Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's Wrong With Rabbi Slifkin's Theology - Part 2

In our original post, we drew a clear distinction between belief in the doctrine of theistic evolution and the message of Purim which teaches that God is behind the affairs of our universe albeit in a hidden fashion. We demonstrated how the former doctrine is openly opposed by the verses of the Torah and the clear consensus of our ba'alei mesorah, whereas the latter is firmly grounded in normative Jewish theology. The current post aims to clarify some issues which came up subsequently in the comment section of the aforementioned post.

An interlocutor stated as follows:

Rabbi Coffer - do you only see the Hand of Hashem in the creation of nature? You don't see it in our lives today - in historical events, in how nature operates, in your personal life? Surely you must be aware that science explains all these things without recourse to a Creator; just in terms of random, blind processes. And I'm sure that you don't deny these scientific explanations. So if you believe that such scientific explanations deny seeing the hand of Hashem, aren't you ruling God out of the picture?

His question can be broken down into the following four components.

1) Surely we see the hand of Hashem in all of the affairs of our universe, not just its Creation.

He is, of course, correct

2) Surely we recognize that just as evolutionary theory appeals exclusively to random blind processes, so too do all forms of scientific endeavor appeal solely to unguided processes.

Although superficially this might seem to be true, it is in fact false and highly misleading as will be demonstrated shortly.

3) For the most part, we accept scientific explanations which explain the current events of our lives.

True, although as in the previous assertion, highly misleading. Our interlocutor then goes on to make the following leap of reasoning.

4) Since we’ve eliminated evolution due to the fact that it appeals exclusively to unguided forces, what gives us the right to accept other forms of scientific endeavor (I believe meteorology was one of the examples given)? By accepting some forms of scientific explanation, are we not tacitly admitting that God is not behind these explanations? And if we respond that we accept the science but reject the idea that God is not behind it, then why can we not adopt the same approach to evolution?

The truth of the matter is, this is little more than a paraphrase of Rabbi Slifkin’s argument and was directly addressed in the last post. As we mentioned there, evolution – inasmuch as it addresses the scientific view of the origins of multi-cellular life – is entirely incompatible with the Torah which clearly states that multi-cellular life originated via direct meta-natural fiat. He commanded the vegetation to begin sprouting on Day Three before the process of photo-synthesis was enacted on Day Four. He commanded the waters to generate fish on Day Five and the earth to generate animals on Day Six. In short, God wasn’t hiding behind the laws of nature. He was creating them!

On the other hand, at the completion of ma’aseh bereishis, Hashem did establish the laws of nature and then receded behind them. From that point on, the laws of Nature remain immutable. They remain consistent. And they remain predictable. Only at this point can science begin playing a role.

In order to grasp this idea fully, a few things must be explained up front. There are two distinct branches of science.

1) Operational / Technological

2) Historical / Origin based

The former category is primarily concerned with defining the physical properties of a given entity and defining the laws of nature which govern it. The reason we accept the conclusions of scientists in these fields is because they are nothing more than technical descriptions of physical reality. They have no bearing at all on theology. Their conclusions are all empirically observable and verifiable in the laboratory, and the byproducts of their research are productive and useful in promoting the welfare of mankind and the general human condition.

When it comes to these types of fields, theism is not a contradiction. Some of the greatest scientists in these fields were theists, such as Newton and Einstein. They didn’t feel that their religious beliefs in any way contradicted their work in science. But obviously they never appealed to "God" when attempting to formulate their theories. Just as a plumber doesn’t open up a chumash when he is learning how to thread a pipe, so too an engineer doesn’t look for assistance in thermodynamic theory by opening a mishna berura.

On the other hand, the conclusions of scientists in the Historical/Origin based sciences are an entirely different story. First of all, by their very nature their conclusions are not empirically observable. They theorize about what happened in the past by making backward extrapolations, sometimes vast extrapolations, which are based on the unfounded premise that the current laws of nature were exactly the same all along. This alone should give any intelligent individual pause; how can I possibly justify the unmitigated acceptance of scientific conclusions in these fields without even questioning them? Especially since their conclusions change as often as a baby’s diapers.

Second of all, their field of enterprise has everything to do with theology. For instance, let’s take evolution. Evolution is concerned with attempting to describe precisely how we can account for the incredible variety of endlessly complex life forms present on earth. Evolutionary theory is one theory but Intelligent Design is at least an equally valid theory. Yet the majority of scientists insist that Intelligent Design not be granted any credence at all. Any objective individual would have to ask himself "why not"? But the answer is obvious and is echoed by practically every philosopher of science. Here’s what famous evolutionist Richard Lewontin of Harvard University has to say.

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen. (Richard C. Lewontin, The New York Review of Books, Billions and Billions of Demons, January 9, 1997)

There's the problem! Intelligent design sounds too much like God. After all, God would be a perfect candidate. And therefore, under no circumstances can we allow a Divine Foot in the door. It’s not that Intelligent Design is inherently flawed in any way. It’s that it countermands their philosophy of materialism. So why shouldn’t we reject their scientific conclusions in these fields? Especially when the Torah openly implies that the evolutionary model is entirely false!

Once we’ve gotten to this point, theistic evolution becomes irrelevant for two reasons. First of all, it is entirely unnecessary and second of all it openly contradicts the Torah’s description of recent, rapid Creation via meta-natural fiat.

This concludes our treatment of the Blind Watchmaker Thesis and why it is not compatible with the Torah. In our next post, we will deal with what I personally feel is most objectionable about Rabbi Slifkin’s theology.

158 comments:

  1. Do you realize that, when challenged about the fact that there is no innate theological problem with evolution, you CONSTANTLY switch the topic to mesorah, pesukim, scientific viability, anything at all except the topic under discussion? We can tackle those on another occasion, but why would anyone discuss these things with you when you never admit that you are mistaken and simply change the subject? YSO and others kept arguing that evolution is innately incompatible with the idea of a Creator who creates and guides the universe. We have pointed out that evolution is no more problematic in this regard that ANY field of science. Why are none of you guys ever conceding that you were mistaken in this, and instead making as though your objection was a different one all along?

    What you've established in this post is that you believe theistic evolution to be against the mesorah, against the pesukim, not scientifically proven, etc., but that there is no essential theological problem with it. In other words, the charge that Dr. Ostroff and others were constantly leveling is incorrect. And if you can't admit to that, then you've established that you're dishonest.

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  2. And if you can't admit to that, then you've established that you're dishonest.

    I don't think that it is realistic or even necessary to solicit concessions. Personally, I am convinced that these gentlemen have an insurmountable logical flaw in their paradigm. Yissachar sees a serious theological flaw as well (I personally haven't yet concluded this issue to my satisfaction.)

    Nonetheless, I accept that they are perfectly sincere, earnest, and even honest within their own paradigm. For instance, they deem that it is objective and valid to pursue scientific discussions on the age of the universe despite the fact that they are constrained by a clear massoretic young-Earth directive.

    I accept that they accept this.

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  3. Rabbi Coffer - I would just like to add that I noticed at the end of your comments to your earlier post, you claimed that you answered my questions many times already, and that you would put this blog post to answer it once and for all. Well, I don't see how you answered it at all--you just changed the topic as usual. And I'm not alone in this - I have been asking the same question of Dr. Ostroff, on several occasions, and Rafi and Yitz both echoed my question, which he has so far evaded answering.

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  4. I will restate my question from your previous post, which you still have not answered.

    You claimed that one of the main problems with evolution - BESIDES your claim that it goes against the mesorah, the pesukim, and that it has no scientific basis - is that it conflicts with the idea of a Creator; that we are supposed to see the hand of Hashem, His Wisdom, etc., in nature, but evolution makes it just blind, random processes which have nothing to do with a Creator. Dr. Ostroff claimed similarly.

    I pointed out that every branch of science works in the exact same way. They describe the world in terms of blind, random processes which have nothing to do with a Creator. And yet this does not prevent you from saying that scientists are only describing the physical processes, but we perceive God behind them. So there is no reason for evolution to be any different.

    Please either concede that there is no innate theological problem with evolution (only scientific problems, and the issues of mesorah and text, which we can then discuss), or explain why my reasoning is wrong. Do not change the topic or bring up any diversions.

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  5. I join in the above critiques. IF there was "adequate" evidence of macro evolution would you not be filled with awe and wonder at the complexity of the Ribono Shel Olam's love and genius with regard to His direction of nature, which has culminated in the existence of you?

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  6. You don't have to be Jewish!

    Look what just happened to spill into my inbox today...

    Any of this sound familiar?

    -------------------------------------------
    Good morning, Yitz

    Now for something completely different.

    A recent end note in The Kelly Letter, a section I reserve for non-financial commentary, discussed an article in National Geographic presenting the latest fossil evidence from the evolutionary history of mankind. I was surprised to receive email protesting the tone of my note, which took for granted that evolution is a proven fact. Other readers, exasperated by the protest notes, wrote in defense of scientific inquiry and evolution.

    What blossomed was an intriguing discussion that I thought deserved more space than I could give it in a follow-up article in The Kelly Letter. So, I posted highlights in this morning's article on my free website. This has nothing to do with finance or the market, but it arose from something I wrote in my financial newsletter and that's how it's connected to my site. Out of respect for the time that people spent writing in on a subject they feel strongly about, I decided to devote an article to it. If you'd like to peruse the debate and chime in with a comment of your own, please visit:

    http://jasonkelly.com/2010/10/doubting-evolution/

    Have a good day,
    Jason

    Jason Kelly & Co.
    Plaza Kei 101
    Wakamatsu-cho 615-6
    Sano, Tochigi 327-0846
    Japan

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  7. Yissacher -

    Do you realize that, when challenged about the fact that there is no innate theological problem with evolution, you CONSTANTLY switch the topic to mesorah, pesukim, scientific viability, anything at all except the topic under discussion?

    No. I do not realize that. Furthermore, it is false. I challenge you to point to even one instance where you challenged me to produce an innate theological problem with evolution and I ignored it!

    Here's my prediction. You will not produce any such case. Nor will you apologize for your strident and ongoing habit of falsely accusing me. At best, you will make some silly excuse along the lines of "oh, well such and such an author on this Blog said it..."

    For the record, your question to me was in the form of a stira on my own shittos. Your question was: How do I have the right to eliminate evolution because of the BWT and yet accept scientist's conclusions in other fields when they adhere to unguided forces in those fields too? That was your question. Not the logically prior question of "what's inherently wrong with theistic evolution".

    Normally I do not make it a habit of writing up a whole post just to address one questioner's issue but in this case I made an exception. I even went to the bother of breaking down your question into four distinct parts so everyone could understand it and then replied meticulously and to the point on precisely what you asked. I'm not looking for a pat on the back but your insulting demeanor and condescending attitude is obviously entirely inappropriate. I make it a point to respond to all my questioners which is why I have been responding to you but if this type of behavior keeps up, I will simply ignore your comments.

    Please note: I do not possess any enmity for you in my heart chs’v and have no desire to berate you. I am merely fulfilling a halacha which happens to apply perfectly to our set of circumstances. (See Rambam, Yad, Hil. Deos 6:6)

    I will bl’n respond to the rest of your comments soon.

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  8. Yissacher -

    What you've established in this post is that you believe theistic evolution to be against the mesorah, against the pesukim, not scientifically proven, etc., but [not] that there is no essential theological problem with it.

    Huh? What in heaven's name are you talking about? Of course my post establishes that. It's the title of the very post! Let's go through this step by step.

    In Rabbi Slifkin's original post, he makes reference to three phenomena, Purim, chiluk ha'aretz, and the nitzchius of klal yisrael. The proper theological way to relate to these events, avers Rabbi Slifkin, is that Hashem is in the background orchestrating the events. He then provides a malbim in support of his position. He then goes on to write that he cannot see any difference between maintaining this theological position as pertains to these three cases and maintaining it as pertains to evolution. In my original post I responded directly to this claim and explained precisely why one cannot maintain this hashkafa when it comes to maaseh bereishis.

    I explain that in contrast to Purim, maaseh bereishis is supposed to be understood as an open demonstration of Hashem's presence and then I bring support to my position, not from one Malbim, but from the full gamut of our mesorah. Incidentally, even the malbim Rabbi Slifkin brings is a ra'aya listor because when the Malbim speaks about maaseh bereishis he says exactly the opposite of what he says regarding the lottery! So yes, if dozens of ma’amrei Chazal combined with dozens of commentators spanning the entire length of our mesorah all interpret maaseh bersihis as an open display of Hashem's power rather than Hashem being in the background then yes, Rabbi Slifkin's hashkafa is faulty, or in English, his theology is wrong.

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  9. Yissacher -

    I will respond to the rest of your comments later tonight bl'n. You may wish to hold back responding until I've treated all your comments. Perhaps certain things will become clear during my responses. It's up to you.

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  10. I apologize if I have been insulting or condescending; it is simply the result of frustration at getting the run-around. Look, it could be that you are not deliberately changing the topic, but that you simply did not understand my question. So I'll try again, since you STILL did not address my question.

    What you are doing is explaining a problem in terms of (how you view) the specific meaning of the pesukim about Bereishis and the mesorah thereof. Not an innate theological problem with evolution. In other words, suppose you are a Noachide who does not have Bereishis (or a Jew who does not have Bereishis), but as far as theology goes, you have the correct theology. From that standpoint, is there any problem with evolution?

    Let me give another hypothetical example to illustrate what I mean. Would it be okay to posit that evolution takes place today? Put aside questions of shevisah after briyah, etc. Just the innate concept of species coming about via Darwinian evolution. Is that problematic? Do such processes that are chance and random on a physical level, which scientists would describe without recourse to a Creator, prevent us from seeing a Creator behind them - i.e. theistic evolution?

    Now, it could be that you don't see any innate theological problem with evolution. But Dr. Ostroff was certainly speaking about "blind watchmaker evolution" posing an innate conflict with the idea of a Creator who guides everything. And this was quite separate from the issue of whether the text of Bereishis and mesorah speaks about meta-natural creation. You also alluded to such issues, though you weren't as clear as him.

    So if you think that Dr. Ostroff is wrong and there is no such problem, can you please say so? And if you think that he is correct, can you please explain why, IN THIS ASPECT (i.e. NOT TO DO WITH TEXT/ MESORAH), there is a problem? And either way, can you ask him to respond? Several people have posed this question to him on several occasions, and he consistently fails to respond.

    Thank you for your time.

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  11. "What you've established in this post is that you believe theistic evolution to be against the mesorah, against the pesukim, not scientifically proven, etc., but [not] that there is no essential theological problem with it."

    Huh? What in heaven's name are you talking about? Of course my post establishes that. It's the title of the very post!...
    ...Rabbi Slifkin's hashkafa is faulty, or in English, his theology is wrong.


    Ah, I see where you might be misunderstanding me. When I say "an essential/ innate theological problem" I don't mean any hashkafic problem, even a critical one. I mean a problem in the general concept of how we understand God's interaction with world, quite aside from anything specific in the Torah about Bereishis. Such as Dr. Ostroff's claim that "blind watchmaker" evolution, quite aside from anything in Bereishis, contradicts the idea of a Creator who developed the world with purpose and intent.

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  12. SC: you commented on October 26, at 10:54 p.m. that your primary objection to Rabbi Slifkin's shittos regarding Maaseh Breishis is that they undermine our ability to see Hashem in nature and our ability to see the wisdom, might, glory and kindliness. I would really like for you to expand on that, especially since it's your "primary concern. Thank you.

    H

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  13. Checking the previous post, I see that I was correct - it's not just Dr. Ostroff who claims that there are issues with evolution beyond Bereishis, but also you. You said that positing evolution undermines seeing the hand of Hashem. I asked why it does so any more than any other branch of science. In this post, all you did was say why evolution contradicts Bereishis, and why some scientists believe it due to a materialist bias. But this does not address my question.

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  14. Yissocher -

    I just jumped onboard now and noticed that you have several more comments. I will, bi'ezras Hashem, be answering your comments in the order they were posted so if I feel some of my responses address your future comments, I will consider this sufficient.

    You wrote: I will restate my question from your previous post, which you still have not answered.

    You claimed that one of the main problems with evolution - BESIDES your claim that it goes against the mesorah, the pesukim, and that it has no scientific basis - is that it conflicts with the idea of a Creator; that we are supposed to see the hand of Hashem, His Wisdom, etc., in nature, but evolution makes it just blind, random processes which have nothing to do with a Creator.


    Yes. I made a comment to Yitz that notwithstanding everything we've been talking about, I also have another issue which, to me, is the most important one, and that is the fact that Rabbi Slifkin’s approach eliminates one of the important ways of causing us to be aware of Hashem’s presence i.e. the study of nature. But if you read the very next sentence, I said that I will be saving this for last and will write a Blog Entry dealing exclusively with this point. Unfortunately, I can't be rushed to do this. I will bl'n try and get it done by Monday b'h.

    You wrote: Please either concede that there is no innate theological problem with evolution (only scientific problems, and the issues of mesorah and text, which we can then discuss), or explain why my reasoning is wrong.

    I already did. I explained in my previous Blog Entry precisely why I think Rabbi Slifkin's theology is wrong. I made a fundamental distinction between Hashem’s current role as a manhig (behind the scenes) and Hashem’s role as Creator via openly revealed meta-physical processes, and then supported my position by an appeal to the Torah and to our unanimous and long-standing mesorah. This constitutes a direct response to Rabbi Slifkin's original post and was all I was attempting to achieve as I openly state at the beginning of the previous Blog Entry. This Blog Entry aims to answer your stated question to me, as pasted and copied into the body of the Blog, and add a few more elements. I think I have made myself perfectly clear by now. I hope this addresses all your issues.

    As far as your request for an "innate" theological issue, I don't have a clear handle on what you want (although I suspect what you want). "Innate" is a totally arbitrary word. I consider my issues innate flaws in Rabbi Slifkin's theology. I consider the fact that he chooses to countermand our entire mesorah a serious flaw. I consider the fact that he chooses to reinterpret the verses of the chumash in order to accommodate an atheistic world-view egregiously faulty theology. I consider the fact that he conflates the idea of Hashem’s role as Creator with His role as manhig seriously problematic. I don't see why you require anymore issues in order to be convinced that his theology is problematic. One thing is for sure. If what you would really like is for me to come out with two fists swinging crying kefira, and attempt to demonstrate that Rabbi Slifkin's shittos directly countermand the 13 principles thus making him an apikorus, well, I’m sorry to disappoint but it ain’t happening. This Blog is a respectful and professional venue; barroom brawling is strictly prohibited.

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  15. Nachum -

    Welcome to our Blog! Thank you for joining our humble venue. I look forward to your valuable contributionbs. SC

    You wrote: I join in the above critiques. IF there was "adequate" evidence of macro evolution would you not be filled with awe and wonder at the complexity of the Ribono Shel Olam's love and genius with regard to His direction of nature, which has culminated in the existence of you?

    Good question. Your issue will be addrersed in the third and final post entitled What's Wrong With Rabbi Slifkin's Theology Part 3, hopefully this Monday.

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  16. SC:

    Rabbi Slifkin never ch"v denied that HKB"H was/is the Boreh, and I don't believe he would.

    Rather, I believe that your dispute with him would be whether HKB"H created matter in a meta-natural way (Yesh MeAyin), which He then guided to produce all things in a seemingly natural way (the "Rationalist" Approach); and the Literal Torah Approach that HKB"H created the world and everything in it as described in Maaseh Breishis.

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  17. Yissacher -

    In other words, suppose you are a Noachide who does not have Bereishis (or a Jew who does not have Bereishis), but as far as theology goes, you have the correct theology. From that standpoint, is there any problem with evolution?

    I don't know. I can't answer your question. It doesn’t make sense to me. It's like asking if pigs could fly would they be birds? If you want to eliminate one whole parsha from the Torah and eliminate all of Torah she'baal peh which talks about it (i.e. Chazal), then how would we know anything about Hashem in His role as Creator? We know about the details of His involvement in Creation primarily from parshas bereishis and the commentaries of Chazal in TSBP. That's all I have and that's all I can comment on. Your theoretic scenario is incoherent to me. I simply don't understand it. What does “correct theology” mean to you? How can anything anyone believes be considered correct or incorrect unless we first appeal to an authoritative source for verification?

    Let me give another hypothetical example to illustrate what I mean. Would it be okay to posit that evolution takes place today? Put aside questions of shevisah after briyah, etc. Just the innate concept of species coming about via Darwinian evolution. Is that problematic?

    You’re getting me dizzy Yissocher. I suppose the answer to your question is no but I’m beginning to see not just flying pigs but pink elephants now. Positing that evolution happens today is seriously problematic from a practical standpoint. You know why? Because evolution doesn’t happen today!! Even evolutionists agree to that. Why don’t you just ask me if Hashem can make a rock heavy enough that He can’t lift? Just hypothetically of course…

    Do such processes that are chance and random on a physical level, which scientists would describe without recourse to a Creator, prevent us from seeing a Creator behind them

    No. Of course not. Scientists are purposely averting their gaze from the endless design, plan and purpose openly manifest in the phenomena of the beriah because they are materialists and refuse to concede the existence of a Boreh. I already proved that to you from the Lewontin quote I delineated in the current Blog Entry.

    - i.e. theistic evolution?

    Bad example. But I will deal with the implications of your question in my next and final Blog Entry on this subject.

    So if you think that Dr. Ostroff is wrong and there is no such problem, can you please say so? And if you think that he is correct, can you please explain why, IN THIS ASPECT (i.e. NOT TO DO WITH TEXT/ MESORAH), there is a problem? And either way, can you ask him to respond? Several people have posed this question to him on several occasions, and he consistently fails to respond.

    I’m me (hi, nice to meet you) And Dr. O is…well… not me. I will defend my shittos and Dr. O will defend his. That’s the way it goes Yissocher. I’m sorry for your frustration but I have enough problems responding to my own entries. I will pass along your concerns to him and if he responds with a message to you I will gladly post it.

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  18. Yissacher –

    Ah, I see where you might be misunderstanding me. When I say "an essential/ innate theological problem" I don't mean any hashkafic problem, even a critical one. I mean a problem in the general concept of how we understand God's interaction with world, quite aside from anything specific in the Torah about Bereishis. Such as Dr. Ostroff's claim that "blind watchmaker" evolution, quite aside from anything in Bereishis, contradicts the idea of a Creator who developed the world with purpose and intent.

    I am not answering for Dr. Ostroff but I think you have him wrong. I’ve spoken to him many times and I’m pretty sure that his primary opposition to the BWT is firmly rooted in his understanding of maaseh bereishis as appears in the Torah and as is explicated by the unanimous consensus of our mesorah.

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  19. Nachum -

    Rabbi Slifkin never ch"v denied that HKB"H was/is the Boreh, and I don't believe he would.

    Agreed. This has never been the issue. What we are trying to establish here is precisely what the term Boreh implies.

    Rather, I believe that your dispute with him would be whether HKB"H created matter in a meta-natural way (Yesh MeAyin), which He then guided to produce all things in a seemingly natural way (the "Rationalist" Approach); and the Literal Torah Approach that HKB"H created the world and everything in it as described in Maaseh Breishis.

    Yes. But I'd like to point something out. Rabbi Slifkin’s approach is not the “rationalist” approach (I know you were probably referring to the name of his Blog). There is nothing rationalist about it. Writing a book which addresses the ostensible loggerhead between science and Torah by rejecting our unanimous mesorah (including the opinion of neveim, tannaim and amoraim) and grossly reinterpreting the verses of the Torah in order to accommodate the current, and fickle, opinions of scientists is hardly “Rationalist”. The Rambam was probably our most famous rationalist and he battled the science of his day. Furthermore, the Rambam clearly rejects Rabbi Slifkin’s approach in many places. I documented seven of them in this document. Let me know what you think…

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  20. I am not answering for Dr. Ostroff but I think you have him wrong. I’ve spoken to him many times and I’m pretty sure that his primary opposition to the BWT is firmly rooted in his understanding of maaseh bereishis as appears in the Torah and as is explicated by the unanimous consensus of our mesorah.

    Well, I guess you don't read what he writes on this blog. I quote:

    "[Rabbi Slifkin's] view is that G-d guides evolution--- contradicting the scientific consensus of accidental unguided evolution. Indeed, contra R. Slifkin, evolution’s Blind Watchmaker Thesis is incompatible with Torah."

    And I suggest that you read his long exchange with Rafi a few posts back.

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  21. The Rambam was probably our most famous rationalist and he battled the science of his day.

    Wow, that's got to be one of the greatest misrepresentations of Rambam ever. He actually disputed Aristotle on one thing alone, and accepted everything else, even against the mesorah, even though this meant radically reinterpreting pesukim to suit it. Do you think that his opponents fought him for nothing?

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  22. I think I have made myself perfectly clear by now. I hope this addresses all your issues.

    No, not remotely. It looks like you still don't understand the question, even though it was asked not only by me, but also by Rafi and possibly others. Maybe you subconsciously reject accepting any question that you can't answer?

    I don't see why you require anymore issues in order to be convinced that his theology is problematic.

    I dispute you on all the issues that you mention, but I'm not ready to discuss them until we get the first one (which Dr. Ostroff indicated to be the MAJOR issue) out of the way.

    I wrote: Please either concede that there is no innate theological problem with evolution (only scientific problems, and the issues of mesorah and text, which we can then discuss), or explain why my reasoning is wrong.

    You replied:
    I already did. I explained in my previous Blog Entry precisely why I think Rabbi Slifkin's theology is wrong. I made a fundamental distinction between Hashem’s current role as a manhig (behind the scenes) and Hashem’s role as Creator via openly revealed meta-physical processes, and then supported my position by an appeal to the Torah and to our unanimous and long-standing mesorah.

    In other words, you did exactly what I asked you not to do - to explain the theological problem with evolution BESIDES the issues that you mention. To explain the problem that Dr. Ostroff kept harping upon, and that you mentioned when you said how evolution stands opposed to seeing the hand of Hashem. (If you meant that it prevents us from seeing Hashem as Borei, but not as manhig, you certainly weren't clear about that.)

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  23. Yissacher,

    Yissacher wrote: Wow, that's got to be one of the greatest misrepresentations of Rambam ever. He actually disputed Aristotle on one thing alone, and accepted everything else,

    Really? He accepted everything Aristotle said except for one thing? Are you sure?

    Yissacher wrote: even against the mesorah,

    Wow! OK, I'm having a hard time with this. Can you supply me with me with a few examples of things that the Rambam accepted from Aristotle against the mesorah?

    You know what, I changed my mind. Let me make it easy for you. Can you supply me with ONE thing that the Rambam accepted from Aristotle against the mesorah?

    and accepted everything else, even against the mesorah, even though this meant radically reinterpreting pesukim to suit it.

    You're freaking me out! I thought I was familiar with the Rambam's works. Apparently not (I'm glad I met you).

    Other than anthropomorphism in the Torah (which the Rambam proves extensively via independent philosophical proofs), can you please provide several examples of cases where the Rambam "radically reinterpreted" the verses of the Torah to accommodate Aristotelian ideas?

    I'll tell you what. Let me make it easy for you. Other than anthropomorphism, please supply ONE EXAMPLE where the Rambam “radically reinterpreted" the verses of the Torah to accommodate Aristotelian ideas in direct contradiction to the mesorah or the plain meaning of the pesukim.

    In fact, here’s my final request. Including anthropomorphism, kindly supply even one single solitary case where the Rambam accepts Aristotelian science in direct contradiction to our mesorah?

    If you are unable to supply me with examples of what you were talking about, I’m afraid I may have to think twice before responding to your comments, at least as regards this post.

    Do you think that his opponents fought him for nothing?

    No comment…

    ReplyDelete
  24. You have four main points I take it:

    1. Common descent contradicts Torah.
    2. Common descent is scientifically unfounded.
    3. ID is superior to TE.
    4. Scientists reject ID because they are materialist atheists.

    There's not much I can say to 1) or 2) and I'm glad that you recognize 1) as the main issue. But I''m still frustrated by 3) and 4). As Yissacher points out, it's impossible for us to isolate 3) without you recoursing to one of the other four or discounting it as hypothetical. But okay, fine, that's legitimate.

    What gets me most is 4). I understand that you have plenty of quotes to back it up, but I don't care. There are two reasons why.

    First is empirical. There are many religous scientists who reject ID, most notably Ken Miller, and that includes many frum scientists. I've also cited the polls a few times already that show that most Americans who accept evolution believe that God directed it (though sometimes that's ambiguous enough to include ID).

    Second is that I find it a hillul Hashem. Science is a powerful source of knowledge today, and most people don't make your arbitrary (ie. not a priori without mesora) hilluk between origin and operational science. When people hear that they have a choice between science and religion, religion doesn't do very well. That is why, I think, there are so many atheists in academia, especially when the dominant religion in the West is Christianity. I personally was rather put off by some of the nasty insults a particular gadol zt"l threw at the scientific community in some of his books.

    ReplyDelete
  25. SC:

    I put the term "Rationalist" in quotes because I was using the term that Rabbi Slifkin uses. Perhaps you can suggest a better term for that camp.

    From the VERY brief perusal of websites summarizing the Theory of Evolution and the evidence for it I agree that the evidence is pretty week.

    However, the evidence for an old universe appears very very strong. I would suggest that anyone denying that can justifiably be termed an "anti rationalist". Unless you can provide me with a reason that the premise that the nature of things have not drastically changed in the last 6000 years.

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  26. Meant to spell "week" as "weak". A Freudian slip?

    Last paragraph should say "unless you can show me why the premises is a bad or weak one.

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  27. SC:

    For argument's sake, I agree with your conclusion that there is no room for an old universe, or evolution, based on Chazal's reading of Maaseh Breishis. (I actually feel that you are probably correct in this conclusion, but have not researched the issue enough to form a very strong opinion.)

    To reconcile questions of apparent contradictions between Torah and science by resorting to reintepretations of the Torah's description of Maaseh Breishis one would have to say that Chazal, etc. interpreted Maaseh Breishis literaly because Chazal, etc. were unaware of the science pointing to an old universe; had they been so aware they would not have interpreted Maaseh Breishis literaly.

    Do you consider a literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis to be a "fundamental" of Judaism? If so, what is your source? Do you believe that Chazal were aware of ALL that science knows today? Is so, what is your source?

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  28. SC wrote,

    Other than anthropomorphism, please supply ONE EXAMPLE where the Rambam “radically reinterpreted" the verses of the Torah to accommodate Aristotelian ideas in direct contradiction to the mesorah or the plain meaning of the pesukim.

    I would like to make a clarification with which I trust RSC would agree: By "the plain meaning of the pesukim" we mean the informed understanding of the posuk--informed by careful analysis, intrinsic logic, information from other pesukim, facts known through direct sensory perception, fundamentals of Judaism, and ma'amarei Chazal. The Rambam himself, on the other hand, uses the term "peshat" to mean the literal, simplistic meanings attributed to pesukim by the unwashed. The latter meanings (which includes literally understood anthropomorphisms) he certainly rejected; they are not the ones we are referring to.

    Please also pay attention to the fact that the Rambam--as well as the classic authorities before and after him--when offering interpretations of pesukim, contended, and often defended the point, that these interpretations were the ones held to be true by the consensus of Chazal.

    I do not think I'm overstating it when I say that Never did our baalei mesora accept an interpretation they perceived to contradict what Chazal meant to say (in the sense they meant to say it). And they always measured the value of an interpretation by how much support it could garner from the specific statements and overall principles of Chazal. And I specifically have in mind the Moreh Nevuchim.

    Previously, a similar subject was raised about the Ramban's remarks about the rainbow. I wrote about this on Avodah:

    "The Ramban in his Torah commentary constantly defers to Chazal and severely criticizes others when they do not. (One must bear in mind the issue of the Ramban identifying a Chazal as the result of a drash rather than peshat, but for the purposes of this post, let's put that aside.)

    "One sometimes hears the claim that the Ramban himself however, differed with Chazal based upon science, concerning Noach's rainbow...The fact is, the Ramban (as well as the Ibn Ezra before, and Rav Saadia Gaon even previously) had a Midrashic source for his position."

    Please follow this link:

    http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/faxes/The%20Ramban,%20Chazal
    %20and%20The%20Rainbow.htm

    (reduced to http://bit.ly/9qDOEq)

    ReplyDelete
  29. Rafi –

    Hi. Long time no speak. Glad you’re back.

    You have four main points I take it:

    1. Common descent contradicts Torah.
    2. Common descent is scientifically unfounded
    3. ID is superior to TE.
    4. Scientists reject ID because they are materialist atheists.


    I would insert another two points between your #2 and #3 which I will label #5 and #6

    5. The geologic record disconfirms TE
    6. The geologic record confirms the idea of rapid and sudden creation as per the Torah

    Also, I would modify #3 to read

    3. ID is a far more reasonable explanation – for the presence of highly complex specialized life forms – than TE.

    As Yissacher points out, it's impossible for us to isolate 3) without you recoursing to one of the other four or discounting it as hypothetical.

    Impossible? Why Rafi? You see that painting on your wall? I hereby isolate #3 as the sole reasonable explanation for its existence (i.e. design versus chance). Does my argument necessitate recourse to 1, 2, or 4? Of course not. I maintain the same argument for the endlessly complex life forms on earth. It’s the default position. It’s common sense. If scientists wish to eliminate this position, the burden of proof rests on them just as the burden of proof would rest on any individual who walked into your home and claimed that the Mona Lisa on your wall was not a product of intelligent design but rather was created randomly by millions of monkeys knocking over millions of paint cans over millions of years. Common sense says that the former explanation is superior to the latter one.

    Incidentally, this is not my personal opinion. Any evolutionist, speaking candidly, would tell you the same thing. I don’t know if you have Richard Dawkin’s book The Blind Watchmaker but he makes the exact same argument as I just did. He understands that without some kind of adequate scientific theory, it would be impossible to explain the presence of highly complex and specialized life forms without recourse to design. He even rejects Hume! If you want, I can scan in the pages and email them to you.

    But notwithstanding my response, I’d like to add that my arguments are not made in a vacuum. Each one of my arguments, which you so eloquently synopsize, was made under varying circumstances in direct response to a particular comment, question or argument. But essentially they must be seen as part of a unified argument defending our mesorah. It may very well be that one argument rests partially on the premises of another argument but, as you said, “that’s legitimate”.

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  30. Rafi –

    First is empirical. There are many religous scientists who reject ID, most notably Ken Miller, and that includes many frum scientists. I've also cited the polls a few times already that show that most Americans who accept evolution believe that God directed it (though sometimes that's ambiguous enough to include ID).

    First of all, Ken Miller doesn’t equal “many”. He’s one of the only ones! And as Dr. Ostroff has pointed out several times, in Miller’s college textbook on Biology evolution is presented as an entirely blind, random, chance process. He needs to fit in with the standard rubric promoted in the science classes of academia otherwise they won’t use his textbook. As such, his rejection of ID is highly suspect, to say the least.

    To this I’d like to add a side point. Miller’s whole shita is based on the fact that evolution is entirely correct but yet, somehow, God can still be implicated in the front-loading process. The problem is, this front-loading process is not necessary in order for the theory to function properly because, as Miller admits, the process is entirely random. So the fact that God is there is entirely arbitrary. God is inserted by Miller because Miller happens to be a practicing Roman-Catholic who believes in God. Slifkinites like to accuse me of being biased in favor of religion and therefore ignoring the plain implications of current scientific enterprise. Well, they might be right. But the same applies to Ken Miller in a big way. I think he ignores ID because he is biased to explain evolution properly for the classroom and yet believe in God at the same time. ID doesn’t cut the mustard for him. And unfortunately, the same applies for our good friend Nosson Slifkin. So, we’re all one big happy biased family…

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  31. Can you supply me with ONE thing that the Rambam accepted from Aristotle against the mesorah?

    Sure. The non-existence of demons.

    can you please provide several examples of cases where the Rambam "radically reinterpreted" the verses of the Torah to accommodate Aristotelian ideas?

    No problem. The story of the events of Gan Eden. And every story about angels (parshas Vayera, Balak, etc.), which Rambam says occurred in visions.

    Including anthropomorphism, kindly supply even one single solitary case where the Rambam accepts Aristotelian science in direct contradiction to our mesorah?

    Sure. The non-existence of magic, demons, astrology, and angels as sentient, independent beings.

    I am amazed by your questions. What do you think that the Maimonidean controversies were all about? What do you think the Ramban and Gra and Rav Hirsch and all the others criticized Rambam for?

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  32. Miller’s whole shita is based on the fact that evolution is entirely correct but yet, somehow, God can still be implicated in the front-loading process. The problem is, this front-loading process is not necessary in order for the theory to function properly because, as Miller admits, the process is entirely random. So the fact that God is there is entirely arbitrary.

    Wow, that sounds exactly like your shita for virtually every branch of science except those dealing with creation.

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  33. Yissacher,

    In other words, you did exactly what I asked you not to do - to explain the theological problem with evolution BESIDES the issues that you mention. To explain the problem that Dr. Ostroff kept harping upon, and that you mentioned when you said how evolution stands opposed to seeing the hand of Hashem. (If you meant that it prevents us from seeing Hashem as Borei, but not as manhig, you certainly weren't clear about that.)


    I don't believe you are right. I think I was pretty clear about the theological distinction between Purim and maaseh bereishis. One is an open revelation (Hashem in his role as Creator) and one is concealed revelation (Hashem in his “Purim role”, being manhig behind the scenes). But fine. I accept your criticism. I wasn’t clear. But do you now understand my meaning? Can we now get off this question and move along to all the “disputes” you have with all the rest of my points?

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  34. Yissacher,

    Can you supply me with ONE thing that the Rambam accepted from Aristotle against the mesorah?

    Sure. The non-existence of demons.


    No my friend. You are incorrect. The Rambam interpreted the aggados of the gemara which discuss sheidim allegorically and he was perfectly in his rights to do so. Many of the aggados in the gemara are not meant literally. The Rambam's shita was that when Chazal mentioned sheidim they were refering to deep theological concepts. He was not countermanding the mesorah chs'v. He was explaining it.

    can you please provide several examples of cases where the Rambam "radically reinterpreted" the verses of the Torah to accommodate Aristotelian ideas?

    No problem. The story of the events of Gan Eden. And every story about angels (parshas Vayera, Balak, etc.), which Rambam says occurred in visions.


    Once again your examples fail to support your position. First of all, Rambam did not offer his interpretations of these episodes in order to accommodate Aristotelian views. The episode in Gan Eden is interpreted allegorically by all the meforshim, at least certain elements of it. The Rambam only interprets certain speicific elements of that story allegorically, such as the form of the nachash. But the story itself happened according to the Rambam and every other meforesh.

    As far as your comment re the Rambam's famous shita in last week's parsha, this is his Torah opinion, his shita. Even when Ramban argues on him, he doesn't quote the mesorah (i.e. Chazal) in his support. He feels the Rambam is wrong for textual reasons which, incidentally, the Abarbanel defends the Rambam from. And the Ritva provides the Rambam's reasoning. He explains that the Rambam felt that a revelation of the mind is more ethereal, more spiritual, more important, than a mere physical revelation.

    And the pesukim were not reinterpreted at all! In fact, the parsha begins with the fact that Hashem appeared to Avraham and immediately launches into the episode of the malachim. Let’s analyze this. When it says that Hashem appeared to Avraham, in the first pasuk, he did not appear to him physically. It was a vision. Yet there is a seamless segue between the first pasuk and the second. "And behold" is the way the second pasuk begins which actually lends textual support to the Rambam's shita that the whole thing was a vision.

    The fact is, this issue remains a machlokes Rishonim as how to view the phenomenon of prophecy and has nothing to do with the Rambam taking Aristotle's view against the mesorah chs'v.

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  35. Yissacher,

    I am amazed by your questions. What do you think that the Maimonidean controversies were all about? What do you think the Ramban and Gra and Rav Hirsch and all the others criticized Rambam for?

    Sure you're amazed. That's becasue you're a victim of the dogma prevelant in the academic "Jewish Studies" departments that portray the Rambam as an avant-garde thinker who forged a new path in the explication of Judaism even when it contradicted the sages of the Talmud. But they are far from a proper awareness of the Rambam’s true Weltanschauung.

    If you want to know how the Rambam really felt about the mesorah, here's my translation of the Rambam in his pirush Mishnayos. You're welcome to look up the original to see if if my translation is faithful to the text.

    “And this fourth matter, that is, the exegetical sayings found in the Talmud, should not be considered trivial or of little benefit, for they are of enormous benefit in that they encompass within them the most profound allusions and wondrous ideas. When an appropriately deep examination of these sayings is conducted, the absolute good which cannot be surpassed can be gleaned from them. All of the lofty concepts and profound verities that the greatest of wise men concealed in their teachings, all of the conclusions that the philosophers toiled over throughout the generations, all can be revealed in their [Chazal’s] words…” (Kapach ed. pg. 19)

    “And therefore, we must establish the truth of their (Chazal’s) words in our hearts. We must delve deeply into them and not hurry to dismiss a single saying of theirs. Rather, if something is found in their words which seems strange in our eyes, we must orient ourselves in the appropriate [corresponding] disciplines until we understand their meaning in this particular topic, assuming that we are even able to comprehend [their words] in the first place. For even our [latter] sages of blessed memory, despite the fact that they delved exceedingly into their studies, were clear of mind, were appropriately fit for the comprehension of wisdom, attached themselves to great people and entirely detached themselves from material pursuits, [and yet despite all this they] attributed a ‘lacking’ to themselves when comparing themselves to previous generations…so much more so ourselves…how can we not attribute a lacking to ourselves in comparison to them. And since they [the latter sages] knew that all of the words of the sages are well established from every angle, they were very protective of them and enjoined against slandering them and stated ‘whomsoever blandishes the words of the sages is judged in boiling feces’ and there is no worse ‘boiling feces’ than the foolishness that leads one to denigrate [the words of our sages]. And therefore, you will never find one rejecting their words but one who chases after lust, who favours materialism, who never enlightened his mind with any illumination whatsoever.” (Kapach ed. pg. 20-21)

    That's what the Rambam really felt about the mesorah. Not what Braslavy-Klein or Leo Stauss claim. (Or Rabbi Slifkin who favors Braslavy-Klein's interpretations of the Rambam in the moreh)

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  36. Nachum -

    However, the evidence for an old universe appears very very strong. I would suggest that anyone denying that can justifiably be termed an "anti rationalist".

    You're welcome to suggest whatever you like. But if you want your opinion to carry weight, you must supply the evidence which you feel is most compelling in support of an ancient universe and then see what the other side responds.

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  37. Second is that I find it a hillul Hashem. Science is a powerful source of knowledge today, and most people don't make your arbitrary (ie. not a priori without mesora) hilluk between origin and operational science. When people hear that they have a choice between science and religion, religion doesn't do very well. That is why, I think, there are so many atheists in academia, especially when the dominant religion in the West is Christianity. I personally was rather put off by some of the nasty insults a particular gadol zt"l threw at the scientific community in some of his books.

    The gemara in Megilla states as follwos:

    אמר רב נחמן כל ליצנותא אסירא בר מליצנותא דעבודת כוכבים

    My Rebbe lived for only one thing: Hashem. Anyone who undermined the awareness of Hashem in the world was an idol worshipper. In fact, he would often quote the Rambam in the Moreh that atheism is worse than a"z. He hated evolutionists and made no bones about it in his books. With his inimitable wit, he scoffed at the savants and clearly demonstrated the afsius of their words. He was the embodiment of Hashem's intention in the naming of Yitzchok: "one who scoffs at the ideologies of the world".

    A chilul Hashem? It's just the opposite! He was making the biggest kiddush Hashem in the world! He had 10's of thousands of yidden that he was mikarev to torah via this method. I too, in my own humble way, am involved in kiruv richokim and NEVER, NOT ONCE, have I ever met a sincere individual who, when the hashkafas haTorah was properly explained to him (operative word here being “properly”), was turned off. If you were turned off Rafi it's for only one reason. You didn't give him a chance.

    In general I'd like to say that the modern day Jew has unfortunately fallen victim to the blandishments of the goyim. And who can blame them? After being maligned for so many thousands of years it is no wonder that many Jews today feel the necessity to pussyfoot around public opinion. They forgot who they are! They forgot the old time pride of the Jew. We are the teachers of mankind. We bring sanity into this world.

    Look at the fundamentalist Christians. They're not afraid of a "chilul Hashem". They cry the truth of maaseh bereishis at the top of their lungs. And what about the Mohammedans? Do they believe in evolution? Do they think it is a "chilul Hashem" to protect the Bible against its atheist detractors?

    The Torah is our life! And people defend their lives at any cost!

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  38. Nachum -

    Do you consider a literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis to be a "fundamental" of Judaism?

    If by "literal" you mean a recent, rapid, meta-natural Creation, then the answer is yes.

    If so, what is your source?

    Before I respond I'd like you to disambiguate the term "fundamental". Please explain exactly what you mean.

    Do you believe that Chazal were aware of ALL that science knows today?

    Of course not! How could that be possible?

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  39. Zvi Lampel wrote:

    I would like to make a clarification with which I trust RSC would agree: By "the plain meaning of the pesukim" we mean the informed understanding of the posuk--informed by careful analysis, intrinsic logic, information from other pesukim, facts known through direct sensory perception, fundamentals of Judaism, and ma'amarei Chazal. The Rambam himself, on the other hand, uses the term "peshat" to mean the literal, simplistic meanings attributed to pesukim by the unwashed. The latter meanings (which includes literally understood anthropomorphisms) he certainly rejected; they are not the ones we are referring to.

    Amen! This is exactly what I meant.

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  40. and NEVER, NOT ONCE, have I ever met a sincere individual who, when the hashkafas haTorah was properly explained to him (operative word here being “properly”), was turned off. If you were turned off Rafi it's for only one reason. You didn't give him a chance.

    This sounds like a "no true Scotsman" argument.

    I am turned off by the young-earth mandate. Conclusion: either it wasn't properly explained or I am insincere.

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  41. In general I'd like to say that the modern day Jew has unfortunately fallen victim to the blandishments of the goyim

    Look at the fundamentalist Christians.

    And what about the Mohammedans?


    Rabbi - do we care what the goyim say and think or don't we? Anyway, I regard the young-earth Christians and Muslims as charlatans.

    But since the Rabbi broached the topic, consider that "Pope Pius XII agreed to the academic freedom to study the scientific implications of evolution...". I suppose that they are still embarrassed about their blunder with Galileo and didn't wan't to get stung twice.

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  42. Yitz -

    I am turned off by the young-earth mandate. Conclusion: either it wasn't properly explained or I am insincere.

    I was referring to kiruv richokim, as I actually wrote. Not kiruv kerovim. Unfortunately there are plenty of Jews in the latter category who reject my young-earth model. I still think that convincing them is possible but its far more difficult because there are other forces that need to be battled besides the common ignorance which attends the standard potential baal teshuva.

    Rabbi - do we care what the goyim say and think or don't we?

    It depends. My argument was an a fortiori one. Kind of like saying "if goyim don't talk during their prayers, so much more so us".

    This is a valid form of comparison and can, and should, be used as a spur by us to improve. Goyim do not possess Torah but they could possess wisdom. Wisdom is a commodity. A wise man grabs it regardless of the source.

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  43. Wisdom is a commodity. A wise man grabs it regardless of the source.

    Yes. I am just highlighting the circularity. If they agree with me, then it is wisdom. Otherwise, it is blandishment.

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  44. I was referring to kiruv richokim, as I actually wrote. Not kiruv kerovim. Unfortunately there are plenty of Jews in the latter category who reject my young-earth model.

    Amazing. Could you speculate on what's going on here?

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  45. SC wrote:

    First of all, Rambam did not offer his interpretations of these episodes in order to accommodate Aristotelian views. The episode in Gan Eden is interpreted allegorically by all the meforshim, at least certain elements of it.

    I would consider Rashi an unknown regarding this. I don't think he ever brings up such issues. But of course it's true about all the others.

    The Rambam only interprets certain specific elements of that story allegorically, such as the form of the nachash.

    --And explicitly basing himself upon Chazal!

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  46. Yitz -

    Amazing. Could you speculate on what's going on here?

    Sorry Yitz, that's your department. As you've written in the past, your interest here is to analyze the paradigms from which we are operating. Me, I'm just interested in arriving at true Torah conclusions. I'll leave the psychology to you.

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  47. Yitz -

    Yes. I am just highlighting the circularity. If they agree with me, then it is wisdom. Otherwise, it is blandishment.

    No sir. You got that wrong. In both cases they don't agree with you. They've been maligning your reputation for 2000 years, calling you dog, devil, opportunist, sly, conniving and many other choice terms. That's the blandishment part.

    The wisdom part is their herculean efforts to study all the science relating to maaseh bereishis and reveal their findings, something you also don't agree with.

    All I am saying is that the first category falls under ad hominem attacks and therefore can summarily be ignored whereas the second category falls under the description of wisdom and should be adopted by you.

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  48. SC:

    Evidence for the existence of matter older than 6,000 includes rocks on earth dating over 3 billion years old through several radiometric dating methods; the fact that we can see stars that are many tens of thousands light years away; tree rings indicating germination times at 6000 BCE; millions of annual layers of sediment in the Green River; over 45,000 annual layers of sediment in Lake Suigetsu, Japan; over 40,000 annual Ice core samples in Greenland; measurements of the length of time surface rocks have exposed to cosmic rays, dating such rocks to 8,500 to 830,000 years; Eniwetok ewoll coral reef thickness; 100 foot layer of permafrost.

    I could go on. The most rational explanation for all this phenomena is that things have been around for waaay more than 6000 years.

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  49. Nachum -

    Evidence for the existence of matter older than 6,000 includes rocks on earth dating over 3 billion years old through several radiometric dating methods; the fact that we can see stars that are many tens of thousands light years away; tree rings indicating germination times at 6000 BCE; millions of annual layers of sediment in the Green River; over 45,000 annual layers of sediment in Lake Suigetsu, Japan; over 40,000 annual Ice core samples in Greenland; measurements of the length of time surface rocks have exposed to cosmic rays, dating such rocks to 8,500 to 830,000 years; Eniwetok ewoll coral reef thickness; 100 foot layer of permafrost.

    It is very easy to copy and paste a litany of supposed scientific proofs for the age of the universe. Your list looks very impressive to the uninitiated. Unfortunately, I actually studied these disciplines and I'm not impressed. Why don’t you do this. Pick one thing from your list that you feel is most compelling and let's discuss it. When we're done with that one item, you're welcome to go on to the next item on your list etc.

    Also, I think you should know that some of these things have already been discussed previously on this Blog, such as radiometric dating. But I’ll gladly cut and paste my responses if it is the dating methods you wish to discuss. But please choose one thing at a time and please support your position in the scientific literature.

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  50. SC:

    Fair enough. Why don't we start with the item that requires virtually no technical knowledge, namely the fact that we can see stars that are more than 6,000 light years away from earth. To the extent you respond that this is a meta physical feat, I would judge you to be less rationalist than those that have a naturalistic explanation, i.e. That the stars have existed beginning more than 6,000 years ago.

    With regard to my question of whether a literal understanding of Maaseh Breishis as stated in the Torah is "fundamental" to Judaism, to be honest, I don't know exactly what I mean by "fundamental". However, what do YOU mean when you state that it is fundamental?

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  51. Nachum -

    Fair enough. Why don't we start with the item that requires virtually no technical knowledge, namely the fact that we can see stars that are more than 6,000 light years away from earth. To the extent you respond that this is a meta physical feat, I would judge you to be less rationalist than those that have a naturalistic explanation, i.e. That the stars have existed beginning more than 6,000 years ago.

    Okay. Let’s begin. There are several ways to approach this question not least of which is to question the assumptions big bang cosmologists make in order to achieve their calculations. But I am going to avoid this line of reasoning for now and throw the ball back in your court. How long would you imagine that it would take for granite to form? According to evolutionary geologists, it takes 100’s of millions of years via extreme heat and pressure and then subsequent cooling. Would you bring this as proof for the antiquity of our world? What about life? Scientists don’t even have a clue how it formed much less how long it took. What about multi-cellular life? Evolution claims it took billions of years because after all how could something so complex just appear? So why not ask from the very presence of multi-cellular life on earth? Isn’t that proof to the antiquity of our world? Or what about the incredible fine-tuning of our universe? Or the sheer comprehensibility of it all. What about it’s beauty? Where did the universe come from? How did the laws of nature arise? All of these things, if studied properly, would be impossible to understand as just spontaneously arising. If they had to develop via purely naturalistic means, it would take an incomprehensible amount of time for them to have evolved to the stage that we see them in now. Incidentally, I recommend that you read chapter two of Rabbi Slifkin’s book The Challenge of Creation. He treats these issues beautifully and concludes with the following: “But the evidence for design in its new manifestation, that of the design in the laws of nature, grows even stronger. The more that science succeeds in discovering the laws of nature, the more their existence and design points to a Creator”

    So once more, I ask you; why are you pointing to starlight as a rational proof for the antiquity of the universe when you can easily point to a thousand other things equally well?

    Comment continued...

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  52. Nachum - Continuation from previous comment

    Allow me to answer my own question. There are two hypotheses here. The first assumes that the universe and all of its phenomena developed over a period of 13.7 billion years via naturalistic processes. The second hypothesis avers that the universe was created by a transcendental intelligence. Both are logical and both are, ostensibly, consistent with the observed phenomena of our universe. This means that both hypotheses are fully capable of accounting for the presence of ancient phenomena. The difference is, the first hypothesis would actually require the billions of years of time in order to account for said phenomena. On the other hand, hypothesis #2 assumes the existence of a transcendental being that is perfectly capable of creating all of the phenomena of the universe instantly. In fact, it would be illogical to assume that he wouldn’t create them rapidly. This is why you can’t bring any proof against H2 from the existence of granite, or life, or the fine-tuning of the universe etc. etc. H2 is perfectly consistent with the existence of all these things.

    Furthermore, I would submit to you that as per Rabbi Slifkin, many of the items I mentioned above make H2 superior to H1.

    In addition, I am quite confident that you believe in the existence of a transcendental Being.

    So what is your question? The assumption of the presence of a Creator automatically assumes that He would create the universe in a fully developed, fully functional fashion. How does starlight differ from any of these other things? Hashem needed us to see the light from distant stars so He created the universe in such a way that we could.

    Since you admit the presence of a Creator, you question has no basis, as far as I can see.

    Incidentally, this approach is not capable of answering all of the questions you broached. For instance, I maintain that it is inadequate when it comes to issues such as ice cores, dendrochronolgy and transitional fossils. I think it is ridiculous to say that Hashem would have created trees with rings indicating thousands of years, or millions of transitional fossils that never really existed. Why? Because none of these things are necessary in order to have a fully mature, fully functioning universe. But starlight is and therefore Hashem created the universe in a fully advanced fully mature form.

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  53. Nachum - I suggest that you follow our dialogue from this previous blog. Here we discussed the age estimates of a King Clone creosote bush.

    Once I understood RSC's premise and paradigm, I understood that there was no need to hash out further issues. Where I continue to disagree with the Rabbi is the validity of scientific pursuit under said premise and paradigm.

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  54. edit above - I understood that there was no need to hash out specific scientific issues. We certainly have proceeded to hash out lots of other stuff.

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  55. Yitz -

    Nachum - I suggest that you follow our dialogue from this previous blog. Here we discussed the age estimates of a King Clone creosote bush...Once I understood RSC's premise and paradigm...I understood that there was no need to hash out specific scientific issues...

    I appreciate the vote of confidence but as I mentioned to Nachum there is more than one category of science which needs to be addressed. Not all of them can be responded to in the same way as I responded re the radiometric dating methods. As you can see, I specifically stayed away from my approach there and developed an entirely different approach regarding the starlight issue.

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  56. Yitz -

    Where I continue to disagree with the Rabbi is the validity of scientific pursuit under said premise and paradigm.

    I don't know why Yitz. I explained to you that scientific pursuit is just a form of reinforcing our emunah. No matter how strong a person is, he is influenced by his surroundings, as Rambam states in Hilchos Deos. We need every facility possible to assist us in maintaining our convictions. Furthermore, the emunah becomes internalized when we can actually see the emptiness of the claims of atheists. Chazal understood this concept when they said da ma shetashiv l'apikorus, “know what to respond to an heretic”, and my rebbi was wont to say, "This" heretic, pointing to himself. Meaning, we all have a yetzer hara and need to use any tachbulos possible to fight him. After all, that's what he does with us...

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  57. I don't know why Yitz

    I'll leave it to someone else to respond if they see value in this. I did say at one point that I hereby give up on trying to convince you to stop trying to convince me.

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  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  59. I was referring to kiruv richokim, as I actually wrote. Not kiruv kerovim. Unfortunately there are plenty of Jews in the latter category who reject my young-earth model.

    Accepting the fact at face value, I personally am ambivalent about this phenomenon. We can reasonably assume that an individual that has neither intellectual nor emotional prejudice to "Torah truths" will give credibility to the scientific consensus that RSC and colleagues dispute. So why aren't they bringing the issue up? Could it be that they don't aware that there is an issue here? If so, are we doing them a kindness by leaving them to their ignorance?

    I said "ambivalent" in concession to the fact that more Torah education and observance is of course a positive outcome.

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  60. SC:

    I'm pursuing this conversation because I want to fully understand your paradigm, with the intention of trying to adopt it if possible. This is not merely a fun analytical exercise.

    "There are two hypotheses here. The first assumes that the universe and all of its phenomena developed over a period of 13.7 billion years via naturalistic processes. The second hypothesis avers that the universe was created by a transcendental intelligence."

    The two main reasons I disagree with the above statement are:

    1) There is an infinite number of possible hypothesese regarding the creation of the cosmos and everything in it.
    2) The two listed hypothesese are not mutually exclusive.

    Also, hypothesis 1 is not an assumption, but a conclusion based on an examination of the physical evidence; hypothesis 2 is an assumption and/or conclusion based on a philosophical thought process and/or mesorah.

    "The difference is, the first hypothesis would actually require the billions of years of time in order to account for said phenomena. On the other hand, hypothesis #2 assumes the existence of a transcendental being that is perfectly capable of creating all of the phenomena of the universe instantly."

    This statement is not a good compare/contrast statement. Hypothesis 1 does not "require" God to guide the development of the cosmos and everything in it via natural proceses, rather, it concludes that God CHOSE (and chooses) to guide the cosmos in that manner. In the same vein, Hypothesis 2 assumes the existence of a transcendental being that is perfectly capable of guiding the development of the cosmos and everything in it via natural proceses, but it assumes/concludes that He chose to do it in a six day period.

    "In fact, it would be illogical to assume that he wouldn’t create them rapidly."

    Maybe (MAYBE) if there was no contrary evidence. In light of the physical evidence, it is not an "assumption," but a conclusion.

    More importantly, why is it more "logical" to create the cosmos and everything in it in one way rather than the other? Also, do you underrstand God's logic? God has reasons for doing many many things that are beyong our understanding. Why can't the manner of creation be one of them?

    I also believe that if the Torah would have said that God created all matter, and then guided the cosmos and everything in it to develop into its current form over billions of years, many many people (yourself included?) would believe that it's illogical to conclude that the world as we see it was created in a six-day period less than 6,000 years ago. (They would probably point to the physical evidence in their favor!)

    "Starlight is necessary in order to have a fully mature, fully functioning universe." [Paraphrased]

    The Torah does not speak of "starlight," but of stars. Am I to understand that you believe that the starlight that we see today does not originate from actual stars? Or are you saying that the light we see today is traveling today at speeds thousands of time faster than the speed of light?

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  61. Or are you saying that the light we see today is traveling today at speeds thousands of time faster than the speed of light?

    If I understood DYSO's big bang critique, then the answer is that the star light exceeded the present day speed of light ("c") during the six days of creation.

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  62. Personally, I would answer (within the young-earth paradigm) that the Creator created a fully functional universe for Adam, so this would have included normal star light. After all, we wouldn't expect Adam to have to wait for four years until the first star popped into his night vision. The normal star light would even have included an occasional super-nova explosion, despite the fact that the star never actually existed etc. etc.

    For me, this is easier to grasp than warp-speed primordial light (that appears to us to be perfectly normal), but you could make that work as well.

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  63. The episode in Gan Eden is interpreted allegorically by all the meforshim, at least certain elements of it.

    I agreed to the above, only isolating Rashi who does not normally touch upon such issues. However, I don't know why it slipped out of my mind that the Ibn Ezra cites Geonim who argue over whether the nachash was a physical being that original spoke and had legs that were later removed. He sides with those who say it was. And I don't currently recall the Ibn Ezra allegorizing any other part of the Gan Eden episode. So tentative to further review of the meforshim, I am retracting the broad statement above. In a private discussion, Rabbi Coffer (SC) agreed to the same, and allowed me to state so.

    Note, however, that no commentator is saying that he is opposing an "original" explanation handed down by the mesorah, and certainly not on the basis on "new" information Hashem had kept hidden from the earlier generations.

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  64. Yitz -

    We can reasonably assume that an individual that has neither intellectual nor emotional prejudice to "Torah truths" will give credibility to the scientific consensus that RSC and colleagues dispute.

    Possibly. But anyone who has studied the Torah and accepts its massoretic interpretations is automatically "prejudiced" to its truths. So, I supposeyou could rewrite your formula above with a variety of conclusions. Such as “We can reasonably assume that an individual that has neither intellectual nor emotional prejudice to "Torah truths" will give credibility to the scientific consensus that God never appeared to the Jews on Mount Sinai, or God never caused miracles in Egypt, or God never split the Yam Suf, or God never caused the Sun to halt in its tracks etc etc.

    Thank God I’m "prejudiced".

    So why aren't they bringing the issue up?

    Wow. That comment is breathtaking in its sheer cluelessness.

    For the record, we are aware that you believe that it is reasonable to reject our 3000 year unanimous mesorah in favour of the scientific consensus. That's precisely why we created this Blog! To demonstrate that with just a little investigation, it turns out that it is unreasonable to reject our 3000 year mesorah in favour of the scientific consensus.

    Unfortunately you have demonstrated over and over that you have no interest in pursuing any investigation of the facts. No wonder you seem confused regarding our mandate.

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  65. Nachum -

    I'm pursuing this conversation because I want to fully understand your paradigm, with the intention of trying to adopt it if possible. This is not merely a fun analytical exercise.

    I’m with you all the way Nachum.

    "There are two hypotheses here. The first assumes that the universe and all of its phenomena developed over a period of 13.7 billion years via naturalistic processes. The second hypothesis avers that the universe was created by a transcendental intelligence."

    The two main reasons I disagree with the above statement are:

    1) There is an infinite number of possible hypothesese regarding the creation of the cosmos and everything in it.


    No. There are only two. Either it developed naturally or it unfolded meta-naturally. If you claim that there are an infinite number of alternative options, how about supplying me with just one example which would not fall under one of these two categories? (Note: theistic naturalism is merely a combination of the two hypotheses so it doesn’t count as an independent third option)

    2) The two listed hypothesese are not mutually exclusive.

    Possibly. If you’d like to make a combination between the two, we can talk about that another time. But for now it is irrelevant to my point. In order to answer the starlight question, I am avoiding theistic naturalism as a third option.

    Also, hypothesis 1 is not an assumption, but a conclusion based on an examination of the physical evidence; hypothesis 2 is an assumption and/or conclusion based on a philosophical thought process and/or mesorah.

    Once again you’re getting sidetracked. You’ve taken my statement and isolated it from the rest of my presentation and are now attacking it out of context. Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say Hypotheses 1 is not an assumption. It’s irrelevant to my point. Within the context of my presentation, what I meant to say is that H1 proposes a naturalistic unfolding and H2 proposes a meta-natural unfolding. If you don’t like the word “assumption”, just delete it and substitute the word “proposes”.

    BTY an hypotheses is an assumption. A scientist starts out with an assumption and then goes out to look for evidence supporting his assumption. If there is evidence that corroborates it, it becomes a theory

    "The difference is, the first hypothesis would actually require the billions of years of time in order to account for said phenomena. On the other hand, hypothesis #2 assumes the existence of a transcendental being that is perfectly capable of creating all of the phenomena of the universe instantly."

    This statement is not a good compare/contrast statement. Hypothesis 1 does not "require" God to guide the development of the cosmos and everything in it via natural proceses, rather, it concludes that God CHOSE (and chooses) to guide the cosmos in that manner. In the same vein, Hypothesis 2 assumes the existence of a transcendental being that is perfectly capable of guiding the development of the cosmos and everything in it via natural proceses, but it assumes/concludes that He chose to do it in a six day period.


    H1 the way I presented it was purely natural, not theistically natural. What you are proposing is a combination of H1 and H2 which gives us H3, theistic naturalism, in which case you would be correct. The term “required” would be inappropriate. But once again Nachum, you’rer getting sidetracked. All this is irrelevant to my point. All I am looking to do is to establish that my version of H2 is perfectly rational, logical and consistent with the evidence, in this case starlight.

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  66. Nachum - Post continued...

    "In fact, it would be illogical to assume that he wouldn’t create them rapidly."

    Maybe (MAYBE) if there was no contrary evidence. In light of the physical evidence, it is not an "assumption," but a conclusion.


    OK Nachum. Substitute the term “conclude” for the term “assume”. In context that’s what I meant. “It would be illogical to assume” is synonymous with “it would be illogical to conclude…”

    More importantly, why is it more "logical" to create the cosmos and everything in it in one way rather than the other?

    Simple. Say you’re a carpenter and your wife asks you to build a table. The current table you have is broken and needs replacement. You go out and buy the wood and bring it home to your garage/work area. You now have all the raw material necessary for your new table. You have the tools to build it and the skill set to use the tools properly. Furthermore, you have a current purpose for the building of the new table and you are not a lazy person. Nothing is impeding your progress. You are entirely free to commence building. Which is more logical? To assume you will commence building in the near future or to assume that you will commence building in 50 years?

    Also, do you underrstand God's logic? God has reasons for doing many many things that are beyong our understanding. Why can't the manner of creation be one of them?

    Creation can be one of them! But you’re getting sidetracked again. I maintain H2 because that’s what the Torah (i.e. God’s communication to us) indicates happened. God himself informed us what occurred. I don’t need to figure out His logic.

    "Starlight is necessary in order to have a fully mature, fully functioning universe." [Paraphrased]

    The Torah does not speak of "starlight," but of stars. Am I to understand that you believe that the starlight that we see today does not originate from actual stars? Or are you saying that the light we see today is traveling today at speeds thousands of time faster than the speed of light?


    I don’t think either of your options are reasonable to conclude.

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  67. Wow. That comment is breathtaking in its sheer cluelessness.

    I did attempt to articulate where it is that I disagree with RSC and why on this comment from October 26, 2010 4:43 AM.

    I did state and I am re-stating here that I am not making any judgement about what RSC calls "our 3000 year unanimous mesorah". Rather, I am making a judgement about the validity of the scientific critiques from RSC and his colleagues. While I am not asking that RSC acquiesce, I do insist on the right to respectfully disagree.

    From the great amount of time and effort invested, it is clear to all of us that RSC cares deeply about this issue. It is a pity that he has defiled this honorable effort with gratuitous insult and badgering.

    I expect that the Rabbi will respond once again with an explanation about why I am wrong on this and that is fine. My intention is to allow him the last word. I don't see any value in continuing our correspondence.

    zei gezunt!

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  68. SC:

    First off, I apologize if you feel that I am attacking your argument by taking your words out of context. I don't mean to "attack" anything, and I am not trying to "win". I am picking and prodding at your arguments in order to gain as much clarity about them as possible. My sole aim is to clarify to myself your point of view. Maybe, if your arguments stand up to scrutiny and I can accept their values, I'll adopt them for myself! Other, more extraordinary things have happenned (if only meta naturally :).

    We can't avoid theistic naturalism because that happens to be the way I role.

    Let me see if I can rephrase my understanding of your argument, and my questons/comments to my perception of what your argument is. Please correct me when I misapprehend your argument.

    SC: "There are two hypotheses here. H1 is that the cosmos and everything in it developed naturally, with or without the direction of God [Nachum's belief]. H2 is that the cosmos was created in a six day period less than 6,000 years ago, through a meta-natural event, in the literal way described in the opening paragraphs of the Torah [SC's belief]".

    Nachum: Here you rule out the possibility that meta natural creation took place in any way other than the way described in the Torah. The elimination of any other possibility in this category is not due to any inherent human logic, but due solely to the fact that a literal reading of the Torah dictates that belief. I agree that this point is not crucial to your argument about starlight, but it is most certainly crucial to your overall conclusion.

    SC: In this dicotomy, it is illogical to conclude that God would create the cosmos and everything in it over a period of time longer than 6 days, because God's motivations are similar to that of many humans, who prefer to complete their tasks as quickly as possible even when there is no rush.

    Nachum: We cannot claim to have any understanding whatsoever of God's motivations or intentions, ESPECIALLY with regard to the manner in which He chooses to create. Maybe God wanted the earth to exist without humans for a really long period so that the animals would be happier during that time. (You'll ask me about the period before animals? I assure you I can come up with a beautiful p'shat.)Maybe God is more like an artist than a construction worker, and he savours his work as he does it (the message to humanking being that we should slow down and savour our lives, but get the job done). Maybe 15 billion years and 6 days are the same to Him, who is infinite and surpasses time. Nobody knows. But any conclusion different than yours is no less logical than your conclusion. In fact, logic doesn't apply.

    You didn't answer my final question, and thereby have not explained the parameters of H2. I will ask it outright: Does H2 require the belief that there are meta natural occurences happening TODAY with regard to our ability to see the starlight of stars that according to scientific measurements are more than 6,000 light years away? If not, how would you scientifically explain this phenomena?

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  69. Yitz -

    From the great amount of time and effort invested, it is clear to all of us that RSC cares deeply about this issue. It is a pity that he has defiled this honorable effort with gratuitous insult and badgering.

    I expect that the Rabbi will respond once again with an explanation about why I am wrong on this and that is fine. My intention is to allow him the last word. I don't see any value in continuing our correspondence.

    zei gezunt!


    Yitz is right. I would like to respond. But since the character of our communication seems to have taken a downward turn, this venue is not the proper place for a reply. I will reply to him directly via email bl'n.

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  70. Nachum -

    First off, I apologize if you feel that I am attacking your argument by taking your words out of context. I don't mean to "attack" anything, and I am not trying to "win".

    No need to apologize Nachum. I didn't mean to use the word "attack" in a negative way and I am not upset at all. I was simply pointing out, from a polemical perspective, the fallacy of your "attack" i.e. argument.

    I am running to a chasuna now. I read the rest of your comment but I can't answer now. You made a very strong argument against assuming any logic for the duration of creation. It requires a long response from me. I will get to it later bi'ezras Hashem and any other points that you've made.

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  71. Nachum -

    We can't avoid theistic naturalism because that happens to be the way I role.

    I have no problem entertaining your paradigm as a possible scenario but this is not what our communication is about Nachum. I am not challenging your paradigm; you are challenging mine. I believe that the world is a recent meta-natural creation and you claim that in view of the significant number of phenomena which demonstrate the antiquity of the world, it is unreasonable to adopt my paradigm. You even provided me with a list, remember? You wrote: “Evidence for the existence of matter older than 6,000 includes rocks on earth dating over 3 billion years old… the fact that we can see stars that are many tens of thousands light years away; tree rings indicating germination times at 6000 BCE; millions of annual layers of sediment in the Green River…100 foot layer of permafrost.”

    I then responded that if you want to provide scientific evidence which contradicts my paradigm you must do it one at a time to which you responded: “Fair enough. Why don't we start with the item that requires virtually no technical knowledge, namely the fact that we can see stars that are more than 6,000 light years away from earth. To the extent you respond that this is a meta physical feat, I would judge you to be less rationalist than those that have a naturalistic explanation, i.e. That the stars have existed beginning more than 6,000 years ago.

    So, everything I said after this point was merely a rebuttal to your argument which claims that 6000 years is less rational than an ancient universe. In order to do that, I don’t need to entertain theistic evolution as an option. What I need to do is highlight the two main positions, i.e. naturalistic versus meta-naturalistic. If you’d like to slide theism into the naturalistic side, fine, no problem but it is irrelevant to the topic at hand. Once the two primary hypotheses are expressed, all I need to do is demonstrate that the phenomenon of starlight is as equally consistent with meta-naturalism as it is with naturalism and your argument, i.e. “To the extent you respond that this is a meta physical feat, I would judge you to be less rationalist than those that have a naturalistic explanation” fails.

    I think I’ve done that (i.e. demonstrated the consistency of starlight with my paradigm). I’ve shown you that your question is no different than asking how granite came to be, or life, or fine-tuning etc. etc. Just as a theist could respond to these questions by appealing to the existence of an intelligent being that created the universe with a plan and purpose, he could equally explain the phenomena of starlight in the same way. God created a fully mature world possessing life, granite, fine tuning and the ability to see stars.

    The remainder of your post will be responded to in the following comment.

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  72. Nachum, I am going to go on and respond to the rest of your comment but I think it is important for you to acknowledge my primary response to your initial challenge in my previous comment. Do you feel I was successful in defending my position or not? If not, why?

    SC: "There are two hypotheses here. H1 is that the cosmos and everything in it developed naturally, with or without the direction of God [Nachum's belief]. H2 is that the cosmos was created in a six day period less than 6,000 years ago, through a meta-natural event, in the literal way described in the opening paragraphs of the Torah [SC's belief]".

    Nachum: Here you rule out the possibility that meta natural creation took place in any way other than the way described in the Torah. The elimination of any other possibility in this category is not due to any inherent human logic, but due solely to the fact that a literal reading of the Torah dictates that belief. I agree that this point is not crucial to your argument about starlight, but it is most certainly crucial to your overall conclusion.


    How do you know? Maybe you’re right, maybe not. Right now we’re talking about starlight. Perhaps I will be able to respond to all your questions the way I’ve responded to starlight? So far my goal has been to defend my position, not to eliminate yours. (Don’t worry; eventually I intend on attacking your position too… :-)

    SC: In this dicotomy, it is illogical to conclude that God would create the cosmos and everything in it over a period of time longer than 6 days, because God's motivations are similar to that of many humans, who prefer to complete their tasks as quickly as possible even when there is no rush.

    Nachum: We cannot claim to have any understanding whatsoever of God's motivations or intentions, ESPECIALLY with regard to the manner in which He chooses to create. Maybe God wanted the earth to exist without humans for a really long period so that the animals would be happier during that time. (You'll ask me about the period before animals? I assure you I can come up with a beautiful p'shat.)Maybe God is more like an artist than a construction worker, and he savours his work as he does it (the message to humanking being that we should slow down and savour our lives, but get the job done). Maybe 15 billion years and 6 days are the same to Him, who is infinite and surpasses time. Nobody knows. But any conclusion different than yours is no less logical than your conclusion. In fact, logic doesn't apply.


    Your point is deeply philosophical and I intend on responding to it momentarily. But before I do, I want to mention that as pertains to this current thread, I hereby retract this component of my argument. It is unwarranted, at least for the time being. The reason you jumped on it is because it attacks your paradigm of theistic evolution. I didn’t mean to do that. I merely meant to show the reasonableness of my paradigm. But I now realize that the only way to do that using this argument is to show up your paradigm so I retract.

    Continued...

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  73. Nachum, here’s my response. You write: We cannot claim to have any understanding whatsoever of God's motivations or intentions, ESPECIALLY with regard to the manner in which He chooses to create. Your point is theological and possesses merit but Chazal disagreed with you. They asked: “Why did Hashem have to create the universe via ten “sayings”, could he not have accomplished it via one “saying”? (Avos). So, as you can see, Chazal felt that it was valid to apply our logic to God's motivations or intentions, EVEN with regard to the manner in which He chooses to create creation – at least to a certain extent. Now obviously your perspective seems superior to Chazal’s, at least superficially. After all, God is eternal. He is entirely removed from our experience. How can we presume to understand any of His motivations?

    Nachum, I know I said before that I was going to respond to your question but I changed my mind. You now have homework to do. Your contention seems philosophically sound yet Chazal openly violate it. How do you explain this phenomenon?

    You didn't answer my final question, and thereby have not explained the parameters of H2. I will ask it outright: Does H2 require the belief that there are meta natural occurences happening TODAY with regard to our ability to see the starlight of stars that according to scientific measurements are more than 6,000 light years away?

    No.

    If not, how would you scientifically explain this phenomena?

    I don’t have a scientific explanation for it. But I also don’t have a scientific explanation for the existence of granite, life and the fine-tuning of the universe. So what?

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  74. SC: I think it is important for you to acknowledge my primary response to your initial challenge in my previous comment. Do you feel I was successful in defending my position or not? If not, why?

    Nachum: Your position is exactly (EXACTLY) as logical as the position that the physical universe came into existence yesterday (fully developed, including our memories); and the position that nothing actually and physically exists outside of my “brain”; and the position that ALL evidence (of anything) is false evidence placed by God or a conspiracy. That is to say, your position is "logical" in the sense that it cannot be disproven; it’s also deeply unsatisfying because to accept that position undercuts one’s ability to relate to physical reality as it presents itself. It’s also unsatisfying because it has the feel of post-hoc apologetics for the fact that the evidence does not conform with your conclusion. (I’ll repeat what I stated earlier: If the physical evidence conformed to a literal reading of Maaseh Breishis, I have no doubt that you would point to such physical evidence as proof that a literal reading of Maaseh Breishis is correct.) So, were you successful in defending your position? It depends on what you goal was. I would call it a pyrrhic success.

    (As an aside, even if there was overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution, it would pose no threat to your position, as you would respond that God created false evidence of evolution in nature in the same way He created false evidence of a billions-year-old universe.)

    continued

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  75. I refuse to do my homework, but this is my approach to the Asarah Maimoros mishna. I admit that it is off the cuff: Chazal believed that they (we?) can glean, from the Torah, insights into God’s motivations (what makes God tick) that would otherwise be a complete mystery. God reveals some of his Inner Self to the Jewish people (or at least to Chazal) through the medium of the Torah because they possess a combination of cleaving to Him, spiritual elevation, self-improvement, accepting the mesorah, and a liberal sprinkling of an incomprehensible force of Siyatah Dishmaya. I believe (not having done any homework) this to be behind Chazal’s belief that they (we?) can understand (on some level) God’s Inner Self based on specific words and phrases in the Torah.

    (I'm not sure if this approach works as it relates to this Mishna, because "reward and punishment" (the concept Chazal saw from the fact that the Torah uses God's "amirah" 10 times during maaseh breishis), is not mentioned anywhere in maaseh breishis, as far as my simple mind can see. Again, I haven't done my homework.)

    If this is the approach that you are adopting, then you cannot really say that your position re. God’s motivations is more logical than any other; the most you can say is that you are adopting Chazal’s position that God’s intentions can be gleaned from the Torah if you’re a “member of the club”.

    I would note that according to my off-the-cuff understanding of Chazal, God’s Inner Self can be gleaned only insofar as there is actual Torah text supporting a proclamation about God’s Inner Self.

    I have other problems with this approach, but it might be a straw man, so I'll leave it for now.

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  76. Nachum -

    Nachum: Your position is exactly (EXACTLY) as logical as the position that the physical universe came into existence yesterday (fully developed, including our memories); and the position that nothing actually and physically exists outside of my “brain”; and the position that ALL evidence (of anything) is false evidence placed by God or a conspiracy. That is to say, your position is "logical" in the sense that it cannot be disproven;

    Thank you for responding so quickly Nachum. Here’s why you’re wrong. My position has nothing to do with the counter-intuitive examples you supplied. I categorically reject each and every one of the epistemic scenarios you delineate above. My position is firmly grounded in historical and empirical evidence, coupled with good old fashioned common sense.

    I believe our world objectively bespeaks endless design, plan and purpose. It testifies to its Creator, just as countless pesukim in tanach affirm. Furthermore, we have an ironclad historical tradition – no less valid than mankind’s tradition that, say, Alexander the Great existed – that Hashem appeared to us at Har Sinai and gave us the Torah. That’s why I believe in the Torah. That’s why I believe in the verses contained therein.

    In my opinion, my position is the one which is the most sound, the most reasonable one to adopt. It is based on the preponderance of available evidence. Just because you happen to have a kushya from starlight doesn’t mean that belief in the Torah’s position of rapid meta-natural creation is equivalent to the foolish position that the world came into existence yesterday. The fact is, there is no naturalistic explanation capable of accounting for the infinite complexity, design, plan and purpose openly manifest in the universe. God is undeniably implicated in its creation. This is a rational, common sense conclusion. Once you assume the presence of a Creator, and you assume the veracity of the Torah, my position is the default position.

    My position is not logical merely because it can’t be disproven. It is logical because it is the most reasonable scenario to adopt!

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  77. SC:

    I'm very much enjoying our conversation andI will mull your response over Shabbos.

    I wish you a good Shabbos.

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  78. Nachum -

    That is to say, your position is…deeply unsatisfying because to accept that position undercuts one’s ability to relate to physical reality as it presents itself.

    I couldn’t think of a more egregious statement if you paid me. My position is reality! My position is aligned with every operational instinct you possess regarding your everyday experiences! When you look at cars, you see auto engineers. When you look at paintings, you see artists. When you look at homes, you see development companies. When you look at clothing, you see fabric companies. When you look at hammers, you see tool companies. When you look at computers, you see computer engineers. The list is veritably endless.

    My position is identical. Whenever you see specified complexity, you always see intelligence. This is the physical reality which presents itself to us. The undeniable reality that there is a Supreme Designer responsible for the existence of the universe. Attributing it to materialistic processes over billions of years while simultaneously asserting that God is somehow behind the whole thing is obviously nothing more than an apologetic. It is a thesis specifically designed to accommodate current scientific attitudes and has nothing at all to do with the “physical reality as it presents itself”. Sure, you might have a kushya here and there and we can try and work it through. But like R’ Chaim Brisker was wont to say: “fun a kasha shtarbt min nisht…”

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  79. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  80. Nachum -

    I too am enjoying our conversation!

    I'm glad you've learned how to ignore my occasional outbursts. I yell and scream a lot but I'm really harmless; ask my chavrusa...

    Have a gevaldic'a Shabbos!

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  81. Nachum -

    It’s also unsatisfying because it has the feel of post-hoc apologetics for the fact that the evidence does not conform with your conclusion.

    It’s not apologetics. I freely admit that I have no idea how anything in our universe originated! I am a very scientifically inclined fellow and I have a healthy respect for the scientific enterprise. But my experience with science has caused me to realize the following: science is descriptive not explanative. Science is able to describe how things work. It is able to chart the processes, record them, duplicate them, utilize them etc. etc. But never can it ever explain why the laws of nature function.

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  82. Nachum -

    (I’ll repeat what I stated earlier: If the physical evidence conformed to a literal reading of Maaseh Breishis, I have no doubt that you would point to such physical evidence as proof that a literal reading of Maaseh Breishis is correct.)

    The physical evidence does point to a literal reading of the Torah and in fact I do point to it all the time! One of my biggest proofs to the Torah is the sudden appearance of all the major phyla in the stratigraphical record.

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  83. Nachum -

    (As an aside, even if there was overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution, it would pose no threat to your position, as you would respond that God created false evidence of evolution in nature in the same way He created false evidence of a billions-year-old universe.)

    This comment is beneath you. It should be abundantly clear to you by now that I believe the evidence supports a young universe. I categorically reject the notion that Hashem would create false evidence. This silly idea is merely a dichiya b’kash utilized by well-meaning cheder rabbeim who don’t possess the training to respond properly.

    If you would be able to supply real evidence for evolution, I would have a real problem! But that’s the same thing as saying “if you could produce real evidence that matan torah never happened or yetzias mitzraim never happened, or the flood never happened etc.etc.” If you could… but you can’t.

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  84. Nachum -

    I refuse to do my homework

    You sound like my kids... :-)

    this is my approach... they (we?) can glean, from the Torah, insights into God’s motivations...

    Your presentation, while wholly engaging, is, simultaneously, wholly irrelevant. The mishna I quoted posed a question by the author which arose in his own mind and his response was too developed via his own mind. Any other reading of the mishna is forced.

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  85. SC:

    Based on our conversation so far, I gather that this is your paradigm:

    (1) The Torah as we have it today was given to the Jewish people at Har Sinai by God. This is axiom number one (which you believe is supported by the preponderance of the evidence).
    (2) The interpretation of Maasseh Bresishis by Chazal and the Rishonim are the only true interpretations of the Torah. This Axiom number two.
    (3) (a) There are no Chazal or Rishonim that interpreted Maaseh Breishis in anything but a literal manner; or, in the alternative,
    (b) where they do, this exception is limited to the specific instance of such exception/interpretation. (e.g. RMBM?) (3b) is an axiom related to axiom two.
    (4) No Chazal or Rishonim leave any room for a cosmos that is actually more than 6,000 years old.
    (5) Having accepted the axioms, it follows that all purported evidence favoring a universe older than 6,000 years is false, either because:
    (a) the evidence is weak (this option is supposedly unrelated to your axioms), or
    (b) the evidence that is strong is false evidence planted by God.
    (6) As a corolary to (5), any evidence favoring a 6,000 year old world is, by definition, not false evidence (because the world is in fact about 6,000 years old).

    Option (5a) is preferable to you, but you will fall back on option (5b) when option (5a) doesn't work.

    When you are forced to fall back on option (5b) you try to give a post-hoc rationalization as to WHY God planted false evidnece; however, even if one does not accept the rationalization, it has no effect on the axioms and necessary conclusions listed above.

    continued

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  86. I believe that the following can be the paradigm of the “other camp”
    (1) The Torah as we have it today was given to the Jewish people at Har Sinai by God. This is axiom number one.
    (2) There are Chazal, Rishonim and/or Acharonim that interpreted Maaseh Breishis in a non literal manner and/or gave us permission to do so based on new scientific discoveries. This permits us to do the same.
    (3) In light of (2) above, in a competition between good science and a literal interpretation of Maaseh Breishis, good science wins.
    (4) In light of (2) above, the interpretation of Maasseh Bresishis by Chazal and the Rishonim are NOT the only true interpretations of the Torah. To the extent no Chazal or Rishonim leave any room for a cosmos that is actually more than 6,000 years old, this is based on their lack of knowledge of scientific discoveries that would be made after their lifetimes.

    continued

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  87. If there are recognized Talmidei Chachomim who agree with R. Slifkin’s approach, it seems to me the anti-Slifikinites should calm down. There are many people in this day and age who will follow the second mehalech, mostly scientific/materialist-minded people.

    I suspect that your anti-Slifkin crusade is more related to your earlier comment that your primary objection to Rabbi Slifkin's shittos regarding Maaseh Breishis is that they undermine our ability to see Hashem in nature and our ability to see God’s wisdom, might, glory and kindliness. I would really like for you to expand on that, especially since it's your “primary concern.” Thank you.

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  88. I think that Nachum articulated the paradigms quite well!

    Nachum - To better understand and empathize with the opposition to RNS, be sure to read this:
    http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/InDefenseOfMyOpponents.pdf

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  89. Dear Nachum,

    Frankly I’m a bit disappointed. You mentioned to me that you were sincerely trying to understand my “paradigm” so that you could possibly adopt it. But you have consistently either ignored or misrepresented my responses to you.

    In your latest communication, you write as follows:

    Based on our conversation so far, I gather that this is your paradigm:

    3(b) where they do, this exception is limited to the specific instance of such exception/interpretation. (e.g. RMBM?)


    Don’t know what you mean. There is no “where they do”. The RMBM allegorizes the snake, not maaseh bereishis per se. I never said 3(b), just 3(a)

    (5) Having accepted the axioms, it follows that all purported evidence favoring a universe older than 6,000 years is false…

    No! That’s not what I said. I never claimed that the evidence favoring an old universe is false merely because it “follows” the above-noted axioms. I said it was false because the evidence itself is faulty! You then challenged me from starlight. For the life of me I can’t understand how you continue to miss this point.

    (5) Having accepted the axioms, it follows that all purported evidence favoring a universe older than 6,000 years is false, either because:
    (a) the evidence is weak (this option is supposedly unrelated to your axioms),


    Why supposedly? Why introduce doubt into my motives? What do you gain by doing that? Why not just judge what I say solely on its own merits? Again, the reason the evidence is no good is because the evidence is no good, period! What do I have to do to get this point across to people? Do I have to scream it from the rooftops?

    (5) Having accepted the axioms, it follows that all purported evidence favoring a universe older than 6,000 years is false, either because:
    (b) the evidence that is strong is false evidence planted by God.


    Nachum, I’m sorry to say but I am actually upset at you. For you to impute such a ridiculous position to my “paradigm” notwithstanding the fact that I have repeatedly denied it seems to demonstrate that I have been communicating with a disingenuous person.

    Option (5a) is preferable to you, but you will fall back on option (5b) when option (5a) doesn't work.

    A blatant misrepresentation of my view!
    I’m too put off to continue this comment. I will bl’n respond to the rest of your comment after Shabbos when I’ve calmed down a bit.

    Have a gevaldica Shabbos!

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  90. Reb Simcha:

    SC: "[Y]ou have consistently either ignored or misrepresented my responses to you."

    N: Whoa. What on earth are you talking about? I think you must be confusing me with someone else. Perhaps my very last posting, in which I state "I gather that this is your paradigm" was off base on some points, which we can discuss, but I characterize it in tentative language to convey that I am aware that I may be wrong.

    You owe me an apology for (1) falsely stating that I "consistently" ignore or misrepresent your responses (which I admit I did in some respect, inadvertently, exactly ONCE - in my last comment attempting to summarize what I "gather to be" your position), and (2) strongly implying that I am acting in an insincere manner.

    It's one thing to make condescending statements such as "I couldn’t think of a more egregious statement if you paid me" or "This comment is beneath you." But this is unacceptable.

    To the substance:

    SC: "Don’t know what you mean. There is no “where they do”. The RMBM allegorizes the snake, not maaseh bereishis per se. I never said 3(b), just 3(a)"

    N: Chatasi, uvisi, pushati. I jumped the gun and was imagining how you would respond to the second part of the other camp's axiom (2), namely, that "there are Chazal, Rishonim and/or Acharonim that interpreted Maaseh Breishis in a non literal manner and/or gave us permission to do so based on new scientific discoveries. This permits us to do the same."
    Now I think that you maintain that there are no Chazal, Rishonim and/or Acharonim that interpret Maaseh Breishis in a non literal manner, and we cannot extrapolate from other places in the Torah which they interpret in a non literal manner to Massei Breishis.

    I have virtually no expertise in this topic, but note that there are respectable Talmidei Chachomim who do interpret Maase Breishis non-literally i.e. that 6 days does not mean six 24 hour periods.
    I agree that my assumption of your position was mistaken, but it did not ignore or misrepresent anything that you have said thus far in our discussions. It was simply a wrong assumption.

    continued

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  91. SC: I never claimed that the evidence favoring an old universe is false merely because it “follows” the above-noted axioms. I said it was false because the evidence itself is faulty! You then challenged me from starlight. For the life of me I can’t understand how you continue to miss this point.

    Nachum: I think I’m missing something here. There are stars visible from earth that are more than 6,000 light years distant from earth. This is evidence that those stars existed more than 6000 years ago. The other possibility (what I thought was your position) is that God made it APPEAR (by our only way of measuring things) as if those stars existed more than 6000 years ago, but they were actually created less than 6000 years ago. In other words, I understand your position to be that the evidence of an old earth from starlight is faulty because it rules out the possibility that God planted false evidence!

    continued

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  92. SC: Why supposedly? Why introduce doubt into my motives? What do you gain by doing that? Why not just judge what I say solely on its own merits? Again, the reason the evidence is no good is because the evidence is no good, period! What do I have to do to get this point across to people? Do I have to scream it from the rooftops?

    Nachum: With regard to your first point about me introducing your motives: Chatisi, uvarti, pushati. I should keep my focus on the facts and arguments. I apologize.
    Regarding your second point: I assure you that screaming from the roof won’t help, if it did you would have done that already. Please explain more clearly your answer to the starlight question.

    continued

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  93. Nachum: (5) Having accepted the axioms, it follows that all purported evidence favoring a universe older than 6,000 years is false, either because:
    (b) the evidence that is strong is false evidence planted by God.

    SC: Nachum, I’m sorry to say but I am actually upset at you. For you to impute such a ridiculous position to my “paradigm” notwithstanding the fact that I have repeatedly denied it seems to demonstrate that I have been communicating with a disingenuous person.
    Nachum: I apparently misunderstood your position, either as a result of my inability to understand, or of yours to explain it. I still don’t understand it.
    It’s one thing to make condescending remarks, It’s another to wrongly accuse me of acting disingenuously. But this – to actually characterize me as a disingenuous person – is unforgivable unless you recognize that you have wronged me and commit to try not to do it again.

    Good Shabbos

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  94. Nachum -

    I'm skipping temporarily to your last comment.

    Nachum: I apparently misunderstood your position, either as a result of my inability to understand, or of yours to explain it. I still don’t understand it.

    It’s one thing to make condescending remarks, It’s another to wrongly accuse me of acting disingenuously. But this – to actually characterize me as a disingenuous person – is unforgivable unless you recognize that you have wronged me and commit to try not to do it again.


    No problem! I will gladly recognize my error. On one condition. You must explain the following.

    On November 5, you accused me of the following:

    if there was overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution...you would respond that God created false evidence of evolution in nature...

    To which I clearly responded, on the same date as follows:

    I believe the evidence supports a young universe. I categorically reject the notion that Hashem would create false evidence. This silly idea is merely a dichiya b’kash utilized by well-meaning cheder rabbeim who don’t possess the training to respond properly.

    If you would be able to supply real evidence for evolution, I would have a real problem! But that’s the same thing as saying “if you could produce real evidence that matan torah never happened or yetzias mitzraim never happened, or the flood never happened etc.etc.” If you could… but you can’t.


    Please explain to me the following. How is it possible for me, or anyone, to express the idea that they categorically reject the thesis of “God planting false evidence” any clearer than that? How is it possible for you to misunderstand my meaning here?

    If you have no explanation, than kindly explain the following. How is it possible that in your very next post you characterize me, not once but twice(!) as marinating this very shita? How can you possibly justify such a blatant misrepresentation? After all, it’s not like you could have forgotten. It was your very next post!

    The only way for me to be able to “recognize” my error is by understanding how you could have possibly written what you did immediately on the heels of my clear denial of what you wrote. Otherwise, how can I recognize anything?

    Notwithstanding everything I wrote, I think you are perceptive enough to understand that I didn’t really mean what I said about you. But before I make any official retractions or apologies, I need for you to respond to my very pointed question above. In other words, please explain why your activity should not be rightly characterized as disingenuous. I have a reason for requesting this…

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  95. SC:

    My activity cannot be rightly characterized as disingenuous because they were based on my understanding of the SUBSTANCE of what you wrote earlier.

    While you protest that you categorically reject the thesis of “God planting false evidence” you put that very thesis forward on November 1 [brackets are my own commentary]:

    "According to evolutionary geologists, it takes 100’s of millions of years via extreme heat and pressure and then subsequent cooling. . . . you can easily point to a thousand other things equally well. . . ."

    "There are two hypotheses here. The first assumes that the universe and all of its phenomena developed over a period of 13.7 billion years via naturalistic processes. The second hypothesis avers that the universe was created by a transcendental intelligence. Both are logical and both are, ostensibly, consistent with the observed phenomena of our universe. This means that both hypotheses are fully capable of accounting for the presence of ancient phenomena. . . . Hypothesis #2 assumes the existence of a transcendental being that is perfectly capable of creating all of the [ancient] phenomena of the universe instantly. In fact, it would be illogical to assume that he wouldn’t create them rapidly. This is why you can’t bring any proof against H2 from the existence of granite, or life, or the fine-tuning of the universe etc. etc. H2 is perfectly consistent with the existence of all these things [ancient phenomena]."
    . . .
    So what is your question? The assumption of the presence of a Creator automatically assumes that He would create the universe in a fully developed, fully functional fashion [including the ancient phenomena]. How does starlight differ from any of these other things? Hashem needed us to see the light from distant stars so He created the universe in such a way that we could. [Thus, this apparent ancient phenomena was created by God less than 6000 years ago.]"

    Nachum: Are you now saying that the stars do NOT appear to have been created more than 6000 years ago?

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  96. What is the purpose of this blog? The only clear "achievement" seems to be a monotonous, predictable increase of antagonism and frustration.

    I don't think that we are going to find a participant here that is more earnest and fair minded than Nachum. Nonetheless, we see that our host here has again unfortunately resorted to ad-hominem attacks against him.

    http://youngearthfaq.blogspot.com/

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  97. Yitz -

    I am a fair-minded individual but any such further comments will be subject to moderation and, most likely, subsequently erased.

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  98. Nachum -

    Thank you for responding.

    Notwithstanding your appeal to my presentation on November 1, you cannot ignore my open and repeated denial of a position and summarily list it amongst the primary elements of my paradigm. What you should have done is question me as to why my presentation does not accord with the position I am denying.

    Incidentally, the communication of November 1 is one of the examples I was referring to when I said that you were ignoring me, and your current insertion of brackets in my presentation is an example of how you take my presentations and (involuntarily, no doubt, but nonetheless) misrepresent them. I will explain all this to you shortly but before I do, I'd like to take small baby steps so you and I don't end up talking past each other rather than to each other.

    I have a simple question for you. If you were walking along in a desert and came upon a watch sitting on a heap. You stared at the watch for a while and came to the following conclusion in your mind. Either this watch was formed via random natural processes over billions of years via fortuitous blowing of the winds, erosion, materials getting knocked around etc. etc., or this watch was created by an intelligent individual.

    Let us say that eventually the watchmaker appears and informs you that he indeed was the one who designed and created the watch. Would you then turn to the watchmaker and accuse him of planting false evidence of an ancient phenomenon? After all, if we would leave it to naturalistic explanations (i.e. non intelligent), it would take billions of years. So by all rights, we should look at this watch and understand that it is an ancient phenomenon. Thus, if this upstart watchmaker comes along and actually makes it rapidly using intelligent design, isn’t that introducing false evidence?

    If you feel the above presentation is ludicrous, please explain to me in clear and unambiguous words why you feel that way. Please stay focused directly on the mashal I gave without comparing it to the nimshal we are discussing here. I just want to know one thing; why is my mashal, per se, ludicrous? When I receive a response from you, we’ll proceed to the next step.

    By the way Nachum, notwithstanding Yitz’s snide remarks, I am very happy with your participation and do not want to lose you. Please continue this thread and I am confident that the truth will eventually surface.

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  99. SC: “What you should have done is question me as to why my presentation does not accord with the position I am denying.”

    N: Perhaps. But what YOU should have done, instead of accusing me of acting in a disingenuous manner, was try to clarify what I was misapprehending about your position. It would behoove you, for the sake of strengthening my desire to carry on this discussion and IY’H many more, for you to address THAT issue. In my estimation it is a greater wrong to wrongly cast aspersions on another’s intentions than to wrongly misapprehend another’s theological position.

    Before I respond to the rest of your posting, I would like you to clarify what you mean when you state “This silly idea [of God planting false evidence] is merely a dichiya b’kash utilized by well-meaning cheder rabbeim who don’t possess the training to respond properly.” What do you understand to be the position of these well-meaning cheder rabbeim? I ask this so that when your position becomes clear to me we can compare your position to that of those rabbeim and see whether my initial estimation that your position is indeed identical to theirs is correct, notwithstanding your protestations to the contrary.

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  100. Nachum -

    In my estimation it is a greater wrong to wrongly cast aspersions on another’s intentions than to wrongly misapprehend another’s theological position.

    No question. But this is not what happened. What I said was that you blatantly misrepresented my view in your very next post. I didn't say that you misapprehended it. Misapprehension does not excuse misrepresentation. Furthermore, you implied that I was disingenuous (this option is supposedly unrelated to your axioms). You then made a quick summary of our conversation which I spent a long time and much effort on, misrepresented my position (egregiously) 4 times, and then requested that we move on to something else. I'm sorry Nachum but this was entirely inappropriate behavior and that's why I reacted the way I did.

    But we're wasting a lot of precious time now. Just so you know, I do not think you are disingenuous. That's why if you look in my original email I was careful to write "seems to demonstrate... disingenuous". Also, I did not mean to attack you personally, only to mirror your style so you would recognize that your comments were uncalled for. I'm sorry if you took offense at any of my remarks.

    To the substance: You wrote:

    Before I respond to the rest of your posting, I would like you to clarify what you mean when you state “This silly idea [of God planting false evidence] is merely a dichiya b’kash utilized by well-meaning cheder rabbeim who don’t possess the training to respond properly.” What do you understand to be the position of these well-meaning cheder rabbeim?

    Simple. When Cheder kids ask their rabbaim about things like dinosaur fossils, almost none of the rabbaim are equipped to respond to the question properly so they instead respond with shtusim such as, “there was no such thing as dinosaurs but Hashem planted their fossils in the earth (i.e. false evidence) in order to test us” or some such nonsense.

    (Incidentally, a corollary to my mashal with the watch would be if geologists dug up a long chain of transitional watches from the Cambrian strata 100 miles deep up to the tertiary beginning with say, just a round piece of metal and then proceeding step by step up wards through the column with one piece added at a time until you finally find a fully formed watch (and you could somehow demonstrate that each stage of the watch was “fitter for survival” than the previous stage). If these transitional stages never really existed but were just planted there by the watchmaker to trick geologists into thinking that the watch evolved naturally, that would constitute the planting of false watch evolution.)

    Now it’s your turn. Please answer my question.

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  101. SC:
    I think we may have run up against a semantic issue. I stated earlier that my impression of your view was based on substantive things you had stated. I ignored your CHARACTRIZATION of your position, and only focused on what appears to me to be your position that all this “old looking stuff” (in our discussion heretofore the stars), was placed here recently by God. I called this “old looking stuff” “evidence of an old universe.” I saw this characterization as a mere semantic issue. With your example of a watch in the desert I see that it may also be a philosophical one. But I don’t think it will change my impression of the substance of your position, namely, that all this old looking stuff was placed here recently by God. But we’ve only just begun and I may be assuming too much.

    I wish to continue this discussion but suggest two ground rules that, if followed, will make this a much more productive and enjoyable enterprise: (1) Each of us should always assume that the other is arguing or stating his position sincerely. When we have doubts about this we should continue with that assumption, and should also point out the perceived mistake of the other. (2) The tone should always be respectful, ESPECIALLY when we harbor doubts about the others’ sincerity.

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  102. Now I will answer your question about the watch in the dessert. But before I do I need to clarify:

    How old does this watch appear to be?

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  103. Nachum -

    How old does this watch appear to be?

    The appearance is indeterminate. You can't tell by looking at the watch whether it is old or young. Please just answer the question the best you can with the information I've supplied you.

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  104. The watchmaker did not plant false evidence. All he did was make a watch without planting any indication of its age.

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  105. Nachum -

    The watchmaker did not plant false evidence. All he did was make a watch without planting any indication of its age.

    Excellent. I agree. Let's go to the next step.

    Could you not turn to the watchmaker and say, "look, although it's true that all you meant to do is make a watch, but by making the watch you have effectively planted false evidence for those people who don't believe in watchmakers and believe that watches come about exclusively via random unguided processes over billions of years. After all, according to their form of measurement, this watch must be billions of years old since they do not entertain the notion of watchmakers".

    Would your ta'ana to the watchmaker be valid? If you say no, please explain why.

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  106. It would not be a valid taanah because the watchmaker did nothing to cause people to make these unreasonable conclusions.

    On the other hand, if he had a concern for minimizing the chances of people making the wrong conclusion he could put clear indicators the watch is a recently made item. That could not dissuade the hard core watchmaker atheists, who would marvel at a billion year old watch that merely appears new.

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  107. Nachum –

    It would not be a valid taanah because the watchmaker did nothing to cause people to make these unreasonable conclusions.

    Excellent! I agree wholeheartedly.

    Now let’s transfer the mashal over to your question from starlight.

    Hashem is a “huge” watchmaker, ka’vayachol. The universe is full of phenomena, hundreds of billions of phenomena, which are endlessly more complex than a watch. Like the watchmaker of our mashal, He had a purpose in creating all these things. Starlight is one of these phenomena, or, “watches”.

    Now let’s suppose for a moment that this universe could possibly be explained without recourse to a Great Watch Designer. We would now have two distinct possibilities. Either the starlight we see was created billions of years ago via random chance naturalistic processes which would then account for us being able to see the light from stars which are billions of light years away. Or, the universe was created by a Great Watch Designer who created a fully functional universe instantly according to His specifications and thus designed it in such a way that the light from distant stars reached earth at their very inception.

    Could you have a ta’ana on the Great Watch Designer for doing such a thing? Could you claim that He planted false evidence in the beriah? Of course not. He was just going about His business of making “watches”, that’s all. He never asked people to be unreasonable and entirely discount the possibility of a Great Intelligent Designer.

    This then addresses your issue from starlight. Do you understand my response to you? If not, please explain precisely why not.

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  108. Unlike the watchmaker, God’s actions in your description of His recent act of creation involves the planting of false evidence.

    The watchmaker did not create the naturalistic law which states that for a watch to form via random chance naturalistic processes it must take billions of years. If there is such a law, God created it. Any complaints - that we have no way of accurately dating watches - should be directed at Him. It would be a pretty weak taana against Him though, because God made many physical laws that give us the ability to look at a watch and approximate whether it’s billions of years old. To say that a watch might have been formed over billions of years is a philosophical argument in line with stating that all of reality is not as it seems.

    Mah She’ein kein with stars: God created the stars, and ALSO commanded that there should be a law that light travels at the speed of approximately 186,282 miles per second (“c”). We apply c when analyzing physical phenomena, and I believe that you agree that this is rock solid science and that there are many valid applications of this law.

    Thus, according to your formulation, God has tricked us. He has enacted a physical law pertaining to our universe today that no scientist could possibly discover: God decreed c, and we can measure and calculate based on this formulation; but He also decreed that c does not apply to objects that are more than 5,771 light years distant from the point of measurement. Next year c will accurately apply to objects that are 5,772 light years distant, and the number will keep rising every year. This is a secret that a tiny number of people know, and they have no way of proving it.

    Pretty tricky of Him, no?

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  109. Nachum,
    When we start by looking at the universe and asking, "When was it created?" we conclude that since it seems very old scientifically, it was creatd billions of years ago. But if we start from a subtely different perspective, we can reasonable have a different conclusion. Let's ask as follows. We start only with the assumption that G-d created the world at some point in time which is unknown to us. He wanted man to have free will and therefore "hid" the fact of the world's Creation. If he created the world only some 6,000 years ago with the stated goal of hiding the fact of creation, what would we expect the world to look like? Should we reasonably expect to be able to dig an ice core of exactly 6000 levels? Would that not negatively impact our b'chira? If the only star light we could see was 6,000 light years away, would that not effectively be a a giveaway of the fact of creation?

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  110. MichaelJ concurs that observation of the natural world indicates an old universe, but G-d hid the antiquity in order to preserve our free will. That is a theological argument that seems sound to me (if that is worth anything!).

    Unless I am grossly mistaken, though, the sponsors of this blog will vociferously object to this approach.

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  111. On the other hand, consider that only relatively modern observation techniques of the natural world present the old-universe issue. Why is it that only the modern world is presented with this "test of faith"?

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  112. I'd like to clarify my view. I do not think that Hashem created "fake" evidence to hide the fact of creation. I believe that Hashem created the world via processes that could and would be misinterpreted. Please see in Emes L'Yakov from the great rationalist Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yakov Kamenetzy on the pasuk chor v'chom lo yishbosu where he writes clearly that the world became old looking at the time of the Mabul (I guess I would need to say that the nature of "helem" was different before the mabul) and that a Jew is "m'chuyav" to believe that creation is new, meaning recent.

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  113. Yitz: "Why is it...?"
    I don't have time to see this through right now, please be mochel. Just initially, only the modern world has so strongly adobted scientists as the einei ha'eidah of society. Previous doros had other tests challenges to faith (or perhaps had much fewer challenges to faith but greater challenges in other areas).

    Let's keep talking. Maybe something good will come from it.

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  114. Let's keep talking. Maybe something good will come from it.

    Sounds good! You might want to look at my blog.

    I will try bli neder to look into Rav Yakov's commentary. I am privileged to have access to a couple of reliable talmidim of his (his grandchildren).

    Please do expand when you have more time on the issue of modernity and science etc. I'm not sure that the medieval world had less respect for scientific viewpoints, but maybe I am misunderstanding your brief statement.

    Cheers

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  115. Michael:

    Hi! Nice to meet you!

    I personaly have problems with your position.

    Your position is completely possible. However, it's just as possible that the world is actually billions of years old, and Hashem gave us the Torah in order to test our emuna that he created the world billions of years ago. You may ask: Why is it important to Hashem that we believe that He created the universe billions of years ago? I would ask right back: Why is it important to Hashem that we believe that he created it 5,771 years ago?

    Relatedly, the entire notion of Hashem planting false evidence raises questions about the nature of Hashem. It paints Him in a sort of negative light, that He would plant false evidence that cannot possibly be detected and would then blame us for believing it.

    Again, it's entirely possible that your position is correct. I'm just not comfortable with it for myself, and neither is Rabbi Coffer.

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  116. Hi Nachum, Shalom Aleichem,
    I did not bring in the issue of why it is important or unimportant that we have any particular belief. Also, I said explicitly that I do NOT believe Hashem planted "false" evidence. I merely pointed out (or tried to) that if Hashem had created the world recently, he would, so to speak, "need" to make the world look older than it is. And therefore, the apparent age of the universe does not obligate to us to believe that the universe is in fact old.

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  117. Michael: To say that Hashem made the world look objectively older than it is is the same as saying that He planted false evidence. It appears that I'm missing something here, because now both you and Rabbi Coffer have pointed out that I'm misunderstanding something. I can't put my finger on it but I would appreciate your help. I mean that sincerely.

    Also, what part of our emunah is challenged by virtue of the fact that the universe appears to be very very old?

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  118. If would be witness to process of creation, we would not percieve it as deception, although, after the fact, scientists, acting from their assumptions would say that the world is verifiably older. Just to take a simple example, the speed of light did not need to be the same as it is now. The fact of seeing starlight which is millions of light years away tells scientists that either the stars were created millions of years ago or "God is lying". But if we would be present at the time of creation and understand the mind of Hashem, we might see that Hashem created star light already arrived (or expedited) because He wants to feel the awe of the vastness of creation or whatever reason He may have. But not that he was trying to fake us out in the sense I think you mean when you say "false evidence". It is not false because G-d is not obligated to play by our rules and prevent us to from making mistakes.

    I don't understand your question. Did I say that our Emunah was challenged by the fact that the world appears very old? What I tried to say is that if the world appeared very young, it would negatively impact on the "helem" effect that the world is supposed to engender in us. In effect, yes, an old looking world, and other assumptions of modern science, make it much easier to be an athiest. It pushes off the "m'chayav of emunah".

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  119. Michael:

    I will note again that Rabbi Coffer states that he disagrees with your entire premise. He was extremely adamant that God did nothing that could mislead us about the length of the existence of the cosmos. I asked what I feel is a pretty strong question on his watchmaker analogy, and am awaiting clarification from Rabbi Coffer.

    With regard to your position that:

    "[I]f the world appeared very young, it would negatively impact on the "helem" effect that the world is supposed to engender in us. In effect, yes, an old looking world, and other assumptions of modern science, make it much easier to be an athiest. It pushes off the "m'chayav of emunah":"

    I can understand the idea of “helem”. However, for me, the “helem” is not greater if the world is obviously 15 billion years old or obviously 6,000 years old. Suppose we knew the exact moment that the "Big Bang" (moment of creation) occurred. The ultimate mysteries would still be here: "Is there a God? Where can I find Him? Look at the unbelievable balance and beauty in the world! Look at the horrible natural disasters and suffering in the world! Look at the order, and look at the randomness! Does God care about me and the rest of us? Do we have any obligations? Will we continue to exist after physical death?"

    For me, the “helem” remains whether the "Big Bang" (moment of creation) occurred recently or less recently.

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  120. R Coffer is Rabbi Coffer and Chaim Yankel is Chaim Yankel. That's fine with me.


    I think it is quite clear that belief in evolution (not exactly that the same issue as the age of the universe) enabled a lot of atheism. You may be a special person. But for the average person who has not already achieved a perspective of emunah, I think that having starlight only up to 6,000 years distant which just happens to synch with a Torah that (simply speaking) claims that the world is 6,000 years old, would certainly make kiruv efforts a whole lot easier! Hey, I don't even think we would need to fund Aish and NCSY.

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  121. Nachum, Michael, Yitz,

    I got sidetracked on another thread and forgot to check this one!

    Nachum, I apologize for not responding. I have to run now but I will review your repsonses to me and respond motza'ay shabbos bl'n.

    (there are so many threads going on on this blog it's impossible to keep track!)

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  122. Thank you Rabbi Coffer.

    Michael. I agree with everything you wrote, but would like to point two things out.

    1) We're not speaking about evolution, but the age of the universe. This makes no difference to your main point, but I just wanted to point it out.
    2) When you speak of Emunah, you are refering to Emuna that the Torah as we have it and understand it was transmitted from Hashem to us through Moshe Rabeinu, then to Yehoshua v'chulu. You are not refering to Emunah that Hashem is the Boreh and Manhig of the universe.

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  123. evolution and age of the universe are not entirely seperateble

    and emunah in Hashem and emunah in the Torah are not etirely seperatable. I'll try to write more, bli neder

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  124. Nachum -

    Gut voch Nachum! Sorry about not getting back to you last week. I got caught up in other things. In general I’d like to say that if I seem to be ignoring somebody, this is not the case. This is not the only forum I respond to and many times I get caught up with other threads. If I haven’t responded within 24-48 hours, please email me to remind me @ rivkyc@sympatico.ca. In all probability, I just forgot…

    Nachum wrote:

    Unlike the watchmaker, God’s actions in your description of His recent act of creation involves the planting of false evidence.

    The watchmaker did not create the naturalistic law which states that for a watch to form via random chance naturalistic processes it must take billions of years… Mah She’ein kein with stars: God created the stars, and ALSO commanded that there should be a law that light travels at the speed of approximately 186,282 miles per second (“c”). We apply c when analyzing physical phenomena, and I believe that you agree that this is rock solid science and that there are many valid applications of this law… Thus, according to your formulation, God has tricked us. He has enacted a physical law pertaining to our universe today that no scientist could possibly discover… This is a secret that a tiny number of people know, and they have no way of proving it…Pretty tricky of Him, no?


    OK. I see what your problem might be. The issue here is subtle so please forgive me if I am ma’arich in my response. I will basically be repeating what I’ve said in the previous comments but this time I pray to Hashem that He give me the wisdom to express my words in a more cogent fashion.

    First of all, I think it’s important to mention that a mashal is merely a simile, or parable. It is not a perfect imitation of the object it is simulating. For instance, we said in davening today והוא כחתן יוצא מחופתו, the chasan being the . Does that mean that the sun (the nimshal) comes up in the morning wearing a kittle and holding a tzetle of names it is being mispalel for? All it means is just like the chasan who comes out of his chupa looks glorious, so too the sun as it rises out of its “chupa” and crosses the path of the sky is glorious etc.

    The same applies to my mashal from the watchmaker. Just as the watchmaker cannot be considered culpable for planting misleading evidence just because the scientists have arbitrarily decided to eliminate the possibility of a watchmaker, so too Hashem cannot be accused of planting false evidence just because the scientists have arbitrarily decided to eliminate the possibility of a Divine watchmaker. But that’s where the mashal ends. Obviously there are fundamental differences between a human watchmaker and a Divine watchmaker.

    So, for instance, if let’s say the scientists in the watchmaker’s case changed their minds and did, decide to allow for the possibility of a watchmaker, they could reasonably assume, as you mention, that the watchmaker utilized currently operating principles of nature to design the watch. But would this assumption be reasonable when it came to a Divine watchmaker? Would we expect Him to use currently operating laws to bring the universe into existence? Of course not! He created those laws. Obviously the process of bringing those laws into existence must transcend the laws themselves. You can’t appeal to gravity and magnetism to explain gravity and magnetism. Furthermore, gravity and magnetism (and the strong and weak nuclear forces) are laws which govern our universe but they cannot explain the presence of our universe!

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  125. Continued from previous comment...

    In the case of the Divine watchmaker, we’re not talking about the origin of watches. We’re talking about the origins of starlight. We’re talking about a Divine designer Who created the very stars themselves. Obviously the process differed from any currently operating process and that’s precisely what the Torah tells us! The Torah says that Hashem caused the vegetation to sprout on Day three before the sun was suspended in the heavens on Day four. Yet, if we were to follow current scientific laws, this would contradict the idea that vegetation grows via the process of photosynthesis. The Torah says that Hashem caused the waters to generate fish in abundance, that Hashem caused birds to spontaneously arise from the water and that Hashem commanded the earth to generate animal life. Furthermore, the Torah tells us that Hashem collected the dust of the earth and formed the first man directly. Yet today scientists will tell you that the process by which all of the aforementioned creatures are generated is via sexual reproduction, not spontaneous generation!

    Hashem is not fooling us. He tells us openly that the process by which He created the universe and its laws was fundamentally different than the process which obtained during the six days of ma’aseh bereishis. He’s telling us that no matter how long scientists look, they will never discover the source of the physical laws He has enacted because all scientists can do is study the laws as they are today, post Creation. And in case you want to ta’ana that this is a secret that only a select few are privy to, not to worry. Hashem made sure that the Bible was translated 2300 years ago into Greek and subsequent to that into Latin and subsequent to that into every known language. So now the cat is out of the bag and in fact, other than us “few secretive” Jews who somehow feel the need to question this, the other 4 billion Christians and Mohammedans all believe it!

    Continued…

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  126. Continued from previous comment...

    Look Nachum, forget the Torah for a moment and consider the following. Scientists today will tell you that according to the laws of nature, something cannot be created from nothing. This is one of the laws that Hashem created for our reality. Now I’m pretty sure that you believe in Creation ex-nihilo. Does this mean that Hashem fooled us by utilizing a process which scientists who study the origins of the universe will never be able to discover? Or how about the origin of life itself? Evolution is fine and dandy but how did life itself arise? According to the laws of our universe, life always arises from other life! Does this mean that the very presence of life on earth is a form of planting false evidence because scientists will never discover the origin of life?

    (Please resist the temptation of responding that perhaps one day scientists will discover the origin of life because I can easily say the same thing about starlight. Perhaps one day scientists will discover how light can travel faster than 300,000 km per second and account for distant stars.)

    If according to you yourself Hashem’s meta-natural creative process is implicated in at least some of the phenomena of the beriah, what gives you the right, from a logical perspective, to stop at creation ex-nihilo, or at life, and say that everything else after that must conform to currently operating laws at the risk of being accused of falsity?

    To sum up, my mashal, or ma matzinu, can be tightened up and should be articulated as follows:

    Just as in the case of the watch the scientists have arbitrarily eliminated the option of a human watchmaker who utilized currently operating laws to create his watch, so too in the case of starlight scientists have arbitrarily eliminated the option of a Divine watchmaker who utilizes transcendent laws to create stars.

    So, what do you think Nachum? If you still don’t like my teretz for your starlight issue please respond in as specific a fashion as you did in your last post to me.

    Incidentally, I’d like to mention that this shakla v’tarya has caused me to appreciate the depth and subtlety of your issue a bit more now. This in turn has caused me to be a bit chagrined regarding some of my previous comments to you. Sorry about that Nachum. May Hashem bless you with bracha v’hatzlacha in all of your worthy endeavors…

    Don’t think my apology is getting you off the hook though. I want a response to my presentation! :-)

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  127. Michael,

    Shalom Aleichem!

    Welcome to our humble blog. Actually I noticed you on another thread but didn't get a chance to welcome you properly.

    May your ongoing involvement yield positive spiritual benefits for you and for all of your readers...

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  128. Nachum -

    I wrote: Hashem is not fooling us. He tells us openly that the process by which He created the universe and its laws was fundamentally different than the process which obtained during the six days of ma’aseh bereishis.

    I meant: Hashem is not fooling us. He tells us openly that the process by which He created the universe and its laws was fundamentally different than the processes which obtain post the six days of ma’aseh bereishis.

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  129. Regarding the claim that supporting the mesorah in face of physical evidence requires--at least in some cases--positing that Hashem plants false evidence: I think this is partly a matter of semantics. Doing anything "false" is a derogatory description implying dishonesty or the desire to mislead, something which must be rejected regarding Hashem.

    Let me ask Nachum some rhetorical questions. I think the obvious answers to them will clarify our position.

    When Hashem described Himself in the Torah as having a "hand," etc., was He planting false evidence?

    When Hashem wrote, regarding someone who pokes out another's eye, "an eye for an eye," did He plant false evidence?

    If Hashem would allow a prophet to perform miracles, even knowing he will later become corrupted and will tell people in His name to commit idolatrous acts, would He be planting false evidence?

    Nachum, what would you reply to someone who confronted you with these facts and accused you of saying Hashem planted false evidence?

    Would you try to find another way to express what Hashem did other than with the phrase "planting false/misleading evidence"?

    Is the existence of such "false/misleading evidence planted," or however we would describe it, valid grounds to question the validity of the positon that Hashem is incorporeal, and that one who pokes out another's eye does not get his eye poked put, but is required pay a monetary compensation, and that we must not practice idolatry?

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  130. Please see in Emes L'Yakov from the great rationalist Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yakov Kamenetzy on the pasuk chor v'chom lo yishbosu where he writes clearly that the world became old looking at the time of the Mabul

    Rav Yakov here writes about "kadmon" - קדמון. AFAIK, this Greek concept stands in opposition to a created universe, but does not address the age. That is, a created universe with a beginning as opposed to the Greek belief of a universe with infinite existence.

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  131. Yitz,
    Thanks for checking it and motivating me to re-check. You are correct. I guess I read to quickly the last time I saw it.

    Just saying up front that I don't have time to discuss at length, and certainly not to do justice to whatever rejoinder you would offer up to my discussion, Reb Yaakov's words do very much come to bear on the related issues of "fakeing us out" by hiding the fact of creation and lots of other stuff.

    Please respond, if you are so inclined and hopefully I'll have time to give it a good look. I'll try to send my personal email to your blog so you can contact me directly.

    I would put it here but my wife feels strongly that she does not want her husband to be famous for how he offended someone on a blog somewhere so I try to maintain a bit of anonymity.

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  132. R. Coffer,
    Thank you. I emailed you a while back when I was reading areivim, no taanes if you don't remember. I'm not sure how much time I'll be able to put into this venture but it is a good that the discussion taking place. Hatzlacha raba.

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  133. I would put it here but my wife feels strongly that she does not want her husband to be famous for how he offended someone on a blog somewhere so I try to maintain a bit of anonymity.

    heh heh - I don't think that you will offend anyone, but one never knows! I certainly managed to offend someone here.

    I agree that the Rav Yaakov piece is in any case relevant to the discussion at hand. I always like a good safe interchange of ideas.

    We can bounce ideas off one another on my blog, or by email if you prefer. I like the openness of the blog postings.

    cheers

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  134. Yitz,
    Do you happen to live in Baltimore? If so, maybe we can get together in person.

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  135. SC:

    Before I respond I would like to acknowledge your mea culpa. The fact that you are willing to reexamine your position and acknowledge that you made a mistake means the world to me. In a way, it means more to me than the conclusions we may reach based on this conversation. So I am happy that we are on the right track.

    (Incidentally, I think you would be even more on the right track if you would address R. Slifkin’s blog even in cases where you agree with the point he is making. It would come across more as a search for truth than as an attempt to fight with an ideological opponent.)

    But, as I will point out, your entire presentation is mistaken.

    continued

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  136. SC: "Just as the watchmaker cannot be considered culpable for planting misleading evidence just because the scientists have arbitrarily decided to eliminate the possibility of a watchmaker, so too Hashem cannot be accused of planting false evidence just because the scientists have arbitrarily decided to eliminate the possibility of a Divine watchmaker."

    Nachum: Even on this point the Mashal fails. A scientist can conclude that the universe is billions of years old without addressing (either for or against) the possibility of a Divine Watchmaker. While you are willing to assume that the Watchmaker created an ancient-looking (from our perspective) watch recently, scientists can and do assume that the watch is exactly as old as it appears (from our perspective). There is nothing “arbitrary” about the scientists’ conclusion, which takes no position whatsoever on the existence of a Watchmaker.

    continued

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  137. SC: "So, for instance, if let’s say the scientists in the watchmaker’s case changed their minds and did, decide to allow for the possibility of a watchmaker, they could reasonably assume, as you mention, that the watchmaker utilized currently operating principles of nature to design the watch. But would this assumption be reasonable when it came to a Divine watchmaker? Would we expect Him to use currently operating laws to bring the universe into existence?"

    Nachum: You are conflating HKBH’s roles as boreh and manhig with regard to physical matter, as does a literal reading of the Torah. I submit that in order to qualify as a “rationalist” one must explain those roles based, first and foremost, on physical evidence.

    As there is no physical evidence regarding ex nihilo creation, it is completely rational to conclude that the creative act was a meta natural occurrence. This conclusion is based solely on philosophical reasoning.

    However, much physical evidence strongly point to billions of years of development of the physical matter in the universe to what it is today. Hence it is more rational to explain the matter as it appears today according to the known rules that govern such matter.

    I would say the same regarding biological phenomena. Although one can say that the scientific jury is still out, it is difficult for me to imagine non organic matter developing naturalistically into organic matter with biological processes. Thus I deem it rational to conclude, unless other evidence is brought to bear, that organic matter with biological processes was created through a meta natural occurrence. I believe that you are rational in explaining most biological phenomena in terms of special creation.

    continued

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  138. SC: "Would we expect [a Divine watchmaker] to use currently operating laws to bring the universe into existence? Of course not! He created those laws. Obviously the process of bringing those laws into existence must transcend the laws themselves. You can’t appeal to gravity and magnetism to explain gravity and magnetism. Furthermore, gravity and magnetism (and the strong and weak nuclear forces) are laws which govern our universe but they cannot explain the presence of our universe!"

    Nachum: Again you’re conflating two issues. There are (1) laws of matter (“physics”), and the matter to which physics applies, and (2) the results of those laws applying to existing matter, in this case stars. I wouldn’t argue that the laws of physics and the existence of matter were brought into existence through the use of the laws of physics. What I AM saying is that stars formed through the application of physics to matter. (The NASA website has an fascinating article on this. See http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/how-do-stars-form-and-evolve/ ). I see no rational explanation for the position that physics and matter came into existence at the same time, 5,771 year ago, in light of the evidence that they did not.

    continued

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  139. SC: "In the case of the Divine watchmaker, we’re not talking about the origin of watches. We’re talking about the origins of starlight."

    Nachum: No we’re not. We’re talking about (1) the origins of the existence of physics and matter and (2) the origins of starlight.

    The only reason one would conflate the two is because that’s what a literal meaning of the Torah dictates. That’s all fine and good, and may even be true, but that isn’t called “rationalism.”

    continued

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  140. SC: If according to you yourself Hashem’s meta-natural creative process is implicated in at least some of the phenomena of the beriah, what gives you the right, from a logical perspective, to stop at creation ex-nihilo, or at life, and say that everything else after that must conform to currently operating laws at the risk of being accused of falsity?

    Nachum: I believe this is the crux of your argument. I’ll tell you what gives me the right from a logical perspective: the fact that the physical evidence indicates that my position is true and there is no indication (outside the Torah) that it is false.

    Look. I’m not here to argue that a literal reading of the Torah’s account of creation is impossible, or even implausible. I’m just saying that the position you’re taking is “rational” only if one accepts the truth of a literal reading of Torah as an a priori axiom.

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  141. Nachum -

    Thank you for your detailed response. I believe you have made several errors but I'm going to cut to the chase and “attack” your position at its crux.

    You wrote: I believe this is the crux of your argument. I’ll tell you what gives me the right from a logical perspective: the fact that the physical evidence indicates that my position is true and there is no indication (outside the Torah) that it is false.

    This is clearly untrue. I've already demonstrated that the physical evidence points to especial creation by a Divine designer from phenomena such as life. Let me bring this into sharper contrast.

    Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist and evolutionist writes as follows:

    “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose…What about our own bodies? Each one of us is a machine, like an airliner only much more complicated. Were we designed on a drawing board too, and were our parts assembled by a skilled engineer? The answer is no. It is a surprising answer, and we have known and understood it for only a century or so…Almost everybody throughout history, up to the second half of the nineteenth century, has firmly believed in the opposite…I feel more in common with the Reverend William Paley than I do with the distinguished modern philosopher, a well-known atheist, with whom I once discussed the matter at dinner. I said that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin’s Origin of the Species was published…Paley knew it needed a special explanation; Darwin knew it, and I suspect that in his heart of hearts my philosopher companion knew it too…although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist…” (The Blind Watchmaker pp. 1-6)

    Let’s analyze this for a moment. Let’s make pretend that the world is brand new. No skyscrapers, no cars, no bridges, no rocket ships, no computers. What is the one single most complicated phenomenon in the world, the most abundant, the most ubiquitous, the one which literally surrounds you in all six directions and simply cannot be missed? Life!

    Consider the following example. The globe is blanketed with the most astounding substance imaginable; topsoil! Each teaspoon of topsoil is teeming with millions of life forms! Each teaspoon! According to Dawkins, the only rational explanation for such a phenomenon – plus trillions of others such as bacteria, viruses, the myriad life-forms in the sea, the endless plant life and vegetation cover the earth, terrestrial based animal life and avian based animal life – is meta-natural processes, not natural processes. Until Darwin there was no known natural process which could account for the presence of life.

    Basically you’ve already admitted this, at least partially, i.e. when it comes to the origins of biological phenomena. You’ve written that “one can say that the scientific jury is still out” and, “it is difficult for me to imagine non organic matter developing naturalistically into organic matter with biological processes. Thus I deem it rational to conclude, unless other evidence is brought to bear, that organic matter with biological processes was created through a meta natural occurrence. I believe that you are rational in explaining most biological phenomena in terms of special creation.

    Continued…

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  142. Now, if I were to claim to you that today bacteria are created via meta-natural processes you would laugh in my face! (Well, maybe not you. Perhaps “diplomatically protest” is a more accurate portrayal for Nice Nachum :-) ). You would say, “Simcha, don’t you know that bacteria reproduce via cell division.” So, there are currently operating principles which explain the presence of all life on earth. And yet that hasn’t stopped you from conceding that for the initial appearance of life, a meta-natural process is implicated. You know what this means? Life, which is by far the most abundant and ubiquitous phenomenon in our experience teaches us that there was a period of time when meta-natural processes were definitely in effect and therefore if anything it is irrational to extrapolate from currently operating principles to the initial formation of anything, anything at all! This effectively addresses your initial kushya from starlight which appealed to the currently operating laws which govern the speed of light.

    However, I noticed in your most recent presentation that, notwithstanding your usage of the term “again”, you actually reframed your kushya in such a way that it avoids my response. You wrote: “Again you’re conflating two issues. There are (1) laws of matter (“physics”), and the matter to which physics applies, and (2) the results of those laws applying to existing matter, in this case stars. I wouldn’t argue that the laws of physics and the existence of matter were brought into existence through the use of the laws of physics. What I AM saying is that stars formed through the application of physics to matter.

    This is all very well and nice. Unfortunately you provide zero evidence that an unbiased observation of the phenomenon of stars would lead one to conclude that “stars formed through the application of physics to matter”. Zero evidence. You enjoin readers to visit a website which theorizes about star formation. Their theory is – if this can be said – even more fantastic than the theory of evolution! If you consider the jury out regarding evolution, then the jury has left the building in disgust regarding starlight. They have absolutely no empirical or experimental evidence demonstrating their theory and in fact you’d have to be at least 50 million years old to have actually witnessed a star form the way they claim it does. Their hypothesis is purely a materialistic one borne of the need to explain the phenomenon of stars using exclusively naturalistic methods. It has zero to do with the evidence! So by all rights, you should be equally prepared to say that star formation was meta-natural. So, we’re back to your initial question which is the speed of light per se. And I have already demonstrated to you the fallacy of extrapolating backwards from currently operating laws.

    So, what do you say Nachum?

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  143. SC:

    You are correct that would never laugh in your face. Nor behind your back.

    You state “I noticed in your most recent presentation that, notwithstanding your usage of the term “again”, you actually reframed your kushya in such a way that it avoids my response.”

    I'm afraid you misunderstood me.

    Here is the context of my use of the word “again”:

    First I stated: “You are conflating HKBH’s roles as boreh and manhig with regard to physical matter, as does a literal reading of the Torah.”

    Then, in the statement you took out of context, I stated “Again you’re conflating two issues. There are (1) laws of matter (“physics”), and the matter to which physics applies, and (2) the results of those laws applying to existing matter, in this case stars.”

    continued

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  144. I did not reframe my kushya, nor did it avoid your response. We are engaged in a shakla v’tarya related to my initial statement that I judge your position that the universe is 5,771 years old, to be less rational than the position that the earth is much much, much older than that. I posed a question from starlight. You answered that the assumption underlying that question was irrational (or at last as irrational as the assumption of stars being created through meta natural laws), to wit: “Just as in the case of the watch the scientists have arbitrarily eliminated the option of a human watchmaker who utilized currently operating laws to create his watch, so too in the case of starlight scientists have arbitrarily eliminated the option of a Divine watchmaker who utilizes transcendent laws to create stars.”

    I responded that the scientists have not been arbitrary. They apply the laws of physics to matter in outer space. Specifically with regard to stars, they observe numerous stars at the various points in their life, and simulate stellar structure with computer models.

    One looks at phenomena, is this case the stars, and tries to explain their existence. If one has already accepted the truth of a literal reading of the Torah’s account, there’s no need for explanation, because he or she already learned and believes that Hashem put the stars in the sky, fully formed. He need merely say (no matter what how the astrophysicists arrive at their conclusion) “the scientists got it wrong, because they are operating from a wrong assumption. They mistakenly assume that stars were created through naturalistic laws, so their conclusions will also inevitably be mistaken.” But if you want to be considered to have a *rational* belief, you cannot dismiss the conclusions of the astrophysics community with a wave of the hand and the statement “it’s all just theory.” The rational method of dealing with their conclusions would be to examine the methods and logic they use to arrive at their conclusions and only then judge whether the theory has a solid foundation.

    My point is that if one does not accept you’re a priori conclusion that HKBH placed fully formed stars in the sky and sped up the rule of “c” during the first days of creation (with each star having a different “c” depending on its distance from earth), the “rational” way to approach the question would be to try to explain the existence of stars in naturalistic terms when possible, and to resort to transcendent “laws” only when natural laws prove inadequate.

    continued

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  145. I disagree with your notion that biological evolution is easier to accept than theories of star formation. Biological evolution has a much larger hurdle to overcome: an explanation of how inorganic matter can “evolve” into organic matter with biological processes, even with billions of years to achieve such a feat. Stars, on the other hand, CAN be explained by applying the laws of physics to existing matter.

    Parenthetically, the concept of “black holes” was “just a theory” until one was actually discovered. Also, scientists are actually watching what appears to be a black hole being FORMED as we speak. They’ve been watching it since 1979. http://www.scpr.org/news/2010/11/15/supernova-shines-light-on-black-hole-formation/. This one is very close to us, only 50 billion light years away.

    To be honest, this is all beside the point. Were we to witness the birth of a star you could simply say that stars, like mountains on planet earth, and like moon craters, indeed take form in the manner the scientists believe. However, the stars referred to in Breishis were formed through a meta natural process. Same with earth mountains and moon craters, which take millions of years to form, but Hashem placed the mountains that we see on the earth and the moon craters on the moon during the first 6 days of creation.

    This is an all-purpose answer that could also be applied to evolution as well if its proponents ever find strong arguments in its favor.

    But it’s less rational than naturalistic explanations when they are available.

    I’m sure I have more to say, but I gotta go now.

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  146. Nachum,

    One looks at phenomena, is this case the stars, and tries to explain their existence. If one has already accepted the truth of a literal reading of the Torah’s account, there’s no need for explanation, because he or she already learned and believes that Hashem put the stars in the sky, fully formed. He need merely say (no matter what how the astrophysicists arrive at their conclusion) “the scientists got it wrong, because they are operating from a wrong assumption. They mistakenly assume that stars were created through naturalistic laws, so their conclusions will also inevitably be mistaken.” But if you want to be considered to have a *rational* belief, you cannot dismiss the conclusions of the astrophysics community with a wave of the hand and the statement “it’s all just theory.” The rational method of dealing with their conclusions would be to examine the methods and logic they use to arrive at their conclusions and only then judge whether the theory has a solid foundation.

    You’re mischaracterizing my approach. I never mentioned the Torah as a point of departure. Why do you keep bringing it up? My approach utilizes empirical observation as a spring-board and as such falls squarely into the parameters of your intended definition of “rational”. I say intended because in actuality your definition is arbitrary. It conflates “rational” with “materialist”. More on this shortly.

    You write:

    I disagree with your notion that biological evolution is easier to accept than theories of star formation. Biological evolution has a much larger hurdle to overcome: an explanation of how inorganic matter can “evolve” into organic matter with biological processes, even with billions of years to achieve such a feat

    but this ignores Dawkin’s entire presentation. Evolution per se does not describe the origins of life from inorganic to organic, although attempts have been made (Miller-Urey). It deals with the unfolding of life from unicellular organisms to multi-cellular organisms to the astonishing variety of life forms currently populating the earth. Dawkins claims that before 1859, it was impossible to attribute this unfolding to naturalistic explanations. I claim that even after 1859 it is impossible to attribute this to naturalistic explanations. The fact that Darwin came up with a natural explanation is meaningless if it is not backed by evidence and if its mechanisms are literally impossible. Darwin’s explanation is not “rational”. It is materialistic. It is an attempt to provide a materialistic explanation at any cost. But at least evolution appeals to empirically observable processes such as random mutation and natural selection. Star formation theories do not. There is no known process which can even be remotely pointed to as a simile for star formation. The fancy computer simulations you make reference to are merely artificial expressions of possible physical scenarios postulated by astrophysicists based on hypothetical circumstances pre-programmed into the computer, nothing more. These are materialistic explanations, not rational explanations. Scientists take for granted that there must be a naturalistic explanation for the origins of stars. In other words, they arbitrarily eliminate any possibility other than the material despite evidence to the contrary, and choose instead to posit naturalistic theories, this despite the fact that their theories are far-fetched, have no basis in evidence, and are often-times even contradicted by the evidence! You portray my position as being biased by a priori theological assumptions about the world when the truth is that all the origin-based explanations of the scientists are biased by a priori materialistic assumptions about the world. Philosophers of Science recognize methodological naturalism as one of the primary imperatives informing theoretical science today.

    Continued…

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  147. Look Nachum, I am not an unreasonable individual. If I had no evidence whatsoever that meta-natural processes are implicated in the origins of the universe, I might also maintain the same approach as you. I might also apply all currently operating laws of nature to past events, even distant events, and describe them within those paradigms. (Incidentally, Dr. Ostroff maintains that even this is unwarranted. He holds that vast extrapolations based on unsupported foundational assumptions are unscientific.) But since I do have evidence, plenty of it, that meta-natural processes did occur, it now becomes reasonable i.e. rational (I define “rational” as appealing to our intuitive intellect) based on the physical evidence to consider that the Designer of the universe utilized the meta-natural process to create all of the phenomena of the universe. I don’t have absolute proof but it is certainly a reasonable assumption. I therefore say that if you ask me a kushya from starlight on the Torah’s depiction of ma’aseh bereishis, I have a reasonable response to your kushya while at the same time averring that said response is entirely independent of the Torah itself.

    Consider the following. You’ve already admitted that all of the laws of nature and all of the material of the universe (mass, space, time) is rationally understood as being created meta-naturally. You’ve also admitted that the appearance of life is seemingly meta-natural. I have also demonstrated to you from Dawkins that not only the initial appearance of life is meta-natural; all of the trillions of actual life-forms present on earth must be understood within that framework sans evolutionary theory. This comprises a vast quantity of physical evidence implicating meta-natural processes in the origins of the universe and its phenomena. It is at this point that I feel justified in saying that scientists have arbitrarily eliminated the possibility of Divine Creation as a rational means of explaining the origins of the universe and its phenomena. With all due respect, I don’t think you’ve pondered this idea sufficiently and thus you automatically consider a materialistic explanation for the origins of the phenomena of the universe as the only rational explanation unless a material explanation is deemed by you as impossible. Of course, this is just my humble opinion. It goes without saying that you are welcome to reject my assessment out of hand.

    I have some more comments to make and will try and do so now. If not, please feel free to comment on the present material and when I get a chance I will continue my comments.

    Nachum, once again I’d like to mention that this shakla v’tarya has been extremely beneficial for me inasmuch as I have been able to clarify and solidify my position in my own mind. All this is due to the fact that my protagonist possesses patience and bothers to take the time to present his position clearly and exhaustively; for this I thank you.

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  148. This one is very close to us, only 50 billion light years away.

    50 million?

    enjoying the dialogue here!

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  149. Nachum –

    The following comments comprise a considered criticism of what I consider some of your “offhand remarks”.

    You wrote: But if you want to be considered to have a *rational* belief, you cannot dismiss the conclusions of the astrophysics community with a wave of the hand and the statement “it’s all just theory.”

    Classically Slifkinesque. I spent years trying to convince the good Rabbi that evolution was hokum. One of his primary ta’anos to me was that I was in contravention of the scientific “community”. Both you and him are impressed by Degrees. So be it. But that doesn’t make my position irrational.

    I’m not dismissing the conclusions of astrophysics merely with a wave of the hand. I provided you with very clear reasons for doing so. I explained that their hypotheses are not supported by any evidence, are not provable, are not able to be duplicated in a laboratory, rely on vast extrapolations and rely on foundational assumptions that have never been proven. Furthermore, their theories require the existence of hypothetical entities which to date have not been proven to exist and their theories are constantly changing to accommodate new discoveries. The only person waving their hand is you. With a wave of your hand you accept the explanations of astrophysicists as rational without question and consider anyone who doesn’t as irrational.

    You wrote: The rational method of dealing with their conclusions would be to examine the methods and logic they use to arrive at their conclusions and only then judge whether the theory has a solid foundation.

    And of course I haven’t done that. I wonder; how much time have you actually spent analyzing the claims of scientists? My writings can be searched on the internet. From them you can glean that, at least, for the past six years I have been researching the conclusions of scientists extensively. I have made reference to hundreds of quotes in the published scientific literature. Never do I refer to low-level media outlets such as websites written for popular consumption. On the other hand, this is all you have done thus far. Accordingly, it would seem that your statement above should be taken under serious advisement by its very own author…

    As I mentioned Nachum, this is considered criticism, not base insult.

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  150. Yitz -

    50 million?

    I noticed that too but I'm sure he meant 50m.

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  151. Rabbi Coffer:

    We agree that all matter and life were brought into existence through a meta natural process. Therefore, we also agree that one cannot extrapolate from the currently operating rules of physics and biology to the “moment of creation”.

    I think that we also both agree that, as nature currently operates, everything that we see today is only a snapshot within a continuum. Mountains slowly crumble, and other mountains will develop on places that are not currently mountains. All living things age, die, decompose, and change their form. Stars form, parts break off, the stars and their broken off parts burn out, and the matter that the stars are made of turns into something else. Nothing in this world is static. Nothing. (Okay, maybe we disagree about stars; you apparently believe that they do not form slowly over time. Right?)

    We both agree that this continuum had to start somewhere.

    But, using the laws of nature as they currently operate, scientists in various and unrelated fields rationally extrapolate where on the continuum a particular object is right now. If you see a tree with 50 rings in its trunk, you can rationally extrapolate that the tree is 50 years old. If we see light coming from a source that is 100 light years distant, we can rationally extrapolate that the source of the light existed 100 years ago.

    Therefore, it is perfectly rational to conclude that if we see light coming from a source that is 500 light years distant, we can extrapolate that the source of the light existed 500 years ago. If we see light coming from a source that is 5000 light years distant, we can extrapolate that the source of the light existed 5000 years ago. If we see light coming from a source that is 5,771 light years distant, we can extrapolate that the source of the light existed 5,771 years ago.

    But if we see light coming from a source that is 5,772 light years distant, you believe that we CANNOT rationally extrapolate that the source of the light existed 5,772 years ago? And that it is MORE rational to conclude that the source of the light existed only 5,771 years ago, and the light was put 1 light year closer to the earth, via meta-natural processes?

    What rational reason do you have for claiming that the cut off point of valid extrapolation is anything less than the apparent age of the object, and specifically 5,771 years?

    Methinks it is based on your ASSUMPTION that those objects were fully formed at the “moment of creation”, which was less than 5,772 years ago.

    So my question is twofold: (1) What is the basis for your assumption that some objects were fully formed at the “moment of creation”? (Within this I wonder how you define “fully formed”.) (2) What is the basis for your assumption that the “moment of creation” was less than 5,772 years ago?

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  152. Nachum –

    (Okay, maybe we disagree about stars; you apparently believe that they do not form slowly over time. Right?)

    I don’t have a belief. I have no idea if stars can form slowly over time or not. My intuition tells me that they can because I see everything else in Hashem’s world forming, unforming (is there such a word?), and reforming again. So probably there is some kind of law of nature which would allow stars to form. Maybe something similar to what the scientists conjecture. But I don’t know.

    But, using the laws of nature as they currently operate, scientists in various and unrelated fields rationally extrapolate where on the continuum a particular object is right now…What rational reason do you have for claiming that the cut off point of valid extrapolation is anything less than the apparent age of the object, and specifically 5,771 years?

    I think you are confused. First of all, I do not have a cut off point for extrapolation because I do not extrapolate based on the current speed of light to begin with. According to my theory, even the closest star to our system, i.e. Alpha Centauri which is a mere 4 light years away, is exactly the same age as a star a million light years away.

    Second of all, scientists also do not use the speed of light to extrapolate any information about where the stars are “right now on the continuum”, meaning, how old they are. According to the scientific theory, Alpha Centauri may very well be billions of years old. Neither my approach nor science’s approach hinges on how far the stars are from our solar system because essentially it is irrelevant to our respective theories.

    The issue here is very simple. I claim that stars were created meta-naturally and they all possess a uniform age and scientists claim they were created naturally and possess varying ages (but not less than 50 million years old).

    I claim that when it comes to the origins of things, my theory is highly reasonable. Why? Because "sudden creation" is already implicated in the raw material of our universe, in time, in space, in the laws of nature, in the appearance of life, and in the unfolding of life.

    Scientists arbitrarily eliminate my theory from candidacy and therefore claim… I don’t know what they claim. They come up with a bunch of far-fetched theories which are forever being modified and basically explain nothing…

    As far as your issue with “specifically 5,771 years”, I obviously get that from the Torah. Your question from starlight implied that the pashtus of the Torah could not be adopted. The purpose of my response was to defend the pashtus of the pesukim although obviously my approach, per se, is incapable of pinning down precisely how long ago the meta-natural event took place.

    To my mind, this answers your question from starlight. I do not understand your issue with my approach.

    Continued…

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  153. Nachum –

    Methinks it is based on your ASSUMPTION that those objects were fully formed at the “moment of creation”, which was less than 5,772 years ago.

    Thee thinks rightly! Except I would add the word “reasonable” before your (inordinately large) word “assumption”.

    So my question is twofold: (1) What is the basis for your assumption that some objects were fully formed at the “moment of creation”?

    I answered this several times already Nachum! What aren’t you getting? Even you admit that mass, time, space, gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear forces and life were fully formed at the moment of creation. All I’m doing is extrapolating to the original initiation of other phenomena, such as stars. What is your problem with this? Please respond directly to this question!

    (Within this I wonder how you define “fully formed”.)

    Fully functional. And “functional” means “operating in accordance with the plan and purpose of the designer”.

    (2) What is the basis for your assumption that the “moment of creation” was less than 5,772 years ago?

    Our unbroken tradition from Sinai.

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  154. SC: "I do not extrapolate based on the current speed of light to begin with."

    Why not?

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  155. Nachum –

    SC: "I do not extrapolate based on the current speed of light to begin with."

    Why not?


    I specifically requested that you answer my question in my last email. Had you done so, you would have the answer to your own question.

    The answer to your question is that since the extrapolation in this case refers to the origins of a phenomenon – in this case stars – there is a logically prior question which first needs to be determined, to wit: did the universe and its attendant phenomena come into existence fully formed via meta-natural fiat, or did it unfold naturally over billions of years. Only after resolving this issue can we then discuss the wisdom of extrapolating backwards from the speed of light.

    Based on physical evidence from phenomena such as mass, energy, time, space, gravitational forces, electromagnetic forces, the small nuclear force, the large nuclear force, the appearance of life, the blanket of topsoil that surrounds the earth, plant life, aqua-based animal life, terrestrial-based animal life, avian-based animal life, and other things, it seems reasonable to assume that there was a meta-natural event which occurred sometime in the past and was responsible for the origins of our universe and all its attendant phenomena. Concordantly, it would be illogical to attempt to extrapolate backwards in time based on post meta-natural creation imperatives.

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  156. Rabbi Coffer:

    You won't believe this, but I was driving back from learning with my chavrusa and pondering our (SC and my) discussion, and I had this "eureka" moment, where your argument came into sharp focus in my mind and I actually understood it and saw the logic of your position. Then I got home, checked my email, and saw your response, which was exactly what I was thinking. Let me phrase it according to my understanding.

    First, we have to assume that HKBH created the stars in their final or stable form.

    Everything follows from that. NOBODY can extrapolate backwards, because the stars were created via meta natural fiat in their final form. Extrapolations can only be based on the laws of nature in effect NOW.

    You can't extrapolate backwards either, but you use the Torah as your "witness."

    Others, on the other hand, who accept that HKBH created everything in its final form but haven't a witness, cannot logically say that the stars came into existence before the time the existence of the stars were actualy witnessed.

    I would note two things.

    (1) You are assuming everything was created in its final form. The chances that this is correct? Nobody knows. So you come out as not irrational in this belief.

    (2) Anyone who accepts that the stars were placed in the sky in their stable form but does not accept the timeframe mandated by a literal reading of the Torah cannot logically extrapolate anything from the law of "c", and in fact the stars may have been placed in the sky 4,000 years ago, or closer, whenever it is that we have the first credible recording of a witness to the star's existence.

    Yasher Koach! Understanding your point of view was a breakthrough for me and was worth all the time and effort that I put into it.

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  157. Dear Nachum,

    I was beginning to doubt my sanity! I'm glad you understand the logical consistency of my position. Now that this is over, I guess I can tell you the following. Rabbi Slifkin is very busy on his Blog and as you can imagine I have much to say in regards to his attitudes. People have asked me to respond to his monograph and other items he’s been bringing up. Furthermore, I was supposed to write the third and final Blog entry in the series “What’s Wrong With Rabbi Slifkin’s Theology” over two weeks ago. You know why I didn’t do it? Because I only have a limited amount of time to spend on this particular venue and I used ALL OF IT to think about how to get you to understand my position! Ever since you gave me that mussar schmooze, I took it to heart and decided that come what may I would press on in earnest until either you got it or there was an obvious stale mate. The reason I am telling you all this is because I want you to know how much I am machsiv you.

    I have a few comments to make regarding your latest post.

    You wrote: First, we have to assume that HKBH created the stars in their final or stable form.

    I would rephrase that as follows: “First, we have to reasonably assume that there was a meta-natural creation event. Second, it is reasonable to assume that HKBH created the stars in their final or stable form (just as the Torah says he did)”

    You wrote: Others, on the other hand, who accept that HKBH created everything in its final form but haven't a witness, cannot logically say that the stars came into existence before the time the existence of the stars were actualy witnessed.

    You are broaching a topic we never discussed before so I’m not sure what you mean. Who are those “others”? Who actually accepts that Hashem created everything instantly in its final and natural form while simultaneously not giving credence to the Torah’s account of ma’aseh bereishis? Wouldn’t such a doctrine be inherently contradictory? The Torah says that Hashem created everything rapidly in its final form. The only people who dispute the pashtus of the pesukim are those who need to have billions of years of natural unfolding.

    Anyway, once again I thank you for sticking with the shakla v’tarya. I think I will now move on to my next Blog Entry.

    Be well and have a gevaldica Shabbos!

    Simcha

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