Forcing the Opposition
In the comments on the previous post, someone raised a concern that I've been pondering for quite a few months - that the more successfully I defend the rationalist approach, the more harm this will do.
Dr. Menachem Kellner raises this topic at the beginning of Maimonides' Confrontation With Mysticism. If I recall correctly, he argues that the cause of the demise of the rationalist school of thought in Judaism was... Rambam! Before Rambam's time, the anti-rationalists never really got their act together. But because Rambam's formulation of the rationalist worldview was so powerful, this forced his opponents to flesh out their approach and push it much harder, and it eventually overwhelmed the rationalist approach.
Sometimes I fear that a similar phenomenon may have happened with STARC. Before it started, everyone knew that the Rishonim were of tremendous stature and always to be respected. When STARC began, many people (including the Gedolim who banned my books) assumed that the problem with my books was that I was misrepresenting the Rishonim or something like that. At that stage, the idea that the Rishonim were to be respected still held true.
But as it continued to unfold, people showed that many, many Rishonim also held that Chazal were sometimes mistaken in their statements about the natural world. Now, by this stage, the stakes were very high. It was absolutely inconceivable to my opponents that young Natan Slifkin could ultimately be right and the Gedolim wrong. So a new concept had to be invented: that the ideological views of the Rishonim could simply be arbitrarily paskened into kefirah, without any justification required. It was calmly stated that it was fine for the Rishonim to have a certain view of Chazal, but that for us to adopt that view is a perversion of the truth that is actual heresy.
The traditional way of arguing one's case - citing Rishonim and Acharonim - ceased to be relevant. All that was important was what the Gedolim say. This was a revolution which cannot be underestimated.
If this is a correct description of events, then the message is quite alarming. It means that we should be careful about arguing the rationalist cause, since (with some people) it will never be acceptable, and the only result will be that the parameters of Torah discourse will be altered - and not for the better.