Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Materialism Blinds

About a month ago Rabbi Slifkin began a series of posts criticizing Rabbi Avi Shafran’s article Science, Blinded regarding bias in the academic world. Personally I was happy to see such an article appear in Cross-Currents but apparently this small piece offended Rabbi Slifkin. This post (and several future ones) analyzes Rabbi Slifkin’s comments regarding this article.

In his introductory paragraph, Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows:

That's why I put a warning at the beginning of "The Challenge of Creation," stating that the book is not appropriate for those with little exposure to science and who are opposed to the Maimonidean approach. Besides, while recent special creation is not a core belief of Orthodox Judaism…

Absolutely amazing. On the one hand Rabbi Slifkin strives to impart to his readers that his book is aligned with the “Maimonedian” approach. Yet in his very next breath he states that “recent special creation is not a core belief of Orthodox Judaism”. Anyone familiar with the works of Maimonides understands how absurd this is. It is hard to find a belief which the Rambam held as “core” more than recent special creation.

Rabbi Slifkin takes issue with Rabbi Shafran as follows:

First of all, and most obviously, the idea that religious figures who oppose evolution "can truly perceive the world with clarity," as a result of having "overcome the preconceptions, desires and imperfections of character to which we all play host," is ludicrous. Overcoming imperfections of character is a fine thing, but it does not assist one in evaluating evolution.

It most certainly does. Rabbi Shafran explains in the next few sentences that essentially evolution does not possess any empirical evidence. The implication is obvious. Those scientists who maintain an uncompromising conviction in evolution only do so as a consequence of their desire to believe in it, nothing more.

Rabbi Shafran’s message is simple. To the extent that an individual is able to refine his character, to let go of false preconceptions, to eliminate erroneous attitudes, and to cleanse himself of base desires, so too will he be able to see the truth about the nature of the material world. Why? Because he is no longer predisposed to explain the material in necessarily material terms. He is open to all options. On the other hand, evolutionary scientists are biased by their a priori adoption of a Materialist worldview and thus see nothing! They ignore the open lack of evidence and see only what they want to see. They are the last people who can be trusted to weigh the merits of evolution.

Rabbi Slifkin writes:

On the contrary; since those who oppose evolution inevitably subscribe to a religious worldview in which evolution is theologically problematic at best and usually entirely unacceptable, they are overwhelmingly, critically biased against any evidence supporting it.

This may have been true at one time but it is clearly not true today. There are plenty of religiously unaffiliated scientists who challenge evolution on its face. David Berlinski comes to mind…

In the same vein, it should be pointed out that amongst the ranks of those who do believe in evolution, you will find both atheists and devoutly religious

Vastly, overwhelmingly atheistic with a tiny smattering of devoutly religious. The latter are the odd men out, trying desperately to reconcile a patently atheistic theory with the uncompromising truth of Creation.

In the interest of brevity, we will bring this post to a close. More to come shortly bi’ezras Hashem.

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