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A Dangerous Gamble
(Apologies for the delay in posting - I've been overwhelmed with my lecture tour as well as under the weather.)
Many readers misunderstood the point of the previous post, When The Winds Below. Which is my fault entirely, because I didn't spell out what my point was.
I was not getting into the topic of whether Rav Moshe Feinstein and others intended the term nishtaneh hateva as a euphemism for saying that Chazal were mistaken. I've heard Rav Moshe Tendler insist that he did, and others insist that he didn't. That's a fascinating issue to ponder, but it wasn't my point.
I was also certainly not making any point about changing halachah. On the contrary; I favor the approach of Rav Glasner and Rav Herzog, in which halachah does not change even if based upon mistaken beliefs.
My point was as follows: It can be very risky and problematic to insist, and make Judaism depend upon, science being wrong about something. Because maybe there's another way of looking at things. And maybe science will turn out to be correct, after all.
Rav Kook writes about how, when faced with a scientific theory that appears to challenge the Torah, one should not take a knee-jerk approach of insisting that it must be false. Instead, one should "build the palace of Torah above it." One should figure out how, even if the scientific theory turns out to be true, Judaism still survives. Then, when one is not religiously threatened by the scientific theory, one is in a better position to honestly assess its merits.
People who insist that the truth of Judaism depends on scientists being wrong about terefos, that the cessation of respiration is never reversible, or about there being no additional animals in the world with one kosher sign, or on there being no fish with scales and no fins, are taking a very dangerous gamble. And also an entirely unnecessary one.
Ride request: If anyone can drive me from Baltimore to New York on Monday, please be in touch!