Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Materialism Blinds - Part 2

(This post continues our analysis of Rabbi Slifkin’s critique of Rabbi Shafran’s article.)

Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:

Then there is Rabbi Shafran's sole "scientific" objection to evolution - that "the appearance of a new species from an existing one, or even of an entirely new limb or organ within a species... has never been witnessed or reproduced." First of all, that's not actually true. Second, evolution takes place over many millennia, so we would not expect to see such dramatic changes in the few years that we have been watching for such things.

Putting aside the fact that Rabbi Slifkin’s “first of all” actually contradicts his “second of all”, his argument is irrelevant. Rabbi Shafran is making a simple point. Evolutionists cling tenaciously to a materialistic theory despite the lack of evidence. This type of behavior more closely resembles faith than it does science. It is impossible to refute this point. The only thing Rabbi Slifkin can say is that they do have evidence in which case he is disputing Rabbi Shafran’s premise, not his argument. But he doesn’t do that. So his counter-argument is meaningless.

Rabbi Slifkin continues as follows:

Most ironic is Rabbi Shafran claiming that there is no observational evidence for "an organism emerging from inert matter," which he refers to as “spontaneous generation." (In fact, the origins of life don't really have anything to do with evolution, but let's ignore that for now.) But it is vastly, overwhelmingly more reasonable to accept that an extremely primitive life-form developed from primordial soup, than to accept that lice spontaneously generate from sweat, that mice spontaneously generate from dirt, that worms spontaneously generate from fruit and fish, and that salamanders spontaneously generate from fire. And yet the latter are all accepted as unquestionable fact by Rabbi Shafran's charedi religious authorities - along with numerous claims of nishtaneh hateva that are more extreme forms of evolution than anything ever proposed by scientists.

The preceding quote is particularly distasteful to me as it obviously strives to make our gedoley Torah look like simpletons and fools while simultaneously aggrandizing the “enlightened” opinions of those who adopt evolution as a viable option for ma’aseh bereishis. But personal feelings aside, Rabbi Slifkin’s comment is sheer nonsense for one very simple reason.

Assuming everything Rabbi Slifkin says about spontaneous generation in the gemara is true (which it is not), Chazal believed in spontaneous generation for only one of two reasons: either they observed it themselves or they relied on the testimony of others who observed it. The point is, there was observational evidence. People saw sweat ostensibly turning into lice. People saw worms coming out of apples etc. Their beliefs can be justified. But does that mean that now we must believe that apes turned into humans? Where’s the evidence? Rabbi Shafran’s point is that there is no evidence to justify the belief in evolution. Incredibly, this point just flies right over Rabbi Slifkin’s head…

As far as what the Chareidi gedolim believe, Rabbi Slifkin doesn’t know what he’s talking about. My Rabbeim (e.g. Rabbi Miller, Rabbi Dessler) did not believe in spontaneous generation and either interpreted the gemaros brought down by Rabbi Slifkin such that they were aligned with the current metzius or, when this was difficult to do, conceded that the scientific explanations offered by Chazal were based on what science observed in their times but were not necessarily the driving force behind the halacha in question. Many of the gedolim today would accept such approaches. I am personally familiar with several. But even if Rabbi Slifkin is right and some gedolim believe unreservedly in the pashtus of the gemaros in question, this is only because they trust that Chazal relied on observational evidence, not empty superstitions or highly improbable “just so” materialistic theories…

Finally, Rabbi Slifkin comments as follows:

Finally, we have Rabbi Shafran's description of evolutionists employing "militant insistence on its truth." Surely he can't be serious. "Militant insistence"? Like banning books by their opponents from being purchased, and using positions of authority to condemn their opponents, without even reading their material or allowing them any opportunity to defend their viewpoint?

Precisely! All this has, and continues to happen in the hallowed hallways of academia as anyone in the know can testify. Actually, you don’t have to be in the know. All you need to do is read once in a while and you’re bound to stumble into examples of the above-noted (mis)behavior. If anyone is interested, I can gladly furnish plenty of material.

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Slifkin is a believer in Torah and scientism. Rabbi Aryeh Carmel by contrast believed in Torah and science.

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