Monday, January 24, 2011

Brain Death Part 3

Dear Readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simcha Coffer

80 comments:

  1. "I’ve studied the science and I believe that it points to a young earth."

    You are surely kidding.

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  2. Moshe Rafael,

    Normally I would simply ignore such a comment but you are a relatively new member so I will countenance it for now.

    No. I am not kidding. And if you too are not kidding, and are interested in discovering the truth, I challenge you to provide scientific evidence for an ancient universe, evidence that you are capable of supporting when challenged. No cutting and pasting from websites. Everything in your own words.

    Or are you just varfing comments?

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  3. You made a scientific claim contrary the scientific consensus. The burden of evidence is on you. I am a scientist (theoretical physicist and computer scientis) and I have never encountered any such scientific claim. Please explain, expecially if you have positive evidence for a young universe. I am not so much interested in attempts to invalidate evidence for an ancient universe. Even if you would invalidate all such evidence, you still would have not have proven a young universe.

    Your request is puzzling. You do not need me to present the scientific consensus. The material is available everywhere. As you studied the science, you surely know. Please explain why you need me to explain it to you. If you have specific questions about the scientific consensus, I am willing to explain. I have, B"H, a wide scientific background.

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  4. Just to get back to the main topic, it seems that we cannot know for certain the basis for the chazal's p'sak that death occurs when breathing and heartbeat stop. RNS brings some arguments that the sole basis for the p'sak was chazal's mistaken understanding of physiology and/or their technical limitations.

    RNS is going out on a limb on this one. Even if it was 100% clear that he was correct on this point, (which it could not possibly be due to the nature of the topic,) he still needs to get to point "B", which is to establish that halacha that is based solely on mistakes regarding metzius can be overturned.

    RNS himself does not believe that this should be done generally, but inasmuch as time-of-death issues relate to pikuach nefesh vis-a-vis organ donees, he's willing to go out on a limb.

    I believe that underneath RNS's argument is a result-oriented approach wherein RNS, in his own estimation, values the life of an organ donee more than he does the life of an irreversibly brain dead person. I also think that RNS is very sure that chazal would endorse this value.

    Otherwise, RNS's logic regarding point "B" does not make sense inasmuch as he is advocating the possible halachik murder of an organ donor. Of course, RNS would respond that he has conclusively shown that it would not be halachik murder. But, bottom line, it is not and could not be conclusive.

    I saw that Rabbi Bechofer commented on his own blog that "many commenters and correspondents have discerned parallels between RNS's current theological niche and the early Conservative movement, then known as the "Positive-Historical" school."

    I certainly see RNS as being on that slippery slope. Which might not be so bad.

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  5. "it seems that we cannot know for certain the basis for the chazal's p'sak that death occurs when breathing and heartbeat stop"

    Which other criteria could Chazal have used? Are not heartbeat and breathing the only indicators available, absent modern technology?

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  6. Which other criteria could Chazal have used? Are not heartbeat and breathing the only indicators available, absent modern technology?

    It's almost impossible to get into Chazal's heads. Their concern very well may have been with the neshama, i.e., the question of when the neshama leaves the body. If that was their concern, and they concluded that the neshama leaves when neshima (breathing) ceases, for example, then the discussion has moved beyond science.

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  7. Moshe Rafael,

    Very well put! Unfortunately, all of your issues have been discussed at great length, some on this blog and some in other papers I wrote. Because of your credentials, I would love to get your take on my approach to these things but to present it here is beyond the scope of the comments section. However, because it is obvious that you are an intelligent, well-informed and earnest individual, l will provide you with a brief (extremely brief) synopsis of the scientific approach to a young earth and point you in the direction of the pertinent material. Please give me until tonight to do this though. I am preparing my midterm examinations for my students now and will be administering it this afternoon. I then have a chavrusa until ten o’clock. Sometime after that I will bl’n make it my business to outline my approach.

    Be well and welcome to our humble Blog!

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  8. Just to clarify RNS's position: he is NOT taking the position that I stated above, that he (RNS) feels 100% certain of the basis for chazal's psak. Rather, RNS is questioning those who assert with certainty that chazal were NOT basing their psak on their mistaken understanding of physiology and/or their technical limitations.

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  9. Moshe Rafael,

    The following are merely brief responses to what you wrote. They will obviously not satisfy you but this is all I can do for now. Please peruse the earlier posts on this blog, especially the comment sections. If after that you are still dissatisfied, let me know and we’ll take it from there.

    You made a scientific claim contrary the scientific consensus. The burden of evidence is on you.

    Not really. The consensus of academics today fault Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Do I have to accept their consensus? The consensus of scientists today is that God either doesn’t exist or is irrelevant. Do I accept that consensus? Of course, these opinions are not scientific ones but is the claim that the universe is billions of years old scientific? Or is it a product of scientism; an expression of the materialistic attitude which typically attends the scientific enterprise? Why should the burden of proof rest on me? If scientists want to insinuate themselves into events which supposedly occurred billions of years ago and do not lend themselves to the imperatives which govern the mainstream scientific method, I think the burden of proof rests with them, at least as much as it rests with me.

    I am a scientist (theoretical physicist and computer scientis) and I have never encountered any such scientific claim.

    Let’s treat your field for a moment. Theoretical physics has come up with a model of the universe (Big Bang) but has it made any significant predictions? On the contrary, it has had to invent hypothetical entities such as inflation, dark matter and dark energy in order for its predictions to accord with the observed data. Furthermore, BBC does not lend itself to experimental physics, a serious problem for those who wish to verify its findings. Without significant predictions and without verifiable experimentation, I think I can say that BBC does not qualify as a “scientific” claim for the antiquity of the universe. BBC is pure speculation, nothing more.

    Please explain, expecially if you have positive evidence for a young universe.

    Certainly. Fossil evidence demonstrates that species appeared suddenly on earth without huge periods of time between each species. If they appeared suddenly, they must have been intelligently designed. If they were intelligently designed, there is no longer any reason to claim that life took billions of years to develop. On the contrary, Occam’s razor (a staple of theoretical physics) enjoins us to accept recent creation rather than imputing long unnecessary time periods to the development of life.

    I am not so much interested in attempts to invalidate evidence for an ancient universe. Even if you would invalidate all such evidence, you still would have not have proven a young universe.

    I don’t understand. Since when has it been my obligation to prove a young universe? If you can’t prove an old one, then the Science-Torah loggerhead disappears. That’s all I really care about.

    You know, something just occurred to me. I think I see the problem. I misspoke. I wrote "I’ve studied the science and I believe that it points to a young earth.". What I meant to write is that it doesn’t point to an old earth. As it happens, I do have several lines of evidence which seem to point to a young earth too (such as the fossil evidence I mentioned) but I generally don’t discuss them because they are irrelevant. As long as the Torah is not contradicted by science, I am happy.

    Continued…

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  10. Continued from previous comment…

    Your request is puzzling. You do not need me to present the scientific consensus.

    True. But I didn’t ask for the consensus. I asked for the evidence.

    The material is available everywhere.

    Great. Then it should be no problem for you to supply me with scientific evidence for an ancient earth. I am familiar with evolutionary theory. Let’s start with the life sciences. Can you provide me with any evidence that life evolved over 100’s of millions of years?

    Alternatively, you can provide me evidence from theoretical physics (or computer science) that the earth, or the universe, is ancient. I’ll take anything, anything at all!

    As you studied the science, you surely know. Please explain why you need me to explain it to you.

    As I explained, I am not interested in the scientific consensus, which, as you state, I already know. I am interested in the evidence they have (or don’t have) to support their claims. I am a layman and you are a scientist but surely I have a right to ask you to provide scientific evidence for your claims! To my mind, you should be jumping at the opportunity to provide same.

    If you have specific questions about the scientific consensus, I am willing to explain. I have, B"H, a wide scientific background.

    No questions. Just one question. Can you provide me with scientific evidence that the world was created billions of years ago?

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  11. Moshe Rafael,

    Which other criteria could Chazal have used? Are not heartbeat and breathing the only indicators available, absent modern technology?

    What are you saying? That in hundreds and hundreds of years Chazal never witnessed a person whose mind seemed to be gone (e.g. in a coma) while his heart was still beating? If cardiopulmonary signs were the only possible indicators of death available during Chazal’s time, what’s the point of the mishna in Ohelos or the gemara in Yoma informing us of halachic “time of death” criteria?

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  12. A person in coma must have rare in olden days. And short-lived. But I do not see it as relevant. According to nobody a person in coma is dead. According to all, you would have to check brain activity to go any further. Chazal could not say that because they could not do that. Chazal bring both criteria available to them and reason that if one would be more important than the other, it would be breathing. They base it on a Pasuk, but I think what Chazal really mean to say is that when breathing has stopped, also the heart will have stopped [I could elaborate, but not now]. Of course, all of this is no longer true today. The heart can be made to continue without breathing. And we have more criteria than breathing and heartbeat.

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  13. "Certainly. Fossil evidence demonstrates that species appeared suddenly on earth without huge periods of time between each species. If they appeared suddenly, they must have been intelligently designed. If they were intelligently designed, there is no longer any reason to claim that life took billions of years to develop. On the contrary, Occam’s razor (a staple of theoretical physics) enjoins us to accept recent creation rather than imputing long unnecessary time periods to the development of life."

    "Great. Then it should be no problem for you to supply me with scientific evidence for an ancient earth. I am familiar with evolutionary theory. Let’s start with the life sciences. Can you provide me with any evidence that life evolved over 100’s of millions of years?"

    &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

    The claim that life took billions of years of development is not (just) to accomodate evolution. We measure time. The suddenness of appearance of species that you speak of is relative to these measurements. There are very many natural clocks, because there are many slow natural processes. Do you know where the oil that you put in your car comes from? You are driving on the deposits of ancient organims accumulated over hundreds of millions of years. Do you know that Africa and South America were once connected? You can observe the relatively small evolutionary differences between the life forms on both continents, which occurred since the separation time, which we can estimated on geological grounds. Do you know where the saltness of the sea comes from? From the tiny amounts of salt which sweet rivers add to the sea every year. Did you ever see a valley created by the river streaming down below, through a slow process of erosion? Did you ever see Stalictite Caves, which beautifully show you the principle of slow accumulating deposits? The most magnificent have been growing for many tens of thousands of years. Did you ever wonder why the Rocky Mountains are sharp, but the Alps are not? The Rocky Mountains are, relatively speaking, not eroded yet. I could go on and on. About geological layers, about ice layers, about radio-active decay, about the abundance of Helium in the Sun, about the origin of the heavy materials in the Earth's crust, about the abundance of oxygen in the atmosphere, and, yes, also about the evolution of life. About genetic closeness, about endogenous retro-viruses, about the relation between geological layers and evolutional stages. But a blog comment is not the place for an essay.

    (to be continued)

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  14. Let me address your direct question regarding the Big Bang. What did it bring us? First of all, rabbi, it teaches us about the Creator. It teaches you wisdom, divine Chochma. Knowing His Creation leads you to the heart of the Creator. Knowing gauge theories is knowing something very deep. Knowing the structure of space-time is knowing something very deep. Who knows Quantum Mechanics, knows something very deep. Something completely concealed from the classical Beit Midrash, but something very real. All of this goes into our understanding of the birth of the Universe.

    Secondly, all this proves to us that humble man is able to grasp elevated things. In truth. Not in wild guess. In truth! We can know HaShem through Ma'aseh Bereshit. Say Chazal, says Rambam. But who would every have thought we could reach this far? That we can actually understand the processes through which HaShem created us? That the Universe would allow being grasped in terms of human abstractions? How great HaShem has made Man. How almost divine. It never stops to amaze. We know about stellar evolution, which is where our bodies come from. Man could not have arisen without the whole 13.8 billion years of history. We see the Tzimtzum, if you know what I mean. How HaShem seems absent, but yet is so present. We observe the stars and the galaxies and we understand them. We understand what man has always been wondering about. How much Chazal were yearning for this knowledge. And you ask what it brought us?

    And now we start to understand our biological evolution, our genetic make-up. How unbelievable. Ma Rabu Ma'asecha!

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  15. "Not really. The consensus of academics today fault Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Do I have to accept their consensus?"

    Not very fair. The emphasis was on science, not on consensus. If you someone would come up (it happens daily, I personally got several letters like this) saying that Einstein's relativity theory is obviously incorrect. Time is not relative, and there is no maximum velocity. Let the scientist show him the evidence! Do you think he deserves to be taken serious?

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  16. Let me answer another of your questions regarding the BB with my personal history. The background radiation and the expansion of the universe are validated predictions of the Big Bang. Many details of General Relavity has been confirmed by looking far way into the past. You may have heard about the Higgs-particle connection. But there are others, not so widely known. For instance:

    The subject of my master's thesis concerned the limitations the Big Bang puts on the number of elementary-particle families. You see, initially, the Big Bang generated everything that could be. It turns out that as a consequence the number of elementary-particle families reflects on the average hydrogen abundance of the Universe. It follows from the observed hydrogen aboundance that there should be (at most) three families. This is also found. The electron has two cousins: muon, tau. The (up-down) quarks in protons and neutrons have two cousins: charme-charge and top-bottom.

    And that is only me. Do not underestimate the amount of corroboration of the basic BB idea. To come from left field and say things you say, will not convince serious thinkers. Sorry.

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  17. Let me mention in some more detail a beautiful piece of evidence: Tidal Locking. From Earth, we always see the same side of the moon. Only Nasa's moon travelers saw the back of the moon. Likewise, many moons of other planets, but not (yet) all, always show the same face to their planets. This is the result of a slow process, which converts spin-energy of the moon into heat, until the spin of the moon is synchronized with its rotation around the planet. The energy is transferred via changes of deformations caused by the gravitational pull by the planet. The process continues until synchronization is obtained, as we see in the Moon-Earth system. For details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_locking. This gives some formulae for the time needed for synchronization, as well as a list of tidally locked systems. In view of the amount of tidal locking observed in the solar system, the age of the solar system must be billions of years.

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  18. Couldn't all of these natural observations be explained by a Creator as well? How is that evidence?

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  19. Why would the Creator make the Moon tidally locked to the Earth? And why Pluto to Charon?

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  20. Moshe Rafael:

    I want to cut to the chase becaue I've been down this path with R. Coffer. See the coments beginning here:

    http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.com/2010/10/whats-wrong-with-rabbi-slifkins_27.html?showComment=1288554535508#c7533206642851913200

    I believe that SC believes that the entire concept of backward extrapolation (at least to any time prior to the existence of a witness who can validate the correctness of the backward extrapolation,) is not "science" but is, rather, a philosophical choice which can be neither validated nor disproven.

    R. Coffer also does not see it as inherently more rational (he in fact considers it less rational) to make the philosophical choice to extrapolate backward to any time prior to the existence of a witness who can validate the correctness of the backward extrapolation.

    R. Coffer, but not I, can explain why.

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  21. "Why would the Creator make the Moon tidally locked to the Earth? And why Pluto to Charon?"

    Aren't "Why G-d..." questions left to philosphy and religion?

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  22. Nachum, Simcha claimed here "I’ve studied the science and I believe that it points to a young earth."

    That is a strong statement, and a false one. If you study the Science, it points to a ancient earth, and nothing else. For instance, tidal locking has a natural explanation only in an ancient universe, and therefore points to an ancient universe.

    Meishiv, can you answer to me in the name of religion why G-d needs tidal locking? Or admit, that if you cannot do this, you have a problem. In return, I will tell you why G-d "needs" an ancient Universe: Because the physical world resulted from Tzimtzum. HaShem created the laws of Nature to, as it were, hide behind. Therefore, a lot of time needed to pass.

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  23. Moshe Rafael

    The claim that life took billions of years of development is not (just) to accomodate evolution. We measure time. The suddenness of appearance of species that you speak of is relative to these measurements. There are very many natural clocks, because there are many slow natural processes. Do you know where the oil that you put in your car comes from? You are driving on the deposits of ancient organims accumulated over hundreds of millions of years etc.

    Your paragraph continues with a whole legend of items you feel support your position. And while to the uninitiated it looks impressive, you really haven’t provided a shred of proof for anything. In order for this exercise to be meaningful, you need to pick one item at a time and develop it. It would help if you appealed to the published scientific literature when making assertions that might otherwise be challenged. But at the least, you must pick one subject, discuss the premises you are working with, explain why they are more reasonable to adopt than alternative ones, discuss empirical evidence which supports your claim, appeal to the literature if necessary, and then hand the floor to me. We can then go back and forth until we resolve the issue or reach a stale-mate. But your paragraph is entirely meaningless to me, or to anyone who is sincerely attempting to explore these issues with any depth.

    If you noticed, I stopped my quote at your first line of evidence, fossil fuels. I will treat it briefly and wait to see if you have a response. In the future, if you wish to explore the age of the universe with me and understand where I’m coming from, I would request that you choose one item at a time.

    You claim that coal develops from peat over hundreds of millions of years. I have one simple refutation to your claim. Most coal deposits possess varying degrees of C14. Some possess so much they seem to be recent, as in thousands of years, others, tens of thousands of years. This contradicts the radiometric dating methods which places the very same rocks at 300 million years. So, now you have a clear contradiction between the two dating methods thus calling both of them into question. This problem has vexed geologists and is discussed at length in the Radiocarbon journals. The upshot of it all is that the scientists would like to go with the radiometric dating so they hypothesize that the C14 has been introduced artificially. No evidence, just hypothesis. So, until this issue is worked out properly, fossil fuels cannot be brought as evidence for anything!

    The truth is, the creationists have a lot more to say about this. They make a convincing argument that the coal beds are consistent with the Biblical Flood and inconsistent with the currently observed process of peat to coal but I never quote creationists unless I can back up their arguments in the published scientific literature. I haven’t done sufficient research in the field so for now I will leave out this argument.

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  24. Moshe Rafael

    Let me address your direct question regarding the Big Bang. What did it bring us? First of all, rabbi, it teaches us about the Creator. It teaches you wisdom, divine Chochma. Knowing His Creation leads you to the heart of the Creator. Knowing gauge theories is knowing something very deep. Knowing the structure of space-time is knowing something very deep. Who knows Quantum Mechanics, knows something very deep. Something completely concealed from the classical Beit Midrash, but something very real. All of this goes into our understanding of the birth of the Universe.

    You started off by saying that you were going to address my question regarding Big Bang but you didn’t address it at all. Instead, you threw in a bunch of fancy terminology such as gauge theory, space-time structure, and quantum mechanics and then apparently want me to accept that since these disciplines “go into” our understanding of the birth of the universe I now have to blindly accept BBC. Well, I ain’t buying it.

    I agree with you that a study of physics, or any of the natural sciences, has the ability to reveal the Wisdom of Hashem. In fact, this is one of the reasons I have chosen to educate myself in the sciences. But a person can know all of Einstein’s field equations and understand the structure of time-space, or he can study, say, Bell’s theorem (quantum mechanics) and “know” it, and yet nothing about these disciplines obliges him to reject the Torah’s description of recent creation. BBC doesn’t naturally emerge as a necessary consequence of these disciplines. It is an invention of the academic world which sees the unfolding of the universe in purely materialistic terms. So yeah, sure, you’re going to need billions of years if you want to believe the universe unfolded naturally.

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  25. I think I ansered a few of your questions, but that specific response was indeed not a response to a real question. Rather I responded to your scepticism about our understanding of the early Universe. The "Big Bang" does emerge naturally from our understanding of physics. Very very naturally. After the establishment of General Relativity, it came up immediately. To the amazement of Einstein, by the way, who had always believed in a stationary Universe. The theory is admittedly not finished or polished. It cannot be, because our understanding of (very) high-energy physics is still wanting. However, the basic insight has been corroborated in so many ways that it stands as a rock.

    In the name of Truth, I expect you concede that your statement about science pointing at a young earth was wrong. All natural clocks point to an ancient world. The statement that the world was created recently, which you say (but I vehemently deny) is from Torah, has no validated predictions whatsoever. Every prediction one can think of can be readily falsified. If this is a tenet of Torah in your view, your view of the Torah has therefore been falsified. Some say the world was created old in every sense. It is a vacuous statement. For people not interested in mental games it amounts to conceding that the world is ancient.

    Ergo, to say that the world was created recently means nothing at best. If you proclaim this in the name of Torah you make a joke of Torah and yourself. It is False in many ways. Falsehood is not the way of Torah.

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  26. "Your paragraph continues with a whole legend of items you feel support your position. And while to the uninitiated it looks impressive, you really haven’t provided a shred of proof for anything."

    I merely wished to point to the huge amount of evidence. More cannot be done in a comment. And I did in fact waht you now ask: I elaborated on one issue. See the comment on tidal locking. I await your response.

    Regarding coal/oil, it is only one element of the long list. In the face of this long list, your Kasha does not help you in the least. It happens a lot that scientists are vexed about some finding. That is how progress is made. But don't you think for even one minute that the fuel that you put in your car is not fossil. Study geology and you will understand.

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  27. Moshe Rafael

    Secondly, all this proves to us that humble man is able to grasp elevated things. In truth. Not in wild guess. In truth! We can know HaShem through Ma'aseh Bereshit. Say Chazal, says Rambam. But who would every have thought we could reach this far? That we can actually understand the processes through which HaShem created us?

    This is a serious error. We cannot understand the processes through which Hashem created us. The Torah (and the unanimous consensus of our mesorah including Chazal and Rishonim) makes it clear that the universe was created via meta-natural fiat, not via naturalistic processes. Hashem spoke and it came into existence. The human mind cannot even begin to grasp such a thing.

    How great HaShem has made Man. How almost divine. It never stops to amaze. We know about stellar evolution, which is where our bodies come from. Man could not have arisen without the whole 13.8 billion years of history. We see the Tzimtzum, if you know what I mean. How HaShem seems absent, but yet is so present. We observe the stars and the galaxies and we understand them. We understand what man has always been wondering about. How much Chazal were yearning for this knowledge. And you ask what it brought us? And now we start to understand our biological evolution, our genetic make-up. How unbelievable. Ma Rabu Ma'asecha!

    Moshe Rafael, you are confused. The scientists who promote BBC are materialists. They do not look at the world and say “ma rabu”. They look at the world and relate to it in materialistic terms. They see naturalistic processes as being responsible for everything without recourse to a Creator. And they’re right! If you can explain the development of the world naturally, your “ma rabu” emotion is unwarranted.

    I’ve heard your speech a thousand times primarily from frum people who have attended university. You are frum and believe in the Torah but you have been educated in the classrooms of secular academia. You have been indoctrinated into the academic world-view and have therefore swallowed their dogma lock stock and barrel. This state of affairs can easily generate cognitive dissonance in anyone! So, instead of re-examining everything you’ve been taught, you choose to ignore the pashtus of the pesukim of the Torah, our unanimous received tradition of 3300 years, and instead re-interpret the pesukim to accommodate what you believe to be scientifically incontrovertible truth. And in order to justify this to yourself, you do a little apologetics and claim that naturalistic processes are wonderful and cause us to attribute great wisdom to Hashem. What you don’t realize is that you are imputing your pre-conceived notion of a Creator onto these processes. You are not seeing the Creator from these processes. The emotion of ma rabu, as expressed by Dovid haMelech, was engendered by his awareness that the phenomena of the universe can only be attributed to a Creator. He studied the beriah and then saw the Creator. He didn’t accept the Creator and then put Him into the beriah. I have discussed all this at length in previous posts but in your honor I have re-written some of it here.

    Incidentally, I noticed that you already responded to some of my comments but I am responding to your comments in chronological order so please be patient.

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  28. Moshe Rafael,

    I wrote: "Not really. The consensus of academics today fault Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Do I have to accept their consensus?"

    MR responded: Not very fair. The emphasis was on science, not on consensus.

    Just read the next few sentences of my comment. I continued to write “Of course, these opinions are not scientific ones but is the claim that the universe is billions of years old scientific? Or is it a product of scientism; an expression of the materialistic attitude which typically attends the scientific enterprise?”

    My point is that the academic claim that our universe is ancient is no more scientific than their political stand on the AIC.

    If you someone would come up (it happens daily, I personally got several letters like this) saying that Einstein's relativity theory is obviously incorrect. Time is not relative, and there is no maximum velocity. Let the scientist show him the evidence! Do you think he deserves to be taken serious?

    Of course not! You know why? Because there is evidence that time is relative. They made experiments and his theories turned out to be correct! Surely you are aware of, say, the atomic clocks experiment?

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  29. Moshe Rafael,

    And that is only me. Do not underestimate the amount of corroboration of the basic BB idea. To come from left field and say things you say, will not convince serious thinkers. Sorry.

    Left field? OK. I like a challenge like that. I noted that BBC is in trouble because of the growing number of hypothetical entities it requires to align its model with observed phenomena. I specifically highlighted three entities, inflation, dark matter and dark energy.

    Here is part of a letter which appears in the May 22nd 2004 edition of New Scientist signed by 33 scientists, amongst them Hermann Bondi, (Cambridge), Thomas Gold (Cornell) and Halton Arp (Max-Planck-Institute Fur Astrophysik).

    “The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed – inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise serious questions about the validity of the underlying theory. But the big bang theory can't survive without these fudge factors. Without the hypothetical inflation field, the big bang does not predict the smooth, isotropic cosmic background radiation that is observed, because there would be no way for parts of the universe that are now more than a few degrees away in the sky to come to the same temperature and thus emit the same amount of microwave radiation. Without some kind of dark matter, unlike any that we have observed on Earth despite 20 years of experiments, big-bang theory makes contradictory predictions for the density of matter in the universe. Inflation requires a density 20 times larger than that implied by big bang nucleosynthesis, the theory's explanation of the origin of the light elements. And without dark energy, the theory predicts that the universe is only about 8 billion years old, which is billions of years younger than the age of many stars in our galaxy14. What is more, the big bang theory can boast of no quantitative predictions that have subsequently been validated by observation. The successes claimed by the theory's supporters consist of its ability to retrospectively fit observations with a steadily increasing array of adjustable parameters, just as the old Earth-centered cosmology of Ptolemy needed layer upon layer of epicycles. Yet the big bang is not the only framework available for understanding the history of the universe. Plasma cosmology and the steady-state model both hypothesize an evolving universe without beginning or end. These and other alternative approaches can also explain the basic phenomena of the cosmos, including the abundances of light elements, the generation of large-scale structure, the cosmic background radiation, and how the redshift of far-away galaxies increases with distance. They have even predicted new phenomena that were subsequently observed, something the big bang has failed to do. (Lerner, E., An Open Letter to the Scientific Community, New Scientist, 182(2448), p 20, 2004.)”

    Now, do you see how I’ve responded to your attack? I quoted the published literature. This is the same thing I expect from you when we reach an impasse. I’m not coming from left field. I never come from left field. Any statement I make on science can be corroborated. As a scientist, I expect no less from you.

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  30. Moshe Rafael,

    Let me mention in some more detail a beautiful piece of evidence: Tidal Locking.

    I must point something out here. There are two competing theories for the presence of the phenomena of our universe. The first (a) appeals to naturalistic processes, the second (b) to meta-natural processes. The former claims that the universe as we know it formed over billions of years whereas the latter claims that God created the universe recently in a fully-functional form within a period of six days.

    In order to demonstrate that one theory is more reasonable to adopt then the other, evidence must be produced which is more consistent with the one theory over the other.

    The synchronized action of tidal activity on earth is vital to our system. As such, advanced tidal lock between the earth and the moon is no more consistent with theory (a) as it is with theory (b).

    Besides, Tidal Lock has serious problems for the uniformitarian approach. According to calculations based on the recession of the moon – which is directly related to tidal locking – the moon would have touched the earth no further back than 1.2 billion years. This is only a bit more than 25% of the estimated time of earth’s existence! (4.6 billion years) So, even if you want to go “natural”, Tidal Lock makes the earth much more recent than scientists need it to be for their theories re the formation of the earth to work.

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  31. "This is a serious error. We cannot understand the processes through which Hashem created us."

    But we do, to degree that we do.

    "Moshe Rafael, you are confused. The scientists who promote BBC are materialists. They do not look at the world and say “ma rabu”. They look at the world and relate to it in materialistic terms. They see naturalistic processes as being responsible for everything without recourse to a Creator. And they’re right! If you can explain the development of the world naturally, your “ma rabu” emotion is unwarranted."

    In my view your last sentence is Kefira. I know many scientists who say Ma Rabu, in their way.

    "So, instead of re-examining everything you’ve been taught, you choose to ignore the pashtus of the pesukim of the Torah, our unanimous received tradition of 3300 years, and instead re-interpret the pesukim to accommodate what you believe to be scientifically incontrovertible truth."

    I have no better response than to cite a source:

    בראשית דאיהו שבת בראשית דהא שבע שבתות אינון ולכל חד אית ליה שית ימי המעשה וכל יומא דקודשא בריך הוא הוא אלף שנים הדא הוא דכתיב כי אלף שנים בעיניך וכו' ושבת בראשית שית יומין דיליה אינון אלפים תהו שני אלפים תורה שני אלפים ימות המשיח

    "What you don’t realize is that you are imputing your pre-conceived notion of a Creator onto these processes. You are not seeing the Creator from these processes."

    But I do. I have no agenda. I accept the truth from wherever it comes. HaPosel B'Mumo Posel. You are the one with an agenda. You are unable to accept the truth from wherever it comes.

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  32. "The emotion of ma rabu, as expressed by Dovid haMelech, was engendered by his awareness that the phenomena of the universe can only be attributed to a Creator. He studied the beriah and then saw the Creator."

    I do as David. You are the one starting from a particular interpretation of Torah, and are subsequently unable to study the beriah.

    "My point is that the academic claim that our universe is ancient is no more scientific than their political stand on the AIC."

    Amazing, what a waste of my efforts. Do you retract your statement that you studied the science and it points to a young earth?

    "Of course not! You know why? Because there is evidence that time is relative. They made experiments and his theories turned out to be correct! Surely you are aware of, say, the atomic clocks experiment?"

    There are lots of "engineers" do not accept this. As said, I have experience. Their arguments go just like yours. They argue the validity of the experiments, and cannot be convinced, ever. Because they "know" it cannot be.

    "Left field? OK. I like a challenge like that. I noted that BBC is in trouble because of the growing number of hypothetical entities it requires to align its model with observed phenomena. I specifically highlighted three entities, inflation, dark matter and dark energy..."

    Do you really think I am not aware of these things? Yes, there are things missing in our understanding. Yet, the building stands. The universe is ancient without a shred of doubt. The universe is expanding without a shred of doubt. The universe was once one bulk of matter, without a shred of doubt. After that there have been some three generations of stars, without a shred of doubt. Yes, the uniformity of the background radiation is a bit more than expected, leading tho inflation thing. It is still hard to understand how exactly the first stars were born. But, we can SEE them! With all the problems of the background radation, first realize that there IS a background radiation. The unsatisfying aspects of inflation are related to unsatisfying aspects of the Electro-Weak Force. The Higgs field/particle is actually not understood at all. This is known, and its resolution will only refine our insights. Do not expect a revolution (though, of course, it could always be - that would be even better!). Yes, there is problem with the rate of expansion of the Uiverse. But note, there IS an expansion. Again, the resolution will only refine our insights.

    "Now, do you see how I’ve responded to your attack? .. As a scientist, I expect no less from you."

    I did not even read what you pasted, past the first sentence. I know this stuff very well. Regarding expectations, I expect you to concede error regarding your statement that science points to a young earth.

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  33. "In order to demonstrate that one theory is more reasonable to adopt then the other, evidence must be produced which is more consistent with the one theory over the other."

    Which is what I did.

    "The synchronized action of tidal activity on earth is vital to our system. As such, advanced tidal lock between the earth and the moon is no more consistent with theory (a) as it is with theory (b).'

    Pluto's synchronization is also vital?

    Do you really think the recession problem is serious? Did you study it? Also, do you really think the C14 problem is serious? Or do you also see that you are grasping for straws, wanting desparately to believe everything that the young-earthers out there write on their sites?

    What about admitting that if you study the science it overwhelmingly points to an ancient world?

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. "It is an invention of the academic world which sees the unfolding of the universe in purely materialistic terms. So yeah, sure, you’re going to need billions of years if you want to believe the universe unfolded naturally. "

    I apologize for pressing the point, but when you were studying the science that points to a young earth, were you studying "in materialistic terms?" Can I interpret your last sentence here such that you admit that indeed if you study the science it points to an ancient Universe?

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  36. "The Torah (and the unanimous consensus of our mesorah including Chazal and Rishonim) makes it clear that the universe was created via meta-natural fiat, not via naturalistic processes. Hashem spoke and it came into existence. The human mind cannot even begin to grasp such a thing."

    There are limits to our understanding. That is very clear from BB science also. What is also obvious that before nature, there was meta-nature. Sure. But after that, there was Nature. And you also acknowledge this, implicitly, when you find yourself trying to argue against a particular piece of evidence for the anciency of the world. It seems you try to have it both ways. You argue against evidence, but if you fail you will say that it is not valid anyway, because it nature was not the same.

    I wish to surmise. In the end of the day, you are left saying that the world was created recently, not at all because of the science you studied, but only because that is what you think the Mesora obligates you to believe.

    The Mesora in your view contradicts what Science says, and you deduce that somehow Science must have it wrong. Because, the materialistic view is limited, and ultimately wrong. Basing yourself mainly on the Halachic masters and the great widely published Mefarshim, you are confident that the day will come that you will be proven right.

    By contrast, I base myself on Kabbalistic masters, but not all of them [...], whose Chochma in my view is way beyond the Chochma of the authorities that you follow. At the end of the day, on the side of Torah, here is our difference. I am also confident that I will be proven right. Science and Torah will merge to the benefit of both, in the vision of the GR"A. The connection lies at the level of the Sod, only there. With the connection in place it will be clear that the spiritual and the material are not contradictory. Using code language, the left is included in the right.

    Speaking about Sod, there are levels. There are things we cannot know, there are things that some can know, there are things that many can know. As it stands, most know nothing.

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  37. Moshe Rafael,

    In response to Mesihiv, MR wrote:

    Why would the Creator make the Moon tidally locked to the Earth?

    Ummm… in order to facilitate tides on earth?

    And why Pluto to Charon?

    That’s a good sha’ala. Maybe the tidal locking maintains their proper orbit in space? Unlike earth and moon, Pluto and Charon are mutually locked. Their tidal locking is different than ours. That leads me to conclude that tidal locking, b’chol makom she’hu, is purposeful.

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  38. Nachum –

    I want to cut to the chase becaue I've been down this path with R. Coffer.

    While I appreciate your attempt to explain my opinions, I would prefer to do so myself. I don’t want to cut to the chase. I want to have a long, well-considered discussion with Moshe Rafael. And as you can see, he too is interested in communicating with me. (chs’v no offence meant Nachum)

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  39. Moshe Rafael,

    In response to a comment made by Nachum, MR wrote as follows:

    Nachum, Simcha claimed here "I’ve studied the science and I believe that it points to a young earth."

    I’m not sure why you are misrepresenting me. I already admitted that I misspoke and qualified my statement to read that I believe the science doesn’t point to an old universe. Are you reading my comments?

    That is a strong statement, and a fasle one

    I don’t believe so. I already provided you with one line of evidence demonstrating a young earth. All you had to say was that there was other evidence to the contrary. You didn’t refute my evidence. Furthermore, other than tidal locking you didn’t provide me with any evidence for your contention. I’m not sure where you get off calling my initial statement (which I subsequently backed away from for the time being) false when both of us provided evidence (me from fossils, you from tidal locking) and I refuted yours and you didn’t refute mine. So far, you have the weaker position my friend…

    I will tell you why G-d "needs" an ancient Universe: Because the physical world resulted from Tzimtzum. HaShem created the laws of Nature to, as it were, hide behind. Therefore, a lot of time needed to pass.

    I think you should stick to science. Forget kabala. Your conclusion “Therefore, a lot of time needed to pass” doesn’t follow from your premise. Hashem can hide behind the laws of nature quite well even if the laws are only 5771 years old. Nature acts as a nisayon because it repeats itself interminably. This tempts people to say that there is a blind naturalistic cause behind the activity of nature. This nisayon can and does exist regardless of mankind’s assumption re the age of the universe.

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  40. Moshe Rafael –

    I think I ansered a few of your questions

    Which ones? Actually, I don’t have any questions. I have one request and one request only. Please provide me with detailed scientific evidence for the antiquity of the universe. So far you’ve failed on all counts.

    The "Big Bang" does emerge naturally from our understanding of physics. Very very naturally. After the establishment of General Relativity, it came up immediately.

    The only thing that “came up” after relativity is the idea that the universe as we know it is not eternal. And guess what? I agree. Of course, BBC is based on Einstein’s model but his model does not >necessitate BBC.

    In the name of Truth, I expect you concede that your statement about science pointing at a young earth was wrong.

    Oh stop it Moshe. Although I do indeed believe that there is plenty of evidence that the earth is young, I already modified my statement long ago for the purposes of our conversation. So, make pretend like I wrote “I have studied the science and I do not see any evidence that the universe is ancient”. Now, if you want to shlog me up, just produce the evidence.

    The statement that the world was created recently, which you say (but I vehemently deny) is from Torah, has no validated predictions whatsoever. Every prediction one can think of can be readily falsified.

    Really? Here’s a prediction. If life on earth evolved naturally over billions of years, we should expect to find an enormous amount of transitional fossils linking the species one to another. If the world was created rapidly, suddenly, without elapsed time, we should expect to find a lack of transitional fossils and, on the contrary, we should expect to find the sudden appearance of all phyla in the geological record. Ever hear of the Cambrian Explosion? Let’s see you “readily falsify” the Cambrian Explosion. I would be duly impressed if you could pull that one off. So would the entire evolutionary community of scientists.

    continued...

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  41. Continued from previous comment

    Some say the world was created old in every sense. It is a vacuous statement.

    I agree. But in their defense, they say such things because they understand the Torah must be true but they don’t understand the science so they grasp at straws. Personally, I think you are guilty of the same thing. You understand the Torah must be true but you believe in the theories of the academicians so you too grasp at straws and re-interpret the Torah.

    For the record, my position is that the world was created fully mature, meaning, fully functional. I do not believe in silly apologetics such as “Hashem planted dinosaur fossils in order to test us” etc.

    Ergo, to say that the world was created recently means nothing at best. If you proclaim this in the name of Torah you make a joke of Torah and yourself.

    Perhaps. But I’m in good company. The Rambam states in Moreh Nevuchim that every episode related in the Torah is there for one of two purposes. Either it is there to reinforce a hashkafa which relates to one of the fundamentals of the Torah, or it appears in the Torah as a form of tikun olam, a societal infrastructure which facilitates harmony amongst mankind. If so, asks the Rambam, what is the purpose of all the generations listed between Adam haRishon and Avraham Avinu? Here’s the Rambam’s response:

    “Since it is a fundamental doctrine of the Torah that the world is newly created and that the first [human] creation was Adam and that the time which elapsed from Adam to Moshe is approximately 2,500 years…etc.”

    The Rambam goes on to explain that anyone viewing such a diversified world with so many inhabitants belonging to so many different cultures speaking so many different languages spread out over such large geographical locations, might doubt the recentness of creation and the fact that initially, only one man was created. Therefore, the Torah goes out of its way to list the specific generations which unfolded from Adam to Moshe, who their leaders were, what occurred to them, and that they originally all spoke one language as one would expect from a society which descended from one lone man (Moreh 3:50 - Kapach ed. pg 400)

    So, according to you, the Rambam made a joke of himself.

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  42. Moshe Rafael,

    I am enjoying our dialogue very much. Unfortunately, I need to stop for now. I will respond to the rest of your comments later on bi’ezras Hashem.

    Have a lovely day…

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  43. Dear Rabbi Coffer, I will past what I wrote on the post http://slifkin-opinions.blogspot.com/2011/01/not-so-solid-proof-about-spheres.html#comments

    Because it is relevant to this discussion and I sincerely want to underhand your response.

    “Come on!!! I have looked into telescopes and seen supernova (exploding stars) thousands of light years away
    Be honest!! Even if you want to say that the speed of light was different, it takes ages for stars to explode this would mean Hashem created the star in a dying state, then the famous question is why would Hashem want to trick me on such a fundamental level? Rabbb Coffer’s answer:
    “I think it is ridiculous to say that Hashem would have created trees with rings indicating thousands of years, or millions of transitional fossils that never really existed. Why? Because none of these things are necessary in order to have a fully mature, fully functioning universe. But starlight is and therefore Hashem created the universe in a fully advanced fully mature form “

    does not make sense, a black hole billions of miles away is not needed anymore then the specific number of rings around a tree. Hashem could have simply created a smaller universe and we would not have this confusion.

    And the strange thing is the laws of science seem to be functioning the same if we look 5000 light years away or 50000. Indeed Hashem seems to be teasing us.

    Indeed the Rambam would have a lot more to worry about if he was alive today.
    I am sure he would have abandoned the torah.
    The Rambam who valued intellect would regard me as foolish for still keeping Shabbat."

    You write “I agree. But in their defense, they say such things because they understand the Torah must be true but they don’t understand the science so they grasp at straws”

    But the strange thing is that even the very educated rabbis from your camp admit that the universe does indeed appear to be billions of years old. For example here s a quote from Rabbi Dr Gottliebs site:

    “The solution to the contradiction between the age of the earth and the universe according to science and the Jewish date of 5755 years since Creation is this: the real age of the universe is 5755 years, but it has misleading evidence of greater age. The bones, artifacts, partially decayed radium, potassium-argon, uranium, the red-shifted light from space, etc. - all of it points to a greater age which nevertheless is not true. G-d put these things in the universe and they lead many to the false conclusion of a much greater age.”

    Now I am sure Rabbi Gottlieb understands the science, and he is very critical of what scientists have to say
    He is not blinded by the scientists. Do you really believe that these Rabbis from your camp are lacking scientific understanding?

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  44. on the contrary, we should expect to find the sudden appearance of all phyla in the geological record.

    All phyla or all life forms?

    There are a few life forms missing from the Cambrian explosion such as sharks, dogs, whales, birds, woolly mammoths, Stegosaurus, Proterosuchus, Titanophoneus (3 dinosaurs from three separate eras).

    Anyway - don't mind me. I am extremely impressed that MR got RSC to concede that science does not point to a young earth.

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  45. SC's use of the Cambrian explosion as evidence of a young earth is puzzling. While I am far from knowledgable regarding the Theory of Evolution (I recently purchased but have not yet begun reading Dawkin's "The Greatest Show on Earth"), according to Wikipedia:

    The Cambrian explosion or Cambrian radiation was the relatively rapid appearance, over a period of many million years, of most major Phyla around 530 million years ago, as found in the fossil record.

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  46. Here’s a prediction... If the world was created rapidly, suddenly, without elapsed time, we should expect to find a lack of transitional fossils and, on the contrary, we should expect to find the sudden appearance of all phyla in the geological record. Ever hear of the Cambrian Explosion?

    ROTFL! If the world was created 5771 years ago, we should expect to find all species appearing 5771 years ago. Instead, we find a huge number of now-extinct species appearing over hundreds of millions of years, many of which appear to be intermediate to current species. The Cambrian Explosion had no modern species, and it was an "explosion" that took millions of years!

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  47. Moshe Rafael

    I wrote: "Your paragraph continues with a whole legend of items you feel support your position. And while to the uninitiated it looks impressive, you really haven’t provided a shred of proof for anything."

    MR responded I merely wished to point to the huge amount of evidence.

    But you didn’t point to anything. You merely made a fancy-sounding list designed to impress. You may as well have made a list of all Chinese holidays.

    And I did in fact waht you now ask: I elaborated on one issue.

    Thank you for that. Keep it up.

    See the comment on tidal locking. I await your response.

    I responded.

    Regarding coal/oil, it is only one element of the long list. In the face of this long list, your Kasha does not help you in the least.

    Now you’re back again to your list. Your list is meaningless! I’m not going to bother chasing down every casual reference anyone makes to me. The only reason I responded to the coal thing is because it was the first one on your list and I wanted to demonstrate to you that as soon as you came out the gate you were already wrong. I am capable of doing this with everything on your list (except ice cores, I haven’t studied the data on ice cores sufficiently and I’ve never been directly challenged with it but if I ever am I suppose I will have to look into it) but I won’t do it until you pick one thing at a time, we discuss it, and we reach a conclusion. Otherwise, I don’t have the time, or inclination, to chase down superficial lists.

    It happens a lot that scientists are vexed about some finding. That is how progress is made. But don't you think for even one minute that the fuel that you put in your car is not fossil. Study geology and you will understand.

    I have studied the Geology, probably more than you have. Also, I never said that the fuel that goes into my car is not fossil. We are discussing the methods used by scientists to determine the length of time it takes for peat to turn to coal, remember? The process itself was never up for discussion and I never denied it.

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  48. Moshe Rafael –

    I wrote: "This is a serious error. We cannot understand the processes through which Hashem created us."

    MR responded: But we do, to degree that we do.

    You’re making the same error again. There is absolutely no degree whatsoever which we understand the process by which Hashem created the universe. We can describe the process in superficial terms. We can assign names to the things that were created. We can even describe how these things function once they are created. But we cannot, under any circumstances, understand how Hashem created anything. Here’s a quote from Maharal.

    דע, כי הוא יתברך הוציא את הנמצאים כולם לפעל המציאות בששת ימי בראשית בעצמו ובכבודו, לא על ידי
    שליח, הוא הטבע, כמו שהיה אחר ששת ימי בראשית, שהשם יתברך מנהיג את עולמו על ידי השליח, והוא
    הטבע

    My translation:

    “Know that He, may His name be blessed, caused all of reality to materialize into existence during the six days of creation Himself, in His own Glory, and not through the agency of nature, as opposed to the period which ensues after the six days of creation in which Hashem, may His name be blessed, governs his creation via the intermediary of nature.” (Maharal – Be’er haGola 4 pg. 83)

    This is the proper way to relate to Maaseh Bereishis. Thinking that the various phenomena of the universe evolved over billions of years and calling that Maaseh Bereishis is sheer folly, to say the least.

    I wrote: “And they’re right! If you can explain the development of the world naturally, your “ma rabu” emotion is unwarranted."

    MR: In my view your last sentence is Kefira.

    Why?

    I know many scientists who say Ma Rabu, in their way.

    What “way” might that be? If everything can be explained by appealing to naturalistic forces, what is so fantastic about the universe which would inspire these scientists to state “Oh how great is Your handiwork Hashem”? Sounds pretty foolish to me.

    continued...

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  49. Continued from previous post

    I have no better response than to cite a source:

    בראשית דאיהו שבת בראשית דהא שבע שבתות אינון ולכל חד אית ליה שית ימי המעשה וכל יומא דקודשא בריך הוא הוא אלף שנים הדא הוא דכתיב כי אלף שנים בעיניך וכו' ושבת בראשית שית יומין דיליה אינון אלפים תהו שני אלפים תורה שני אלפים ימות המשיח

    You need to lay off the kabala Moshe. There is absolutely nothing about this ma’amar chazal that even begins to be a source for your egregious re-interpretation of the pesukey haTorah in Bereishis. The Ramban alludes to this Tikunei Zohar in his pirush al haTorah and yet he clearly states that in addition to the spiritual connotations associated with the six days, the six day period was a literal six day period. There is no Rishon who denies this! I don’t know what books you’ve been reading but there is no kabbalistic support for these silly theories.

    I wrote: "What you don’t realize is that you are imputing your pre-conceived notion of a Creator onto these processes. You are not seeing the Creator from these processes."

    MR: But I do. I have no agenda. I accept the truth from wherever it comes. HaPosel B'Mumo Posel. You are the one with an agenda. You are unable to accept the truth from wherever it comes.

    You consistently miss my point. I never claimed you had an agenda. My point is very simple. Let me try one more time. If you are walking along the road during the fall season and you come upon a leaf formation on the ground and when you stare at it you make out the rough shape of a dog. Now, there are two possibilities here. Either an intelligent being gathered the leaves together in the shape of a dog or naturalistic forces i.e. the wind, happen to blow the leaves into this rough shape. When you consider the two options you conclude that both are equally plausible. Would it make sense for you to then look at this formation of leaves and conclude “How wonderful is the intelligence of the person who formed these leaves into this shape”? Wouldn’t that be silly?

    Now just transfer that mashal to the universe. Wouldn’t it be equally silly to look at the universe and conclude “how wonderful is your Handiwork Hashem” when Hashem isn’t even necessarily implicated in its formation? How can you come to the awareness of Hashem by studying the beriah if the beriah could just as easily have been formed via naturalistic forces? The answer is, you can’t! If you, or anyone else for that matter, associate Hashem with the beriah, it is not because you clearly see Him from the beriah; it is because you already believe in Him from a different source, i.e. the Torah and thus you attribute the beriah to Him.

    Please spend some time and think about what I am saying before responding.

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  50. Moshe Rafael –

    Do you retract your statement that you studied the science and it points to a young earth?

    I answered this question several times already. Why are you flogging a dead horse?

    I did not even read what you pasted, past the first sentence.

    That’s really too bad. Is your mind so closed that you refuse to even entertain the idea that maybe BBC is on shaky grounds?

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  51. Moshe Rafael –

    Do you really think the recession problem is serious? Did you study it? Also, do you really think the C14 problem is serious? Or do you also see that you are grasping for straws, wanting desparately to believe everything that the young-earthers out there write on their sites?

    Moshe Rafael, I was in the middle of compiling a series of posts on the important issue of Brain Death in halacha and I allowed myself to get side-tracked by you on a topic which has been discussed at length on this blog already. If you are willing to maintain an educated high-level dialogue on the issues of substance, I’m here for you. However, if our interchanges invariably reduce to silly, condescending remarks, I really must get back to my posting. Yes, I do think the recession problem is serious and yes I do think the C14 problem is serious. And I’ve read about it in the scientific literature, something you obviously have not done. There are many articles written in Radiocarbon Journal about the C14 problem but if you can’t even get past the first sentence of a paragraph I quote to you if it somehow contradicts your notions of BBC, it’s obvious that you will not get past the first sentence of any article which challenges conventional science and that’s really too bad. With such an attitude, how can you ever expect to discover the truth?

    What about admitting that if you study the science it overwhelmingly points to an ancient world?

    Gladly! As soon as you provide the evidence. Somehow you keep on forgetting this minor detail. Instead of focusing so much on me and my concessions, why don’t you do a little research and see if you can come up with solid evidence for the age of the universe? There are people reading these comments. I’m sure some of them are genuinely interested in hearing if you can provide substantial evidence to support your claims.

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  52. Moshe Rafael –

    I wrote: "It is an invention of the academic world which sees the unfolding of the universe in purely materialistic terms. So yeah, sure, you’re going to need billions of years if you want to believe the universe unfolded naturally. "

    MR: I apologize for pressing the point, but when you were studying the science that points to a young earth, were you studying "in materialistic terms?" Can I interpret your last sentence here such that you admit that indeed if you study the science it points to an ancient Universe?

    Oh boy…

    The Rambam writes that many times he will write things and people will take his words differently than what he means but this shouldn’t surprise anyone because it even happened to no less than Hashem. In the Torah, Hashem goes out of His way to be as clear as possible about His Oneness and he writes: Shma Yisrael Hahshem Elokeinu Hashem Echad and yet the Christians misunderstood His words and read Hashem, Elokeinu, Hahsem = the trinity!

    You know what the problem is R’ Moshe? You weren’t around when we were discussing these things originally. You’re lacking certain fundamental principles which form the general approach of the authors of this blog. I hope the following helps.

    There are two distinct branches of science. We choose here to refer to them as

    a) Operational/technological science
    b) Origins/historical based science

    The former is firmly governed by the Scientific Method, a set of procedures which ensures that scientists/technicians/engineers maintain objectivity while pursuing their chosen field of endeavor.

    The latter field is decidedly lacking in this method. The conclusions of these scientists are not objective. They set out with certain premises and no matter what the evidence might be, the premise can never be undermined. The premise is materialism. Materialism means that all of the elements of our universe can ultimately be boiled down to naturalistic, material explanations. Materialism, by definition, eschews any explanation which appeals to forces which are inherently unknowable to man. So, even if, say, a paleontologist comes across evidence that would seem to suggest that species such and such appeared suddenly without any precursors, he will not take this as suggestive that there must be an intelligent design. Rather, he will concede the problem and insist that one day we will find the answer. But never, under any circumstances, can we ever appeal to an outside intelligent agent as an explanation. This is a philosophy. This is not science. This philosophy is referred to as Materialism and it is the one which undergirds the entire scientific enterprise in the origins based scientific fields.

    Continued…

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  53. Continued from the last comment…

    The following is a partial quote from Dr. Richard Lewontin, a senior member of the academic establishment, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist at Harvard, and one of the most respected evolutionists today. His words are powerful and they are an eye-opener. I strongly suggest you do not stop at the first sentence like you did with my last quote.

    “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”

    These words should burn themselves into your mind and make an indelible and lasting impression! Whatever you’ve learned in school about BBC was nothing more than the scientific establishment imposing its view of materialism on the unsuspecting public by generating a theory which has no basis in facts, utilizes vast extrapolations, appeals to countless assumptions and speculations, and yet is adopted confidently as fact! Ditto for biological and chemical evolution.

    Now in view of all this, let’s analyze the sentence I wrote. I wrote: “So yeah, sure, you’re going to need billions of years if you want to believe the universe unfolded naturally.”

    What I mean should now be obvious to you. If these scientists want to eliminate, a priori, the possibility of an Intelligent Designer, then yeah, sure, they’re gonna need billions of years for something as complex as the universe to have formed naturally. But that doesn’t mean that when I study the universe I need to adopt their same premises. I study science and I say to myself “look, there are two equally plausible explanations for things. Let me investigate and see which one seems to make more sense with the physical evidence”. And nowhere do I find that the physical evidence implicates natural unfolding over billions of years any more than rapid and recent creation.

    Moshe Rafael, I haven’t nearly done justice to this sugya but unfortunately I have discussed this publicly so many times in the past ten years that I am simply losing my patience.

    I hope I have clarified my meaning to you.

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  54. Moshe Rafael –

    There are limits to our understanding. That is very clear from BB science also. What is also obvious that before nature, there was meta-nature. Sure. But after that, there was Nature. And you also acknowledge this, implicitly, when you find yourself trying to argue against a particular piece of evidence for the anciency of the world. It seems you try to have it both ways. You argue against evidence, but if you fail you will say that it is not valid anyway, because it nature was not the same.

    Unfortunately, it seems I have been wasting my time. You’ve taken nothing from what I’ve said. You entirely misunderstand my position. For the life of me I can’t understand why.

    For the record, if you provide physical evidence which is more consistent with a natural unfolding over long periods of time then rapid and recent creation, I will certainly concede your point. I will not dismiss it as “invalid anyway”. But how could you know that? You’ve never even tried (except for once, with the tidal locking thing – and when I responded, the only thing you could do was to condescendingly remark “you don’t really believe the recession thing is a problem, do you?”)

    I wish to surmise. In the end of the day, you are left saying that the world was created recently, not at all because of the science you studied, but only because that is what you think the Mesora obligates you to believe.

    OK. I’ll accept that. It’s not entirely accurate (I don’t like your words “not at all because of the science”, but you are right that primarily it wasn’t a study of science that initially brought me to the conclusion that the world was recent. It was a study of religion and philosophy.

    The Mesora in your view contradicts what Science says, and you deduce that somehow Science must have it wrong.

    Now that’s wrong. Here’s how your sentence should have read. “The Mesora contradicts what scientists say but this doesn’t constitute an impasse between science and Torah because when it comes to the origins of the universe, scientists provide no evidence for their theories.”

    Basing yourself mainly on the Halachic masters and the great widely published Mefarshim, you are confident that the day will come that you will be proven right.


    Huh? I’m proven correct right now. I don’t have to wait for anything! Here’s my proof; after countless requests by Simcha Coffer for even a shred of proof that the universe is ancient, Moshe Rafael has failed to provide even one piece of evidence!

    Continued…

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  55. Continued from last comment…

    By contrast, I base myself on Kabbalistic masters, but not all of them [...], whose Chochma in my view is way beyond the Chochma of the authorities that you follow.

    Oy vey!

    First of all, who are you to judge which authority is greater than the other? I have a paper here with over 35 sources spanning our entire mesorah, from the chumash itself down through Chazal Rishonim and Acharonim which support my thesis. What do you have? Nothing! There isn’t even one single kabalistic source which attributes billions of years to the universe. There isn’t even one single kabalistic source which attributes millions of years to the universe. There isn’t even one single kabalistic source which attributes 100’s of thousands of years to the universe. You’re not basing yourself on “kabalistic masters”. You’re basing yourself on a book or two you read which flirt with the idea. I’ve actually studied the kabalistic sources in depth and I challenge you to provide even one source which claims that our universe is billions, or even millions or hundreds of thousands of years old. Unfortunately, if your previous track record is in any way indicative, I doubt my challenge will be met with anything which resembles a source.

    Moshe Rafael, I’ve done whatever I could to explain my position. In the heat of argument I may have been overly harsh and if so I apologize. If you have further concerns, I will gladly do my best to respond. But for now I think I’d like to get back to my Brain Death issue.

    Be well,

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  56. David –

    Hi David, long tome no speak…

    “Come on!!! I have looked into telescopes and seen supernova (exploding stars) thousands of light years away
    Be honest!! Even if you want to say that the speed of light was different, it takes ages for stars to explode this would mean Hashem created the star in a dying state, then the famous question is why would Hashem want to trick me on such a fundamental level?

    Rabbb Coffer’s answer:
    “I think it is ridiculous to say that Hashem would have created trees with rings indicating thousands of years, or millions of transitional fossils that never really existed. Why? Because none of these things are necessary in order to have a fully mature, fully functioning universe. But starlight is and therefore Hashem created the universe in a fully advanced fully mature form


    David, I wasn’t involved in that thread and did not follow the back and forth but one thing I can tell you for sure; you misquoted me. Yes, the words you quoted sound like something I wrote (I can’t remember where) but I’m pretty sure I never wrote them in response to your question above. As it happens, I think your kushya is a good kushya. Let me paraphrase.

    Even if we were to say that starlight is necessary for our world and thus we can see stars that are more than 6000 light years away, why do we also see stars exploding? Doesn’t it take much longer than 6000 years for a star to reach the state of supernova? And if you were to say that Hashem created certain stars in very advanced states, why would He do that? Of what benefit is it to us to see exploding stars?

    To this, I’d like to append another question which has bothered me for a long time, one which reinforces your question. When I look up at the sky, I can detect exploding supernovas hundreds of thousands of light years away. Some were detected 2000 years ago, some a thousand years ago, some are being detected as we speak. My instinct tells me hat they happened at different times but my adherence to the Torah informs me that all of them occurred simultaneously 5771 years ago! This makes your kushya even stronger! Why would Hashem create thousands of supernovas at the very inception of creation?

    I’ve thought about this question for many years and I am sorry to say but to date I have still not encountered a response which satisfies me. So, my answer to your question is; I don’t know.

    Too bad Moshe Rafael didn’t think of asking me this question; he could have scored some points :-).

    Continued…

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  57. Continued from previous post…

    But the strange thing is that even the very educated rabbis from your camp admit that the universe does indeed appear to be billions of years old. For example here s a quote from Rabbi Dr Gottliebs site:

    “The solution to the contradiction between the age of the earth and the universe according to science and the Jewish date of 5755 years since Creation is this: the real age of the universe is 5755 years, but it has misleading evidence of greater age. The bones, artifacts, partially decayed radium, potassium-argon, uranium, the red-shifted light from space, etc. - all of it points to a greater age which nevertheless is not true. G-d put these things in the universe and they lead many to the false conclusion of a much greater age.”

    Now I am sure Rabbi Gottlieb understands the science, and he is very critical of what scientists have to say
    He is not blinded by the scientists. Do you really believe that these Rabbis from your camp are lacking scientific understanding?


    This is not a fair question to ask David. I am sure you understand that sometimes Rabbis disagree on things. Rabbi Gottlieb is a smart fellow and highly educated but in this case, if you’ve quoted him correctly, I disagree with his assertion that bones, artifacts, radiometric dating and red shifts point to a greater age.

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  58. Nachum Boehm –

    SC's use of the Cambrian explosion as evidence of a young earth is puzzling. While I am far from knowledgable regarding the Theory of Evolution (I recently purchased but have not yet begun reading Dawkin's "The Greatest Show on Earth"),

    What did you do that for Nachum? I recommend finishing Shas first before wasting your time reading Dawkin’s asinine books. I’ve already read his stuff and I can tell you; it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Reading his books will just turn your brain into a pile of mush, undecided about anything. Dawkins is the biggest apikorus in the world. It is assur to read his books. And if you ask why I read them, that’s a good kasha. But it doesn’t detract from the fact that it is assur. Get a heter first before you read sifrei minim.

    according to Wikipedia:

    The Cambrian explosion or Cambrian radiation was the relatively rapid appearance, over a period of many million years, of most major Phyla around 530 million years ago, as found in the fossil record.


    The point is that all of the phyla appeared suddenly as opposed to evolving over vast periods of time one from the next. As far as the dating of the Cambrian rocks, obviously I disagree with the mainstream geological time-table.

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  59. Yissacher –

    ROTFL! If the world was created 5771 years ago, we should expect to find all species appearing 5771 years ago. Instead, we find a huge number of now-extinct species appearing over hundreds of millions of years, many of which appear to be intermediate to current species. The Cambrian Explosion had no modern species, and it was an "explosion" that took millions of years!

    Hmm… I think that while you were rolling around on the floor laughing at things you have no understanding of, you may have bumped your head. That is the only explanation I can come up with for the absurdity of your comment.

    We do find all species appearing recently. You claim that a huge number of extinct species evolved over hundreds of millions of years. Prove it! That’s exactly what we’re talking about. You’re using circular reasoning to prove your point.

    You claim that “many” of these extinct species are intermediate to ones today. Prove it! Quote the scientific literature. I can. I can quote the literature that you are wrong, that intermediate fossils are slim to none.

    You state that the Cambrian explosion took millions of years. Notwithstanding the fact that you haven’t proven a thing, let’s say you’re right. According to scientists, the Cambrian took 3-5 million years. But this is a very small period when measured in geological time. It falls woefully short of the time evolutionists need for almost 100 phyla to appear in the rocks. That’s the whole problem of the Cambrian Explosion! The argument is a “l’shitasam” one.

    I suggest you learn a little about evolution first before commenting on it.

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  60. As far as the dating of the Cambrian rocks, obviously I disagree with the mainstream geological time-table.

    A person like me, who has virually no scientific background, does and should place the presumption of correctness with regard to scientific questions on the mainstream scientific consensus.

    It is out of respect for you that I will be reading layperson's science books. Ususally, if it's a tiny group of people who are not, for the most part, officially qualified experts in the field of debate versus the mainstream of qualified experts, it wouldn't even be a question who to presume is correct.

    But because it's you, Reb Simcha, who is the person making such stark statements as "the theory of evolution is less than nothing" and "I disagree with the mainstream geological time-table," instead of dismissing your statement as made by a kook, I am giving you the respect of considering your arguments. But I cannot do that until I familiarize myself somewhat with the mainstream positions.

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  61. Nachum -

    But because it's you, Reb Simcha, who is the person making such stark statements as "the theory of evolution is less than nothing" and "I disagree with the mainstream geological time-table," instead of dismissing your statement as made by a kook, I am giving you the respect of considering your arguments. But I cannot do that until I familiarize myself somewhat with the mainstream positions.

    Ok. Fair enough. But can we make a deal? Since you’re doling out all this respect to me, let’s make up the following. As you begin reading the book, if you come across concepts which seem to you to contradict our mesorah, write me immediately and give me the opportunity to explain my side of the story. You can either write publicly here on this blog or you can write me privately at rivkyc@sympatico.ca Notwithstanding the name of the address, it is private. It comes only to me. My wife has a different address. I merely use her name as my email address.

    Incidentally, this applies to any of our dear readers. You are welcome to email me with questions, comments or criticisms and I will do the best I can to respond.

    Simcha Coffer

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  62. On a previous thread, Rabbi Coffer said:


    In general this whole "bias" card the Slifkin camp keeps pulling drives me nuts. Look, everyone is biased! Everyone has subconscious elements of their mind which drives them. The very notion of a debate implies the idea that the two protagonists will do their best to put aside their pre-conceived notions, assess the material at hand in as objective a manner as possible, judge the topic on its own merits, and try and seek out the truth. If you really think I am so biased that I am incapable of accepting rational conclusions regarding the universe, I can’t see why you would waste your precious time bothering to communicate with me…

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  63. On this thread, Rabbi Coffer says:


    You have been indoctrinated into the academic world-view and have therefore swallowed their dogma lock stock and barrel. This state of affairs can easily generate cognitive dissonance in anyone! So, instead of re-examining everything you’ve been taught, you choose to ignore the pashtus of the pesukim of the Torah, our unanimous received tradition of 3300 years, and instead re-interpret the pesukim to accommodate what you believe to be scientifically incontrovertible truth. And in order to justify this to yourself, you do a little apologetics and claim that naturalistic processes are wonderful and cause us to attribute great wisdom to Hashem. What you don’t realize is that you are imputing your pre-conceived notion of a Creator onto these processes.

    The inconsistency is self-evident. Rabbi - please retract one of the above statements.

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  64. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  65. If the world was created rapidly, suddenly, without elapsed time, we should expect to find a lack of transitional fossils and, on the contrary, we should expect to find the sudden appearance of all phyla in the geological record.


    1. In support of sudden creation - wouldn't the better prediction be that all species of life would be found to be co-existing in the same geological strata? Why don't we find fossils of any modern species in the Cambrian strata? Why do we find only fossils of very primitive life forms (albeit a with a large variety of phyla)?

    2. How is the existence of fossils of many or even all phyla in the Cambrian strata a difficulty on evolution? The theory predicts that life forms develop over millions of years progressing from primitive to increasingly complex. The Cambrian fossils are entirely of the primitive variety.

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  66. Yitz,

    I must confess; I am flattered. And impressed. Flattered that you take the dialogue on this blog so seriously that you are able to quote, chapter and verse, things I have written months ago. Impressed that, true to your word, you are sincerely interested in the psychological underpinnings of the religion science debate in an attempt to understand where the protagonists are “coming from”. In the past I have marginalized your attempts by referring to them as non-substantive. I’m not sure that I’ve changed my mind but your comment certainly gives me something to think about.

    I thought about your comments for a few minutes and here’s my response. I doubt you will like it but it is the truth, at least the way I see it. Truth to tell, I hate talking about these things because I don’t see anything positive resulting from such discussions but you honor me by taking my words seriously so I will honor you by engaging in this discussion.

    You wrote: The inconsistency is self-evident. Rabbi - please retract one of the above statements.

    I concede that I am biased. But that’s OK. I maintain that everyone else is biased. But that too is OK. If you think about it you will realize that it is impossible for any human being to formulate an opinion about anything unless he takes certain premises for granted. Every position, every statement, every opinion, must have an initial point of departure. Certain things must be assumed. Sometimes the assumptions are tied to the assumer emotionally such as in debates regarding religion, and sometimes they are purely intellectual, such as in mathematics. Sometimes they are a combination of both. The point is, any time our emotions are involved, bias is inevitable. And our emotions are involved in veritably every position we espouse.

    Does bias eliminate our ability to see the truth? I maintain that it does not. It compromises our ability and thus must be kept in check but it does not eliminate our ability. All of us have a certain inner God-given strength to reject bias and see the truth. Rav Dessler refers to this strength as the “koach bakashas ha’emes” (KBH) and claims that it can never be entirely eradicated. But it can certainly be covered over by layers and layers of self-serving bias and foolishness.

    So, how can you tell if a person is entrenched to the point that his KBH is currently not functioning? This is a very difficult question to answer because it deals with the most complicated thing in the universe; our minds. As Yimiyahu hanavi stated, “akov haleiv mi’kol, u’mi yeida’enu”, the mind is the most complicated thing, who can possibly know (fathom) it? Actually, Rabbi Slifkin took a stab at it in his post entitled The Seven Principles of Bias and did a pretty good job. What I’d like to do is add a criterion of my own. Here it is.

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  67. Continued from previous comment...

    In a debate, if a protagonist immediately invokes the bias card, it is indicative of a possible loss of his KBH. The reason I say possible is because it is not always true. Sometimes the protagonist might indeed be level-headed but invokes the bias card for one of many reasons, the most likely one being that he underestimates his opponent. Rafi made that error initially (IMHO). He assumed certain things about me and thus played the bias card almost immediately. But it didn’t last long. You know why? Because he had his own biases under control. When I was talking with him, I sensed that. I felt that if I told him not to misjudge me, he would capitulate. And I was right. That’s why I gave him the schmooze about not playing the bias card; because he was doing it practically out the gate and it was inappropriate at that juncture of our interchange. And he never did it again.

    The reason I played the bias card with MR is because it followed a long discussion in which I felt it was time to mention his obvious refusal to deal with certain issues. I do not wish to elaborate on the details but this is basically what I felt. I think it is acceptable to point out to someone that they are being unreasonable in a debate, but only after maintaining the dialogue for a significant period of time.

    I hope my response made some kind of sense and I hope it wasn’t a product of bias!

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  68. Truth to tell, I hate talking about these things because I don’t see anything positive resulting from such discussions

    That I agree with. In the case of Reb Moshe, it seems clear to me that he is both erudite and articulate on the scientific (aka "materialist") evidence on the ground, and has reached conclusions based on this that RSC disagrees with. Just leave it at that and drop the 'cognitive dissonance' charge. Go ahead and conclude to yourself that anyone who objectively studies the evidence will eventually agree with you, but keep that thought to yourself if you want anyone to take you seriously.

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  69. Dear Yitz,

    Once again I am grateful for your inquiries. Because of time constraints, I respond to questioners re science and Torah with general answers and wait to see if they are truly interested before spending longer periods of time explaining. I am gratified that you are interested enough to challenge my responses. Here’s the long version so dig in and hunker down. If after reading my presentation you are still dissatisfied please let me know and I will spend as much time necessary to elucidate the topic.

    You wrote: 1. In support of sudden creation - wouldn't the better prediction be that all species of life would be found to be co-existing in the same geological strata? Why don't we find fossils of any modern species in the Cambrian strata? Why do we find only fossils of very primitive life forms (albeit a with a large variety of phyla)?

    In response to your first question, the reality of rock strata is undeniable. In some localities it goes miles down. The question is, why are there different strata? Here are two possible answers. Either there were major catastrophes which caused sedimentary layers to form rapidly, one on top of the other, or they could have formed over eons via erosion and wind, and carried to their current location via water transportation and other natural forces. These are referred to as sedimentary layers. The water carries sediments from one location and lays it down in another. Alternatively, the rock could have been formed by the cooling of molten rock (such as that spewed from a volcano). This is referred to as igneous rock.

    The system of geology we have today was initiated by catastrophists, geologists who believed that the rock layers were formed rapidly as opposed to forming over huge periods of time. Most prominent amongst them was a French geologist named George Cuvier. Actually, the Tiferes Yisrael quotes him in his famous Drush Orach Chaim (back of Nezikin in ther Yachin u’Boaz). In the nineteenth century, an opposing group arose which maintained that the rock layers took ages to form. These geologists are referred to as uniformitarian. Most prominent amongst them was Charles Lyle.

    So, the answer to your question is that there is definitely a reality of rock layering according to everyone. The question is, how long did it take? The mainstream Jewish view has been that these layers formed rapidly, even according to Tiferes Yisrael. Malbim expresses this view in his comments to the flood incident in parshas Noach. Today this view is not necessarily mainstream amongst Jewish intellectuals (unfortunately). But if you go with the mainstream view, the reason we do not find all life forms in one strata is because fossilization is a rare event and thus only certain fossils were captured by the rocks at certain intervals. These intervals were punctuated by catastrophes which laid down sedimentation, or solidified rock formations, and then other species were captured.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is a uniform column of layers superimposed upon each other over the face of the earth from Cambrian up to Tertiary. This does not exist anywhere but in the evolutionist’s mind! The layers are all mixed up! They do not follow a uniform sequence. The sequence which exists under the chair you are sitting on is not the same sequence which exists under my chair! When evolutionary geologists find a layer which is older (according to them, based on the types of fossils found in the layer) than the one below it, they claim that it was “thrust upwards” and now lays happily on top of younger layer (although they have absolutely no mechanism to explain how such a feat could have occurred). This way they can never lose!

    Yitz, I gotta go. I will answer your next question re the Cambrian later today or tomorrow bl’n and also answer your question #2.

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  70. Dear Yitz,

    Further to our last communication, I continue with my response. You asked:

    You wrote: 1. …Why don't we find fossils of any modern species in the Cambrian strata? Why do we find only fossils of very primitive life forms (albeit a with a large variety of phyla)?

    First of all, it is important to note, as I did in my last comment, that according to “us” the layers are all mixed up. Sometimes a layer evolutionists claim is older will be on top and sometimes a layer they claim is recent will be way down. What we claim is that the order we see is always correct. The beds were laid down in a natural sequence (i.e. whatever natural forces happened to come to bear at the time) and the fossils we discover in these beds represent whatever happened to be captured at that time and place. But according to evolutionists the strata have a very definite order. It follows the evolutionary hierarchy of how things are supposed to have unfolded. This order, this sequence, is preserved at all costs. It is the defining marker for evolutionists.

    How are Cambrian strata identified? Believe it or not, they are identified via the fossils of the organisms found in that particular layer. I know you’re thinking “what about radiometric dating” but primarily RMD is not used to date Cambrian strata. There are too many inconsistencies amongst the various strata. Besides, the Cambrian Explosion was something that was understood as a reality long before radiometric dating ever appeared on the scene. Even Darwin attempted to address the problems associated with it.

    So, what is the problem with the Cambrian Explosion? Here’s the abridged version.

    According to Darwin, life should have first emerged in very similar and simple forms and then branched out into differing and increasingly complex life forms. Life is thus like a tree with a common root which subsequently splits up into varying branches. In biology textbooks, this idea is referred to as Darwin’s Tree of Life.

    According to this tree concept, phyla came about in stages. According to Darwinism, one phylum must first emerge and then the next phylum can slowly emerge via minute changes over vast periods of time. Evolutionary theory dictates that the number of animal phyla must have gradually increased in number. Unfortunately this is not what the record shows. On the contrary, animals have been very different and complex from the moment they made their appearance in the rocks.

    All the animal phyla known today emerged at the same time, in the middle of the geological period known as the Cambrian Period or Cambrian Age. The Cambrian Period is estimated to have lasted some 65 million years, between 570 to 505 million years ago. But the period of the abrupt appearance of major animal groups fit into an even shorter phase of the Cambrian. This is what is referred to as the Cambrian explosion. Before this, there isn’t a trace in the fossil record of anything other than single-celled creatures and a few very primitive multi-cellular ones. All animal phyla emerged completely formed in the short period of time represented by the Cambrian explosion. (Five million years is a very short time in geological terms)

    Yitz, you mentioned that the Cambrian fauna was primitive but the fossils found in Cambrian rocks belong to advanced creatures and very different creatures, such as snails, trilobites, sponges, jellyfish, starfish, shellfish, etc. Most of the creatures in this layer have complex systems and advanced structures, such as eyes, gills, and circulatory systems, exactly the same as those in modern specimens. These structures are
    a) very advanced and
    b) very different.

    Here’s a smattering of quotes from the scientific literature.

    Continued…

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  71. Continued from the last comment…

    “A half-billion years ago, ...the remarkably complex forms of animals we see today suddenly appeared. This moment, right at the start of Earth's Cambrian Period, some 550 million years ago, marks the evolutionary explosion that filled the seas with the world's first complex creatures.” (Richard Monastersky, "Mysteries of the Orient," Discover, April 1993, p. 40)

    Jan Bergström, a paleontologist who studied the early Cambrian deposits in Chengjiang, China, is quoted as saying

    "The Chengyiang fauna demonstrates that the large animal phyla of today were present already in the early Cambrian and that they were as distinct from each other as they are today." (ibid)

    Roger Lewin, a paleontologist of note, writes as follows:

    “Described recently as "the most important evolutionary event during the entire history of the Metezoa," the Cambrian explosion established virtually all the major animal body forms Baupläne or phyla that would exist thereafter, including many that were "weeded out" and became extinct. Compared with the 30 or so extant phyla, some people estimate that the Cambrian explosion may have generated as many as 100.” (Roger Lewin, Science, vol. 241, 15 July 1988, p. 291)

    So Yitz, as you can see that the Cambrian Explosion possess a serious problem for evolutionary theory. Here’s one final quote from our good friend Richard Dawkins, one of the foremost proponents of evolution today.

    “For example the Cambrian strata of rocks… are the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history.” (Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton, London, 1986, p. 229)

    There’s a lot of literature available on the Cambrian Explosion but one thing is for sure; it spells the end for rational adherence to Darwinism.

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  72. Hi,

    I just wanted to run an idea by you, that I was contemplating upon after reading Mr. Slifkin's and yours blogs.

    As far as I understand, it is not even important to know when the person is dead or still alive. At least not for the organ donation purposes...

    This is because if the person is still alive, we cannot really hope to take his organs (say, his heart) because it would essentially be murder.

    On the other hand, if the person is dead, we also cannot take his organs because it would essentially make the recipient of these organs unclean (טמא), possibly even an abomination (שקץ).

    Now, some may argue that the laws of the "sanctity of life" override laws of "cleanlines", but I think that this is not correct as even if we were to assume that donated organs would save a particalar person from (immediate) death, what would happen then?

    That person would be alive of'course, but would he be considered "clean" now that his life is not in danger anymore?

    After all, he now permanently carries a part from a dead body inside of him, even if that particular organ is still biologically alive and functioning...

    Thank you.

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  73. Dear Aleksander,

    Shalom Aleichem! Welcome to our blog and thank you for writing.

    I think it is pretty clear that an unclean person is still considered alive. An unclean person is obligated to keep all of the mitzvos of the Torah and in fact must keep certain mitzvos which do not even pertain to an unclean person.

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  74. Yes, thank you SC.

    I see your point.

    But can you explain to me (if you can) what specific justifications Torah provides for taking organs from:

    a) semi-dead person (brain-dead in our case?)
    b) dead person (aka cadaveric donor)

    I have no problem with someone who is alive and who is willing donate,say, one of the kidneys.

    But I'm having difficuties understanding the organ donation process when it comes to dead or semi-dead person...

    According to Torah, of'course...

    Thank you.

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  75. Aleksandr,

    But can you explain to me (if you can) what specific justifications Torah provides for taking organs from:

    a) semi-dead person (brain-dead in our case?)
    b) dead person (aka cadaveric donor)


    The Torah does not discuss organ donation. It is left to the poskim to determine, based on their understanding of Torah, what the halacha should be.

    In order for me to address your question directly, it would be helpful if you explained precisely what you find objectionable about organ donation.

    I have no problem with someone who is alive and who is willing donate, say, one of the kidneys.

    OK. That’s a start. So you have no problem envisioning one human donating a body part to another.

    But I'm having difficuties understanding the organ donation process when it comes to dead or semi-dead person...

    What is your difficulty? Kindly elaborate.

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  76. So you have no problem envisioning one human donating a body part to another.

    In case of a voluntary donation where both parties (donor and recipient) stay alive, I can see how organ donation is acceptable. So yes, I guess that is not a problem.

    What is your difficulty? Kindly elaborate.

    Ok. Let's say we are talking about heart transplant.

    Since there is only one heart in the human body, it means that one life must cease so that another life can be preserved.

    If donor heart comes from "brain dead" person, it means that after his heart is removed he is going to die. I understand that he probably technically dead already, but nevetherless he can still (say, by some miracle) recover and such very rare cases had been documented.

    So I'm trying to figure out what exactly is the process (according to Torah).

    a) We can take the heart out and then let the person naturaly die. (i.e removing the feeding tube or stopping ventilator)

    b) Let person die naturaly first, and only then collect needed organs.

    This, in turn, raises other issues that I have pointed out already...

    In case "a", wouldn't it be technically considered murder, as even a brain dead person can recover (no matter how miniscule and unlikely this chance may be)?

    In case "b", wouldn't it be an issue of "clean vs unclean" (טמא vs טהור)? Just as a blunt example, let's say we are talking about ill kohen ha-gadol here. Wouldn't this particular kohen would now be unclean (would have to trade his duties for his health)?

    Sorry if I sound confusing, but the issue is IMHO quite complicated so it is not very easy to explain...

    ReplyDelete
  77. Aleksandr,

    So I'm trying to figure out what exactly is the process (according to Torah).

    a) We can take the heart out and then let the person naturaly die. (i.e removing the feeding tube or stopping ventilator)


    According to most modern-day poskim, this is not allowed. As long as the person’s heart continues to beat, he is considered alive, notwithstanding the status of his brain.

    According to some poskim (and apparently according to the Rabbanut of Israel, at least currently the way I’ve been led to understand) brain death is considered halachic death thus allowing the removal of the heart, or any other organ, from the brain dead individual for purposes of transplant. Of course, a conclusive determination of brain death is itself a complicated business. But assuming the fact, transplant would, theoretically, be permissible.

    b) Let person die naturaly first, and only then collect needed organs.

    No good. A heart must be actively beating in order for it to qualify as a viable organ. If cardiac arrest or respiratory failure ensues, the tissues of the heart begin degenerating immediately and render the heart permanently inoperative.

    Assuming there are no issues with harvesting live organs from brain dead individuals, the pure/impure thing would not play a role. Life comes before everything other than the violation of the three cardinal sins.

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  78. Thank you. Now it sounds much clearer to me.

    But can you clarify what is exact halachic procedure at the moment for a heart transplant?

    You have said that both of my "a" and "b" cases are no good. Does it mean that the only halachicaly accepted way for a heart transplant is the so-called "living organ" transplant (relatively new procedure btw)?

    I.e. when the heart is only briefly "disconnected" from a donor, connected to a machine and then put into the recipient?

    Or there is no halachic procedure yet developed ?

    Thanks.

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  79. But can you clarify what is exact halachic procedure at the moment for a heart transplant?

    The poskim who consider brain death halachic death would, theoretically, permit heart transplantation. The ones that require a cessation of heart beat and respiration would prohibit heart transplantation.

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  80. Thank you SC. I really appreciate your help and your answers.

    I'm not an expert on this issue, but it is definitely a very interesting and a challenging one.

    ReplyDelete