Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When Absence of Evidence is Evidence of Absence

It is popularly believed that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - or, to present what appears to be the Talmudic equivalent, לא ראינו אינו ראיה. Often, however, this is not true, and absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence.

Let's take Bigfoot - the large, hairy, ape-like creature that is said to stalk the forests of north-western America. There is no actual evidence for its existence. Now, you might think that this does not mean that there is any evidence that Bigfoot does not exist. But it does indeed mean that.

The reason is that if Bigfoot existed, there couldn't just be one or even a few of them. No species exists as just a few individuals. There would have to been, over history, hundreds of thousands of them. And while it is certainly possible that a handful of individuals could exist without leaving any evidence for others to find, it is inconceivable that hundreds of thousands could exist without leaving any evidence behind. The absence of any evidence for Bigfoot is indeed evidence that Bigfoot has never existed.

So absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence if the phenomenon would be expected to produce evidence. It is important to grasp this point, because it has significant ramifications for discussions about Torah - in particular, the history of rabbinic scholarship.

Recently I have been involved in various online Torah discussions in which people asked for rabbinic sources to back up a certain idea. The presumption appeared to be that if you can find some source - any source - then it shows that the idea is a legitimate, normative idea in Judaism. And if you can't - well, it still could well be that the idea is normative, and we just haven't found the source yet.

But you have to consider the situation. If the idea is indeed normative, then surely you would expect it to be widely discussed by Chazal and certainly the Rishonim. If there is no discussion of it, then this is evidence that they did not believe the idea to exist. If there are only one or two sources discussing it, then this is evidence that it is not normative.

(Yes, I am aware of the irony that during the Great Science-Torah Controversy, this is exactly what the Gedolim accused me of doing, with regard to sources claiming that Chazal were fallible in scientific matters. But the point is that they got it exactly backwards. The notion that Chazal were fallible in science is not an aberrant view, but is in fact that of a major school of thought in rabbinic history. Whereas the idea that Chazal knew everything about the world from ruach hakodesh is not found in any early sources, and is countered by countless Gemaras and other sources.)

This is a point of general importance, but it is also of particular importance with regard to the topic that I saw being discussed. This was the notion that you can learn Torah and designate the reward/benefits to the spiritual bank account of anyone that you like, as long as you mention their name. As I discussed in my monograph "What Can One Do For Someone Who Has Passed Away?" there is no early source for such a concept; in fact, the earliest authorities to discuss such things explicitly state that there is no such concept. You can't do mitzvos and designate the reward to be sent to whomever you want. So, when people are failing to find sources for such a notion, they should not conclude that the sources are out there and they just haven't found them yet. Rather, the correct conclusion is that this is not a normative, classical idea in Judaism.

51 comments:

  1. I feel that way about the concept of משיח

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  2. Appropriately enough, somebody once made this very claim to me (absence of evidence not being evidence of absence) to support their belief that the Talmud's claims of fire-born salamanders etc. actually do still exist.

    If the idea is indeed normative, then surely you would expect it to be widely discussed by Chazal and certainly the Rishonim. If there is no discussion of it, then this is evidence that they did not believe the idea to exist. If there are only one or two sources discussing it, then this is evidence that it is not normative.

    Does this mean that Binyamin being a werewolf is not a normative Jewish belief? You have crushed my spirit, Rabbi! Crushed!

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  3. https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/settled.png

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  4. I take exception to your assertion that when evidence is expected, a lack can be considered evidence of the opposite. Even in such a case, there is no evidence. What you have instead is a weighing of probability. You have to determine how likely it is that evidence could exist without being found. Over how long a time period one would expect to find evidence is simply one of the variables in determining the probability.

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  5. You should be careful with this concept for two reasons
    1) You are risking awakening the slumbering frum-OTD blog wars of the late 90's and early 00's where the OTD argument was that there was no evidence for much of the Bible's narratives and the frum response was " absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". For example, there is no physical evidence that a large group of people wandered for 40 years in the Sinai pennisula including an extended 18 year sojourn in one place.
    2) There IS evidence of Bigfoot's existence, and it's even on video. I submit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBFSCbptrJk

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  6. The notion that Chazal were fallible in science is not an aberrant view.

    ...

    I thought that when you published your books. you thought it was an abberant view, restricted to r. abraham ben harambam and 2 others.

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    1. shimmi, I don't think that the ba'alei Tosafot can be listed simply in the category of '2 others'. In eruvin 76b they state that R' Yochanan there and the Gemara in Succah 8 were mistaken in a matter of geometry in confusing the areas of a circle enclosing a square with their perimeters. Note, they don't state that the problematic statements are difficult; they are incorrect. Nor is there a significant difference between mathematics and science for this argument- although proven mathematical ideas are logically true, while science is a matter of evidence. They both deal with facts and the perception of the Sages about such matters.

      Y. Aharon

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  7. You're treading on dangerous ground here. Once you acknowledge that absence of evidence can reasonably be evidence of absence, you open up tenets of Orthodoxy to being functionally disproven.

    For those that believe that psak changes reality, why would it matter if it's a late idea? Once it becomes accepted, the thinking goes, God adjusts reality to make it so that doing mitzvos for the benefit of the dead works.

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    1. What evidence is there for Hashem ? I am not asking about philosophical arguments. I am asking for evidence. If Hashem exists should there not be evidence for him ? Does the absence of that evidence plead for Hashem's likely non existence ? Claiming Hashem is a mystery and hides his face is a lame counter argument and a failure to respond.

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    2. This.

      Also, the oft quoted "Minhag Yisrael k'din." Which means that once it (whatever "it" is) is an accepted part of what we do, say, believe, it's "din", it's halachah, "true Torah" or "normative Judaism".

      Michapeset

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  8. With regards to the deposit of mystical reward points into another's spiritual account there is, as you said, evidence of absence in that the earliest sources say that it doesn't work. Similarly, in the argument about Hazal's scientific knowledge there is also evidence of absence in that the majority of rishonim admit that Hazal are fallible in matters of scientific knowledge, not to mention the fact that Hazal admit it themselves. As for the bigfoot example, you inserted an extra premise into the argument. Your argument isn't absence of evidence, it is "bigfoot would leave evidence-->there is no evidence-->there is no bigfoot". Similar to if we were talking about deer in a forest. The argument isn't we haven't seen deer therefore they aren't there. It is Deer leave scat and rut marks-->there isn't any scat or rut marks-->there are no deer. The addition of the premise that bigfoot leaves evidence stops it from being the absence of evidence argument.

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  9. "So absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence if the phenomenon would be expected to produce evidence. It is important to grasp this point, because it has significant ramifications for discussions about Torah"

    Oh yes indeed. Like the Exodus.

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  10. It does not say that Dovid ha Melech explicitly designated Joab for reward of his study, but the following illustrates the concept of passing reward: "Were it not for David [who studied Torah], Joab would not have been able to wage war, and were it not for Joab, David would not have study Torah" (Sanhedrin 49a).

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    1. That is a different idea: that if you enable someone else to do a Mitzvah, then you share in the reward for that Mitzvah. That is different from the following: I dedicate the Zechus of this Mitzvah to Ploni.

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  11. Some interesting facts about Bigfoot hoaxes may be found here: http://hoaxes.org/archive/display/category/bigfoot

    The one I find most interesting is the the 1958 hoax (http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/how_bigfoot_got_his_name) where a construction worker created the fake footprints. This was confirmed by his family when he died in 2002.

    WRT the absence of evidence in halacha, isn't a counter-example the case of the etrog? As I understand it, there is no debate whatsoever about what species a "pri etz hadar" is, not because we don't know, but because everybody knows and there is no alternative opinion to mention.

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  12. What about the absence of evidence for abiogenesis? Or the absence of transitive evolutionary fossils for the vast majority of species? Why is that by those cases, the absence of evidence is not considered evidence to disprove their respective theories?

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    1. Please see http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2016/03/proof-of-god-from-gaps-sherlock-holmes.html

      Absence of Evidence does not apply in your examples.

      For abiogenesis what evidence should there be for it, yet it is not there ?

      There is overwhelming evidence for evolution. Also see http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2016/01/proof-of-god-from-design-part-2-or.html

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    2. 1) I'm not sure about your claims on transitory evolutionary fossils. Because we would not expect to find lots of samples of every single species throughout time because the formation of fossils is a random process. You don't expect to get a recording of everything.

      2) The evidence for abiogenesis is that there was a period without life followed by a period with life. You are correct though that we can't rule out life arriving on a meteor. I believe that there is very little which is claimed to be known yet about this process given the lack of evidence.

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    3. Rabbi Slifkin's supposition is based on the premise that evidence would be expected. In your two examples, those studying in the related fields do not expect to find (conclusive) evidence.

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  13. This view smells of ignorant arrogance. We don't have a full picture of the Torah of the Rishonim. Much was never written and much was lost. The idea that there is an absence is only proven to those who have a blind belief in historians. The truth is, we have no clue. We don't even know what it is we don't know.

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    1. It's past your bedtime my friend.

      Honestly, I sometimes think that R' Natan writes these himself from a different account just to stir things up!

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    2. Can you cite a few instance of later traditions which were clearly derived from the Rishonim, but not recorded?

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    3. The idea that there is an absence is only proven to those who have a blind belief in historians.

      This is nonsensical. That there is an absence is simple fact. One can enumerate all the extent writings of the Rishonim and determine if a particular idea is expressed. It either will be or won't be. You are arguing that we should not expect to find any particular idea expressed, because our body of literature from the era is far from comprehensive. That is a different argument.

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  14. From ACJA blog post http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2016/03/proof-of-god-from-gaps-sherlock-holmes.html PER ACJA - We can safely claim absence of evidence for 600000 plus people at Sinai is evidence of likely absence of 600000 plus at Sinai.

    P.S. Nevertheless, there may have been a much smaller Exodus and Sinai desert wandering for some period of time. Some have advocated mainly the Levites and with Midianite involvement.

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  15. I would imagine that part of problem is that Chassidus, which was entirely non-normative within traditional Judaism, began barely 400 years ago and not long thereafter words of any Chassidic Rebbe were considered by most Chassidim (of any thread) to be “Torah”, albeit “Hidden Torah” that has yet to be revealed until such Rebbe revealed it to be true. See for example the Tanya, which is revered by ALL branches of Chassidim as a holy book of Torah truth. The same can be said for the Arizal and his statements recorded by his disciple. And whereas Chassidim were widely and sometimes viciously derided by non-Chassidim even up until pre-WWII, after WWII that changed drastically. There has become a wide acceptance of and even blurring of boundaries between Chassidish Orthodoxy and non-Chassidish Orthodoxy to the point where Litvish Roshei Yeshiva are being sought out and can be found dispensing brachos to streams of the public lining up to get a bracha as though they were the Chassidic Rebbes of yesteryear.

    So when we have this whole branch of Orthodox Jewry believing that a Rebbe’s “revelations” of “Hidden Torah” are “normative Torah” then “normative Torah” becomes a fluid thing which is easily changed or invented in the relatively recent past. The Rebbe’s statement becomes a valid “source” and then who is to say what “normative Torah” is or what is just a “newly revealed heretofore hidden truth of Torah”?

    Michapeset

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    1. firstly,
      Does it matter suddenly now what the masses or what a "whole branch" accepts?


      Second,
      It is false.

      Ask Any classic Litvak
      They smirk at chassidish Torah
      though they'll do it gently. And that is because they recognize that chassidus have done a better job at keeping the hoi polloi within the religious umbrella .Better than any other system or 'branch' that has been contrived.And that is of import.
      Putting that aside,they hardly render it still in any way normative or authentic

      though they'll generally refrain from expressing it


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    2. "Ask Any classic Litvak...They smirk at chassidish Torah"

      How about the non-classic Litvish? How many of them do an Upsherin, for example?

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    3. Chaya – What David Ohsie said - exactly. Upsherins have become almost standard for the non-Chassidish. Even those parents who don't let their boys’ hair grow very long, and who trim it along the way, make Upsherins. Why? Because the Litvish are adopting Chassidish minhagim more and more over the years. And once they start doing it their kids do it, and “Minhag Yisrael K'Din."

      Add to that the Lag B'Omer festivities in the Yeshivish and non-Chassidish world. in the 60's and 70's the extent of Lag B'Omer celebrations in the USA were adults getting haircuts. The kids were taught themes of bows and arrows and went to a park for outdoor activities. Nowadays everyone is singing and dancing around a bonfire the night of Lag B'Omer.

      Another one is "Vacht Nacht" that non-Chassidish people now do on a small scale. They don't make it into a catered even, but they invite all the neighborhood kids over and families’ children over to say Shema with the newborn and give out "peklach" of nosh to the kids.

      In terms of the quiet smirks you refer to by "Classic Litvaks" or "Shtark Litvaks" at Chassidish Divrei Torah, those smirks are usually limited to teenage boys and very young, not to mention immature, men in their early 20’s who are still in Beis Medrash or Kollel. The reality is that many of today's popular frum speakers often quote and refer to divrei Torah of Chassidish Rebbes.

      The point is that it's only 400 years old since an entirely new way of practicing Judaism was created, basically out of thin air, and notwithstanding the immediate backlash and politics of that time, at this point, this new Judaism we call “Chassidism” its practices are now within "Normative Judaism". What is "Classical Judaism" is becoming fuzzier as time goes on, and will continue to become fuzzier over the next 200 years, at which point all these minhagim will be thought of as things all frum Jews have always done.

      And of course we have it in the Litvish world as well with the Kollel system which was newly innovated for the USA within the last century and is now considered “Normal” when we all know that it is far from classic normative Jewish practice. Anyone who is honest about how social changes affects the observance of Torah and Jewish practice and how it evolves and morphs over the centuries and even from one generation to the next, will probably not take very seriously those digging their heels in and proclaiming about anything in Judaism: “This is THE ONLY RIGHT WAY.” I don’t think that those who lean towards Rationalist Judaism should say that, any more than those who lean towards a more mystical Judasim. Because you can insist something is so from today to tomorrow, while it will remain that “normative” Judaism is what majorities of Jews are practicing, not what you think they “should be” practicing. Likewise, “Classical Judaism” is what Jews have practiced in centuries past. Not what you think they should have been practicing. It is a certain level of denial that I think is similar to saying that someone is “not a Frum Jew” when he makes a tremendous Chillul Hashem getting caught and being jailed for lying, cheating and stealing. He IS a Frum Jew, even if you don’t want him to be associated with Frum Jews. He looks, walks, talks like a Frum Jew and he practices everything that Frum Jews practice.

      Michapeset

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    4. PS - I remember hearing somewhere that Amuka was a contrived spot, and that someone simply made up that the Tanna Rabbi Yonasan ben Uziel is buried there. And when one of the rabbinic leaders of yore were told this, he said that the fact that it was made up should not be publicized because it gives people hope to daven there and giving people hope is important. So what does this make Amuka? If it is a lie made up by an enterprising tour guide of old, does that mean it is now not a special place where Jews go to daven? Whether Rabbi Yonasan ben Uziel is buried there or not, doesn’t change that for the past X number of years Amuka is a special place that Jews go to daven, believing that Rabbi Yonasan ben Uziel is buried there. “Classical Judaism” should be otherwise known as the “Socially Morphed Practice of Judaism.” Because in another 200 hundred years from now, the lie will be “ancient truths” and “Classical Judaism.”

      Michapeset

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    5. So have you [plural]been wasting all this time on a virtual myriad of blogs? Glad, you've conceded.

      Second, neither of you presumably are familiar with classical Litvaks and the like. Though admittedly, there aren't that many left.

      Thirdly,that is a red herring. While minor minhagim and details have indeed moved with the eddies and tides , for Principles and Precepts of Judaism, there are and always will be Red lines.

      Fourth, what were the Prophets (Neve'im) doing other than critiquing practices that were becoming 'normative'?? And so maggidim and others who followed their path??

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    6. Second, neither of you presumably are familiar with classical Litvaks and the like. Though admittedly, there aren't that many left.

      Hardly. I was taught to be one. It took me a while to get used to the fact that Judaism is what it is, and not what we imagine it to be. So no upsherin for my kids, but I no longer cringe at attending someone else's.

      That said, if you admit that there aren't many left, then you concede Mechapeset's point about the spread of Chasidism.

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  16. How come this did not work out in my favor when I cut classes in high school?!?!

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  17. Wait a minute: Didn't the late great astrophysicist Carl Sagan invoke this "absence of evidence" statement when justifying looking for extraterrestrial life?

    Also, the "לא ראינו אינו ראיה" was brought in a halachic discussion (Eduyot 2:2): The fact that Rabbi Chaninah never saw the skin of a possul korban being burnt is not proof that the kohanim can use the leather--maybe it was burnt when he weren't present. It's not a statement of making observations of the physical world, but whether the fact that "I never saw anyone do that" is a proof like a מעשה שהיה, which is considered strong proof that the halachah is this way, because it establishes a precedent.
    --Yehudah P.

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    1. One should use his sechel when considering if the principle of לא ראינו applies or not. Granted there are often close calls, and reasonable minds can differ, but that's true with many legal maxims.

      Re ET life, possibly Sagan felt justified in applying the principle because space exploration was still in its heyday. Or possibly he was deluded by his passion. Regardless, today, with all the probes and radio signals we have bouncing around, its pretty clear we are all alone in the universe. It was always an atheist conceit anyway, bottomed on the belief that if our planet and its inhabitants were merely accidents of nature, it stood to reason the same accident had occurred elsewhere. The belief in aliens has quietly disappeared over the past thirty years or so, and even modern SciFi writers don't much use it anymore as a premise.

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    2. "Regardless, today, with all the probes and radio signals we have bouncing around, its pretty clear we are all alone in the universe."

      All I can do is smile. Do you know what an event horizon is?

      Also, why is it not reasonable to imagine that God created other forms of life somewhere else in the Universe. Is that any more theologically unreasonable than spheres with associated intellects.

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    3. It's not clear that we're alone in the universe, only that we're alone in our little corner of it. The universe is really, really, big. Our farthest probe has barely made it out of the solar system, and radio waves fade into the background radiation relatively quickly.

      Given the size of the universe, it's likely that there is intelligent life out there somewhere, and likely that it's so far away that we'll never meet.

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    4. DF, speaking as a professional editor of science fiction, I'm pleased to tell you that you are mistaken about a decline in the presence of aliens in SF. Alien worlds, alien life, and alien intelligence all remain staples of the field.

      Also, as someone who has to follow real science closely for my work, I can tell you that with the ever-growing number of exo-planets being discovered — over 3,700 so far — scientists have repeatedly increased their estimate of the total number of planets in the galaxy and now expect it to be over 100 billion. Given that, they are more convinced than ever that life almost certainly exists in other solar systems.

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    5. Moshe, Welcome back as a commenter on this blog. You commented some years ago on one of my offerings which made use of an example from The Way of Kings fantasy epic (1st volume) on which you have worked as editor (unless there are 2 Moshe's who are fantasy/scifi editors who read this blog).
      As to the issue at hand, no evidence has been developed for or against the idea that there is intelligent life, or any life, outside the earth. At most, the proponents of such life can point to some exoplanets that may have a suitable temperature for life as we know it. To my knowledge, no evidence of liquid water - a key factor for life on earth, on such planets has been presented. It's also a rather extreme extrapolation from the putative 3700 such planets of which we have some knowledge to some 100 billion for the universe. The universe need not have such uniformity. The probability of life developing on a planet such as earth has been much debated without any real basis for making such calculations (for life here, it's also irrelevant since one doesn't do probability calculations after the fact).

      The absence of any signals from space, after decades of search, that would indicate a communication attempt is an indication that there is either no one out there in the 'near' universe, or they are less advanced than us, or just aren't interested. If an advanced 'civilization' wished to investigate us they would have sent a probe to explore this strange blue planet. Perhaps it's on its way, however.

      The truth of the matter appears to be that secularists are more comfortable with the notion of life outside of earth, i.e., that earth is not unique. Religious people, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable with the idea that the earth is a special creation. Neither side has evidence for their preference (even Tanach can't be marshalled to support the 'religious' contention).

      Y. Aharon

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    6. At most, the proponents of such life can point to some exoplanets that may have a suitable temperature for life as we know it. To my knowledge, no evidence of liquid water - a key factor for life on earth, on such planets has been presented.

      I think that what they have done is to show that there are lots of planets in the "habitable zone" of their respective stars where water would be liquid. They haven't directly detected water on any exoplanet.

      It's also a rather extreme extrapolation from the putative 3700 such planets of which we have some knowledge to some 100 billion for the universe. The universe need not have such uniformity.

      This is hypothetically true, but the Universe does seem to exhibit uniformity where we can test it (gravity, star classifications, etc). Is there something that leads you to believe that planet and star formation is fundamentally different in different parts of the Universe?

      The probability of life developing on a planet such as earth has been much debated without any real basis for making such calculations (for life here, it's also irrelevant since one doesn't do probability calculations after the fact).

      The probability is definitely speculative, but it's got to be greater than zero, unless you posit a miraculous event to get it started. But even then, the probability of a miraculous event is greater than zero.

      Neither side has evidence for their preference (even Tanach can't be marshalled to support the 'religious' contention).

      I think there is some evidence from the scientific side that the earth is not "special" in that the same laws of physics seem to play out across the universe. So if life developed here, it is likely to have developed elsewhere. You are right that this is not proof.

      On the religious side, since we've displaced the earth from the center of the Universe, it's unclear why there is any objection to life elsewhere. The Rambam already noted that the purpose of the vast Universe is unknown to us: he did not insist that it was all for Torah or something like that.

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    7. David, I don't believe that we really disagree. I merely stated my preference for the earth (really, mankind) as a special creation. If we aren't unique then our failure to ultimately fulfill the divine plan wouldn't much matter in the grand divine scheme. We and the torah designed for us would be supplanted by some other intelligent beings and their divine communication.

      I fully agree that the laws of physics (and chemistry) should apply to the entire physical universe. At least, no evidence has been produced that this is not the case. While the universe can be considered uniform at some sufficiently great scale (the Einsteinian assumption), the detailed structures aren't uniform, i.e., the shape and clustering of galaxies. My objection to radical extrapolation of earthly observations to the entire universe stems from the observation that we (our solar system) reside in an arm of the spiral Milky Way galaxy. Our position in the galaxy and solar system, solar mass and evolution, and rotational/orientational stability (the effect of a large moon) may be more advantageous for the origin and continuation of life than is true for those exoplanets. If any such considerations have been taken into account, then I withdraw my objection to the extrapolation. I would still object to the conclusion that 100 billion somewhat similar exoplanets bespeaks at least one other with intelligent life, since we don't have a real idea currently as to how to calculate such a probability.

      I don't know that the Rambam would object to the presence of alien intelligent life elsewhere since he firmly believed that there existed immaterial angels of far greater power and intelligence. However, the Rambam's argument for the latter depended on Aristotelian physics (circular motion is 'unnatural' and requires an intelligent actor to produce) which has long been disproved (the motion of the planets is not due to angelic drivers, but is a consequence of the initial rotary motion of the original gaseous nebula, collisions, and gravity.

      I don't know that we are definitely not at the center of the universe. It just seems that way from our position in the galaxy. On the other hand, from our prospective, everything appears to rotate around us. If Einstein is correct that there is no preferred coordinate system (other than from convenience of calculations) then there is no preferred center of a coordinate system or the universe. The secular aphorism that Copernicus showed that we aren't the center of the solar system; Darwin showed that we had 'animal' antecedents; and Freud showed that we weren't in control of our subconscious are merely statements that neither our world nor man is unique. I prefer the idea that we are. It makes what we do (or fail to do) appear to be much more significant.

      Y. Aharon

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    8. Y. Aharon wrote: "The truth of the matter appears to be that secularists are more comfortable with the notion of life outside of earth, i.e., that earth is not unique. Religious people, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable with the idea that the earth is a special creation."

      Actually, the Lubavitcher Rebbe had a long correspondence with Prof. Velvl Greene of the University of Minnesota. Prof. Greene worked for a time on investigating the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The Rebbe encouraged him in this, saying that "it limits Hashem's greatness to say that He created life only on this world". (My paraphrase--I don't remember the Rebbe's exact wording.)
      --Yehudah P.

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  18. Random comment re:designating rewards to someone else.

    About ten years ago there was a special Cairo Geniza exhibit in the Jerusalem Museum. Among the items shown was an old Ketubah (I don't remember exactly but my impression is that it was at least 500 years old).

    The interesting part is that the Ketuba designated 30% of the husband's heavenly reward to the wife (and designated 30% of the wife's reward back to the husband). The idea was that the wife would support the husband's learning and get a meaningful reward in return.

    This is not definitive proof, but one could argue that the fact that a clause like this made it into what is essentially legal contract means that the notion of designating reawrds was not completely unheard of.

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    1. Interesting to know. Thanks for posting this.

      However, it still is not the same. The idea there is that the wife gets rewarded for her hand in the learning, since she does part of the work. The percentage designation in the Kesuba is symbolic of that idea, not the cause. That is different from an arbitrary designation to someone who played no role just by making the designation.

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    2. That's explicit in the Gemaraת Berachot 17a: אמר ליה רב לרבי חייא: נשים במאי זכיין?

      באקרויי בנייהו לבי כנישתא, ובאתנויי גברייהו בי רבנן , ונטרין לגברייהו עד דאתו מבי רבנן
      That women get the zechut of allowing their children and husbands to learn Torah, and that they allow their husbands to travel to another city if necessary to learn Torah.
      --Yehudah P.

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    3. There is a fun little story (maybe Chassidish - I forget who the story actually involved) wherein the rabbi buys a miser's Portion in Olam Haba and then sells it back at a higher price, with the payment going to the hachnasas kalla (the guy's wife freaked out and insisted he buy it back). No proofs from clever strategies to get ppl to give tzedaka, of course, but...

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  19. David Ohsie in conventional physics an event horizon means death not life in our universe.
    The usual YA

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    1. DF seems to suggest that since we send out lots of artificial radio waves, we would have been detected (and I guess contacted by) alien life somewhere in the Universe if it was out there. But given the speed of light our radio waves have reached only the tiniest fraction of the Universe. Perhaps I should have use the term past light cone instead of event horizon?

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    2. I suppose so.

      The usual YA

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    3. getting back to 'bigfoot'. There is a more graphic but related example of the idea that absence of evidence could be a demonstration that there is no such 'animal'. I refer to the 'adam hasadeh' that is found in a misnah in Kelayim and elsewhere. This supposed phenomenon has its source in Chazal, but is clearly incorrect as postulated. The 'adam hasadeh' was supposed to be a humanoid who was connected to the ground and supposedly derived its life from that attachment. The Tana'im deal with the question of is it human or animal (plant?). Unlike 'bigfoot' this 'humanoid' was ostensibly in a human environment and could be supposedly observed by anyone in the neighborhood. No such 'humanoid' sightings have been cited since then. The Tiferes Yisroel speculates that it refers to an orangutan. However, orangutans live unattached to the ground unless so tied up. Indeed, the most reasonable explanation for this peculiarity is that it refers to a wild human who is too dangerous to be kept in a house by family and is, instead, tethered to the ground. An example of such an unfortunate and tragic circumstance would be a child born deaf and blind, whose lack of ability to communicate with parents leads to great anger and violent behavior. While still a child, he can be controlled, but not when grown. That is why he may be left outdoors while tied by a rope to a stake in the ground. Without any further care such as bathing and hair cutting, he may be mistaken for a humanoid animal.

      Y. Aharon

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    4. I see that I made an error in the prior post. I should have said 'Adnai hasadeh' (lords of the field) instead of adam hasadeh.

      Y. Aharon

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