Monday, February 21, 2005

Sunday Slifkin Bloging

As those of you following the Slifkin story know (or maybe you just read bloghd) Rav Moshe Sternbuch has issued a letter about Slifkin.

Gil's already addressed the substance of this letter (and I might do it myself, eventually) but for now, I'm content to pick at nits. It's sort of my niche, you know.

Rav Sternbuch words are in italics; my comments are interpolated:

Scientists -even those who are described as religious - are ashamed that we don’t agree with the views of the leading scientists that man is descended from the apes.

No one - not even Darwin - thinks that man descended from apes. What the sceintists think is that man and monkey had a common ancestor. This is an important difference, from the persepctive of paleontology, but I fail to see why it matters from the perspective of Torah. Let us be decendant from apes, or let us share an ancestor. Neither of these scenarios obviate Matan Torah and halacha. Insisting that man and monkey are seperate creations is a function of pride. There is nothing in halacha or hashkafa that militates against Darwin's ideas.

This attempt to make Judaism consistent with science occurs in spite of the fact that the idea that man came from the apes is itself utterly shocking.

Yes. Very shocking. But not for the reason you think. Let's say it once more for those who came late: This idea of yours about the apes being our great-grandfather is not the view of any scientist.

It also must be said that aside from being factually incorrect, this is an absolutely horrible argument, an argument from the "I know you are but what am I," book of forensics.

Why would you think a "shocking" idea is necessarily false?

They will accept anything that enables them to avoid acknowledging that G-d created man with His wisdom.

Ok, so why hasn't the idea that aliens populated our world with their mutant offspring caught on? Like evolution, the idea of an alien ancestor "enables them to avoid acknowledging that G-d created man with His wisdom." But no scientist accepts that idea. And I could go on. There are hundreds if not millions of ideas that scientists could embrace if, as Rav Sternbach says, all they wanted to do was deny God. That fact that so many of those sort of ideas have been rejected by scientists shows that something else is at play.

They will accept anything that enables them to avoid acknowledging that G-d created man with His wisdom. Therefore they use misleading and distorted citations from Torah literature to claim justification for such scientific beliefs in the words of our Sages.

If they want to deny God, why are they mining the writings of Sages? If you want to deny God, you BURN the writings of people like the Sages. You don't trot them out as proof of your heretical ideas.

This required acceptance of the traditional age of the universe is all the more obvious since every man and woman and child knows that the world was created 5765 years ago.

Men, woman and children entertain all sorts of mistaken ideas. Many of them voted for Bush, for example. Others support the war in Iraq. You won't get very far if you rely exclusivly on the average man, woman or child. Incidently, this is one reason why people like Rav Sternbuch are so popular. If we didn't need experts to do the deep thinking for us, the men, woman and children could issue our halachic rulings, giving Rav Sternbuch more time for remedial science.

Consequently a person who casts doubts on this accepted tradition [that the world is 5765 years old] even if he is widely respected person by the Jewish people - must be carefully investigated.

Does this mean that the Tiferes Yisroel should expect a midnight knock on his door? How terrifying. Is Rav Sternbuch going to investigate one of the leading authorities on the Mishna?

The obvious truth is that the order and nature of creation is concealed. For example, how did man come to inhabit all the continents and islands in the ocean - thousands of years ago?...the scientists have no answer to this question.

Maybe not, but the guy who wrote my Grade 9 Biology text book had the answer. I agree: this guy may not have been a scientist. But still he knew that the fossil and geological evidence shows the continents were once connected, and had since drifted apart.

This ignorance has led them to the ridiculous and nonsensical idea that man developed from the apes. This absurdity is so firmly accepted by them that they view with contempt anyone who doesn’t accept their ideas.

I know I am beating to death this horse about scientists not really believing that we come from monkeys, but it needs to be sad one last time: the only people scientists view with contempt, are those who go around claiming that scientists believe things that they, in fact, do not.

P.S I would like to say, for the record, that Rav Sternbuch is a godol b'torah; however, per, Rabbenu Avraham and countless others, it does not follow that a godol b'torah is also a godol b'science.