Wednesday, February 28, 2007
[The eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines, 12 June 1991. Relatively mild, about 1/6 the size of Thera, 1600 BCE.]
The Bible tells us that 600,000 adult Israelite men together with their families left Egypt (according to rabbinical sources) in 1313 BCE.
Many people have questioned this claim, primarily because there are no Egyptian records that make any reference to such a momentous event or to the plagues that preceded it.
Professor Israel Finkelstein in the “The Bible Unearthed” page 59 writes “in the abundant Egyptian sources describing the time of the New Kingdom in general and the thirteenth century in particular, there is no reference to the Israelites, not even a single clue”. Therefore, concludes Professor Finkelstein, the Exodus could not have happened (page 63).
The question can be asked however: How complete are the Egyptian records from this period? There is no real literature, no actual books or chronicles, which have survived from that period of Egyptian history. (Actually the Bible is by far man’s earliest chronicle.) We have only a very limited number of inscriptions that have been recovered and translated. Seemingly, studying Egyptian history is like trying to reconstruct the history of the United States based on a smattering of tombstone inscriptions and the inscriptions on a few monuments. Our primary source of Egyptian history is in fact Aegyptiaca by Manetho written c. 300 BCE. And in fact we don’t even have Manetho, we only have portions of Manetho recorded about 800 years later, by writers who quote other writers, who quoted other writers, etc. who had read Manetho!
The eruption of the Thera volcano c. 1600 BCE can help to illustrate the problem. The eruption was perhaps four times as powerful as the Krakatoa eruption in 1883. The eruption occurred 450 miles from the Nile delta with the force of a 600 megaton hydrogen bomb. There would seem to be no question that the sound, smoke, ash and tsunami had a major impact on Egypt. However there is no reference to it, “not even a single clue”, in surviving Egyptian records even though we know from geological evidence that this certainly did happen.
It therefore seems silly to draw any conclusion from the gaps in Egyptian records. Obviously, in this case an absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 1:01 PM
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
A disturbing belief of nearly all atheistic intellectuals is the concept that man has no soul and therefore no free will.
The atheistic perspective seems to be that man is a robot, no different basically than an electronic robot, which works automatically, based on a computer program (in this case, DNA) and environmental input.
The only thing unusual about the human robot is that it has self-awareness. I don’t think that the computer on my desk is aware of itself, however the human robot is aware of itself. Also, the human robot for some strange reason imagines that it is not behaving based on a pre-written program; rather it imagines that it is spontaneously, from moment to moment, deciding what to do. This, however, is a fantasy. According to atheists, everything which happens is predetermined by other causes; there is no causeless effect.
This would seemingly make the entire issue of morality irrelevant. Good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral is only relevant in regards to a being that can choose freely between different options. Regardless of what a robot does, it is not immoral because it does not choose anything. Perhaps the builder or programmer is immoral, however it makes no sense to put a robot in prison. And according to atheists, in the case of man, there is no builder. The universe has existed eternally and human robots are just random little specks floating in it. Hitler had to do what he did just like a volcano has to explode when it does. No matter what crime a person commits he can explain “my genes and environment made me do it”. Morality, like free will, is a fantasy.
I recently exchange email with Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker on this issue:
Question: If someone has committed a crime, is there any rational reason for him to feel guilt?
His answer: Guilt prompts one to repair harm caused to a person and not to repeat it, so if he has any ties to people and a community, then yes.
Question: Can he not console himself with the thought that he had no choice and he was under the control of his brain chemistry, environment, childhood experiences, etc.?
Answer: No, because his brain chemistry, environment, and so on can also lead him to inhibit the urge to commit a crime.
I’m not sure I fully understand him, however Professor Pinker's busy schedule doesn’t allow him to elaborate.
Professor Pinker argues in “The Blank Slate” chapter 10 that the criminal justice system should continue to function as usual, not for the reason that people usually understand, to bring criminals to justice, but rather to serve as a deterrent to other potential criminals. In other words, if a human robot goes haywire and damages other robots, we should kidnap him and lock him in a cage, not because he is evil, but because doing so will influence other human robots to behave more peacefully.
The fact is, that if we are merely dealing with poorly programmed robots that need to be controlled, the most obvious method would be eugenics. It is probably not that difficult to predict in advance which people have a higher likelihood of producing criminal children and simply sterilize them. This might prevent the vast majority of all crime while also controlling over population – two birds with one stone. This makes much more sense than to wait for a human robot to freak out and do damage and then lock it up hoping that this will somehow influence other robots. Dell, for example, recalled all computers which had a defective battery, not only ones that actually caught on fire. Professor Pinker (The Blind Slate page 153) rejects eugenics because “The costs of freedom to the individuals and in possible abuse by authorities are unacceptable.” Why would it be more unacceptable than our present criminal justice system, which leaves many criminals free, some innocent people behind bars and many neighborhoods dangerous? I think we don’t accept eugenics because we believe that the criminal is responsible for his freely chosen behavior and he must be punished and the government has no right to sterilize people.
I think this demonstrates how atheism is fundamentally, deeply anti-humanistic. Once we remove “the ghost from the machine”, man’s soul, the divine spark, the image of God, whatever you want to call it, man is reduced to being not merely an ape, but to being a cell phone. This helps us understand why many atheists live alone and have few friends. Their lack of respect for others makes it difficult for them to form families and communities.
Seemingly, this denial of a spiritual component within man would deny the validity of egalitarianism, which is the basis of liberal democracy, and it would promote elitism. People’s inherent value should logically depend on their material attributes such as intellect, strength, beauty, wealth, etc. since nothing else actually exists.
In my humble opinion, the atheistic denial of free will is one of the clearest indications that atheism is illogical nonsense. I think we all know that we are not living in a real life version of The Stepford Wives.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Science is the study of nature. Religion is our belief in the supernatural. Therefore there is no conflict between science and religion. They are two entirely separate fields of knowledge, like let’s say plumbing and medicine.
There is only one generally accepted scientific theory, which I believe Judaism has a conflict with, and that is the concept of universal descent from a common ancestor. Judaism teaches that each kind was created separately. Scientists assume that since fossils show that different, more primitive forms of life have existed in the past, we must be descended from them. I have a different interpretation.
The only problem arises when scientists become carried away with their own importance and claim that nature is all there is. This is not science, but rather scientism. Let’s say a plumber would claim that medicine is bogus and all illnesses can be treated using wrenches and pipes - this is the absurdity of scientism. According to scientism, there is not and never will be a convincing explanation for the origin of the universe or the origin of life. There can also be no free will. We are all in reality robots, which is absurd.
Scientists have done a great deal of good. They have put man on the moon. They have also killed a few astronauts. But to say they know everything is like saying your plumber, since he did such a great job on the kitchen sink, knows everything so let’s use him for brain surgery too. Any sane person can see that science is not the whole story.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
There are two separate groups on yahoo.com. One is for gentiles who are in the process of converting to Orthodox Judaism. The other is for Orthodox Jews who basically wish to become gentiles. Both groups are about equally active, although I am happy to say that the first group has more than twice the membership of the second.
Perhaps this should not really surprise us.
There are certain people who, by their very natures, have a difficult time coping with a religious lifestyle. They desperately want to be gentiles. The first time they come into contact with the gentile world, they are hooked, nothing can persuade them to repent and remain faithful Jews. Tragic as it may seem, this is often good riddance of worthless trash; the Jewish people will be far better off and stronger without them, just like we are without the Ten Tribes, the Hellenizers, the Sadducees and so many others who have left before them.
On the other hand, there is the opposite as well. There are those gentiles who, the first time they hear about Judaism, come running. They are captivated with the idea of devoting ones life to the truth. Nothing can stop them. Jethro, Ruth, Onkelos and many others have joined the Jewish people and hugely strengthened it.
Perhaps one group balances out the other.
The most pathetic apostates are those who are so dishonest they will not even admit to being apostates. They wish to have everything both ways, to have their cholent and eat it too, so to speak. They wish to benefit from the kindness, support, love and generosity which they correctly perceive they will only find in the Orthodox Jewish world. (They know that if they would request to be a houseguest of one of the atheist scientists whom they worship, they probably would be arrested for stalking.) On the other hand, they do not believe in the divine origin of the Bible and Talmud, or even in God altogether. So they lie and cheat. They stand in front of the Torah scroll and publicly proclaim, “Blessed are You our God Who gave us His Torah”, while privately doing whatever they feel like doing. These evil scumbags defile the Jewish community in many ways – for example, by feeding non-kosher food to other Jews. (Any wine they pour is automatically not kosher.) And they disgrace the Jewish community by behaving in all sorts of immoral ways while dressing like Jews. Let’s hope that someday there will be a website established identifying these people, just as there are currently websites for sex offenders.
[This post is in conformance with the teachings of the universally revered and beloved Talmudic scholar Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, who wrote in his book “Hafetz Haim” Laws of Lashon Harah 8:5 that is it praiseworthy to disgrace and insult anyone who denies the divine origin of any portion of the Hebrew Bible or Talmudic law.]
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
[Karl Marx, 19th century German economist]
It’s interesting to note that even the greatest skeptics seem to agree that religion does have the capacity to make people happy. Karl Marx famously commented that “Religion is the opium of the people.” One of my fellow bloggers heads his blog with the title “Ignorance is Bliss”, meaning that ignorance of the alleged scientific proof against religion is blissful. Scientific studies tend to support this conclusion.
In addition to this, anthropologists tell us that religion is universal in human societies. Other than eating and sex, religion seems to be one of the most persistent of human needs. The question is, why? After all, animals, from goldfish to mice, cows, dolphins and gorillas seem to manage very well without it.
Harvard psychology professor Dr. Steven Pinker has taken a stab at answering this from an atheistic point of view, however he admits that the answer is “a genuine scientific puzzle”.
In my humble opinion, there is only one reasonable answer. God created us for the purpose of recognizing Him and therefore He created within us a natural desire for religion. See for example the Ramban’s commentary to Exodus 13:16 toward the end of his comments.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:30 AM