Was The Hyrax Banned?
As everyone knows, a ban was placed on some of my books by around thirty leading charedi rabbinic figures back in 2004/5. There was some confusion about whether the ban was just on The Science Of Torah and Mysterious Creatures, or also on The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax. While the pashkevil that went out mentioned all three books, the article in the Israeli English edition of Yated only mentioned the first two. Furthermore, while it was obvious (to some) that the first two books conflicted with Charedi approaches, this was far from clear with The Camel, The Hare And The Hyrax. References to the antiquity of the universe and the scientific errancy of the Talmud were fleeting and tangential; the thrust of the book was to show that the Torah and Talmud's statements on this topic were, in fact, correct (when understood properly), despite claims of errancy by others.
Indeed, no less a figure than Rav Aharon Feldman of the Mo'etzes Gedolei HaTorah told me at the time that he was mystified as to what people could object to about that book. He himself had written a haskamah for it, and only decided at the last minute not to have it printed in the book because he thought that the book should only be read by charedim, and I could not guarantee that that would happen!
Nevertheless, the ban was indeed on all three books. And as Rav Feldman told me some months later, after speaking with Rav Moshe Shapiro, he understood the opposition to it - as did I. In fact, the problem could even be seen in the subtitle of the book (which, ironically, I did not come up with, but was instead written by one of the rabbonim who wrote a haskamah!). The subtitle is, "The laws of animals with one kosher sign in light of modern zoology." That encapsulates the problem with this book.
In extreme charedi culture (i.e. not the more moderate kind that you find in many parts of the US), one does not "evaluate" statements in the Gemara "in light" of modern science. One approaches Torah with awe, reverentially -- and unquestioningly. One does not ask, How is this statement of the Gemara true in light of modern science, and answer that the statement is to be understood differently than done in yeshivos.
I understand this objection, especially after reading Samuel Heilman's "People of the Book." Nevertheless, it reflects the particular norms of charedi society, not an unequivocal approach to Torah throughout history. The rationalist Rishonim of Sefard, for example, had a very different approach to their discourse in these areas. Such attitudes are a function of particular sub-cultures. Thus, while the book was heretical for some, it is not heretical for others.