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What Do The Experts Say?
During the Great Science-Torah Controversy of 2004-5, I was having a conversation with a friend, of blessed memory, who was a prominent figure in the American yeshivish community. He was widely regarded in that community as a knowledgeable, worldly person. And he asked me why on earth I was putting myself through all that ordeal for the sake of reconciling Torah with evolution. After all, he said, even the scientists don't believe in evolution anymore!
Of course, this is sheer nonsense. With the exception of certain fundamentalist Christians, every zoologists and biologist in the world - including many Christians aligned with the so-called "Intelligent Design" movement - believes that whales and bats descended from terrestrial mammals over millions of years (which is why whales have the disadvantage of needing to come to the surface to breath air rather than breathing underwater like fish). None of them believe that whales and bats suddenly materialized into existence in their final form a few thousand years ago, as is the traditional understanding of Genesis.
Yet misconceptions like this about the state of scientific knowledge seem to be widespread in the charedi community. How does this happen? It doubtless stems from various anti-evolution literature (written by both Jews and Christians) which spread many types of misinformation, including the following:
presenting questions as refutations;
presenting Christian or Jewish fundamentalist scientists as objective authorities utilizing the scientific method;
presenting non-specialists as authorities;
presenting maverick specialists as representing the mainstream;
quoting actual mainstream specialists out of context (e.g. misrepresenting comments about the theory of evolutionary mechanisms to be instead referring to the accepted fact of common ancestry).
For the average layman, such misunderstandings are understandable. When they see reference to a book called "Evolution: A Theory In Crisis," written by a PhD biochemist, naturally they form the impression that even scientists don't believe (or don't have good reason to believe) that the Biblical account has been challenged by science. Little do they realize that the author of this very book, aside from being a devout Christian on the fringe of the academic community, is absolutely convinced that the evidence clearly shows that the animal kingdom (including man) evolved over millions of years!
That's why in my book on this topic, The Challenge Of Creation, I sought primarily to clarify the state of scientific belief rather than to stake a personal position. With common ancestry, which is accepted as scientific fact by the entire body of relevant authorities, I pointed this out and also gave a taste of the factual basis. With the mechanisms of evolutionary change, I explained that there is something of a spectrum, with a majority opinion in one direction, and a minority opinion in another direction, and I did not take sides. As a non-biologist, I lack both expertise and authority, and I freely admit it. But what I did develop skills at is identifying who the authorities actually are and what they actually say, and also identifying how people misrepresent the views and status of others.
With Covid and the vaccine, it's a similar situation. We see countless people who falsely (and presumptuously) believe themselves far more competent at evaluating scientific data than they actually are. We see a widespread lack of understanding as to who is an actual authority on the topic. There is a pervasive belief that a significant number of qualified authorities are against the vaccine, whereas the fact is that the overwhelming majority of people who are actually qualified to have an opinion on the vaccine are in favor of it.
I'll conclude with a simple home test that you can do to see if you have weaknesses in this area. (Passing the test won't prove that you don't have any, but failing it will prove that you have fatal weaknesses!) Here's the question: How many authoritative scientists say that vaccinated people who get infected with Covid carry 251 times the viral load of non-vaccinated people who get infected with Covid? Here's a link to get you started. It's a multiple choice question, and here are the potential answers:
D) Between three and ten
E) Between ten and a hundred
F) More than a hundred.
Try to figure out the answer before seeing what other people write in the comments!
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