Monday, August 28, 2017

Aboriginal Abraham

In my previous post, Torah and Alaska, I explained how according to Rambam, the special status of the Jewish People is only due to the fact that their ancestor Avraham discovered and revealed ethical monotheism, which merited them being rewarded with the Torah. Had it instead been, say, an Alaskan Inuk called Akkituyuk who discovered and revealed ethical monotheism, then God would have chosen Akkituyuk's descendants to be His nation.

It's interesting to think about the different ways that Judaism could have turned out. Had it been an Australian Aboriginal called Alambee who had discovered and revealed ethical monotheism, then Judaism would have turned out very different indeed, due to the enormous differences between Australia and the rest of the world. In the previous post, I noted that the laws of kashrus would likely have been very different, since there are no indigenous cloven-hoofed ruminants in Australia.

But what about shofar? There are likewise no indigenous Australian animals with horns. So if Judaism would have originated in Australia, then the shofar would presumable have been one of these:






This is a didgeridoo, which I just acquired in Australia. They don't normally look this shofar-like - they are usually straighter, of uniform thickness throughout their length, and often much longer. I bought this one for the shofar exhibit at The Biblical Museum of Natural History, as a example of a non-kosher shofar! It isn't an animal horn - it's made from the branches of certain trees that have been hollowed out by termites. So it's not kosher for a shofar, because ethical monotheism was initiated by Abraham. But, in an alternate universe, it might have been a kosher shofar!

(Of course, we don't say this at the museum. The museum tour is designed to be suitable for people of all communities, including those for whom such Maimonidean notions would be unpalatable.)

You can download my monograph about the kashrus of exotic shofars at this link. (It has not been updated to discuss didgeridoos!)

145 comments:

  1. Given the likelihood of life on other planets, perhaps there is an Andromedan Avraham as well.

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    1. Do you believe there is life on other planets? (ie, intelligent life that can build, communicate, transmit knowledge across time and space, etc.)

      RNS - do you?

      (I don't)

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    2. We have exactly one sample of a planet with life. How can you possibly determine the likelihood of life on other planets?

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    3. Do you believe there is life on other planets? (ie, intelligent life that can build, communicate, transmit knowledge across time and space, etc.)

      I believe there is a good chance.

      We can look at this in two ways:

      1) Live evolved on Earth through natural processes. Given the vast number of stars with planets in the habitable zone and the very long age of the Universe, there is a good chance that one other had or has intelligent life.

      2) Life was specifically added to Earth by God in some way. But the universe is much more vast than needed for any human purpose. Even the Rambam, who didn't understand how vast the universe is or the existence of other earthlike planets, cautioned against thinking the Universe was created for man. Why would we then assume that Earth is the only place where life was created by God?

      I'm interested to hear why you believe that there is no intelligent life on other planets.

      We have exactly one sample of a planet with life. How can you possibly determine the likelihood of life on other planets?

      We can't yet determine the exact likelihood. What we can determine is that all of the conditions which seem to be needed for life to exist probably exist on a very, very large number of other planets in the universe (like 50 sextillion). This is an area of intensive research, so check back in 10 years and see where we are then.

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    4. The reason I don't believe in it is because belief in ET life is part and parcel of all the many other beliefs many Americans once believed in, in a more optimistic/naïve time. Buck Rogers stuff, like colonies on the moon, living underwater, universal moving sidewalks, daily space-travel for all, etc. I like sci-fi, and all this stuff was part of the golden age of science fiction, beginning with Verne and basically ending or beginning to end in the late 1960s. Belief in life on other planets was part of that standard belief-system.

      And none of that ever happened, nor will it ever. With exceptions acknowledged, the one thing all those lovable sci-fi nerds had in common was that they were total atheists. And no one ever said it better than Chesterton: "When a man ceases to believe in God, it isn't the case that be no longer believes in everything. Rather, be begins to believe in anything."

      Can you be religious and still believe in this stuff? Of course. I read the Aryeh Kaplan books, too. I even remember the cool citations Reb Aryeh, z'l, dug up to support the concept.[You can find citations to support literally any theory, you know.] At the end of the day, though, the whole concept was just a product of a bygone era, when the universe was still large. Like the Loch Ness Monster, whom you also never hear about it anymore, we know better today. The space age and NASA is more or less dead. Houston has much bigger problems to contend with than flying to the Moon. The space exploration age is dead, and along with it, any fantasies of making contact with the Martians.



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    5. DF: Thank you for answering. Your arguments all seems to revolve around the type of people who might inclined to believe in extra-terrestrial life. Do you have any thoughts the scientific basis for the possibility for life on other planets?

      While it is true that we are not trying to make contact with Martians, this is because we went to Mars and didn't find any. We are still spending money to investigate the possibility of life on an earlier Mars when liquid water would have been present. We are also busy searching for extra-solar planets in the habitable zone of their respective stars where it is believed that life could be present.

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    6. I don't have enough knowledge to weigh in on the scientific possibility of life on other planets. However, I also don't think every belief needs to be couched in scientific terms, and to the contrary, if often seems to me [and so I have said here] that science is just another form of religion. In short, like emunah generally, I don't think the existence or non existence can be proved or disproved. For me, because of what I said previously, I just don't believe it.

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    7. If you believe that science is just another form of religion, you either do not understand science, or you do not understand religion. Also, your reasoning above as to why you do not believe in extraterrestrial life is entirely without valid logic.

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    8. If so, go sign up for a freshman physics class and find out. You can take the one based on high school math. You get to do the experiments yourself to verify everything that you learn.

      If that is too much, watch Feynman explain the basics of how science works in these videos.

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  2. Aborigines have a very low IQ and violent disposition. There is no way an aboriginy could have come close to Abraham. What are you saying?

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    1. You are a bigot and you are ignorant. How could possibly be close to anything resembling a Yirei Shamayim?

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    2. Dear Rav Slifkin,

      Can you please delete this obscene, odious,offensive and ignorant comment from Yakov. It does your Blog (nor you reputation) no credit that it appears on your moderated forum.

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    3. R Slifkin generally doesn't moderate for content. You will find plenty of heresy in the comments, too, by an orthodox standard. There is unfortunately (IMO) lots of racism within orthodoxy, so you'll find those comments here. You'll also find people that push back, thank God.

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    4. You are both wrong. Australian Aborigines commit violent crime at 14 times the rate of other Australians, who are not - globally speaking - an especially low crime society. Their mean IQ is 62. So Yaakov is not 'ignorant', his comment is not "obscene" and in no way indicates he lacks fear of heaven.

      However, Yakov is incorrect in his inference. There are Australian Aborigines with PhDs. Not many, but some. Bottom line: if you don't understand bell curves, you don't understand anything.

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    5. IQ tests don't carry over from one culture to another. Once one corrects for diet (malnutrition negatively affects brain development) and education, how do Aboriginals stack up? As for violence, it's an irrelevant detail. We have no knowledge of the prevalence of violence in Avraham's time.

      Thus, even mentioning these things shows a level of bigotry and ignorance.

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    6. 1) "We have no knowledge of the prevalence of violence in Avraham's time."

      I think you meant to use a first person singular there.

      2) "IQ tests don't carry over from one culture to another. Once one corrects for diet (malnutrition negatively affects brain development) and education, how do Aboriginals stack up"

      Woah! Great insight. It's a good job you're here to point it out to the tens of thousands of people who have been working for more than a hundred years to refine the science of intelligence measuring.

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    7. Woah! Great insight. It's a good job you're here to point it out to the tens of thousands of people who have been working for more than a hundred years to refine the science of intelligence measuring.

      This is a completely empty and absurd answer. Even obvious objections can be fatal. Intelligence tests are not scaled by caloric intake. Astrologists have been working for thousands of years to refine astrology. Ditto for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

      Tens of thousands of researchers have been trying to confirm Gavriel M's racial theories? Your definition of researcher is probably very inexact or your ability to count is wanting.

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    8. You know, since literally all the evidence points to the word being billions of years old, I kind of think maybe it is billions of years old.

      Haredim: You are impious and have bad motives!

      You know, since literally all the evidence points to substantial cognitive and behavioral differences between groups that were reproductively separate for 50,000--250,000 years under different evolutionary pressures, and since this is exactly what we would predict given natural selection and genetic drift, I think maybe these difference actually exist are are not illusions created by the sky demon of racism.

      David Ohsie: You are impious and have bad motives!

      Even obvious objections can be fatal.

      David Ohsie knows more than these "scientists" with their "data" and "research". G-d told him that people are equal. It says right here in the Torah, ummm, somewhere. Did I mention that anyone who disagrees has no yiras shamayaim?

      This is a good deal more embarrassing than watching climate change deniers waffle about sunspots.

      Intelligence tests are not scaled by caloric intake.
      Wow. Either they're all total idiots. Or you are.

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    9. You know, since literally all the evidence points to the word being billions of years old, I kind of think maybe it is billions of years old.

      Haredim: You are impious and have bad motives!


      Since A is well supported but opposed by some, and B is opposed by some, therefore it must also be well supported.

      You know, since literally all the evidence points to substantial cognitive and behavioral differences between groups that were ...

      You've already gone off the rails. There are differences in population statistics between groups. The "that were ..." part is where the speculation begins. There are many, many differences between groups, some genetic, some not. "That were X" doesn't mean the X is the cause. They underlying causes of the Flynn effect, for example, may also be an explanation. It is untrue that "literally all the evidence" points towards your preferred theory, and certainly not towards your support for enslavement of "inferiors". As an aside, you support this theory and practice for groups not "reproductively separate for 50,000 years".

      David Ohsie: You are impious and have bad motives!

      I don't assert that and that wouldn't make a difference to the truth of your arguments. It is true that enacting your political program would be morally repugnant. Bad motives are a possibility given where your own social groups falls within your hierarchy, but this is not the basis of my argument.

      Even obvious objections can be fatal.

      David Ohsie knows more than these "scientists" with their "data" and "research".


      I stated something correct. Just because something is obvious doesn't mean it is not an valid objection.

      G-d told him that people are equal. It says right here in the Torah, ummm, somewhere. Did I mention that anyone who disagrees has no yiras shamayaim?

      Where did I state that? In fact, it appears to me that many who have Yiras Shamayim unfortunately seem to grant themselves a superiority over others that I find repugnant. But that I never based any argument on that.

      This is a good deal more embarrassing than watching climate change deniers waffle about sunspots.

      This one flew over my head.

      Intelligence tests are not scaled by caloric intake.
      Wow. Either they're all total idiots. Or you are.

      What?

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    10. David Ohsie: The fact that that you are literally incapable of having a conversation on a certain topic without introducing your hallucinations about what someone has said on an entirely different topic is indicative of the fact that you are an obscurantist religious fanatic. Unfortunately, your religion is not any branch of Judaism (which for some reason, best known to you, you adhere to as some sort of lifestyle thing).

      Racial differences in intelligence ate settled science. Denying them is actually significantly more extreme than denying the world is billions of years old. It is more akin to denying that the world is flat.

      Where did I state that?
      In fairness, I was equating you with Avi so I will retract that.

      Just because something is obvious doesn't mean it is not an valid objection.

      It is genuinely hilarious when IQ denialists who know literally nothing about the subject whatsoever try to overturn decades of research with silly objections that they pull out of their imagination, with no awareness of how arrogant and boorish this is.

      Further, this is now the 100th time where you have willfully lied about my views on slavery. Really, just stop.

      To deal with your particular silly suggestion, indexing IQ tests by calorific intake would not make any difference to measured gaps in intelligence between racial groups because:
      (1) Diet has been shown to have minimal impact on IQ beyond mid adolescence, except in cases of severe malnutrition. To make clear what I mean, dietary interventions have been shown to increase performance in primary school, but these gains disappear entirely by about age 15.
      2) The groups whose score you want to bump up do not have a low calorific intake. 31% of Aborigines are obese.

      TBH, I don't even understand where this objection comes from. Is it your observation that fat people are generally smarter than thin people? With the exception of Islam, equalism has to be the stupidest religion there is.

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    11. Racial differences in intelligence are settled science.

      If by that you mean that measured differences in groups are genetically wired, then this is simply false.

      Further, this is now the 100th time where you have willfully lied about my views on slavery. Really, just stop.

      You intentionally don't speak clearly, so I could certainly be stating something slightly different from your position. You have explicitly advocated for slavery, opposed the grant of civil rights to African-Americans, and advocated for the importance of recognizing the supposed fact that blacks and other groups are intellectually inferior on average to your group. If you want to make your position clearer, then please do so. I mention your positions because someone coming in with no context will have trouble deciphering what you mean without the context. If you supplied the context yourself, then this would not be necessary.

      Diet has been shown to have minimal impact on IQ beyond mid adolescence, except in cases of severe malnutrition. To make clear what I mean, dietary interventions have been shown to increase performance in primary school, but these gains disappear entirely by about age 15.

      I don't really trust anything that you claim as fact, but let's go with this arguendo. I want to show why you don't understand how science works.

      What that study (if true) would show is not that diet doesn't influence intelligence. What it shows is that we don't have a clear handle on what is going on. Why would diet changes affect early intelligence but not later intelligence? Is our intervention actually effective at all ages to equalize the environments between the groups? Perhaps the intervention was simply less effective in equalizing the environments? Perhaps it is effective, but then the older kids are missing other intellectual support correlated with the poor diet, but not addressed by the intervention.

      Also you need to understand that "has been shown" in areas like nutrition and human behavior in general are very weak. You are dealing with a super complicated system over which you are very limited in your ability to control or measure. You can't treat humans like guinea pigs (any more) so you are simply left with lots of uncertainty.

      I'm not an advocate of "equalism". I'm an opponent of slavery, and opponent of mistreating "others" and skeptical of our ability to, at this time, disentangle nature from nurture on any topic especially at the group level. I also think that it makes almost no policy difference and that most people are concerned about this issue in order to find a reason to defend white supremacist theory and practice. I don't think that real scientists who have looked into this like Arthur Jensen or Charles Murray have that motivation, but that doesn't make their conclusions correct. I endorse the view of Thomas Sowell expressed in many places, among them here.


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    12. "IQ tests don't carry over from one culture to another. Once one corrects for diet (malnutrition negatively affects brain development) and education, how do Aboriginals stack up?"

      Sure. We heard the same thing for years about African-Americans. That any difference in intelligence, crime rate, etc., between them and Caucasian-Americans can all be attributed to income disparity, culture, blah blah blah. [As if all whites are rich and upper class, but lets ignore that inconvenient truth.] The problem is that there are plenty of black children with wealthy parents, with every privilege you can think of. Do you know how those children stack up against whites? Of course not. Because organized "science" and its big-money enablers don't want to know the answer. They prefer to rely on trolls like you who try to bully people away from exercising their free speech.

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    13. Sure. We heard the same thing for years about African-Americans. That any difference in intelligence, crime rate, etc., between them and Caucasian-Americans can all be attributed to income disparity, culture, blah blah blah. [As if all whites are rich and upper class, but lets ignore that inconvenient truth.] The problem is that there are plenty of black children with wealthy parents, with every privilege you can think of. Do you know how those children stack up against whites? Of course not. Because organized "science" and its big-money enablers don't want to know the answer. They prefer to rely on trolls like you who try to bully people away from exercising their free speech.

      DF, are you claiming it is proven that observed differences between groups are based solely on genetics? If so, how do you prove that other explanations are not possible? For example, how do you deal with the Flynn effect?

      Since you are skeptical of the ability for science to properly analyze complex phenomena, what gives you such confidence in your analysis of human behavior which is one of the most complex phenomenon that we encounter.

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    14. Intelligence tests need to be culturally sensitive to the person being tested. How one interprets a question effects their answers. What may seem like a simple maths question, depending on the wording may have a whole different meaning to the person taking the test. As an example:
      An apartment has 3 bedrooms, each with twin beds in them. How many people can sleep in the house.

      Now to me, the question reads
      count how many people can sleep in beds in the house
      and the answer will be six

      However, some people, with different cultural expectations might not automatically assume that people only sleep in beds, thus when the question asks "how many people can sleep in the house?" the answer is "as many as can fit" (or the largest number on the multiple choice items.

      Alternatively, my answer assumes that two people can sleep in a double bed, because a double bed has a specific meaning to me, meaning a bed that sleeps two. If I am not mistaken, an American would call a bed that sleeps 1 person a twin bed, while in Australia this is called a single bed. Thus culturally this question means different things to the same socioeconomic class in different areas.

      So YES, IQ tests are skewed by the cultural assumptions of the test writers. Psychologist have known this for at least 30 years.

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    15. Yossi: Intelligence tests need to be culturally sensitive to the person being tested.

      Agreed, and researchers have spent decades trying to do exactly that. Look up 'Ravens Progressive Matrices' Is their work perfect? No. Does it still contain errors so significant that the 45 point gap [!] between Aboriginals and the Japanese is likely to be substantially reduced in future? No. Of course, it could all be wrong. Kepler thought it was absolutely impossible that the world was millions of years old because there was no way the sun could burn that long without using up all its fuel. So sometimes everything you know is wrong, but it's not the way to bet.

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    16. David Ohsie:

      Since you repeatedly dredge up my views on topic A whenever I say something on topic B that triggers you I will, one time only, state very clearly my views on slavery and race so that you can at least do so accurately.

      1) Like the Torah, I believe that slavery is the proper course of action to deal with thieves, chronic debtors and people who, for whatever reason, are incapable of self-government and do not have anyone to look after them. I believe that this is a superior option to what we currently use, namely prison and the welfare state. I also believe it superior to the workhouse or debtors jail for the same reason that foster parents are usually better than care homes, namely that personal rule is usually more humane than corporate rule. I believe that the irrational hostility that one encounters of the merest suggestion that Hashem may have a point is down to: (i) the fact that people are not aware of the appalling conditions of life in the prison system and among the welfare underclass (ii) the word 'slavery' immediately brings to mind the Hollywood propaganda version of the antebellum south, which is an exaggerated version of what was going on in Texas and (iii) people have a strong moral objection to the idea that one human being can own another. On the last point, people can believe what they want, but they are not at liberty to claim the Torah backs them up.

      2) I do not believe that it is a good idea for people of one race to enslave those of another. One can make the argument that in certain circumstances it is more humane than the alternatives, but even so it is a bad idea. If you value a stable society over short term profit, then pick your own dang cotton.

      3) The American civil war led directly to the death of over a million "freed" slaves from disease and starvation, not to mention the 600,000 people who directly perished in the abolitionist jihad. Those slaves who survived were often worse off since they continued in the same occupation, but the value of their wages in a devastated economy was less than the services they had previously received in kind and they had no support in times of sickness or old age. Slaves who had previously been in domestic employment had an even bigger diminution in their living conditions. As such, I regard the abolitionist movement with the same horror and disgust that I reserve for Jacobins, Bolsheviks, Maoists and the like who visited untold devastation on the world in the name of liberating the very people they were killing. What links all these evil groups is that no matter how high the bodies pile up they remain convinced not only that they are right, but that anyone who disagrees is fundamentally evil.

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    17. 4) The civil rights movement directly resulted in the unleashing of a black crime wave that left 10,000s of people dead, raped, maimed and the like. 10s of millions of people had to flee the chaos and entire cities like Detroit were reduced from economic powerhouses to burnt out slums. At the end of it all America is just as segregated as it was before because white people (even you) will simply not tolerate living in neighbourhoods with people shooting each other in the streets. The chief beneficiaries were the black "talented tenth" who got to leave black society and enjoy the fruits of white society. But even accepting that they have the right to abandon their brethren to chaos and squalor worsened by the loss of their leadership class, this surely could have been achieved without the attendant chaos and blood. I rank the civil rights movement among lesser evils like the Iraq war and the Oslo Death Process.

      5) There are number of political implications that follow from a realistic appraisal of racial data. The first is that expensive and pointless programs in education and law enforcement could be replaced with realistic and effective ones. The second is that third world immigration could be halted before every European capital degenerates into Lagos. The third is that it would bring a halt to the endless vilification of Whites (including, in Europe, Jews) who must be brought in as the "Satan Ex Machina" to explain why reality is so stubbornly racist. Fourth, and most importantly, it would mean the total loss of legitimacy of the intellectual and political elite in the west who have banked their entire credibility on a set of propositions that are demonstrably false.

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    18. I think that characterized your position pretty well. I'll agree that you do pay lip service to the notion that black slavery was wrong, but abrogations of black rights just short of enslavement are OK, black slavery really wasn't too bad, and freeing blacks wasn't worth the cost. I think that is enough to let people understand where you are coming from when you discuss the source of difference in groups measures of intelligence. I think that Jensen and Murray did not make their case well enough, but were honest well-intentioned. You on the other hand don't seem to be able to put much daylight between yourself and the typical white supremacist. That doesn't make you wrong, but people should understand where you are coming from as far as your trustworthiness, especially because your usual argument is "this is obvious".

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    19. I'm also amused at how civil rights for blacks in Atlanta caused crime to rise in Detroit. Sorry, but I couldn't resist. That's my last one.

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    20. Yossi: Intelligence tests need to be culturally sensitive to the person being tested.

      Agreed, and researchers have spent decades trying to do exactly that. Look up 'Ravens Progressive Matrices' Is their work perfect? No.


      Which means that there one source of possible error. There are also other sources. The question is how much each factor contributes. Decades of work doesn't mean that the results conform to your preferences.

      Does it still contain errors so significant that the 45 point gap [!] between Aboriginals and the Japanese is likely to be substantially reduced in future? No.

      That isn't the question, obviously.

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    21. I'm also amused at how civil rights for blacks in Atlanta caused crime to rise in Detroit. Sorry, but I couldn't resist. That's my last one.

      As you well know, the North had de facto segregation - enforced by zoning laws, homeowner agreements and the like - to much the same extent as the South into the early 1960s and it was generally accepted that the police could and should operate differently in black areas. Then they tried it your way and now you can pick up a five bedroom house in Detroit for less than 10 grand.

      Good conservatives will say that 'liberalism destroyed Detroit' and yet liberalism oddly didn't destroy Portland.

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    22. and freeing blacks wasn't worth the cost

      I'm not being facetious here, but I honestly cannot comprehend how anyone who is cognizant of the facts could think otherwise.

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    23. "What gives you such confidence in your analysis of human behavior which is one of the most complex phenomenon that we encounter?"

      Because of two little pieces of evidence:
      Exhibit A - North America
      Exhibit B - Africa

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    24. and freeing blacks wasn't worth the cost

      I'm not being facetious here, but I honestly cannot comprehend how anyone who is cognizant of the facts could think otherwise.

      Who do you think is more competent to judge?

      A) The people who were held against their will and freed?

      B) Someone at a remove of 150 years.

      You also leave out the moral calculus. If I injure someone, I can't evade providing compensation by claiming that my cost is greater than their gain. This was one of Lincoln's ideas (and you probably hold him out as worse than Stalin) when he said "every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword".

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    25. DF: Those are datapoints (of a sort) and not an analysis. Just to mention one of an infinite number of flaws in this kind of reasoning, you took a snapshot in time and space. For, example what conclusions would you have drawn comparing the conditions in Europe with and without Roman rule? Europe vs. China and India on their first encounters?

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    26. Gavriel M: So Jim Crow reduced the flow in the Great Migration to non-Southern cities and granting civil rights increased it? And you can think of no significant circumstances that differ between Detroit and other cities like Portland? You live in an amazing reality that you've constructed for yourself. Enjoy!

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    27. A) The people who were held against their will and freed?

      The ones who starved to death, or do we only get to count the ones who survived? Let's ask one:

      Freedom is all right, but de niggers was better off befo’ surrender, kaze den dey was looked after an’ dey didn’ get in no trouble fightin’ an’ killin’ like dey do dese days. If a nigger cut up an’ got sassy in slavery times, his Ole Marse give him a good whippin’ an’ he went way back an’ set down an’ ’haved hese’f. If he was sick, Marse an’ Mistis looked after him, an’ if he needed store medicine, it was bought an’ give to him; he didn’ have to pay nothin’. Dey didn’ even have to think ’bout clothes nor nothin’ like dat, dey was wove an’ made an’ give to dem. Maybe everybody’s Marse and Mistis wuzn’ good as Marse George and Mis’ Betsy, but dey was de same as a mammy an’ pappy to us niggers.

      But I guess you didn't mean her either.

      This was one of Lincoln's ideas (and you probably hold him out as worse than Stalin)

      1.6 million out of a population of 25 million is certainly Stalin territory.

      "every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword"

      Charming.

      So Jim Crow reduced the flow in the Great Migration to non-Southern cities and granting civil rights increased it?

      It's amazing how religious fanatics are incapable of even understanding the most simple concepts. Detroit was a segregated city in which black people were denied civic, political, and legal equality. Then it got civil rights, 100,000s of thousands of people fled and now it's a third world slum. Where do you get lost here?

      For, example what conclusions would you have drawn comparing the conditions in Europe with and without Roman rule? Europe vs. China and India on their first encounters?

      Please do cite the historical data that would support your belief in the cognitive equality of black people. Made up ones like Black Athena and We Wuz Kings don't count.

      And you can think of no significant circumstances that differ between Detroit and other cities like Portland?

      I can think of differences between Zimbabwe and Singapore, but not all of them are equally pertinent.

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    28. A) The people who were held against their will and freed?

      The ones who starved to death, or do we only get to count the ones who survived?


      My God, you make the most absurd, unintelligent arguments, when you bother to make them. It's no wonder you like to rely on bald assertion.

      When we decide whether it motor vehicles are worth it, do we ask the 1.3 million who die in accidents every year or only the survivors.

      Let's ask one:

      Yes, let's ask her. What she says is that she was happy that the war ended so that she could be with her husband all the time instead of on the weekends only. And that she was able to earn money as a sharecropper and then buy her own farm. Sounds like she was much better off under slavery.

      "I was glad when de was stopped kaze den me an' Exter could be together all de time 'stead of Saturday an' Sunday. After we was free we lived right on at Marse George's plantation a long time. We rented de lan' for a fo'th of what we made, den after while we bought a farm. We paid three hundred dollars we done saved. We had a hoss, a steer, a cow an' two pigs, 'sides some chickens an' fo' geese. Mis' Betsy went up in de attic an' give us enough goose feathers to make two pillows, den she give us a table an' some chairs. She give us some dishes too. Marse George give Exter a bushel of seed cawn and some seed wheat, den he tole him to go down to de barn an' get a bag of cotton seed. We got all dis den we hitched up de wagon an' th'owed in de passel of chillun an' moved to our new farm, an' de chillun was put to work in de fiel'; dey growed up in de fiel' kaze dey was put to work time dey could walk good."

      This was one of Lincoln's ideas (and you probably hold him out as worse than Stalin)

      1.6 million out of a population of 25 million is certainly Stalin territory.


      You'll have to agree that I estimated you right on that one. Lincoln = Stalin. Got it.

      "every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword"

      Charming.


      It's a pretty good speech, but I understand that YMMV.

      You didn't actually answer the question though, so I'll repeat it:

      You also leave out the moral calculus. If I injure someone, I can't evade providing compensation by claiming that my cost is greater than their gain. This was one of Lincoln's ideas (and you probably hold him out as worse than Stalin) when he said "every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword".

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    29. My God, you make the most absurd, unintelligent arguments

      David Ohsie: X is good because it benefited group Y
      Gavriel M: X caused a million members of Y to die.
      David Ohsie: What an absurd unintelligent argument.

      You're a funny guy and no mistake.

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    30. My God, you make the most absurd, unintelligent arguments

      David Ohsie: X is good because it benefited group Y
      Gavriel M: X caused a million members of Y to die.
      David Ohsie: What an absurd unintelligent argument.


      Yes, your argument remains absurd and unintelligent. Cars benefit drivers even though millions of drivers die every year. The abolition of black slavery benefited black *according to black slaves* even though some black slaves and former slaves also died. People really don't like to be slaves nor do they want their children to be slaves.

      I can agree wholeheartedly with you that former slaves should have been treated better instead of the continuation of partial slavery that they endured. The benefit was thus much lower than it would have been had people actually cared about Black Americans. (But according to you, at least they couldn't get to Detroit right away). That doesn't make slavery good.

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You just offer claims.

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    31. Detroit was a segregated city in which black people were denied civic, political, and legal equality.

      Sorry, I'm going to need a reference here. Blacks in Detroit could not vote? When they were a minority, they were certainly discriminated against. But they had basic political rights. And what does that have anything to do with Jim Crow?

      You also ignored the substance of the argument as always. What exactly drove the Great Migration to northern cities?

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    32. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You just offer claims.

      If one quarter of a group of people die, many of whom starved to death, as a result of change X, it is not extraordinary in the slightest to claim that group was worse off because of X. If you think it's extraordinary, it's because you suffer from some sort of psychopathy. Do you have any understanding of what it is like to starve to death?

      Blacks in Detroit could not vote?

      They could vote, but it was generally understood that they should be kept from ever gaining majority power. It was also understood that they should be kept segregated by various means and that policing and other governmental functions had to function differently in their neighborhood. What do you think the Detroit riots were about? Then people decided that race was just skin deep and now Detroit looks pretty much like any white-built city in decolonized Africa because basically that's what it is.

      The benefit was thus much lower than it would have been had people actually cared about Black Americans.
      Oddly every time anyone tries it your way, more black people die in gruesome ways, but at least you care.

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    33. If you think it's extraordinary, it's because you suffer from some sort of psychopathy.

      There you go again with your absurd claims of obviousness. If you think that you have evidence that blacks thought that they were better off under slavery and were unhappy to be freed, please provide it. That is an extraordinary claim that basically no one but you and a few of your fellow white supremacists believe.

      Please provide evidence for your 25% claim. Your factual claims in the past have been baseless. In this very conversation, you tried to twist an account of the success of a freed slave into some kind of wish for continued slavery through selective quotation.

      Finally, yes, if someone one said that for a 25% chance of death, you could be be freed from legalized kidnapping, imprisonment, physical, emotional and sexual abuse against you, your spouse and your children as well as mandated abuse and neglect against your children, then most people would probably take that bargain.

      Finally, the whole argument is based on an completely absurd claim of yours that former slaves died after emancipation as a result of emancipation itself and not because of their former state of slavery and their continued poor treatment post-emancipation.

      Blacks in Detroit could not vote?

      They could vote, but it was generally understood that they should be kept from ever gaining majority power.


      OK, so they were not denied civic, political, and legal equality, as you claimed.

      Just to make it clear to you because you seem either too ignorant or too obtuse to understand this or too blinded by ideology to admit this, blacks moved to northern cities because they were denied civil rights in the South. I don't agree with your unfounded claims about the history of Detroit which conveniently omits anything about the auto industry and the general shape of the crime curve in the US, but your whole arrow of causation on migration is completely backward.

      I'll let you have the last word here because it appears to be a complete waste of time trying to get a coherent argument out of you.

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  3. It is absolutely and categorically false to claim that according to the Rambam Avraham could have been an Australian Aborigine. I could quote chapter and verse, but המבין יבין.

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    1. Well, if you say so, mister random guy on the internet, it must be true! No evidence required.

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    2. "Racial" hierarchy is a given to Gavriel M. But you are correct that his preferred mode of argument is "X is so obvious that only a fool could dispute X".

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    3. Sigh. He said it, not me.

      The people who are abroad are all those that have no religion, neither one based on speculation nor one received by tradition. Such are the extreme Turks that wander about in the north, the Kushites who live in the south, and those in our country who are like these. I consider these as irrational beings, and not as human beings; they are below mankind, but above monkeys, since they have the form and shape of man, and a mental faculty above that of the monkey.

      As it happens, leaving aside the Rambam's extremist intellectualist bias which I don't share, he was incorrect because he didn't know about Bell Curves.

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    4. A complete distortion, as usual. The Rambam provides no support or agreement for Gavriel M's promotion of slavery for those who Gavriel M deem to be racially inferior.

      The Rambam thought that an understanding of God was essential to being a civilized human being, so a culture with no God meant uncivilized animal-like humans. He is not endorsing any theory of racial hierarchy. The proof is that he makes the same remarks about the children of Adam. Adam's children after his sin were not properly educated and therefore not civilized humans, but animals in human form, according to Rambam. Only when he had Seth and educated his properly, was his child to be said to be formed in his likeness.

      Since all of these were sons of Adam, and their incapacity was attributed to inferior education, this demolishes the supposed support for Gavriel M's racism by Rambam:

      'A man who has instructed another in any subject, and has improved his knowledge, may in like manner be regarded as the parent of the person taught, because he is the author of that knowledge: and thus the pupils of the prophets are called "sons of the prophets," as I shall explain when treating of the homonymity of ben (son). In this figurative sense, the verb yalad (to bear) is employed when it is said of Adam, "And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat (va-yoled) a son in his own likeness, in his form" (Gen. V. 3). As regards the words, "the form of Adam, and his likeness," we have already stated (ch. i.) their meaning. Those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not "the form of man." With reference to Seth who had been instructed, enlightened and brought to human perfection, it could rightly be said, "he (Adam) begat a son in his likeness, in his form." It is acknowledged that a man who does not possess this "form" (the nature of which has just been explained) is not human, but a mere animal in human shape and form. Yet such a creature has the power of causing harm and injury, a power which does not belong to other creatures. For those gifts of intelligence and judgment with which he has been endowed for the purpose of acquiring perfection, but which he has failed to apply to their proper aim, are used by him for wicked and mischievous ends; he begets evil things, as though he merely resembled man, or simulated his outward appearance. Such was the condition of those sons of Adam who preceded Seth. In reference to this subject the Midrash says: "During the 130 years when Adam was under rebuke he begat spirits," i.e., demons; when, however, he was again restored to divine favour "he begat in his likeness, in his form." This is the sense of the passage, "Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and he begat in his likeness, in his form" (Gen. v. 3).'

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    5. This is unnecessary to destroy Gavriel M's supposed alignment with the Rambam, but Rambam also undoubtedly thought that women generally did not have the intellectual capacity for intellectual pursuits like medicine. We know that this is completely false. So, I'm not really sure what kind of support the Rambam is here anyhow.

      Finally, what Gavriel M would consider the "superior races" are the ones with the greatest preponderance of atheism and thus, most like animals, according to Rambam. (Gavriel M will chalk this up to the evil "left", but it doesn't save his attempt to associate with the Rambam).

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    6. I'll also point out that the Rambam's whole point in the quoted passage is to discuss the various levels of man's desire and effort to get near to God, not inherent ability. He is encouraging the reader to go from a lower level to a higher one.

      He also says this:

      "Those who are in the country, but have their backs turned towards the king's palace, are those who possess religion, belief, and thought, but happen to hold false doctrines, which they either adopted in consequence of great mistakes made in their own speculations, or received from others who misled them. Because of these doctrines they recede more and more from the royal palace the more they seem to proceed. These are worse than the first class, and under certain circumstances it may become necessary to day them, and to extirpate their doctrines, in order that others should not be misled."

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    7. Once again, I remind you not to put quotation marks around things that no-one has ever said.

      As for the rest, apparently you think you have some sort of point, but you are unusually confused, even for you. What I'm getting is (to borrow your convention) "Gavriel M is trying to align his views [which he does not in fact hold] with the Rambam, but the Rambam didn't hold these views because [irrelevant citation] but the Rambam was stupid anyway and only an evil person would own slaves, like Avraham'.

      To get back on tract, it remains categorically false that, according to the Rambam, an Aboriginal could have done what Avraham did.

      And though my views do not align with the Rambam's, this remains the case. For an Avraham to emerge it's not enough to have a lone genius, you need a developed intellectual culture, a written language and a economic system capable of supporting a class of people not involved in subsistence food production. Aboriginal culture had none of these things 3,500 years and it had none of these things 300 years ago and there's not really any reason to suppose it would ever have developed them.

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    8. Your argument seems to amount to this:

      (1) The Rambam says that differences in intellectual ability are sometimes a result of education or some other environmental factor.
      (2) Therefore, according to the Rambam all differences in intellectual ability are the result of education or some other intellectual factor.
      (3) Therefore, when the Rambam states that entire groups of people have an intelligence midway between that of monkeys and people he intends us to understand that this is due to education or some other environmental factor.

      Now, (2) is an obvious non-sequitor and would not even occur to someone without a prior religious commitment to egalitarianism. More to the point, however, the Rambam says the exact opposite in 1:34 (his fourth reason).

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    9. (1) The Rambam says that differences in intellectual ability are sometimes a result of education or some other environmental factor.
      (2) Therefore, according to the Rambam all differences in intellectual ability are the result of education or some other intellectual factor.


      I didn't write or imply that and nothing that I wrote depends on such an argument.

      *You* claimed that the Rambam was support for *your* position because he called some group of people a lower class than human. I showed that he does this in cases which are clearly not genetic and the case that you described was in an exhortation to educate ones self to move up from one level to the next. I make no claim about what the Rambam's thoughts were about nature vs. nurture.

      Therefore, when the Rambam states that entire groups of people have an intelligence midway between that of monkeys and people he intends us to understand that this is due to education or some other environmental factor.

      1) Burden shifting. To you support your point, you have to show that he is saying something about genetics and intelligence. You haven't. I don't have to show that he excluded this possibility.

      2) He doesn't say that at all. He says that they are far from God because they lack religion. For him that is the same as being an animal. They could be great geniuses, but if they don't know God, then they are like animals, but with higher intelligence. That this is true is demonstrated by the quotation from the other section.

      Now, (2) is an obvious non-sequitor

      Since I never claimed #2, this is irrelevant.

      would not even occur to someone without a prior religious commitment to egalitarianism

      Now we get to typical Gavriel M argument mode. WARNING FOR THE LESS INTELLIGENT: NOT AN ACTUAL QUOTATION "Anyone who disagrees with me can only be doing so through prejudice." WARNING FOR THE LESS INTELLIGENT: NOT AN ACTUAL QUOTATION.

      I'll also point out that egalitarianism has little to do with this, but there is pretty good empirical support for the notion and that support is obvious: for thousands of years the intelligence and capabilities of women were not recognized.

      More to the point, however, the Rambam says the exact opposite in 1:34 (his fourth reason).

      What are you talking about? In this reason, he says that people who can learn mathematics and medicine might not be able to learn metaphysics because it requires a moral character and preparation inconsistent with natural passions (so that young people should not learn metaphysics). What does that haven anything to do with intelligence to begin with? If anything, this actually proves that your point is completely incorrect. Are you talking about people who can be doctors but are genetically incapable of becoming philosophers?

      'For this science is, as you know, different from the science of Medicine and of Geometry, and, from the reason already mentioned, it is not every person who is capable of approaching it. It is impossible for a man to study it successfully without moral preparation; he must acquire the highest degree of uprightness and integrity, "for the froward is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret is
      with the righteous"'

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    10. And though my views do not align with the Rambam's, this remains the case. For an Avraham to emerge it's not enough to have a lone genius, you need a developed intellectual culture, a written language and a economic system capable of supporting a class of people not involved in subsistence food production. Aboriginal culture had none of these things 3,500 years and it had none of these things 300 years ago and there's not really any reason to suppose it would ever have developed them.

      This is a completely different argument that has zero to do with anyone's intellectual capabilities. No human culture had writing for the first 200,000 or so years of modern humans and only a few developed them independently in the past 5000 years. So the chance of a small isolated group of humans inventing writing is pretty small over a short enough period of time. Development of wealth also generally requires commerce with other cultures; you need to be able to specialize and trade the stuff you have for the stuff you need.

      But why then do you obscure that simple argument with המבין יבין and irrelevant quotations from Rambam.

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    11. the Rambam was stupid anyway

      Where did I say this? I said that the Rambam didn't have any special insight into what factors go into intelligence. He, like many, thought women unintelligent. You sound like R Meiselman claiming that if you say that Chazal didn't know something, then you are claiming that they are stupid.

      only an evil person would own slaves, like Avraham'.

      If you followed the Rambam's medicine today, would you be a good doctor or a terrible doctor? Does that make Rambam himself a terrible doctor?

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    12. *You* claimed that the Rambam was support for *your* position because he called some group of people a lower class than human.

      No I didn't. In fact, I explicitly gave two reasons why I disagreed with him. You are hallucinating. There is no point in continuing to debate someone who is incapable of interpreting statements that offend his religious beliefs without inserting them into one of his heresy boxes.

      In any case, your exegesis of the Rambam is completely absurd. It's not even worth rebutting because any unprejudiced person can see how contorted it is.

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    13. I said that the Rambam didn't have any special insight into what factors go into intelligence.

      True, but he didn't have a religious objection to observing what was in front of his face, so he's one up on you.

      Does that make Rambam himself a terrible doctor?

      Yes, the Rambam was a terrible doctor and his entire approach to medicine, much like his entire approach to physics, was completely wrong.


      In this reason, he says that people who can learn mathematics and medicine might not be able to learn metaphysics because it requires a moral character and preparation inconsistent with natural passions (so that young people should not learn metaphysics).

      Do you actually believe that people can't just read the whole passage themselves and see what a ridiculous misrepresentation this is?

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    14. Overall, the Rambam's advice on diet and lifestyle is pretty good

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    15. In any case, your exegesis of the Rambam is completely absurd. It's not even worth rebutting because any unprejudiced person can see how contorted it is.

      Do you actually believe that people can't just read the whole passage themselves and see what a ridiculous misrepresentation this is?


      Can you ever make an actual argument other than (WARNING: NOT AN ACTUAL QUOTATION) "this is obvious and anyone who says otherwise is stupid" (WARNING: NOT AN ACTUAL QUOTATION)? Please do it for once on this issue and show that you have something behind you. Go over reason 4 why some people can't do metaphysics and tell me what it means. Make sure to include an explanation of this sentence where he makes clear that he is contrasting metaphysics with other sciences which presumably require intelligence.

      "For this science is, as you know, different from the science of Medicine and of Geometry, and, from the reason already mentioned, it is not every person who is capable of approaching it."

      This should be extremely easy since (THIS IS AN ACTUAL QUOTATION) "your exegesis of the Rambam is completely absurd. It's not even worth rebutting because any unprejudiced person can see how contorted it is."

      Please show how contorted is is. It should be very easy.

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    16. I said that the Rambam didn't have any special insight into what factors go into intelligence.

      True, but he didn't have a religious objection to observing what was in front of his face, so he's one up on you.

      You are incoherent as usual. The Rambam observed what was in front of face: women are not as intelligent as men and can't learn science. That turns out to be wrong. Therefore, I have a bias. Are you capable of constructing a coherent theory?

      Yes, the Rambam was a terrible doctor and his entire approach to medicine, much like his entire approach to physics, was completely wrong.

      OK, so when you say that, you don't mean that the Rambam was stupid. But when I say that he was mistaken about the intelligence of women, than I'm saying he was stupid. Got it.

      No I didn't. In fact, I explicitly gave two reasons why I disagreed with him.

      You claimed agreement with his assessment of "intellectually inferior races" (NOT A QUOTATION FROM GM). You disagreed with the fact that no individual from such "intellectually inferior races" (NOT A QUOTATION FROM GM) could be intelligent or that the only thing that should be valued about a person is intelligence.

      What does "He said it, not me." and "המבין יבין" mean other than that the Rambam supports something that you feel is inconvenient to state yourself.

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    17. Gavriel M, you seem to be arguing that because something didn't happen, it couldn't have happened. That's an illogical argument. Rabbi Slifkin's argument is that if an Aborigine had come the same conclusions as Avraham, and spread that knowledge as widely as possible, he might have been chosen in the same manner as Avraham.

      Now, you are stating this is the position of the Rambam, and not necessarily your own. However, the Rambam would not likely have been so illogical, so I submit that you are 100% incorrect in attributing such a position to him.

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    18. David Ohsie:

      Let's try and get back on track here and review how this started:

      Rabbi Slifkin: According to Rambam, however, the answer is yes, Avraham Avinu could have been an Inuit!... And if an Australian Aboriginal called Alambee had discovered and revealed monotheism, then Hashem might not have instructed his descendants to only eat animals which have split hooves and chew the cud (of which there are none in Australia), but instead to eat kangaroos and not koalas.

      Me: It is absolutely and categorically false to claim that according to the Rambam Avraham could have been an Australian Aborigine.

      You: [Irrelevant objections, ad hominem attacks]

      So again, I stand by my point: it is simply not true that according to the Rambam an Aboriginal or Inuit could have invented ethical monotheism, because the Rambam believed that such people were intermediary between man and animals. Since he says this explicitly it should hardly be controversial. Get. Over. It. Now, if you want to have an extended discussion of Rambam's view of the intellect, you'll have to have it with someone else, since his view of the intellect is based on Aristotelian categories that are totally fictive and are of historical interest only, and I find them scarcely more interesting than Kabbalah.

      Now why is this important? Simply because people should not casually attribute views to historical figures that they clearly did not hold, especially when these views just so happen to accord perfectly with hegemonic modern discourse.

      Now, in a separate discussion I intervened to defend Yakov from very serious accusations against his character which I thought unmerited since what he wrote was substantially correct, but let's try not to get the two things confused.

      Avi: However, the Rambam would not likely have been so illogical, so I submit that you are 100% incorrect in attributing such a position to him.
      Srsly?

      Yoel B
      Overall, the Rambam's advice on diet and lifestyle is pretty good
      The Rambam was a good doctor by the standards of his time in that people who followed his advice were not significantly more likely to die.

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    19. David Ohsie:

      Let's try and get back on track here and review how this started:


      OK, let's stick to the text.

      Rabbi Slifkin: According to Rambam, however, the answer is yes, Avraham Avinu could have been an Inuit!... And if an Australian Aboriginal called Alambee had discovered and revealed monotheism, then Hashem might not have instructed his descendants to only eat animals which have split hooves and chew the cud (of which there are none in Australia), but instead to eat kangaroos and not koalas.

      Me: It is absolutely and categorically false to claim that according to the Rambam Avraham could have been an Australian Aborigine.

      You: [Irrelevant objections, ad hominem attacks]


      We're off to a bad start. You ignored my analysis.

      So again, I stand by my point: it is simply not true that according to the Rambam an Aboriginal or Inuit could have invented ethical monotheism, because the Rambam believed that such people were intermediary between man and animals. Since he says this explicitly it should hardly be controversial. Get. Over. It.

      "Get. Over. It." is not not an argument. If you can't state one, we can assume that you don't have one.

      You seem to say that Rambam says that some groups could not have invented monotheism because he says that those groups were intermediary between man an animals. You don't state you argument clearly, but it seems to be that since the Rambam states that they are between men and animals, that this is genetically determined, since of course animals beget animals and men beget men.

      However, he says the *exact same thing* about the sons of Adam before Shem: "those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not 'the form of man.' ... It is acknowledged that a man who does not possess this 'form' (the nature of which has just been explained) is not human, but a mere animal in human shape and form." This proves that you cannot deduce from the fact that the Rambam talks about subhumans, that he has in mind the same idea that a white supremacist might have.

      To make the logic very easy for you, it goes like this:

      1) GM proposes that when Rambam calls some people subhuman, he means something similar to what a white supremacist would say about blacks: they are genetically inferior and incapable of doing X (for some X).

      2) David shows that the Rambam calls people subhuman when they are poorly educated.

      3) In the text referred to by GM, Rambam also says he is referring to people "that have no religion, neither one based on speculation nor one received by tradition." This fits glove in hand with the other text: the deficiency is knowledge and not genetics. If they had a received tradition, then they would not be in the category described.

      Note that I'm not proving that the Rambam was not a white supremacist. I'm merely pointing out that there is no evidence from the source that you give that he is.

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    20. GM: The second prooftext that you bring mentions that some people cannot learn metaphysics. You again don't actually state an argument, but you seem to imply that the reason that they cannot learn metaphysics is that they are genetically intellectually inferior.

      However, I showed that he said that such people could learn science. That would indicate that the issue is a moral issue (as he says there) and not an intellectual issue:

      'For this science is, as you know, different from the science of Medicine and of Geometry, and, from the reason already mentioned, it is not every person who is capable of approaching it. It is impossible for a man to study it successfully without moral preparation; he must acquire the highest degree of uprightness and integrity, "for the froward is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret is with the righteous"'

      Again, to break it down for you:

      1) Rambam state some can't learn metaphysics.

      2) GM: Aha! subhumans again.

      3) David: He says that the reason they can't learn it is that metaphysics differs from science. If they were subhuman, they could not learn science. So GM's reading is not consistent with the text.

      4) He also says that young people (meaning young adults with strong passions, not children) cannot generally learn metaphysics. Again, this cannot align with GM's theory.

      Please answer and prove that the emperor has clothes.

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    21. You don't state you argument clearly, but it seems to be that since the Rambam states that they are between men and animals, that this is genetically determined, since of course animals beget animals and men beget men.

      Obviously not because the Rambam had no conception whatsoever of genetics. On the other hand, the Rambam clearly had a conception of innate characteristics since he describes certain people are inherently incapable by nature of learning philosophy (and, anyway, any non-blind, non-insane person already knows that people are born with different capabilities). Now the Rambam's concept of the intellect is so different from ours that it makes explanation difficult, but as a start he believed that it was necessary to have certain moral qualities in order to achieve certain intellectual levels and that some people are actually incapable because of their constitution of acquiring these qualities.

      So with that said, I assert that the most reasonable reading of the Ramabam when he says that whole groups of people have a 'mental faculty' are 'not human beings', but 'have a mental faculty above monkeys' that he means what he says. He presumably had Aristotle's theory of natural slaves in mind.

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    22. You don't state you argument clearly, but it seems to be that since the Rambam states that they are between men and animals, that this is genetically determined, since of course animals beget animals and men beget men.

      Obviously not because the Rambam had no conception whatsoever of genetics.

      Let's not introduce unnecessary distractions. Rambam didn't know about Mendel or DNA, but neither did Darwin. Animal breeding didn't start in the 19th century. He had some concept of heritable traits even if no-one at the time had a clear grasp of the details or mechanisms.

      More importantly, if he was not talking about heritable traits, then your interpretation fails entirely. The fact that some tribe had concept of God could change upon the discovery of God by a philosopher of the tribe or by an outsider bringing in such knowledge.

      On the other hand, the Rambam clearly had a conception of innate characteristics since he describes certain people are inherently incapable by nature of learning philosophy

      Your logic is wrong again. The fact that the Rambam says that a person or group of people cannot learn philosophy does not prove that the problem is innate or heritable. For example, he describe young people as incapable of learning metaphysics. Clearly that is neither innate or heritable, as it will change over time.

      (and, anyway, any non-blind, non-insane person already knows that people are born with different capabilities).

      Yes, but this has nothing at all to do with your argument that the Rambam identified a tribe of people who innately and heritably cannot do metaphysics. (I used the word tribe to distinguish from other types of groups unrelated to your argument that the Rambam would say generally can't do philosophy like women, children and young men.)

      Now the Rambam's concept of the intellect is so different from ours that it makes explanation difficult, but as a start he believed that it was necessary to have certain moral qualities in order to achieve certain intellectual levels and that some people are actually incapable because of their constitution of acquiring these qualities.

      As I pointed out above, this undermines your argument. He says that these same groups of people have the intellectual capability to learn science. They are missing the moral qualities and therefore can't learn metaphysics. So, to repeat myself, he says that young men are too passionate to learn metaphysics. You are also mixing up the notion of individual variation for any cause with group variation due to innate and heritable traits.

      So with that said, I assert that the most reasonable reading of the Ramabam when he says that whole groups of people have a 'mental faculty' are 'not human beings', but 'have a mental faculty above monkeys' that he means what he says.

      "He means what he says" is a completely circular argument. The question is precisely, "what does he mean?".

      The explanation that is consistent with his words in all places is that people who do not know God are as good as animals even if they have what we would call intelligence. He nowhere says that there is a group with innately and heritably low intelligence. For example, he explicitly calls the improperly trained children of Adam before Seth non-human.

      Just because the Rambam's words translated into English are superficially similar in some ways to a those of a white supremacist, that doesn't make the Rambam a while supremacist.

      He presumably had Aristotle's theory of natural slaves in mind.

      The word "presumably" is doing a lot of work for you there. Why should we presume such a thing? Please make arguments and not assertions.

      The emperor still has no clothes.

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    23. OK, for the last time. What is at issue is Rabbi Slifkin's claim that according to the Rambam, Avraham could have been an Inuit or an Australian aborigine. This is plainly wrong because:

      1) According to the Rambam, Avraham discovered monotheism by studying or working out for himself Aristotelian physics and metaphysics. (Which, by the way, is one of the falsest claims ever made by anyone).
      2) According to the Rambam, some people are incapable of learning metaphysics, including those whose 'testicles are warm, humid, and vigorous', a person whose 'heart is very warm', persons of 'great levity and rashness' etc. Such people are 'incapable of perfection' and it is 'utterly useless to occupy oneself with them on such a subject'.
      3) According to the Rambam, 'the extreme Turks that wander about in the north [and] the Kushites who live in the south ... have the form and shape of man, and a mental faculty above that of the monkey.'
      4) The Moreh was written for people thoroughly trained in Aristotelian thought. Such people would immediately see the clear allusion to the Greek belief that the nature of different humans was forged by their environment, that the South was *too hot* and the North was *too cold* and people from there were not fully human and were 'natural slaves', but that Greeks were *just right*.

      Now, there are some loose ends to tie up. Aristotle believed the world was eternal and did not believe that humans had a common origin (or any origin). The Rambam presumably did, making it more difficult to see how he would defend the theory that humans from different geographical climbs were fundamentally different. Further, one can legitimately ask the question of what would happen, according to this theory, if one group of people were to permanently relocate somewhere hotter or cooler.

      But loose ends do not unravel the whole cloth. Your passion to vindicate the Rambam is admirable, but misdirected. I encourage anyone still following this debate to review the relevant passages for themselves.

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    24. P.S. For those interested in the Aristotelian context for the Rambam's remarks, you can read the second essay in this book.

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    25. * 1st essay ('Barbarians, Custom, and Nature')

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    26. OK, for the last time.

      And you repeat yourself without addressing the problems.

      What is at issue is Rabbi Slifkin's claim that according to the Rambam, Avraham could have been an Inuit or an Australian aborigine. This is plainly wrong because:

      1) According to the Rambam, Avraham discovered monotheism by studying or working out for himself Aristotelian physics and metaphysics. (Which, by the way, is one of the falsest claims ever made by anyone).


      This is a side point, but I'm not sure why you say this. Undoubtedly most of the Rishonim thought that Avraham knew whatever they knew which included the four elements, the four humours, the spheres, various types of souls, etc. The Sefer Yetzirah is attributed to Avraham. Basically, everyone saw in Avraham his own conception of basic principles of Jewish theology. I'm not sure that anyone was more wrong than anyone else.

      2) According to the Rambam, some people are incapable of learning metaphysics, including those whose 'testicles are warm, humid, and vigorous', a person whose 'heart is very warm', persons of 'great levity and rashness' etc. Such people are 'incapable of perfection' and it is 'utterly useless to occupy oneself with them on such a subject'.

      1) He is not talking about any group of people with innate disability to learn metaphysics. The group that he mentions is young men: "Therefore it was considered inadvisable to teach it to young men". And "R. Jochanan said to R. Elasar, "Come, I will teach you Ma‘aseh Mercabah." The reply was, "I am not yet old," or in other words, I have not yet become old, I still perceive in myself the hot blood and the rashness of youth."

      In fact, the point of the section is to explain "five reasons why instruction should not begin with Metaphysics".

      2) He is not talking about an incapacity to control passion and not any intellectual incapacity."For this science is, as you know, different from the science of Medicine and of Geometry". His description applies to Albert Einstein who thought (and practiced) that monogamy was useless.

      3) The bulk of humanity and Jews fall into the category of not learning metaphysics. This is not equal at all to the category of "non-human human" that he discusses elsewhere. If you accept the existence, unity and incorporeality of God via tradition, then you have raised yourself to the level of Tzelem Elohim.

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    27. 3) According to the Rambam, 'the extreme Turks that wander about in the north [and] the Kushites who live in the south ... have the form and shape of man, and a mental faculty above that of the monkey.'

      He explains why this is. It is because they "have no religion, neither one based on speculation nor one received by tradition." Again, he describes the untrained sons of Adam in that same way: "Those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not "the form of man." ... It is acknowledged that a man who does not possess this "form" (the nature of which has just been explained) is not human, but a mere animal in human shape and form. Yet such a creature has the power of causing harm and injury, a power which does not belong to other creatures."

      Moreover, he is not speaking of any intellectual incapacity. When he says "mental faculty above that of a monkey" his saying that they have an intellect which they use for the wrong purposes because they know not God. Again, compare what he says about the sons of Adam: For those gifts of intelligence and judgment with which he has been endowed for the purpose of acquiring perfection, but which he has failed to apply to their proper aim, are used by him for wicked and mischievous ends; he begets evil things, as though he merely resembled man, or simulated his outward appearance."

      Finally, the Rambam expliclity says elsewhere that these same tribes are actually the remnants of the Sabeans among home (he supposes) that Avraham grew up!

      "No one opposes him [Avraham], and no one ignores his merits, except some ignoble remnants of the nations left in the remote corners of the earth, like the savage Turks in the extreme North, and the Indians in the extreme South. These are remnants of the Sabeans, who once filled the earth."

      He saying explicitly that these are the same peoples among whom Avraham lived and those who migrated to the "remote corners of the earth" did not get the receive the religious tradition from Avraham like the Moslems and Christians have and are left in their pre-Avrahamic state.

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    28. 4) The Moreh was written for people thoroughly trained in Aristotelian thought. Such people would immediately see the clear allusion to the Greek belief that the nature of different humans was forged by their environment, that the South was *too hot* and the North was *too cold* and people from there were not fully human and were 'natural slaves', but that Greeks were *just right*.

      Lots of unfounded speculation here. I don't know where you get that the Rambam assumed that his readers were thouroughly trained in Aristotelian thought. He himself doesn't say that in the intro. When he gets to the postulates of the philosphers, he says: "Do not ask me to prove in this work the propositions of the philosophers, which I shall briefly mention to you: they form the principal part of Physics and Metaphysics. ... As to the propositions of the philosophers which I shall briefly explain ... they will for the greater part be admitted by you as soon as you shall hear them and understand their meaning; whilst in the discussion of other parts reference must be made for their proofs to works on Physics and Metaphysics, and if you direct your attention to such passages as will be pointed out to you, you will find everything verified that requires verification."

      He also says nothing about hot and cold here. He says nothing about Greek conception of Barbarians. He says that they were not exposed to the revealed religion of Avraham.

      Your claim of a "clear allusion" is unfounded and your misinterpretation of the other passages provide no support for your "theory".

      Now, there are some loose ends to tie up. Aristotle believed the world was eternal and did not believe that humans had a common origin (or any origin). The Rambam presumably did, making it more difficult to see how he would defend the theory that humans from different geographical climbs were fundamentally different.

      Moreover he says explicitly that there are the same nation that Avraham lived among!

      Your passion to vindicate the Rambam is admirable, but misdirected. I encourage anyone still following this debate to review the relevant passages for themselves.

      I have no passion to vindicate the Rambam. I have already said that he almost certainly had a completely false view of the intelligence of women: "How, then, could any person speak on these metaphysical themes in the presence of ordinary people, of children, and of women!".

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    29. The reason why the allusion is not clear to you is because you lack familiarity with the Greek intellectual tradition. In general, your exegesis, is a classic example of the blind alleys you can walk down through close reading if you don't understand a work's intellectual context.

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    30. It seems that you still have no argument or analysis, so you resort to the ad hominem: you are too uneducated to see what is clear to the enlightened. But I find humorous your claim that the Rambam needed to "allude" to your notions of racism. Do you really think that the Rambam was being politically correct based on modern standards of morality? That is laughable.

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    31. Look up 'allusion' in the dictionary. It doesn't mean 'hint'.

      The Rambam is talking in an side about a famous Aristotelian belief. He doesn't need to spell it out in detail because (a) it's not the the topic of the book or even that chapter and (b) the audience of the book are assumed to be highly familiar with Aristotelian beliefs.

      Now you are back to hallucinating about me trying to project my beliefs on the Rambam which is a fairly obvious case of projection. What the Rambam said is clear enough on its own and 99% of people would read it as I do. You have tried to come up with a highly elaborate case involving a pyramid of non-sequitors to prove he *may* have meant something else. However, this is waste of time because the plain reading of what the Rambam said happens to be a famous Aristotelian belief, which we can assume he accepted unless he says something to the contrary.

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    32. What the Rambam said is clear enough on its own and 99% of people would read it as I do.

      Again, assertions with no analysis, argument or evidence. Get some clothes on.

      Delete
    33. Quoting what someone says and pointing out that what he says is a standard belief in his intellectual tradition is considered evidence by sane people.

      Delete
  4. friendly spellling guyAugust 29, 2017 at 2:06 PM

    "...the shofar would presumable have been one of these:"
    Presumably, you meant to type presumably.

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  5. Avraham was not the first one who practiced monotheism. Obviously, Adam and least some of his descendants knew there is one G-d. Noach likewise knew one G-d. It was Hashem plan to give Torah specifically to Jews, which is also hinted in "be'reishis"- for Jewish people the world was created.

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    1. You misunderstand. Descendants of Avraham are called Jews. However, had "Avraham" been from a different locale, we wouldn't be the descendants of "Avraham", so we wouldn't be Jews.

      Also, it's not clear from Pesukim that Avraham was a monotheist. He only worshipped one god, but did he believe in others? We don't know.

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    2. It's also not clear from the pesukim that Avraham didn't use a motor scooter --a shiny red one, in fact, that he rode wearing a helmet (for safety's sake) with this really cool visor that doubled as sunglasses. The pesukim tell us that he had donkeys and camels for transportation, but there's no way to know from the pesukim whether he also had a motor scooter.

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    3. There is no evidence of (widespread) monotheism in any pre-Rabbinic writings, including the entirety of TaNaCH. On the one hand we know when motor scooters were invented, so we can be fairly certain that someone living 4000 years previously probably didn't have one.

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    4. avi,
      you were not referring to what was widespread, you were referring to avraham, who was quite explicitly the exception to what was widespread. the pre-rabbinic text of chumash provides evidence of avraham's monotheism (the entire basis for his special relationship with hashem). shmuel's response was both appropriate and correct (although he understated the case, likely due to the limitations of any serious discussion on this type of format).

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    5. Avi, Which part of your reply is "from the pesukim"?

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  6. The "mitzvos are random" approach raises A LOT more questions than it answers . . .
    I have less of a problem with the Aboriginal Avraham approach, per the Chasam Sofer and common sense. Though I don't think Avraham had to the first Jew, Hashem wouldn't have let it happen to someone who wouldn't have access to the items needed to fulfill the mitzvos and Eretz Yisrael.
    It is also exceedingly unlikely that hakaras Hashem would have happened amongst a primitive, violent, low-IQ culture like the aborigines. (As it happens, I believe that Rambam himself considers primitive cultures to be "barely human". Not sure where, though.)
    Maybe Natan just really likes Australia? :)

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    1. It is an interesting observation that Avraham somehow emerged from a sophisticated culture. He came soon after the generation of the Flood and Babel when humanity had reached its lowest point. It is a statistical improbability that,from this background, Avraham would have developed the necessary intellectual, spiritual, and imaginative capacity to establish Ethical Monotheism as a philosophical/theological code and then pass this onto his children. Presumably the Rationalist approach would argue that it was never predetermined that Eretz Yisrael would be the Holy Land but it became Holy by fact that this is where the descendants of Avraham could live and practice that Ethical Monotheism.
      In fact it would have been far more likely, that say, Avraham would have emerged from the Noongar Aboriginal people of Western Australia. Four Thousand years ago they would have been a tightly knit group with a sophisticated spirituality as part of their culture. Aboriginals tribes have been in Australia for at least 60,000 years and obviously had the merit to never be wiped out in any flood (and not to be wiped out by anything until the arrival of James Cook).
      So if the odds had played out, the area around Perth Western Australia may have been the Holy Land with the Temple built on the top of Kings Park.

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    2. 4,000 years ago (Avraham's era), the Ur region was the at or near the center of the civilized world. Also (and perhaps more importantly) Avraham was the descendant of the most morally and spiritually distinguished people of the time, Noach, Shem, and Ever.
      Conjecture aside, little or nothing is known about aborigines in Australia during that period. They may be/have been spiritual, but it was crude, primitive and violent - the type of which the Torah was designed to negate!

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    3. The "mitzvos are random" approach raises A LOT more questions than it answers . . .

      I don't think that it is "miztvos are random", but that "mitzvos are underdetermined". IOW, you can accomplish the purpose of the Mitzvos in a variety of ways. One method was chosen while another could have been. Rambam says that one should not look for reasons for every detail of a Mitzvah because there might not be a reason for every detail.

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    4. "Rambam says that one should not look for reasons for every detail of a Mitzvah because there might not be a reason for every detail."
      BTW, where does Rambam say that?

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    5. <a href="http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp162.htm>Guide 3:26</a>

      "I will now tell you what intelligent persons ought to believe in this respect; namely, that each commandment has necessarily a cause, as far as its general character is concerned, and serves a certain object; but as regards its details we hold that it has no ulterior object. Thus killing animals for the purpose of obtaining good food is certainly useful, as we intend to show (below, ch. xlviii.); that, however, the killing should not be performed by neḥirah (poleaxing the animal), but by sheḥitah (cutting the neck), and by dividing the œsophagus and the windpipe in a certain place; these regulations and the like are nothing but tests for man's obedience."

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    6. The problem is that Rambam spent many, many years working on The Mishna Torah - an odd use of time if he actually felt that halachic details were only "tests for man's obedience". That paragraph from M"N sounds like apologetics, like a lot of his rationales in the M"N.

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    7. @Weaver, what do you think his true position was? I don't see the contradiction that you do, but I'm not sure why he wouldn't just say that there are reasons, but we don't know them all if that is what he thought.

      What do you mean by apologetics? Do you mean that he didn't really think that the Mitzvos were important but felt compelled by tradition to defend them?

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    8. Weaver, you seem to be confused between there being a (known) reason for a detail and the necessity of adhering to the detail. I don't think the Rambam was similarly confused.

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    9. David Ohsie - I think we just don't know.
      The M"N is an uneven work to me - there are brilliant philosophical forays (some of which is beyond most people) combined with many dated and forced rationalizations for the mitzvos. Sometimes, the M"N and M"T even contradict each other, as with sacrifices. The apologetic and strained nature of some of the rationalizations have been noted by many, from R' Hirsch to more recently - even from the centrist camp - R' J. B. Soloveitchik and R' Aharon Lichtenstein.

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    10. @Weaver, you are confusing disagreement with an uncertain interp of the Rambam. The Rambam could be serious, yet incorrect. In this case, I think that he is undoubtedly correct, but that is just my opinion. I don't see any indication that he wasn't serious about the statement.

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  7. I believe this is a trap of your own making. If you create a flat earth ('rationalist') conceptual framework, then there is no way to distinguish Avrohom ovinu from lehavdil an aborigine.
    If you are prepared to countenance a mystical ('Rationalist') framework, which views physical bodies as containers for souls that have come down from higher levels and from their source in the Divine, then it is easy to see (in terms of the spiritual heights reached) that Avrohom ovinu is coming from a higher plane than the aborigines (who are to my knowledge too quite spiritual in their own right as are all native peoples). Eretz yisroel is projecting from a higher place too ("eretz yisroel gavoha mikol haaratzos" say chazal) so it's stones animals and fruits are the ones that are suitable for mitzvos. And the highest place in Eretz Yisroel is the mokom hamikdash. Interestingly, a few years back the CIA had a project called remote viewing, where they took people into deep meditative states and had them project on a location - in testing it was unknown and identified by a number. One time they projected on the holy of holies and their group assessment was that this was a location for connecting to higher worlds.

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    1. Interestingly, a few years back the CIA had a project called remote viewing, where they took people into deep meditative states and had them project on a location - in testing it was unknown and identified by a number. One time they projected on the holy of holies and their group assessment was that this was a location for connecting to higher worlds.

      Skeptic, you might want to consider adopting a new moniker. Your current nom de plume amounts to false advertising.

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    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate_Project

      LoL

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    3. Skeptic, you might want to consider adopting a new moniker. Your current nom de plume amounts to false advertising.

      love it! just maybe tho, I'm skeptical of all the things you take for granted! I'm not as silly as I look...

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    4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate_Project

      wot you expect wikpedia to give a true perspective?

      LovL

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    5. " I'm not as silly as I look..."

      Are you trolling?

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    6. Are you trolling?

      Nope. You challenged me on that once before but I am happy to repeat that I have no intent to troll.
      I'm trying to present an alternative viewpoint to you gentlemen. I'm not sure I've been too successful, but I don't see that as a flaw in my position but rather the limits of my ability to articulate it and your evident high intellect. But I do at least enjoy the debate.

      I'm sure you are aware of Kuhn's point that an argument that is outside the paradigm is met with an emotional response because one cannot argue against a paradigm with the rational stuff that lies within the paradigm. I think that is really what is happening here, I have a rather different paradigm to you and others here. So my arguments may wind you up a bit but that is not my intention, just a natural reaction to the direction I am coming from. Perhaps that is what gives you the feeling that I am trolling. Again, I am not.

      BTW was that the Rabbi himself in AK for maariv last night?

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    7. Oh, right. I remember now. You are trolling. My bad. Fool me twice, shame on me. Credit where credit is due.

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    8. Sorry, you can't trick me again no matter what you write. (Until I forget again, that is. I'm past the age of being able to remember anything).

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    9. that's the problem, you think I'm trying to trick you. (did you fall for that trick?). have a gr8 day and forget about me first!

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    10. Yes, I did fall for your trick. You made me think that you were serious. I forgot about the whole moon landing joke that you made. As I said, I give you credit for tricking me again.

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    11. Actually I have no intention of tricking you. Seriously and honestly. Nada.

      Well as far as the moon stuff goes, like you I accepted it beyond question. Until I looked at the films again. I'm afraid astronauts don't just jump up magically from the ground without any leg movements unless something is pulling them from above, nor does the lunar lander jerk off the 'moon' on 'takeoff' unless it is being pulled from above, and when the announcer tells me that the lunar rover is in two different locations on two different days then I might be forgiven for being surprised to see the same three rocks in the foreground. As they say, fool me once fool me twice. Perhaps when it comes to the moon even a diehard rationalist scientist like yourself believes in magic!

      The moon landings are cute, and there was a cultural war going on with the ussr so it is understandable there was a need to fake them. But I'm not so keen on the 'terrorist' stuff.

      Please, if you want to see whether I am tricking you, then do me a favor, look at the film of the truck attack in Jerusalem a few months ago, there is one film that is published everywhere. Notice the bus, and the pole in front of it. About 1.5 m away. Watch in slow motion as the truck approaches, appears to pass through the pole which reappears on the near side of the truck as it moves forward. Look at the two groups of soldiers and you will see that for a fraction of a second after the truck has passed through the second (far) group, there is absolutely no change. Then the soldiers fall down. This is supposed to be security camera footage. Again, do the laws of physics allow the pole to pass through the truck without any damage (you can see the truck afterwards absolutely no damage). The film is a fake. Why do they need to show me a fake? Why are THEY tricking ME?

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    12. Actually I have no intention of tricking you. Seriously and honestly. Nada

      That's exactly what a troll says. But you won't fool me this time.

      The film is a fake. Why do they need to show me a fake? Why are THEY tricking ME?

      Sorry, not taking the bait. You hooked me twice already.

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    13. You just don't want to see something that disturbs your view. Any rational person looking at that film with an eye for the details I mentioned - that the pole is not disturbed despite the truck apparently passing right through it, and the soldiers not going down until after the truck has passed - will see it.
      Troll shmoll

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    14. Give up. It ain't workin'. Look for other targets. You hooked me twice. Quit while ahead.

      Delete
  8. Rabbi Slifkin, why do you assume that Tekias Shofar would be a Mitzva had an Australian Aboriginal called Alambee discovered and revealed ethical monotheism?

    If wallabies, wombats, and kangaroos may have been the Kosher animals, does it not follow that the entire Torah could have been radically different?

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    1. He was merely presenting a possibility. Of course what you're saying is what Rav Slifkin is attempting to convey. (unless I'm mistaken?)

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  9. Ethical Monotheism - does that include death penalty for homosexuality, FEMALE but not male adultery, breaking Shabbas, necromancy, worship of a different deity....? What about ‘cutoff’ for ritual violations... ?

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    1. The Torah does not include a death penalty for homosexuality. And in a polygamous culture, the phrase "male adultery" as you mean it makes no sense. In terms of your other complaints, those have nothing to do with ethics, as ethics, by definition, define interactions between people.

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    2. @avi Are you sure about homosexuality - see Leviticus 20 ? Male adultery as in the male spouse engages in sex with an unmarried women - no death penalty for the male right ? But if a married female spouse engages in sex with an unmarried man - the women gets the death penalty right ? Laws govern the interaction between people, and the laws themselves can be unjust and immoral - it is that sense that I am questioning. I do not find defining away hard questions convincing.

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    3. But if a married female spouse engages in sex with an unmarried man - the women gets the death penalty right

      They both do. There is an asymmetry, but it is not completely one-sided. If the wife is raped then only the man is punished.

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    4. @David Ohsie Yes there is asymmetry and the asymmetry for consensual sex I am questioning is this: no death penalty for a married MALE who has sex with an unmarried female. But a married FEMALE who has sex with an unmarried man, the female gets the death penalty. True, the unmarried man also gets the death penalty.

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    5. @ACJA

      You could just as easily ask:
      No deat prnalty for an unmarriew FEMALE who has sex with a married male. But an unmarried MALE who has sex with a married female, the male gets the death penalty. True the married female also gets the death penalty.

      So the asymmetry cuts both ways.

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    6. @Yoni2 - good point, but it reinforces the power of my question. When the married man cheats with unnmarried Sally, Sally goes unpunished. In effect his wifes concerns don't count. But when a married women cheats with John (married or not), John is punished and so is the women, the husband's concerns are considered. I hope you can see the difference. Besides bringing other asymmetries does not address my question.

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    7. So it's not an asymetry about who is getting killed, rather an asymmerty abouthow a marriage is viewed. The "payoff" for the male (unique rights to the female, whatever) are not identical to the "payoff" for the female. So the basic pquestions are:
      Whether we should expect the male / female payoffs in marriage to be identical/ / is it "moral" to hae non-identical payoffs; and
      whether male polygamy is inherently more "moral" than female polygamy, i.e. whether, given that the answer to the above is that it *is* moral to have non-identical payoffs, is this specifc difference in payoffs is an acceptable morally.

      To the first i think the answer is a clear yes. Pretty much all cntracts are asymmetrical and that is always likely to be optmal (and therefore moral?) unless both parties are identical with respect to the matter at hand. As males and fmales have some pretty clear general differences both biologically (by definition) and emotionally (observation), not to mention culturally (by circumstance?) a social contract designed to be utilised between the two should surely to be expected to have some asymmetries.

      So we are down to the question of whether polygamy in particular is one of those differences to be expected. We also need to take it in context of the culture at the time (given that we are viewing from a culture that generally views monogamy as the norm / ideal). I have no answer to that, but to simply propose it as clearly immoral is a bit of a stretch.

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  10. Assuming Avrahum Avinu ‘discovered’ monotheism by what logic and reason does it make any sense that his descendants (including the ARABS) merit anything at all ?

    Also, is not there a midrash all but saying the Torah was offered to other nations but they rejected it. If one of them accepted it, maybe there would not be antisemitism but anti-Inuitism. And the Israelites with the Sinai mountain over their head were told take the Torah or else. In legal terms we have a non binding contract.

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  11. I disagree with the thesis of this and the prior post in that it makes the course of history and the torah's narrative and legislation a result purely due to the choice and vision of a single individual. While the oft quoted statement of the sages that "GOD peered into the torah and created the world" is both irrational and theologically problematic if taken to refer to the written torah that we have, it is rather extreme to assume that its form and content depended solely on one person. Indeed, the stage was set for the appearance of an Avram by prior history starting with Adam and running through Seth, Hanoch, Noah, Shem, and Ever, i.e. there was already a family history of interacting with the divine. The Divine creation and interaction with Adam set the stage for what followed. Nor is the choice of Israel as the Promised Land another accident of history. Israel is at the crossroads of 2 continents with armies and traders moving across the land from both directions. There was ample interaction with foreign cultures and, even more so, in exile from the land. The torah would not have been given to people living in isolation since the point of the torah was to educate all of humanity by a selected people who would serve as teachers and models. That people, the Jews, have not yet fulfilled that role, but their unusual talents and stubborn connection to torah and tradition despite the challenges placed in their path over their long history, argues that their selection wasn't an accident. While the Maimonidean and rationsl view of history is that the details aren't divinely controlled, the flow of history is, however, believed to be under divine guidance. I doubt that the Rambam disputed this approach. If the Rambam according to prof. Kellner disagreed, then a citation of such a source is in order.

    Y. Aharon

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    1. "...Adam [...] Seth, Hanoch, Noah, Shem, and Ever..."

      The first four would be common with any post-deluge human.

      Additionally, are Shem and Ever historical figures? No doubt whomever started the fire a sufficiently grand back-story would emerge.

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    2. Y. Aharon, doesn't the Torah itself indicate that this is the case. Adam did not have to sin, Dor HaMabul did not have to sin, Dor Hapalga did not have to sin, Avraham did not have to become a philosopher (following Rambam's view of Avraham), Moshe did not have to refuse to become the new B'nei Yisrael, the 10 tribes did not have to secede, etc.

      Also, the Torah's view is that all people descend from Adam. Whether you take this literally or figuratively, the heritage would be there. Also the Israelites were a tiny enslaved tribe. Why could God not have picked some other small tribe and led them to their promised land?

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    3. Yoni2 and David, there is ample evidence that Adam was not the first homo-sapien. There is fossil evidence that our species have existed for several hundred thousand years. Moreover, there is internal evidence in the torah's narrative for the existence of other contemporary people besides Adam and, later, Noah, and their families. Who, for example, did Cain and Seth marry; of whom was Cain afraid after killing his brother; for whom did he build a city; and who did Noah's sons and grandsons marry? The torah treats this family as if it were unique and alone in the world, for teaching purposes. The lesson is that all mankind should be considered family with a common ancestor, Adam. This is even considered the cardinal principle of the torah according to one Tanna. The actual facts available to modern man are, however, different. Adam was not the first of his species, but his creation was unique - as was his interaction with the divine. Noah, too, had such a directed fate and interaction. His son, Shem, lived through the mabul and survived long enough to be a contemporary of a young Avram and to possibly interact with him. His grandson, Ever, certainly was able to interact with Noah, Shem, and Avram. The relevant chronologies are given in Gen.10,11,12.

      Both Shem and Ever are set apart for distinction in the torah, and that is why I included them in the notable family member list starting with Adam. The point is that this family was set aside for divine interaction and guidance. Avram could have interacted with Shem and Ever and learned of their history. Such knowledge could well have influenced his course in life. The logical inference that idols have no intrinsic power doesn't necessarily lead to the realization that there must be a Creator who interacts with some people. Family history, however, does lead to that conclusion.

      Moreover, such divine guidance doesn't bespeak a lack of free will. I note the Terah, Avram's father, never completed the journey to Canaan, but died many years later in Haran at age 205, i.e. when Avram was 135. The torah's story is dependent on the existence of this family. It could not have happened in Australia or the arctic region due to their effective isolation, as mentioned earlier - even if suitable individuals had arise. If Avram had not fulfilled his promise, then some subsequent family member could have assumed that role. As it is, there are certain characteristics of this family that are conducive to divine interaction such as a quest for justice and exhibition of empathy.

      To be sure, the details of the torah's narratives would have been different if Avram never existed or never fulfilled his promise. Even the laws of the torah would be different if given in a modern era rather than in an agrarian patriarchal age. The form of the torah is contingent upon the times and characters, but not its principles. We just have to be sufficiently wise and sensitive to be able to extract the latter.

      Y. Aharon

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    4. Y. Aharon

      Thanks, I think I understand your argument better now. Am I correct that you are effectively saying that Avraham did not occur in a vacuum, so for someone else to take his place would notjust have required a "small" change of someone else coming up with monotheism, but also have required that other to have had the correct environment to allow for it? If so, I think I agree with that, however don't think it really disagrees with the crux of RNS' point.

      The way I see it, Human history is a complex enough system that we couldn't accurately predict the totality of the effects of even a minor chage in history very far forward. Given that, the question RNS is grappling with is whether there is only one unique predetermined solution to history that results in a monotheistic religion (our Judaism) arising or whether there are multiple possible solutions. It seems tha you agree that multiple soulutions are possible (you allow for another member of Avraham's family to fulfill his role). If so then surely therw is no fundamental reason that there could not be a solution involving an aboriginal "Avraham". Granted that many factors would need to be different in that solution. Naturally even in your example of it being a close relative of Avraham other factors would need to chage too (Avraham's particularly childhood journey surely factored int his becoming who he was). so lets say that an aboriginal Avraham would be probabilistically unlikely. But still the point remains. I don't think anyone was suggesting that an aboriginal Avraham was the second most likely possibility. in truth there is no way for us to know for sure. No matter how "likely" our version of history seems and how "unlikely" another seems, the system is to complex for us to make assertions with any degree of confidence. All we haveis the philosophical question ofwhether any other possibility existed at all. And it seems you agree that they did.

      If you want a "just so" story to allow for an aboriginal Avraham to have existed maybe we would beed:
      -Avraham (and his close family members) fail in their misson;
      -due to rampant idolatry eventually ANE society breaks apart.
      -a new "Silk Road" develops between china and Austrailia as a result of an enterprising Aboriginal developing a new type of ship (Aboriginal Adam?)
      -slowly the necessary cultural and philosophical background develops through Australia.
      -Aboriginal Avraham
      -somehow through the whole process, the didgeridoo still remains the instrument of choice.

      Poe suggests i should point out that the scenario above is deliberately facetious. The point is that *some* alternate history with a Torah could have been and that it involving Aboriginals is not betound conceivability.

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    5. Yoni2. My point is that the choice of Avraham's family members as the bearers of the divine mission was not some accident of history. That family was chosen from the beginning for that mission - starting with Adam. The identity of the first family member to accept that mission was not predetermined. Avram accepted it and so became the essential link to the divine mission for the generations of that family after him. While GOD could have created an Innuit Adam or an Aboriginal one, He did not do so. As it is, the mission as given to us doesn't appear to have much chances of success despite the advantages that we have for its fulfillment (Hopefully this will change in the future). How much more so for a people with a much different cultural history and physical situation. in any case, we know of no such Abrahamitic or Mosaic figure from these people.

      Y. Aharon

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    6. Are you suggesting that Avraham had the choice whether or not to be Avraham, but Adam, Noach, Shem etc. had no such choice but were chosen like it or not?

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  12. everyone who thinks about these issues is well aware that there is a seeming contradiction between human free will and g-d's foreknowledge. everyone is also aware that we don't know of any "good" solution to this problem, and rambam was of the opinion that this knowledge was deliberately withheld from mankind.
    this contradiction permeates any discussion of history, and we can only discuss historical events from one perspective at a time, never both together.
    as such, from the perspective of free will, avraham was free not to become who he became, and everybody prior to avraham (aborigine, inuit, etc.) was free to become what avraham later became. from the perspective of g-d's foreknowledge, it was inevitable that only avraham would be the chosen one, that only e"y would be the chosen land, that the mitzvot would be what they are.
    when the medrash speaks of the torah as being woven in to the fabric of creation, it may be speaking only from the perspective of g-d's foreknowledge, when other's speak of avraham's selection being the result of his actions, they are speaking only from the perspective of free will. both are true, and the contradiction shall not be resolved in olam hazeh.

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    1. rambam was of the opinion that this knowledge was deliberately withheld from mankind

      Actually, he was of the opinion that God's knowledge was of a different kind than human knowledge and thus the deduction "knowing = predetermined" is not valid.

      According to your reasoning, the Beis Hamikdash was not destroyed because of our sins.

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    2. 1. "Actually, he was of the opinion that God's knowledge was of a different kind than human knowledge and thus the deduction "knowing = predetermined" is not valid"

      to human logic knowing = predetermined is correct, especially when the knowledge is the actual cause of what will happen (g-d's "knowing" creates reality rather than merely adhering to reality). the fact is that human logic is incorrect in this case, because human logic is not capable of conceiving of what "knowing" means when referring to g-d. as such solving this paradox depends upon understanding g-d's knowledge, something that was deliberately withheld from mankind. rambam is pretty explicit on this point in hilchot yesodei hatorah.

      2. "According to your reasoning, the Beis Hamikdash was not destroyed because of our sins"
      to repeat the obvious point that i stated above. there is a contradiction between foreknowledge and free will that results in an unsolvable paradox (and that paradox was deliberately not meant to be solved). therefore, any historical event can only be viewed from one of those perspectives at a time, even though both are true.
      as such:
      from the perspective of free will the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of our sins.
      from the perspective of foreknowledge the Beis Hamikdash had to be destroyed because is was preordained.
      both are true, and that is the paradox.

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    3. to repeat the obvious point that i stated above. there is a contradiction between foreknowledge and free will that results in an unsolvable paradox

      You may think it unsolvable and you may be right. But the Rambam (at least exoterically) and almost all the other authorities (Rabbeinu Bachya Ibn Pakuda had some doubts) preserved free-will despite the question about God's Omniscience (some solving it by denying his Omniscience with regard to future events). They don't take the other "perspective" and the Rambam in particular says that denying free-will would make the Torah unsupportable.

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    4. i'm having trouble understanding your point. everybody preserves a belief in free will. the chumash itself says ובחרתה בחיים, implying that it is a free choice. there can be no doubt that judaism is predicated upon free choice, and that it is real and meaningful. we are responsible for our actions.
      at the same time, what will occur is foreknown and therefore predestined.
      THAT is precisely the paradox. various authorities have different approaches to dealing with it. rambam in particular, takes the position that it is unsolvable because man was created not to be able to understand the true nature of g-d, therefore we can not understand the very concept of g-d's foreknowledge.
      as a practical matter, any event can be examined from either perspective on it's own, but never from both at the same time. yet both are true.
      in addition i might point out that of the 2 factors, the easier one to do away with is free will. g-d's omniscience is what rambam calls a "necessary truth" in that it could not be otherwise, for that is g-d's "nature" (so to speak). on the other hand man's free will is a "contingent truth". g-d created the world that way, so it is real, but g-d could have created the world differently or not at all, and then there wouldn't be free will.
      if we would (mistakenly) try to solve the paradox by trying to do away with belief in one of the 2 factors, it would have to be free will that we would reject. for that reason, all the authorities, rambam included, make a point of insisting on free will, but that is not for lack of awareness of the paradox.

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    5. at the same time, what will occur is foreknown and therefore predestined.

      That is your opinion and is a possibility raised by Rabbeinu Bachya (although he argued from God's omnipotence and not his omniscience).

      All of the other Rishonim that I have seen reject predestination. They simply don't agree with your approach the problem.

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    6. I would rather believe that GOD has limited his foreknowledge as to allow human free will rather than the reverse (the Ralbag, indeed, states that free will necessarily limits foreknowledge). To assume that omniscience is an intrinsic divine character is to make a statement that you understand that nature. However, just as we may be forced to assume that we have no understanding of how Divine foreknowledge doesn't preclude free will, so too do we have no basis for concluding that such foreknowledge must necessarily exist. Why couldn't there be an intentional foreclosure of such knowledge? You could think of it as an omnipotence vs omniscience type argument. The implication of this argument is that both human free will and divine omniscience are 'contingent truths'.

      The torah's language in both Bereishit and Shemot suggest this possibility. In Bereishit we find the language of GOD 'descending' to examine the deeds of the Babel builders and the people of the Sodom area. Such a careful examination is, presumably, to decide if the situation is irretrievable. If only to examine past and current deeds, that would suggest that divine knowledge as well as foreknowledge is incomplete. Similarly in Shemot, GOD tells Moshe that he has hardened Pharoah's heart so that he won't release the Israelites until all the planned plagues have come upon him and his people. The prediction of Pharoah's behavior appears to be a case of a loss of the latter's free will. However, these are exceptional cases. In all other cases, free will is allowed at the possible expense of divine foreknowledge.

      Y. Aharon

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    7. y. aharon,

      "I would rather believe that GOD has limited his foreknowledge as to allow human free will"

      that is how the mekubalim deal with this paradox as well as many issues in chumash, of which you brought an example. you are very likely correct that it is also the thinking that lays behind the ralbag's (admittedly very controversial) statements on g-d's foreknowledge.

      however, even the mekubalim agree that g-d's foreknowledge is an absolute truth, not a contingent truth. they simply draw a distinction between g-d "as he is" vs g-d "as he behaves within creation" (like everyone else, i have no idea what that means, just repeating the words). 2 obvious reasons for this are a) omniscience is a necessary precondition for omnipotence, you can't control what you are not aware of. and b) it is clear from the neviim as well as the messora that no limitations can be placed on g-d in the way that we perceive him. there may be other reasons as well.

      rambam, for whatever reason doesn't accept this reasoning and prefers to leave the question open by simply stating that it's solution lies in understanding g-d in a away that was withheld from humanity. the mishna (avot perek 3, mishna 15) also mentions this paradox, and doesn't seem to offer a solution.

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    8. david ohsie,

      the rishonim don't reject predestination, they simply reject that it limits free will. in the context of free will there is no predestination, but in the context of predestination there is. does that appear to be a contradiction? of course, that's why it's a paradox.
      the rishonim can't ignore a mishna, and the mishna states this clearly (avot perek 3, mishna 15).

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    9. the rishonim don't reject predestination, they simply reject that it limits free will. in the context of free will there is no predestination, but in the context of predestination there is. does that appear to be a contradiction? of course, that's why it's a paradox.
      the rishonim can't ignore a mishna, and the mishna states this clearly (avot perek 3, mishna 15).


      Please provide references. They refer to the contradiction between God's knowledge and free will, not predistination and free will. Most come down on the side that free will and God's foreknowledge do not contradict; some limit God's knowledge and some free will.

      The Mishnah does not mention pre-destination; it mentions foreknowledge.

      Please provide references on your claims about predestination. I'm willing to be proven wrong.

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  13. Come on, guys, enough already. Move on to the Chicken Wars!

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    1. You mean we have to shift from working out whether humans are different types to chickens? Downhill all the way!

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  14. I am shutting down the comment thread on this post. Too much wasting time.

    ReplyDelete

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