Thursday, August 05, 2010

Don't Fall for Flawed Torah Proofs.

I recently came across a web site that claims to have proof that the Torah was given by God to the Jewish people.  As regular readers of my blog know, I have come across sites like this one before and have yet to find *any* conclusive iron-clad proof from the text that the Torah was written by a Divine Being.  Every proof that I've seen has some fatal flaw -- whether it be faulty reasoning, begging-the-question or just plain factual error.  Sadly, this site's "proofs" suffer from the same fatal flaws.  I'll be going through some of them in a minute.  Before I do that, however, I want to point out several things:

1.  Lack of evidence does not equal evidence of lack. 

I'm sure that many of you have heard this before and it is100% valid.  Just because I can't prove that the Inivisible Pink Unicorn does not exist does not mean that it does not exist.  Of course, each individual has to weigh for themselves how strongly consider the lack of evidence when making a determination -- but it cannot be used as definitive proof that the object you are considering does not exist.

2.  Demolishing a proof does not equal demolishing the underlying argument.

In each case, I will show how the proof being presented is flawed.  I will not, however, be presenting any counter-arguments.  I will make no statements of my own regarding the Divinity of the Torah (which, for the record, I do believe in), nor will I be making any arguments against it.

3.  Don't ever let anyone "guilt" you into believing something.

The site that we're looking at has the following paragraph on it's home page:

The evidence brought down in this website should convince a reader that the Holy Torah was given to the Jewish people by G-d himself.  If the evidence does not convince you or someone, that does not mean that the evidence is not strong, it just means that you do not want to be convinced. Just like there are holocaust deniers, even though there is prove, there are G-d deniers even though there is prove.

Did you get that?  If you don't believe his proofs, you're the equivalent of a Holocaust denier.  All he's trying to do is to make you feel guilty for not believing in his proofs.  If you aren't utterly persuaded by my evidence, he (in essence) says, it's not the evidence's fault but yours.  Don't fall for that.  By all means, if his evidence is conclusive, believe him -- but don't do it because he puts a guilt-trip on you.

That being said, let's get down to his "proofs."

His first proof is as follows:

How does a person keep his/her balance?

Well, according modern science, the ear may hold the answer. "The inner ear includes both the organ of hearing (the cochlea) and a sense organ that is attuned to the effects of both gravity and motion (labyrinth or vestibular apparatus). The balance portion of the inner ear consists of three semi-circular canals and the vestibule." (Wikipedia, Ear)

Since Hebrew is a Holy Language, every word is self descriptive. The word "ear-אוזן" (Ozen) is of the same root as "balance-איזן" (Izun). The linguistic miracle of ancient Hebrew, proves its Divinity.

Pretty cool, no?  The ancients must have somehow known that the ear controls the balance of the human body and even encoded it in the Hebrew language by using a similar word for both "ear" and "balance."

This is a classic example of begging-the-question.  Begging-the-question is a logical fallacy whereby you assume the point you're trying to prove.  The whole proof rests on the fact that we assume that when the words "Ear" and "Balance" were created in the Hebrew Language, they were purposely given similar roots.  However, if you consider that it might be a simple coincidence, then the whole proof falls apart.

"Ah," the true believer might counter, "how can you say it's a coincidence?  What are the odds that two completely different words would be so similar?"  Indeed, the author of the "proof" calls it a "linguistic miracle," implying that it's almost impossible that such a thing could happen naturally.

Alas, that simply isn't the case.  To understand why, you might need a (very) brief primer in the Hebrew Language.  Words (especially verbs) in Hebrew tend to have three-letter roots, which are then altered (usually with prefixes and suffixes) to denote subject and tense.  The author's argument rests on the fact that the roots for ear and balance are the same or similar.  The Hebrew alphabet consists of 22 letters.  So, the odds of any two three letter words being the same are 1 in 223, or 1 in 10,648.  Unusual?  Maybe.  Miraculous?  Hardly.  Absolute proof that a Divine Being created the two words?  No way.  Absolute proof that God authored the Torah?  Not even close.  Note that the "proof" doesn't address the Divine authorship of the Torah at all.  The absolute most it could prove is that those two words (and *prehaps* the Hebrew language) was composed by a Divine Being.  But it doesn't even come anywhere close to that. 

On to his second proof.  This one involves the length of time it takes the moon to orbit the Earth.  The Gemara states Rabban Gamliel had a tradition from his father's house that the period between two new moons is not less than 29.0359 days after the previous new moon.  Since Rabban Gamliel did not have a telescope or an advanced timepiece, and since the statement is factually true (barring slight variations due to tides, etc.), the fact that he knew this must mean that the knowledge came from a Divine Source.  Pretty cool, no?

Now, before I give you the answer to this one, I want you to consider one thing:  Suppose the statement is true.  Suppose God Himself appeared to Rabban Gamliel (or his ancestors) and said "The period between new moons is not less than..."  Does that prove that God gave us the Torah?  Does that somehow prove the existence of the Avos?  Does that in any way cast evidence on the historicity of Mattan Torah or the Exodus?  The answer, very simply, is no, it does not.  It simply means that Rabban Gamliel had a tradition from God Himself on this one fact.

That being said, now let's look at the facts.  I don't know that God Himself didn't, in fact, appear to Rabban Gamliel's ancestors and impart this fact.  But we do know that the Babylonian astronomer Naburimani also calculated the synodic period of the moon (the fancy way of saying the time between one new moon and the next) several hundred years before Rabban Gamliel lived. 

"Ah, " the true believer will say "perhaps the Babylonians got the figure from us.  After all, how could the Babylonians (or anyone else from the ancient world) have figured it out to such precision?"

Before we answer the question, let's consider the fact that while it's possible that the Babylonians got the figure from us, there is no proof of it.  It's at least just as likely that Rabban Gamliel's ancestors got the figure from the Babylonians.  Nonetheless, there is a simple way to figure out the synodic period of the Moon.  Since a solar eclipse can *only* occur at the time of conjunction between the sun and the moon, all you need to do is calculate the number of days between two solar eclipses and divide it between the number of lunar months between those two eclipses.  Don't believe me?  Go to this list of solar eclipses and calculate it for yourself.  (Keep in mind, of course, that the number of lunar months is not the same as the number of solar months.  There are 235 lunar months in 19 years, not 228).  You too will be able to easily calculate the synodic period to a few decimal places.  Since it is presumed that the ancients did know how to count days and months, it is hardly a Divine miracle that the ancients possessed this knowledge.*

On to the third proof.   This time, the author brings a Gemara in Niddah which tells us that all fish that have scales also have fins.  Only a Divine Being, the argument tells us, with knowledge of every fish species in the world could possibly have made such a statement.  After all, the ancients certainly didn't know of every species of fish on their own.  Heck, we're still discovering new species of fish today.  Hence, such a definitive statement could only have come from an all-knowing God.  No non-omniscient man could possibly have made such a statement.

To the best of my knowledge, the statement is correct.  Although I am not a marine biologist, I am not aware of any species of fish that has a fin but no scales.  Pretty convincing, no? 

Again, however, the author is making the leap from asserting that if one statement of the Torah is true, it must all be true.  There is simply no basis for such an assertion.  As with the period of the moon, the *most* that it can prove is that God told the ancients secrets of marine biology that they could not have otherwise known.  

But it doesn't even prove that.   This is yet another case of begging-the-question and assuming that a Divine authorship before proving it.  To illustrate, let me give you an example.  I'm going to make a statement right now:  Every star (barring collapsed, dead stars) conducts nuclear fusion in it's core.  Now, fast forward 1000 years, a million years or even a billion years and suppose we find that, indeed, every star that they've ever found fuses atoms in its core.  Does the fact that I made that successful prediction make me Divine?  After all, I certainly didn't examine every star in the universe.  How could I possibly know that there are no stars that don't fuse atoms? 

The answer, of course, is that I simply extrapolated from what I do know and made a general rule.  Since I know that every star we've found so far fuses atoms, it's not too hard to make a rule that all stars conduct nuclear fusion.  Similarly, an ancient, examining the fish around him, could easily notice that every fish that has scales also has fins and make such a rule.

"Ah, " the true believer will counter, "but wouldn't he be afraid of being caught?  Wouldn't he be afraid to make such a statement if there was even a possibility that someone in the future might disprove him?  Surely someone making such a statement would have to be 100% sure, or else face the possibility of being disproven."

This, however, is another example of begging the question.  The believer is assuming that the person making the statement would be afraid of "being caught."  But is that the only possibility?  Perhaps he wasn't concerned about being incorrect.  Perhaps he simply thought he was correct just as I think I am about stars.  Perhaps he was simply making a general rule without regard for exceptions.  In short, you can't prove that this statement came from a Divine source and you certainly can't prove from this that the entire Torah is Divine in origin.

The author has quite a few more "proofs" at his site and I don't have time to go through them all.  Perhaps I'll look at some of the others another time.  But the important thing I want you to take away from the post is this -- just because someone says that something is a proof, that doesn't make it so.  In order for it to truly be a proof, it has to stand up to tests against both logic and empirical fact.  Sadly, none of the "proofs" that I posted about here do that.

The Wolf


* As an aside, if you want an interesting eye-opener into how much astronomy you could learn with only a stick, a rope and a stone, read chapter 5 of Neil DeGrasse Tyson's book Death by Black Hole.

23 comments:

Shilton HaSechel said...

>>>I will make no statements of my own regarding the Divinity of the Torah (which, for the record, I do believe in)

Don't leave us hanging ;)

>>>Since Hebrew is a Holy Language, every word is self descriptive. The word "ear-אוזן" (Ozen) is of the same root as "balance-איזן" (Izun). The linguistic miracle of ancient Hebrew, proves its Divinity.

Oooo this makes me mad!

Hebrew although used for holy purposes is a Semitic language and is not original at all in the Ancient Near East.

Incidentally Akkadian which predates the Torah uses the word "uzn" (I think) to mean ear so nothing special about "אוזן"

In general this guy obviously is unfamiliar with the meaning of the word proof.

G*3 said...

Proof 1: There’s also the question of the number of hits compared to the number of misses – he provides ONE instance of a “hidden meaning.” If this was very common, that might mean something, but one, or even a few, can be attributed to coincidence. Also, if this makes a language divine, then any other language with similar word matchups would also be divine. I can’t think of any examples offhand, but I’d bet this sort of thing is far more common than he would like to think.

I honestly would welcome real proof that Judaism’s claims are true. It would make my life much simpler. Sadly, all of the proofs I’ve seen are like these.

ZachM said...

another point to add to disproof of proof one, who is to say that these ancients didn't study human biology well enough to determine that the source of balance is in the ear, so any correlation between the words could be an intentional move but made by a mortal with a knack for science.

i'm not saying that's the case for sure because I don't know the complete history of these scientific discoveries but it does certainly seem like a possibility....

Joe in Australia said...

You probably meant to say "I am not aware of any species of fish that has scales but no fin," not the other way round.

Also, there are far fewer than 22^3 possible three-letter roots. Not all combinations are pronounceable (e.g., aleph-aleph-aleph), and probably not all pronounceable combinations are used.

david a. said...

TMS is totally indefensible intellectually. while there have been some feable attempts, they basically always fail.

On the other hand the arguments against the likelihood that a divine being, who is defined as truthful, just, moral and beneficient is quite strong.
while we will likely never have 100% proof of this, the evidence when taken together forms what in a court of law who be called "beyond a reasonable doubt". I would truly challenge a "believer" in TMS to take pen in hand and respond rationally point by point.

As i recently summarized it on SH's blog, it goes something like this: (and note it does not even require any appeal to the DH).

First, can we agree on the assumption that if God authored the Torah, we would expect it to be truthful, just and beneficent in all its commandments, and contain some kind of timeless morality, and finally not be internally contradictory.

So, based on these assumptions, here is a quick summary of the reasons against TMS in a nutshell.

1. Historicity. Many of the narratives, if taken literally, have been proven, via hard science, to be historically untrue (such as the creation story, age of universe, size of the group of escapees from Egypt, encounter with groups that archaeology believes were non-existent at the time, and many other lesser important events). and some events that can even be categorized as historically impossible. (ie. Flood, Hebrew as the only language). We can discuss any of these in more detail if you actually cannot see the problems with these narratives.
2. Morality. The morality of the literal Bible, without considering the major Rabbinic interventions/modifications, is only marginally better than the ANE morality of the surrounding nations. examples. Acceptance of Slavery, treatment of women, treatment of children, abusive use (to modern sentiments) of the death penalty, genocide, lex talonis (eye for and eye), rape or enslavement of women captured in battle, etc. (By “etc.” i mean there are probably more ideas but can’t think, off the top of my head),
3. Unjust/Unfair Commandments. Such as maaser and shmittah.,inheritance laws, treatment of women, etc
4. Detrimental Commands. Commandments that modern knowledge would view as detrimental to society such as the ban on interest, shmittah loan laws.
5. Missing commandments. (a) If the Torah was meant to establish an optimal society, the book fails to provide many laws such as laws relating to government structure and its function, only very limited criminal laws, laws establishing and operating an education system, etc. (b) laws and suggestions about human relations, specifically husband/wife, health, etc.
6. Contradictions. Many laws and hashkofot of Sefer Devarim as well as many details of some of the narratives in Devarim contradict their equivalents found in other parts of the Torah, almost as if 2 people wrote them or Moishe had a change of heart and mind later in life. Examples text of the 10 Cs, laws of bechor, shmittah, maaser, laws of yom tov, Korban pesach, etc. are all contradictory, concept of Kapporah is completely non-existent in Dev., attitude to the Temple, Kohanim, etc. An entire book can be written just on this problem.
7. Miscellaneous. Anachronisms, as if the text was written many years later. Also, oddities such that many rituals can be compared or contrasted to what who know about ANE history that preceded the Torah. A clincher to me is that the Torah presents circumcision as a special bond, yet many of the ANE societies practiced this ritual.

While any particular entry above, on its own, likely doesn’t amount to much, taken together, it makes for a compelling and power argument against the likelihood that THIS book was authored by a divine, just, and beneficent Being.

The Hedyot said...

If you can bear sitting through this guy's 3 hour video, he's got a lot of the same arguments:
http://www.sellmeyourjewishsoul.com/
Plus, he's willing to buy your neshama. Actually, not really. I tried selling mine to him ,but all he offered me was around $100, which would only be paid after watching all his videos, being tested on them, and having a rabbinically signed document authorizing my Jewishness.
Oh well, I guess I still have my pintele yid.

Zach Kessin said...

In terms of the moon, if you have long term record keeping, which the Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks all did you can figure out the period of the moon's orbit. Actually it is pretty good but not perfect, the Metonic Cycle (Which is the tectonically name for the 19 year cycle) is off by about 4 hours. 235 Lunar months is about 4 hours different from 19 solar years.

And the Period of the molad that they use is off by about 3/5 of a second per month. Now you may say "Hey its less then a second so what" but over 1600 years that adds up.

Also see the 365 days of Astronomy podcast on the Hebrew calendar, It was last fall. (I don't recall the date)

Also listen to Richard Pogge's Astronomy 161 Lectures for a lot on the history of Astronomy, you can find them on the web.

Yes I am an Astronomy Geek and am interested in Calendars.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> 1. Historicity. Many of the narratives, if taken literally, have been proven, via hard science, to be historically untrue

And non-believers demand that caveat - that the only authentic reading of the Torah is the literal one. Once one accepts that "the Torah spoke in the language of Man", that the narratives cannot be taken literally and must be understood as interpretable, then this objection falls apart.

>and some events that can even be categorized as historically impossible.

Again, another demand: there can be no miracles. God cannot ever have intervened in history. Therefore the Flood and other events in the Bible simply could not have happened. But Jewish though agrees that these were not natural events. The Flood didn't just happen but was a Godly event interrupting normal history.

>2. Morality. The morality of the literal Bible, without considering the major Rabbinic interventions/modifications, is only marginally better than the ANE morality of the surrounding nations.

Another assumption: that the Rabbis invented the Oral Law to soften the harshness of the Written Law. Once again, an assumption without any proof but taken as a given. If, however, the Oral Law was given by God simultaneously with the Written Law then there is no issue with the so-called barbarity of the Torah.

> Acceptance of Slavery, etc.

Another tactic: application of 20th century morality to the Bible on the assumption that it is the superior form that the Bible should be judged against. Who says?

>3. Unjust/Unfair Commandments. Such as maaser and shmittah.,inheritance laws, treatment of women, etc

Unjust and unfair according to whom? According to what objective measurement? Or just according to modern secular liberalism?

>4. Detrimental Commands. Commandments that modern knowledge would view as detrimental to society such as the ban on interest, shmittah loan laws.

What makes them detrimental?

>5. Missing commandments. (a) If the Torah was meant to establish an optimal society, the book fails to provide many laws such as laws relating to government structure and its function, etc.

All of which are detailed in the Oral Law. Again the assumption that it must have come later.

7. Miscellaneous. Anachronisms, as if the text was written many years later.

Except that it can be shown that each of the so-called anachronisms are linked to the Oral Law thus providing them with contemporary relevance and no proof of later authorship.

>A clincher to me is that the Torah presents circumcision as a special bond, yet many of the ANE societies practiced this ritual.

Many societies also ate food and bowed down during worship. The point isn't that circumcision was invented by Avraham Avinu but that for the first time it served as a religious symbol of the covenant.

The bottom line:
1) Your proofs against the Torah are pretty much as week as this guy's proofs for the Torah
2) We are not meant to have proof. We are meant to have faith. Very different thing that is.

Anonymous said...

The Torah is a path to serve God. some of its principles are a priori. As for the rest, the gemara goes into great efforts to work out. But getting sidetracking into proving the Torah is a waste if time.

Yaakov said...

Re: Proof 3.

I've heard this "proof" before, and in my personal refutation of it, I added something you did not.

Imagine if the gemara WAS wrong, and that later on, a fish was found with scales and no fins. No one would ever accept that as a disproof of gemara. They'd simply say, "The gemara was speaking from what it knew at the time."

Because they always have that fallback, the statement is not disprovable, and therefore cannot be used as a proof for anything.

david a. said...

>>>> And non-believers demand that caveat - that the only authentic reading of the Torah is the literal one.

I don’t demand it, just that Khazal believed it to be so, i.e. literal. It was only until the rational geonim and some of the rishonim that non-literalness crept in.

Look, face it, Bereshit chapters 1-11 is a no-win for traditional, rabbinic Judaism.
Either its literal, in which case it’s not true.
Or it’s not literal, in which case khazal erred (badly).

>>>>> Once one accepts that "the Torah spoke in the language of Man", that the narratives cannot be taken literally and must be understood as interpretable, then this objection falls apart.

While I concur that most reasonable, knowledgeable people do accept it as non-literal, unfortunately, to our utter embarrassment many (supposedly learned) Jews today still don’t.

>>>> Again, another demand: there can be no miracles.

Sure there can be, and let’s say that for the Flood there was this tremendous miracle. But, why did God erase all evidence of the Flood, and after the Flood replace the entire archaeological footprint of mankind from pre-Flood days, and then re-populate the earth post Flood instantly, and also speed up (temporarily) the genetic diversity of mankind. Why? so He can fool us into thinking there was no Flood…sort of like the reason there are fossils.

>>>>2. Morality. The morality of the literal Bible, without considering the major Rabbinic interventions/modifications, is only marginally better than the ANE morality of the surrounding nations.

>>>> Another assumption: that the Rabbis invented the Oral Law to soften the harshness of the Written Law. Once again, an assumption without any proof but taken as a given. If, however, the Oral Law was given by God simultaneously with the Written Law then there is no issue with the so-called barbarity of the Torah.

Okay, even accepting that the “improvements” to the written Torah of Khazal were ALL from Sinai (a belief that can also be shown to be nonsense), the morality of Rabbinic Judaism still falls short of what is acceptable to modern society. Eg. Khazal accepted slavery, non-equality of women, death penalty for non-jews for minor transgressions, monarchy as government, etc.

david a. said...

(cont'd)

>>>>> Another tactic: application of 20th century morality to the Bible on the assumption that it is the superior form that the Bible should be judged against. Who says?

Two points on slavery.

1. The Talmud says that laws that cannot be accepted by the people cannot be legislated. Thus the Torah’s law must be morally acceptable to the people or else they are ignored.
2. As for slavery, to me, the ownership of one human being by another is plain repugnant. Do you really hold otherwise?

>>>> Unjust and unfair according to whom? According to what objective measurement?

According to reasonable people. See above note 1.

Example. Maaser. No just society will accept a sizable tax on the people if the tax is not applied fairly. Maaser has 2 drawbacks. It was only applied to farmers and some ranchers (sheep and cattle) and it was applied pre-expenses, not on net income. So maybe God thinks its fair doing it this way. I don’t, and I don’t God does either. It may have been a bit fairer in the 5th Cent. BCE when the majority of the populace were farmers, but it certainly wouldn’t be fair today.

>>>> What makes them detrimental?

Because most people, under these conditions, simply will not lend money. Khazal realized this and introduced the heter iska and pruzbul. Now, show me your brilliance and tell me that these innovations were really given at Sinai as part of TSBP.

>>>> All of which are detailed in the Oral Law.

Nonsense. Why should minor laws like “shiluach hakan” be written down and the biggies given orally.


>>>>> 2) We are not meant to have proof. We are meant to have faith. Very different thing that is.

For some of us, faith in the face of contrary evidence just doesn’t fly. I realize that your faith is strong, mine just isn’t.

I’m out of time…I work for a living.

Gut shabbos, Garnel.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Karaites were extinct.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> Look, face it, Bereshit chapters 1-11 is a no-win for traditional, rabbinic Judaism.

No, just for modern day Chareidi interpretations of traditional rabbinic Judaism. Chazal were a lot more open-minded than their modern day defenders give them credit for.

>unfortunately, to our utter embarrassment many (supposedly learned) Jews today still don’t.

Agreed, but that doesn't change my original point. One can't account for idiots no matter how pious they think they're being.

> But, why did God erase all evidence of the Flood, and after the Flood replace the entire archaeological footprint of mankind from pre-Flood days,

Again, once there's miracles all bets are off. Why would God do such a thing? Am I God to know? Do I dare believe that I'm so sophisticated that if I can't see a good reason for it that there just can't be one?

>Okay, even accepting that the “improvements” to the written Torah of Khazal were ALL from Sinai

Not improvements, rather clarifications and understandings.

>the morality of Rabbinic Judaism still falls short of what is acceptable to modern society

Yes, because modern society which allows the murder of unborn babies and the ill elderly, is in a great position to judge.

And what's wrong with a constitutional monarchy, which is what the Torah advocates?

>1. The Talmud says that laws that cannot be accepted by the people cannot be legislated.

Do you know any Jews with slaves today? Even if a Jewish court were to have the power to sentence someone into slavery, do you really think they'd use that power? Slavery hasn't been in fashion in Judaism since before the Romans occupied Israel 3200 years ago. So it's nice to say "Ohmigosh the Torah permits slavery" but it doesn't demand it and frankly it's become a dead letter for a very, very long time.

>2. As for slavery, to me, the ownership of one human being by another is plain repugnant. Do you really hold otherwise?

Jewish slavery: a 6 year job with guaranteed residence, food, clothing, potential for marriage and children that would also be supported and at the end of 6 years a generous severence payment.

GM employee: a several decade job with no guarantees and sudden layoffs when bankruptcy occurs.

Which is really better?

> According to reasonable people. See above note 1.

Specify: according to what is considered reasonable in here and now. Not very objective.

> Example. Maaser. No just society will accept a sizable tax on the people if the tax is not applied fairly.

Hah! Two words: income tax!

> Now, show me your brilliance and tell me that these innovations were really given at Sinai as part of TSBP.

No obviously they weren't but the mechanisms and parameters for allowing their introduction were.

>Nonsense. Why should minor laws like “shiluach hakan” be written down and the biggies given orally.

Why do the laws of the mishkan get two books worth of chumash while the laws of kashrut and Shabbos just get hinted at? What mattered, what was daily, could survive orally.

>For some of us, faith in the face of contrary evidence just doesn’t fly.

If it didn't fly in the face of evidence, it wouldn't be faith. It would be fact. It takes no faith to believe in something testable. That's what's special about faith.

> I’m out of time…I work for a living.

So do I. Probably as much as you.

Gut Shabbos, GI

Some Guy said...

I think the web page is just made by some kid who went to yeshiva and flipped out. He might be in for a hard landing a few years down the road... or maybe not. Keep sniffing that glue... ahhhhhhh.

G*3 said...

> Yes, because modern society which allows the murder of unborn babies and the ill elderly, is in a great position to judge.

Calling abortions and euthanasia “murder” is unfair. They’re both very controversial, with good arguments on both sides. I’m curious, though. You’re a doctor, right? My wife is a nurse, and she works on a geriatric unit. Many of her patients are kept alive by machines, have no hope of recovery, and are literally rotting (multiple decubidi) while still alive. Most of the frequent fliers haven’t been conscious in months or years. I think that it would be far kinder to allow these people to die than to prolong their suffering.

> And what's wrong with a constitutional monarchy, which is what the Torah advocates?

No it doesn’t. The Torah advocates a monarchical theocracy, which is not at all the same thing.

> Jewish slavery: a 6 year job with guaranteed residence, food, clothing, potential for marriage and children that would also be supported

And who would be slaves and from whom the Jewish slave can be forcibly separated at the end of his term of service.

> GM employee: a several decade job with no guarantees and sudden layoffs when bankruptcy occurs.
Which is really better?

This exact argument was made by Southern slaveholders prior to and during the American Civil War. They argued that their slaves were clothed and fed for life, unlike the “wage slaves” who worked in the Northern factories. A guarantee of food etc. doesn’t make up for the lack of freedom.

> If it didn't fly in the face of evidence, it wouldn't be faith. It would be fact. It takes no faith to believe in something testable.
Certainly true, but why do you think that faith is something “special” as you put it. Why should belief without evidence be a virtue? And of course there’s the small problem that Christianity is a religion built almost solely on faith, so if one wanted to the most faithful – and therefore virtuous – one should be a Christian. Once we throw reason out the window and rely on faith, there’s no good reason to practice Judaism instead of Christianity (or any other religion) other than personal preference.

david a. said...

>>>>> Chazal were a lot more open-minded than their modern day defenders give them credit for.

No question about that. Most of Khazal certainly made an effort to know about how the world worked.
As opposed to current RW RYs and CH. Rebbes. But Khazal were limited to the knowledge and misinformation of their day.

>>>>> Why would God do such a thing? Am I God to know? Do I dare believe that I'm so sophisticated that if I can't see a good reason for it that there just can't be one?

WOW. Let me see if I have this right.

You believe in a capricious, whimsical God. He fools us about the age of the world,
Informs us that 4000 years ago the only language was Hebrew, and then goes about planting overwhelming evidence about the existence of many other languages. Destroys the world with a Flood and then removes every single possible bit of evidence of this event. Leads 2,000,000 plus people together with who knows how many hundreds of thousands of animals through the Sinai and erases all traces of their journey. Etc. etc

So even if He authored the Torah, why should anyone believe anything it says. Maybe God is simply playing another trick on us.

I, on the hand believe in a just and beneficent God that created a universe that is run via laws of nature and that He doesn’t deviate from them. (maybe, just maybe there were a few exceptions, but certainly not capriciously).
SO, which is more reasonable?

>>>> Do you know any Jews with slaves today?

Yes Jews owned slaves, until recently in those countries that permitted it.

>>>> Jewish slavery:

Sorry you are confusing Eved ivri with Eved Kananni. And with regards to Eved K., many of Khazal held that not only was it permitted to own slaves, it was actually forbidden to free any of them that you owned.

>>>> Specify: according to what is considered reasonable in here and now. Not very objective.

I suppose the majority of (at least) moderately educated people in this day and age.

>>>>>> Why do the laws of the mishkan get two books worth of chumash

Because those 2 books were written by priests who were obsessed with details, while Devarim was written by another genre of Jew.

>>>>> Shabbos just get hinted at?
First off, shabbos is mentioned over a dozen of times in the Torah. And secondly the details of shabbos laws were developed later over time.

>>>> If it didn't fly in the face of evidence, it wouldn't be faith. It would be fact. It takes no faith to believe in something testable. That's what's special about faith.

Sorry, to most people a “belief via faith” in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence is not faith, its stupidity.

JRS said...

Wolf--
you touched on one of my favorite (or most hated?) gripes, the irresponsible, ridiculous misuse of the word "proof" by people who should know better, particularly when teaching children who DON'T know better. In fact---this very Friday night I was shaking my head in shul, reading one of those d'var torah sheets lying around, which used almost precisely one of the examples you gave, "proving" the divinity of the Torah because it named which animals chew their cud & have hooves & which has only one of those features (pig), and the posuk appeared to be confidently implying there are no other exceptions beside a pig (apparently, there aren't). So there you have it: proof of shatnez, slavery, covering your elbows, stoning an adulteress, banning rock n' roll, separate dishes, separate seating, cholov yisroel, etc.!

But---what are the odds of my reading that just this past Shabbos---and then you writing this post a mere 2 days later? If that's not proof of Divine hashgacha, I don't know what is!
Seriously, tho, the problem goes far beyond one misguided zealot's website; this kind of anti-scientific thinking is a hashkafic staple in most orthodox yeshivos to the right of Avi Weiss. Even as a kid, I was bothered by the rebbeim who would give inane proofs, such as "woman" in Hebrew (isha) seeming to come from the word for man (ish). Yup, it does in english, too. and [boy/girl] in spanish, and probably countless other languages. How stupid do you have to be to think this proves anything?

joshwaxman said...

in terms of the scales / ear ozen proof, see what I just posted, here:

http://parsha.blogspot.com/2010/08/does-hebrew-moznayim-scales-derive-from.html

kol tuv,
josh

RAM said...

Since our bechira (power of free choice) has to be maintained (why else are we rewarded for making the good choice?), we should be using the terms "plausible demonstration" or "convincing demonstration" as opposed to "proof".

joshwaxman said...

or "implausible demonstration", or "unconvincing demonstration", as the case may be.

:)

RAM said...

Some people are so committed to falsehood or ego as to be immune to demonstration, regardless of its merits.

joshwaxman said...

some people are, no doubt. did you mean to imply me, or are you talking in general?

did you read what i wrote demonstrating the absolute lack of merit to the ear-scales demonstration? or are you immune to that demonstration as well, for some reason? ;)

(when you choose to speak in such a detached and ambiguous manner, you leave open the possibility for misinterpretation. care to clarify?)

kol tuv,
josh