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Modern Orthodox Charedim
In the previous post, I listed seven principles of bias. Some people were apparently wondering what the point of all this is. There are two applications that I can think of.
One is that, when assessing someone's opinion, it is useful to know the extent to which they are biased. We often do not have time or expertise to explore and analyze issues for ourselves, and we must rely on others. And even if we are analyzing the issue ourselves, we may by relying on others to a certain degree. If we know them to be fundamentally biased, this should make us more cautious about relying upon what they say.
Another is that acknowledging the existence of fundamental bias in a person can help us avoid wasting time arguing with them. Even extremely powerful arguments and evidence will not sway them. They will continue to insist that they are being logical and reasonable and that they are objectively evaluating the evidence. But you can be sure that this is not the case, and you therefore need not waste time in a futile effort to get them to agree to your point of view.
This is why I was not interested in an extensive debate with Dr. Isaac Betech about evolution, and that is why I was not interested in continuing debate with Rabbi Saul Zucker last year on the topic of Rashi's corporealist beliefs (although someone else is in the process of writing a response and demonstrating how he has misrepresented his sources). It wasn't because I didn't have any further rebuttals in response to Rabbi Zucker (when Hakirah asked me for some, I easily provided them), but rather because I recognized that the debate would never end. Every Orthodox Jew is powerfully biased against the notion that Rashi was a corporealist. This is even more true with graduates of YBT, which stresses that the Maimonidean rationalist/ philosophical/ logical approach to emunah and theology is the correct, authentic and traditional approach, held by all great people in Jewish history. (Thus, YBT graduates claim that Rashi rejected the idea of magical objects, and that he did not believe in demons.) The bias of a YBT graduate such as Rabbi Zucker against Rashi being the antithesis of a Maimonidean is even greater than the bias possessed by ordinary frum Jews.
Furthermore, as noted previously, people who do not acknowledge their biases are more likely to be crippled by them. I reeled in shock when Rabbi Zucker, who freely admits that he does not believe that a corporealist could even be worthy of respect as a Torah scholar, claimed that with regard to the question of whether Rashi was a corporealist, he can "categorically state" that he has "no tendency that prevents an unprejudiced consideration of this question." !!!
Thus, compounding the issue of fundamental bias is an inability to even acknowledge its existence. As such, it was apparent that he would never find any arguments to be convincing, just as young-earth creationists never find any arguments for evolution to be convincing. And the same goes for many Orthodox Jews who were following the discussion.
It is very important to realize that fundamental bias, and the closed-mindedness that it engenders, is by no means endemic to Charedim alone. Plenty of card-carrying Modern Orthodox Jews also have fundamental bias in certain areas, and indeed it is to be expected. The fact of one being open-minded to evolution and scientific errors in the Gemara does not mean that one is objective or open-minded; it usually simply means that these are concepts that are normative in one's own social sphere and/or upbringing. An ability to be objective about the scientific validity of statements in the Gemara has no bearing whatsoever on one's ability to be objective about the scientific validity of statements in Tenach. When it comes to ideas that are not normative in Modern Orthodox circles, people can be as fundamentally biased and closed-minded as any flat-earther or young-earth creationist - and as with flat-earthers and young-earth creationists, they will insist that they are being logical and reasonable and objectively evaluating the evidence, and even denounce the closed-mindedness of those to their right. There is a correspondence in the most recent issue of Hakirah which illustrates this spectacularly, and I shall post it soon.
All this will become of particular relevance when I move on to the final part of the discussion about the firmament, which will happen any day/ week/ month now!