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Arguing With Creationists and Other Biases
A few years ago I was pushed by some Orthodox creationists (people who believe that all animal life was created separately, less than 6000 years ago) to have a debate on the merits of evolution. I responded by asking what kind of evidence, hypothetically speaking, would make them accept it. They dodged and hedged and would not answer the question. Of course, no realistic amount of evidence would convince them, since their opposition to evolution was fundamentally religious in nature. So I pointed out that the idea of having a scientific debate was a farce. A scientific discussion is one in which evidence is presented and conclusions are reached solely on the basis of the evidence. I don't mind having scientific discussions; I don't mind having religious discussions; but a religious discussion masquerading as a scientific discussion is inappropriate (not to mention pointless!)
I was reminded of this by a comment from Rabbi Zucker to this post. I asked him whether he acknowledges that most Orthodox Jews are very biased when it comes to weighing up the arguments for and against Rashi being a corporealist. After all, they possess tremendous reverence for Rashi as a Torah scholar and tzaddik par excellence, and they also maintain that corporealism is heresy. To my amazement, Rabbi Zucker did not agree. He says that, objectively speaking, one cannot know without a scientific survey, but what he believes (or likes to believe - he altered his phrasing) is that they are able to approach issues such as this without something that prevents unprejudiced consideration of the question. And naturally, he considers himself entirely unbiased, and seems to consider his statement to that effect as reason for one to believe that it is so.
I am at a loss for words. Would he likewise say that in arguments about the fallibility of Gedolim, Chazal's scientific knowledge, the age of the universe, one cannot know without a scientific survey that charedim are biased, and he would likewise believe that they are not? I guess that since in such discussions I would admit to now being biased since I have published opinions on these topics (although obviously I make my best attempt to evaluate everything objectively), Rabbi Zucker would say that I have less credibility, since I admit to being biased and they do not!