Monday, October 30, 2006
[Rabbi Moshe Feinstein; one of the greatest rabbis of the 20th century]
One of the strange and unique features of Judaism is the structure of Judaic literature.
Judaic literature was written in five stages with authors in the later stages never contradicting those in the earlier stages:
- The prophets; 1300 BCE to 300 BCE.
- The early rabbis; 300 BCE to 200 CE
- The Talmudic rabbis; 200 CE to 500 CE
- The Talmudic commentaries; 500 CE to 1500 CE
- The commentators on the Talmudic commentaries; 1500 CE to 1950 CE.
Other religions, and correct me if I’m wrong, will generally have two stages – the founder and the commentators on the founder. There is the New Testament and canon law, the Koran and the Sharia, etc. The founder of course has special importance, however after him any great scholar is entitled to offer an opinion. In the Catholic Church, for example, Doctors of the Church continue to be added up to the present.
In Judaism, a rabbi living in 1000 CE would never have considered contradicting a rabbi who lived in 100 CE and likewise a rabbi living in 1600 CE would never contradict a rabbi living in 1000 CE. Needless to say, no one after 300 BCE claimed to have the gift of prophesy. This is why the canon of the Bible was closed. There was universal reverence for the sages of each earlier era. This is in spite of the fact that since the destruction of the First Temple, 2,400 years ago, the Jewish people have not possessed any central authority capable of declaring and enforcing a new era of Judaic literature. These eras seem to have formed spontaneously because of a universal recognition that current leaders did not possess the spiritual and academic greatness of earlier ones.
In my opinion, this is clearly proof of the great spiritual level which the Jewish people were elevated to 3,300 years ago at Mt. Sinai and which they have been gradually descending from ever since.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 12:45 PM
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Many people are understandably impressed by statements like this from the National Academy of Sciences:
Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition (1999)
"Scientists most often use the word "fact" to describe an observation. But scientists can also use fact to mean something that has been tested or observed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing or looking for examples. The occurrence of evolution in this sense is a fact. Scientists no longer question whether descent with modification occurred because the evidence supporting the idea is so strong."
However let’s not forget how that even the most eminent and respected experts can sometimes be completely wrong:
Excerpt from the address of the United States Secretary of State to the United Nations Security Council Wednesday February 5, 2003
“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction”
Even the most intelligent and well informed people are fallible. Question everything.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:21 AM
Sunday, October 22, 2006
[Professor Richard Dawkins, British ethologist, celebrated spokesman for Darwinism and atheism]
I happen to be a subscriber to National Geographic magazine. The nature photography is simply irresistible. National Geographic also happens to be a leading advocate of Darwinian evolution and this month’s (11/2006) issue included a lengthy article specifically about evolution: “A Fin is a Limb is a Wing: How Evolution Fashioned Its Masterworks” page 110. This article is noteworthy in that it is actually a 25 page editorial endorsing evolution and critiquing the intelligent design theory.
Reading the text and looking at the beautiful illustrations, made me wonder: What would it take to prove evolution to me? [Note incidentally that in my opinion proving evolution true implicitly proves monotheism false, since the Bible, Genesis 1, explicitly states that all species were created separately.]
The answer is: fossils.
Evolution makes an extraordinary claim: that different species are all descended from a common ancestor. This is extraordinary because we know from everyday experience that like always begets like; humans have human babies, fish have fish offspring, cats give birth to kittens and so on. Therefore it seems incredible that apes could somehow produce humans or fish could produce reptiles. This doesn’t mean evolution is impossible; many extraordinary things can and do happen. However it means that a huge burden of proof rests on evolutionists to make their case. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
What the fossil evidence should show is gradual, seamless development, in millions of tiny steps, from microbes to advanced life such as eagles, oak trees, salmon, horses and humans. Just like a child develops from a single cell to an embryo, fetus, infant, toddler, adolescent and adult, gradually, seamlessly, each day progressing slightly further, so, Darwinism teaches, life developed and continues developing on earth.
In reality, the fossils do not show us anything like this. The fossils show sudden changes and jumps from one form to the next. This is comparable to a child remaining a newborn for 5 years, then suddenly, the next day, appearing as a toddler for 10 years, then waking up one morning as a teenager. This simply doesn’t make sense. If I would come into my 7 month old daughter’s bedroom tomorrow morning and find a five year old girl in the crib I would know that this is not a new developmental stage, this is a different child. This is basically what paleontologists find in the fossil record. The alleged transitional fossils or “missing links” which are occasionally reported with huge publicity still do not provide anything resembling a seamless spectrum of development from microbes to advanced modern life.
The answer given is yes, all those tiny, incremental steps did happen; however the fossils sadly never formed or have been lost. Fair enough, however in that case evolutionists have no convincing proof. If a prosecutor would tell a jury that yes, there must have been evidence that the defendant is guilty, but it’s been lost, I don’t think he would get a conviction.
All the other proofs of evolution, from vestigial organs, embryology, homologies and genetics, I personally don’t find convincing since they tell us nothing directly about what happened in the past and bizarrely they seem to be attempts by biologists to psychoanalyze God; to claim, for example, “If God created the ostrich, why did He make it with those useless little wings? So we see God didn’t do it.” I don’t think we know enough about all of God’s possible intentions to jump to that conclusion. This is what I call “Godlessness of the Gaps”: any time we see something and we cannot explain why God would do it that proves that God does not exist. Of course, this may just be proof of our ignorance, not proof of atheism. Since Darwin, the vast majority of “useless” organs have been found to be quite useful.
However, to psychoanalyze scientists a little, why does evolution remain so universally popular in the scientific world? Because the vast majority of scientists are either atheists or something close to atheists and there is no other possible atheistic explanation for advanced life other than variation and natural selection. Therefore, they reason, evolution must be true. The few scientists who are religious believers know that in order to be successful professionally they must conform to the majority.
I believe it’s obvious that if not for atheistic bias, Darwinian evolution would never have been considered seriously as a scientific theory. It’s not science; it’s baseless speculation.
A previous post deals with the issue of fossils at greater length.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 8:38 AM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
One of the most remarkable things about the universe is that life is able to exist in it at all. In order for living things of any type to exist, there must be stars and planets. However in order for stars and planets to exist, the universe must possess a long list of natural properties.
Cosmologist Martin Rees in his book “Our Cosmic Habitat” (Princeton University Press, 2001, page 162) compares our universe having, by chance, all the properties needed for life to exist to the case of a prisoner standing in front of a firing squad of 50 marksmen and all of them taking aim, firing and all missing. He would naturally wonder why this happened.
We don’t know of any scientific reason why the universe must possess any of these properties, let alone all of them, so why does it?
The obvious answer is that God made the universe for the sake of man, so of course He made it hospitable for life. Just like a builder builds a home with a roof, ceiling, insulation, a kitchen, wiring, plumbing, windows, heating, air conditioning, etc. everything designed perfectly for the future occupants, so God built our world with all the properties needed to make life possible.
For those who refuse to believe in God, the only alternative is to believe that the observable universe is in fact merely one bubble within a vastly larger universe which includes many bubbles, each of which has different properties and some of which, just by chance, are capable of supporting life. There is no evidence to support this, however. [This is a fundamental principle of atheism: “Yes, of course, this or that APPEARS to be intelligently designed, however given enough time and space anything can happen by chance.”]
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:09 AM
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
[Great Pyramid of Giza]
One apparent conflict between science and Judaism is that according to traditional Jewish chronology, the Deluge (Genesis 7) occurred in 2106 BCE. The Dispersion (Genesis 11) occurred in 1765 BCE. This means that between those two dates, for a period of 340 years, the earth was uninhabited outside of Mesopotamia. Also, presumably, people after the Dispersion spoke different languages than they did before the Deluge.
Egyptians, however, continued speaking the same language from 3200 BCE until 1300 CE. How can this be explained?
My guess is as follows:
I would assume that the antediluvian Egyptians were among the “mighty men of old” (Genesis 6:4). They built the Great Pyramid and spoke Old Egyptian. They died in the Deluge. [I suspect that this early race of superior men also built the remarkable Stonehenge monument which dates from about the same period.]
Following the Dispersion, new settlers arrived in Egypt who wished to revive the language and culture of the earlier inhabitants. They never approached the architectural achievement of the original Egyptians, however they emulated Old Egyptian culture and claimed descent from them. (Many ancient dynasties claimed descent from ancient gods or heroes.)
This is similar to medieval northern Europeans who continued using Latin long after the destruction of Rome and even though they were not Roman. American high schools taught Latin until the 1960s. In fact, this blog is being written in the Latin alphabet. Classical Greek and Roman architectures were often revived. Most people today use a slightly modified Roman calendar.
Interestingly, the Egyptians are virtually the only ancient culture not possessing a flood legend, I would suppose because they wished to deny their lack of continuity with the pyramid builders.
Incidentally, the Deluge itself was obviously a supernatural event, which did not necessarily leave any physical evidence remaining today.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:26 AM