Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Being Uninformed Is Not The Same As Being Stupid...

Over in the Coffeeroom, someone opened up the whole science/Torah can of worms again. In this case, the topic came down to what happens when the empirical evidence that you can see with your own eyes contradicts traditional Jewish sources.

Charlie Hall, who sometimes comments on this blog, mentioned that the available evidence shows that the world is more than 6000 years old. A poster named Joseph, took him to task on this stating:

charlie disagrees with the Rema, the Maharal, Aruch Hashulchan, Chasam Sofer, Rabbeinu Bachyai, the Alshich, the Radvaz, and the Chida amongst others.

I choose the Rema, the Maharal, Aruch Hashulchan, Chasam Sofer, Rabbeinu Bachyai, the Alshich, the Radvaz, and the Chida over charlie.

When another commentator vouched for Charlie's intelligence, Joseph responded as follows:

Smarter than the Rema, the Maharal, Aruch Hashulchan, Chasam Sofer, Rabbeinu Bachyai, the Alshich, the Radvaz, and the Chida combined?

Smarter than any one of them.

Charlie and I both responded to that with the same point almost simultaneously -- that the aforementioned sages did not have access to the evidence and information that we have now.

Sadly, I see this from yeshiva people all the time - anytime you bring up the idea that X did not know Y, they take it to mean that you think that X is stupid (or less intelligent than modern people who do know Y). But that's not the case -- it's simply that we, today, live in a society that has the infrastructure and knowledge base to know Y while X did not.

To give a simple example: Could Rashi have constructed an airplane? The answer, very simply, is no. And that's not because Rashi was stupid -- on the contrary, Rashi was extremely intelligent. But he lived in a society and a time where it would have been impossible for *anyone* to build an airplane. Rashi did not have access to the physics and engineering that we have today. If he lived today, could he have done so? Maybe -- but we'll never know for sure. But to say that he couldn't do it is not to say that he was stupid or any less intelligent than today's engineers. It just means that today's engineers have access to better resources.

Similarly, the chachamim that Joseph mentioned did not have access to the scientific evidence that we have today regarding the age of the universe. That doesn't make them "less intelligent" than Charlie - it just means that they went with whatever information and evidence that they had at the time - just as we do so with the evidence that we have today.

The Wolf

P.S. The shocker in the thread came a bit later on. Charlie asked Joseph:

Would you eat a piece of meat that the author of one of your sources had told you was kosher, when you yourself had seen it taken from the carcass of a pig?

To which Joseph responded: Yes. Just utterly shocked.

The Wolf

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why in the world are you even putting thought into a YWN thread? They are a bunch of vile creatures not worthy of anything.

Garnel Ironheart said...

You're wasting your time. Remember: Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

The problem with some aspects of Chareidi education is that its moral perspectives matches its clothing - all black and white. If someone is on the good side, he's a tzadik, tahor, infallible, etc. If he's on the bad side, then he's a rasha, tuma, never gives the right answer, etc.

Now some of this is based on stories from Chazal where their opponents are consistently displayed as total losers who never won any arguments and always get everything wrong. But those are examples, not a description of real life. Real life is far more complex. Someone can be an avid learner and medakdek on almost every mitzvah but have some bad habits. That's what makes a human being so complex.

So what's happening here is the simplistic thinking taking over: Rashi's one of the good guys, therefore you cannot ascribe any limitation to him because to them that's no different than criticizing them and villifying them. There is no shade of grey here.

Which is a shame because if Chazal and the great meforshim were to come back to life and learn all about how science is changed, do you really think they'd close their eyes and ears and refuse to consider all the new evidence?

Joshua said...

There's a general equation made by a lot of people, not just charedim and not just frum people that stupid=ignorant=evil. This is then exacerbated in the charedi world since they take an extremely ahistorical view and so they expect everyone to have the potential access to knowledge at the same time. There's another connected issue which is there is a common belief in frum people that learning Torah causes one to learn about other subjects through the Torah. Thus, a historical Rabbi's failure to know some aspect of science, even if it is a modern issue, suggests to them that the Rabbi didn't know Torah.

There are many different things going on here which are all highly disfunctional and reinforce and strengthen each other.

If present trends continue I suspect that in 50 years we will see charedi flat earthers.

Jewish Atheist said...

They just don't want to open Pandora's box. If you admit that they didn't know enough to realize evolution is true, then how can you say they were right about authorship of the Torah? Or the historicity of the Exodus? Or really anything?

The whole idea of increasing knowledge yielding more accurate beliefs is contrary to Orthodox Judaism.

Gil Student said...

I saw that Charlie wrote this: "As an example, Rabbeinu Bachya in Chovot HaLevavot has a proof of the existence of God that involves severaly descriptions of the concept of infinity. Many centuries later, it was discovered that his description of the nature of infinity were not accurate. Today any good high school calculus student understands this material. Does that make thousands of high school calculus students smarter than Rabbeinu Bachya? Chas v'shalom! That proof is not necessary for the important spritual truths contained in that sefer."

I don't think he is correct. William Lane Craig, in his book The Kalaam Cosmological Argument, distinguishes between potential infinites, conceptual actual infinites and substantiated actual infinites. Rabbenu Bachya is only discussing this last category, not the two earlier ones which are discussed in high school Math classes.

Anonymous said...

Joshua wrote, "If present trends continue I suspect that in 50 years we will see charedi flat earthers." This may happen sooner than you think. On another coffeeroom thread, one poster insisted that the sun revolves around the earth, since the Torah discusses the sun rising & setting. There were very few posters disagreeing with this viewpoint.

(Personally I believe that the Torah describes the movement of earth in the way that people would understand; since people used to believe that the sun revolved around the earth, that's what is written in the Torah. This is similar to the way the Torah describes the "Hand of G-d" even though G-d is obviously not corporeal.)

micha said...

But Joseph is wrong on a more fundamental level -- I don't think ANY of the people he cites believed in a young universe!

The Maharal describes the week of creation as incomprehensible, and thus time during it doubly so. (Gevuros Hashem, 2nd haqdamah)

The Chida, like most Qabbalistically inclined rabbanim, believes in a dual-creation -- that much time passes between Bereishis 1:1 and 1:2.

And does the Arukh haShulchan discuss the topic at all? Or the Rama? Or is he just throwing around names?

The question is whether Joseph thinks he's more informed -- and leshitaso "smarter" -- than R' Dessler. Part of the general rewrite of history is this notion that the current maximalism is the historically more common position, rather than being a counter-reformation of the 19th and 20th centuries.

A small but very real piece of the "kids at risk" situation is that maximalist and shallow hashkafah doesn't satisfy the brighter teen.

-micha

Anonymous said...

I knew this would show up here! Personally, I enjoy the CR topics even more when you and other bloggers open them up to the wider audience!

sq

Joseph said...

Wolf,

You have my e-mail; you could of had the decency of advising me you are commenting on my comments, rather than me chancing on it on my semi-annual visit here (which worked out for today ironically.)

Regarding your miscontruction of the pig comment, the question as posed by Charlie was if, say, the Rema was told by myself that I saw a piece of meat taken out of the carcass of a pig, and the Rema issued a psak that it is kosher, than my contention is that per the Rema's psak it is 100% kosher.

micha,

Do you care to address the sources I quoted:?

Rema in Toras HaOlah (1:2) states clearly that we assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete.

The Maharal, too, states that all science is included in Torah, as Chazal says "hafoch bah hafoch bah d'kulah bah" (Chidushei Agados Menachos 64b). Similarly, he writes (in B’er Hagola 6) that when the sages mentioned a scientific fact, they derived it from their knowledge of the Torah and Hashem, Who is the Cause of all science. He says that science is inferior to Torah even where it comes to scientific knowledge, because scientists base their opinions on what they see, which is a finite and imperfect method of investigation, as opposed to knowledge of science through Torah, which is the root and cause for all facts in the world.

Rabbeinu Bachyai writes in the Introduction to Chumash that all wisdom and science in existence is contained in Torah.

Aruch Hashulchan (EH 13): "I will tell you a great principle: Chazal, besides their holiness and wisdom in the Torah, were also greater scholars in the natural sciences those savants ("mischakmim") who would argue against their pure words. And someone who disagrees with them testifies about himself that he does not believe in Torah she bal peh, even though he would be embarrassed to admit it outright."

Chasam Sofer (Beshalach) writes that this is the meaning of the posuk "Ki hi chachmascha ubinascha l'einei ha'amim" - Chazal were great experts in the secular sciences and disciplines. In fact, you need to know much secular knowledge in many areas in order to properly understand the Torah - and he gives several simple examples. However, since we are supposed to be busy learning Torah - not secular science - all day and night, and Hashem has no "nachas ruach" from us learning secular studies at all, how would Chazal have known all the secualr wisdom that they clearly knew, as we see they did from all of Shas?
Answer: They know it from the Torah, since the entire body of secular wisdom is included in the Torah, for the Torah is the bluepeint of the world. And so, when the Goyim see that we do not study the secular science books at all - and we even disagree with them! - yet we derive all the secular knowledge, in the most precisely accurate form - from only the Sefer Torah, they will exclaim, "Am chacham v'navon hagoy hagadol hazeh!" (A similar explanation is given by the Raavad-ibn Daud. He says that the posuk refers to the philosophical truths that it took the nations centuries to develop, we knew all the time via tradition from Har Sinai.)

Another interesting Chasam Sofer says (in Drashos Chasam Sofer Vol. 1 p.100b) - Our phophets and sages know all the sciences much better than the scientists, even though all they learn is Torah. This is because the One who created nature informs our sages of the correct facts. This is what amazes the nations, as it says, Am navon v'chacham hagoy hagodol hazeh!

Joseph said...

Some scientific facts were known through rabbinic tradition. The Rashba cites a rabbinic tradition from Sinai that a treifah cannot live more than 12 months. (Rav Yonason Eyebushitz (kreisi Upleisi 40) writes that such traditions are not to be disregarded even if found to be against “all the laws of heaven and earth”, since they are part of Torah shebal peh.

The Chosid Yaavatz (Ohr Hachaim) says that chazal knew science form a Mesroah that goes back all the way to the Neviim, who knew it from Hashem, without any effort at all.

And the Ramak (Sefer HaPardes 13:6) says the same of Chazal regarding astronomy.

The Abarbanel (Shmos 12) quotes Ptolmey as being so impressed with the Jews' astronomical calculations, that he said it proves the Jews had prophecy. In the Sefer Eretz Zvi (by Rav Aryeh Zvi Fromer ZT'L, Rosh Yeshiva in Chachmei Lublin), quotes more such sources about Ptolmey.

Rashi, Devorim 17:11 - Even if they tell you that right is left and that left is right (you should listen to the sages) certainly if they tell you right is right and left is left.

Rashi says explicitly each day of creation was 24 hours. The Gemora says this expicitly. It describes 10 things that were created on the first day of creation, one of which is the "length of the day and night" - as it says, "vayehi erev vayehi voke yom echad". So the time span of the day was created on the first day of creation. And, as Rashi states, it means "[the day and night together] - i.e. 24 hours between them".

Says the Divrei Chaim (Chanuka p.45 col. 4) - the world is only 6,000 years old, as is stated in Avodah Zorah (9a)...

Shabbos 112b: "Im Rishonim b’nei malachim anu b’nei anashim. V’im rishonim b’nei anashim – anu k’chamorim"

Not only do we see that Chazal learned their science from the Torah, but Rav Breil, the Rebbi of the Pachad Yiztchok teaches us that we do not even entertain the possibility of a scientific statement in Chazal not coming from the Torah .This we see from Rav Briel's answer to the Pachad Yiztchok's question regarding the killing of lice on SHabbos. The Gemora permits it, based on a scientific fact. The Pachad Yiztchok asked his Rebbi that due to the possibility that this scientific fact is incorrect, perhaps we should be machmir and not kill lice on shabbos, just in case.

His Rebbi answered that there is no "just in case". Stating that Chazal’s knowledge is based on the reality, not mere scientific observation, he assures his Talmid that without a doubt the rabbinic science is more accurate than the science of the scientists, and even if currently it appears one way, the rabbinic view will eventually be proven correct. He mentions that in the disagreement between the sages and the scientists regarding whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice versa, the sages conceded to the scientists, but centuries later, it was proven that the Torah sages were right all along. Thus, he says there is no reaosn to even suspect that Chazal's statement regarding lice is inaccurate, and there is no reason to even be machmir because there is no chance of chilul shabbos at all.

Once we establish that the scientific knowledge that is incorporated into Torah Shebal Peh is derived form the Torah, it has the same status as all of Chazal's interpretaitons of the Torah --- they are binding:

Joseph said...

The Gemora in Sanhedrin (100a) tells that R. Yochanan derived from a posuk that when Moshiach comes, the gates of Jerusalem will be made of jewels 30 amos long and 30 amos high. Some student said that such big jewels do not exist - "we do nto even find jewels as big as doves eggs," he said. Then, one day the student saw angels (!) cutting such big stones, and he asked them what they are for. The angels answered: "They are for the gates of Jerusalem". When next he saw R. Yochana, he praised his qualifications for expounding the Torah, based on his "scientific observation" that confirmed the Rebbi's interpretation.

R. Yochanan responded, "Bum! You only believe because of what you see? You dishonor the words of the sages!", and the student died.

The Ran (Drashos #13) points out that the statement of R. Yochana had no halachic relevence at all - it was merely an Agadic interpretation, and the disagreement was regarding a scientific fact, yet the student was punished for not believing in its truth. Therefore, he concludes:

"Just as we are commanded to follow their opinions regarding laws of the Torah, so too are we commanded to follow all of what they say from tradtiion in Hashkafa ("Deos"), and medrash on Pesukim. And someone who veers from their words, even in somethgin that has no relevence to any Mitzvah, is an Apikores and has no share in the next world.

The Radvaz (4:232) writes that "Aggadah is part of the Torah shebal peh and is rooted in what Moshe receieved on Har Sinai directly from Hashem, just like the rest of Torah shebal peh".

Similarly from the Alshich: "Nobody has a right in our generation to disagree based on his own opinion, if he did not find such an opinion from his predecessors (Rebbeim). We are commanded "lo sosur", which includes also Agadita." (Shmuel II 21:1)

The Sifri (48) explains the posuk in Devarim 11:22, "And you really follow all this Mitzvah", that "this means to learn Midrash, Halachah, and Agada."

Rav Yiztchok Izak Chaver in Magen Vtzenah (p,49) - there are people who reject Chazal's statements because the secular scientists disagree (he gives examples, such as the sun rising above the firmament at night etc), and they laugh saying that we know its not true. They are fools. The GRA, who even the scientists admit that he knew science much better than them, accepted all words of Chazal as fact, and that the philosophers and scientists (chachmei hatechunah) are all wrong, and he believed in the truth of the simple straightforward understanding of the words of Chazal. The GRA said that the scientists didnt come to the ankles of our sages in any secular discipline or science.

Chida (Shem Hagedolim: "Seforim":5:82) - There are a minority of Gedolim among us who disagree with Chazal because of their scientific knowledge, but they do not understand that Chazal had Eliyhau Hanavi informing them, and they had Ruach HaKodesh to inform them.

Medrash Tehillim (19) quotes Shmuel as saying he is an expert in the streets of Nehardea as much as he is an expert in the 'streets' of the heavens. The Medrash asks how Shmule knew all of that, and it answers he knew it all through the Torah. It then quotes a R, Hoshea as saying there is "space" between the upper waters and the firmament, and the Medrash asks how R, Hoshea could know this unless he traveled to space. It answers, he knew it from the Torah.

The Gemora in Bechoros 8a derives from a posuk in Bereishis the fact that gestation period of a snake is longer than the rest of the animal kingdom. This is cited by the Ramban (Toras Hashem Temima p.159 in Chavel edition) as but one example of how Chazal knew facts of science from the pesukim in the Torah that describe Brias HaOlam. He cites more. He says "the sages of Yisroel have knowledge through these pesukim of all of creation."

Joseph said...

From the Maharal (Ber Hagolah 6):

The Maharal is explaining why Chazal sometimes seem to contradict what science says:

Some people say that Chazal were not experts in the sciences. They say this because they see things stated by Chazal regarding causes of natural phenomenon that seeem unlikely to be true. But the truth is not as these people claim, because when Chazal spoke about natural causes they did not mean superficial, physically scientific causes - that is fitting for scientists or doctors, not for our sages. Our sages, on the other hand, when they spoke about the causes of nature, were referring not to causes that are natural but to what causes nature to act the way it does. And anyone who disagrees with this disagrees with our Emunah and our Torah ... the idea is this: When the Torah mentions a natural reason for something, that is the real reason, for every natural phenomenon there is a scientific cause, but for that scientific cause there is a spiritual cause – i.e. that cause of the cause – and that is what Chazal were referring to … when they discussed scientific matters, they did not mean to describe the surface-level cause, but rather the reason of the cause….there are people who misunderstand the words of Chazal who criticize them, saying that they did not know things that the non-Jewish scientists knew, but the truth is the very claim they make against [Chazal] applies to them, for they are far from the true science .. I will tell you a rule about the words of the sages: all their words are logical, and represent the true understanding of nature .. and even though some people will find this idea far-flung or doubtful as an explanation of what Chazal meant, but you should know that there is no doubt at in any manner whatsoever that this is what Chazal mean … for their words are correct and reliable, and only someone who does not understand them will have doubts … I have already explained that Chazal were nto discussing the physical aspects of things but rather their essence … the words of Chazal are with wisdom and logic and are not surface-level [physical] descriptions, but rather the words of our sages refer to the essence, and have no relation to the outer, material matter.

Joseph said...

The Galgalim have sources in Chazal as well, as Rav Chaim Kanievsky points out in Kiryas Melech (Yesodei Hatorah 3:1).

Here's how this works: The Rishonim will quote something from the Greek philosophers but which really comes from Kabbalah. They do this because when citing Kabalistic ideas, they often try to conceal them as much as possible. Therefore, if something is well known as a Greek philosophical concept, they will quote it as such even though its source is Judaism. Example: The Ramban's hyly (hiuli?)at the beginning of Bereishis, which he notes and sources as Greek. Both the Satmar Rebbe (Divrei Yoel Bereishis p.61) and Rav Elya Lopian (quoted by Rav Scwardron) say the hyly is a Kabbalistic, spiritual idea, which the Greeks took from us. The Divrei Yoel explains that the Ramban quoted this in the name of the Greeks because it is the derech of the Ramban to camouphlage such sodos in physical terms - the same as Chazal often did. (see also Rama Toras HaOlah on Boruch Sheamar).

Another one of these concepts is the 4 elements (fire, waster, air, and earth), which is quoted all over by the Greeks but comes from Kabbalah - they took it from us.

The idea that the Greeks took their philosophical ideas from us is all over the Rishonim and Achronim, including the Ramban himself (Toras Hashem Temimah p.162). He says that they lifted their knowledge from the Jews, and eventually it got distorted by them. But the source is Judaism. The Kuzari says the same thing (2:66 - see also 2:19 and 1:62) as does the Shevili Emunah (nesiv 8) the Rama (he brings that Socrates got his wisdom from Asaf and Achitofel (Toras Haolah 1:12), and Chosid Yaavetz (Ohr Hachaim 6). The Chida (Midbar Kadmos - Sheva Chachmos) says this in the name of the Rambam (se also Moreh Nevuchim 1:71).

Basically what happened was, people like Shlomo HaMelech and the Neviim had this chachma, the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle learned from them, we went into Golus and a lot of it got lost, while among the Greeks it got grotesquely distorted. So youll find Torah and Kabbalistic concepts among the Goyim but kind of in a messed up way. Sometimes Rishonim such as the Ramban will identify some crumb of truth among them that comes from us and he will quote it from them if it is known as such.

[I must take this opportunity to thank the much derided moderator of frumteens for this. I know the √úbermenschen of the so-called "frum" blogosphere don't like him (to his eternal credit), but if you have an issue with anything quoted, address it to the quoted source, not the messenger.]

Dave said...

The Gemora in Bechoros 8a derives from a posuk in Bereishis the fact that gestation period of a snake is longer than the rest of the animal kingdom. This is cited by the Ramban (Toras Hashem Temima p.159 in Chavel edition) as but one example of how Chazal knew facts of science from the pesukim in the Torah that describe Brias HaOlam.

http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2009/07/snake-gestation.html

(Incidentally, the longest actual gestation period on land is the African Elephant, at about 22 months)

Anonymous said...

There is a great deal to be said about taking things on faith. It's a whole other thing to take incorrect information on blind faith because you can find sources who have been called sages. In their day, they were, now knowledge has gone far beyond their writings, unless you also take the position that the cited sources are infallible.

G*3 said...

Its really very simple. Joseph seems to hold that Torah opinion on nature = science, even when contradicted by empirical evidence. Further, the goyim, being the idiotic sub-humans that they are, couldn't possibly have figured anything out on their own, and learned it all from the Jews.

Its really quite brilliant. It means that any parallels to Judaism found in other ANE cultures are really just poor imitations of Judaism, not concurrently evolving traditions. It means that the opinions of historical rabbonim are not falsifiable, because BY DEFINITION what they hold is the truth.

The only problem is when you try to build complex machinery or find cures for diseases based on the "sceince" they thought was true. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Anonymous said...

However, since we are supposed to be busy learning Torah - not secular science - all day and night, and Hashem has no "nachas ruach" from us learning secular studies at all, how would Chazal have known all the secualr wisdom that they clearly knew, as we see they did from all of Shas?
Answer: They know it from the Torah, since the entire body of secular wisdom is included in the Torah, for the Torah is the bluepeint of the world. And so, when the Goyim see that we do not study the secular science books at all - and we even disagree with them! - yet we derive all the secular knowledge, in the most precisely accurate form - from only the Sefer Torah, they will exclaim, "Am chacham v'navon hagoy hagadol hazeh!" (A similar explanation is given by the Raavad-ibn Daud. He says that the posuk refers to the philosophical truths that it took the nations centuries to develop, we knew all the time via tradition from Har Sinai.)
=============
Joseph - and do the current great rabbis also know this information? If not, where did the mesorah breakdown?
GCT
Joel Rich

BrooklynWolf said...

You have my e-mail; you could of had the decency of advising me you are commenting on my comments, rather than me chancing on it on my semi-annual visit here (which worked out for today ironically.)

My apologies. I was under the impression that the "Joseph" on the boards was an impostor and that you stopped posting in the CR.

Usually, whenever I blog about someone, I *do* provide a courtesy email. My apologies for not realizing that it was you.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

Please -- don't just cut and paste huge blocks of text. I don't mind disputing points with you -- but I have no desire to argue with a copying machine.

Please summarize your points into an easy to read paragraph or three.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

Wolf: The points are mostly verbatim quotes or paraphrases of Rishonim and Achronim. They are not my points, but rather the meforshim's points.

micha said...

Joseph, for any of your quotes to be proofs against what Charlie Hall said, your sources would have to believe that Bereishis 1 actually makes a scientific claim.

BTW, did you see the Ramchal's take on science in the gemara?

-micha

Joseph said...

micha, Wolf misunderstood (in his description in this post on top) my comment to Charlie. I was responding to Charlie's contention that we can dispute Chazal (and his absurd comment that "The evidence shows that HaShem's creation is far more vast than Chazal could ever have imagined. We should tremble that even our greatest sages could not comprehend the power and majesty of our creator" [!!!]).

Any comment(s) on any or all of the meforshim I quoted?

micha said...

Again, see the Ramchal!

Chazal were never wrong in science because when they didn't know the science, they didn't record it. What looks like discussions of science are metaphoric. (Maamar al haAgados)

And what about Chazal themselves -- Pesachim 94b says that the scientists of umos ha'olam knew nature better than they.

-micha

Joseph said...

IOW you are dismissive of the above quoted meforshim.

See what Rav Breil told the Pachad Yitzchok regarding the gemorah you are asking about.

Joseph said...

Regarding the universe/evolution issue, this write up I found (by the ft mod) sums it pretty well:

Regarding answering scientists and those who have blind faith in them about the age of the world, first, just like the flaw in their "vestigial organ" logic, the entire concept of measuring the age of the world the way the scientsts do is based on the assuption that the world was not created by a Creator. But if you say that the world was created the way the Torah tells us it was, that is, a full-blown world, complete with starts visible in the sky, ful-grown trees and animals (and a human), a totally, fully developed and mature world, then their logic falls apart.

Because when the world was created, it already had an age. In other words, when Adam for instance was created, he was an adult, even though he was one day old; there were fully grown trees; the sun's light already reached the earth; an entire world existed, full-blown and OLD. How old was the world at the moment it was created? I dont know -- it doesnt say. But we do know that it didnt start from scratch. And so lets say a "scientist" would chop down a tree 1 week after it was created and find maybe 50 rings insude - would that prove that the tree was 50 years old? To the scientists it would, and the "tree ring" concept is used as one of their "proofs" that the world is over 6,000 years old. But the truth is it prove no such thing, becuase when the tree was created it was created as an adult, 50 year old tree.

So even if dating would be accurate, it still doesnt prove that the world was not created 6,000 years ago - because when it was created, it already could have been thousands or millions of quardrillions of years old.

That is the first thing to understand when dealing with the "true believers" of science. But even if they will come up with somethgin that cannot be explained by the above, there is a Torah principle that you must know that has been used long before any of today's scientists orbttheir grandparents were born, that tells us that although the world was in fact created 6,000 years ago, we know that it possesses all and every characteristic of a world that is much, much older. The Torah actually expects scientific measurements of the age of the universe to return an age of much, much more than 6,000 years. And we have known this for centuries.

Joseph said...

Says the Divrei Chaim (Chanuka p.45 col. 4), “The scientists found a star whose orbit takes 36,000 years, yet the world is only 6,000 years old, as is stated in Avodah Zorah (9a) – so did He create [this star] for nothing? So the scientists ask... However, I found in a sefer of a great man, who was of the holy ones in the days of the Arizal and perhaps even much earlier than that, who brings this question and answers: It is known that the universe was once in its most perfect state, but Adam corrupted it and caused a weakness in all of creation. And therefore, at the time of creation, if not for the sin of Adam our father, the movement (orbits) would have been fast; but now, because of the flaw caused by the Sin, the orbit has to wait 36,000 years. A similar idea is expressed by the Yaaros Dvash.”

The Divrei Chaim does not tell us the location of the Yaaros Dvash. But the Divrei Yoel (Simchas Torah p.613) identifies it as being in 2 places: Vol. I, Drush 1 and Drush 15. There, it quotes a Medrash (Rabbah 10:4) that before the Sin of Adam the Mazalos operated much more rapidly. After the Sin, the Mazalos operated much slower and longer. With this Medrash, he explains the fact that we pasken that both the opinion that the world was created in Nisan, and the opinion that the world was created in Tishri, are true. Says the Yaaros Dvash: because the Mazalos operated much more rapidly before the Sin, between the time the Mazalos were created on the 4th day, and the time Adam was created, on the 6th day, the Mazalos had already run their course from Nisan to Tishri.

So there you have it - the world was created only 6,000 years ago as it says in the Gemora, but according to Chazal’s statement about the pre-chet rapidity of the Mazalos, we would a measure of history to have transpired during the 6 days of creation that would currently take much, much longer than 6,000 years.

So of course the scientists are going to think the world is much older than 6,000 years. We expected they would “discover” that, long before these scientists were ever born. All the scientists are doing, if indeed their dating methods are accurate, is picking up the billions of years worth of events that transpired before the sin of Adam. But we know that all took a few days.

The mistake in their system is that they are not measuring the amount of time itself that occurred. They are identifying various events that already happened and are saying:

1) We measured the amount of time it would take this event to occur
2) And this event has already occurred
3) Therefore, the amount of time it would take to make it occur has already elapsed.

The flaw on that logic is that they only measured how much time it would take if those events would happen NOW, in the post-chet world. But since those events took place before the Chet, they took much less time, and so the occurrence of those events does not indicate the elapse of nearly as much time as the scientists think.

If they would find a way to measure time itself, meaning the amount of moments that transpired during the course of history, they would come up with 6,000 years.

Joseph said...

Evolution, by definition, means "slow progress", the opposite of revolution, which means sudden progress. When did this "evolution" supposedly occur?

Besides, there is no viable evidence for evolution. The evidence is evidence only assuming there is no Creator. All the similarities between us and monkeys are, to us, meaningless, because theres no reason to assume that one Creator did not create many of His creations with similar physicality. But if you assume there is no creator, then the quesiton arises: how do you explain the similarities between us and lower species? And besides -- how in the world did such complex "animals" such as humans get here anyway? There are two options" fast or slow. Fast makes no sense if there is no creator. And the whole vestigial thing makes no sense also, as you noticed.

The Torah says the world was created in 6 days. And that Rashi says explicitly that when the Torah says Vayehi Erev Vayehi Voker Yom Echad it means 24 hours.

The 6 days of creation were in fact 24 hours. How could they not be? Aren't days 24 hours now? So when did this change? Where does it indicate in the slightest that the first Sunday after creation (or the first Shabbos?) was suddenly shorter than previous days??

On the contrary - it's clear that on the fourth day Hashem said the sun should shine during the time-period that was called "day" and the stars/darkness should rule during the time-period called "night". Since then, that hasnt changed, and obvisouly, as we can see today, the sun and the stars have decided that the time period called day plus the time period called night, are 24 hours.

The Gemora says this expicitly. It describes 10 things that were created on the first day of creation, one of which is the "length of the day and night" - as it says, "vayehi erev vayehi voke yom echad". So the time span of the day was created on the first day of creation. And, as Rashi states, it means "[the day and night together] - i.e. 24 hours between them".

G-d does not leave "room for doubt" in the sense that there is something for an objective person to doubt, when it comes to the existence of a Creator. All it means is that we have Bechirah to deny or to dount even though our denial or doubt make no sense.

It's a simple as a judge presiding over an open-and-shut case where the defendent is guilty. Open and shut, nothing to discuss. But the defendent is the judge's own brother. The question is, will he say the truth or deny the truth - either to himself or to the public.

Joseph said...

Same with our Emunah. The existnece hashem is na open-and-shut case. But all the Yezter Horahs in the world tell us to deny it, in order to throw off all our restrictions. The question is, will we fool ourselves.

The Ran says that the reason the aseres hadibros starts with Anochi Hashem, as opposed to "Thou shalt believe in me", is because they certianly did believe before kabbalas hatorah, because anybody who is not an idiot (or willing to fool himself into being one) surely believes, since G-d's existnce is so obvious. So it was meaningless for Hashem to tell them "thou shalt bleieve". Instead, He introduced Himslef, as if to say "The G-d that you believe in -- I am He!" Anochi hashem. And the Mitzvah of Emunah is therefore to believe not that G-d exists, since that's simplicity - but to believe that the G-d that surely exists is the entity that took us our of Egypt and gave us the Torah -- to bleieve that "I". i.e. the One talking to us on Har Sinai, is in fact the G-d that we all know must exist.

And no, I dont believe that people would find plenty of "scientific proofs" that there is no Hashem. I say that because they havent done so before or after evolution, since the idea of Kadmus Haolam, which has been logically disproven long ago.

It's simple math: the world is either accident or intelligence. If you want to be an atheist, your choice is accident.

If accident. it was either at once or in stages. But that such a highly developed world can accidently all come at once , like "boom!" theres people, males, females. food, water, air, sunlight etc" all suddenly and at the same time is currently inexplicable.

That leaves graduality, which means evolution.

The exact mechanism whereby the graduality supposedly took place - survival of the fittest, sudden mutation, etc - is where the theories come in. But if youre goign to be an atheist, youre goign to have to find some way to validate evolution, because until they find somethgin else, evolution is the only way to explain a G-dless world. Thats why its worth spending our time showing what nonsense evolution is, because today, thats all the atheists have to hang their hats on. Once thats not an option, there is nothing left for them.

And if they come up with some other silly idea, that too, will be worth spending our time to expose. But right now, this is all they have. And it is nothing.

G*3 said...

I’ll be honest, I didn’t read everything Joseph posted. It was too long and dry, and mostly post hoc arguments I’ve heard too many times before. But I’d like to reply to the fallacious argument he ended with.

> But if youre goign to be an atheist, youre goign to have to find some way to validate evolution, because until they find somethgin else, evolution is the only way to explain a G-dless world. Thats why its worth spending our time showing what nonsense evolution is, because today, thats all the atheists have to hang their hats on. Once thats not an option, there is nothing left for them.

Atheism is simply the lack of belief in a deity, usually because of a lack of evidence to support the existence of said deity. Even if evolution is completely wrong, that just means that evolution is wrong and we don’t know how different forms of life developed. Its okay not to know something. We’ll just have to start over again and try to find another explanation for the empirical evidence we have. A failure of evolution is not a plus in the “God is real” column. In fact, whether or not evolution is the correct explanation for biodiversity has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not God exists.

Argument from ignorance: If evolution is wrong, we don’t know how biodiversity arose; therefore God exists.

Yirmiahu said...

"In this case, the topic came down to what happens when the empirical evidence that you can see with your own eyes contradicts traditional Jewish sources."

The age of the universe isn't a matter of observation, it is a matter of inference.

Anonymous said...

Wolf,

Back to your post, don't go short changing Charlie Hall. I never met Charlie Hall, and I don't always agree with him, but he seems like he's pretty smart. Maybe he can't learn like some of the highest level ravs (I suppose) but in science he can more than hold his own with them.

Besides when he says something about science it's not as though he's coming up with something he just thought of on his own. There's a ton of scientific research to support it. So the real question isn't whether Charlie is smarter than the ravs, but whether Einstein, Hawking, Fermi, and a ton of Nobel prize winners are.

Joseph 10:26

"Besides, there is no viable evidence for evolution. The evidence is evidence only assuming there is no Creator. All the similarities between us and monkeys are, to us, meaningless, because theres no reason to assume that one Creator did not create many of His creations with similar physicality."

But this assumes there was a Creator. Why would the Creator have let so many species die out?

Joseph 10:27

"If accident. it was either at once or in stages. But that such a highly developed world can accidently all come at once , like "boom!" theres people, males, females. food, water, air, sunlight etc" all suddenly and at the same time is currently inexplicable."

No that's not right. Under Big Bang theory, the world took billions of years to develop "people, males, females, food, water,etc.

"Thats why its worth spending our time showing what nonsense evolution is, because today, thats all the atheists have to hang their hats on. Once thats not an option, there is nothing left for them."

That's not right either. The atheists are just saying that the theists have the burden of proof and they haven't met it. The atheists would argue there are many reasons to question the traditional biblical accounts-for example, how can we see objects more than 6000 light years away? What evidence is there for the book of Esther. How come the history of the Middle East doesn't square with what the Bible tells us? What does it mean to even think about God existing when we're not talking about a corporeal being? That's the kind of questions the atheists would ask.

Ichabod Chrain


Ichabod Chrain

Anonymous said...

Joseph,
Here's another problem with what you're relying on. If it was true that everything changed with the sin of Adam, then we'd expect to see some evidence of a major change in the laws of physics at that time. We haven't.

But what I think is even more of a problem for the position you're taking is that it portrays God as a trickster who is out to fool us to test our faith. If He's going to fool us in this way, then how do we know he's not going to fool us in different ways? And under your approach if judgment day comes and you're asked why you violated halacha, you'd be able to say with justification, "It's not my fault. You tried to trick me and it worked. How was I to know it's the yetzer harah that I followed? You gave me good reason to believe it was the yetzer tov."

Ichabod Chrain

Zach Kessin said...

Back to your post, don't go short changing Charlie Hall. I never met Charlie Hall, and I don't always agree with him, but he seems like he's pretty smart. Maybe he can't learn like some of the highest level ravs (I suppose) but in science he can more than hold his own with them.

Besides when he says something about science it's not as though he's coming up with something he just thought of on his own. There's a ton of scientific research to support it. So the real question isn't whether Charlie is smarter than the ravs, but whether Einstein, Hawking, Fermi, and a ton of Nobel prize winners are.


I have known Prof Charlie Hall for years, and he is very smart, but more importantly he has a very solid background in science. When he talks about science he knows what he is talking about.

micha said...

Joseph,

Since acharonim do not argue with gemaros, you clearly do not understand the acharonim. I am not dismissing the acharon, I'm showing you that you can't possibly be understanding them correctly.

But since you show know interest in hearing, I won't bother.

-micha

Joe said...

R. Aryeh Kaplan once commented on the "world was already created old" dismissal of the scientific method - we can just as easily say that the world was created 5 minutes ago with everyone's memories etc. all created at the same time as well.
Point being, either you engage in argument based on scientific method, or you bring in your trump card - the Creator. Obviously, as a frum Jew, I will always default back to Hashem's hand in anything I don't understand, but I don't presume to "trump" the scientists with that argument.

Mike S. said...

Besides, the "the world was created old" or "physisc changed at the time of the Chet" or related arguments cannot explain levels of genetic diversity in many species, including man, that are not consistent with a single breeding couple (or 4 couples) at the time of the flood and current mutation rates. Either there was some hidden miracle in mutation rates after the flood, for which we have no source in Chazal that I am aware of, or these arguments are just wrong.

And anyone who thinks all of science can be found in the Torah should ask his favorite Gadol whether the Higgs boson will be found in the LHC and, if so, what its mass will be, and post the results for all to see. A prediction of this sort will be far more convincing that any collection of abstract arguments.
But both the Rav and Rav Moshe Feinstein, zichronam tzaddikim l'vracha told many people, myself included, that they asked scientists when they needed scientific facts; they did not try to find them in ma'amarei chazal. So did R. Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, although here I am relying on second hand information. If others think they have greater insight or a more complete mesorah than these Gedolim, I hope they are right, but I am skeptical.

Yirmiahu said...

"But what I think is even more of a problem for the position you're taking is that it portrays God as a trickster who is out to fool us to test our faith."

Why is that a "trick" when creating a world which appears to have come into through materialist means is not?

Why is not a "trick" to create the world in one way and then relate that it was done in another?



http://machzikeihadas.blogspot.com/2008/10/parshas-breishis-in-beginning-brias.html

BrooklynWolf said...

Something else that I recently thought of as possible food for further thought:

If 2000 years ago we could even maintain a reliable mesorah WRT the written text of the Chumash (please note the Gemara's statement that we are not baki in missing/extra letters), then how could we possibly say that a completely oral tradition regarding scientific knowledge that was not even practically usable at the time could possibly be maintained?

The Wolf

Yirmiahu said...

"Besides, the "the world was created old" or "physisc changed at the time of the Chet" or related arguments cannot explain levels of genetic diversity in many species, including man, that are not consistent with a single breeding couple (or 4 couples) at the time of the flood and current mutation rates. Either there was some hidden miracle in mutation rates after the flood, for which we have no source in Chazal that I am aware of, or these arguments are just wrong."

So let me get this straight, God tells you that there was a global flood and that the world was repopulated from a handful of individuals, but since He didn't explain that with such a small gene pool that scientifically this was "difficult" and required divine intervention, your going to argue He didn't really mean it literally despite no textual indication otherwise?

Genetics and Apparent Age

Mike S. said...

Yirmiahu,

Well, I didn't really argue that, just that the "world was created old" idea doesn't solve the problem of conflict between our observation and a literal understanding of p'sukkim. But I think R. Sa'adiya Gaon would. In Emunot Vadeot (7th ch. IIRC) he lists criteria that comple us to abandon a literal interpretation of pessukim. One is that we have a mesorah about it (like 'eye for an eye' refers to monetary fines). Another is that "HaChush v'Hasechel" (sense and reason) cannot support a literal interpretation. While he was presumably refering to the science and philosophy of his day, how much more so modern science which has far stronger empirical support.

The only reason I don't argue that one should abandon a literal interpretation of the flood story is that I can't imagine how else to understand the specific dates. But otherwise I would think that we are compelled to do so. To me this is a challenge I tend to deal with by accepting that I cannot reconcile evidence and the Psukkim and I hope someone figures out how.

On the other hand, if I were to accept Joseph's view of what Judaism believes, chas v'shalom, I would feel complelled to abandon torah and Mitzvot, as the beliefs he espouses seem to me demonstrably false.

Yirmiahu said...

I, too, have not read all (or most) of Josephs material, but it appears much more expansive than what I am speaking about.

Regarding Rav Saadia Goans position, "chus v'sechel" doesn't simply meand philosophy... he seems to require demonstrative proof to allegorize the Torah. Furthermore he specifically mentions allegorizing B'reshis as the bottom of the slippery slope of allegorization. I'll try to find the quote tonight, and it seems like I left that one out of my post where I deal with his opinion :(

I would argue, do argue, that apparent age is an inherent part of the Gan Eden account. To dismiss it as non literal based on evidence of apparent age is circular. It is certainly more difficult to apply that reasoning to latter issue such as the flood, but not as intellectually difficult as a steady march of unsupported allegorical interpretation throughout B'reshis and beyond.

Joshua said...

A few quick remarks (with a disclaimer that this thread is very long so silence is not to imply agreement with any point previously made).

Some scientific facts were known through rabbinic tradition. The Rashba cites a rabbinic tradition from Sinai that a treifah cannot live more than 12 months. (Rav Yonason Eyebushitz (kreisi Upleisi 40) writes that such traditions are not to be disregarded even if found to be against “all the laws of the universe"

One can very well have a situation where halachah goes one way even though we know that the halachah is based on incorrect science (kli rishon v. kli sheini would be an obvious example) and there are many other examples. That's not an argument other than how halachah might function.

Besides, there is no viable evidence for evolution. The evidence is evidence only assuming there is no Creator. All the similarities between us and monkeys are, to us, meaningless, because theres no reason to assume that one Creator did not create many of His creations with similar physicality. But if you assume there is no creator, then the quesiton arises: how do you explain the similarities between us and lower species? And besides -- how in the world did such complex "animals" such as humans get here anyway? There are two options" fast or slow. Fast makes no sense if there is no creator. And the whole vestigial thing makes no sense also, as you noticed.
This nonsense at multiple levels. The terms you use- "slow" and "fast"- are much too vague to be scientifically useful. Among other problems, humans aren't just similar to apes. We share the same mistakes. For example, we have the same endogenous retrovirus remnants in our DNA that closely related apes do. That is, we share the scars of the same infections. That makes sense if we descended from a common ancestor. The only creator would deliberately do that is a deceptive one.

Similarly, we aren't just similar to other apes, but we fit well in a nested hierarchy. Designed entities such as cars and computers don't fit in good nested hierarchies. Life does. This makes sense from evolution. This doesn't make sense from an instantaneous creation.

It's simple math: the world is either accident or intelligence.

You seem to ignore the fact that there are many frum people who are just fine with evolution. Evolution does not by itself imply atheism.

There are serious problems with your caricature of atheism. It seems that you understand it about as well as you understand basic biology (i.e. not at all). Instead of repeating vague strawmen you've heard before maybe pick up a basic evolutionary biology textbook written for undergrads and read it.

Joseph said...

Micha,

You can't operate under the pretense that you are not dismissing the quoted Achronim, when -- as quoted -- they are in direct objection to your position. The only resolution is, that you are misunderstanding the Gemorah.

How else do you explain each of the following?:

Rema -- Toras HaOlah (1:2) -- We assume rabbinic science to be infallible, and ancient rabbinic knowledge of astronomy complete.

Maharal -- B’er Hagola 6 -- When the sages mentioned a scientific fact, they derived it from their knowledge of the Torah and Hashem.

Aruch Hashulchan -- EH 13 -- "I will tell you a great principle: Chazal, besides their holiness and wisdom in the Torah, were also greater scholars in the natural sciences those savants ("mischakmim") who would argue against their pure words. And someone who disagrees with them testifies about himself that he does not believe in Torah she bal peh, even though he would be embarrassed to admit it outright."

Chasam Sofer -- Drashos Chasam Sofer Vol. 1 p.100b -- Our phophets and sages know all the sciences much better than the scientists.

Ran -- Drashos #13 -- points out that the statement of R. Yochana (Sanhedrin 100a) had no halachic relevance at all - it was merely an Agadic interpretation, and the disagreement was regarding a scientific fact, yet the student was punished for not believing in its truth.

Rav Yiztchok Izak Chaver -- Magen Vtzenah (p. 49) -- there are people who reject Chazal's statements because the secular scientists disagree, and they laugh saying that we know its not true. They are fools.

Chida -- Shem Hagedolim: "Seforim":5:82 -- There are those among us who disagree with Chazal because of their scientific knowledge, but they do not understand that Chazal had Eliyhau Hanavi informing them, and they had Ruach HaKodesh to inform them.

Micha, are you contending these Achronim are in contention with the Gemorah or would you concede the explanation is that you are misunderstanding the Gemorah?

Or can you offer an "alternate" explanation for the aforementioned Achronim?

Anonymous said...

Or is torah she bal peh simply a game of telephone where whatever may have been original has been so altered over the centuries that it bears no resemblance to the original?

G*3 said...

> can you offer an "alternate" explanation for the aforementioned Achronim?

Sure. They were mistaken.

We're human. It happens.

Yirmiahu said...

“The result of the application of such a method of interpretation would be that there would not be an item left of the entire story of the creation [of the world] that would not be divested of its literal meaning, which is the creation and origination of things.” Saadia Gaon, Book of Beliefs and Opinions page 425

Turns out it did make it into my post, which is good because I can't find my Emunos v'Deos.

Allegorical interpretation: "A step taken by the Rishonim with an abudance of caution is presented as an easy alternative."

Anonymous said...

Joseph 7:50,

If a Jew gets sick, should he go to a rabbi, or should he go a doctor?

If he wants to design a plane that flies, should he study Gemorrah or should he study aeronautical engineering?

The problem with all the sources you cite is that they're all begging the question. How can the Chasam Sofer know that the prophets and sages know the sciences better than the scientists unless he knows what the prophets and sages know, and knows what the scientists know? The only way to know this is to study what the prophets and sages said about it, and then to study what modern scientists know about it. If he didn't do that, he can't validly say what he said.

Besides how do you know that Einstein, Hawking, Fermi, Godel and the faculties of MIT (except for Chomsky), Cal Tech, Carnegie-Mellon, Georgia Tech, and the science faculties of Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, McGill, Yeshiva U., etc. didn't have Ruach Hakodesh informing them?

Ichabod Chrain

Mike S said...

Yirmiyahu, the quote is out of context enough that I can't find it in my edition. What method of interpretation (or cite a chapter.)
But in any event, the evidence that has accumulated over the past 100 years or so is completely overwhelming and, however reluctantly, I do not see how anyone familiar with the evidence can accept a 6000 year old Earth, with a Flood wiping everything out 5000 years ago literally. No matter how old the world looked then.

Yirmiahu said...

Mike S.

Insufficient citation is not the same thing as out of context. The context of the quote is Rav Saadia restricting when one can allegoralize away the peshat of the Tanakh. If anything the common practice of citing the Goan's "chush v'sechel" exception, without any mention that it is in the context of criticizing allegorical interpretatin, is out of context (though I would simply call it lacking context). Be that as it may, based on the other citations in the post I provided try 7:5 (or 4) of the variant used in the Ibn Tibbon Hebrew translation of Emunos v’Deos Treatise 7. I cannot find my copy at the moment.

"But in any event, the evidence that has accumulated over the past 100 years or so is completely overwhelming"

Recognizing apparent age, or retroactive existence if you will, does not mean that one has to reject its implication on understanding the laws of nature. But to reject a literal interpretation based on the earth appearing older is to make it impossible to accept Hashem account of how He created the world based on evidence that one would anticipate, to some extent, for the account itself. It is circular.

But sof kol sof, no one (in all of the times I raised this response) has ventured to explain why creating the world old (when any world similar to ours created yesh m'ayin would appear older to some degree) is more "deceptive" than creating it through apparently naturalistic means over millions of years and then telling us it was created from nothing over a period of a week a couple thousand years ago?

Dave said...

The former is deceptive.

The latter is deceptive if and only if the tale of creation was supposed to be taken literally.

Mike S. said...

What Dave said. Put another way, no one ever imagined (I hope) that the beginning of Chumash Breishit is meant to tell some other omnipotent being (as it were) how to go about creating a world; it is not a description of mechanism. Rather it, like all the Torah, is to teach us lessons of how to relate to God, each other and the world. Examples of such lessons can be seen in any number of Ma'amerei Chazal. The fact that people, including great scholars much more learned and wiser than I, tried to understand it as describing mechanism in ages where scientific knowledge was lacking doesn't really constitute evidence of anything. I suspect (although I can't prove) that if they lived today and were knowledgeable, they would not hold those opinions. Just as the Ramba"n said he had to abandon a literal understanding of the rainbow passage when it was demonstrated that they are a natural consequence of the way light passes theough water droplets.

It is true, now that you have reminded me of the context, that Sa'adiya is give a strong preference for literal interpretation. And there is strong support for this among the Rishonim, particularly the Sephardic ones. But he does list 4 exceptions that compel one to abandon it. They are "Chush", "Seichel", when there are p'sukkim whose literal interpretations contradict each other, and when we have a mesorah to the contrary. The last two are unarguable. His example of "Chush" if I remember correctly is the Passuk "Because she is the mother of all the living" and he points out that the phrase "mother of all the living" cannot be interpreted literally because we know from empirical experience that women do not give birth to animals other than people, so it must be understood as "the mother of all people." I would claim, as a physicist who is familiar with both the physical and biological evidence, that our evidence that the Earth is much older than 6000 years is at least as good as our evidence that women don't give birth to other animals.

As to the deception argument, yeah sure an omnipotent God could have created the work this morning, including planting evidence of yesterday's post both on Google's computer and in my memory. But I am pretty sure as frum Jews we don't really want to invoke that. After all, if we go down that path our memories of receiving a mesorah about Mattan Torah are a likely to be faked as the mixture of lead isotopes in uranium bearing rocks, chas v'shalom

bluke said...

Check ou tthis post of mine Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars? , it is very relevant to the discussion at hand.

Joseph said...

There’s nothing wrong with saying Chazal didn’t know everything about science, but since they did get their scientific knowledge from Torah then, in a case where you’re going to say the scientific statement of Chazal was wrong, what you’re saying is they made a mistake in their interpretation of Torah - which cannot be.

Dave said...

Thank you Joseph, for making things so clear.

You say that Chazal got all of their scientific knowledge from Torah.

So if they made any mistakes in science, they were mistaken in their interpretation of Torah.

Well, that makes things clear. Since we know they made mistakes in science, it appears that they must have been mistaken in Torah. Well, that's useful to know.

Yirmiahu said...

Dave, Thanks. Seriously, I believe you are the first to even attempt an answer, though Mike S. sounds like he was right behind you.

“The former [apparent age] is deceptive.”

Was it deceptive when God said, “Let us make man”? To this day Christian misuse it to support their claims. But the Midrash tells us that God said let those who will error, error. If you were to imagine Gan Eden as the account said, it would look older than a week. Period. Would you have the chutzpah to tell Hashem He was lying standing in a Gan Eden were trees weren’t saplings and animals were (as Chazal say) in full stature? It is a bad inference when you have additional information. To say it “should” only look a little older is just as speculative as saying it “should” look a lot older. There is no reason not to anticipate that HKB”H would create it with the “age” consistent with the natural laws which He designed to govern it. But creation itself is a supernatural event.

Our entire belief is predicated on the belief that God created the world in such a way that He was hidden, is that deceptive?



”The latter is deceptive if and only if the tale of creation was supposed to be taken literally.”

And there is no stylistic reason to believe it wasn’t supposed to be taken literally, and it was by the vast majority of our people until recent centuries. Furthermore we are repeatedly told that under normal circumstances we must take the Torah literally.

Mike S.

“Rather it, like all the Torah, is to teach us lessons of how to relate to God, each other and the world.”

Saadiah Gaon said it was to teach “the creation and origination of things.” The fact that there are different lessons which can also be derived doesn’t deprive it of its peshat, which is the whole concept of Ain Mikra Yotzi midei peshuto.

“yeah sure an omnipotent God could have created the work this morning, including planting evidence of yesterday's post both on Google's computer and in my memory”

There is no analogy, your comparing a speculative possibility with the testimony of God. If you don’t believe the Torah is divine, I have no argument with you. You don’t have same foundation to reach such a conclusion, but have no reason to allegorize it either. But if you do accept the Torah, God didn’t say He created us this morning. He didn’t say He created us after Matan Torah. He said He created the world over seven days a few thousand years ago.

Dave said...

And there is no stylistic reason to believe it wasn’t supposed to be taken literally, and it was by the vast majority of our people until recent centuries. Furthermore we are repeatedly told that under normal circumstances we must take the Torah literally.

Exactly the same applies to the issue of the origin of lice. And yet Joseph now tells me that what Chazal meant was that they spiritually come from dirt, and they aren't really eggs in the sense that eggs are supposed to be meant.

Why the change? Because we can now see that lice come from eggs.

So, I am left with a set of possibilities.

First, that Chazal weren't speaking with any kind of infallibility on matters of science, but rather had the understanding of their day.

Second, that they weren't speaking literally, because we can see that the evidence is overwhelming that the literal reading is wrong.

Third, that they were speaking literally and that our observations are wrong.

Fourth, that they were speaking literally, and that they were wrong. If we take Joseph's claim that all they knew they took from Torah, then clearly this results in their being wrong about Torah. Joseph doesn't seem to like this particular outcome.

I should note that, at least from where I sit, Groucho Marx not withstanding, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" isn't a convincing argument.

Yirmiahu said...

I think you are conflating taking the Torah according to its peshat with Chazal's understanding of nature. Two distinct issues.

Anonymous said...

>If present trends continue I suspect that in 50 years we will see charedi flat earthers.<

Many Lubabs seem to believe that the sun circles the earth after the LR commented that since all motion is relative, to say so is just as valid as saying that the earth circles the sun.

You can't make this stuff up folks!

Mike S. said...

Yirmiahu,

Yes, but when Sa'adiya Gaon said that that was an entirely reasonable thing to believe, given the state of scientific knowledge of the day. It isn't anymore; there is too much evidence to the contrary, even if you want to say that the world was created as if it were old. The genetic diversity I menationed above being one example. So whether or not there are stylistic reasons or a tradition to abandon a literal interpretation one is forced (assuming one accepts the Divine origen of the Torah) to conclude that either the literal interpretation is wrong, or that God continually intervenes in nature to fool us, despite the lack of a measorah to that effect. If Sa'adiya were willing to believe the latter, he might just as well believed that even though we do not now see women giving birth to other animals, maybe Chava did before (or for that matter after) the Chet as a special miracle. Yet he didn't. Despite his very strong preference for literal interpretation he didn't allow it to override either knowledge gained through empirical observation or his sense of logic (seichel), which is why he (and Rambam) did not take the anthropomorhic and other physical descriptions of God lieterally. You will note that that is Sa'adiya's example of something that cannot be interpreted literally because of seichel, not because of a mesorah to that effect.

Joeseph: If indeed Chazal had their knowledge of science from the Torah, then, since many of their scientific statements, taken literally as such, are wrong, i.e. disproven by hard data, we would be forced to conclude that the Torah is, chas veshalom, false. Therefore we must assume either:

1) that the many Rishonim and Acharonim who do not agree with the sources you cite, but said that Chazal derived their scientific knowledge from the science of their times are correct, and the ones you cite are wrong. I confess this is my preference and that of my Rebbeim. While you have to say that that makes many things said by great and holy scholars wrong, you also have to do so to hold your opinion anyway, since many great and holy scholars (for example the Rambam and Rav Hirsch) disagreed with the ones you cite.

or

2) That the statements in Chazal that appear to be about science are not to be interpreted literally. They are either metaphysical statements or metaphors we no longer understand correctly. This is logically impeccable, but would mean we no longer understand much of what Chazal said.

or

3) They were once true but aren't anymore. This is both scientifically (because scientists have and continue to look very hard for signs that the laws of nature were once different than they are now, and have no evidence that they have changed and very tight limits on how much if at all they can have changed) and theologically (because Chazal seemed to have no mesorah that this would happen, and wrote them in the gemara as if they would always be true.)

or

4) Chazal were wrong in how they interpreted the Torah, chas v'shalom. As you have pointed out, we really can't believe this and remain true to the mesorah.

or

5) Scientists either don't know what they are talking about or are lying to undermine belief in the Torah. This is completely untenable. There are far too many religious scientists (and for that matter, honorable irreligious scientists) for the latter to make sense, and the testable accuracy of scientific prediction (to parts per trillion in some cases) makes the former impossible to believe.

Anonymous said...

Joseph, do you think that lice reproduce through spontaneous generation,as it says in the gemara? Do you think that the sun goes behind a dome at night? Or do you think that maybe these statements reflected the science of ancient times or weren't meant to be taken literally?

Joseph said...

Mike S: Your premise is incorrect. It is the so-called "hard data" (which is anything but) that is unproven.

G*3 said...

> Your premise is incorrect. It is the so-called "hard data" (which is anything but) that is unproven.

What constitutes proof? Would you say its been proven that the sky is blue? I have a feeling that if there was a chazal that said the sky is green, you would beleive that to be true, despite the sky appearing to be blue. Which makes this entire conversation pointless. Once you deny that empirical evidence has any validity if it contradicts Torah, then there is nothing to discuss.

There is all the practical applications of science, like the computer you're sitting in front of, but don't let that bother you.

Incidentally, if chazal really knew all of science perfectly from the Torah, then why didn't they provide the cures for all the disesases that plauged humanity? Antibiotics would have come in handy during the Black Death.

Joseph said...

It would do well to read before writing, as I have addressed almost all the points raised, in posts prior to the're being asked.

Mike S. said...

Joeseph,

Come on, even leaving Breishit aside, the Gaonim already rejected the medicine of the Talmud, as does modern medicine, with plenty of hard data, and there is no disease caused by eating fish and meat together, and the Sun doesn't go above the sky at night (as the gemara notes, with Rebbe saying the Gentile scholars were correct, and Jews and Gentiles have the same number of teeth. And when the Ramban had to concede that rainbows were a natural phenomenon he did so on the basis of empirical evidence, not a kabbalah from his rebbeim or by studying Torah.

And the data on the age of the world, and trees (and settlements) that would have survived the flood are all quite strong. And the models based on the data have ample predictive power. I am sorry, but there really is no way to argue that the scientific data are weak except from ignorance. You want to claim that Chazal's statements don't mean what they seem to on the surface, OK. But to try to claim they are good science is impossible to do honestly.

Yirmiahu said...

Mike S.

I only have a minute, so I apologize for not being thorough:

"So whether or not there are stylistic reasons or a tradition to abandon a literal interpretation one is forced (assuming one accepts the Divine origen of the Torah) to conclude that either the literal interpretation is wrong, or that God continually intervenes in nature to fool us, despite the lack of a measorah to that effect."

Again, assuming on accepts the Divine Origin of the Torah, then there is no need to suspect that G-d "continually intervenes" because He told us He did at several key junctures, B'reshis, the Mabul, and the Dor haflagah. This isn't "continual". Nor do you have to assume that He is trying to fool us, again why isn't it trying to "fool us" by giving us a non-literal account that we would and did obviously accept as literal?

"If Sa'adiya were willing to believe the latter, he might just as well believed that even though we do not now see women giving birth to other animals, maybe Chava did before (or for that matter after) the Chet as a special miracle. Yet he didn't."

You do realize that the "pshat" is not that Chava was the mother of all living animals, don't you? This is clear from the context.

You must also realize that philosophically while Saadia may have require demonstrative proof, I would suggest that philosophically we have a much more rigorous definition of demonstrative proof nowadays.

Saadia Goan puts the burden of proof on those who wish to allegorize. As you know, the science of his day said the world had always existed, yet he still took the Breshis account literally. If God created the world if "full form" it would look older than it is. It is not trickery for Him to align such appearance with how He wanted nature to operate. Indeed, one could easily argue that free will necessitated that there be an apparent naturalistic explanation for creation.

I know I haven't dealt with you comment fully, but I believe that most of your questions have been dealt with or anticipated in my comments or my own posts on this topic. The Baal HaBlog might get upset at me if I continue to use his comment section to sound off. :)

Mike S. said...

Yirmiahu:

1) The example of Chava isn't mine, it's Rav Sa'adia's. And he gives it as an example of a literal reading that must be rejected.

2) If you said the philosophy of Sa'adiya's day believed in an eternal universe, you would be closer to the mark. That belief was without empirical evidence, so not really properly called science. I assume you know that Ramba"m wrote that if that belief were better proven than it was, he could have understood the Chumash consistent with it. How much more so with modern cosmology.

3) But to reconcile the all the scientific evidence with a literal understanding requires more than episodic intervention. Or if so, episodic intervention in ways not mentioned in our mesorah. For instance, as it were, God adding a bunch a variation in mitochondrial DNA in thousands of species while he was dispersing the dor haf'lagah or taking us out of Egypt.

4) Presumably, along the lines of Ramba"n's comments, people once believed that there were no rainbows before the mabul, and changed that belief when it was demonstrated that they arise from scattering of light by water droplets. This doesn't seem to disturb you or anyone else. I don't see why the age of the Earth is any different. The Torah was given for all times, so it naturally can be understood at various levels of technological sophistication. That our science compels us to discard literal interpretations that the science of Sa'adiya's day did not need not surprise or concern anyone.

Joseph said...

You're opinion about not having to take the days as days was rejected by all the Rishonim, as all of them who discuss this, particularly Rashi and Ramban, says a day is a day.

Not that thats a tremendous chidush. If a day isnt a day then maybe a mountain isnt a mountain, a desert isnt a desert, Tefillin arent Tefillin, and Shabbos isnt Shabbos. The whole idea is silly.

Rav Sadiah never said such a thing. That's a distortion of his position. See it inside. What Rav Sadiah did say has no bearing on any of the issues we are discussing.

Rav Sadiah did not say all methods of direct and indirect proofs are sufficent to reinterpret the Torah. And surely he did not say scientific evidence is reason. Neither Rav Saadiah or anybody eles ever said such a thing. Your senses are what you can feel and taste and touch such that it becomes impossible for it not to be so.
Scientific evidence is not that. There is a margin of error in these things that has been proven time and time again in the past. Especially since there are other explanations, such as the "world was created old" idea that explains things just fine. Never mind that more often than not, the "proofs" start with the asusmption that the world was NOT created by a creator.

Take, as an example, the “proof” to evolution of "vestigial" organs found in animals. This proof is based on the assumption that the scientists already have uncovered sufficient knowledge of science such that if they cannot find a reason for an organ, the reason does not exist. Not only has this assumption not been proven, it has been disproven in the past. Whale fins (and other organs) were once upon a time served up as evidence of vestigial limbs by scientists only later to discover that they indeed did not realize that they have in fact an important purpose.

That is a far, far, far cry from the touch-and-taste first-hand sensory intuitive proof that Rav Saadiah mentioned.

So Rav Saadiah’s statement clearly does not apply here. On the contrary - from the narrow scope of Rav Sadiah's flexibility, it indicates clearly that anything outside of the scope of black and white logic and intuition can not be used to reinterpret a posuk.

Joseph said...

In addition, Rav Saadiah never said that your senses are the only factor involved in assessing the acceptability of your interpretation. Rav Saadiah was a rishon, and he was talking about interpreting the Torah in an acceptable, reasonable manner, using all the yegiah and ameilus that one uses to interpret any difficult passage. He is saying that your senses can be invoked to determine correct pshat in the Torah but he did not say that satisfying your senses is the only requirement for an acceptable pshat. Rav Saadiah did not say that you can interpret the Torah - allegorically or literally - in a way that contradicts our Torah shebal peh, Mesorah, or the Halachah, for instance, just because you cannot think of a pshat that agrees with the Mesorah. So even if theoretically something in the Torah would go against our senses, we would have to interpret the Torah according to the halachic and hashkafic due process. If we are unable to think of a pshat that squares with torah shebal peh, then we simly do not know the pshat. Not a big deal. There are a lot of difficult passages in the Torah. And as Rav Chaim Brisker said: "It is better to remain with a good question than to give a bad answer."

So even if someone had seen Hashem create the world with the mammals first and fish later, which is what he would have to do to meet Rav Saadiahs criteria, he would still not be entitled to answer by saying the Torah “doesn’t really mean it.” He would have to say "I dont know what the Torah means here."

Plus, if you notice, Rav Saadiah said not only that you may reinterpret a posuk if it contradicts simple logic and intuition, which is not justification for reinterpreting the Torah here, Rav Sadiah also says that license to reinterpret comes if the posuk seems to contradict rabbinic tradition.

So avoiding an absolute logical and intuitive impossibility is one reason to reinterpret, but contradicting rabbinic tradition is another.

So even if you have a posuk that meets Rav Sadiahs criterion of being against basic logic and sensory facts, by reinterpreting it in a way that contradicts rabbinic tradition you have not follwoed Rav Sadiah. All you have done is traded one impossibilitiy for another, which is not what Rav Saddiah is allowing.

To fulfill Rav Sadiah, youd have to reinterpret the posuk in a way that squares with Rabbinic tradition. If you cant, then you simply must say "I dont know."

To take scientific evidence and theories – which is NOT within the scope of Rav Saadiah's criteia – and reinterpreted pesukim to make them contradict Rabbinic tradition, is not only outside of the scope of what Rav Sadiah said was permitted, but, according to Rav Sadiah’s statement, it is making things much worse than they were before.

The requirement to believe Torah MiSinai includes of course, not only Torah shebiksav but Torah shebaal peh. That includes Midrashim. However, Agados can be interpreted not literally. Rav Saadia Gaon writes that an Agada can be interpreted as Mesholim in 4 instances: If it contradicts reality, reason, Gemara or Rabbinic tradition. The Ramchal, in Maamar HaAgadta also writes that some Agados are mesholim. (See also Radak Shmuel I end of Ch. 28). Not accpeting a Maamr Chazal is not accpetable - but to reinterpret it in a way that makes it more palatable is OK.

Theoretically, that is. In order to interpret any Chazal - Halachah or Agada - you need to benefit of Rabbinic tradition throughout the ages. If the Rishonim considered an Agada literal, you would be fooling yourself by saying that it is not. They surely had the same measure of common sense as we do, and so if they were not bothered by the credulity of a specific statement of Chazal, we should not be, either.

Joseph said...

Another thing: There are people who refuse to accept what seems to them incredulity even in Pesukim of the torah and they therefore interpret them allegorically. That is Apikorsus for sure. And to say that well, I will trust the Torah and the prophets but not Chazal makes no sense. Chazal didnt make up stories. But rather the Agada was said, sometimes, as a Moshol. But to know when it is a Moshol and when it is literal is as difficult as properly interpreting any Torah passage. And here, too, the same logic that tells you the literal meaning of the CHazal is hard ot accept also tells you in even stronger tones, that we are nothing but foolish to reject the opinions of our Rishonim, who understood both reality and Chazal much better than we do.

I have a better idea, then, for such cases, when you come acorss such a Chazal. Invoke Rav CHaim Brisker's dictums: "Fun a kasha shtarbt mir nisht". You wont die from a [an unanswered] question. And "S'iz besser to beiben by a kasha vi tzu zogen a krumer teretz" - "Its better to remain with a quesiton than to have the wrong answer."

So say simply, "I dont understand this Chazal." You dont have to interpret it any way at all. Maybe one day youll see something in a sefer or someone will explain it. In the meantime, there is no need to jump to conclusions that our predecesors did not reach.

BTW, as an aside, in a kuntres put out on Birkas Hachamah entitled 'Tizrach Hashemesh', a medrash that says 'lo nivroh leho'ir elah galgal hachamoh bilvad - the Zohar in Parshas Veyakhel (reish-tes-vav) 'delais nehorah leseharoh elah nehora di'shimshoh' - this fits exactly with what was discovered about the moon, that it has no light of its own, and that it receives light from the sun - it only looks like it's shining by itself. Chalk this one up to the list of things Chazal would have had no way of knowing without the Torah being from Hashem.

Mike S. said...

Joseph:

Well, OK. I am quite willing to say I don't know how to interpret many p'sukim in the Torah. In fact, I did say so above regarding the Flood. Although I would eventually like to undrstand the whole Torah, I know well that that is beyond my capacity, even beyond the compacity of any finite being. I will have to settle for doing the best I can. Nor do I, or anyone else, have a complete understanding of science.

And, as I said, I really have no problem with anyone who says that statements in Chazal that seem to be scientific really mean something other than their surface meaning, although a great number of Rishonim and Acharonim disagree with that viewpoint. As you correctly point out, many others agree with it. Nor did I offer any particular any interpretation of any p'sukim.

As I have pointed out above, the "the world was created to appear old" is not sufficient to render the chronology of Seder Olam consistent with the evidence.

As for Chazal being wrong on metziut sometimes, we know that they were, because they tell us so. For example, there is the well known gemara where R. Gamliel was mekadesh the Chodesh on the "wrong" day on the basis of erroneous testimony. Of course, the point of the gemara is that we follow the p'sak of beit din anyhow, but the gemara is quite clear that the bet din was in error. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that they couldn't have accepted scientific statements now known to be incorrect. They weren't omniscient, and never claimed to be. Indeed, even in halacha they didn't know everything, as all the "teiku's" in the gemara prove.

As for the last paragraph, the Greek scholars who were contemporaries of Chazal understood, from observations of eclipses, that moon shine is reflected sunlight, and I am sure Chazal could have figured that out either from their own obseervations or by asking. So your proof fails completely. And by the way, the statement in the Zohar isn't even completely correct, as the stars generate light by fusion, just like the Sun.

Your comments on vestigial organs and measurement uncertainty and its significance indicate that you are quite confused about both the methodology and the content of science. I regret that I do not have the time, and this is not the space, to educate you.

Yirmiahu said...

“The example of Chava isn't mine, it's Rav Sa'adia's. And he gives it as an example of a literal reading that must be rejected.”

His example, or his illustration?

“If you said the philosophy of Sa'adiya's day believed in an eternal universe, you would be closer to the mark.”

You fail to recognize that regardless of how clearly we see the deficiency of their methodology, they did not. The Rambam did not speculate about being able to reconcile with Plato’s version (He said such a reconciliation was not possible with Aristotle’s) because he thought it was junk science. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t have my Emunos v’Deos in a locatable place to review specifically how he approached the question. I recall he open’s the first treatise with 8 different theories or so on how the world came to being (which is perhaps, why I haven’t been able to go through it cover to cover :0

“Or if so, episodic intervention in ways not mentioned in our mesorah.”

But allegorically interpreting the first 15 chapters of Genesis isn’t in our mesorah either and Rishon after Rishon objects to the idea. That’s the problem, you raise objections, but more often than not they can be raised even more strongly with allegorization. The problem is many people have a greater difficulty “allegorizing” the material inferences and presuppositions of science (not to minimize their strength or usefulness) than they do allegorizing the Torah. The problem is that allegorizing can only go so far without undermining any and all reason to accept Torah. Rambam and Saadiah both point out that their comes a point when allegorizing just doesn’t work, even if you allowed it.

“Presumably, along the lines of Ramba"n's comments, people once believed that there were no rainbows before the mabul, and changed that belief when it was demonstrated that they arise from scattering of light by water droplets”

The Ramban did not allegorize that passage, he reevaluated the pshat. I discussed this in my post.

Mike S. said...

Who said anything about allegory? What kind of allegory could you make of "And Kenan was 70 years old and fathered Mehalalel" anyway? I am surely niot smart enough for that.

There are all kinds of literary devices that are neither literal nor allegory. You know that well--surely you don't take "vayipach b'apav ruach chaim" to mean that God literally blew life into Adam's nose--indeed, it would be k'firah to do so, since it would make God corporeal. God gave us the beginning of Chumash to teach us a number of lessons, many of which are brought by Chazal, and many of which we (or at least I) don't understand. And did so in language that could be understood by the generation that left Egypt.

I understand the Rishonim were reluctant to abandon literal interpretation, but they were also unaware of the huge mounds of evidence we have compelling us to do so. They also believed in Galenic medicine and Ptolomaic astronomy--Ramba"m even put the latter in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah. I assume you don't believe that, or think that I must. And frankly, I suspect if the Rambam were around now he would put neither modern astronomy
nor Ptolomaic astronomy in. And frankly, if he insisted I believe in Ptolomaic astronomy, I'd not listen.

The Torah does not demand that we abandon the use of our senses and minds to understand the world around us; only that we recognize the Hashgacha paratit behind what we see. Nor does it command us to believe the most simple literal interpretation of Chumash. And if I were convinced that the Torah demanded I believe that a flood covered the entire world and reduced all land animals to 1 breeding pair per sprecies (which somehow fit on a fairly small boat) 4000 some odd years ago, I'd have to admit that my life as a frum Jew was, chas v'shalom, a mistake--the evidence against that is far stronger than the evidence in favor of Matan Torah.

Yirmiahu said...

The problem is that your taking a dogmatic stance on materialistic inferences. Taking the pshat of Torah doesn't demand that your reject materialist evidence, just how you interpret it, Rabbi Slifkin actually makes this point in Challenge of Creation.

But what you are saying is that you would reject the Garden of Eden account because the world appears older, when it would have to appear older by definition.

And you are saying that you would reject a supernatural flood on account of it not having the same effect as a natural one.

You keep discussing the strength of the material evidence, I've never challenged that. You just haven't explained why you take it or leave it approach is better that having a little nuance in one's view of the natural world.

Mike S. said...

I don't have a problem with a supernatural flood not having the same effect as a natural one. Of course it must, or it would have flattened every mountain range on Earth. And the water had to go somewhere by miracle too. What I do have a problem with is everything that must have happened for sometime after to hide its effect, for example, to develop the observed genetic variation within species from a single breeding pair per species a mere 4000 years ago. As I have said over and over again, merely creating a world with the appearance of age doesn't fit the evidence.

More to the point, I don't understand how science can work looking forward to (in some experiments) parts per trillion looking forward and suddenly turn to jelly looking backward. What you seem to be suggesting (as best I understand it) seems far less consistant with Chotamo Emet (God's seal is truth) than using a literary rather than a literal description of something as far beyond human understanding as ma'asei breishit.