Tuesday, June 07, 2005

On More Bad Reasoning and Bad Proofs...

I caught a posting by Hasidic Rebbele who happened to catch the same site (Hidabroot) that I found. While I found some articles, he found a video on that site which claims to prove that the Torah is divine. I expressed on his site that I would look at the video, but I hoped that the proofs contained therein were better than the proofs in the article.

I hoped in vain.

I only watched the first thirty five minutes of the video. Perhaps later on I'll go back and look at the rest.

The "proofs" he presented are as follows:

1. Fins and scales - the statement of the Mishna that all fish that have scales have fins. So far, to the best of my knowledge, this has found to be true. However, this is hardly proof of the divinity of the Torah (or the Mishna). After all, if one has encountered numerous fish, and found that in every case where there are scales there are also fins, one may be comfortable enough formulate a general rule. This is hardly proof of divinity.

Consider: I'm stating today that there are no cold-blooded mammals. Now, if a thousand years from now we never find a cold-blooded mammal, does that make my statement (or me) divine? Of course not. I simply took what I found and extrapolated a general rule.

2. The nature of the earth (round and rotating): He states that it was Galileo (?) who discovered that the earth was round. (I'm pretty sure that Columbus, sailing a hundred years before Galileo knew it and Magellan's crew, which finished their trip around the world 40 years before Galileo's birth certainly knew it). In any event, the fact that the earth was round was not unknown in Galileo's time or even Columbus time. The earth's roundness was discovered long before by the Greek's who observed the shape that the Earth's shadow cast on the moon during a lunar eclipse.

The author tries to pass off the Zohar as part of TSBP and having been given at Mt. Sinai, without any proof to that statement.

In addition, he brings a proof from the Zohar which states that there is a place on earth where it is light all day except for one hour. The author then tries to sell to us that this "one place" is the North Pole.

As a matter of fact, at the North Pole you do have 24 hours of daylight, not 23. Secondly, there is a second place where this happens as well - the South Pole - but that seems to have escaped the authors of the Zohar. Thirdly, there are places even distant from the poles that have at least one day of complete light per year - any place north of the Arctic Circle and any place south of the Antarctic Circle will have at least one of complete light per year (with the number of days increasing as you get closer to the pole). Lastly, the Zohar seems to miss the fact that in these places there is also an extended period of darkness.

3. Revolutionary period of the moon. The Gemara is quoted as mentioning that the period of the moon is 29.5 days and 793/1080 hours. This is a well known Gemara. The Gemara is correct - to a point. The author of the video states that this is how long it takes the moon to revolve around the earth. In this, he is wrong. The time is takes for the moon to revolve around the earth is actually only about 27 and a half days. So, then, what's 29.5 + 793/1080? That's the synodic period of the moon. If you don't want to click on the Wikipedia link, I'll explain it briefly. The revolutionary period is how long it takes for the moon to revolve around the earth. The synodic period is how long it takes for any given object to return to the same spot in the sky relative to the Sun (as viewed from Earth). Since this period is *based* on observation, it is not terribly difficult to measure it and is hardly proof of divinity.

4. History of Germany - The author quotes the Gemara in Megillah which states that if Germany is allowed to exist, it will destroy the world. Obviously, this is in error as Germany as a nation has existed and yet the world continues to exist. While it is true that they brought devestation on a continent in two wars, this hardly equals destroying the world. The author tries to cover this up by translating the term "destroy the world" as "want to destroy the world."

He then brings the Gemara which states that there are 300 crown princes in Germany. He shows us that in the Peace of Westphalia, 300 princes came together to form the nation. Well, the actual number was closer to 360, but I suppose I can let that slide. However, it is far more logical to state that the Amora was simply describing the state of Germany as it existed back in his time (the Gemara is in present tense anyway). In the Germanic area at the time, there were any number of small tribes in the area.

Lastly, the author claims that the date of Germany's formation was foretold, but never actually produces this.

5. Number of stars. The author brings the Gemara in Berachos (32b) which states that there are 1,604,340,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe. He states that only God could have provided such a number. I will agree with the assessment that only God can provide an exact number to the number of stars. This sounds like an estimate to me. In any event, even if it is an estimate, it's off - current understanding is that there are 70 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 stars in the observable universe. And if (as I predict they would) someone will say "well, how do you know you're estimate is right?" I would just as easily turn the question back and say "how do you know the Gemara is right?" In short, the proof that the Gemara is divine is that there are that many stars because the Gemara says there are that many stars. That's not a proof that's circular reasoning.

The last bit I caught was when he said (at 20:43 in the video) that it was "only very recently" that it was discovered "that the stars are formed in constellations." I'm not sure what he means by this meaningless sentence. Does he mean that only recently we've discovered constellations? That, of course, is nonsense - the constellations were well known even before Mattan Torah. Does he mean that the stars are formed as parts of constellations?" That's nonsense as well, since they only appear to us that way from Earth, because we lack "depth perception" into space. Is he misusing "constellations" for "galaxies?" Maybe - but the existence of galaxies isn't new news either.

6. Life after Death. In order to prove that there is life after death, he presents some people who have had Near Death Experiences. Hardly proof of anything. There are plenty of people who have had NDEs and seen Jesus. Would the author of the video accept their testimony as well?

7. Predestination - The author then tries to prove that everything (one's income, lifespan, etc.) is predetermined by God. How does he prove this? By observing that some people succeed in life with little effort, while others grind away at the millstone their entire lives and never get out of poverty. Some people with college educations make very little while others who have no college education go on to make fortunes. Some people in terrible shape live long lives, while some professional athletes get cut down in the primes of their lives due to heart attacks, etc.

Of course, this is not proof at all. Firstly, in any large sample, you are bound to have exceptions. But it's not the exception to the rule that proves it - it's the rule itself. If you place all the people with college educations on a bell curve, and all those without college educations on a bell curve, you'll find that as a whole, the people who go to college *do* earn more. If you put healty people in a bell curve (in determining the length of their lives) and non-healthy people, you'll find that, as a whole, the healthier people *do* live longer. That Statistics 101, which the author of the video doesn't seem to grasp.

8. The rest of the video (from 39:40 on) doesn't prove anything.

I'm no scientist, and yet I know enough to see that these proofs are shams. I wish people would not present proofs unless they actually prove something.

The Wolf

58 comments:

DiffAnon said...

Very nice methodical deconstruction. I've heard most of these before, and heard the fish one just a couple of hours ago even. I wasn't about to tell the rabbi what I thought though. One day perhaps...

Z said...

Since they included the fins/scales "proof", I'm surprised that they didn't include the more powerful "Was Moshe a Zoologist?" proof regarding the Torah's mentioning of the "only" species with one kosher siman. R. Slifkin blew that proof out of the water in his analysis of maalei gerah (cud chewing), but many folks still like to quote it.

Hayim said...

Hi Wolf,

As a BT who used to believe in this kind of "proofs", I can personnally attest that it was a bit of a challenge to my emunah when I realized, finally, how stupid these arguments really are ! But OTOH I don't know if I would ever become frum had I learned back then about the implausibility of the historicity of the Exodus, of the questions raised by Biblical Criticism, and so on and so forth.

By the way, the argument from the fish is erroneous. There's a creature called apparently "stincus marinus", which has scales but no fins (cf. Maadanei Yom Tov on Rosh in Chullin 68:5).

Many answers have been suggested, but the point is, if you want to remain skeptical you have a basis on which to stand.

BrooklynWolf said...

Z

I was actually waiting for that one to come up and it didn't. I guess they read Rabbi Slifkin's book. :)

Hayim,

Thanks for sharing your story. While it's good that you became frum through these proofs, I think you might be the exception, rather than the rule, that you stayed frum even after you realized the proofs didn't hold water.

The Stincus Marinus, BTW, is not an exception to the fins/scales rule because it's not a fish.

DiffAnon,

Thanks for the commments. The fins/scales proof has been around for a long time, and of all the proofs, at least this one stands up as being pretty much factually true (even if it's not a proof to the divinity of the Torah).

The Wolf

hayim said...

> The Stincus Marinus, BTW, is not an exception to the fins/scales rule because it's not a fish.

Says who ? This is like the question of the llama, which has one sign of kashrus, and yet is not listed in the Torah. Fundamentalists claim it is a sub-type of Gamal, and it may well be. But the point is, given how exceedingly unclear the definition of what a "min" is in the Torah, you can just as well maintain that a llama is *not* a gamal, and that pretty much basically destroys your so-called "proof".

Here too. Granted, in modern zoology the Stincus Marinus is not a fish (it's got legs), but the Torah's definitions might be different.

I have a feeling that whales are considered fishes (must check) ; if it is true, why not the Stincus Marinus ?

GregoryT said...

question to Z: what's the title of R. Slifkin's book you mentioned? Just wanted to read it.

BrooklynWolf said...

The book in called The Camel, The Hare and the Hyrax. It's available from Yashar Books.

The Wolf

Mis-nagid said...

"I'm surprised that they didn't include the more powerful "Was Moshe a Zoologist?" proof"

That's a gemara. And the word they used is hunter, not zoologist, seeing as the talmudic era was lacking in such specialties :-).

"I don't know if I would ever become frum had I learned back then about the implausibility"

I'd invite you to join the Frum Skeptics Group. I, and, I expect, others on the the list, would be interested to hear your story and input. We have a few ex-Aish "success stories" already.

"I guess they read Rabbi Slifkin's book"

And that was why he was banned. His books are flaccid apologetics, and that's the best anyone's fronted yet. He wrote nothing new at all. What raised their ire is that his book was sold in frum institutions, thus piercing the reality distortion bubble. There are books containing far greater kefira that elicit no ban, because they can't be seen from inside the RDB. Slifkin stepped into the crosshairs by being chareidi, and thus a danger. They read his book -- and therefore so might others.

"While it's good that you became frum through these proofs"

Why? Would you feel the same about his becoming Mormon after reading the professional scientific apologetics of FARMS? (Check out their Evidence of the Week!) Hayim was had, as were many others. And when they find out they were lied to, they, well, see here. Here's a semi-famous one (Mormons believe American Indians came from Israel, like Orthodox Jews believe Israelites came from Egypt, resulting in the same need to hide the evidence.)

I have know idea why Haym stayed frum after learning the truth, and I won't hazard a guess. However, in my more-than-average experience, most frum people freak out when they learn how badly evidence clashes with traditional beliefs. Of course, most never learn that, which is to be expected, considering how much effort goes into making it so. Ignorance is so widespread that most frum Jews have never even read the Tanakh from beginning to end. How many frum women do you know that have even read the Torah in its entirety? This environment creates an optimal evironment for explosive results when a dose of reality is tossed into the mix. It takes an especially well-brainwashed person to say "I will believe even if the evidence contradicts that belief."

This situation isn't new. Quite the contrary, it's the very raison d'etre of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy budded off of traditional Judaism when these advances in knowledge were made, its very outline shaped by the hollows of the Jews who left. Those who stayed maintained the course by becoming fundamentalist, today called Orthodox. Orthodoxy isn't compatible with the evidence, so they simply sealed themselves off from it. Instead of trying to argue against Bible Criticism, they expunged any reference to it. No mention is made of any issues, even ones previously acceptable, such as textual criticism. Ignorance became institutionalized -- and enforced.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"No mention is made of any issues, even ones previously acceptable, such as textual criticism."

That's not entirely true. D.Z. Hoffman certainly confronted it. Contemporaries like Mordechai Breuer do as well.

Although granted, the exceptions prove the rule.

Mis-nagid said...

"That's not entirely true. D.Z. Hoffman certainly confronted it."

Yes, and he lost the argument. He was the last of the defenders, and his loss ushered in the era of not even trying. That's no knock against Hoffman, who went about it the right way: arguing it from evidence. His was a valiant attempt, but ultimately unsuccessful. There are no more Hoffmans in the Orthodox world.

"Contemporaries like Mordechai Breuer do as well.

Breur does it only behind closed doors, for all the reasons stated above. Also, his ideas are only Orthodox by the skin of their teeth (and I don't even credit that that favor). He's certainly not accepted in mainstream Orthodoxy. Breuer and the few other remaining Orthodox who tackle the issue usually focus on redifining what "revelation" means, or in stretching the bounds of what was traditionally believed to previously unknown degree. (Naturally, they cite mekoros.)

There was an article by Ilana Goldstein Saks in ATID that went over the handful of approaches used by the rare Orthodox Jew who confronts Biblical Criticism (Hoffman, Breuer, Halivni, and Ross).

Some choice quotes from that article (from Saks, unless noted):

"The goal should not be introduce new, potentially confusing ideas unless the student needs it, or is interested in it.1 One should not automatically assume that a student wants or is ready to be introduced to less traditional opinions, even if they are questioning traditional point of view. It is unfair to expose a student unwittingly to something that might open up more questions for him or her."

"It should be note that the approach of R. Breuer is not without educational pitfalls. Despite his own unfaltering belief in the divinity of the Torah, his blanket acceptance of biblical criticism can sometimes be confusing to a student if they do buy into his particular conception of Torah min haShamayim."

"When I first discussed some of these issues with R. Halivni a number of years ago the first thing he said to me was to be careful which of my friends I discussed these issues with, because, he said, one should not confuse people who have not come to these questions on their own."

"One might wonder why it is necessary at all to consider opinions that test the boarders of traditional doctrine. The fact that there are not many (if at all) strictly Orthodox answers to the question of biblical criticism that satisfy most people who confront these issues is something to ponder. Is it because many orthodox people who seriously deal with these issues end up bending their definitions of traditional doctrine a bit, or is because not enough members of Orthodoxy are willing to confront these issues seriously? Unless a major change occurs in this area it is unreasonable to expect people to rely on answers which do not satisfy them. Perhaps this is a challenge for Modern Orthodoxy."

"... it is obvious that developing the means for disseminating a theology which takes the relative nature of any truth-claim into account with the complete intellectual integrity, while leaving religious fervor intact and undiluted, may turn out to be the greatest religious challenge of our age." -Tamar Ross

Mis-nagid said...

"The earth's roundness was discovered long before by the Greek's who observed the shape that the Earth's shadow cast on the moon during a lunar eclipse."

"The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church"
--Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)

hayim said...

> Also, his ideas are only Orthodox by the skin of their teeth

And if they are not "Orthodox", what's the big problem ? I don't why we should limit ourselves to these arbitrary boundaries of what constitutes acceptable thought.

I read Saks' article. It is interesting that out of the 4 scholars mentioned, 1 is dead (R. Hoffman), 1 is Conservative (Halivni) and two live in Israel (Breuer and Ross).

So I'm with Mis-Nagid on one point : it is obvious that the US Orthodox establishment does not want to deal with the problems of Biblical Criticism (the few articles published in Tradition these last years are simply laughable). But, IMHO, this is due to a great extent to the fact that they want to be perceived as *Orthodox*, and not (chas veshalom)Conservative or (chas veshalom chas veshalom) Reform.

But that's an American issue. In Israel there is hope, I think, to see observant thinkers deal honestly with the questions raised by BC.

I have not read Breuer's publications (will try), but I'm in the middle of Expanding the Palace of Torah. And I find Tamar Ross very, very good, if a bit too sophisticated sometimes for my taste. So she is not perceived by many others as Orthodox (she herself would define herself as fully observant) - who cares ? We all know here that orthodox weltanschauung evolves with the passing of time.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"So she is not perceived by many others as Orthodox (she herself would define herself as fully observant) - who cares ?"

If you these want people to influence "mainline" Orthodoxy then it definitely matters. There is still a widespread tabboo on accepting any information that pertains to Torah from non-Orthodox sources.

That said, this is more prevalent across the board in the US. To the extent that Judaism's future is in Israel, these people may shape and influence.

Hayim said...

> Yes, and he lost the argument. He was the last of the defenders, and his loss ushered in the era of not even trying. That's no knock against Hoffman, who went about it the right way: arguing it from evidence. His was a valiant attempt, but ultimately unsuccessful. There are no more Hoffmans in the Orthodox world.

Debate about Biblical criticism, whether Higher or Lower, was never mainstream in the frum world. In Eastern Europe nobody would have thought of raising the issue. Even in Germany, the Frankfurt (Hirschian) school was adamantly against investing time into researching that topic.

The only exception was in Berlin, where the rabbinical seminary was (R. Ezriel Hildesheimer, R. DZ Hoffman, R. Y Y Weinberg most notably). And then Hitler came along, and destroyed forever German Jewry.

So you see, the explanation for what you described is in good part historical / sociological.

Mis-nagid said...

"And if they are not "Orthodox", what's the big problem ?"

Because prax follows dox as surely as thunder follows lighting.

"I don't why we should limit ourselves to these arbitrary boundaries of what constitutes acceptable thought."

That's what a religion is. Step outside of the religion's stated claim, and you can't really call yourself a member of that religion. Otherwise, why isn't Christianity Judaism? Judaism is a remarkably flexible designation, but Orthodox is not. In fact, its definition is the opposite:

or·tho·dox P Pronunciation Key (├┤rth-dks)
adj.
1. Adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion.

Inflexibilty is the definition of Orthodoxy, and trying to make it change is like trying to make water not wet. If you've changed, you're not Orthodox.

"the US Orthodox establishment does not want to deal [...] But that's an American issue. In Israel there is hope, I think, to see observant thinkers deal honestly with the questions raised by BC."

And the Israeli Orthodox deal with it? You found two, both of whom are ultra-fringe. On the contrary, Israeli Orthodoxy is dominated by chareidi, to whom even evolution is sacrilege. No one with the designation "Orthodox" deals with it, because the answers are so weak in comparison with the questions that it's incredibly corrosive to faith. I don't see Israel doing any better at it, now or in the future.

"this is due to a great extent to the fact that they want to be perceived as *Orthodox*, and not (chas veshalom)Conservative or (chas veshalom chas veshalom) Reform."

"We all know here that orthodox weltanschauung evolves with the passing of time."

Well, frum people don't know that. Most frum people think of Abraham as a European wearing a yarmulke. But that's beside the point. Orthodox worldviews may change, but not that much. Check out this definition:

Orthodox Judaism
n.
The branch of Judaism that is governed by adherence to the Torah as interpreted in the Talmud.

The writers of the Talmud believed very strongly in Mosaic authorship. Their entire edifice was built on that mistake. If you discard that, you're not Orthodox. It's not like adopting a different siddur, or dressing to a new style. It's the end of Orthodoxy.

I find that it's quite an experience to try to learn Gemara after accepting the results of modern scholarship (and not just BC). It just doesn't work. Oh, it works as a subject, but as a source of halakha it falters. Every premise, every proof text, every justification rings false. It's even more interesting to read the Dead Seas Scrolls, whose authors felt just as justified in saying "this refers to" in regards to Scripture. Naturally, it referred to them, just as it always does.

Mis-nagid said...

Debate about Biblical criticism, whether Higher or Lower, was never mainstream in the frum world. In Eastern Europe nobody would have thought of raising the issue. Even in Germany, the Frankfurt (Hirschian) school was adamantly against investing time into researching that topic.

Agreed.

The only exception was in Berlin, where the rabbinical seminary was (R. Ezriel Hildesheimer, R. DZ Hoffman, R. Y Y Weinberg most notably).

Not that they were bastions of intellectual honesty. They were very careful to only address their response containing the "dangeous" information to outsiders. Even they, the stalwart defense, didn't allow for it to be discussed amongst the proletariat.

And then Hitler came along, and destroyed forever German Jewry.

Which may have saved Orthodoxy. At least for a while.

So you see, the explanation for what you described is in good part historical / sociological.

That's a nice excuse. But it's been over 150 years. What's taking so long for Orthodoxy to answer? There are more educated Orthodox Jews than ever, more yeshivot, more kollels, more seforim. Still, silence on the BC front. Not just silence -- gags. I've read every Orthodox response to BC I could find, even the wackos like R' Dovid Gottlieb. I'm suitable unimpressed and unswayed, just as every other scholar is. The best ever put forward was Hoffman, and I don't forsee anyone improving on his failed performance.

Not only do I not believe that Orthodoxy can formulate an answer, I think that they're deathly afraid of the issue raising its head again. Every single book, article, or discussion about BC in the Orthodox world is tinged with the oily scent of fear. Those quotes from the Saks article will serve as fine example, but are in no way unique. Behind every sentence lies the fear that this challenge could unravel Orthodoxy, as it once almost did. The only successful response was to put up mechitzot, blinders to prevent knowledge of its existence.

Over the years, I've taken an informal (and thoroughly unscientific) poll to see how many Jewish people know about BC. My method, so as not raise suspicions about myself, was to ask what JEDP stands for. If they didn't know, no harm done. Sometimes, if it was a stranger, I'd also ask what the words Documentary Hypothesis mean.

Amongst the frum, the number was almost zero. Amongst the Conservative and Reform the number was (to me) surpringly low. Reconstructionist had a very high recognition rate. I'm convinced that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews do not know of its existence at all, and consider the Torah's origin to be a complete mystery outside of the holy seforim.

The tactic of active suppression has worked. However, the cracks are appearing. I found it (well after I was an atheist!), as did Hayim. Many other have too. As Orthodoxy gets comfortable in America, modernity will beckon just as it did in Berlin, and the books will no longer be hidden. What do you think will happen?

imainish said...

Wolf -
Do you honestly believe that Rashi, Rambam, the Gra, RSRH, RYBS etc. etc. etc . never thought about any of these questions? You think these amazing intelligent accomplished men (I would dare say a sight more than mis-nagid by any measure) just shrugged off the "tough questions" only the great minds posting here could possibly raise and/or comprehend? Obviously they did and none of the nonsense being raised by Mis-nagid changed their minds a bit. If it's good enough for them then it's good enough for me. Should be for you as well.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"If it's good enough for them then it's good enough for me. Should be for you as well. "

I can just see Tevye, arms raised, singing "Traditionnnn, tradition!". And then one of his daughters married a Communist and another married a Cossack.

The problem is that even if its "good enough" for you, it is not good enough for everyone else, even if in your view it should be good enough for them. The attitude that it was good enough for smart rabbis so its good enough for me so it should be good enough for you didn't prevent Tevye's kids from ignoring what he'd have wanted and it won't prevent your kids or my kids if they're perplexed.

These issues need to be confronted. Mis-nagid may be right that ultimately they cannot be answered, but that's a separate issue. The "good enough" response is no solution.

Mis-nagid said...

it won't prevent your kids or my kids if they're perplexed.

I'm curious as to what you do tell your kids. Of course, "None of your f*cking business" is a perfectly valid response.

imainish said...

misnagid -
Feathers ruffled? Too bad. Now find yourself a competent Orthodox Rabbi to answer your questions. Unless, you have no desire to learn. Usually that can be asscociated with those who can't back up their thoughts and must resort to gutter language to add impact to their points. Prove me wrong and let us know who you seek out.

BrooklynWolf said...

Do you honestly believe that Rashi, Rambam, the Gra, RSRH, RYBS etc. etc. etc . never thought about any of these questions?

They may have thought about these questions, they may not have. That's not really the point. I don't know that Rashi considered the Gemara's number of stars in Megillah as proof of the Torah's divinity... he may have just taken it as faith and left it at that.

The fact remains that even if they did, they didn't leave an answer for us - and so we ask. Or do you propose we simply stop asking all questions altogether on the grounds of "Rashi, etc. surely must have thought of this...?"

The Wolf

imainish said...

Wolf -
Ask away. The only question is are we really looking for answers or looking to just to deride. Attitude is everything. Sitting in the company of scoffers is not a good place to be. Enfoce your code: "Openess but not so open that the brains fall out". You'll find plenty of good reading here: http://www.mesora.org/
We pray for the day when the Wolf and the lamb lay together, not the wolf and the pig.

BrooklynWolf said...

imainish,

I don't think I've been scoffing, nor have I been looking to deride. All I have done here is deconstruct some proofs to the divinity of the Torah. Mind you, this takes nothing away from the Torah itself - just from the proofs.

Do you think this is a problem? Or should any "proof" to the Torah be allowed to stand unquestioned?

The Wolf

imainish said...

Wolf -
Not really been referring to you. We all know who the scoffers are. I happen to agree with you that the proofs can be weak. Some speak to me, while others don't. I would like to suggest the following. Jews have been the most persecuted group on the face of the planet. Two points lead to a striking conclusion: a)We have a lot people angry at us all through history. If we were just a farce and making it all up why would anyone be bothered by our tiny group. b) We have survived all of it as a people. That is no coincidence.
We must have something right.

BrooklynWolf said...

imainish,

Christians use this proof a lot as well. Their claim is "why would people allow themselves to be thrown to the lions if their claims weren't true..." Of course, that's not a proof either - all it proves (if that) is that they themselves believed their claims, not that there is any truth to it.

The Wolf

Mis-nagid said...

find yourself a competent Orthodox Rabbi to answer your questions.

What part of "I've read every Orthodox response to BC I could find, even the wackos like R' Dovid Gottlieb" did you not understand?

How about this: You find me an Orthodox response to BC that I haven't heard of, and I'll gladly study it.

Mis-nagid said...

I don't know that Rashi considered the Gemara's number of stars in Megillah as proof of the Torah's divinity... he may have just taken it as faith and left it at that.

Rashi believed a lot of silly things. For example, see his uncritical acceptance of the alchemical claim that eggs filled with dew fly up into the air when placed in sunlight. (Rashi on Shemos 16:14)

Rashi was a very well-versed commentator, but was neither a scientist nor a skeptic. Just because he said or believed something doesn't mean he was right.

Mis-nagid said...

"Enfoce your code: 'Openess but not so open that the brains fall out'"

See what Jewish Atheist had to say about BrooklynWolf's tagline.

Mis-nagid said...

"all it proves (if that) is that they themselves believed their claims, not that there is any truth to it."

"A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
--Oscar Wilde

imainish said...

Wolf -
You didn't read what I wrote. It's not a proof. Christianity has more holes than one can shake a stick at. People make silly choices about beliefs and lifestyles everyday. Even giving up their lives for those choices. I like to compare this to smoking. One can know it is bad for them and still choose smoke. If there wasn't the ability to doubt, then there would be no choice, and without choice this is all a pointless exercise. The preponderance of the evidence shows us to be the keepers of the "Truth". The fact that we have survived, I find personally striking.

Mis-nagid -
Read Chovos Halvavos. Also, have you ever heard of Rabbi Israel Chait? I think he could help you.

Mis-nagid said...

"The preponderance of the evidence shows us to be the keepers of the "Truth"."

Boy, you really swallowed a lot of that propaganda when they dunked you in it. Puke it up boy!

Read Chovos Halvavos."

May I just say, if that's your suggestion, you have no clue what you're up against.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"I'm curious as to what you do tell your kids."

So am I. Don't have kids yet, but don't think I am not really worried about their Jewish education.

Mis-nagid said...

"really worried about their Jewish education."

Jewish education, or Orthodox Jewish education?

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"Jewish education, or Orthodox Jewish education? "

Orthodox. I know that's your pet peeve. :p

Mis-nagid said...

No comprende. Given what you know, why would you want to submit your kids to an Orthodox education? My arrogant (but experienced) guess is that you say that now, but when you "cringe when [you] hear the things that they are taught" you'll reconsider. It sounds good in theory, but the reality is just too ugly to afford such neutrality. How many times do you think you can tell your kids that their teacher is wrong (gently phrased, natch) before the friction brings flame? And then there's the joy of your kid being kicked out of class for saying something heretical ("Not on purpose, Daddy!"). And if you don't, enjoy the little cultmember when he repudiates you as not frum enough.

You talk the talk, but I doubt you (or any educated MO) can walk the walk.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"Given what you know, why would you want to submit your kids to an Orthodox education? "

I am Orthodox. I like being Orthodox. I want my kids to be Orthodox.

your point about not really being able to undermine my kid's yeshiva education is sound. That is what bothers me. I don't want to undermine and I don't want them to learn crap and I don't want them to be 'perplexed'.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"And if you don't, enjoy the little cultmember when he repudiates you as not frum enough."

You're right. It's a tough deal.

Mis-nagid said...

"I am Orthodox. I like being Orthodox. I want my kids to be Orthodox."

I think you misspelled Orthoprax.

Joking aside, what dox are you really, that you want them to be, and that you would call Ortho? Remember, dox.

"I don't want to undermine and I don't want them to learn crap and I don't want them to be 'perplexed'."

Then Orthodoxy may not be for you.

"It's a tough deal."

It's not the only deal in town.

Zal said...

Mis-nagid said.. "How about this: You find me an Orthodox response to BC that I haven't heard of, and I'll gladly study it." Have you read J.D. Eisenstein's Commentary on the Torah?

Orthoprax said...

Wolf,

I know I'm a little late here, but on the topic of fishes, have you ever heard of Monopterus cuchia?

See here:
http://www.daatemet.org.il/daathalacha/en_fish.html

BrooklynWolf said...

Orthoprax,

I was not aware of this.

However, this can be viewed two ways.

One could take the approach that the Torah doesn't view eels as "fish" and therefore this creature falls outside the rule.

On the other hand, one can argue that the Torah doesn't state "dag" but rather "kol asher bamayim," which would seem to include eels, and therefore invalidate the rule.

I could go either way. I wasn't "married" to the rule being true (I don't believe that Chazal were scientific geniuses, and, as I stated above, even if the rule *is* correct, it isn't necessarily a logical proof of the divinity of the Mishna).

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

The Wolf

Mississippi John Hurt said...

Am I the only one who sees an element of "misery loves company" in Mis-nagid's postings? I grant him that he truly believes the things he writes, but his behavior (i.e., orthopraxy) doesn't match his beliefs. This leaves him profoundly conflicted and seriously unhappy, which accounts for his outbursts of anger and his inappropriate use of profanity.

But here's the terrible part: His way of dealing with this conflict is to prowl the internet and try to make other people equally unhappy, believing in some primitive way that this will bring him relief from his own misery. It won't work.

My suggestion for Mis-nagid: Get off the internet and work on resolving your own conflicts between belief and behavior. Once you accomplish this, you'll be a happier person and won't need to curse, argue, and try to make other people miserable.

Hayim said...

Mississippi john hurt,

even if you are right, it does not address the validity (or absence thereof) of the points he makes.

I read Kafka even though he was a tortured soul, and the same goes with Mis-Nagid, whoever he is and whatever his reasons may be.

Mis-nagid said...

Mississippi john hurt,
What made you think I'm orthoprax? I'm not.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"It's not the only deal in town."

Of course it isn't. But its the one I want for myself and my family, and besides, even with questions I believe its emes veyatziv.

Enigma4U said...

Mississippi John Hurt,

It must be a Southern thing, your taking such offense with a mild profanity used by Mis-Nagid. Chill out, will ya? And while you're at it, don't go diagnosing psychological conditions based on some four letter words being tossed around. Sure, Mis-Nagid is angry. You would be, too, if you were stuck in a situation where you are unable to live your life and your beliefs because of community pressure (read: cult). But not any less frustrating is realizing that you've wasted your time and effort in what could have been a stimulating, intellectual debate, only to get some irrelevant comments from a reader who doesn't even try to grasp the concepts discussed.

Mis-nagid said...

"One could take the approach that the Torah doesn't view eels as "fish" and therefore this creature falls outside the rule."

The Torah doesn't "view" anything, it's a book. Its authors had views, and had a very basic system of cladistics. Which is no problem at all, and dimishes the Torah's beauty not a drop, unless you commit the genre mistake and open yourself to why YHWH is so Iron Age Ancient Near-Eastern in His biological knowledge. Which leads to Slifkin books, which leads to bans.

hayim said...

> dimishes the Torah's beauty not a drop...

You're being dishonest, I believe ; I would never see the Torah as beautiful if it were just for me sacred litterature of the Iron Age. What's so beautiful about it, pray tell ? It is far from being the most poetic, moral, interesting, etc., book written by mankind, if it is just an ancient piece of litterature.

Why does it deserve more interest than, say, the code of Hammurabi or Alice in Wonderland ?

Mis-nagid said...

"Have you read J.D. Eisenstein's Commentary on the Torah?"

I don't own a copy, but I read someone else's a (long) while back. It was too rushed of a read, but it was more of the same. Eisenstein plays the "they're only out to destroy the Torah" card, and it's downhill from there. What evidence he does deploy is of the same sort Cassuto and Hoffman tried, with just as limited success. Many of the issues he raises are better answered by solutions other than Mosaic authorship, which he neglects. Furthermore, bringing back Mosaic authorship reraises all the questions that the DH answered, and his struggle to answer them pushes him to use non-Orthodox answers, such as Moshe redacting older documents. OK, that's still mostly Orthodox, but he's straining pretty hard at credulity, while the DH fits much cleaner.

The irony of the book is that it was published posthumously by his grandson Ira, who became Reconstructionist and married Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan's (the founder of Reconstructionism) daughter. I guess his arguments didn't persuade the publisher.

Still, my read was not as good as it should have been, and my memory of its contents may be faulty. I'm going to obtain a copy, if I can, and reread it. Thanks for bringing it up.

Mis-nagid said...

Hayim, that question requires a long answer. I intended to cover it on my blog in detail, but...

Try this: How do you feel about the Constitution of the United States of America? Don't forget that it enshrined slavery.

I've seen your response in myself, and in others for whom the Torah was once divine. It can be hard to appreciate it after it's fallen off that pedestal. It took me a long time to reevaluate it and to truly appreciate it for what it really is. Enigma4u is still working on that. :-)

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"You're being dishonest, I believe ; I would never see the Torah as beautiful if it were just for me sacred litterature of the Iron Age. What's so beautiful about it, pray tell ?"

Ask Robert Alter or the many Bible scholars who are certain its sacred literature of the Iron Age and of its beauty.

BrooklynWolf said...

Minor off-topic nitpick:

Try this: How do you feel about the Constitution of the United States of America? Don't forget that it enshrined slavery.
.

Tolerated is a better word than enshrined. In fact, the way it was set up, it was almost guaranteed that the African slave trade would end on 1/1/1808.

The Constituion of the CSA, OTOH, did more or less enshrine slavery.

Carry on...

The Wolf

hayim said...

Let me see if I'm getting your hint.

The Constitution is a 200-year-old legal document, whose original version would be considered today as outdated from many points of view (e.g. its morality ; or the language used). Yet, to an American citizen, one cannot help but feel concerned by it, if simply for the fact that it has reflected, and influenced, how America perceived its own identity and core values.

Same for the Bible, which would then be considered the main founding document of the Western World's identity. Even with the problems raised by modern scholarship, and the abandonment of its being viewed as essentially historical, so much of our cultural codes have been influenced by it that we cannot help but find beauty in reading it.

Is that what you had in mind ? It does make sense, I must admit.

Mis-nagid said...

BklynWlf, You're right, I used the wrong word.

Hayim, That's almost exactly it. I'd go further in some points and less in others, but that's the approach.

Mis-nagid said...

"Tolerated is a better word than enshrined."

And while we're on the topic, for the most part, so did the Torah. What the biblical authors were enshrining was the progressive precept that slaves were legal entities, about which laws could be enforced. Knock his tooth out, and there are legal consequences, you can't rape your slave's wife, etc... It wasn't all good, but it was a big step on the way towards the end of slavery. The Torah records a legal snapshot of the move away from death cults and the corresponding increase in human rights. As with a photo, the momentum is not visible, so the direction needs to be inferred from other clues. Much of the Torah may seem barbaric now, but, for its era, it shows how people (not gods) were moving forward, just as with the Constitution. That's one more sparkle of beauty for the Torah -- and it's from the "ugly" parts.

bya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Enigma4U said...

bya said:

"I know many people misnagid's age who grew up frum and have left orthodoxy, but none who don't feel much more warmly to it than misnagid, his inability to see any good in the "cult" is a sure-sign of how neurotic he is."

Oh, wise and introspective bya, why don't you point out to us neurotics the good that you see in the cult, for our neurosis has rendered us blind. It seems you don't really see much that is positive either, or surely you would have volunteered some values you find in frum living, instead of resorting to bolstering your argument by using the Fallacy of Personal Attack.

BrooklynWolf said...

Administrator's Note:

I removed bya's last post because it contained ad hominem attacks against another commentator's wife and children. Normally I believe in leaving such posts as they are as testimonies to the nature of the poster, but the person who'se family was attacked requested the deletion, and so I accomodated them.

Let's please leave this discussion on track.

Thanks.

The Wolf