions, and misrepresentations that have been identified, that are perhaps more benign? I would greatly be indebted to your insights.

      Let us be clear here, while you assert that Meiselman only appears to have been mistaken, you have provided no alternative explanation for what are clear inaccuracies. You have further asserted Meiselman's general accuracy with important citations without addressing any of the specific inaccuracies brought to your attention.

      Have a Shabbat Shalom

      Yossi

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    19. Dear David,

      I have perused the links that you provided above. I don't see what those critiques have to do with the current discussion. Rabbi Meiselman accurately cites the sources he addresses and explains exactly where he is coming from. You strongly disagree with his reasoning. That is all.


      No, I actually find inaccuracies. Why do don't you take one example and explain it. For example, the one where the book claims that the Hebrew translation is opposite the true meaning of Rabbeinu Avraham, but then when you look carefully, it is exactly the same. I cited that in the first linked essay above. Please provide some plausible alternative possible explanation.

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    21. "No, I actually find inaccuracies."

      Most of the arguments you present are of the nature I described. Even the one you refer to here is not a matter of inaccurate CITATION– it is RMM's INTERPRETATION you critique.

      "Why do don't you take one example and explain it."

      I really don't see why that burden should be mine. You are welcome to point out the examples you would like to discuss.

      "For example, the one where the book claims that the Hebrew translation is opposite THE TRUE MEANING OF RABBEINU AVRAHAM [emphasis mine]"

      That is not precisely what the book claims. It claims that "the translator has apparently reversed the meaning of THE PHRASE." It does seem to do so, (if one does not assume that the phrase in question is the translator's added explanation, as you have suggested). The original phrase refers to their (present) understanding, and the translation refers to their (initial) lack of understanding. True, the overall effect is more or less the same; nonetheless, it is an inaccurate translation, which reverses the positive to the negative. Now, I happen to think your explanation makes a lot of sense. The previous phrase of the old translation seems to correspond to the new translation, and if so, the following phrase is apparently added. Accordingly, the translation itself is entirely accurate. However, RMM has not misrepresented the material. He simply didn't adopt (or didn't think of) your creative solution. He has placed the two translations in full side-by-side view, for easy comparison, so that readers can judge for themselves (as you have!).

      [By the way, even according to your explanation, the translator HAS added material here. Even if he has done so for the sake of clarification, and even if his clarification here is correct, the fact that editorial additions are enmeshed in the text weakens our ability to reach far-reaching conclusions based on it.]

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    23. I really don't see why that burden should be mine. You are welcome to point out the examples you would like to discuss.

      I did point them out and you addressed one. We can go to others next.

      @Unknown, the point is that if you read it, there is no reversal (which you admit in one version of your comment).

      It claims that "the translator has apparently reversed the meaning of THE PHRASE.">It claims that "the translator has apparently reversed the meaning of THE PHRASE."

      But it doesn't reverse the meaning of the phrase at all and there is no plausible reading where it reverses the meaning. If you have a plausible reading where the meaning is reversed please give it.

      The original phrase refers to their (present) understanding, and the translation refers to their (initial) lack of understanding.

      Please give your plausible translation where this is so. Both phrases refer to their [new] understanding of God [which they didn't have before]. The Hebrew translation adds the second bracketed phrase to clarify exactly what both versions mean (and they hadn't invented brackets when this translation was written).

      True, the overall effect is more or less the same; nonetheless, it is an inaccurate translation, which reverses the positive to the negative.

      Completely untrue. All of the positives remain positives in the hold hebrew translation. All that is added is that this new understand could not be acheived before death which is undoubtedly the exact meaning that was intended.

      Again, please give your translation into English of the Hebrew which contains any reversal, and I'll concede.

      However, RMM has not misrepresented the material. He simply didn't adopt (or didn't think of) your creative solution. He has placed the two translations in full side-by-side view, for easy comparison, so that readers can judge for themselves (as you have!).

      This is precisely correct. The book provides lots of good references, but then too often interprets them in ways which are opposite to their meaning, even giving generous leeway for interpretation.

      Here is #2 which I reference above: On page 90 he gives an interpretation of Rabbeinu Avraham's as describing Chazal as having gotten all of their scientific knowledge from the Torah. When you read the source, it is clear that Rabbeinu Avraham is referring to his contemporaries and not Chazal so that this cannot possibly be his meaning. Please provide your view. I'm interested in being refuted if possible. See my post if you need the link to the text of Rabbeinu Avraham (I think that either have a link or I have additional context).

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    24. 1. David Ohsie said: "Again, please give your translation into English of the Hebrew which contains any reversal, and I'll concede."

      Sure, here goes:

      New: “…and he allegorized that which each one of them attained in understanding of Him, the elevated One, by saying ‘and each one points to Him with his finger’”

      O/P: “...and he similarly likened the understanding of each one, that which [each] was unable to understand of Him, the elevated One ['ממנו ית] initially, by saying ‘and each one points to Him with his finger’”

      In your translation of O/P (at the post you linked above), you conveniently skip the words 'ממנו ית - ‘of Him, the elevated One’ in the O/P translation. By doing so, you avoid confronting the fact that (without your brackets) the new translation refers to the understanding (now) attained of Him, while the O/P translation refers instead to the understanding of Him that each was (initially) unable to attain. Again, as I have explained above, the overall meaning is more or less the same, but the translation is technically reversed.

      By the way, once you take into account the words 'ממנו ית- `of Him, the elevated One', the placement of your brackets is a bit awkward. With the brackets, O/P would read: “And he similarly likened the understanding of each one [that which (each) was unable to understand initially] of Him, the elevated One, by saying ‘and each one points to Him with his finger’”. The bracketed phrase should have been placed after the words ית' ממנו, not before them, where it interrupts the idea.

      (Note: The word תחילה – ‘initially’ appears before the words ‘ממנו ית'’. In my first translation, without the brackets, I have placed ‘initially’ after those words to adjust for English syntax. In Hebrew syntax, there is nothing wrong with the phrase `…was unable to understand initially of Him…).


      2. David Ohsie said: "Here is #2 which I reference above..."

      You summarized the context there, but I could not find a link to the text itself, which I do not have easy access to. I do not wish to comment without seeing the text.

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    25. In your translation of O/P (at the post you linked above), you conveniently skip the words 'ממנו ית - ‘of Him, the elevated One’ in the O/P translation.

      You are absolutely correct that I mistakenly omitted those words in the translation. However, I object to your characterization as 'convenient'. Write that many words without an editor in your "spare" time and you to will make mistakes.

      More importantly, I don't see how adding those words in makes a difference.

      By doing so, you avoid confronting the fact that (without your brackets) the new translation refers to the understanding (now) attained of Him, while the O/P translation refers instead to the understanding of Him that each was (initially) unable to attain. Again, as I have explained above, the overall meaning is more or less the same, but the translation is technically reversed.

      Sorry, I don't see it at all the translation (putting back in the missing words) is:

      "The reward for the righteous who are remembered for life in the world to come, is an understanding of God, the elevated one, that they were not able to understand in this world in any manner. This is the ultimate good such that there is none higher than it. And he allegorized this happiness of this understanding as the happiness of a dance. And he also compared the understanding of each individual, that which he was not able to understand initially [while in this world] of Him, the elevated one, [with the allegory] "and each and every one gestures towards Him with a finger.”

      I still don't see how you get any reversal. In both the old and the new it says that the parable is about their understanding and then the old adds that this is the understanding that they didn't have before. Which is copy of the structure of the prior paragraph. The new translation does *not* say

      "And he also compared that which he was not able to understand initially [while in this world] of Him, the elevated one, [with the allegory] "and each and every one gestures towards Him with a finger.”

      Then it would be a kind of reversal.

      But

      "And he also compared the understanding of each individual, that which he was not able to understand initially [while in this world] of Him, the elevated one, [with the allegory] "and each and every one gestures towards Him with a finger.”

      Which is an exact parallel to:

      "The reward for the righteous who are remembered for life in the world to come, is an understanding of God, the elevated one, that they were not able to understand in this world in any manner."

      So to assume a reversal, you have to assume that the author wrote something almost the same as in the prior paragraph, but had the opposite meaning, and you also have to assume that he erred and wrote something incomprehensible.

      I'm sorry that I don't see any way that you can get to a reversal except unless you are being tendentious or you blunder by reading too quickly. Either way, the TCS text calls out something that doesn't exist in the source.

      You summarized the context there, but I could not find a link to the text itself, which I do not have easy access to. I do not wish to comment without seeing the text.

      I probably took a picture of the text in order to write about it. I'll see if I can find it.

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  10. The truth is what we say it is, it seems.

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  11. Rumor has it that RMM's mother complained to her brother, Rav Soloveitchik, about what RMM had become, and he comforted her, saying something along the lines that it could have been worse. (Heard in a lecture from Rabbi Rakkefet of YU; I could be remembering it imprecisely.)

    OTOH, idolizing Rav Soloveitchik is also not a good idea. For example, it is hard to dispute that he was rather soft on Chabad.

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    1. I believe RYBS said that he himself would have been liable to have turned out that way in a different situation.

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    2. As it happens, he banned his own mother's book from his yeshiva. I'm not sure how many of his students planned on reading it, but maybe he wanted to make a statement.

      You know, because his grandparents come across as human beings.

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    3. Nachum, I don't know where you got your info from, but I was in ToMo when his mother's book came out, and a few years following, and I never heard of any ban. Many in the yeshiva did in fact read it (myself included). I saw a copy of it in Rav Meiselman's home, in plain sight on his dining room bookshelf.

      As an aside, I also heard a first-hand account from another talmid, who overheard Rav Meiselman's mother speaking on the phone in his house. I don't remember the exact wording, but it was something to the effect of: "...but if [the path he has taken] has brought about the great kibbud eim he has, it's not such a bad thing."

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  12. I went to the talk, because I'm friendly with the Esral family. The few stories by his eldest son about Moshe Esral's care for honesty was worth the attendance. I couldn't really get into Rabbi Meiselman's talk (I'm spoiled and need a dynamic and dramatic speaker to get me to focus.) If I remember correctly, he focused on honesty in speech and in business. I'm sure some folks here would've hoped he had spoken of scholarly/intellectual honesty (or will cynically say "it figures he didn't speak of that."

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  13. Thank you R' Slifkin, for showing one and all how you have misquoted Rav Soloveitchik's words.
    Rabbi Slifkin has been making the claim for 10 years now that Rav Soloveitchik accepted the scientific view of man as "an evolved animal" and common ancestry.
    Now all can see clearly Rav Soloveitchik said no such thing.

    At most, Rav Soloveitchik is saying that man possesses an animal body with much in common with his "organic co-beings".

    Despite Rabbi Slifkin's repeated distortions in his book and in every forum, there is no hint of Rav Soloveitchik adopting the theory of evolution/common ancestry in understanding man's origins in this manuscript.

    (Unless you want to consider the earth itself as the common ancestor--which is exactly what the Torah says, and what Rav Soloveitchik stresses repeatedly throughout the manuscript.)

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    1. R. Kornreich, you seem to be changing the subject. What he says here is that there is there is no contradiction between evolution (or what he later calls "anthropological naturalism") and a (Jewish) religious worldview. Those who thinks this are called out explicitly as mistaken. This is seems completely irreconcilable with idea that "he would not even consider the evolutionary account of human origins". And this makes perfect sense sense, since he says this elsewhere in a published work:

      "When we speak of a conflict between philosophy and science, we do not have in mind a controversy concerning scientific data which philosophy would interpret in a manner alien to science. Modern philosophy neither pretends omniscience nor countenances the audacity to doubt in the least the validity of scientific statements. It is not inclined to repeat the fatal errors of the Hegelian school which attempted to defy the empiricist. Philosophy is well aware of the fact that it is impossible to derive scientific data from any a priori process of cognition. Nor is the issue between philosophy and science the problem of whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

      I'll conceded that the misinterpretation of the Rav cited here is mostly due to error driven by the sort of ideological blinders that we all have.

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    2. 1) He certainly does NOT say here that there is no contradiction between evolution and a religious worldview. You are committing a serious error by equating evolution with "anthropological naturalism".
      (He does in fact write that evolution requires reconciliation!)

      But I'll concede that your misinterpretation of the Rav cited here is mostly due to the sort of ideological blinders that we all have.

      2) I will say it again: All Rav Soloveitchik asserted here is that there is no contradiction between the empirical conclusion of science that man's biology and essential nature contains a wholly animal component and a religious worldview.
      There is no honest way to extend this assertion to claim Rav Solovetchik is also saying man's origins is FROM animals.

      3) Nobody needs your concession, David. I'll go with Aryeh Klapper's comment here that largely (though not entirely) vindicates Rav Meiselman's reading:
      http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2016/08/an-assault-on-truth.html?showComment=1471831987859#c7606785530036672311

      And Aryeh Klapper's reading is supported by the fact that the fathers of the Church and Medieval Jewish scholars only appear in the later rejection paragraphs. They do not in the earlier "theoretically irreconcilable" paragraph cited by Rav Meiselman--where only Greek and Biblical philosophy is cited. The Rav rejected the Church fathers and Medieval Jewish scholars in particular because they took the Greek and Biblical position too far and negated the existence of any animalistic component in man's nature altogether.

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    3. 1) He certainly does NOT say here that there is no contradiction between evolution and a religious worldview. You are committing a serious error by equating evolution with "anthropological naturalism".
      (He does in fact write that evolution requires reconciliation!)


      He says with regard to "evolution vs. creation" that "we could find a solution of some kind to this controversy. So if it requires reconciliation, he is saying that it can be reconciled, but that this is not the important part. The important part is the mistaken notion that the Torah defines man as separate from and above nature. This is false because man is both natural and spiritual.

      I'm not identifying evolution and "anthropological naturalism". The Rav uses evolution as one fairly unproblematic aspect of the potentially problematic "anthropologic naturalism" and then he proceeds to show that the larger category really not a contradiction either. Nowhere does he do he do anything like "reject the conception of man implicit in evolution". Instead he shows that this is a false conflict.

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    4. "I'm not identifying evolution and "anthropological naturalism"."

      Not since I corrected you. Now you are backtracking and making more precise distinctions.

      "The Rav uses evolution as one fairly unproblematic aspect of the potentially problematic "anthropologic naturalism" and then he proceeds to show that the larger category really not a contradiction either."

      Not quite.
      He sees evolution as the scientific basis which gave rise to the idea of "anthropologic naturalism" which really means interpreting man --existentially-- as an animal and having a basically animalistic nature.
      But this idea can be accepted and rejected to various degrees.
      You can say man is nothing but an animal, not qualitatively different from an animal in the slightest, or you can say man does contain a genuine animal component, but he possesses a divine nature as well.

      Contrary to your claim, Rav Soloveitchik does not "proceed to show that the larger category [is] really not a contradiction either". He does not say it's a completely false conflict. He only says that they are not completely incompatible.

      In its fullest expression, "anthropological naturalism" negates the idea of man being created in the image of G-d. The conception of man implicit in the theory of evolution (as conceived by the typical evolutionist) indeed negates any spirituality in man--and this is indeed theoretically irreconcilable with Judaism, as Rav Solovetchik says explicitly.

      But some Jewish and Christian thinkers went to the other extreme. They negated any degree of anthropological naturalism whatsoever. Rav Soloveitchik contended that when you read the verses of Breishis carefully, you will find a modified version of "anthropological naturalism" which leaves room for both spiritual and animalistic natures within man.

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    5. "I'm not identifying evolution and "anthropological naturalism"."

      Not since I corrected you. Now you are backtracking and making more precise distinctions.


      You are correct that I should have written "What he says here is that there is there is no contradiction between evolution (or one aspect what he later calls "anthropological naturalism") and a (Jewish) religious worldview."

      The argument stands (as I elaborate below).

      Not quite.
      He sees evolution as the scientific basis which gave rise to the idea of "anthropologic naturalism" which really means interpreting man --existentially-- as an animal and having a basically animalistic nature.


      He openly says exactly the opposite.

      "Surveying the history of the problem of man's autonomy or heteronomy (which came to the fore long before Darwin, when people were ignorant of evolution), we notice that this problem trouble Christian theologians more than Jewish Scholars". (bottom page 6)

      Contrary to your claim, Rav Soloveitchik does not "proceed to show that the larger category [is] really not a contradiction either". He does not say it's a completely false conflict. He only says that they are not completely incompatible.

      What he shows that they are falsely thought to be incompatible and then shows how they can be compatible.

      1) From the scientific viewpoint he says that "However, I wish to emphasize that the widespread opinion that within the perspective of anthropological naturalism there is nod place for the religious act, for the relatedness of man to eternity and infinity, is wrong. Perhaps more than man-as-a-divine-person, man-as-an-animal needs religious faith and commitment to a higher authority".

      2) From the biblical viewpoint, man-as-animal is well described and is not a foreign concept.

      If you accept those two things then the conflict goes away. Nowhere does he say that the scientific aspects need to be modified in order to reconcile with religion. Based on his line of argument, changing the science would make not a whit of difference. What he doesn't say anywhere is that "sciences insistence on a multi-billion year chronology is in conflict with Judaism and needs to be changed". The would absolutely nothing to do with anything that he discusses as a resolution to the purported conflict.

      Rav Soloveitchik contended that when you read the verses of Breishis carefully, you will find a modified version of "anthropological naturalism" which leaves room for both spiritual and animalistic natures within man.

      This is correct, but the modification is to allow both worldviews to co-exist, not to reject any aspect of evolution itself.

      Again, he explicitly says that mechanistic evolution is not the problem. The problem is the complete equality of man and plant-animal existences (which he shows in the quotation above is a false deduction).

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    6. I wrote:

      "Not quite.
      He sees evolution as the scientific basis which gave rise to the idea of "anthropologic naturalism" which really means interpreting man --existentially-- as an animal and having a basically animalistic nature."

      You (David Ohsie) wrote:

      He openly says exactly the opposite.

      "Surveying the history of the problem of man's autonomy or heteronomy (which came to the fore long before Darwin, when people were ignorant of evolution), we notice that this problem trouble Christian theologians more than Jewish Scholars". (bottom page 6)


      Allow me to clarify:
      Rav Soloveitchik sees Evolution as the scientific basis which gave rise to the modern conception of "anthropological naturalism". This modern version of "anthropological naturalism" based on the science absolutely equated man with plant and animal existences. This version must be rejected.

      But you are indeed correct that Rav Soloveitchik then goes on to trace the general approach of anthropological naturalism back in history to pre-scientific sources.
      I'm sorry if I was misleading, but my point still stands.

      Rav Soloveitchik identified the theory of evolution as the contemporary basis for people living in the scientific age to view man as nothing more than an animal. This is what he found to be incompatible with Judaism.
      This is not shown later to be a false deduction ABOUT THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION per se. Read pages 3 and 4 carefully and contrast it with pages 6 and 7.

      Rav Soloveitchik then goes on to say that we need not go to the other extreme of the Church fathers and Medieval Jewish scholars and reject any form of anthropological naturalism altogether.

      So on the one hand, the scientific interpretations of man (which the theory of evolution gave rise to) leaves no room for the imprint of the Divine image and must be rejected. But on the other hand, total isolationism need not be assented to unreservedly.
      We can accept another version of anthropological naturalism--not the scientific/evolutionary one-- but one based on our own internal Jewish sources of Torah Sheba'al peh.

      The evidence of the rejection of the scientific approach to man in particular is found in the fact that Rav Soloveitchik never references that approach when he discusses how anthropological naturalism can be incorporated into a Jewish worldview of man. In the passage starting with the word "However..." Rav Soloveitchik comes up with his own Jewish version of anthropological naturalism which never adopts the scientific version.

      So contrary to your contention, the modification of anthropological naturalism that allows both worldviews to exist requires a rejection of the strictly scientific interpretations of man -- whose basis he identified as the theory of evolution.

      How I wish Rabbi Slifkin had scanned pages 3 & 4 as well.
      https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=rIhh_Rx7utwC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=the+emergence+of+ethical+man+soloveitchik&ots=GCZT2Odr0P&sig=27Yi7aIfIRuZltnjzs7_A8f0kQc#v=onepage&q=the%20emergence%20of%20ethical%20man%20soloveitchik&f=false

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    7. Nothing you say here as any basis at all in the text.

      Rav Soloveitchik sees Evolution as the scientific basis which gave rise to the modern conception of "anthropological naturalism". This modern version of "anthropological naturalism" based on the science absolutely equated man with plant and animal existences. This version must be rejected.

      This is completely wrong. He starting point is the "postulate of all chemical sciences. Man, animal, and plant are placed into the realm of matter, organized in living structures and patterns". This is the basis of all Biology. He then explicitly says in footnote 1 that problem scientific worldview includes that of the vitalists that life "is a unique endowment of matter whose unfolding is determined by finality not by accidence [] does not alter the implications of the controversy between the scientific and Biblical-classical formulae". His description of vitalism is a 180 from evolution, yet the problem exists. So explictly says that the problem exists sans evolution.

      This version must be rejected.
      But you are indeed correct that Rav Soloveitchik then goes on to trace the general approach of anthropological naturalism back in history to pre-scientific sources. I'm sorry if I was misleading, but my point still stands.


      He make no such version distinction. In fact he equates them. On page 5, he says "the ontic autonomy or heteronomy of man is the problem", and not conflict of "divine creating and mechanistic evolution" which could be solved. Then later on page 6 he says "Surveying the history of the problem of man's autonomy or heteronomy (which came to the fore long before Darwin, when people were ignorant of evolution), we notice that this problem trouble Christian theologians more than Jewish Scholars". He is equating the two and specifically noting that "Darwin" is *not* the issue as the issue predated Darwin.

      Rav Soloveitchik identified the theory of evolution as the contemporary basis for people living in the scientific age to view man as nothing more than an animal. This is what he found to be incompatible with Judaism.
      This is not shown later to be a false deduction ABOUT THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION per se. Read pages 3 and 4 carefully and contrast it with pages 6 and 7.


      This contradicts completely the quotations above. He says explicitly that evolution is *not* the problem.

      So on the one hand, the scientific interpretations of man (which the theory of evolution gave rise to) leaves no room for the imprint of the Divine image and must be rejected.

      Except that he explicitly says the opposite: man-as-an-animal needs religious faith so the conclusion is incorrect AND evolution vs. creation can be solved. The whole point of the essay is that man-as-animal does not contradict man-as-divine creation, but are two aspects of the same creation.

      But on the other hand, total isolationism need not be assented to unreservedly.

      He says it is wrong.

      We can accept another version of anthropological naturalism--not the scientific/evolutionary one-- but one based on our own internal Jewish sources of Torah Sheba'al peh. So contrary to your contention, the modification of anthropological naturalism that allows both worldviews to exist requires a rejection of the strictly scientific interpretations of man -- whose basis he identified as the theory of evolution.


      There is no "other version of anthropological naturalism" cited in the text. You made that up out of whole cloth.

      How I wish Rabbi Slifkin had scanned pages 3 & 4 as well.

      I have the book in front of me. It doesn't say anything like what you claim it says.

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    8. This is mind boggling. I clearly emphasized that evolution gave rise to the MODERN conception of anthropological naturalism. The fact that the problem exists sans evolution in no way mitigates the fact that Rav Soloveitchik on pages 4 and 5 indeed identified evolution as the current torch-bearer of the modern scientific viewpoint or the “contemporary scientific view” which he regarded as highly problematic and was even theoretically irreconcilable.
      He writes on page 4:
      “As a matter of fact, the contemporary scientific view insists that man emerged very late in the process of organic evolution and thus differs very little from his non-human ancestors as far as his biological existence is concerned. He is an integral part of nature. Even his so-called spiritual activities cannot lay clainm to autonomy and singularity. There is no unique grant of spirituality in man. The alleged spirit is nothing but a mere illusion , an appearance, the sum total of transformed natural drives and sense experiences. Spirit, or soul, is reduced to psyche, and the latter—to a function of the biological occurrence.
      Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the modern "homo religiosus" encounters and tries vainly to harmonize with his belief is the so-called theory of evolution. In our daily jargon, we call this antinomy “evolution versus creation.” The phrase does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution as such. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy. What in fact is theoretically irreconcilable is the concept of man as the bearer of the divine image with the equaling of man and animal-plant existences. In other words, the ontic autonomy or heteronomy of man is the problem.
      The Bible and Greek philosophical thought separated man from the flora and the fauna; science brought him back to his organic co-beings.”


      So you see that Rav Soloveitchik charges “the contemporary scientific view” with completely denying man’s spiritual component and equates him totally with plant and animal existences. The footnote which traces this view back to both mechanists and vitalists alike does IN NO WAY mitigate Rav Soloveitchik’s charge that evolutionary theory has carried this approach of man=animal with no spirituality into the modern world. He even says modern homo religiosus’ attempts to harmonize religion with the theory of evolution is in vain.
      Sure, Rav Soloveitchik clarifies that the nuts and bolts of the mechanistic process of evolution could theoretically be harmonized with Bereishis in some manner. But he is quite clear that evolution’s denial of human spirituality and its total equation with an animal-plant existence is irreconcilable even on a theoretical basis.

      To be continued...

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    9. Continued from previous comment

      Once these passages (mostly omitted by Rabbi Slifkin, I might add) are properly digested, and you come to understand that there are two aspects of the theory of evolution being discussed (one theoretically reconcilable and one not), then we can understand that the later supposed ‘retraction’ on page 5 is not a retraction at all.
      There he says:

      “I wish to emphasize that the widespread opinion that within the perspective of anthropological naturalism there is no place for the religious act, for the relatedness of man to eternity and infinity, is wrong. Perhaps more than man-as-a-divine person, man as animal needs religious faith and commitment to a higher authority. God takes man-animal into His confidence, addresses him and reveals to him His moral will…
      …The sooner Biblical texts are placed in their proper setting—namely the Oral Tradition with its almost endless religious awareness—the clearer and more certain I am that Judaism does not accent unreservedly the theory of man’s isolationism and separatism within the natural order of things.”


      Here, Rav Soloveitchik is not resurrecting the scientific perspective that he rejected previously because it absolute equates man with animal and plant existence. He never references that view again. Instead, he turns his attention to the religious camps to criticizes the Church Fathers and Medieval Jewish scholars for going too far in rejecting any form of anthropological naturalism altogether.
      Rav Soloveitchik is clearly forging a middle path by modifying anthropological naturalism in a way that –unlike evolution—identifies an important animal component within man but it leaves room for man’s spirituality. And his basis for this middle path is the Biblical text and Torah Sheba’al Peh.

      So it is clear from all these passages taken together that Rav Soloveichik distinguishes between the scientific version of anthropological naturalism -- which makes an absolute equation of man with animal and plant existence which leaves no room for human spirituality on the one hand, and authentic Judaism’s version of anthropological naturalism where G-d communicates with man and helps him sublimate and moralize his animal nature.

      I have saved these comments for future reference if they are to be censored by Rabbi Sifkin.

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    10. R. Kornreich: I'm trying to understand what you're saying. Is it that, according to Rav Soloveichik, the theoretically reconcilable aspect of evolution is the derivation of man's body from animals, and the irreconcilable aspect is to say that man is nothing more than an animal?

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    11. This is mind boggling. I clearly emphasized that evolution gave rise to the MODERN conception of anthropological naturalism.

      Yes, YOU keep making this distinction, but it is not found in the text. Instead, the emphasis is exactly the opposite: this is not a modern problem and not related to the problem of resolving evolution with creation.

      Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the modern "homo religiosus" encounters and tries vainly to harmonize with his belief is the so-called theory of evolution. In our daily jargon, we call this antinomy “evolution versus creation.” The phrase does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution as such. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy.

      Again, he explicitly says here that the problem does *not* revolved around evolution and the technical problem of resolving evolution with the creation story can be found. Instead the "the ontic autonomy or heteronomy of man is the problem" which is an old problem: "Surveying the history of the problem of man's autonomy or heteronomy (which came to the fore long before Darwin, when people were ignorant of evolution), we notice that this problem trouble Christian theologians more than Jewish Scholars".

      So you see that Rav Soloveitchik charges “the contemporary scientific view” with completely denying man’s spiritual component and equates him totally with plant and animal existences.

      Yes and that is the modern scientific viewpoint that is problematic, not Darwinism per se. Which is why he says that vitalists who claim that life "is a unique endowment of matter whose unfolding is determined by finality not by accidence [] does not alter the implications of the controversy between the scientific and Biblical-classical formulae".

      The footnote which traces this view back to both mechanists and vitalists alike does IN NO WAY mitigate Rav Soloveitchik’s charge that evolutionary theory has carried this approach of man=animal with no spirituality into the modern world. He even says modern homo religiosus’ attempts to harmonize religion with the theory of evolution is in vain.

      Yet, it is vain as long as scientific viewpoint is claims that man is exclusively animal and religion claims that man is exclusively spiritual. He goes out of his way to say that that has nothing to do with evolution per se and everything to do with considering man to be on completely equal plane with the animals. If evolution never was discovered, we would have the same problem and the same solution.

      BTW, when the Rav wrote this it appears that he considered the vitalism controversy unresolved. He says the the same in Halakhic mind. So vitalism also existed in the modern world.

      Sure, Rav Soloveitchik clarifies that the nuts and bolts of the mechanistic process of evolution could theoretically be harmonized with Bereishis in some manner. But he is quite clear that evolution’s denial of human spirituality and its total equation with an animal-plant existence is irreconcilable even on a theoretical basis.

      And he explicitly says that this concept in scientific thought is not confined to evolution and that this is actually a mistaken conclusion of science because even a man-animal needs God.

      Delete

    12. Once these passages (mostly omitted by Rabbi Slifkin, I might add) are properly digested, and you come to understand that there are two aspects of the theory of evolution being discussed (one theoretically reconcilable and one not), then we can understand that the later supposed ‘retraction’ on page 5 is not a retraction at all.

      The "two aspects" of evolution are made up by you.

      Here, Rav Soloveitchik is not resurrecting the scientific perspective that he rejected previously because it absolute equates man with animal and plant existence. He never references that view again.

      He references it right here to say that this notion of the scientific viewpoint needs to imply that man-as-animal is the only viewpoint is wrong:

      “I wish to emphasize that the widespread opinion that within the perspective of anthropological naturalism there is no place for the religious act, for the relatedness of man to eternity and infinity, is wrong. Perhaps more than man-as-a-divine person, man as animal needs religious faith and commitment to a higher authority. God takes man-animal into His confidence, addresses him and reveals to him His moral will…

      This means that even when viewed as an animal, man still needs God. So even the scientific viewpoint used in every biological discipline that man needs to be viewed as carbon chemistry still has room for religion since even biological man needs God. So the scientific viewpoint can leave room for man-as-more-than-animal. But can religion allow the view of "man-as-animal" at all or does it insist that man can only be viewed as completely separate. The answer is that the latter view has been held by the Rishonim, but it is incorrect. So now you can have the scientific and religious worldviews live together.

      Rav Soloveitchik is clearly forging a middle path by modifying anthropological naturalism in a way that –unlike evolution—identifies an important animal component within man but it leaves room for man’s spirituality. And his basis for this middle path is the Biblical text and Torah Sheba’al Peh.

      His middle path is that you can view man as an animal and as a divine creation. Your "unlike evolution" above is made up by you and the text explicitly disclaims it multiple times.

      Delete
    13. "So even the scientific viewpoint used in every biological discipline that man needs to be viewed as carbon chemistry still has room for religion since even biological man needs God."

      I find your reading comprehension skills to be severely lacking regarding the specific paragraphs from page 4-5 I copied above.

      I have nothing more to add but to plead that you read those paragraphs more carefully to see that Rav Soloveitchik repeatedly, in different ways, describes the scientific viewpoint--not "as used in every biological discipline", but as a philosophical approach to man. It makes him equal to animals, cynically denying any spiritual component within him.

      Indeed, this same philosophy Rav Soloveitchik also finds present in the theory of evolution, and thereby makes it irreconcilable with Judaism.

      Nothing is being made up here. Everything is explicit.

      Delete
    14. I have nothing more to add but to plead that you read those paragraphs more carefully to see that Rav Soloveitchik repeatedly, in different ways, describes the scientific viewpoint--not "as used in every biological discipline", but as a philosophical approach to man. It makes him equal to animals, cynically denying any spiritual component within him.

      Actually, you are right. He doesn't say "biological discipline". He is more general. He says "all chemical sciences" as in:

      In contradistinction, the modern scientific viewpoint spurns the idea of human autonomy as mythical and unfounded and denies the ontic discrepency between man an animal-plant. The unity and continuity of organic life is looked upon as an indispensable postulate of all chemical sciences.

      Yet again, nothing special about evolution. You cannot say, in any science, "the explanation is there is a divine addition here". The Rav is correct that this is not a scientific explanation. So if man can be explained scientifically, then man is explained without reference to God.

      Indeed, this same philosophy Rav Soloveitchik also finds present in the theory of evolution, and thereby makes it irreconcilable with Judaism.

      He identifies a conflict and states explicitly 3 times that it is unrelated to evolution and would be present without it (actually 4 times if you include the quote I just gave). It is implicit in the scientific PoV and the generally assumed religious PoV.

      It appears that what is going on is as follows:

      1) You want to use this text as a support for your anti-evolution stance.

      2) Thus, you see to show that the religion vs. science "antimony" introduced in text of pages 3 through the second paragraph on page 5 is never resolved and thus indicates a rejection of evolution.

      3) But you also realize this will mean that the Rav seems to be rejecting "all chemical sciences", which of course he does not. It would mean, for example, a rejection of medicine.

      4) Thus you must vainly try to indicate that the Rav is finding a contradiction only between evolution and religion.

      Unfortunately for your thesis, he says precisely the opposite in the quote I gave, in footnote #1, in the text on top of page 5, and in the last paragraph of page #6 at least.

      More importantly, you miss the Rav's entire purpose. He is describing an "antimony" (he explicitly calls it one on top of page 5). An antimony has thesis and an antithesis can can't be resolved by picking one or the other. Instead some fundamental assumptions must be changed to avoid the conflict.

      In this case, he challenges two assumptions: one is that man-animal is has no need for God (bottom page 5), the other is that the religious view of man excludes man-animal (top of page 6).

      That he aims to solve the problem is obvious on its face, because otherwise, the whole setup is a waste of time. But you can also see it clearly from the consequent analysis:

      "Man in the story of creation does not occupy a unique position. He is rather a drop in the cosmos that fits into the schemata of naturalness and concreteness. The Torah presents a successive order of life-emergence and divides it into three phases; the last of those living structures is man. The viewpoint is is very much akin to modern science."

      This makes absolutely no sense if he is not trying to resolve the antimony.



      Delete
    15. "More importantly, you miss the Rav's entire purpose. He is describing an "antimony" (he explicitly calls it one on top of page 5). An antimony has thesis and an antithesis can can't be resolved by picking one or the other. Instead some fundamental assumptions must be changed to avoid the conflict."

      Exactly. the fundamental assumptions of the scientific viewpoint--which includes evolution no doubt- must be "changed" to avoid conflict.(To address much of your comments, I never claimed the Rav ONLY rejects evolution and nothing else. This is your straw-man.)

      But this doesn't sound like he is harmonizing or reconciling the scientific viewpoint/evolution with the Torah. He is rejecting its major philosophical assumptions about man!
      You call that a resolution?!! Problem solved?

      I'm sorry, but there is no indication that Rav Soloveitchik leaves anything intact regarding the scientific viewpoint beyond the notion that the nature of man has some significant animal components to him. As I've said all along, Rav Soloveitchik is formulating a third position--quite different from the two extremes in fundamental ways. You can't deny it.

      So to go back to the very beginning of this comment thread, I still fail to see how anything Rav Soloveitchik has written endorses the idea of common ancestry as Rabbi SLifkin claims. It's simply not what he's talking about.

      Delete
    16. Dovid,

      Dovid,

      I am beginning to wonder if you are being willfully deceptive, or is it a case of you simply have problems with reading and comprehension?

      Let’s start with your last paragraph: I still fail to see how anything Rav Soloveitchik has written endorses the idea of common ancestry as Rabbi SLifkin claims.

      I think you have missed the point of the entire post: Rav Slifkin is calling Meiselman out dishonestly in quoting Rav Soloveitchic out of context. Meiselman explicitly states that the quote he brings forward demonstrates that Rav Soloveitchic would “…not even consider an evolutionary account of human origins.” This completely misrepresents Rav Soloveitchic thesis, Rav Slifkin demonstrates the omission.

      Indeed we need to look no further than the sentence immediately preceding the quote that Meiselman presents to see that Rav Soloveitchic see evolution as trivial from the Jewish perspective:

      “The phrase [evolution versus creation] does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy” (emphasis added)

      We see from these two sentences that Rav Soloveitchic saw mechanist evolution as a trivial problem with regard to the creation story, i.e. there is no contradiction between the two. The crux of the question that Rav Soloveitchic sets out to answer is the idea that mechanistic evolution (man as an animal) is compatible with man as the bearer of the divine image. For the “man-as-an-animal” perspective, Rav Soloveitchic asserts that the strictly mechanistic perspective derives their morality from the fact that “G-d takes man-animal into His confidence … and reveals to him His moral will.” Hardly a rejection of evolution, rather he has superimposed a panav HaShem onto the physical man.

      Rav Soloveitchic then tells us specifically our task, given that our task is to “investigate the cogency of the almost dogmatic assertion that the Bible proclaimed the seperateness of man from nature and his otherness.” That is to say, the question is; is our assumption of our understanding of the biblical account accurate.

      Delete
    17. Rav Meiselman addressed that sentence immediately preceding the quote in the next section of that chapter (section #3). It seems you and Rabbi Slifkin have missed it.

      And you are misreading the task Rav Soloveitchik mentions--"investigating the cogency..." That task is not to question the understanding of the *accuracy* of the Biblical account. Of course Rav Soloveitchik takes the verses quite literally (though not narrowly).
      The task is rather to study the verses without the ideological blinders of the Church fathers and Medieval Jewish scholars who dogmatically could not accept the notion that man has a real animal nature. By studying the verses carefully one indeed sees a form of anthropological naturalism. It's not the scientific view of man, but it has some animal components.

      Delete
    18. R. Kornreich: I'm trying to understand what you're saying. Is it that, according to Rav Soloveichik, the theoretically reconcilable aspect of evolution is the derivation of man's body from animals, and the irreconcilable aspect is to say that man is nothing more than an animal?

      Delete
    19. "More importantly, you miss the Rav's entire purpose. He is describing an "antimony" (he explicitly calls it one on top of page 5). An antimony has thesis and an antithesis can can't be resolved by picking one or the other. Instead some fundamental assumptions must be changed to avoid the conflict."

      Exactly. the fundamental assumptions of the scientific viewpoint--which includes evolution no doubt- must be "changed" to avoid conflict.(To address much of your comments, I never claimed the Rav ONLY rejects evolution and nothing else. This is your straw-man.)

      But this doesn't sound like he is harmonizing or reconciling the scientific viewpoint/evolution with the Torah. He is rejecting its major philosophical assumptions about man!
      You call that a resolution?!! Problem solved?


      I don't mean to sound demeaning, but we're analyzing the Rav's resolution to the question he poses, not yours. He nowhere says that the fundamental assumptions of the scientific viewpoint must be changed, nor does he talk at all about some other version of science that he embraces. I've already quoted some key statements to his resolution and they involved showing that, man-animal needs God and Religions also conceives of man-animal.

      As an aside, resolving an antimony through changing assumptions of a discipline does not imply changes to the conclusions of the discipline. Perhaps the most famous antimony is Russell's paradox which upset the fundamentals of Set Theory. The solution to Russell's paradox (restricting how a set is constructed) leave all of the conclusions of set theory intact, but founds them on a consistent basis.

      I'd also point out that the textbooks of the "chemical sciences" contain little to nothing on "major philosophical assumptions about man". If you rip out those mostly non-existent pages, you've still got that doggone evolution stuff in there. In any case, he asserts explicitly that the evolution part can be resolved, whatever you say about the philosophy.

      Finally, you understand that in resolving an antimony, you can't just throw out one side as wrong. The idea of an antimony is that you have proofs to both sides that can't be ignored and you have to find some other away around the problem than by giving up one side or the other of the contradiction.

      Just as a reminder of the Rav's true position:

      "When we speak of a conflict between philosophy and science, we do not have in mind a controversy concerning scientific data which philosophy would interpret in a manner alien to science. Modern philosophy neither pretends omniscience nor countenances the audacity to doubt in the least the validity of scientific statements. It is not inclined to repeat the fatal errors of the Hegelian school which attempted to defy the empiricist. Philosophy is well aware of the fact that it is impossible to derive scientific data from any a priori process of cognition. Nor is the issue between philosophy and science the problem of whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

      (To address much of your comments, I never claimed the Rav ONLY rejects evolution and nothing else. This is your straw-man.)

      You pulled out evolution as the key problem a bunch of times. But no matter. Saying that he rejects all of the chemical sciences is even more ridiculous and without any support in the book.

      So to go back to the very beginning of this comment thread, I still fail to see how anything Rav Soloveitchik has written endorses the idea of common ancestry as Rabbi SLifkin claims. It's simply not what he's talking about.

      Yossi dealt with this point already.

      Delete
    20. Rav Soloveitchik takes the verses quite literally (though not narrowly).

      Weasel words. He interprets man Aretz as "frame of the universe" and from the Adamah to be man from "Earth, Mother Earth, Nature". This is not literal, whether you call it wide or narrow.

      Delete
    21. "He nowhere says that the fundamental assumptions of the scientific viewpoint must be changed, nor does he talk at all about some other version of science that he embraces. I've already quoted some key statements to his resolution and they involved showing that, man-animal needs God and Religions also conceives of man-animal."

      He sure does! He says the scientific viewpoint completely equates man and animal. There is no spiritual component in man whatsoever. He then says this philosophical view of science (and evolution) is even theoretically irreconcilable with Judaism.

      But you claim Rav Soloveitchik is only "setting up the problem which is later resolved" when he writes that "man-animal needs G-d>"
      So tell me, Mr. Ohsie, yes or no: Do you truly believe that Rav Soloveitchik accepted the scientific view of man-- that he has no spiritual component whatsoever and no soul?

      If your answer is yes, then how can a man-animal with no spiritual component and no soul whatsoever "need G-d"? Does a monkey need G-d too??

      And if your answer is no, then you have completely conceded my point:
      This philosophical view of man held by science is indeed irreconcilable with Judaism. The Rav is not merely "setting up the problem" as you claimed.
      The Rav's solution in effect, is to cut away the parts of the scientific view which deny human spirituality. The philosophic view of man which science asserts is rejected by Judaism.
      Are we agreed so far?

      So now if, in the Rav's view (not yours or Dr. Slifkin's), the theory of evolution is inherently tied up with philosophical view of science that man equals animal, then in effect, the Rav is saying that evolution--because of how it views man and nothing more than a further developed animal and is not the bearer of the Divine image--is irreconcilable with Judaism.

      Of course I realize that one can be a Theological Darwisnist and claim evolution only describes the physical origins of man and makes no claim about the existence of a soul or man's spirituality.
      But one must be very careful not to impose one's own personal, and perhaps reasonable approach to evolution on Rav Soloveitchik.
      An honest reading of the Rav's words betrays the fact that the Rav believed "the theory of evolution" was indeed in irreconcilable conflict with Judaism because of its philosophical view of man=animal with no spiritual component.

      To be continued...

      Delete
    22. "In any case, he asserts explicitly that the evolution part can be resolved, whatever you say about the philosophy."

      He says the mechanistic process of evolution could have a theoretical resolution with Divine creation. Nothing more. That doesn't mean the outcome of that resolution must be that Rav Soloveitchik completely accepts common ancestry for human beings. Nothing is as explicit as you are claiming.

      You cite the Rav's true position:
      "...Nor is the issue between philosophy and science the problem of whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

      So please tell me David:
      Do you mean to imply with this quote that even though the Rav has said repeatedly that the scientific interpretation of man leads to their insistence that man has no soul and his experience of spirituality is a mere illusion, nevertheless, Judaism must accept this because philosophy cannot deprive science the right to view reality as they see it?

      I'm not arguing that an atheistic scientist has no right to view man as just another animal. I'm talking about what Judaism can accept. I don't see where this quote shows that Judaism has to accept the scientific view on anything.

      Please stop repeatedly trying to derail the discussion with this red herring from Halachic Mind.

      I would indeed think this viewpoint of man=animal is not legitimate according to the Rav, because science is overstepping its bounds when it weighs in on a metaphysical question regarding the existential nature of man.
      You don't agree?

      Do you really think that since the Rav was attempting a resolution with the scientific view of man, the Rav was ultimately accepting the scientific view of man as nothing more than animal with no spiritual component?

      Please answer this question directly.

      Delete
    23. "You pulled out evolution as the key problem a bunch of times. But no matter. Saying that he rejects all of the chemical sciences is even more ridiculous and without any support in the book."

      Oy gevald.
      I have only said Rav Soloveitchik rejects one basic thing: The scienitifc interpretation of man as being nothing but an animal. What I mean by "interpretation" is science's PHILOSOPHICAL interpretation. In case you didn't notice, i have been saying repeatedly that the Rav indeed wrote explicitly that the scientific view has come to some very definitive philosophical conclusions about the essential nature of man. And that conclusion is that man in reality has no soul and no spiritual component.
      The Rav is rejecting this science/evolution-based philosophical interpretation of man.

      So, do you still think I'm saying the Rav rejected not only evolution, but also "all the chemical sciences"?
      Please explain how I'm doing that.

      "Weasel words. He interprets man Aretz as "frame of the universe" and from the Adamah to be man from "Earth, Mother Earth, Nature". This is not literal, whether you call it wide or narrow."

      In these very pages at the beginning, the Rav says he is closely following the verses and the Oral tradition in his reading of Genesis.
      It just so happens that Chazal darshen the word "es" before Aretz to include everything physical in the world. Rav Soloveitchik is merely expanding this to include everything in the physical universe. Its simply not allegorical. It is an expanded literary definition.

      Let's take the word "world" for instance. What is the literal meaning? Just "Planet"?
      Well actually, people use the term "world" to refer to an entire realm. It could mean the universe--like when religious people say "Master of the world".
      They aren't employing allegory or using a metaphor. They are simply using an expanded, literal definition of the word.

      The same applies to earth and "Mother Earth". it is not allegory.
      And by the way, the Rav only equates the Capitalized "Mother Earth" with nature. Other times, earth is NOT capitalized and in those places, he clearly means the physical ground.
      So when the Rav understood that man must be buried in physical earth because he was extracted from the earth, he is refering to the physical earth in the narrowest sense. Not "Mother Earth".

      According to you, dead bodies should be buried in water because man's ultimate origins come from the chemical soup of the oceans--not the earth.

      Delete
    24. "He nowhere says that the fundamental assumptions of the scientific viewpoint must be changed, nor does he talk at all about some other version of science that he embraces. I've already quoted some key statements to his resolution and they involved showing that, man-animal needs God and Religions also conceives of man-animal."

      He sure does! He says the scientific viewpoint completely equates man and animal. There is no spiritual component in man whatsoever. He then says this philosophical view of science (and evolution) is even theoretically irreconcilable with Judaism.

      But you claim Rav Soloveitchik is only "setting up the problem which is later resolved" when he writes that "man-animal needs G-d>"
      So tell me, Mr. Ohsie, yes or no: Do you truly believe that Rav Soloveitchik accepted the scientific view of man-- that he has no spiritual component whatsoever and no soul?


      Your question is still working under the assumption of an unresolved antimony. Science in fact doesn't use "the soul" in any explanation of anything in biology, biochemistry, medicine, etc, yet it achieves fantastic results. *IF* that fact truly implied that man has no "Godly aspect" (intentionally using a term with wide meaning), then this is a problem for homo religiosus. Saying "well something is obviously wrong" is simply restating the problem.

      His view is that it doesn't present this contradiction and he starts with the notion that a purely chemical man-as-animal would need God.

      If your answer is yes, then how can a man-animal with no spiritual component and no soul whatsoever "need G-d"? Does a monkey need G-d too??

      I'm not qualified to distill down the paragraph starting at the end of page five. But he mentions that God would communicate with man-animal. This intuitive (or revelatory) relationship of man to God is key in some of his other writings. In his view, we know God exists because we perceive Him to exist and have a relationship with Him. I don't know the Rav's view of the nature of the Soul, so I won't hazard any guesses about that.

      Monkeys don't have an intellect and don't know about God.

      But I've got the feeling that you've gone off the rails in another way. The scientific view of man succeeds without the need to include a "soul" in it's model of reality. There is no specific proposition of "no soul" just like there is direct proposition "no ghosts in the wall". Its that all the responsibilities previously assigned the soul (or souls) by the medieval philosophers of man can now be explained with dizzying success by physical means. (This is well describe in Lonely Man of Faith). This success was (and still is) a main driver of people away from religion. I believe (but I hesitate to distill the Rav) that his main point is that when all is said and done, the man that comes out still does in fact relate to God. You might not need a soul to explain how man can walk and talk, but there still remains the non-scientific cognition of God's existence.

      You seem to imagine that there is something in the mechanism of natural selection or biochemistry that says: God doesn't exist or Man can't perceive God. He doesn't say that anywhere.

      And if your answer is no, then you have completely conceded my point:
      This philosophical view of man held by science is indeed irreconcilable with Judaism.


      You believe this but the Rav doesn't say it.

      The Rav is not merely "setting up the problem" as you claimed.
      The Rav's solution in effect, is to cut away the parts of the scientific view which deny human spirituality.


      He never says this and he never cuts away any parts.

      The philosophic view of man which science asserts is rejected by Judaism.
      Are we agreed so far?


      Nope, not at all.



      Delete
    25. So now if, in the Rav's view (not yours or Dr. Slifkin's), the theory of evolution is inherently tied up with philosophical view of science that man equals animal, then in effect, the Rav is saying that evolution--because of how it views man and nothing more than a further developed animal and is not the bearer of the Divine image--is irreconcilable with Judaism.

      Sorry, he says the opposite. But it is easy to refute this because, as you admitted below, evolution is just an example. Let's rewrite this with another example.

      Of course I realize that one can be a Theological Oncologist and claim oncology only describes the physical origins of cancer and makes no claim about the existence of a soul or man's spirituality.
      But one must be very careful not to impose one's own personal, and perhaps reasonable approach to cancer on Rav Soloveitchik.
      An honest reading of the Rav's words betrays the fact that the Rav believed Oncology was indeed in irreconcilable conflict with Judaism because of its philosophical view of man=animal with no spiritual component.


      Replace oncology with any of biochemistry, microbiology, etc. It all comes out as equal nonsense.

      And just to repeat:

      "When we speak of a conflict between philosophy and science, we do not have in mind a controversy concerning scientific data which philosophy would interpret in a manner alien to science. Modern philosophy neither pretends omniscience nor countenances the audacity to doubt in the least the validity of scientific statements. It is not inclined to repeat the fatal errors of the Hegelian school which attempted to defy the empiricist. Philosophy is well aware of the fact that it is impossible to derive scientific data from any a priori process of cognition. Nor is the issue between philosophy and science the problem of whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

      Delete
    26. An honest reading of the Rav's words betrays the fact that the Rav believed "the theory of evolution" was indeed in irreconcilable conflict with Judaism because of its philosophical view of man=animal with no spiritual component.

      To be honest, you have no idea...

      Here is what Rav Soloveitchik actually says:

      ....The naturalistic formula of man was to a certain extent common knowledge among Hazal, who did not resent it, while Christian theologians … are still struggling with the secularization of human existence by scientific research. The reason lies in the discrepancy between the Jewish Bible and the Christian gospels,… The Hebrew Bible is cognizant of man as a natural being found on the same plane as the animal and the plant. Indeed, such an idea is a motivating force Jewish ethics and metaphysics....

      ..."As a matter of fact, the terms shokhei batei chomer, “those who dwell in houses of clay” (Job 4:19), benei temutah, “those who are appointed to die” (Ps. 79:11), ben adam, adam, and basar (flesh) all involve the basic concept of man as a natural being."

      (page 7-8 Emergence of Ethical Man. Emphasis added)

      So now if, in the Rav's view (not yours or Dr. Slifkin's), the theory of evolution is inherently tied up with philosophical view of science that man equals animal, then in effect, the Rav is saying that evolution--because of how it views man and nothing more than a further developed animal and is not the bearer of the Divine image--is irreconcilable with Judaism.

      This is just gibberish. As I have quoted to you at least twice previously Rav Soloveitchic explicitly says:

      "“G-d takes man-animal into His confidence … and reveals to him His moral will.”"

      Delete
    27. The task is rather to study the verses without the ideological blinders of the Church fathers and Medieval Jewish scholars who dogmatically could not accept the notion that man has a real animal nature. Dovid Kornreich September 7, 2016 at 6:41 PM

      I agree

      By studying the verses carefully one indeed sees a form of anthropological naturalism. It's not the scientific view of man, but it has some animal components.
      Dovid Kornreich September 7, 2016 at 6:41 PM

      So to be clear you are agreeing that Meiselman has misrepresented Rav Soloveitchic when he writes:

      "The radical difference between man that the rest of the animal kingdom necessitated, in his view, a separate creation. A hairless anthropoid descended from animal ancestors could never be the bearer of Tzelem Elokin. An entirely new creation was required."

      ?

      Delete

    28. "So even the scientific viewpoint used in every biological discipline that man needs to be viewed as carbon chemistry still has room for religion since even biological man needs God."

      I find your reading comprehension skills to be severely lacking regarding the specific paragraphs from page 4-5 I copied above.

      Dovid Kornreich September 4, 2016 at 11:18 AM

      A fairly ironic statement since it is you who persistently misreads the actual text of the passage. David Ohsie had done a more than brilliant job and trying to educate you, but you are blinded by your own ignorance.

      Delete
    29. Since we are so enamored with our favorite excerpts that we enjoy repeating them again and again, I'll simply repeat mine.

      David Ohsie days:
      "The scientific view of man succeeds without the need to include a "soul" in it's model of reality. There is no specific proposition of "no soul" just like there is direct proposition "no ghosts in the wall".

      Rav Soloveitchik says:
      “As a matter of fact, the contemporary scientific view insists that man ... is an integral part of nature. Even his so-called spiritual activities cannot lay claim to autonomy and singularity."

      David Ohsie says:
      "The scientific view of man succeeds without the need to include a "soul" in it's model of reality. There is no specific proposition of "no soul" just like there is direct proposition "no ghosts in the wall".

      Rav Soloveitchik says the contemporary scientific view "insists":
      "There is no unique grant of spirituality in man. The alleged spirit is nothing but a mere illusion , an appearance, the sum total of transformed natural drives and sense experiences."

      Davis Ohsie says:
      "The scientific view of man succeeds without the need to include a "soul" in it's model of reality. There is no specific proposition of "no soul" just like there is direct proposition "no ghosts in the wall".

      Rav Soloveitchik says the contemporary scientific view "insists":
      "Spirit, or soul, is reduced to psyche, and the latter—to a function of the biological occurrence."

      I already submitted my understanding of how Rav Soloveitchik navigated the antinomy between the scientific view of man and the religious view of man without eliding a single statement of Rav Soloveitchik.

      But you apparently have this magical red pen which lets you edit whatever doesn't fit neatly into what you believe to be the harmonious resolution of the conflict where the scientific view of man is completely valid.
      Thus, numerous inconvenient phrases where Rav Soloveitchik says explicitly and repeatedly that the scientific view indeed makes the proposition of "no soul", are just "setting up" the problem and can simply be ignored.
      Hear no evil, see no evil.

      Delete
    30. To David Ohsie:

      You first say (with emphasis added):
      purely chemical man-as-animal would need God.

      Then you say:
      Monkeys don't have an intellect and don't know about God.

      But what's an "intellect"? Even if you will use weasel words and claim it is not necessarily a "soul" which science definitively denies the existence of, I still don't think it's purely chemical, do you?
      So how do you know monkeys don't have an intellect and don't know about G-d? Isn't it because we believe they are purely chemical?

      "You seem to imagine that there is something in the mechanism of natural selection or biochemistry that says: God doesn't exist or Man can't perceive God. He doesn't say that anywhere."

      This is where we are not communicating.
      I never claimed Rav Soloveitchik said anything of the sort about the mechanisms themselves!
      What Rav Soloveitchik does claim (see the quotes above) is that these scientific disciplines not only analyse man as a purely chemical entity in the laboratory. That would be fine. The problem starts because these disciplines go another step and form a philosophy about who man is -- existentially.
      It is explicit, but you really aren't able to hear this, I see.

      "Replace oncology with any of biochemistry, microbiology, etc. It all comes out as equal nonsense."

      Then why, in the field of evolution in particular, do we find so many evolutionist writers drawing these very philosophical implications about the non-spiritual nature of man from their studies? To my knowledge, no other field of science does this as loudly and consistently.
      Rav Soloveitchik apparently realized this. I'm surprised you weren't aware of it.

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    31. Since we are so enamored with our favorite excerpts that we enjoy repeating them again and again, I'll simply repeat mine.

      David Ohsie days:
      "The scientific view of man succeeds without the need to include a "soul" in it's model of reality. There is no specific proposition of "no soul" just like there is direct proposition "no ghosts in the wall".

      Rav Soloveitchik says:
      “As a matter of fact, the contemporary scientific view insists that man ... is an integral part of nature. Even his so-called spiritual activities cannot lay claim to autonomy and singularity."

      Rav Soloveitchik says the contemporary scientific view "insists":
      "There is no unique grant of spirituality in man. The alleged spirit is nothing but a mere illusion , an appearance, the sum total of transformed natural drives and sense experiences."

      Rav Soloveitchik says the contemporary scientific view "insists":
      "Spirit, or soul, is reduced to psyche, and the latter—to a function of the biological occurrence."


      Yes, you are correct, you are repeating the same error that you have committed over and over (and that Rabbi Meiselman made). You are quoting from the question which the Rav sets out to resolve to try to prove what his conclusion is.

      Also, these quotations align with what I said. The hypothesis underlying modern biology is that biology is carbon chemistry and this has produced amazing successes in explaining mysteries as old as humanity. If this was the only thing cognitive approach to the world, then it would be absolutely true that "Spirit, or soul, is reduced to psyche, and the latter—to a function of the biological occurrence."

      Thus, in the Rav's opinion, the problem not "whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

      Secondly, the Rav shows that even if, arguendo, man was viewed only carbon chemistry he still needs God, in fact he needs him more than spiritual man: "Perhaps more than man-as-a-divine person, man-as-an-animal needs religious faith and commitment to a higher authority. G-d takes man-animal into His confidence, addresses him and reveals to him His moral code."

      I already submitted my understanding of how Rav Soloveitchik navigated the antinomy between the scientific view of man and the religious view of man without eliding a single statement of Rav Soloveitchik.

      You made up a bunch of stuff and claimed that when he says "anthropological naturalism" he is not referring to what he wrote above, but some new and undefined theory of science. You skip over the fact that says that evolution could be reconciled with Biblical account. You basically miss the entire point of the book.

      But you apparently have this magical red pen which lets you edit whatever doesn't fit neatly into what you believe to be the harmonious resolution of the conflict where the scientific view of man is completely valid.
      Thus, numerous inconvenient phrases where Rav Soloveitchik says explicitly and repeatedly that the scientific view indeed makes the proposition of "no soul", are just "setting up" the problem and can simply be ignored.


      The question is not ignored; it is just not confused with his conclusion.

      You first say (with emphasis added):
      purely chemical man-as-animal would need God.


      The Rav says it, not me.

      Then you say:
      Monkeys don't have an intellect and don't know about God.

      But what's an "intellect"?


      No one has a great definition, but I think that the classic Jewish medieval distinction services us well: the power of speech.

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    32. Even if you will use weasel words and claim it is not necessarily a "soul" which science definitively denies the existence of, I still don't think it's purely chemical, do you?

      You've lost me. What is not necessarily a soul?

      So how do you know monkeys don't have an intellect and don't know about G-d. Isn't it because we believe they are purely chemical?

      This is kind of a waste, since it is the Rav's thought and not mine that is important here. But your whole question is kind of odd. The Rishonim though that both plants and animals had souls that accounted for their ability to live (and for animals, move). Yet they didn't think that God spoke with animals (at least generally).

      As an aside, I don't think that he was serious, but in one of the Rav Speaking books, he says that stars might have souls.

      "You seem to imagine that there is something in the mechanism of natural selection or biochemistry that says: God doesn't exist or Man can't perceive God. He doesn't say that anywhere."

      This is where we are not communicating.
      I never claimed Rav Soloveitchik said anything of the sort about the mechanisms themselves!


      Then the mechanisms can't contradict anything in Judaism an you can drop that line of argument.


      What Rav Soloveitchik does claim (see the quotes above) is that these scientific disciplines not only analyse man as a purely chemical entity in the laboratory. That would be fine. The problem starts because these disciplines go another step and form a philosophy about who man is -- existentially.

      OK, we're getting closer. So there is nothing wrong with any of the conclusions of science. The problem is if that is the "only" source of knowledge and nothing else exists as he explains in Halakhic mind. That could imply some non-scientific philosophical conclusion which are unwarranted by the science.

      Again: The problem not "whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

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    33. "Replace oncology with any of biochemistry, microbiology, etc. It all comes out as equal nonsense."

      Then why, in the field of evolution in particular, do we find so many evolutionist writers drawing these very philosophical implications about the non-spiritual nature of man from their studies? To my knowledge, no other field of science does this as loudly and consistently.
      Rav Soloveitchik apparently realized this. I'm surprised you weren't aware of it.


      (As an aside I'm amused by the amateur debate tactics that you thrown in here and there. As though writing that the Rav "realized" something and surprise that I was not "aware" of it means that what you assert is true).

      You've contradicted yourself on this a few times. When I claimed that you were trying to invent a distinction between evolution and the other sciences you said: "To address much of your comments, I never claimed the Rav ONLY rejects evolution and nothing else. This is your straw-man."

      Now you are back to arguing that evolution was singled out. To requote of a few of his explicit statements to the contrary of what you are claiming:

      'Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the modern "homo religiosus" encounters and tries vainly to harmonize with his belief is the so-called theory of evolution. In our daily jargon, we call this antinomy “evolution versus creation.” The phrase does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution as such. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy.'

      Again, he explicitly says here that the problem does *not* revolved around evolution and the technical problem of resolving evolution with the creation story can be found. Instead the "the ontic autonomy or heteronomy of man is the problem" which is an old problem: "Surveying the history of the problem of man's autonomy or heteronomy (which came to the fore long before Darwin, when people were ignorant of evolution), we notice that this problem trouble Christian theologians more than Jewish Scholars".

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    34. "Yes, you are correct, you are repeating the same error that you have committed over and over (and that Rabbi Meiselman made). You are quoting from the question which the Rav sets out to resolve to try to prove what his conclusion is."

      So why after his conclusion, does Rav Soloveitchik write the following on page 9?
      "In view of all that, the New Testament stresses man’s alien status in the world of nature and his radical uniqueness. To be sure, all these ideas are not only Christian but Jewish as well. Christianity did not add much to Biblical-philosophical anthropology. We come across a dual concept of man in the Bible His element of transcendence is well known to the Biblical Jew. Yet transcendence was always seen against the backdrop of naturalness. The canvas was man’s immanence; transcendence was just projected on it as a display of colors. It was more a modifying than a basic attribute of man. At any rate, both ideas were considered inseparable by the Bible; Christianity was successful in isolating them and reducing the element of naturalness to a state of corruption and encountering a transcendent with an alternative…"

      As I said, in Rav Soloveitchik's conclusion, contrary to the scientific.evolutionary view of man, there are both animal and transcendental components to man.
      So when Rav Solovetchik refer to man-animal (or "man-as-an-animal") in his resolution he is referring to that aspect of man--contrasting it with the man-as-transcendent-being (or "man-as-a-divine-being) aspect.

      It is clear from this and from many parts of the book that Rav Soloveitchik never negated man's potential transcendence as science/evolution does. He merely plays down its prominence.
      For another example, see pages 73-75:
      "We have thus far analyzed two aspects, two layers in the human being: non-directed biochemical plant existence; and natural dynamic animal-existence guided by a technical intelligence. However, the community and equality of man and animal comes to an end at this point. Reading the story of man carefully we notice that the Torah used a unique term in regard to him. While the divine blessing to animal is described as "v-yevarekh otam E-lokim", in the blessing to man a new term was introduced, namely, "va-yomer lahem".
      The simple word "va-yomer" sheds a new light upon man and upon his role and task…
      …Man was confined to the yield of the soil. Only cereal food was assigned to him. He was not allowed to kill any living creature. As we have indicated above, this injunction against a carnivorous life includes both a natural aversion to flesh and an ethical norm. At this crossroads, animal and man part. The former remains arrested within biological automatism, the latter experiences it on a higher plane—as an ethical opportunity."


      One can see that this third path of Rav Soloveitchik rejects the scientific/evolutionary view of man. I am not confusing the problem with the conclusion. It is you who are refusing to face the conclusion honestly and are therefore unable to see that it does not harmonize the scientific view of man with the authentic Biblical view of man.

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    35. I hope this is my final comment.
      Finally, I have to protest the seeming ingenuousness of your repeatedly cutting off a vital quote at the precise point where it shows the opposite of what you claim.

      Many times you have done the following when quoting the manuscript:
      "'Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the modern "homo religiosus" encounters and tries vainly to harmonize with his belief is the so-called theory of evolution. In our daily jargon, we call this antinomy “evolution versus creation.” The phrase does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution as such. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy.'

      Again, he explicitly says here that the problem does *not* revolved around evolution and the technical problem of resolving evolution with the creation story can be found. Instead the "the ontic autonomy or heteronomy of man is the problem" which is an old problem: "Surveying the history of the problem of man's autonomy or heteronomy (which came to the fore long before Darwin, when people were ignorant of evolution), we notice that this problem trouble Christian theologians more than Jewish Scholars".


      You claim the problem does "not revolve around evolution".
      But when you read the entire passage, it is undeniable that evolution is indeed a significant part of the problem.
      The entire quote -uncut- as follows:

      “Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the modern "homo religiosus" encounters and tries vainly to harmonize with his belief is the so-called theory of evolution. In our daily jargon, we call this antinomy “evolution versus creation.” The phrase does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution as such. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy. What in fact is theoretically irreconcilable is the concept of man as the bearer of the divine image with the equaling of man and animal-plant existences. In other words, the ontic autonomy or heteronomy of man is the problem.
      The Bible and Greek philosophical thought separated man from the flora and the fauna; science brought him back to his organic co-beings.”"


      So there are two aspects to evolution: 1)the technical aspect--which may have a solution; 2) the philosophical conclusions which evolution draws regarding man.
      True, evolution isn't the only branch of science which does this. I've acknowledged this many times already.
      But for some reason, Rav Soloveitchik singles out evolution BY NAME -- out of all the branches of science-- as harboring this view of man.
      The reason he singles out evolution by name is obvious to me. It is because in the modern era, the theory of evolution has become the most prominent and oft-cited scientific argument used to bolster science's "no soul" claims about man.
      This is why evolution is particularly troublesome for the modern homo religiosus. All moderns are using it to de-spiritualize human beings. Not "vitalism".

      Delete
    36. Since you are basically repeating stuff that we discussed before, I'll leave you with the last word.

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  14. Oh dear Dovid! I think you are correct. Rav Soloveitchik does not seem to explicitly here suggest that he accepts the ‘scientific view if man as “an evolved animal” and common ancestry.’ What the Rav does say explicitly is that the ‘scietific view of man as “an evolved animal”’ is not a contradiction of Torah or religious thought.

    Here, I will help you:
    “ Perhaps more than man-as-a-divine person, man-as-an-animal needs religious faith and commitment to a higher authority. G-d takes man-animal into His confidence, addresses him and reveals to him His moral code.”
    And latter
    “The sooner Bibllical texts are placed in their proper setting – namely, the Oral Tradition with its almost endless religiousawareness – the clearer and more certain I am that Judaism does not accent unreservedly to the theory of man’s isolationism and separatism within the natural order of things.” (emphasis added)

    The first quote clearly places religious belief as being not only compatible with the scientific thinking (man-as-an-animal) but suggest that it is necessary for the rationalist to posit G-d to gain morality.

    The second quote explicitly says that within the Jewish tradition, when you strip out foreign elements, there is no heresy in believing in evolution!

    But it is not surprising that Rav Soleveitchik makes no mention of his judgement on evolution, since he is not a scientist. The thrust of the extract is to place evolution into a theological framework, which is Rav Soleveitchik area of expertise, and where he is qualified to comment.

    But all of that is beside the point, since the thrust of Rav Slifkin’s post was to demonstrate Meiselman’s mendacity in selectively quoting Rav Solevitchik, and misrepresenting The Rav’s views! As you have also done.

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    1. I had hoped that it didn't requires extra emphasis, but I see now that it does.
      I will repeat: saying that human beings have a wholly natural component to them with an animal's biology, and can be classified "within the natural order of things", IN NO WAY suggests that human beings evolved from animals or had biological parents. There is simply nothing to go on in these paragraphs in terms of man's ORIGINS. They exclusive discuss man's NATURE.

      And again I'll emphasize that when you actually read the entire first section of the manuscript, you see clearly that Rav Soloveitchik takes the biblical account of man's origins absolutely literally.
      He writes that human beings share existential qualities that are unique to the plant kingdom as well as to the animal kingdom. Why? Because all three were (separately) generated from the same raw material--the earth.
      He makes this point over and over throughout the first section of the manuscript. I suggest you read it and then decide if Rav Soloveitchik was also referring to the origins of human beings as well as the essential nature of human beings in these excerpts.

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    2. R' Kornreich,

      1. Can you please clarify what you mean when you say that the paragraph exclusively discusses man's nature, as opposed to man's origins? In other words, what specifically is the dichotomy of views that the Rav describes when he refers to "man's isolationism and separatism within the natural order of things"? I understand what he means if he's talking about evolution, but I don't understand what he means if he's talking about man's nature. For example, was there any widespread belief that traditional Judaism unreservedly preaches that man is a divine being with no animalistic desires, and the Rav comes in to say "No. It is permitted to believe that human beings have animalistic desires. This can absolutely be reconciled with traditional Judaism."?

      2. Can you explain how this quote...

      "We call this antinomy "evolution versus creation." The phrase does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution as such. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy."

      ...refers to the nature of man as opposed to evolution, if indeed that's what you're claiming here as well? It seems to very clearly be talking about evolution.

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    3. 1) I can only clarify by paraphrasing the actual words of the manuscript.

      Rav Soloveitchik repeatedly emphasizes that the issue he wants to grapple with is the different ways of interpreting what a human being is--existentially. Is man a reflection of the Divine image? Or is he to be equated with plant and animal existences? Is he autonomous from plants and animals, or heteronomous with them? Is he to see himself as "man-as-animal"? or as "man-as-a-divine-person"?
      These are the words used by Rav Soloveitchik to describe the dichotomy he is grappling with.

      I'm not in a position to opine about whether it was a widespread belief that man is a divine being with no animalistic desires.
      I can tell you, however, that major Jewish thinkers have envisioned the original creation of Odom Horishon as devoid of any yetzer hora. They identified the existence of the yetzer hora as originally being embodied by the Nachash - completely separate from man's identity-- and then subsequently merging with him via the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

      2) Although the scientific view of man's origins is indeed what gives rise to interpreting man as only an animal, Rav Soloveitchik is very clear that he is much more interested in exploring these competing interpretations of man-- what type of creature is he--not the source of the conflicting interpretations. He is not grappling with the conflict between the Torah's account of man's origins (special creation) and the scientific account of man's origins (evolution). Yes, he could find a solution of some kind to this controversy, but he isn't really interested in exploring it at all in this essay.

      So if the only thing you can think of when someone writes the phrase "man's nature" is "man's origins", then I'm afraid I simply can't help you.

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  15. I have never been a fan of Meiselman and every exposure to him increases my discomfort. A number of years ago, his father, a Boston dentist passed away and I heard the following remark at his son's hesped here in Jerusalem. Rav Meiselman expressed wonderment as to how a father who didn't even know who the Shaagat Arye was could bring a son like himself to the world.

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    1. DD, that is so unfair! I was at that hesped. He described his father as a gadol in ehrlichkeit, who risked his entire future career as a dentist by refusing to take a licensing exam on Shabbos - after completing all of the schooling - at a time and place when few were shomer Shabbos, and even fewer would have looked askance at making one such exception; who may never have learned the sefer Chafetz Chaim, but to whom lashon harah was simply repugnant. His point was obviously not to brag about himself. As a rosh yeshiva primarily addressing his talmidim (who were the bulk of the attendees), he was attributing his own achievements in Torah to his father's remarkable yashrus and dedication to yiddishkeit. Please don't parse words and twist something beautiful into something ugly!

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  16. Rabbi Kornreich,

    I will repeat: saying that human beings have a wholly natural component to them with an animal's biology, and can be classified "within the natural order of things", IN NO WAY suggests that human beings evolved from animals or had biological parents.

    This is a straw man. Evolution is based on detailed evidence, not on what the Rav wrote here. The question is whether there is anything here that indicates the Rav disagreeing with science. In fact there is not, and the quotation in the book is of a straw-man that the Rav knocks down later.

    With regard to "evolution vs. creation" he does say "We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy" which is the opposite of what you are saying.

    And again I'll emphasize that when you actually read the entire first section of the manuscript, you see clearly that Rav Soloveitchik takes the biblical account of man's origins absolutely literally.

    Please provide quotations. The opposite is the case.

    1) He interprets Es Hashamayim v'Es Haaretz as referring to the "the frame of the universe" while later references to Aretz are actually the earth. This is a non-literal interpretation to fit into the way that we know that the universe evolved. The "frame of the universe" is nowhere literally referred to and the actual "frame of the universe" does not involve any face of water over which God can hover (beside which those pesukim interpreted literally would involve heresy in post-medieval times at least).

    2) Later he says "The Torah presents to use a successive order of life-emergence and divides into three phases; the last of those living structures is man. This viewpoint is very much akin to modern science". This statement is completely meaningless unless he is allowing for non-literal interpretation; otherwise it is nothing like modern science.

    He writes that human beings share existential qualities that are unique to the plant kingdom as well as to the animal kingdom. Why? Because all three were (separately) generated from the same raw material--the earth.

    First off, it would be handwaving to even call this handwaving. The chair that I'm sitting on comes from earth, but isn't alive. Secondly, people come from people, so if modern people come from earth because they descend from Adam HaRishon, then Adam HaRishon can just as easily be said to come from earth if he descended from a line of evolutionary succession going back to the first life that came from "earth".

    Moreover, you misinterpret the Rav completely. He is not referring to literal "earth" as is "dirt dug up from the earth". He means that Man is a Man even if you consider only the parts that come from nature and in fact when he says earth, he repeatedly changes this to general term "Mother Earth" which he identifies on page 13 as being nature ("Let us first analyze the the immanence of man, namely his confluence with nature, Mother Earth"). So he is saying that man comes from nature, just as the scientific view is that man comes from nature.

    His entire point in this chapter is to say that the so-called contradiction between the scientific and religious views of man are false: 1) even a completely physical man needs God (last paragraph page 5), 2) the view that the Torah consider man to be completely above nature is incorrect because the entirety of the first description of the creation of man is man of "nature, mother earth" and not man of the heavens. Therefore there is no contradiction, and the rest is details in how fit in the natural history with the Torah's "logical dynamical sequence" (page 10).

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    1. There is something distinctly condescending in asserting something as fact when that something is the very subject of the debate.

      I am arguing that one can cogently read all these paragraphs as a search for a middle ground between an absolute view of man-as-animal--which is the standard scientific view of man based on the theory of evolution, and an absolute view of man-as-divine-person--which is the view of the Medieval Jewish scholars and Church fathers.
      Rav Soloveitchik rejects both extremes.
      He rejects the absolute equation of man with the plant and animal existences which will leave no room for the imprint of the Divine image; he rejects the absolution isolationism and separatism of man from the natural order of things which runs counter to a close reading of the biblical account of man's creation.

      Of course you can easily parse phrases and cite quotations out of context to make your counter-point. First you want to establish that Rav Soloveitchik completely embraces "anthropological naturalism" because it is all a "false conflict" and "there is no contradiction". Then you will claim he embraced evolution because there was no contradiction with "science". You can claim it's all very black-and-white with no nuance whatsoever.
      But please don't call it a fact.

      1) It is curious that when I explicitly referred to how literally Rav Soloveitchik understood the biblical account of man's origins, you respond with an example from "es HaShomayim ve'es Ho'Oretz". Talk about a straw man!

      2)The order of life-emergence in the Torah is indeed very much akin to order of life-emergence in modern science.
      If you stick closly to what Rav Soloveitchik actually wrote, and not read it with your intellectual blinders to think he is referring to the manner of life-emergence, then it is a completely meaningful statement even if you read the verses literally.

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    2. What's with the condescension thing again? Sharp disagreement is not condescension. You made the same claim when you argued with Dr. Stadlan. I don't get it. You've been in the Beis Midrash for years.

      I am arguing that one can cogently read all these paragraphs as a search for a middle ground between an absolute view of man-as-animal--which is the standard scientific view of man based on the theory of evolution, and an absolute view of man-as-divine-person--which is the view of the Medieval Jewish scholars and Church fathers.
      Rav Soloveitchik rejects both extremes.
      He rejects the absolute equation of man with the plant and animal existences which will leave no room for the imprint of the Divine image; he rejects the absolution isolationism and separatism of man from the natural order of things which runs counter to a close reading of the biblical account of man's creation.


      You are absolutely correct here. No one argued otherwise and that in fact is congruent with my last paragraph.

      Of course you can easily parse phrases and cite quotations out of context to make your counter-point. First you want to establish that Rav Soloveitchik completely embraces "anthropological naturalism" because it is all a "false conflict" and "there is no contradiction". Then you will claim he embraced evolution because there was no contradiction with "science". You can claim it's all very black-and-white with no nuance whatsoever.
      But please don't call it a fact.


      (Side point: For some reason, you are misinterpreting the meaning of "in fact".)

      Please show how I quoted out of context or how I think that the Rav was not nuanced. All I say is that he considers the two views (scientific vs. religious or man-as-plant/animal vs. man as divine) being to be complementary views of the same thing. He makes a very similar point in Halachic Mind which I quoted above. No where does he modify a detail of the science to make the resolution.

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    3. 1) It is curious that when I explicitly referred to how literally Rav Soloveitchik understood the biblical account of man's origins, you respond with an example from "es HaShomayim ve'es Ho'Oretz". Talk about a straw man!

      First off, I also gave the example of the "Earth" interpreted as "Mother Earth, nature". This related directly to his explanation of organic evolution.

      Secondly, why would you imagine that the Rav would be fine interpreting the inorganic parts of Maaseh Bereishis allegorically, but then suddenly become a complete literalist when it comes to the organic aspects? So the reference is completely on spot, especially when supported by my other example.

      2)The order of life-emergence in the Torah is indeed very much akin to order of life-emergence in modern science.
      If you stick closly to what Rav Soloveitchik actually wrote, and not read it with your intellectual blinders to think he is referring to the manner of life-emergence, then it is a completely meaningful statement even if you read the verses literally.


      But then you've rendered the Rav's statement silly, meaningless, and irrelevant to the rest of the discussion. If you are a literalist, then the story of evolution are the story of Genesis are in fact completely contradictory (something pointed out by Rabbi Meiselman in TCS). Then the fact that you can find an imperfect parallel (first plant then man) is silly and meaningless (it's like saying that addition and multiplication is the same because 2 x 2 = 2 + 2). It also is irrelevant since it does absolutely nothing to reconcile the two worldviews.

      I would add that the order of creation of the creatures in Maaseh Breishis, interpreted literally, does not match that known from paleontology either, and I'm sure that the Rav knew that. So even if he here is only referring to the ordering of "life-emergence" he was speaking non-literally.

      You mention ideological blinders. You mistake me for someone else, at least in this area. I have no problem disagreeing with the Rav where I think he is mistaken and I don't need him to Kasher my views. If he stated that he thought that evolution was wrong because it contradicts the Torah, I would disagree with him like I disagree with you. (As an example, I disagree with his interpretation of homosexuality in this essay and elsewhere.) However, such a literalist view, imputed to the Rav, would render much of the essay unintelligible.

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    4. "Please show how I quoted out of context or how I think that the Rav was not nuanced. All I say is that he considers the two views (scientific vs. religious or man-as-plant/animal vs. man as divine) being to be complementary views of the same thing. He makes a very similar point in Halachic Mind which I quoted above. No where does he modify a detail of the science to make the resolution."

      I added bold emphasis in your statement above in order to highlight the problem--you only have two views and there is only one choice being offered--compatible or incompatible.
      This removes all the nuance because there are (in fact) three views discussed by Rav Soloveitchik:
      1) The scientific view--which EQUATES man with plant/animal resulting from the so-called theory of evolution and leaves no room for the Divine image in Man. (Again, read pages 3,4, and 5 together.)
      2) The Christian/ Medieval Jewish view which fundamentally isolates man from plant and animal and rejects any form of anthropological naturalism.
      3) The authentic religious view in the middle--based on Biblical verses and Torah Sheba'al peh which incorporates some important elements of anthropological naturalism without completely equating man with animal.

      "Secondly, why would you imagine that the Rav would be fine interpreting the inorganic parts of Maaseh Bereishis allegorically, but then suddenly become a complete literalist when it comes to the organic aspects? So the reference is completely on spot, especially when supported by my other example."

      That's a good question, but I'm surprised that after carefully reading Rav Meiselman's book,you don't know the answer yourself.

      It is eminently clear that Rav Soloveitchik is following the Rambam (Moreh II chap 30) and the Ramban who are in turn following Chazal's interpretation of the word "es". From the system of Torah Sheba'al peh, we know that the word "es" is a signal for inclusion or expansion. So Shomayim and Oretz will take on a more expanded definition to include entire realms of existence when preceded by the word "es".

      I hope you realize that this is not in anyway an allegorical interpretation. It is an expanded definition and it is based on Torah sheba'al peh and the rishonim. Rav Soloveitchik would have no permission to extend this example to anywhere else in Bereishis without a source.

      "If you are a literalist, then the story of evolution are the story of Genesis are in fact completely contradictory (something pointed out by Rabbi Meiselman in TCS). Then the fact that you can find an imperfect parallel (first plant then man) is silly and meaningless..."

      You are incorrectly assuming that Rav Soloveitchik in fact believed evolution could be reconciled with Bereishis without any modification of the story of evolution whatsoever. I have already shown that the opposite is indeed the case.
      What Rav Soloveitchik is showing is that the raw data in the fossil record (which happens to be widely believed to support the story of evolution) can equally be seen as support for the Biblical story of creation.
      I don't see why this is silly, meaningless, and irrelevant to the discussion when it reconciles Genesis with the raw data of science as opposed to the theories concocted to explain the raw data.

      Your problem is that you start out assuming that Rav Soloveitchik is trying to reconcile the theory evolution with bereishis and then twist everything he writes to fit into that assumption.
      Once you drop that assumption, you can free yourself to read the manuscript in a very straightforward manner and you can realize that Rav Soloveitchik's understanding of Bereishis follows very closely with the Ramban and Torah sheba'al peh-- and is in no way compatible with how the theory of evolution interprets the raw discovered facts of science.

      Delete
    5. 3) The authentic religious view in the middle--based on Biblical verses and Torah Sheba'al peh which incorporates some important elements of anthropological naturalism without completely equating man with animal.

      You keep repeating that. I don't disagree. But that is not incompatible with any particular scientific theory as he says that even the pure "man-as-animal" needs God.

      That's a good question, but I'm surprised that after carefully reading Rav Meiselman's book,you don't know the answer yourself.

      That's ridiculous. If you are trying to find evidence from this book for your thesis, you can't use your own thesis for support. The Rav makes no such distinction here and I don't buy Rabbi Meiselman's forced interpretation of the Rambam.

      What Rav Soloveitchik is showing is that the raw data in the fossil record (which happens to be widely believed to support the story of evolution) can equally be seen as support for the Biblical story of creation.

      Again, made up out of whole cloth. What he says is "This viewpoint is very much akin to modern science". Modern science includes evolution and an old earth, not your creation science fantasies.

      Your problem is that you start out assuming that Rav Soloveitchik is trying to reconcile the theory evolution with bereishis and then twist everything he writes to fit into that assumption.

      I make no such assumption. What he says is that scientific man-as-animal does does not contradict man-as-divine-creature since they are two aspects of man and the Torah recognizes man-as-animal. He says 3 times that evolution is not the issue, as the problem pre-existed evolution, also occurs with vitalism instead of evolution, and that evolution vs. creation can be solved.

      Your problem is that you start out assuming that evolution is anti-Torah and then twist everything he writes to fit into that assumption.
      Once you drop that assumption, you can free yourself to read the manuscript in a very straightforward manner and you can realize that Rav Soloveitchik's understanding of Bereishis is in no way incompatible with how the theory of evolution interprets the raw discovered facts of science.

      Delete
  17. Just to summarize what the Rav actually says:

    1) There is original religious view, held by the Rishonim and the Church, that man was a special creation distinct from the physical world and the animals.

    2) Science showed that man can be well described using chemistry. It also showed that man is a late coming species among a wide variety of species that emerged on earth. This appears to remove man's uniqueness. This is true for all scientific world views, even that of the vitalists who placed life in a different category from other matter.

    3) The resulting conflict of worldviews is sometimes termed "evolution vs. creation", but that is a misnomer. Evolution and the creation story of Bereishis can be resolved. The conflict is how to resolve the success in science viewing man as carbon chemistry just like other animals vs. viewing him as a special spiritual creature.

    4) The first element is that even from the viewpoint of man as an animal, he has a need for God. Thus the notion that a completely scientific viewpoint implies that man has not spiritual needs is false.

    5) The second element is that the Torah, unlike what the Rishonim claim, does not view man as exclusively spiritual and separate from the animals. Instead it also includes the man-as-animal viewpoint and in fact the first account focuses on man-as-animal.

    6) Thus the two viewpoints can be resolved as two important aspects of the same creature: Man (or rather Person since Women are equally included).

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    Replies
    1. Your summary omits a key element when you deliberately soften the pointed manner in which Rav Soloveitchik describes the scientific worldview.
      You wrote:

      "2) Science showed that man can be well described using chemistry. It also showed that man is a late coming species among a wide variety of species that emerged on earth. This appears to remove man's uniqueness. This is true for all scientific world views, even that of the vitalists who placed life in a different category from other matter."

      Compare your passive "this appears"-- implying the scientific worldview is dispassionately describing the biological facts about human beings without rendering any definitive judgments about man's nature-- with what the Rav actually says (emphasis added):

      “As a matter of fact, the contemporary scientific view insists that man emerged very late in the process of organic evolution and thus differs very little from his non-human ancestors as far as his biological existence is concerned. He is an integral part of nature. Even his so-called spiritual activities cannot lay claim to autonomy and singularity. There is no unique grant of spirituality in man. The alleged spirit is nothing but a mere illusion, an appearance, the sum total of transformed natural drives and sense experiences. Spirit, or soul, is reduced to psyche, and the latter—to a function of the biological occurrence."

      Can’t you see Rav Soloveitchik describes the scientific worldview as not merely suggesting man is no more than an animal because of "the success in science viewing man as carbon chemistry" as you claim? Can't you see he says the scientific worldview cynically asserts in a definitive manner that man IS indeed nothing more than animal?

      And this "anti-spiritual" scientific worldview --along with its modern incarnation, evolution-- is what Rav Soloveitchik immediately rejects as being irreconcilable with Judaism--as we will see.

      Continued in the next comment.

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    2. You wrote:
      "3) The resulting conflict of worldviews is sometimes termed "evolution vs. creation", but that is a misnomer. Evolution and the creation story of Bereishis can be resolved. The conflict is how to resolve the success in science viewing man as carbon chemistry just like other animals vs. viewing him as a special spiritual creature."
      You keep insisting that Rav Soloveitchik held evolution can be reconciled, but you repeatedly ignore the entire text. It reads (emphasis added):
      "Indeed, one of the most annoying scientific facts which the modern homo religious encounters and tries vainly to harmonize with his belief is the so-called theory of evolution. In our daily jargon, we call this antinomy “evolution versus creation.” The phrase does not exactly reflect the crux of the controversy, for the question does not revolve around divine creation and mechanistic evolution as such. We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy. What in fact is theoretically irreconcilable is the concept of man as the bearer of the divine image with the equaling of man and animal-plant existences. In other words, the ontic autonomy or heteronomy of man is the problem."

      Let me break down this paragraph for you so it is crystal clear.

      It starts with "Indeed..." meaning Rav Soloveitchik is following up his description of the definitely "anti-spiritual" scientific worldview of the previous paragraph. I’ll remind you that this description accused the scientific worldview of cynically denying any spiritual component within man. (see above quote) With the word “Indeed…” Rav Soloveitchik now carries that worldview directly over to evolution.

      In this follow-up paragraph Rav Soloveitchik says homo religiosus tries VAINLY to harmonize his belief with THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION. He says this black-on-white, yet you continue to ignore it.
      He immediately CLARIFIES that he is not referring to the standard conflict people talk about between mechanistic process of evolution vis-a-vis the Biblical narrative of divine creation. For that particular aspect there could be a theoretical solution. Rather, he refers to the philosophical aspect of evolution which to which there is no theoretical solution. Why? because it equates man with animals.
      Whether you like it or not, Rav Soloveitchik is 1) first describing the cynical "anti-spiritual" scientific worldview overall (which can include vitalists etc.), and 2) then procedes to single out the theory of evolution in particular. Maybe not exclusively, but in the main text, in one paragraph, he singles out one major aspect of evolution twice as irreconcilable because it completely equates man with animal and negates his spiritual component.

      I am not making anything up. I'm just quoting the paragraphs that you simply glide over as if they don't exist.

      I don't understand how you can be so obtuse as to think Rav Soloveitchik was only considering the scientific perspective as some dispassionate, non-judgmental description of man's biology that was not tied-up together with any philosophical commitments about man's essential nature and could therefore be reconciled with Judaism.
      The opposite is the case.

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    3. Dear Dovid,

      I am completely dumbfounded on how you could possibly be reading Rav Soleveitchik as you do. The pshat of the paragraph is that it is only "theoretically" impossible to "harmonize" creation with evolution. Rav Soleveitchik is setting out to test the hypothesis that he can harmonize the two, that is that it is possible, as a Jew of good faith to both accept the physical reality of evolution (I hope that you are not arguing the physical evidence that supports evolution) and remain a Jew of good faith.

      The sentence "tries vainly to harmonize" is there to state the problem, NOT TO SAY THAT THERE IS NO SOLUTION.

      Let me try to paraphrase what Rav Soleveitchik is saying with that sentence:

      The modern religious thinker struggles with what appears to be two contradictory ideas, creation and evolution. On the surface, these two ideas seem to contradict each other, either religious man believes in creation or he believes in evolution. Theoretically, he cannot believe in both.

      (Actually, as I read the paragraph again, that is not exactly accurate, since Rav Soleveitchik then writes that "We could find a solution of some kind to this controversy." What Rav Soleveitchik is in fact setting out to demonstrate is that it is possible to synthesise a mechanistic understanding of evolution with man as a bearer of the divine image. Again: He is not stating that the two are incompatible, he is outlining the problem (theoretical contradiction) he is intending to resolve.)

      The solution that Rav Soloveitchik proposes is to superimpose a divine image onto an animal man.

      Here let me help with your understanding:
      Antinomy: a contradiction between two beliefs or conclusions that are in themselves reasonable; a paradox.

      Delete
    4. "2) Science showed that man can be well described using chemistry. It also showed that man is a late coming species among a wide variety of species that emerged on earth. This appears to remove man's uniqueness. This is true for all scientific world views, even that of the vitalists who placed life in a different category from other matter."

      Compare your passive "this appears"-- implying the scientific worldview is dispassionately describing the biological facts about human beings without rendering any definitive judgments about man's nature-- with what the Rav actually says (emphasis added):

      “As a matter of fact, the contemporary scientific view insists that man emerged very late in the process of organic evolution and thus differs very little from his non-human ancestors as far as his biological existence is concerned. He is an integral part of nature. Even his so-called spiritual activities cannot lay claim to autonomy and singularity. There is no unique grant of spirituality in man. The alleged spirit is nothing but a mere illusion, an appearance, the sum total of transformed natural drives and sense experiences. Spirit, or soul, is reduced to psyche, and the latter—to a function of the biological occurrence."


      Yes you are quoting his setup where sets up what he calls the "antimony": two solid logical conclusion that, paradoxically, contradict one another. He then goes on to try to propose a resolution: both viewpoints are valid and the Torah, properly viewed, embraces the man-as-plant/animal viewpoint. That is why I call I say "this appears"; it is because he provides a possible resolution.

      Can’t you see Rav Soloveitchik describes the scientific worldview as not merely suggesting man is no more than an animal because of "the success in science viewing man as carbon chemistry" as you claim? Can't you see he says the scientific worldview cynically asserts in a definitive manner that man IS indeed nothing more than animal?

      Yes he absolutely does and he is correct. Science has no room for "this patient died because God intervened here". That is not an scientific explanation. He then resolves the problem, not by saying that science is an invalid approach to reality, but by making room for both viewpoints to co-exist. I quoted a bunch of material above to this effect. The paragraph that you and Rabbi Meiselman quote is the setup of the problem (antimony) that he is going to solve in the sequel.

      BTW, he never calls the scientific PoV cynical. That is your addition to make it appear that he could never provide a resolution.

      In this follow-up paragraph Rav Soloveitchik says homo religiosus tries VAINLY to harmonize his belief with THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION. He says this black-on-white, yet you continue to ignore it.
      He immediately CLARIFIES that he is not referring to the standard conflict people talk about between mechanistic process of evolution vis-a-vis the Biblical narrative of divine creation. For that particular aspect there could be a theoretical solution. Rather, he refers to the philosophical aspect of evolution which to which there is no theoretical solution. Why? because it equates man with animals.


      Correct, so we see again the the problem has nothing specifically to do with evolution, but rather rejecting the autonomy of man which is a feature of all "the modern scientific viewpoint" and "is looked upon as a postulate of all chemical sciences". This is all in the setup of the problem he seeks to solve.

      Delete

    5. Whether you like it or not, Rav Soloveitchik is 1) first describing the cynical "anti-spiritual" scientific worldview overall (which can include vitalists etc.), and 2) then procedes to single out the theory of evolution in particular. Maybe not exclusively, but in the main text, in one paragraph, he singles out one major aspect of evolution twice as irreconcilable because it completely equates man with animal and negates his spiritual component.

      He does precisely the opposite. He says that modern homo religiosus tries vainly to harmonize his belief with evolution, but that this is entirely missing the point (in fact he appears to say that the reason that the effort is in vain is that the effort misses the main problem). The main problem is the rejection of the autonomy of man which is implicit in all of modern science (I gave the quotes already).


      I am not making anything up. I'm just quoting the paragraphs that you simply glide over as if they don't exist.

      You did make up the "cynical" part. You also made up the part where evolution is somehow more of an issue than the rest of "all chemical sciences".

      But your main error is not in "making anything up", but by making the same error that TCS makes: you take the description of that antimony as a ending point instead of a starting point for the Rav's contribution which is the resolution of this problem.

      I don't understand how you can be so obtuse as to think Rav Soloveitchik was only considering the scientific perspective as some dispassionate, non-judgmental description of man's biology that was not tied-up together with any philosophical commitments about man's essential nature and could therefore be reconciled with Judaism.
      The opposite is the case.


      Of course, that is the setup of his problem. He then answers it.

      Just to make to make it a bit clearer the resolution is something like this: man can be reduced to carbon chemistry from the scientific viewpoint, but that doesn't mean that man is not also the bearer of the divine image: "God take the man-animal into his confidence addresses him and reveals to him his moral will". And man is described in the Torah as possessing Tzelem Elokim, but he is also described as an animal and a product of nature: "First let us analyze the immanence of man, namely his confluence with nature, Mother Earth".

      Delete
    6. R. Kornreich: I'm trying to understand what you're saying. Is it that, according to Rav Soloveichik, the theoretically reconcilable aspect of evolution is the derivation of man's physical body from animals, and the IRreconcilable aspect is the evolutionists' claim that man is nothing more than an animal?

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    7. @Yossi: "I hope that you are not arguing the physical evidence that supports evolution". Unfortunately he does, and he is trying to use this text as a support for his position. For example:

      "Common ancestry is considered to be as well established as many other historical facts by most scientists because 1) scientists in general are very eager to give everyone the impression that their theory has much firmer basis in fact than it actually does, and 2) they are incapable of rating the relative strength of their theories when they lack basic training in logic and critical thinking. (Especially evolutionists--too many to document here, but this one is typical of the genre.)"

      Rabbi Kornreich, please correct me if I misrepresent your position here.

      Delete
    8. @David Ohsie:
      Here you say:
      "Yes you are quoting his setup where sets up what he calls the "antimony": two solid logical conclusion that, paradoxically, contradict one another. He then goes on to try to propose a resolution: both viewpoints are valid and the Torah, properly viewed, embraces the man-as-plant/animal viewpoint. That is why I call I say "this appears"; it is because he provides a possible resolution."

      But in our earlier exchange you commented:
      http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2016/08/an-assault-on-truth.html?showComment=1473130852715#c4645480915473672091
      "More importantly, you miss the Rav's entire purpose. He is describing an "antimony" (he explicitly calls it one on top of page 5). An antimony has thesis and an antithesis can can't be resolved by picking one or the other. Instead some fundamental assumptions must be changed to avoid the conflict."

      SO which is it? Is there a resolution where both positions co-exist and the conflict is shown to be a mere illusion? Or is the conflict real and a fundamental adjustment has to be made?

      I truly believe that an honest reading of the entire section tells us the conflict is real--not illusory. Judaism cannot accept the scientific worldview (which included evolution) that man equals animal with no spiritual component. This fundamental assumption of the scientific view (and evolution) must be changed.
      But this approach need not simply throw out all anthropological naturalism altogether, as the Church fathers etc. did.

      The real solution, Rav Soloveitchik says explicitly at the end, is to look at the verses carefully and see that there is some basis to the scientific view in looking at man-as-animal. Yes, the Torah corroborates this view of man, but without the philosophical assumptions of science/evolution--leaving room for man to bear the imprint of the Divine image.
      But I will say it again. Rav Soloveitchik's entire discussion is about the nature of man. He concedes that the Torah acknolwedges that man has an animal nature. Nothing about ma's origins.
      @Yossi:
      I am not arguing the physical evidence that supports evolution here in this discussion about Rav Soloveitchik's views. Leave it out.

      Delete
    9. To Ploni--(sorry I took so long before responding):

      "R. Kornreich: I'm trying to understand what you're saying. Is it that, according to Rav Soloveichik, the theoretically reconcilable aspect of evolution is the derivation of man's physical body from animals, and the IRreconcilable aspect is the evolutionists' claim that man is nothing more than an animal?"

      Unfortunately, Rav Soloveitchik is completely ambiguous as to which aspect of evolution he felt was reconcilable with Judaism.

      He mentions the "mechanistic process" of evolution being resolved with Divine creation. He doesn't say if the resolution involves an acceptance of a physcial mechanistic process or a metaphysical one (like hishtalshelus for instance).

      So my point is that nothing Rav Soloveitchik says here even hints to an acceptance of common ancestry for human beings in particular, even though Rabbi Slifkin often makes it out to be as if it does.

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    10. @David Ohsie:
      Here you say:
      "Yes you are quoting his setup where sets up what he calls the "antimony": two solid logical conclusion that, paradoxically, contradict one another. He then goes on to try to propose a resolution: both viewpoints are valid and the Torah, properly viewed, embraces the man-as-plant/animal viewpoint. That is why I call I say "this appears"; it is because he provides a possible resolution."

      But in our earlier exchange you commented:
      http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2016/08/an-assault-on-truth.html?showComment=1473130852715#c4645480915473672091
      "More importantly, you miss the Rav's entire purpose. He is describing an "antimony" (he explicitly calls it one on top of page 5). An antimony has thesis and an antithesis can can't be resolved by picking one or the other. Instead some fundamental assumptions must be changed to avoid the conflict."

      SO which is it? Is there a resolution where both positions co-exist and the conflict is shown to be a mere illusion? Or is the conflict real and a fundamental adjustment has to be made?

      I truly believe that an honest reading of the entire section tells us the conflict is real--not illusory.


      The reminds me of the old joke about mathematics (Rabbi Meiselman will be familiar with it or a variant): Everything in mathematics is either a difficult unsolved problem or is trivial. Before you have the proof, no one knows whether or not the conjecture is true; once you have a proof, anyone can verify it. Of course, the fallacy that the joke is based on is that just because a problem was solved doesn't mean that the question was really easy and the problem an illusion.

      Similarly, the fact that he provides a resolution (or what he believes is a resolution) is the problem doesn't mean that there was no problem to begin with. He says explicitly that he is tearing down a false assumption about religion that persisted for hundreds of years at least among the greatest Chachmei Torah (as well as great thinkers of the Church).

      Just to bring a similar example from science, there was a real crisis in science based an implication of Maxwell's equations: light is propagated at a definite speed "c" regardless of the movements of the generator of the light. This seems to contradict the principle of relativity that had held since Galileo's time: this would mean that you could tell how fast you are moving by measuring how fast light is going by you. If it was going by at 9/10 * c, then you must be traveling 1/10 * c in the other direction. So which is wrong, c or relativity?

      Turns out that they are both right. You need to change some assumptions about how time works, but after you work it all out there is no more contradiction. Of course that doesn't mean that there was no problem to begin with.

      Delete

    11. Judaism cannot accept the scientific worldview (which included evolution) that man equals animal with no spiritual component.

      You've already set this up wrong. It is not a question of what Judaism can accept. Judaism can accept any truth and you can't reject a truth just because you can't resolve it with your view of Judaism. If you can't resolve it, you are simply left with a question. That is why it is an antimony.

      The proper way to state the actual real-life problem that people dealt with is as follows:

      A) Religion places man in a special position as a spiritual being above the animals.

      B) All of the biological sciences successfully analyze a person as a function of carbon chemistry just like the other animals. That a person seems to obey all the same laws that inanimate objects do was an extremely surprising result.

      You can't just wave away B because because it is inconvenient to your religious viewpoint. You have to explain the apparent success of science and square it with the religious view somehow.

      This fundamental assumption of the scientific view (and evolution) must be changed.
      But this approach need not simply throw out all anthropological naturalism altogether, as the Church fathers etc. did.

      The real solution, Rav Soloveitchik says explicitly at the end, is to look at the verses carefully and see that there is some basis to the scientific view in looking at man-as-animal. Yes, the Torah corroborates this view of man, but without the philosophical assumptions of science/evolution--leaving room for man to bear the imprint of the Divine image.


      You are again providing your solution (really handwaving as you don't actually mention what in chemistry, biology, etc. has to be changed nor how that changed scientific view can still serve to explain all the phenomena that are currently explained).

      I don't need to rehash what he actually says because I've quoted it ad nauseum above, but basically: 1) Chemical based man still needs God (this resolves your science excluding spiritual man.) 2) Judaism includes a long description of man as animal and this is actually one of the Torah viewpoints of man.

      Again, read Halakhic Mind. This is the approach he takes:

      "When we speak of a conflict between philosophy and science, we do not have in mind a controversy concerning scientific data which philosophy would interpret in a manner alien to science. Modern philosophy neither pretends omniscience nor countenances the audacity to doubt in the least the validity of scientific statements. It is not inclined to repeat the fatal errors of the Hegelian school which attempted to defy the empiricist. Philosophy is well aware of the fact that it is impossible to derive scientific data from any a priori process of cognition. Nor is the issue between philosophy and science the problem of whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

      @Yossi:
      I am not arguing the physical evidence that supports evolution here in this discussion about Rav Soloveitchik's views. Leave it out.


      Of course you are. You can't simply reject a conclusion without providing a reason. Or you can, but then who cares?

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    12. Let's be clear here what is being discussed. Meiselman states that Rav Soleveitchic position is

      "Mori veRebbi, ztz”l, totally rejected the conception of man implicit in evolution. As a result he would not even consider the evolutionary account of human origins. G-d would never have endowed a being that was not a unique creation with Tzelem Elokkin (a Divine image)….

      "The radical difference between man that the rest of the animal kingdom necessitated, in hs view, a separate creation. A hairless anthropoid descended from animal ancestors could never be the nearer of Tzelem Elokim. An entirely new creation was required."

      So when you write "Rav Soloveitchik's entire discussion is about the nature of man. He concedes that the Torah acknolwedges that man has an animal nature. Nothing about ma's origins." you are rejecting Meiselman's position? It seems to me that Meiselman is asserting that man is outside of the creation of animal, that is man-animal does not exist. Where if I understand you correctly you are saying that man-animal does exist, but the Rav Soloveitchik simply had no comment about the origins of man.

      I will agree, that I don't see any explicit statement from Rav Soloveitchik accepting evolution. But he does write, quite explicitly that man is not any different from animal or plant in his/her origin. He further states that this is a normative position in Jewish theology. Here is what he writes:

      "Surveying the history of the problem of man’s autonomy or heteronomy (which came to the fore long before Darwin, when people were ignorant of evolution), we notice that this problem troubled Christian theologians more than Jewish scholars. (page 6) The naturalistic formula of man was to a certain extent common knowledge among Hazal, who did not resent it, while Christian theologians … are still struggling with the secularization of human existence by scientific research. The reason lies in the discrepancy between the Jewish Bible and the Christian gospels,… The Hebrew Bible is cognizant of man as a natural being found on the same plane as the animal and the plant. Indeed, such an idea is a motivating force Jewish ethics and metaphysics. The nihility, instability, helplessness and vulnerability of man – human life and death – are popular themes of prophets who contrast him with the eternity, unchangeability everlasting life and omnipotence of the Creator. All those negative traits suggest the naturalness and immanence of man rather than his spirituality and transcendence. Such phrases as

      Man is like a breath IPs. 144:4)

      All flesh is grass, and all its grace is as the flower of the field…the grass withers, the flower fades but the word of our G-d shall stand forever… (Isa. 40:6-7)

      So that man has no pre-emminence over a beast: for all is vanity not epithet of human-divine character. They denote the common fate of man, animal and plant, the cycle of birth, growth, deterioration and death. As a matter of fact, the terms shokhei batei chomer, “those who dwell in houses of clay” (Job 4:19), benei temutah, “those who are appointed to die” (Ps. 79:11), ben adam, adam, and basar (flesh) all involve the basic concept of man as a natural being.

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    13. "R. Kornreich: I'm trying to understand what you're saying. Is it that, according to Rav Soloveichik, the theoretically reconcilable aspect of evolution is the derivation of man's physical body from animals, and the IRreconcilable aspect is the evolutionists' claim that man is nothing more than an animal?"

      Unfortunately, Rav Soloveitchik is completely ambiguous as to which aspect of evolution he felt was reconcilable with Judaism.


      I wonder why that would be?

      He mentions the "mechanistic process" of evolution being resolved with Divine creation. He doesn't say if the resolution involves an acceptance of a physcial mechanistic process or a metaphysical one (like hishtalshelus for instance).

      The metaphysical mechanistic process of evolution?

      The Rav speaks of man-plant, man-animal, but you've taken it further: with these contortions, you've created the man-pretzel.

      So my point is that nothing Rav Soloveitchik says here even hints to an acceptance of common ancestry for human beings in particular, even though Rabbi Slifkin often makes it out to be as if it does.

      How about the fact that it can be resolved with the Biblical account of creation? But you shifted the goal posts again; the question was whether or not we see a out-of-hand rejection of evolution. We do not.

      Delete
  18. "I don't understand how you can be so obtuse as to think Rav Soloveitchik was only considering the scientific perspective as some dispassionate, non-judgmental description of man's biology that was not tied-up together with any philosophical commitments about man's essential nature and could therefore be reconciled with Judaism.
    The opposite is the case."

    Here, let me help you with that.

    “ Perhaps more than man-as-a-divine person, man-as-an-animal needs religious faith and commitment to a higher authority. G-d takes man-animal into His confidence, addresses him and reveals to him His moral code.”

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  19. Rabbi Kornreich, I really think that you could profit by reading (or reviewing) Halakhic Mind. He is quite explicit there about regarding the scientific and religious approaches as two valid but different cognitive approaches to reality.

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    1. according to the Zohar (coroborated by the Ari and Rav Frisch) it could be that the scientific approach if proven correct would not contradict the Torah account of the creation of Adam, because it took place in the world of Yetsirah, and only after the sin of Ets Hadaath did Adam go in a body in this world, and the Torah doesn't speak at all of the origin of this body.

      Delete
    2. So does that mean we should regard the scientific approach to man which insists he has no soul and no spiritual component whatsoever as valid? That his need for G-d is simply an psychic delusion wrought by chemical processes?

      Are you really saying this, David?
      Are you really saying this is what the Rav believed?

      Delete
  20. could somebody provide a decent link to a pdf (or ebook) version of "the emergence of the ethical man" thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could someone help me in my copyright violation :).

      More seriously, you may have to go out an purchase a copy or borrow one. You can find used for about 20USD if you are in the US.

      Delete
  21. Rabbi Kornreich wrote:

    You cite the Rav's true position:
    "...Nor is the issue between philosophy and science the problem of whether the scientist has the right to interpret phenomena in accord with his vantage point and method. The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality."

    So please tell me David:
    Do you mean to imply with this quote that even though the Rav has said repeatedly that the scientific interpretation of man leads to their insistence that man has no soul and his experience of spirituality is a mere illusion, nevertheless, Judaism must accept this because philosophy cannot deprive science the right to view reality as they see it?


    1) You again quote from the setup of the problem before the resolution.

    2) Have you read Halackic Mind? His thesis is that there are different cognitive methods which will each discover truths in different realms. So (for example) the scientific models of the world can be 100% correct without being able to (for example) reach God. The religious models of the world, based on religious experience (which the Rav argues has a cognitive component) can reach Him. So the fact that the scientific model does not include something that the homo religious perceives doesn't mean that it is wrong; it just means that it is incomplete. The religious worldview is similarly incomplete: for example, it tells you nothing about quarks or the conservation of angular momentum.

    You can argue differently and say that if religion says one thing and an science doesn't admit of that concept, then there is an inherent contradiction. But if you want to understand the Rav's thought, then you need to understand what he wrote, not what you imagine.

    3) He specifically talks about this and says that the scientific model of man-animal does *not* exclude a relationship with God (and that it is a mistake to think so). He appears to be addressing your point directly in the part of the essay where he starts his resolution. While I hesitate again to attempt to "explain" the Rav, he appears to be saying that notion of "contradiction" between man-animal an a spiritual component is a fallacy; the man-animal model doesn't discovery man's relationship to God (that falls in the realm of religious cognition) but does not exclude it either; on the contrary scientifically discovered man-animal especially needs God. This is further bolstered by the fact that the same PoV about man being on the animal plane is found throughout Tanakh in his opinion.

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  22. I'm not arguing that an atheistic scientist has no right to view man as just another animal.

    When the Rav speaks of "rights" he is not talking about the civil rights or the morality of people. He is talk about whether he is correct or incorrect. Based on the quotation from Halackic Mind is that the "athetistic scientist" (assuming he is a competent scientist and not bungling or erring) is correct in his view of man as animal and his conclusions are not questioned by religion. ("Modern philosophy neither pretends omniscience nor countenances the audacity to doubt in the least the validity of scientific statements.").

    However, he is wrong if he thinks that his model is exclusive and that claim of homo religiosus to discover a relationship between man and God is proven incorrect by his man-animal model ("The problem is, rather whether the scientist's interpretation is to be exclusive, thus eliminating any other cognitive approach to reality.").

    I'm talking about what Judaism can accept. I don't see where this quote shows that Judaism has to accept the scientific view on anything.

    "When we speak of a conflict between philosophy and science, we do not have in mind a controversy concerning scientific data which philosophy would interpret in a manner alien to science. Modern philosophy neither pretends omniscience nor countenances the audacity to doubt in the least the validity of scientific statements. It is not inclined to repeat the fatal errors of the Hegelian school which attempted to defy the empiricist."

    Please stop repeatedly trying to derail the discussion with this red herring from Halachic Mind.

    Quotations demonstrating that the Rav's worldview is in contradiction with yours are not red herrings. In any case, I myself prefer the pickled kind.

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