Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ignoring the Obvious

Dear Readers. The following post is written on an academic level. It assumes certain basic knowledge. For maximum benefit it is recommended that you read Rabbi Slifkin’s post here before perusing this blog entry.

In his most recent post, Rabbi Slifkin concludes – based on his examination of the gemara in Yoma – that when it comes to the matter of respiratory death "everyone is very clearly overruling Chazal". I found his statement highly curious. Surely Rabbi Slifkin must be aware that the interpretation of this sugya is fraught with controversy. In point of fact, his understanding is opposed by the vast majority of Torah authorities.

First of all, Rashi (ad loc.) comments that the person we are discussing looks entirely dead; he does not evince the standard signs of life which Rashi identifies as "movement of the limbs". Heartbeat and circulation could certainly be understood as "movement of the limbs".

Second, Rabbi Slifkin marginalizes the Chasam Sofer’s (CS) psak by subtly implying that his opinion reduces to nothing more than his unquestioning dedication to mesorah. As Rabbi Slifkin quotes the CS: "All the winds of the world will not move us from the standards established by our Torah." Rabbi Slifkin’s quote is correct but highly misleading.

The CS specifically paskens that we need both a cessation of heartbeat and a cessation of respiration and, in addition, a reasonable amount of time to determine that they’ve ceased irreversibly! He bases himself on the Rambam in Hilchos Avel 4:5. It would seem apparent that the CS learned the gemara in Yoma the same way as Rashi, i.e. we require a cessation of all movement (heart, blood flow, respiration etc.) before pronouncing death.

What is left to explain is why the gemara then goes on to quote an alternate shita i.e. that we can clear the rubble up to the chest. To my mind it would seem that the initial shita in the gemara maintains that respiration is a marker for heartbeat whereas the second shita enjoins empirical confirmation. But according to all shittos, he must be entirely lifeless meaning that he evinces no signs of life at all, including pulse.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Brain Death Part 3

Dear Readers,

Over the next several days, I intend on analyzing Rabbi Slifkin’s posts on the above noted topic. In the previous two posts, we saw that Rabbi Slifkin’s foundational assumption re Chazal’s knowledge was false. In the following posts, we will analyze his various statements regarding this topic.

This post treats Rabbi Slifkin’s Blog entry of January 9, 2011 entitled Scientific, Halachic, and Scientific-Halachic Issues. For maximum benefit, I encourage readers to peruse Rabbi Slifkin’s post first before reading my own.

Rabbi Slifkin divides the issues which confront Orthodox Jews into three categories; Scientific, Halachic, and Scientific-Halachic. And while I do not necessarily take issue with these divisions per-se, the examples he gives are problematic.

Scientific – Rabbi Slifkin writes: "An example would be the topic of the age of the universe. The question of how to treat someone who believes that the universe is billions of years old may be a halachic issue. But the question of the age of the universe itself is clearly, and solely, a scientific issue. An anti-rationalist might insist that the universe is 5771 years old, but he is not denying that it is a scientific issue; rather, he believes that a literal reading of the Torah is a more reliable and authoritative source of information than modern science."

This is not really the topic I would like to discuss but I couldn’t let this example slide. Rabbi Slifkin groups all people who adopt a young-earth approach under the heading of anti-rationalist and explains that they believe that the authority of the Torah trumps that of science. This is false for two reasons. First of all, I, for one, do not believe in an old earth, but not merely because the Torah tells me to, just like I don’t believe in the existence of a Creator merely because the Torah tells me to. I believe in a young-earth because I’ve studied the science and I believe that it points to a young earth. My position, even on Rabbi Slifkin’s count, must be termed rationalist. Rabbi Slifkin may disagree with my estimation of the science and we can (and have) argued the science for years. But the fact remains that I believe that science provides absolutely no evidence that species evolved over millions of years. Ditto to the universe itself.

Second of all, even if one appeals solely to the Torah for authority, he cannot be deemed an anti-rationalist. Otherwise, Rambam too was an anti-rationalist. Rambam wrote that although the world might indeed look old, the Torah tells us that it is not. Thus Rambam ignored the "rational" conclusion in favor of the Torah’s conclusion yet Rambam is considered the consummate rationalist.

I think the problem here is Rabbi Slifkin’s definition of rationalist. Apparently, rationalist to him means anyone who adheres to scientific dogma regardless of circumstance. Well, if that is indeed rationalism, then I am not a rationalist but then again, neither was the Rambam.

Halachic Issues – Rabbi Slifkin’s definition and example are fine.

Scientific-Halachic Issues – Rabbi Slifkin defines this category as follows: "These are halachic issues in which the halachic discussion is built upon certain determinations about the physical world."

His definition is no good. This is what he should have written: These are halachic issues in which the halachic discussion is associated with certain determinations about the physical world. The reason I changed the definition will become clear shortly.

Rabbi Slifkin then goes on to supply the famous example of spontaneously generating lice and then writes as follows: "To the extent that a statement utilized in resolving a scientific-halachic issue is based upon a relevant misunderstanding of the physical reality, this undermines the innate validity of the halachic conclusions. This does not necessarily mean that the halachah should be changed; in my book Sacred Monsters, I explained Rav Herzog's view of why there are other reasons to uphold Chazal's ruling about lice, despite it being based upon mistaken science. But, absent such reasons, the halachic conclusions are invalid."

This paragraph is highly objectionable! Rabbi Slifkin has practically no source to support such a contention! The fact is, every Rishon and Acharon I am familiar with rejects this idea. Even the Pachad Yitzchak, who prohibits killing lice on Shabbos, does so l’chumra. Rabbi Slifkin’s reference to Rav Herzog is not the way he presents it here on his Blog. Rabbi Herzog does not make his reliance on halacha contingent on "other reasons" which, if "absent" would invalidate the halachic conclusions. He says plainly and simply that regardless of the fact that Chazal’s science might be wrong, the halacha stands! As Rabbi Herzog puts it "for halachic purposes, we have nothing other than the words of our sages"! You can look it up in Sacred Monsters page 367.

The fact is, Rabbi Slifkin delineates a veritable who’s who list of gedolei Torah in the above-noted book – such as Rav Dessler (and Rabbi Carmel – Rabbi Slifkin’s mentor), Rav Moshe and the Chazon Ish – who all accept Chazal’s piskei halacha unreservedly. (I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. When it comes to presenting the facts, Rabbi Slifkin is gloriously, deliciously, brutally honest!) Ergo, all of the gedolim he notes reject his current thesis.

One final note before we conclude. Rabbi Slifkin writes: "For example, the issue of using electricity on Shabbos or Yom Tov is a scientific-halachic issue. If someone were to make a ruling on this topic based upon a misunderstanding of what electricity is, this would undermine the ruling"

This is a terrible example. Of course he is correct but that’s because electricity is a recent invention. The halachic literature on electricity is no older than 150 years and is taluy exclusively on the understanding of current day poskim regarding the reality of electricity. But the very same poskim would tell you that piskei halacha by Chazal are immutable because Chazal have a different standing than current day poskim. Their conclusions are not "built" on the science, as Rabbi Slifkin implies; they are merely associated with the science. For an exhaustive treatment of this issue, see Rabbi Slifkin’s book Sacred Monsters pages 356-367.

This concludes our analysis of Rabbi Slifkin’s January 9th post. Tomorrow we will proceed to his next post on this topic bl’n.

Simcha Coffer

Natan Slifkin’s double standards

In his “rationalist” (?) blogspost, Natan Slifkin (NS) continues posting blogger’s comments criticizing Dr. Betech, but when I, Dr. Isaac Betech posted systematic, respectful answers, NS did not publish them. This practice has been going on many times in the last months. Following is a copy of my last, today’s comment, answering my critics; which NS explicitly refused to publish.
Dear L'maan HaTorah
Thank you for your answer. Now that we have the basic premises defined and agreed i.e.
1. The definition of Scientific Method.
2. That we both are Halachik Jews.
Let’s begin again with some of your points.
You wrote:
It is quite clear from your input on this blog (and your lectures) that by misusing terms like SCIENTIFIC METHOD you undermine real evidence supporting evolution of the species and all other "controversial" issues.
Following the definition of scientific method we have in common, please quote one “real evidence supporting evolution of the species” I have “undermined by misusing terms like scientific method”, you can use my “input on this blog (and my lectures)”.
You wrote:
I've personally attended to about 25 of your lectures, and I can confidently say I've never heard what YOU hold…
At my request you kindly mentioned the following 3 lectures:
1. Los conocimientos medicos en el Talmud
2. La edad del mundo (where you never proved IRREFUTABLY that the world is 5700 years even though that was the main theme)
3. La verdad brotara de la tierra.
I ask, for example, in these 3 lectures, you “did not hear what I hold”?
You wrote:
… I can surely give you a few lecture titles where I think you where misleading people:…
Could you be so kind to write at least one example of my “misleading people” in the above mentioned lectures?
Shegiot mi yabin? I am ready to make a public retraction of any mistaken information you will point on any of my thousands of lectures.
As you say, you live in Mexico, it will be easy for you to know if I did it or not.
You wrote:
… or are you denying that he "reveals" people's aveiros publicly?
Now that we have agreed that we both are Halachik Jews, please let me ask you: Have you studied the halachot regarding mitzvat tochacha?
P. S. 1/3
Needless to say, if “L'maan HaTorah” wants to answer my last post, he can do it in the non-moderated comment section of this blog.
P. S. 2/3
Following is another comment I sent yesterday, but was not posted (nor answered) by Natan Slifkin.
Dear Natan
You wrote:
This is exactly why, when I agreed to debate Isaac Betech about the scientific accuracy of Chazal's statements, I insisted that he first discuss the methodology for determining when Chazal are speaking literally, and when they are speaking allegorically. Needless to say, the debate did not materialize.
Please remind me when you insisted on that?
Could you post a link to the original proposal?
P. S. 3/3
Since last week, when Natan Slifkin linked to this blogspot, the number of newcomers on this blogspot has increased significantly, welcome!
To all the newcomers I would like to inform them that I publicly agreed to debate Natan Slifkin, as posted:
I am ready to discuss in an intellectual, multimedia (sources on screen), respectful, protocolized, neutral, public forum with NS or the representative (Jewish or not) he will choose, on any scientific issue relevant to his 5 controversial books, i.e.
1. Creation of the universe (Big Bang Cosmology).
2. Chemical evolution (increasingly complex elements, molecules and compounds developed from the simpler chemical elements that were created in the Big Bang).
3. The age of the universe.
4. Biological evolution (of the species).
5. “Dr. Betech's own model of recent special creation” (as NS named it).
6. The accuracy of science-related statements made by Chaza”l.
7. As stated above (II 6) after the debate on the scientific issues will be concluded, I am also ready to debate the validity of the theological sources presented by NS on these issues.
Needless to say, the debate did not materialize, since NS has not accepted… yet …

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brain Death versus Cardiac/Respiratory Death – Part 2

In the previous post, we asked the following question. "If the term lev does indeed mean mind and also the anatomical heart, there must be some connection between the two. What is it? Why is it that in lashon hakodesh the mind shares the same term with the anatomical heart?"

My Rabbaim explain as follows. The mind has two distinct elements. The first element encompasses pure intellect. Mankind is capable of acquiring facts and is capable of assessing these facts within the parameters of reason and rationality. The second element is the emoting quality of the mind. Mankind can relate to these facts on a personal level. They have the ability to shape his personality and can even become instinctual to him on a subconscious level. Human emotion is what gives the intellect relevance. In Judaism, i.e. in Tanach, the mind is always treated as a composite of these two elements. The purpose of the intellect is not just the amassing of information; rather, it is the internalization of the information which ultimately counts the most. The pasuk says, "v’yadata hayom, vahasheivosa el livavecha" you must know, and you must internalize in your mind. Hashava el haleiv is the ultimate goal of the intellect. We cannot satisfy ourselves with yedias ha’sechel alone; we must internalize the awareness of Hashem until it becomes a part of our personalities, until it becomes yedias haleiv, the "knowledge" of the emotions. We must feel the presence of Hashem, not just know it in an abstract way.

Anyone who possesses a beating heart knows that the heart participates in the emotions. It beats faster when an emotion is experienced and sometimes even physically hurts when experiencing negative emotions. People can even get heart attacks chs’v from negative emotions. The heart is inextricably tied to human emotions and plays a fundamental role in their functioning.

In the May 2004 edition of the science magazine Discover, the editors reviewed a fascinating book by essayist Charles Siebert. Here’s a snippet.

"…a recognition that the heart is no mere pump, as some physicians still insist, but a sophisticated participant in the regulation of emotion. The heart has a mind of its own: It secretes its own brainlike hormones and actively partakes in a dialogue among the internal organs—a dialogue on which cardiac researchers are only beginning to eavesdrop. The heart likewise undergoes all manner of organic change inflicted on it by the tempestuous brain and its neurochemicals. As one doctor explains, people do suffer heartbreak, literally.

Consider the fate of William Schroeder, the second—and longest-surviving—recipient, in 1984, of the Jarvik-7 artificial heart. As a pump, the Jarvik-7 was a resounding success, keeping Schroeder alive for an unprecedented 620 days. The patient’s mental state was another matter. Schroeder was weepy and deeply despondent. (Barney Clark, the first Jarvik-7 recipient, expressed a wish to die or be killed.) The blood still circulated, but something vital—some emotionally charged communication between heart and mind had been lost. What is it like, Siebert asks, to watch your favorite sports team rally yet not feel your pulse quicken? To see a loved one yet not feel your heart leap? "When someone’s heart is no longer working in concert with those feelings, does he feel that and cry more?" Affirming all myths, the heart truly is a seat of human emotion. The Jarvik-7, in contrast, was deaf to the song of human experience; built to invigorate its patient, it instead alienated him, supplying Schroeder with everything but the will to live. He had the look, Siebert writes, "of a man who has lost his heart."

Now, I don’t know how much of Siebert’s depiction is attributable to his attempt to humanize the heart but the magazine certainly takes his book seriously. Furthermore, Rav Avigdor Miller already discussed scientific connections between the heart and the emotions in the seventies, long before this book came out!

So, the upshot of all this is that although emotions are no doubt generated by the mind which is nested in the brain, the heart plays an indispensible role in the functioning of the emotions and thus the term for mind in lashon hakodesh is "lev".

Brain Death versus Cardiac/Respiratory Death

In several recent posts, Rabbi Slifkin has broached the controversial issue of Brain Death in halacha, especially as it pertains to organ donation. Brain Death (BD) is defined as the irreversible cessation of neurological activity in the brain and is measured in several ways, either physically by determining the absence of cranial nerve reflexes, via an EEG test which measures the electrical activity in the brain, or a radionuclide test which measures intracranial blood flow. Cardiac and Respiratory Death (CRD) is the irreversible termination of heart and breathing functions and, if left untreated, is currently understood by medical science to occur at anywhere between 30 seconds to a maximum of ten minutes after the initial cessation.

Up until recently, it has been clearly understood that CRD is the halachic benchmark for death. Thus, a Kohein does not have to leave the room of a BD individual who is hooked up to a ventilator. A BD person whose brother dies childless would prohibit the wife of the dead brother to remarry because she is considered a yevama until "the breath of life" leaves him. The wife of a BD Kohein can still eat trumah etc. etc. Sometime after Rav Moshe Feinstein’s petirah on erev Purim 1986, a controversy arose as to his opinion regarding BD. His teshuvos seem clear on the issue however his son-in-law – Rabbi Moshe Tendler of RIETS – claims that in practical cases his father-in-law paskened that BD was considered halachic death.

This pesak is highly controversial and is rejected by the vast majority of poskim today. Rabbi Slifkin seems to intimate that, at least in some instances, the poskim have not given BD serious consideration in view of current advances in science. He understands that the gemara in Yoma (85) seems clear on the matter however he attributes the gemara’s adoption of CRD to, among other things, Chazal’s antiquated understanding of the heart. In his opinion, Chazal understood the heart as the seat of human intellect, not the brain, and thus, quite naturally, considered CRD the conclusive marker for human death. Rabbi Slifkin writes as follows: "Chazal lived in a world where a person's mind and soul were mistakenly thought to relay their force and influence from the heart, via blood and breath, rather than from the brain, via neurons and nerves. That sentence cannot be emphasized enough."

Here’s what I say. That sentence can’t be deemphasized enough! But more on this in a moment. Before we treat Chazal’s knowledge of the anatomical heart, a lesson in grammar is in order. (Dear Readers: Recently I installed Windows 7 on my computer and ever since then I haven’t been able to get my Hebrew fonts to work so please excuse the transliteration) In lashon hakodesh, the word "lev" means self. It refers to the person’s essence, who he/she really is. In other words, the term lev is properly translated as "mind". Our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings, our personality, our sentient consciousness; these are the things which make up the essence of a human being. In English, this phenomenon is called "mind". In lashon hakodesh, it is called the lev.

So, for example, when the Torah says "ki yetzer leiv ha’adam ra mi’neurav" this means that mankind’s nature is wayward from his youth. It doesn’t mean that he is born with a defective heart. When the Torah states "ani, terem achaleh lidaber el libi", this means when I was finished talking to myself. When the Torah states in the past 4 weeks of kerias haTorah that Hashem hardened the heart of Pharaoh, it refers to his will, not his anatomical heart. When the Torah states "v’chol chacham lev bachaem", this is correctly translated as "every one amongst you with a wise mind". In Tanach, the term lev and its variations are found hundreds of times and each time it refers to the mind or functions of the mind, never the anatomical heart (or maybe almost never). A secondary meaning for lev is the anatomical heart but the primary meaning is mind.

Keeping this in mind, there is no reason to imagine that Chazal used the term lev any differently than it is used in Tanach unless they were specifically discussing the functions of the various anatomical parts of the human body. Rabbi Slifkin claims that Chazal lived during a time when the heart was widely considered the seat of human intellect but so what? This doesn’t prove that they too believed that! In fact, notwithstanding Aristotleian biology, there were indeed individuals who predated Aristotle and who did believe that the brain was the seat of human intellect. Perhaps Chazal followed this view. How does Rabbi Slifkin know that Chazal believed that the heart was the seat of human intelligence? Does he have any explicit quotes from Chazal to that effect? Highly doubtful. Otherwise, he would have provided them.

Of course, Rabbi Slifkin can then turn around and request explicit quotes from Chazal that they understood the brain to be the seat of the intellect and if I can’t provide them, he would then claim that the "rational" thing to assume is that Chazal went with the science of the day. Perhaps he is right, perhaps not. But it’s irrelevant because as it happens I am capable of satisfying such a request.

In Yevamos 9a, Levi asks a kushya on Rebbi. Rebbi considers Levi’s kushya nonsensical so he replies "it seems to me that [you] don’t have any brains in your head!" Now you may think this is an aberration but exactly the same phrase appears in Maseches Menachos 80b under similar circumstances. And if you think that only the Babylonian scholars knew the truth, the exact same phrase re-appears in the Jerusalem Talmud in the sugya in Yevamos!

So, Chazal knew that the brain was the seat of the intellect and yet they considered CRD as the determining factor. Chasam Sofer – in his famous rebuttal to Moses Mendelssohn’s pesak regarding halanas hameis (YD II, 338) – makes it clear that Chazal’s conclusion regarding dofek and neshima (heartbeat and respiration) is immutable and is based on ironclad sources. He even suggests that it is halacha l’moshe mi’sinai! From all apparent readings of his written piskei halacha, R’ Moshe held the same, and he lived in modern times and had access to medical knowledge. Not that I am taking sides on this halachic dispute and neither is Rabbi Slifkin for that matter. But what the good Rabbi did get wrong, as usual, is his underestimation of Chazal’s wisdom.

Now, what is left to explain is the following. If the term lev does indeed mean mind and also the anatomical heart, there must be some connection between the two. What is it? Why is it that in lashon hakodesh the mind shares the same term as the anatomical heart?

This question will be answered in the following post bi'ezras Hashem.

Friday, January 21, 2011

R. Slifkin and Mental Illness

Debating R. Slifkin has never been a pleasant task. There are serious problems with his scholarship and with the techniques he uses to refute those who critique his scholarship. This makes it difficult to have a civil yet vigorous debate.

After the whole incident of “Mike the headless chicken”, even Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky Shlita (who initially was supportive), gave up on him. R. Slifkin had challenged the Talmudic rule פסיק רשיה ולא ימות with the story of Mike the headless chicken who survived decapitation. R. Slifkin omitted to say that the scientists at Utah University reported that Mike was not completely decapitated: “most of his brain stem and one ear was left on his body. Since most of a chicken's reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem Mike was able to remain quite healthy”. The Talmudic rule is speaking about a completely decapitated chicken, so obviously there is no difficulty at all. R. Slifkin attempted to use this case as a basis for his general approach that Chazal were prone to error in their statements about the natural world, a continuous refrain on his blog.

R. Slifkin is, of course, perfectly sane. But, in the latest round of discussion he quoted anonymous sources to the effect that his disputants are insane and mentally ill for reasons that might very well apply to his own behaviour. On his blog today he wrote that he had to explain eight times to his opponent that he was entirely fabricating R. Slifkin’s position before his opponent acknowledged that R. Slifkin was correct! “Is that normal?”, he asked.

Now he does not provide an entirely accurate summary of the discussion but I leave it up to readers to check it our for themselves. It is R. Slifkin’s right to analyze his disputants and their right to correct the record. At least, in the end, as R. Slifkin conceded, his disputant acknowledged that he had been sloppy and changed the sentence in question to reflect the discussion.

But let’s see an example of how R. Slifkin reacts to a simple question, repeated no less than five times. Not once did he answer the actual question posed. What he did do was attempt to deflect the discussion away from the question and then ended with a vitriolic attack against his disputant. Having achieved the concession that he wanted, he waived goodbye, and then blogged about the mental insanity of his disputants. Smart but not nice!  Emphasis is added in the following snippets:

clip_image002YSO said...R. Slifkin, can you provide the precise words of the Rishonim where they explicitly write that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome? January 7, 2011 12:30 AM clip_image001

clip_image002Natan Slifkin said...The words of Chazal in the Bavli, Yerushalmi, and Midrash about the nature of the rakia and the sun's passage on both sides of it are explicit, and none of the Rishonim claim that Chazal were not speaking literally. Perhaps you would like to discuss the different sugyos, and the words of all the Rishonim that I cited in my monograph, and give your own explanation of all these sources?January 7, 2011 4:36 AM clip_image001[1]

clip_image002[1]YSO said...R. Slifkin, I don't see how you have answered my question. Can we start with at least one Rishon? I.e., can you provide the precise words of one Rishon who explicitly states that Chazal as a group believed that the rakiya discussed in Pesachim 94b is literally a solid dome?January 7, 2011 7:07 AM clip_image001[2]

Instead of answering this very simple question, R. Slifkin went off on a tangent. He presented his own interpretations of Chazal and other such displacement activity. But that was not what was being asked. The question posed to R. Slifkin was whether he had an explicit prooftext from the Rishonim for his thesis. These prooftexts never materialized. Instead,  after the fifth request for explicit prooftexts from the Rishonim or an admission that he did not have that level of proof, we get the following response:

clip_image002[2]Natan Slifkin said...... Now you are issuing the fantastic claim that Chazal did not mean what they plainly appear to mean and what the Rishonim understood them to mean and what everyone acknowledges the Rishonim understood them to mean, or that there were other members of Chazal who held differently. Please back this up with a prooftext. Present even a single contrary source from Chazal or from the Rishonim (concerning Chazal's views), or stop with your silly diversions which make you sound like an obfuscating fundamentalist idiot.January 9, 2011 12:01 AM

Actually, at that point, the disputant had not claimed anything. He merely asked for prooftexts. When the same conversation and request for prooftexts continued in a subsequent post, the insults came even sooner:

clip_image002[2]Natan Slifkin said...…you opened your post with two falsifications of my views. I pointed this out, and yet you refuse to back up your charges or retract them; instead you tried to change the topic. This is why I don't engage you in discussion, …  You're plain dishonest and scurrilous. January 18, 2011 10:58 AM clip_image001[3]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Domes

Just to lighten up a little, here is a different tale about a dome (different than the one discussed here).

Antony Flew was a distinguished philosopher and a militant atheist for most of his working life. Later in life, based on newly developing empirical evidence, he changed his views and came to believe in the intelligent design of the universe.

Flew asked us to imagine entering a hotel room on our next vacation. The CD player is playing our favourite music, our favourite books are on the desk and the minibar has our favourite beverages and cookies. The chances are that with each new discovery about our hospitable new environment we would be less inclined to think it was all a mere coincidence. We might wonder how the hotel manager would know so much about our habits and we might want to know how much it is going to cost. But we would certainly be inclined to believe that someone knew that we were coming. The vacation scenario, said Flew, is a clumsy, limited metaphor for what we have discovered about the universe fine-tuned for life and discovery.

Other thinkers have used a different metaphor. Suppose we went on a mission to the Moon, and found a domed structure in which everything was set up just right for human life to exist. The temperature, for example, is set to a comfortable 72 degrees F. The humidity is around 50%. The structure has an oxygen recycling system, an energy gathering system, and a whole food production system run by amazing nanotechnology devices more complicated than a Boeing factory. The dome is porous rather than solid, allowing in the light of the sun while deflecting dangerous radiation, and allowing the inhabitants to make discoveries about the nature of the universe outside the dome. There is a fabulous  water cycle allowing food to grow and making for a nice change in the seasons. Put simply, the domed structure appears to be a fully functioning biosphere.

What conclusion would we draw from finding this structure?

One possibility (let’s call it the blind watchmaker thesis) might claim that all this came about via meteors randomly crashing into the surface of the moon, and the natural forces of volcanic eruption spewing forth the various metals and compounds needed for the structure and then self-organizing in just the right way to form the biosphere. Not everyone is so convinced by this thesis. But the defenders of the thesis are adamant. Anybody who opposes the blind watchmaker thesis is either ignorant or evil.

The proponents of the blind watchmaker thesis are very successful propagandists. So successful that some religious folks are inclined to accept that random meteors and natural volcanoes are the best explanation for the biosphere. Despite the accidental nature of the meteors and the inability of volcanoes to form nanotechnology, they maintain that the Deity is nevertheless behind the whole thing. The accidental nature of the whole mechanism poses no theological problem whatsoever. In fact they see this as an ideal means via which the Creator dynamically exerts His will. They are so persuaded of their view that they demonize their opponents and accuse them of insanity and mental illness for reasons that apply equally to their own behaviour. 

What about the rest of us? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by chance and natural processes?

Certainly not. We would find the blind watchmaker thesis extraordinarily implausible and the theological arguments weak.  Instead, we conclude that the best explanation for this wondrous dome must be some vast transcendent intelligent agency interested in our well-being and desirous that we understand more about Him from the design of this remarkable biosphere.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Slifkin-Solid-Dome Thesis

On this blog, R. Slifkin is well-known for making grandiose claims with a conviction that the evidence rarely warrants.

(*) Examples include his belief  that evolution’s blind watchmaker thesis is compatible with Judaism (see here), his belief that there are detailed naturalistic pathways from dead chemicals to the machinery of the cell, and his claim that his approach to Genesis is based on the Rambam.

Recently, R. Slifkin published a monograph on the path of the sun at night that has already elicited some comment (here, here,  and here). It is, he writes, “probably one of the most important things that I have ever written. It is a comprehensive study of a very short section of Gemara, just five lines in Pesachim 94b, a passage which is so obscure that most people just skim through it with little comprehension”.

Leaping from the particular to the general, R. Slifkin is then led to the conclusion that Chazal must also be in error whenever and wherever they are contradicted by current scientific dogma (“brain death” being the latest instance of this phenomenon).

Imputing large scale error to Chazal provides R. Slifkin with the cover he needs to reject Chazal’s meta-natural understanding of the Creation Week – allowing him to substitute naturalistic interpretations (such as Darwin’s theory of evolution). So we understand why he is so enthusiastic about his monograph, as he writes:

“If you ever find yourself confronting someone who insists that there was never a traditional view that Chazal’s statements about the natural world were human and fallible, then this brief section of the Gemara, with all the sources in this monograph, is all that you need to demonstrate their error.” (R. Slifkin)

A few lines in Pesachim 94b can, apparently, go so very very far! Now what is R. Slifkin’s claim?

Based on his reading of Pesachim 94b we have the Slifkin-Solid-Dome thesis which claims that  the Talmudic consensus on the rakiya (“firmament” or “expanse”) is that it is literally a solid dome.  Furthermore, the Slifkin thesis also claims that all the Rishonim testify that this is the Talmudic consensus, i.e. the consensus of Chazal.

Now I have asked R. Slifkin if he has explicit prooftexts from the Rishonim. Despite having made this request repeatedly, R. Slifkin has not answered this seemingly simple question. R. Slifkin has replied with a variety of statements including: "stop with your silly diversions which make you sound like an obfuscating fundamentalist idiot.” (see comments here).

It is possible that R. Slifkin was upset at my mentioning that his only post-Talmudic prooftexts appear to be from the 6th century monk Cosmas. But, I prefer to take his words as meaning that he does not have the requested prooftexts.

But, for the sake of clarity, I ask once again if he can kindly answer my simple request for explicit prooftexts from the Rishonim for his solid dome thesis. We can then move on (one way or another) and carefully examine the rest of his evidence. Of course, one can often make a good case without explicit prooftexts by analyzing and drawing appropriate inferences.

Now I do have some sources of interest that I did not see in R. Slifkin’s monograph. Today, I would like to take a few of them (ones close to R. Slifkin’s rationalist mind, or is it his heart?) and see if we can use them to help make an indirect case for his thesis.

On his “rationalist” blog, R. Slifkin writes that “This website is an exploration into the rationalist approach to Judaism that was most famously presented by Maimonides.” So I am hoping that we will be able to infer from the Rambam some indirect support for the Slifkin solid dome thesis.

In the MR 4:2-3 we have (very informal translation):

(a) R. Shmuel b. Nachman: When Hashem said let there be a rakiya in the midst of the waters, the middle drop solidified (גלדה) and became the lower and higher heavens.
(b) Rav said [Hashem’s] handiwork [the heavens] was in fluid form and on the second day it congealed (קרשו) …
(c) … R. Tanchum said [about the rakiya] … the upper waters are are suspended by the word [of Hashem].

We can certainly see why these words (taken literally) might indicate that the rakiya is a solid dome.

But the Rishonim also inform us that while Agada can be taken literally, it is not always so. Sometimes it is not meant literally, but solely for a deeper message. For example, what are the “higher” heavens and how did they solidify?

So let us start with the Rambam to MN II:30 as understood by the commentaries (Ralbag, Rabbenu Crescas, Shem Tov, Efodi).

Concerning the rakiya, the Rambam quotes the Midrash of Chazal (a), following which he writes that there was a certain proto-water (a kind of common matter) that was divided into three different forms (all presumably relating to water in one way or another).

One part turned into the form of seas, one part turned into the form of a rakiya that we see today, and one part turned into a form that is above the rakiya.

Now “above the rakiya” sounds like a very familiar phrase to those whose ears are attuned to Pesachim 94b.

The substance above the rakiya, says the Rambam, is “water” in name only. This has been made known to us by R. Akiva (Chagiga 14b) who told his colleagues entering on metaphysical speculation that when they come up above to the stones of pure marble they should not say “Water, Water”. It would seem according to the commentaries that this means that they should not get confused – and call the esoteric water on high “water” as if it is just like our physical water.  That would be false  – a category error. The Rambam also suggests that we should reflect about cloud/rain formation discussed in Meteorologica.

The big question I am left with is what happened to the middle division – the rakiya (i.e. the solid dome on R. Slifkin’s reading)? This would be a perfect opportunity for the Rambam (who is quoting Chazal) to say that they erred in thinking that the rakiya is a solid dome?

However, there is no such statement in the Rambam! On the contrary, the commentaries say that the opinion of the Rav Hamoreh (Rambam) is that the rakiya is the place of cloud/rain formation (המקום אשר יתהוה בו הענן, Ralbag, Gen. 1:6).

This seems to be quite close to the explanation of the Malbim who (basing himself on Chazal) also takes the rakiya to be the layer of the atmosphere involved in cloud/rain formation (although he rejects the idea of the Ptolemaic spheres in the sky).

It would seem, based on Chazal, that the proto-water transformed (“congealed/solidified”) into seas down below, amorphous esoteric water on high, and the regular rakiya that we see, i.e. the place or layer of cloud/rain formation in the sky.

This is really not a very promising scenario for R. Slifkin’s solid dome thesis, if I am understanding the Rambam correctly.

The Ralbag himself disagrees with the Rav Hamoreh. He quotes the MR 4:2-3 of Chazal in full and he says that the rakiya is the גרם השמימי, i.e. the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars, etc.) orbiting in the celestial sphere.

Like the Rambam, the “solidification” of the hyle into the “water” above the rakiya (see R. Tanchum) refers to esoteric water on high that has neither form or weight (at any rate, it is not solid).

Likewise, in one peshat, the Ramban (also quoting the MR) says that “let there be a firmament” involves the ethereal substance created on day one (the amorphous  hyle) taking on the form or shape of the rakiya that we see today. The liquid state is the amorphous hyle which coagulated/solidifies into actual substance.

Here we have Rambam, Ralbag, Ramban quoting the famous MR 4:2-3 – apparently using the Midrashic terminology  “congealed/solidified” to describe the rakiya, yet they conspicuously explain it not to mean "making it into a solid," but transforming prime matter/hyle into actual matter.

I am, of course, open to different ways of interpreting these texts. But, given my understanding, I do wonder if R. Slifkin can provide us with explicit prooftexts from the Rishonim for his literal solid dome thesis? This is because our Rishonim discussed in this post, do not seem to me to be in support of his thesis.

(For more reading on this topic, please see R. Dovid Kornreich (here) as well as as some of R. Zvi Lampel’s prior blog entries.)

Footnotes: (*) This phrase was originally “Examples include his belief in evolution’s blind watchmaker thesis (which he considers compatible with Torah)”. The change in this post has been made in accordance with discussion with R. Slifikin in the comments to this post.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Rambam’s Principle of The Illegitimacy of Extrapolating From Current Natural Processes To The Origins of Things

The following chapter from The Rambam’s Guide for The Perplexed offers an intriguing illustration of his principle that “it is quite impossible to infer, from the nature anything possesses after having been generated, and having attained its full development and attaining stability regarding its properties, what the condition of the thing had been at the time this process commenced.” Following the English translation is Rabbi Yosef KPCH’s Hebrew translation of the Arabic original. This translation was chosen for the convenience of replication on this blog, although the English translation was based on the classical Hebrew translation by Ibn Tibbon. )There is no pragmatic difference between the two Hebrew translations.


ANYTHING new must [by definition] come into being after not having been [what it is]. This is so even if the thing’s substance had already existed, and the thing has only changed in its form. For its nature—after the thing’s having gone through the process of genesis, full development, and stability—is still not the nature it had at the commencement of its transition from potentiality to reality. And its nature is also other than what it was before it was caused to develop [from its potential] to its actuality.

For example, the nature of a female’s seed while it is [but] blood in its vessels, does not possess the nature it has at the time of pregnancy, when it begins to develop after being met by the male’s semen. And its nature then likewise is not that of the living being after its birth when fully developed. It is therefore quite impossible to infer, from the nature anything possesses after having been generated, and having attained its full development and attaining stability regarding its properties, what the condition of the thing had been at the time this process commenced. Nor does the condition of a thing while it is developing show what its condition had been before it began its development. When you err in this, and continue to construct the proof  from something’s nature as it is in actuality, for what its nature was while it was in potential existence, great problems will arise for you. You will consider things that must be true, as false; and you will consider things to be compellingly true, that are really false.

Let us imagine, continuing in the vein of our above example, that a child possessing full natural intelligence was born, but his mother died after nursing him several months; so the father alone brought him up on an isolated island, till he grew up, became wise, and acquired knowledge, [but the island is inhabited only by males,] and he has never seen a woman or any female creature.

He asks someone there, “How did we come into existence, and in what way did we develop [into what we are]?”

The man he asked replies, “Each one of us men actually came to being Man begins his existence in the belly of an individual of his own class, namely, in the womb of a female, which has such-and-such a form. Each one of us was a small body within that belly, that stayed alive, moved about, received nourishment, and grew little by little, until he arrived at a certain stage of development. An entrance-way would open for him in the lower part of that body from which he would exit.  And he does not stop growing,  until he is in the condition in which you see us.”

Now, this born orphan will feel compelled to ask, “This one of us, while as a small being lived, moved, and grew in the womb: did he eat and drink, and breathe with his mouth and his nostrils, and excrete?"

The answer will be, "No."

Undoubtedly, the orphan will then start throwing objections against that person’s statements, and raise proofs that all theses true facts are impossible, by bringing evidence from fully developed and stabilized beings. He will say:

·        Look, when any one of us is deprived of breath for a short time, he dies, and will no longer move. How then can we imagine that any one of us has been enclosed in a bag that is surrounded by a body for several months and remained alive and able to move? If any one of us would swallow a living bird, the bird would die immediately when it reached the stomach, much more so when it came to the lower part of the belly!

·        If we should not ingest food with our mouth or drink water, in a few days we should undoubtedly be dead! How then can a human being remain alive for months without taking food?

·        If any person would take food and would not be able to excrete it, in a short time he would die in great pain—how then can this man survive for months without excreting?!

·        If the there would be a perforation in the belly of any of us, he would die after a few days—how then can one think that the navel of the fetus has been open?!

·        How is it possible for the fetus not to open its eyes, spread out its hands and stretch out its legs if, as you think, the limbs are all whole and without defect?!


And so the entire extrapolation will draw him to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible for man to be produced in the manner described.

Think deeply about this comparison and test it out, you the investigator, and you will find that this matches precisely our situation with Aristotle. For we, the community following in the footsteps of Moses and Abraham, believe that the world came into being in such-and-such a form, and became such-and-such from such-and-such (haya kach mi-kach ), and such was created after such. Aristotle comes to uproot our words, bringing proofs against us based upon the nature of how things are in their actualized, stabilized and fully developed existence. We ourselves admit to him that this is the nature of things after their having settled down and become fully developed; but we hold that these things in no way resemble themselves as they existed during their production; and we hold that these properties themselves [which existing things actually possessed during their production] had come into existence from absolute non-existence. What argument of anything they will  say can stand up against us?! They have demonstrative force only against those who hold that the nature of things as at present in existence proves [not only wise planning, but also] Creation ex nihilo. But this is not my opinion.

I will now go back and return to our theme, viz., to the description of the principal proofs of Aristotle, and show that they prove nothing whatever against us, since we hold that God (a) brought the entire Universe into existence from absolute non-existence, and that (b) He caused it to develop into the present state.

Aristotle says that the materia prima is eternal, and by referring to the properties of transient beings he attempts to prove this statement, and to show that the materia prima could not possibly have been produced. He is right; [but] we do not maintain that the materia prima has been produced in the same manner as man is produced from the ovum, and that it can be destroyed in the same manner as man is reduced to dust. [Rather,] we believe that God created it from nothing, and that since its creation it has its own properties, viz., that all things are produced of it and again reduced to it, when they cease to exist; that it does not exist without Form; and that it is the source of all genesis and destruction. Its genesis is not like that of the things produced from it, nor its destruction like theirs: for it has been created from nothing, and if it should please the Creator, He might reduce it to absolutely nothing.

The same applies to motion. Aristotle founds some of his proofs on the fact that motion is not subject to genesis or destruction. This is correct: if we consider motion as it exists at present, we cannot imagine that in its totality it should be subject, like individual motions, to genesis and destruction.

In like manner, Aristotle is correct in saying that circular motion is without beginning, in so far as seeing the rotating spherical body in actual existence, we cannot conceive the idea that that rotation has ever been absent.

The same argument we employ as regards the law that a state of potentiality precedes all actual genesis. This law applies to the Universe as it exists at present, when everything produced originates in another thing: but nothing perceived with our senses or comprehended in our mind can prove that a thing created from nothing must have been previously in a state of potentiality.

Again, as regards the theory that the heavens contain no opposites [in their elemental makeup, and are therefore indestructible], we admit its correctness: but we do not maintain that the production of the heavens has taken place in the same way as that of a horse or ass, and we do not say that they are like plants and animals, which are destructible on account of the opposite elements they contain. The main thing is, the nature of things when fully developed in no way show what had been the nature of those things before their completion.

W[e are following the majority opinion of the Sages who, disagreeing with both Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel, hold that the heavens and the earth were created simultaneously, as well as their components in potential form. But w]e also do not consider farfetched the statement of those [viz. Beis Shammai] who say that the heavens came into existence before the earth, or that the earth came into existence before the heavens [viz., Beis Hillel], or that the heavens have existed [since the first day of Creation] without stars [until the fourth day], or that certain species of creatures [such as the creatures of the waters and the skies] have been in existence since day five], and others [such as the land creatures] not [until day six]. For the state of the whole Universe when it came into existence may be compared with that of animals when their existence begins: the heart evidently precedes the testicles, the veins are in existence before the bones: although, when the animal is fully developed, none of the parts is missing which is essential to its existence.

If the Scriptural account of the Creation be taken at face value [that each day of Creation there was an independent creation ex nihilo, in immediate actual state, of each component of the world], all this explanation would also be necessary [and not only for showing why Aristotle’s arguments do not disprove Creation ex nihilo], even though the matter is not so [for actually—in accordance with the majority opinion of Chazal—everything was created in potential state instantaneously the first day, and only brought into actuality step-by-step each of the Creation days], as will be shown when we shall discuss [in II:30] this statement [by Chazal regarding the simultaneous creation ex nihilo of heaven and earth,].

You must strongly maintain this principle, for it is a high rampart that I have built around the Torah, surrounding it, making it able to resist the stones of all who shoot at it.

Aristotle, or rather his followers, may perhaps ask us how we know that the Universe has been created: and that other forces than those it has at present were acting in its Creation, since we hold that the properties of the Universe, as it exists at present, prove nothing as regards its creation. We reply, there is no necessity for this according to our plan; for we do not desire to prove the Creation, but only its possibility: and this possibility is not refuted by arguments based on the nature of the present Universe, which we do not dispute. Once we have established the admissibility of our theory, we shall show its superiority. In attempting to prove the inadmissibility of Creatio ex nihilo, the Aristotelians can therefore not derive any support from the nature of the Universe: they must resort to the notion our mind has formed of God. Their proofs include the three methods which I have mentioned above, and which are based on the notion conceived of God. In the next chapter I will expose the weak points of these arguments, and show that they really prove nothing.


תרגם לעברית, ביאר והכין על-פי כתבי-יד ודפוסים
מהדורת אינטרנט מעוצבת בידי יהודה איזנברג

חלק שני - פרק [יז]


[אין להשוות דבר קיים למצבו בעת התהוותו]

כל מחודש שנהיה אחר שלא היה, ואפילו היה חומרו מצוי, ורק פשט צורה ולבש אחרת 1 - הרי טבעו אחר חידושו וגמרו ותנוחתו, 2 זולת [=שונה מ-] טבעו בעת התהוותו, כאשר החל לצאת מן הכוח אל הפועל, וגם זולת טבעו לפני שיתעורר לצאת אל הפועל 3.

המשל בכך
, כי טבע זרע האשה, כשהוא דם בכליו, זולת [=שונה מ-] טבעו בעת ההריון בעת מפגשו בזרע הזכר ותחילת תנועתו 4, וגם טבעו בעת זו, זולת טבע החי השלם אחר לידתו. ואין ללמוד בכל האופנים*4 מטבע הדבר אחר היותו וגמרו ומציאותו בתנוחתו כפי שלמות מצבו, על מצב אותו הדבר בעת תנועתו להוויה; ואין ללמוד ממצבו בעת תנועתו, על מצבו לפני שהחל בתנועה.

וכל זמן שתטעה בעניין זה, ותביא ראיה
5 מטבע הדבר המצוי בפועל על טבעו כשהוא בכוח, יתעוררו לך ספקות גדולים, ויהיו בטלים לדעתך דברים שהוויתם חיובית, ויתחייבו לדעתך דברים בטלים6.

[משל - לידת האדם]
והנה נניח במה שהמשלנו בו
7, שאדם שלם מאוד באפיו הטבעי8, נולד, ומתה אמו אחר שהניקתו מספר חודשים. ובודדו גברים 9 בהשלמת גידול הילד הזה באי בודד, עד אשר גדל והשכיל ולמד. והוא לא ראה מעולם אשה, ולא נקבה מנקבות שאר בעלי החיים.
ואז שאל ואמר
לאיש מאשר עמו, היאך נמצאנו, ובאיזה אופן נהוינו?
השיבו הנשאל
, כי כל אחד ממנו נתהווה בבטן אחד ממיננו כמונו, והיא נקבה בצורת כך וכך, ושהאחד ממנו היה קטן הגוף בתוך הבטן, נע וניזון וגדל לאט, והוא חי, עד שיגיע לגבול מסוים בגודלו, ואז יפתח לו פתח בשיפולי הגוף, יגח 10 ממנו ויצא, ואינו חדל להתפתח אחרי כן עד שיהיה כפי שאתה רואה אותנו.
הרי אותו הולד היתום
11 ישאל בהחלט ויאמר: ואותו האחד ממנו בעת שהיה קטן בבטן, והוא חי נע וגדל, האם היה אוכל ושותה ונושם מפיו ונחיריו ומוציא רעי?
ואז יאמרו לו
הרי בלי ספק ימהר להכחיש דבר זה, ויביא הוכחה על כל הדברים הללו האמיתיים שהם נמנעים במה שילמד מן המצוי השלם והיציב
: כל אחד ממנו, אם תעצר ממנו הנשימה אפילו מקצת שעה, ימות ויבטלו 13 תנועותיו, והיאך יצטייר שיהא אחד ממנו בתוך כלי אטום המקיפו בתוך הגוף במשך חודשים והוא חי נע?
ואלו בלע אחד ממנו ציפור, היה אותו הציפור מת מיד בהגיעו לבטן
14, וכל שכן בבטן התחתון;
וכל אחד ממנו, אם לא יאכל המזון בפיו וישתה המים, יאבד בלי ספק במשך ימים מעטים, והיאך ישאר האדם חי חודשים ללא אכילה ושתיה
וכל אחד ממנו אם יאכל ולא יוציא רעי, הרי במשך ימים מעטים ימות בתחלואים קשים, והיאך יתקיים זה חודשים בלי שיוציא רעי
ואלו ינקב בטן של אחד [קצט] ממנו, ימות אחרי איזה ימים, והיאך אתה חושב כי העובר הזה היה טבורו פתוח
והיאך לא יפתח עיניו ולא יפרוש כפיו ולא יפשוט רגליו, וכל אבריו בריאים אין פגע בהם כפי שאתם מדמים
ועל דרך זו ימשך לו כל ההיקש, שלא יתכן בשום אופן שהאדם יתהווה בצורה זו

התבונן נא במשל זה ובחנהו אתה המעיין, ואז תמצא כי זה בדיוק מצבנו עם אריסטו. שאנו ההולכים
15 אחרי משה רבנו ואברהם אבינו עליהם השלום, בדעה 16 שהעולם נתהווה באופן כך וכך, ונעשה כך מכך, ונברא בך אחר כך.
ויבוא אריסטו לסתור דברינו, ולהביא לנו ראיה מטבע המציאות הנחה, השלמה
המצויה בפועל, אשר אנחנו מודים לו שהיא אחר תנוחתה ושלמותה אינה דומה למאומה כמה שהייתה בעת ההתהוות, ושהיא נמצאת אחר ההעדר המוחלט.
ואיזו ראיה
17 תתקיים נגדנו מכל מה שהוא אומר?!
אבל יתקיימו אותן הראיות
18 למי שטוען כי טבע המציאות הזו הנחה, מורה על היותו מחודש, וכבר הודעתיך כי אני איני טוען זאת, והנני חוזר ומזכיר לך יסודות דרכיו, ואראה לך היאך אין מחייב אותנו מהם מאומה, כיון שטענתנו שהעולם בכללותו המציאו ה' אחר ההעדר, והווהו עד אשר שלם כפי שאתה רואהו.

[נגד אריסטו]

אמר, כי החומר הראשון אינו הווה ולא נפסד, ובא להביא ראיה על כך 19 מן הדברים ההווים הנפסדים, ובאר מניעת התהוותו.
וזה נכון, כי אנחנו לא טענו שהחומר הראשון נתהווה כהתהוות האדם מן הזרע, או יפסד כהפסד האדם אל העפר
20, אלא טענו כי ה' המציאו מן האין.
והוא כפי שהוא אחר מציאותו, כלומר: שכל דבר מתהווה ממנו, ונפסד אליו כל מה שנתהווה ממנו, ולא ימצא מעורטל מצורה
21, ועדיו מסתיימת ההוויה וההפסד. והוא אינו הווה כהתהוות מה שמתהווה ממנו, ולא נפסד כהפסד מה שנפסד אליו, אלא נוצר 22. וכאשר ירצה יוצרו - מעדירו העדר גמור ומוחלט.

וכך בדומה אנו אומרים בתנועה
, לפי שהוא הביא ראיה מטבע התנועה, שהיא לא הווה ולא נפסדת.
והדבר נכון, לפי שאנו טוענים כי אחר מציאות התנועה כפי הטבע הזה אשר
היא יציבה עליו, אין לשער הויתה והפסדה הוויה כללית והפסד כללי כהויית התנועות החלקיות ההוות, וכהפסד התנועות החלקיות. והוא הדין בכל מה שמחייב טבע התנועה.
וכך הדבר בתנועה הסיבובית שאין לה התחילה
23, הוא נכון אחר מציאות הגוף העיגול הנע בסיבוב לא יצטייר בתנועתו התחילה 24.

וכך אנו אומרים באפשרות, שהוא מחייב שתקדם לכל הווה
25. שאין זה מתחייב אלא במציאות הזו היציבה, אשר כל מה שמתהווה בה מתהווה הוא ממצוי מסוים. אבל הדבר הנברא מן ההעדר, אין שם דבר שירמוז עליו לא בחוש ולא בשכל, שאז תקדם לו אפשרות.

וכך אנו אומרים גם במה שהשמים אין בה נגדיות
, 26 שזה נכון. פרט לכך שאנחנו [ר] לא טענו כי השמים נתהוו כהתהוות הסוס והדקל 27, ולא טענו שהרכבן מחייב להם הפסד כצומח וכחי מחמת הנגודים שבהם.

קיצורו של דבר
28 הוא מה שאמרנו, שהמצוי במצב שלמותו וגמרו אין מצבו זה מורה על מצבו לפני שלמותו.

וגם אין קושיא עלינו בדברי האומר כי השמים נתהוו לפני הארץ, או הארץ לפני השמים
29, או שהיו השמים ללא כוכבים 30, או מין חי בלעדי מין אחר 31, כי כל זה בעת התהוות הכללות הזו. כמו שהחי בעת התהוותו נתהווה בו הלב לפני האשכים, כפי שאנו רואים בעין, והעורקים לפני העצמות, ואף על פי שאחר שלמותו לא ימצא בו אבר בלעדי אבר מכל האברים אשר לא יתכן קיום האדם בלעדיהם. כל זה אנו נזקקים לו אם נקח את המקרא כפשוטו, ואף על פי שאין הדבר כך כמו שיתבאר בהמשך הדברים 32.

ולכן ראוי שתשמר בעניין זה
33, כי הוא חומה בצורה בניתיו סביב התורה מקיף אותה, המונע אבני כל יורה אליה.

[אנו מוכיחים אפשרות חידוש, ולא הכרח החידוש]

ואם יטען 18 נגדנו אריסטו - כלומר: התופש השקפתו 34 - ויאמר, כיון שאין לנו למידות מן המציאות הזו, במה ידעתם אתם שזה נתהווה ושהיה שם טבע35 אחר הווה אותו 36.
אמרנו אין זה מחייב אותנו לפי מחשבתנו, לפי שאין אנו רוצים עתה לבסס שהעולם מחודש. אלא כל מה שאנו רוצים, הוא
אפשרות היותו מחודש, ושלא תבטל הנחה זו בלמידות בטבע המציאות אשר אין אנו מכחישים אותה.
וכאשר תתבסס אפשרות ההנחה כמו שביארנו, נשוב אחר כן ונכריע השקפת החידוש. ולא ישאר בעניין זה אלא אם יביא
37 לנו מניעת חידוש העולם לא מצד טבע המציאות, אלא ממה שמחייב השכל ביחס לה', והם שלושת האופנים אשר כבר הזכרתים לך לעיל 38, ושהם לומדים בהם על קדמות העולם מצד ה'.

והנני מגלה לך צדדי הפיקפוק בהם עד שלא תתקיים מהם ראיה כלל, בפרק הבא


כגון התהוות החי והצומח.
מצב שבו הוא נשאר לאחר גמרו. מצב קיומו השלימותי.
ובכך יש להבחין בכל דבר שלושה שלבים הללו אף בדבר שחומרו קיים.
התנועה כאן היא ההכללתית וכפי שקדם שכל שינוי תנועה הוא. וראה גם סוקראטס בספר תיאטיטוס של אפלטון מהד' רות עמ' 34 ועמ' 125.
לפי כ"י ב, בכל המציאות.
אפשר: ותחיל את הלמידות. או: ותמשיך ללמוד.
כלומר: שהתוצאה תהיה שדברים אפשריים יהיו לפי מסקנותיך ותוצאות עיונך נמנעים בלתי אפשרים. ולהיפך דברים הנמנעים יהיו לדעתך אפשריים.
לעיל, התהוות זרע האשה.
8. "
כאמל אלפטרה" אפיו הטבעי ותכונותיו הנפשיות והשכליות בתכלית השלמות. ובר"ש "שלם במדע המוטבע באדם" וכביתר המקומות לא דק במילה זו.
9. "
ואנפרד" כלומר: שנשאר טיפולו בידי גברים בלבד. ולפי כ"י ב, מ, "האיש" ואינו נכון, כי יש עוד גברים אחרים בכפר דכרייא זה וכמשמע לקמן.
10. "
יברז" ובר"ש הושמט. וכדרכו להשמיט כל מה שנראה לו מיותר.
11. "
אליתים" כשמילה זו נאמרת תוך שטף הדברים ללא צורך כי הלא מדובר ביתום. יש בה משום הקטנה מעין בטוי "המסכן", לרמוז שאינו מסוגל להבין דברים המובנים לאחרים.
הנח. הנמצא במצבו השלימותי.
אפשר: וישבתו
14. "
אלמעדה" הבטן העליון. האסטומכא.
בר"ש "הרודפים". [קצט]
16. "
נשתקד" כבר העירותי פעמים רבות, שאינה סתם אמונה. וכפי שבאר רבנו לעיל ח"א פרק נ. ורס"ג בהקדמתו לאמונות ודעות פ"ד ראה שם מהדורתי. ובר"ש "נאמין" ונתן מקום לנרבוני להשחיל את הזיותיו המפוקפקות בדברי רבנו.
17. "
חג'ה" וראה לעיל פרק טו בע' 2. ואפשר לתרגם: ואיזו טענה תעמוד נגדנו.
אף כאן "חג'ה" וכדלעיל פ"ט הע' 2,
וכדלעיל בחלק זה פרק יד.
כלומר: דבר מדבר ודבר אל דבר.
כלומר: שחומר בלי צורה אינו מצוי כלל. ואינו ניתן לתפישה. ומה שאנחנו אומרים חומר וצורה אינה אלא הפשטה מחשבתית. או כלשון רבנו בהלכות יסודי התורה פ"ד הל' ז אלא לב האדם הוא שמחלק גוף הנמצא בדעתו ויודע שהוא מחובר מגולם וצורה.
אפשר: נברא. מחודש.
אין בה נקודת אחיזה מהיכן התחילה, ומזל טלה שאנו אומרים כי משם התחיל המחזור אינו אלא ציור דמיוני של קבוצת כוכבים. וראה בהלכות ברכות פ"י הל' יח. וקדוש החודש פ"י הל' ד.
לפירוש דברי אריסטו בעניין זה ראה לעיל פי"ג הע' 39.
וכדלעיל, הדרך הרביעי.
שם הדרך השלישי.
21. "
אלנכ'לה" ובר"ש והחמור, ושמא ט"ס הוא [ר] וצ"ל והתמר.
28. "
מלאך אלאמר" וכפי שתרגמתי, וכעין לשון רבנו בהלכות ברכות פ"י הל' ז. ובר"ש "ועקר העניין".
מחלוקת בית שמאי ובית הלל בחגיגה יב א.
לפי פשטי הכתובים בבראשית א שהמאורות נבראו ברביעי. ועד אז היו השמים ללא כוכבים.
לפי פשטי הכתובים שם, שרץ המים והעוף בחמישי, וחית הארץ למינה בשישי.
לקמן פרק ל.
היסוד הגדול אשר הביא כאן רבנו, שאין ללמוד ולהקיש ממצב הדברים כפי שהם למה שהיה בהתהוות, אפילו בהתהוות יש מיש כיצירת העובר, וכל שכן יש מאין.
כי אריסטו הלא כבר מת.
נאמרה כאן המילה "טבע" כי המדובר הושם בפי אריסטו.
בר"ש "אחר הויתו" וטעות הוא.
אפשר: יוכיח.
פרק יד מחלק זה בשם תלמידי אריסטו וממשיכי דרכו.