Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This post has been relocated.

105 comments:

DrJ said...

Basically this type of explanations--AKA apologetics-- reflects a concession to the overwhelming contribution that science gives to knowledge and the inability of religious dogma to maintain its old positions.

It is apologetics because it clearly goes against what Jews believed up until recently and goes against the plain meaning of the text as well. Even if there were "other worlds", the creation story clearly starts out with the creation of the world as a whole, along with celestial bodies, not just the creation of life, so why would there be dinosaur evidence (or evidence of homo sapiens) from previous worlds?

If the rabbis had such insight from ruach hakkodesh why didn't they know the "true" age of the world?

I imagine that as the evidence for evolution continues to pour in, the overwhelming pressure to accept it will make anybody who doesn't believe it appear a lunatic, and Judaism will adopt it, too. It will then "explain" it to be consistent with the Bible. (Like attempts to say that God created the world "old" so it would deceive us.)

Your theory of the Hebrew language is contrary to scientific evidence, which points to pre-Hebrew languages in the middle east at the time, as well as non-Hebrew references in the bible, borrowed from nearby cultures.

I have no problem with using Judaism as a source of moral philosophy, the specifics of which one can agree with or not. But attempts to reconcile modern science with ancient concepts of physical reality just don't work. Not only in cosmology or evolution, but in physics, medicine, plant biology, etc.

DrJ said...

Another problem is, how does it make sense that god would make a world of dinosaurs and mammoths, only then distroy it, to "improve" upon it to make man? What, does the Lord have a learning curve of millions of years? Also, how do the pre-homo-sapien homonids fit into your scheme? Are they from this world or previous worlds?

You might answer that god can go whatever he wants, and we don't have to understand it. But it has to make sense in terms of the biblical Hebrew god concepts and the bible, including perfection, etc.

jewish philosopher said...

"It is apologetics because it clearly goes against what Jews believed up until recently" How do you know? Have you taken a survey about what Jews believed? The creation process has always been regarded as including deep mystical meanings. Therefore the Talmud Chagigah 11b states that it may not be taught to more than one student at a time.

“I imagine that as the evidence for evolution continues to pour in, the overwhelming pressure to accept it will make anybody who doesn't believe it appear a lunatic, and Judaism will adopt it, too.”

News flash: The evidence against evolution continues to pour in making anybody who does believe it appear a lunatic.

“Your theory of the Hebrew language is contrary to scientific evidence,”

Sources?

“how does it make sense that god would make a world of dinosaurs and mammoths, only then distroy it, to "improve" upon it to make man”

How does what we do make sense to an insect? Does that mean there is something wrong with us?

badrabbi said...

JP,

There is much that you have gotten wrong in this post, but I applaud you for at least attempting to write down your version of what you think happened.

Let me point out one problem though: You have in previous posts asserted that the contents of the Torah have been witnessed by millions of Jews. That the Torah was given at Mount Sinai and 3 million people watched it happen. Thus, to claim that the giving of the Torah never happened would involve the conspiracy on the part of the Jewish ancestors.

OK.

But look at this now. Here, you are saying that there existed several worlds out there prior to this one. I did not know about it. I checked with my family and they did not know about it. I will check with my Jewish friends, but it is a pretty decent bet that it is news to them also.

Yet this very claim of yours is going to be made and defended on "anti-conspiracy principle". What is more, if this idea of yours just happens to get some traction and get adopted by most Jews, some one some day will claim that God gave us this information at Mount Sinai!

So whalla, we have a new Jewish doctrine dressed up as an ancient one. And again, someone like you will defend the idea of the conspiracy theory none sense.

By the way, you never responded to my claim that of the 3 million people who supposedly were at mount Sinai there were only Joshua, Caleb, and minors who made it out of the desert. So any witnesses who could have contradicted the mass revelation were 2 adults and a whole lot of minors. As you know, minors' testimony is suspect.

I have yet to hear you rebut this claim that the 'mass conspiracy' would involve the word of 2 adults and a hoard of children.

jewish philosopher said...

How exactly does someone offering a slightly original interpretation of Genesis 1 negate the historical accuracy of the Sinai revelation? If someone discovers that most victims of the Holocaust were shot and not gassed, as had previously been thought, would that prove that the Holocaust never happened?

I also don't understand your question about Joshua and Caleb "making it out of the desert". The women survived too. And the adult men at Mount Sinai told their children what they had witnessed, who later became adults and told their children and so on, right up until the present. What has the desert got to do with it?

[Honestly, I really sometimes wonder, who or what is really leaving comments here.]

DrJ said...

JP,

With regard to sources of information: In your opinion, can the talmud or torah EVER be wrong?

I shall restate something that Bad said in an earlier comment.

Because if the voracity of any of your sources is based solely on the indisputable "authority" of the source, than there can be no reasoning with you, since the argument is based not on reason, logic or evidence, but rather authority. Anything disputing your source will be explained away, since your source is always right about everything.

If, on the other hand, like BadRabbi and I, the primary strength of your argument is logic and reason, not the a priori authority of any one indisputable source, than there can be a discussion. Any one of my sources might be wrong or disproven. Your sources can NEVER be disproven.

As to your points:

Your argument against evolution is not evidence but based on your inability logically to see past the watchmaker metaphor, for which evolution give a logical alternative for biological systems. I would say that this is YOUR limitation, not that of evolutionary theory. Evolution is testable and so far has held up and not been seriously disputed by anybody respectable in the scientific community. Only theologians and pseudoscientists dispute it and disregard all of the evidence.

Deep mystical meanings? That's OK for moral philosophy but not for explaining the physical world. This reminds me of trying to reconcile kabbalah's sparks with the big bang.

Hebrew: look up ancient languages in wikipedia. Not that wiki is the ultimate source, but it gives archological sources, of ancient documents dated well before the torah and babel using written Egyptian, for example. Your dates are way off.

"How does what we do make sense to an insect? Does that mean there is something wrong with us?"

Authority based argument, not logic or evidence. Since you can't answer the question logically, you answer, well, you can't use human logic. In that case throw out ALL human logic, since we can always just throw up our arms and say that.

Anti-conspiracy theory: also an authority based argument-- the book itself (and no outside source) claims that millions of people saw it, therefore it must be true and coudn't have been made up, no matter how incredible or supernatural the story. The essential failure of this argument is that neither a SINGLE BOOK nor a TRADITION is a reliable source of information about anything, particularly from the ancient world when most people were uninformed and illiterate.

When holocaust survivers all die, after a few generations there won't be any more witnesses or family stories. Yet there will be plentiful documentary and photographic evidence from independent sources that will verify that it occurred. Same with world war 1, and other events in the past thousand years.

JP, learn history.

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, is there anything which would convince you that most scientists are wrong about anything?

Since no alphabetic writing existed until about 2,500 years ago, how do we know what language was spoken 4,000 or 5,000 years ago? I suspect we don't.

We have no other books confirming the Exodus because no other books are that old. This does not mean the Exodus never happened.

It's interesting that on one hand you seem to say that we have no certain knowledge of what happened in ancient times. The records are too sparse. The evidence is too limited. On the other hand, based on a fragment of a fossilized bone, we have no doubt about all sorts of amazing things which happened 500 million years ago. This is simply secular bias.

DrJ said...

Scientists can be and have been proven wrong as theories have been developed, revised, refined. That is how we acquire knowledge. So in all fields of science, particular scientists are proven wrong about things all of the time. Scientists are fallible, and that is where the greatness of science is: prove your theory, have someone else reproduce your results, or be discredited and be replaced by another. Thats how it works. So far other scientists have only corroborated Darwins theories, not disproven them.

On the other hand, your Torah/God hypothesis rests only on faith and poor logic (aka your insect argument).

"Since no alphabetic writing existed until about 2,500 years ago, how do we know what language was spoken 4,000 or 5,000 years ago? I suspect we don't."

Ancient Egyptian writing is documented from 3200 BCE, well before Hebrew or your tower of Babel. They were most definitely not speaking Hebrew.

Egyptian records go well before 1300 BCE.

"On the other hand, based on a fragment of a fossilized bone, we have no doubt about all sorts of amazing things which happened 500 million years ago."

Stop being disingenuine. You know that it is not one bone fragment but tens of thousands of fragments, fossils and other archeological items collected from all over the world and confirmed by independent sources.

On the other hand, if there was a mass migration of millions of hebrews through the sinai desert, they left no trace, either archeologically or from other peoples.

I'm off to do bedikat chametz...

jewish philosopher said...

Rabbis are also fallible and can make mistakes. Tractate Horiot deals with the atonement required when the rabbis make a mistake.

Why is the insect analogy poor logic? It is more logic to assume God does not exist because He did something you can't understand? Could that be a little secular bias sneaking in?

"They were most definitely not speaking Hebrew." How do you know? Different spoken languages can use the same pictographs, as Japanese and Chinese do today. They are completely unrelated languages but are written with the same characters. Secular bias again?

"tens of thousands of fragments" Sadly, you're a little misinformed. How many fossils are there which allegedly "prove" evolution? Ten fossil birds? Fragments of a few fish skeletons? In the garbage can in my drive way you will probably find more bones, and much fresher ones too. Nice and smelly.

Unmolested Altar Boy said...

At the risk of engaging in "Constant harassment" I have to point out that we are arguing with Jacob Stein, a man who denies the existence and supremacy of Allah and Thor because, as we all know, accepting their existence is wrought with moral obligations and duties that this man, who plagiarizes, libels, steals intellectual property, and struts around in Armani suits while small children starve, is unwilling to accept.

jewish philosopher said...

Are you suggesting I let Giogio Armani starve?? You swine. These atheists are even worse than I thought.

Rebeljew said...

You have proposed in this post that alphabet started at Matan Torah. However, according to Torah, Avraham gave gifts to the sons of Keturah, and he gave "all that he had" to Yitzchak. Rashi brings pshat from Chazal and solves the contradiction by saying that he gave Yitzchak a document that bequeathed him everything.

If alphabets only started 400 years later, how was this document written and for whom was it intended (since no one could have read it without knowledge of the alphabet)?

Also it say that Yaakov and Lavan made an agreement and disseminated it to their respective tribes to establish a military border at Galaid / Yagar Sahdutha. How was this written?

Also, how were the myths of Gilgamesh (famed flood tale that you yourself have used in a "proof") and the code of Hammarabi written? In fact, Gilgamesh precedes Noah and Hammarabi precedes Avraham and therefore Nimrod (the king of Shinar in Babel), which precedes Babel, so why is it not written in Hebrew?

jewish philosopher said...

I wrote "they devised various pictographic writing systems such as cuneiform and hieroglyphics".

DrJ said...

I asked you whether the Talmud or Torah can ever be wrong, not whether a rabbi can err. I don't need you to tell me that rabbis make mistakes.

Insect logic-- a way to bypass human logic. So if the book says 1+1 is 3, because god said so, than who are we to question. Therefore there is no logic, no argument, no reason. Mind you that we are talking about the god that you characterize in a certain way through the books, not some naturalistic amorphous god. So if the god you describe is supposed work in a certain way, than, YES, it may conform to human logic and reason. If, on the other hand, god is an apathetic, incompetent, and sadistic diety, than it all makes sense!

Language: Egyptian heiroglyphics includes some letters and phonetic components, so we know the structure of the language and roughly how it sounded. It was not Hebrew at all. Do you think that the ancient Chinese spoke hebrew, too?

Evolution: the entire structure of the animal and plant kingdom and genetics supports evolution. You are breathtakingly uninformed about it (or pretending to be). Read wiki "evidence of common descent". Remember that scientific theories are generated using inferential reasoning, not deduction.

Translation of "secular bias"-- determining the truth based on preponderance of evidence from multiple sources, rather than based on a preconceived notion supported by tradition.

Guilty as charged.

natschuster said...

Unmolested altar boy:

A book published in Nov. 2006 titled "Who Really Cares" documented research that said that religious people, for all this wearing of Armani, give more money to charity, and not just religious institutions, but humanitarian causes such as medical research. According to the book ,they give more in total, per capita, and as a percentage of income. It seems that religious people are also mre likely to volunteer, and to donate blood. The purpose of the book was to demonstrate that politically conservative people are more generous, so the authors were not biased towards the religious. It is only a carefult analyis of the data that shows the real difference is religious versus secular.

badrabbi said...

Regarding ‘mass revelation’ and Kuzari arguments, evidently I have not made myself clear. So let me provide some scenarios:

Scenario # 1: Suppose a guy come up to you and claims that he was standing in front of the Empire State Building and God was standing on its pointy edge and bestowed another 10 commandments. No one else sees this event occur.

Do we believe him? NO, since this is an extraordinary event and it requires extraordinary evidence. The word of one man is not enough.

Scenario # 2: Now, say a group of guys (perhaps thousands of people) comes along and says the same thing. Do we believe them? Well, here, the word of thousands of people carries more weight and we are more apt to believe them. This is the Kuzari argument!

Scenario #3: Now, suppose a group of people (again perhaps thousands of them) came along and made the same claim. However, the group was composed entirely of children! Would it carry the same weight as scenario #2? Of course not! This would be a bastardized version of the Kuzari, where the witnesses are less than fully competent to provide testimony.

Scenario # 4: A group of guys comes along and says: “Our parents told us that they saw God on top of the Empire State Building and God gave more commandments”. The group never saw God itself but its members claim that they were told so by their parents.
Here, again, we should recognize that this is not the Kuzari argument. Rather, this is some kind of Kuzari by proxy. Of course such an argument would carry less weight. In a court of law, such evidence would be called ‘hearsay’ and thrown out of court.

In my previous comment, I argued that all adults who could have verified the giving of the 10 Commandments and the Torah died in the desert (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua). This fact is claimed by the Torah itself. Thus, the Kuzari argument, namely argument #2 can not be made, as there are no adult witnesses save 2. The Jewish ‘mass revelation’ therefore breaks down into scenario # 3 or #4, neither one of which constitute a Kuzari argument. Thus, even if Kuzari principle was a valid argument, and it is not, it would not apply to the mass revelation of Jews at Sinai.

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, I asked you whether the science can ever be wrong, not whether a scientist can err. I don't need you to tell me that scientists make mistakes.

I am not saying that 1 plus 1 equals three. I am saying that we are not capable of psychoanalysing God.

I believe (and anybody correct me if I am wrong) that phonetic heiroglyphics were not used until after the period of the Tower of Babel - in other words, the Middle Kingdom and later.

The entire structure of the plant and animal kingdom supports a common creator. The founders of taxonomy and genetics (Linnaeus and Mendel) were creationists.

Bad, all knowledge of history is based on heresay. The Civil War and the Norman invansion of England are pure heresay. George Washington and Julius Caesar - heresay.

badrabbi said...

"Bad, all knowledge of history is based on heresay."

I am not sure why you say that. Evidently we have a different definition of hearsay.

Nevertheless, I think you are admitting that the so-called 'Sinai revelation' is in essence an event whose evidence is based entirely on the hearsay testimony of children.

Your entire basis for a religion is based on the hearsay of a group of kids.

Nice.

badrabbi said...

It never ceases to amuse me when JP cites evidence for his assertions by highlighting links. These links, sources that he himself provides, directly contradict what he is saying. For example, JP states the following:

"The earliest translatable alphabetic writing is a Hebrew inscription, found in the Sinai and dated to about 1,500 BCE. Thus the alphabet was born."

He highlights "hebrew inscription" which a link to a wiki entry, describing the earliest alphabet, which it says was invented either in Eygypt of Canaan which was ANCESTRAL to languages like Hebrew. Thus, based on the wiki entry JP supplied, Hebrew is not the first language that uses the alphabet.

Later, JP cites the Sanhedrin to say the following:
"The Torah was written in some form of the Hebrew alphabet (see Talmud Sanhedrin 21b towards the bottom and afterwards for a discussion of the various ancient Hebrew scripts)"

Indeed, the link starts saying exactly what JP is saying. But then, the Sanhedrin writes the following:

"It has been taught: Rabbi said: The Torah was originally given to Israel in this [Ashshurith] writing. When they sinned, it was changed into Ro'az.6 But when they repented,7 the [Assyrian characters] were re-introduced,"

The very link that JP cites, contradicts the claim that the Torah was written in Hebrew!

Now, either JP is laking in reading comprehension, or he is counting on his readers not to take him up on studying his links. My guess is that it is both.

badrabbi said...

Rebel Jew and Dr. J;

JP's link, Sanhedrin 21a has a fascinating entry, which goes as follows:

"Of Moses it is written, And Moses went up unto God,51 and of Ezra it is written, He, Ezra, went up from Babylon.52 As the going up of the former refers to the [receiving of the] Law, so does the going up of the latter. Concerning Moses, it is stated: And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments;53 and concerning Ezra, it is stated: For Ezra had prepared his heart to expound the law of the Lord [his God] to do it and to teach Israel statutes and judgments.54 And even though the Torah was not given through him, its writing was changed through him, as it is written"

What do you make of this? Is this essentially a tacit admission of Ezra's authorship of the Torah?

Henry said...

Scripture is beautiful metaphor and it expresses certain important truths. To take it literally is to demean it.

As regards evolution, it was long ago pointed out that there is one simple observation that would absolutely prove the falsity of evolution: fossil rabbits in Cambrian rocks. Or more generally, fossils that were just out of sequence in their strata.

So come up with one and the theory of evolution must be abandoned.

Unmolested Altar Boy said...

Jacob, you will never accept Evolution because doing so would have ideological implications that you are unwilling to accept.

But you're in good company there. Gould had the same issue.

Nat, really need to read your posts for common sense issues and basic intelligence problems.

Let us look at your most recent post-

"The purpose of the book was to demonstrate that politically conservative people are more generous, so the authors were not biased towards the religious"

First off, when a researcher has an agenda like "demonstrate that politically conservative people are more generous" than that is bad scholarship.

Second- "the book was to demonstrate that politically conservative people are more generous, so the authors were not biased towards the religious"

Okay, who are the most religious people in AMerica? Conservative people.

Thus, the book is biased towards the religious.

Finally Nat, even if that was true, it has no bearing on the issue of the validity of evolutionary theory. Nor does your bogus and long debunked allegations that Darwinian thought is responsible for the Holocaust. Or any of the other crazy crap you make up.

Henry said...

I am not so sure that Darwin's ideas were not hijacked and abused by racialists to promote the notion of the Nordic types being superior to the rest. Anyone of that inclination would find the theory useful. Though considering the skin cancer and cataract problems suffered by whites in sunny countries, Darwinian theory would predict that since some Nordic characteristics are positively maladapted to that particular environment, they will eventually be weeded out by natural selection.

DrJ said...

BadRabbi,

Let's have fun and take advantage of the 24 hr window of 2nd day yom tov when JP can't answer....

I don't think that from the text itself in Ezra or the talmud we can find such an admission of authorship, although it is highly suspicious. As you know, bible critics (such as Richard Elliot Friedman) have concluded that Ezra was the redactor. There are many psukim in Ezra and Nehemia that support this, like the public readings of mitzvot that were supposedly forgotten, etc. Sometimes the rabbis will make vague statements that border kefira, but with a wink :), like Ibn Ezra's famous statement about the passage listing the kings of Edom.

I just listened to a podcast (check out www.pointofinquiry.org, there's great stuff there) lecture by a social scientist about cognitive dissonance, which describes essentially what happens on JP's blog: when accumulating evidence that goes against a deeply held belief (for which JP gave up his former life), the reaction is predictable: rationalization, denial, discrediting the new evidence. This is used to describe what happens with politicians, for example, who make mistakes but are unable to admit them and instead continue repeating them because they are so invested in a particular course of action. (ie Bush, Oslo supporters, etc).

I might add that JP accuses us of the same thing ("secular bias"), and at this point there might be a grain of truth to it, in that if one day the "killer proof" of God/Torah truth appeared, we too might try to find ways of discounting it...

It is basically a human instinct that defends us emotionally, when we believe that we are intelligent sensible human beings, and when we are confronted with possibly being wrong about something we feel strongly about. It challenges our own sense of ourselves and our competence. The more we invested in a belief the more we will resist changing it.

JP,

"Science" can be wrong in that it is made up of individual theories by individual scientists who can be (and have been) wrong. So the answer to your question is "yes" in the sense of specific theories, but the question doesn't make sense when speaking of "science", which is a method.
Let's summarize your position, if I understand you correctly, you believe that "scientists" are wrong about:
1. The origins of the universe and the earth
2. The origins of language
3. The origins of religion and their texts
4. The origins of man and evolution of life in general
5. The neurobiological basis of consciousness and cognition. (as opposed to "the soul")

You, JP, definitely don't like science. If your belief system contradicts so many things that science considers fundamentals of truth about the physical world, then maybe you should be rethinking your beliefs.

Can a rabbi in the talmud ever be wrong? Can a verse in the Torah be in error?

Henry said...

It is so much easier being a Catholic, once one has accepted apparently impossible things like the resurrection and transubstantiation one is free to get on with life and take a scientific position subject only to the rules of good science ie that if a proposition is disproved it has to be abandoned.

But what is an Oslo supporter? I didn't think the Norwegians were any good at football, unless anyone knows otherwise. The team is apparently called VĂ„lerenga. Unlike the Swedes who are football mad.

badrabbi said...

DrJ;

There have been many times when I have questioned why I have been spending time on this blog. After all, in blog entry after blog entry, JP repeats his same tired ideas.

Then I come across beautifully written comments like Cameron's and yours, where the logic is presented clearly and concisely and where useful information is given.

I appreciate your podcast suggestion.

Having said that, I am not sure that I am married to any particular secular idea. All my family is relatively religious. If I were to suddenly be presented with evidence of God's existence, I would be more than happy to accept it. My wife, mother, siblings, all would jump for joy in the knowledge of my conversion. The rabbis I give grief to on a regular basis would raise their heads and thank the good god.

In short, I would be happy in the knowledge of God's existence. My atheism is not faith based.

I do understand and agree with you, though, about having vested interests in the one's ideas, beliefs etc. I am an American, and as such I tend to resent and resist information that is harsh on the US.

In any case, regarding the Talmud I quoted above, it seems to me that it constitutes essentially an admission that Ezra wrote the Torah. Unless I am reading it wrong...

badrabbi said...

One more thought regarding Ezra...

JP's favorite argument is the so-called 'conspiracy of masses'. He argues that if an individual were to claim that, say, Moses went up to a mountain and received commandments in front of millions of witnesses, then necessarily the descendants of these people will question it if it did not happen. The people would say "um, my father never told me this...."

This is JP's argument, right?

Well, in the Book of Ezra and Nehemia, it states that Ezra began reading the Torah. In the reading, he told them of the Holiday of Succah and its customs. He told of how the holiday is a commemoration of the Jews' 40 years in the desert.

The Books of Ezra states that people had forgotten about the holiday but began immediately to take it up! The people did not go to their elders and say "is this true? Did our fathers have such a holiday?" No, as it is written in the book, they simply got up and set up the tents and plants (which were different than the Torah's prescription, btw) necessary for the holiday.

If this is not a convincing argument against "conspiracy of masses" argument, I do not know what is.

DrJ said...

Henry,

Sorry, I had assumed that you knew what I meant by Oslo, I was referring to the original Oslo Accords for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which we all know now failed miserably. Despite this, all of the proponents of the original discredited process still spout the same ideas...

Bad,

Thanks for your clarifications. I'm familiar with the passage on Succot. There are similar passages regarding Rosh Hashana. You make a good point about the anti-conspiracy theory. Regarding the gamara, looking at the whole context it seems to be referring to changes that Ezra made in the language of the Torah, not the Torah itself.

Perhaps you're right about our "cognitive dissonance". In some ways, I, too, would enjoy going back to the simplicity of my previous beliefs and the comfort that it entails.

BTW, Another great podcast on that site is by Marc Hauser "moral minds".

jewish philosopher said...

I have a post regarding the idea that Ezra wrote the Torah.

I don’t have any problem with anything scientific – science being defined as hard, exact, repeatable laboratory science; the type of science which produces new technologies and medical treatments and which receives Nobel Prizes. Pseudo-scientific speculation about what happened thousands or millions of years ago may be a problem. It’s probably heavily BS.

The only word translated from the Sinai inscription is “l’baalat” which is Hebrew and would be understood by any Israeli today.

Bad, DrJ, Cameron, etc. - the only criticism of my blog which I keep hearing from you guys, again and again, day in and day out is "Don't you realize that only material, physical things exist? Therefore all your beliefs are ridiculous."

My response is, "No, I don't realize that. On the contrary, your belief is a completely baseless fantasy caused by a desire to deny that there are any consequences for your behavior other than the obvious physical ones. You will eventually realize, too late, that this far from the case."

DrJ said...

"Pseudo-scientific speculation about what happened thousands or millions of years ago may be a problem. It’s probably heavily BS."

You call it "pseudo-science" because it contradicts your beliefs. It is just as scientific as any other science, using inductive reasoning that can be tested, critiqued, thrown out and replaced by something. In scientific forums many subjects about evolution or cosmology are debated, but not the essence of the basic theories which are correct.
Your "good" science, you accept because you simply can't deny that something works-- despite that it is based on inductive reasoning and speculating about things that can't be seen and measured directly and which then lead to further discoveries that affect our daily lives.

Regarding your assertion about the existence of non-physical beings-- your are right that although it cannot be proven either way, I don't believe in their existence and you do. The debate really ends their.

You are wrong about the motivation, and in fact quite the opposite. In a humanistic/evolutionary moral system the consequences of my actions are quite real, for good or for bad, and I don't see why I should fear the non-physical ones, if they exist, any more than the physical ones.

Say I commit adultery. Consequently I break up my marriage, ruin my family and suffer financial loss. Let's say I believe in an afterlife. Why would I fear an uncertain, vague, unknown heavenly punishment any more than the earthly consequences of my actions?

For victimless crimes in religion (masturbation, sabbath, etc) you are correct in that there appears to be no earthly consequence, so perhaps it would make a difference, but those are not really primary concerns. Are you saying that we atheists become atheists just so we can violate Shabbat or masturbate? We don't need to become atheists to do that. On the other hand, as atheists we still can't murder, steal, cheat on taxes, etc. So what have we gained, other than intellectual freedom to think what we want?

The real reason we become aetheists is that we view the God hypothesis, like any other theory, as a hypothesis that should stand up to the test of reason and testing. This is particularly true since religionists claim that the non-physical realm AFFECTS the physical and religion has very specific things to say about the natural world. Since it doesn't confine itself solely to the spiritual-mataphysical-moral realm, why should it not be subject to scientific testing? If the soul explains consciousness, life, morality, why shouldn't it be testable?

Therefore, because science has provided so many good and testable answers to things that previously were unexplainable, it is no longer necessary and in fact illogical to explain them on a spiritual basis. Just as disease was previously only explainable by witchcraft, evil spirits and snake poisons is now explainable biochemically, we are now able to explain many (but not all) other phenomena naturalistically without the need to invoke the supernatural.

Having said that, I must admit that religionists are right in that ultimately we don't know the "original" primal source of the universe, and to posit that it is natural or supernatural is arguable and unprovable either way ad infinitum. This doesn't bother me, perhaps it bothers you so you have to fill in with an explanation (God). I don't.

Its not all about wanting to flick a light on Shabbat.

jewish philosopher said...

"Say I commit adultery. Consequently I break up my marriage, ruin my family and suffer financial loss. Let's say I believe in an afterlife. Why would I fear an uncertain, vague, unknown heavenly punishment any more than the earthly consequences of my actions?"

I don't know. Ask Elliot Spitzer about that.

But seriously, most criminals go uncaught and unpunished. That's a little known fact. Check out statistics for crime rate verus conviction rate.

I call evolution pseudo-science because it is. If there was some other, half-way plausible explanation for the origin of species, atheists would grab it in a minute. There isn’t, so they are stuck with a bad theory and fraudulently label it science.

There is an obvious mountain of evidence for a non-physical creator. However people who don’t want to believe in non-physical justice simply claim it’s not there. The human capacity for denial is unlimited. Muslims do not want to accept the justice of Zionism, for example, so they just decide that there was no Holocaust.

DrJ said...

The same "mountain of evidence" exists for witches, goblins, angels and evil spirits. All unseen intelligent agents acting in this world.

badrabbi said...

DrJ;

The above comment is your best ever. You write very well and I hear the emotion in your sentences. I feel exactly as you do!

JP;

Regarding Evolution being a theory explaining the past - remember Evolution occurs all around us. It occurs today. It will occur tomorrow. Everyday, we see consequences of natural selection. For example, the temperatures are warming globally. As a consequence, the polar bears are dying. They may eventually go extinct and eventually their territory may be replaced by other animals. Or, another breed of bear, one less sensitive to foraging in ice might replace the polar bear. JP, that IS Evolution! To deny it is to be stupid. Period.

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, when Steven Spielberg created the Shoah Foundation, do you think he had hopes of convincing people like David Irving or Mahmoud Ahmandinejad about what happened to the Jewish people during the war? I don’t think so. I think he hoped to educate people who are simply ignorant. People, who are staunch, declared Holocaust deniers have their reasons for believing that and no matter what evidence is brought they will insist “It’s a myth. It never happened.”

That is exactly my intention in writing my blog. I understand exactly what atheists believe and I understand exactly why too and I know they will never change. I am not writing for people beyond the point of no return, but for people who are ignorant or who may have some doubts.

Bad, no. My buying new eyeglasses because everyone else in my neighborhood has this style is also evolution. However, in this blog I am referring specifically to “the gradual development of all life on earth from one universal common ancestor through a process of variation and natural selection”.

Unmolested Altar Boy said...

Jacob's argument that atheists reject gods like Thor and Allah because we dislike the restrictions on what we can believe and how we can act is amusing given that sociobiology supporters say the same thing about Gould and his supporters in that debate.

Anyway, Jacob denies the injustice of Zionism thus he rejects the right of Palestinian statehood and the existence of Palestinian nationalism. He hates the restrictions belief in Allah would place on him, so he rejects Islam.

Of course, similar statements could be said about Christianity, Thorism, and all the other thousands of religions and the 3 new ones created each day.

badrabbi said...

“the gradual development of all life on earth from one universal common ancestor through a process of variation and natural selection”.

This is a good summary of Evolution. Leave it for now. My question is: Do you see the processes of evolution in play now? Do you see how natural selection favors some animals or traits and disfavors others? What do you think the consequences of this are?

JP, are you comfortable with the traditional definition of Evolution, ie., "change in allele frequency over time"?

badrabbi said...

Regarding Ezra, I am truly confused. I read scholars like Friedman, who claim that he was the redactor of Torah. I read the Talmud which appears to be all over the place regarding the exact role of Ezra.

So I ask this question: What is the special connection of Ezra to the Torah? Put aside the bickering and knee-jerk snide remarks for a moment: If anyone can give a concise explanation for Ezra and his role in the advent of Torah, I would appreciate it.

DrJ said...

JP,

" I am not writing for people beyond the point of no return, but for people who are ignorant or who may have some doubts"

Got your point. I guess troublemakers like me or Bad are making your job a little harder...

Bad,

Thanks for the compliments. I guess that the emotions associated with the topic keep us all writing and posting, rather than spending our time doing other things...

DrJ said...

Bad,

Ezra-- Traditional view: he re-dedicated the Torah, which had been forgotten and/or neglected by Jews for generations even before the Babylonian exile. He was a scribe and so was literate, more than most people. he established the predecessor of the Sanhedrin. In his day the bible canon was "closed".

Bible critic view: A key founder of biblical Judaism. Pulled together ancient and conflicting traditions and texts, and presented a coherent single text which became the hebrew bible as we know it.

badrabbi said...

DrJ;

So as I understand you, even a traditional (orthodox) view is that the Torah was lost/neglected until Ezra? Do the Orthodox Jews admit that from Joshua to Ezra the Torah was lost to the Jews?

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, you're making the classic evolutionist error of confusing macroevolution and microevolution.

The career if Ezra is recorded in Ezra chapters 7 and 8 and Nehemiah 8 and 9.

jewish philosopher said...

Sorry, that should read "Ezra chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10".

DrJ said...

Bad said,
"So as I understand you, even a traditional (orthodox) view is that the Torah was lost/neglected until Ezra? Do the Orthodox Jews admit that from Joshua to Ezra the Torah was lost to the Jews?"

Something like that. It was partially lost/forgotten/neglected.

jewish philosopher said...

To a large degree, the Torah is being forgotten and neglected today. That's why I made this blog.

badrabbi said...

JP;

You agree the the Torah was more or less forgotten from the time of Joshua to Ezra?

jewish philosopher said...

I think that the basis for that is the fact the words “Torah” and “commandment” are pretty much absent from the books of Judges, Samuel and Kings, at least up until Josiah. That’s like saying that the word “computer” is not mentioned in a biography of Bill Clinton, so it means they didn’t have them in his time.

Check out the books of Ezra and Nehemiah for more authentic biographical information about Ezra.

badrabbi said...

JP;

I just re-read the Books of Ezra and Nehemia. I am not arguing any point here. I am simply trying to understand the history.

Not withstanding your above comment, I am asking you a question: What is your understanding regarding the use and availability of the Torah from the time of Joshua to the time of Ezra?

If the Torah was available and prevalent, what was the role of Ezra?

jewish philosopher said...

I don’t think the Torah was forgotten from Joshua to Josiah any more the US Constitution was forgotten from Lincoln to Kennedy.

Ezra is a person whose biography occupies several chapters of the Bible and I believe he is most noted for discouraging intermarriage.

badrabbi said...

Jp;

What is your take on the following Talmud:

"Of Moses it is written, And Moses went up unto God,51 and of Ezra it is written, He, Ezra, went up from Babylon.52 As the going up of the former refers to the [receiving of the] Law, so does the going up of the latter. Concerning Moses, it is stated: And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments;53 and concerning Ezra, it is stated: For Ezra had prepared his heart to expound the law of the Lord [his God] to do it and to teach Israel statutes and judgments.54 And even though the Torah was not given through him, its writing was changed through him, as it is written"

This is suggesting something much more than a stance on mixed marriage, no?

jewish philosopher said...

Ezra changed the style of lettering used in the Torah scroll.

badrabbi said...

Is that all? What is your source?

jewish philosopher said...

I mean as far as inovations are concerned. In general, he was a great rabbi, perhaps one of the greatest ever.

DrJ said...

Bad,

I think that JP is correct as far as the gamarah is concerned-- he changed the lettering to Ashuri (Assyrian), the predecessor of the Hebrew script used in modern Torah scrolls.

Of course this raises the question of why Assyrian writing is now considered so holy that an error makes the scroll not kosher....It could just as easily be Russian or English or Arabic or any other language that Jews used.

Although there is beauty in preserving the ancient texts and manner in writing on parchment, I always thought it kind of ridiculous that this was a PREREQUISITE for a "kosher" scroll in mezzuzah, tefillin and Torahs. It was just the way they did it at a particular point in history, at which time it was arbitrarily "frozen" and became binding on us forever. Never mind that in 100 years from now all texts will become electronic or virtual reality or whatever, we'll still be using "holy" handwritten scrolls.

It's quaint but kind of stupid in my opinion, not that anybody asked my opinion....Maybe its just a conspiracy to keep the sofrim employed. If we could print Torahs and tefillin their price would drop 95% and the sofrim would have to find another profession.

The idea of a "scribe" in ancient times was that basically only the scribe was literate enough to tranmit and write down texts. There was no other way to do it. Of course now this is irrelavant given word processors and printing presses. One can assume the only reason that the Talmud is printed is that it arose at a time when books existed. Otherwise would be using scrolls for that, too.

DrJ said...

As an extension to my previous comment, when you think about it you realize that most of modern day orthodox Judaism is a "snapshot" of talmudic Judaism (AKA rabbinic Judaism), embellished by another 1500 years in exile. Additional examples besides scribes include prayer, kaddish, kashrut, mikveh, burial customs, shechita, and many shabbat practices.

Among these are specific instances where a ruling was made, and subsequently circumstances or knowledge changed, but the ruling remained in effect. Many practices regarding Niddah represent a basic ignorance or disregard of human physiology, for example, what is considered niddah "blood" and what isn't. The fact that menstruating women wait a minimum of 12 days (in contrast to the 7 required biblically) before mikveh is basically based on a mistake.

Whoops, I almost forgot the atheist in me, that just dies to have sex with a menstruating woman.

DrJ said...

The niddah "mistake" is a source of significant problems for certain couples seeking to conceive.

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, would you be happier with the Mormons? They still have prophets and just keep coming out with new revelations as needed.

The fact is, you are a materialist who simply believes that anything non-physical is non-existent. There is no other religion more rational or stable that Judaism, but it makes really no difference to you if religion is new or old, changing or unchanging, internally consistent or inconsistent. You believe that, by definition, religion is fictional.

DrJ said...

"DrJ, would you be happier with the Mormons? They still have prophets and just keep coming out with new revelations as needed."

As I have said before, Judaism is the least irrational of all of the religions. Nonetheless, you are correct in me believing that all religion is fictional. They serve a useful purpose in helping keep people together and in line.

Yes, I am a materialist, although I believe in ideas that can be just as powerful as matter. Our increasing knowledge of biology, cognitive science, and physics explains most things I know of without the need for non-physical or spiritual beings or agents.

Having said that, spirituality is a positive part of our nature, and part of our survival instinct as a group, and I build my morality around that.

jewish philosopher said...

I see science, authentic, exact, experimental science, the type which creates new technologies and wins Nobel Prizes, to be basically no more than glorified mechanics and plumbing. It does nothing to help us understand the origin of the universe, the origin of the laws of nature, the origin of life or the origin of Judaism.

The concept that nothing exists other than physical things is a baseless assertion.

DrJ said...

"The concept that nothing exists other than physical things is a baseless assertion."

The concept that non-physical beings exist is a baseless assertion. (Together with Ashteroth god and the flying sphagetti machine).

Logic 101: Does the person who claims the existence of something have the burden of proof, or the one who denies its existence?

Henry said...

"All religion is fictional"

Religion is, properly speaking, an attempt to that of which knowledge is constructed. To the extent that it is limited by the limitations of our senses and capacity for thought, it is indeed "fictional", but exactly the same applies to science.

How certain streams of religion, of a fundamentalist stripe, and especially in the USA, have got mixed up with scientific questions, such as what evolved from what is, a very interesting question. As JP says, science deals with matters within the physical realm, like plumbing. But I would not look to Genesis for advice on how to design my central heating system, nor ask a rabbi or a priest for advice on the subject. It would be would be a good thing if people kept religion out of matters of science except where ethical issues were concerned, eg experiments with embryos, etc.

On the other hand, religion alone is equipped to address existential and moral issues.

jewish philosopher said...

Proofs of non-physical beings – first of all, how about the second law of thermodynamics? If the universe were infinitely old, then everything should have reached one equal temperature an infinitely long time ago. Since we see that this not happen, therefore we know that the universe was created at some time. The creator of the physical universe must have been something outside of it – or non-physical.

Frankly, to me proving there is a God is a little like proving that there was an Apollo moon landing. Sure, there is proof. But if you really don’t grasp the idea intuitively, then there is almost nothing to discuss.

badrabbi said...

DrJ;

Very interesting comments. I feel like I am reading my own ideas when I read yours!

BTW, can you direct me to books or sources that describe Ezra and his period (other than the Books of Ezra, of course)?

Henry;

I am not willing to concede the realm of morality to religion. There is simply too much variability within a religion when it comes to basing morality on it. In Judaism, for example, there are many laws that conflict with morally based systems.

Religion, in my opinion, is an interesting relic of the times before the scientific method. It is the 8 track tape of modern society.

Rebeljew said...

Two things:
1) You declare you are an "old earth" creationist". You surely do not object to the concept that man was made from the dust of the ground, which can easily be interpreted as protozoan life (which the Torah does not call "life" since only animals are "alive"). So you do not really have a beef with evolution. It is just that evolution took zillions of years and the Torah gives u only 6 days. But you have no problem with that. The fact that evolution occurs randomly could just be how it looks to us where it is really a process that G-d used to create man from "dust". Without the time factor, evolution is perfectly in line with Torah.

2) How can you cling to the Kuzari type proof in the face of kabalah. Kabalah, as we have it today, is a construct from 500 years ago or so, that was previously unknown. It significantly affects halacha and hashkafa in every way. The writer of the Zohar states in writing that its lineage from Rashbi is contrived. Yet, the the kabalah, which was necessarily not known by even the greatest sages, forms the basis for the way Judaism is practiced today. The kuzari principle is that no one could have deceived people into thinking there was a mass revelation, yet all are convinced that the secret kabalah is part of the revelation, which was virtually unknown until 500 years ago.

jewish philosopher said...

I have explained elsewhere the problems with evolution.

The Zohar actually greatly strengthens the argument in favor of the divine revelation of the Torah. Why did they have to admit that the manuscript had only recently been discovered? Why not convince everyone to lie and say “We have always had this book since Moses received it on Mount Sinai”? Answer: Because it would be impossible to convince the entire far flung Jewish nation to lie about that. Therefore, Ezra clearly could not have done so with the Pentateuch.

And by the way, I don't know about you, but I don't anything based on the Zohar. I mean anything. I am pretty orthodox. Have you ever heard of Yekkes or Litvaks. Pretty orthodox. Kabbalah free.

jewish philosopher said...

"In Judaism, for example, there are many laws that conflict with morally based systems."

Perhaps we should follow a Darwinism based morality, which would include eugenics, racism and genocide?

Henry said...

badrabbi - how can anyone construct a morality without the answers to questions including "Who made me?" (answer, according to chatechism is "God") and "Why did God make me?" (answer is "God made me to know him, love him, and serve him in this life, and be happy with him forever in the next.")

Without the answers to questions of this order, there are no fixed points at all. Human life becomes, in fact, pointless. Anything goes.

Science has no morality. It is just a method of studying the physical world. I good one, I agree, but it provides no morality, nor does it claim to.

Of course different religions provide different answers to the same questions but that is to be expected as an outcome of their different theologies.

DrJ said...

BadRabbi,

Check out James Kugel's new book, "How to Read the Bible".
It contains a wealth of information not only about Ezra, but on all biblical characters, in terms of traditional vs. academic views. Very interesting reading.

DrJ said...

Henry,

The question of the source of morality has been dealth with by many philosophers, psychologists and legalists. Read Steve Pinker or Alan Dershowitz, for example.

The bottom line is that you don't need religion at all to have morality, nor is religion a "fixed point" as you say. Rather, religious morality is a moving target that tends to fixate on ethics of a previous generation.

Science doesn't provide morality, although sometimes it provides information in helping make an ethical decision.

badrabbi said...

"Perhaps we should follow a Darwinism based morality, which would include eugenics, racism and genocide?"

There is no "Darwin Based Morality". Darwinian theory of Evolution is not a moral theory. It is the theory that explains the origins of genetic diversity. Cameron and others elegantly showed you that to say how things are (an "is") does not preach to how things should be (an "aught"). No one is saying that because Lions prey on the young and the sick impala, then the lions 'aught' to be doing so! Darwin did not and an Evolutionist does not pause to give moral justification to a lion's eating habits. This is ridiculous!

JP, you are perseverating. You repeat thoughts that have been repeatedly falsified and thus you are resorting to a loser's gambit.

badrabbi said...

Henry: how can anyone construct a morality without the answers to questions including "Who made me?"

This, Henry, is a fair question.I do agree that this is an important question to want to answer. I am not sure, though, that the answer to the question is a prerequisite for moral principles.

For the sake of clarity, though, let me attempt to answer your question:

Who made you? Your parents! Like it or not, Henry, that is the literal answer. No doubt this answer is not satisfactory to you since I am guessing that you were really asking who 'ultimately' made you. Here, the answer seems to be given by the Theory of Evolution. That is, your parents made you, and their parents made them, and so on. At some point, your great great parents looked a bit different than you do today. At some point in the lineage, your (and my) ancestors were of a different species.

Thus, Henry, the answer to 'who made you' seems to be answered by a biological theory. This is a bit of a let down in that as humans we seem to NEED the lightening and thunder of miracles for our ultimate answers. We are somewhat dissatisfied with the grinding unemotional wheels of nature, winding slowly along, producing creatures as complicated as us without the pomp and ceremony that we feel is due. It is this, in my opinion, that causes religionists to irrationally resist materialistic theories like Evolution despite a mountain of evidence.

Yet I do not see why we even need to deal with this question in order to evaluate moral principles. We "know" that killing is wrong and immoral. How do we know this? Did God tell us? Or did we plug this question in some formula to obtain an answer?

It is my opinion that to some extent, moral principles are innate within us. To some extent too, moral principles are situational and evolving. I believe morality, for most people, is derived from a combination of innate proclivities, societal norms, and logical constructs. Religion relates to morality only in the sense of capturing the moral norms of the age in which the religion was invented. Thus, at the time of the writing of the Torah, killing and stealing was thought to be immoral so these acts made it into the 10 commandments. However, other issues such as stem cell research, abortion, etc., were not in he collective psyche of the civilization, so the writers of the Torah did not mention them. It would be silly, therefore, to go back to bible to seek guidance for today's issues.

Henry said...

"I" am more than the lump of meat and bones that "I" in a sense merely inhabit and which will be dust in a few years time.

And so are "You" or you would not be sitting and reading this and thinking of a reply.

As a Catholic, I do not need to resort to an ancient text for a definitive ruling on a present day situation. There are other authorities and what counts are underlying principles.

badrabbi said...

Henry, I agree with you to some extent. We are more than lumps of meat in the same sense that a computer is more than a bag of metal.

Now that we have established that we are more than the sum of our parts, I humbly ask for you to make a point.

And what are these "underlying principles" and where did they come from?

Henry said...

The principles come from God, through revelation, we apprehend them by discernment, and as far as I am concerned, they are to be found for practical purposes within the Magesterium of the Catholic Church, which, however, does not have a monopoly of this knowledge so they will be found elsewhere too.

jewish philosopher said...

Bad, so as I understand you, intellectually, you are claiming that evolution is a fact, meaning that humans are just a new variety of bread mold. We are worthless chemical accidents. However, in our behavior, we should pretend that we are fundamentalist creationists, that we are spiritually exalted beings made in God's image and we therefore must all treat each other with the greatest love and kindness.

Sure, I suppose you can live that way if you want to, but isn't it a little illogical?

DrJ said...

"Sure, I suppose you can live that way if you want to, but isn't it a little illogical?"

JP, you previously commented that we non-believers just don't grasp god "intuitively".

Here, are you unable to grasp intuitively, how human life (and life in general) is precious, without a God and a creation story telling you it is so? Without that story, is life worthless, including your own?

"...we therefore must all treat each other with the greatest love and kindness".

Now ask youself whom the torah exhorts to treat that way. Not the goy, the heretic, or the sinner.

So its all relative-- even among so-called "believers"


As Bad says, this moral "intuition" is from a combination of instinct, social development and evolution.

jewish philosopher said...

DrJ, excuse me for being so blunt, however I think it's quite obvious that atheists are almost without exception moral degenerates who consider human life worthless. Check out Pol Pot for example. Check out 40 million abortions performed worldwide per year.

However, when living among non-atheists, atheists must put on a facade of belief in human rights, human value, etc so that they will not be locked up someplace and have the key thrown away.

DrJ said...

"However, when living among non-atheists, atheists must put on a facade of belief in human rights, human value, etc so that they will not be locked up someplace and have the key thrown away."

Interesting social theory JP, so absurd not really worth responding to.

I think you have it backwards, that primitive religionists living among secular humanists have to pretend to be moral and advanced, by concealing their primitive beliefs about the moral value of slicing penises and clitori, killing animals to please dieties' noses, and isolating menstruating women.

We've come a long way, baby.

badrabbi said...

Happy end of Passover everyone!

Yes, it is true that we are a new variety of bread mold. Get over it!

Yes, we are chemical accidents. It is amazing, isn't it? But we are far from being worthless. We are indeed precious to ourselves, to our friends and to our family. What gives you the notion that we are without worth?

What is your basis for saying that atheists "consider human life worthless"?

I was just reading a portion of the Talmud, which stated that if a person were to finish the collar of a garment on Shabbat, then he would be killed for this act! Tell me, JP, does this sound like a moral construct that values life much?

As atheists, we assert that there is no God. As proponents of Evolution Theory, we say that genetic diversity is governed by gradual change over time. This is all we say.

It is disingenuous for you, JP, to come along and insert all sorts of ideas extraneous to atheist claims. There are 40 million abortions you say and it is the atheists' faults! It is our fault? Why? Do atheists promote abortions? Since when?

Is it the atheists that are having the abortions? Are there even 40 million atheists in this country?

Cameron, DrJ and I have carefully explained to you that the issue of abortion is unrelated to atheism; that there are pro-choice atheists as there are pro-life ones; that there is no universal agreement regarding abortion rights amongst atheists. Cameron has written in his comments that he opposes abortion, a position that I am not generally in agreement with. Yet you continue to perseverate, repeating your crazy claim over and over that all of us essentially work in abortion clinics, performing D&C's all day long!

As far as ALL atheists being degenerates, you can go on and believe that if you wish. After all, you believe in magic and miracles, in unicorns and in flaming salamanders. You believe in ghosts and demons, shades and evil eyes. You think that humans are 6000 years old, that the first female magically popped out of the male's rib. You believe in talking snakes and donkeys. What is wrong with your having yet another misguided opinion?

jewish philosopher said...

If this is an example of the moral perfection my children will miss out on by being sent to private Jewish schools, I guess I'll have to deal with that.

And Bad, all those "atrocities" which Orthodox Jews are guilty of are always theoretical, never actual. Have you ever noticed that? When was the last time Jews put anyone to death for any reason? So theoretically Jews are criminals, however actually we are much better than anyone else. I think I can handle that also. In the mean time atheists really do commit genocide and their preaching that there is no God does incite millions to commit crimes.

DrJ said...

"And Bad, all those "atrocities" which Orthodox Jews are guilty of are always theoretical, never actual. Have you ever noticed that? When was the last time Jews put anyone to death for any reason?"

Only because the rest of the civilized world reformed us.

DrJ said...

If it weren't for the gentiles and "atheists", we'd still be selling of our 12 year old daughters as handmaidens, stoning witches and adulteresses, and pouring hot lead doing the throats of various other sinners, because God told us to do so. (Just like the muslims do, evidently they have been frumer than us Jews in resisting the ethical influences of the west)

jewish philosopher said...

The ethics of the West – like Hitler and Stalin, for example? Or perhaps ancient gladiator combat? Or the Spanish Inquisition? Or today’s abortion clinics? Which Western ethics have the Jews wisely adopted?

If there is anything ethical in this world, it started with us.

The problem atheists have is that Orthodox Jews are generally really nice people. However to admit that would be to admit the moral superiority of a religion, and of course the Bolsheviks cannot allow that. So the solution is to go on a quote mining expedition and try to find anything nasty any Jewish leader has ever said in the past three thousand years and condemn Judaism based on that. Very impressive.

DrJ said...

You're up kind of late, aren't you?

Here in Israel, there are many orthodox Jews that aren't so nice, but that's beside the point. To claim the Orthodox Judaism is bad for people would be anti-semitic, and I don't claim that. I know that organized religious practice, in many contexts and when controlled properly, can be a productive and good lifestyle and I don't claim otherwise.

My claim is that religion, including orthodoxy, has been TEMPERED by liberal western values (there is more than one kind of gentile values, JP, and you should know that) and more generally by the cumulative social development of man in the past several thousand years, which occured independently of god's intervention, revelation or any other supernatural affair.

Also, contrary to popular belief, the world has actually become a LESS violent place compared to ancient times (see Steve Pinker's lecture) in terms of a man's likelihood (% wise) of dying a violent death at the hands of another man.

Atheism is not a monolithic religion with a single set of values as you attempt to falsely portray it. It simple describes the lack of faith in god, period. Beyond that, an atheist can be good or bad like anybody else.

Morality come from survival instinct--from extending the natural love we have for close relatives to an ever enlarging circle (friends, co-religionists, community, whatever). Beyond that it is social convention-- cultural or religious laws, legal codes, etc. It also comes from learning to correct the mistakes of the wrongs of the past. Thats all it is. I just derived morality for you, JP. That's why you love your wife and kids. Not because god told you to. Then you like your friends and are good to them because its good for you, too. Then you obey laws and customs because that's what helps people get along in a society. Belief in God might help, but you don't need it. At least I don't.

jewish philosopher said...

I would again have to insist: if there any ethics in the world, it’s thanks to us . And any documentation I can find about atheists is generally not good .

People are good either because they are afraid of God or because they are afraid of law enforcement. An atheist, having only the second reason, will naturally tend to be worse than the Orthodox Jew, who has both reasons to be good. And again, rather than quote mining from ancient documents, can you find a living ultra-Orthodox rabbi who advocates burning witches? If not, then it’s as unfair as condemning the Swedes because their ancestors were Vikings.

Henry said...

Most of us from northern Europe have Vikings as ancestors. If not legitimately then by rape and pillage.

jewish philosopher said...

I am joining Pillagers Anonymous.

jewish philosopher said...

Incidentally, I don’t believe that slavery has been abolished thanks to the mercy of secularists. It has been abolished first of all because modern technology has decreased the demand for unskilled labor and secondly because today there are few people primitive enough to be useful as docile slaves.

Henry said...

Slavery has not been abolished. It has just been replaced by wage-slavery which is cheaper and more flexible for employers as they can hire and fire at will and need only pay the absolute minimum the wage-slaves will accept. Conventional slaves have to be housed, fed and generally looked after, whereas wage slaves don't matter.

How this situation has come about is an interesting story but since it is scarcely even recognised it will continue until the system disintegrates under the weight of its own built-in injustices. But the Torah has quite a lot to say on the subject eg Leviticus 25 and you might like to run this some time.

DrJ said...

"People are good either because they are afraid of God or because they are afraid of law enforcement."

Are you good to your wife and children for one of those reasons?
Without God would your be an SOB to your kids?

jewish philosopher said...

Me personally? I am such a wonderful person, so filled with goodness, I would always be good. And probably everyone else says the same thing.

However, have you ever noticed what happens, for example in war time, when law enforcement ceases to function temporarily? Usually, the situation is not so good. It's interesting how so many good souls seem to have some hidden issues, isn't it? Fear of God and belief in the Torah just takes morality a step further.

Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebeljew said...

While some communities contend that kabalah is not important to learn for the average person and they do not stress it, they are not "kabalah free". Ask them if they reject kabalah or those parts of shulchan aruch that clearly have roots in kabalah and they will say that of course they accept it. Anyone who rejects the Ari or rejects the Zohar as entirely false would be considered a heretic today. Yet, it is necessarily so that kabalah was not known by the general public, yet it is universally accepted. This directly refutes the "proof" that you incorrectly call the "anti-conspiracy" proof.

DrJ said...

JP I'd have to agree with you on your point about what happens when there is social breakdown. I would also agree that God and religion adds an additional layer, and even in good times it can make good people better.

But from where does your moral sense come from in dealing with your family? Would you agree that its ingrained, instinct? I don't think its just social pressure and I don't think its from belief in God.

On the other hand during periods of social breakdown and lawlessness, believing people don't do so well either, as witnessed in the book of shoftim and in modern times during religious civil wars-- Sudan, Somalia, etc. Belief in God doesn't seem to prevent people from slaughtering each other. (In fact it sometimes makes it worse.) But even then people still care about their families and do what they need to do to survive.

I do beleive that religion and belief in God is one path to spirituality, but its not the only one.

DrJ said...

"can you find a living ultra-Orthodox rabbi who advocates burning witches? If not, then it’s as unfair as condemning the Swedes because their ancestors were Vikings."

This is a legitimate question. The big difference is that the Swedes don't pray every day to restore their nation to "days of old", and they don't look back longingly at their history as some sort of idealized value system. The ultra-orthodox do. So while this doesn't manifest itself now as witch burning, it provides a legitimacy and context for practices that I would consider immoral-- such as dodging draft in the Israeli army, the denial of equal rights for women, religious coercion (in Israel), refusal of organ donation, etc.

Some of these things don't happen in the diaspora because orthodox Jews are relatively powerless as a political entity, so they must behave properly as a group-- hold jobs, etc.

The empowerment of ultra-religious groups in Israel has in fact detracted from their participation in civic life-- they are a drag on the economy and social system, don't participate in the defense of the country, and essentially add nothing to the Israeli national existence. All of this is BECAUSE they idealize shtetl life in a Lithuanian yeshiva in the 1800s, which itself idealizes Talmudic life (whatever that was...).

Now if the Swedes wanted to become Vikings again you'd have a point!

jewish philosopher said...

Rebel, if 10,000 people would knowingly have lied about having discovered the Zohar in a cave and none of them broke the conspiracy which was later discovered by some other means, that would refute my anti-conspiracy principle.

drj, I specifically said that "Fear of God and belief in the Torah just takes morality a step further." Does Bnei Brak even have a crime rate?

Even when Orthodox Jewish communities were more or less politically independent, for example during the time of Ezra, the Maccabees, the Council of the Four Lands, etc there was never any Jewish Inquisition. No one is longing for a past which never existed.

Israeli military service can be interpreted morally different ways by different people. If rabbis don't go, they are draft dodgers and if they do they are war criminals, depending who you ask.

jewish philosopher said...

As far as instincts go, people have all kinds of feelings. Different people have different feelings. The same people feel differently at different times. People can do anything.

The Noble Savage idea is a little passé.

DrJ said...

I have no Noble Savage illusions. Human nature has its good and bad characteristics, and I claim that morality is an agreed upon system of rules that takes that into account.

Henry said...

Oh dear. So if, according to the agreed system, eating babies is ok, then babies are on the menu.

jewish philosopher said...

Scientists believe that cannibalism may be normal for humans. To me, it sounds like the best solution to both high population growth and food shortages. Imagine if we could teach people in Africa and India to simply eat each other? Human flesh is probably quite tasty, especially if the person is young, fat and tender. That would help the developing world get on it’s feet, if we could just get rid of those silly Biblical ethics.

For a religious person “morality” means “whatever God wants me to do” and for an atheist it means “whatever the law is”.

Cameron said...

CH: I've redacted the controversial parts for brevity as much as possible. If this creates issues I am happy to return to the original text verbatim.

JP: This (the presence of fossils indicating life before Judaism) seems to present a problem for Judaism, since Genesis seems to teach that there was one creation event and all life that has ever existed was created at that time.

CH: I will go further and say that Genesis explicitly teaches of a single creation event. It certainly never saw fit to mention any other creation events, and its lists of creatures looks to accompany all known living things.

JP: He (the rabbi) explains these findings based on Midrash Rabbah Breishis 3:7 which states that many other worlds were created and destroyed previously to this one.

CH: Very interesting but since this is contradictory to the infallible biblical record...so what? The Bible makes no mention of 'other worlds' (and I would assume that in this context they would mean 'nations' if they did), so who cares what some rabbi thinks?

JP: I believe that the following may the be correct interpretation of Genesis:

When the Torah states, for example, (Genesis 1:11) that plants were created on the third day, that means basically two things: the first time plants appeared on earth was a Tuesday and also each Tuesday, even this week, plants are being renewed by spiritual emanations from God (as it says in the literal translation of Psalms 136:7 "To Him making great lights" in the present tense; God is even now energizing them).

CH: Plants only come into existence on Tuesdays? This is your solution to the problem of Genesis - Tuesday is God's 'plant day'?!

That beggars the imagination - even for you Jacob. The account of creation in Genesis is pretty straightforward. First God creates light, then earth, sun, moon, and when he finishes with the firmament he moves on to all the creatures that crawl on the earth, etc.

There is no mention (at all) of previous creations, no mention (at all) that the 'days' referred to are anything but 24 hour periods in which God created the various things attributed to him, and certainly no mention (anywhere, ever) that God had a special day for plants.

JP: The Bible's first thirty four verses are absolutely literal, however they are not describing historical events which happened one time only.

CH: But that is exactly the claim made in the bible, that creation was a one time thing, and that it took 6 days with a day of rest! No 'cycle of creation' (which is very Hindu concept - you aren't dabbling in other theologies are you? That would be awfully...cultured). Perhaps you don't really believe the bible after all? More troubling is that you seem willing to re-interpret Genesis completely just because pesky things like facts get in the way.

JP: Rather, they are describing a cycle of creative events which continues constantly and which did, at certain points in history, millions or billions of years ago, bring these aspects of the universe into physical form for the first time.

CH: An interesting theory, however it is not contained in the Bible, which has exactly one creation, one time, for all things. Either that view is wrong (hell-oooo science!) or you are engaged in heresy.

JP: The first plants may have appeared 500 million years ago - but they appeared on Tuesday and this week they also received renewed energies on Tuesday.

CH: Tinfoil hat time.

JP: History begins from Genesis 2:4. This is the day which the Jewish calendar starts from - New Years (Rosh haShanah) year 0 or Friday, September 1, 3762 BCE according to the Gregorian calendar.

CH: The 5000 years the bible suggests isn't even half of human history;

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/29/science/29squash.html
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071229101913AAnBYX5

JP: dam was a real person, the garden of Eden was a real place and so on. Adam is the ancestor of all men alive today. His creation represents the beginning of the present, current world and therefore the Jewish calendar begins counting from that day.

CH: Adam is a myth, a story, a legend, and the garden story he takes part in (talking snakes!) is indisputably false. Silly even.

The Aramaic translation of the Torah on Genesis 2:7 reads "And the Lord God created Adam from dust of the ground, and breathed upon his face the breath of lives, and it became in Adam a Discoursing Spirit." I would guess, based upon this, that language was born with the creation of Adam.

CH: Riiiiiiight so before 5000 years ago we communicated by...banging rocks together? Thanks Adam!

JP: The ability to assign arbitrary sounds to different ideas and connect them using rules of grammar I suspect began only 5768 years ago.

CH: I suspect you have as much authority to talk about the origins of language as you do on the origins of species. None. What. So. Ever.

JP: This explains why we do not find writing until about 5,000 years ago. Cities were first established at this time.

CH: Spectacularly wrong.
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/human-evolution/dn1808

JP: According to Midrash Rabbah Breishis 18:4, the first language was Hebrew and this is the language which Adam and Eve spoke along with their early descendants.

CH: Well now I'm convinced! A bearded old Jewish guy thinks Hebrew is the first language! What could be more persuading?

JP: I suspect, however that Adam and Eve could not write. There is no reference to writing in the entire book of Genesis. God spoke to people, but did not give them any documents. I would suspect that during the period from Adam until the Tower of Babel (1766 BCE) all people spoke Hebrew and if they wrote they devised various pictographic writing systems such as cuneiform and hieroglyphics.

CH: (wiping tears of laughter from my eyes)

Soooo you think the Chinese spoke Hebrew 4000 years ago? That the ancient Egyptians spoke Hebrew 4000 years ago? The ancient Greeks? The ancient Sumerians? Do you think Jacob that there is even a scintilla of evidence to make this a remotely plausible proposition?

JP: Therefore, in summary:

Genesis 1 lists which days of the week different creations first appeared and are spiritually reenergized today, but it does not indicate in which era they first appeared.

CH: An interpretation in marked contrast to what the Bible actually says. Worth reiterating;

- no mention of 'cycles of creation' (a post hoc fiction invented to explain the evidence - and not a particularly good one at that - seems a much more reasonable explanation to me)

- no mention anywhere that 'days' means anything other than 'days'.

- and (snicker) absolutely no mention of 'plant Tuesdays'

JP: We are all descended from one man who was created in 3762 BCE.

CH: Demonstrably false. See any of the links I provided above.

JP: Speech began with Adam. He spoke Hebrew.

CH: Provably false. Hebrew is a sub family language of 'afro-asiatic';

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Asiatic_languages

Curiously (actually it isn't) the evolutionary history of languages is yet another confirmation of the principles of evolution.

JP: Languages other than Hebrew began after the Tower of Babel 1766 BCE.

CH: Provably (and ludicrously) false.

JP: The alphabet was given to man with the revelation in the Sinai 1314 BCE.

CH: Examples of written languages (proto-alphabets) exist long before 1314 BC. But don't take my word for it;

http://members.fortunecity.com/rapidrytr/Spell/alfabet-abbr.html

So once again Jacob, even the merest effort of scholarship would have exposed these errors to you, but you couldn't even make the effort to see what experts might have to say on the subject. Much easier for you to fabricate and pontificate in that hermetically sealed intellectual vacuum you live in.

JP: For a religious person “morality” means “whatever God wants me to do” and for an atheist it means “whatever the law is”.

CH: And with the stroke of a key Jacob manages to ignore centuries of ethical philosophy from Epicurus to and the Stoics through Confucius, straight past the enlightenment philosophers, and right on by John Stuart Mill, libertarianism, consequentialism, not even to mention the wide variety of legal philosophies that exist, etc.

I'd be shocked except resorting to these empty caricatures and willful ignorance is pretty much par for the course.

jewish philosopher said...

Cameron, nice to see you again.

As far as I can tell, you seem to be saying that first of all you are a greater Biblical scholar than I am and therefore your interpretation is clearly the correct one. Congratulations.

Second of all, you seem to be basing most of this comment, like all your other comments, on the false assertion that nothing exists except for physical things and therefore anything non-physical, supernatural, miraculous, etc is ridiculous. Doesn’t that get boring after a while?

The only serious question you raise is regarding the correct age of the earliest cities. The example you give, is highly controversial, however apparently you are too ignorant to realize that.

Cameron said...

JP: As far as I can tell, you seem to be saying that first of all you are a greater Biblical scholar than I am and therefore your interpretation is clearly the correct one. Congratulations.

CH: Thanks. That said, being better than you at reading Genesis literally isn't that difficult for me.

JP: Second of all, you seem to be basing most of this comment, like all your other comments, on the false assertion that nothing exists except for physical things and therefore anything non-physical, supernatural, miraculous, etc is ridiculous. Doesn’t that get boring after a while?

CH: Perhaps you should re-read (or more likely, read for the first time) my criticism of your post Jacob - you might be shocked to discover that not a single reference to that argument is ever made. I know its easier to slur your opponents and dismiss them then to engage them, so I should add I am not surprised that you would take this tact.

JP: The only serious question you raise is regarding the correct age of the earliest cities.

CH: And here I thought I had several 'serious' (at least they are as serious as your proposal can be taken) questions;

- if there are more than one 'cycles' of creation why aren't they mentioned in genesis? Seems a bit strange don't you think that something so important would get left out until an unknown rabbi pulls it out of his ass as an explanation for why genesis is obviously wrong.

- There is no credibility to the assertion that god created all plants (and then renews them!) on Tuesdays. Zero. It's something an illiterate kindergarten drop out might comes up with.

- There is evidence of written language long before the Jews

- There is evidence of cities and human populations for thousands of years before the Jews.

- Hebrew is a descendant/off-shoot of other older languages.

- The Tower of Babel is an obvious metaphor and not meant to be taken literally.

- Ancient Chinese did not speak Hebrew. Neither did the ancient Greeks, nor the ancient Germanic peoples, etc. etc.

JP: The example you give, is highly controversial, however apparently you are too ignorant to realize that.

CH: 'Highly controversial' to who I wonder? More to the point feel free to type 'human city 90000 years old ' into your search engine and skim the results. You'll find that doing so will provide you with a wealth of information on a number of ancient cities - that pre-date the existence of the Jews by 4000 years.

But why would you ever do something so basic and obvious to test your fantasy world when you can remain in your intellectual vacuum through denial?

jewish philosopher said...

Cam, do you also give gurus advice about interpreting the Rigveda?

And if you believe in God, miracles, etc, then how do you know that Hebrew is an offshoot from earlier languages, plants were not created on Tuesday, etc? Aren't all these assertions based on an assumption of materialism?

Cutting through all the ranting, I hear you saying (for the one millionth time) "Only physical things exist, therefore your religion is nonsense."

Rebeljew said...

The implication of the anticonspiracy idea is that millions of Jews received the Torah and that if it were not so, then someone would have objected. Therefore, the Torah must have truly been given to the Jews as is.

Kabalah clearly refutes this. Kabalah is universally accepted by Jews and it is considered heretical by almost all frum people, if not all, to say that Zohar is a made up book, that the teachings of the Ari are not part of Torah or that kabalah is not part of mesorah. The "gedolim" have made pronouncements to this effect. Yet, kabalah was, by its very nature and definition, not known by our ancestors. It was not witnessed on Har Sinai. It was completely unknown, even to the greatest sages until the late 1500s. Yet every Jew must accept kabalah as part of the mesorah, just as essential as the Oral Law and part of the Oral Law.

This demonstrates clearly the converse (reverse, obverse??? I can never keep them straight). The acceptance of Torah mi'Sinai does not imply concensus based on personal observation or tradition, any more than the acceptance of kabalah demonstrates concensus based on personal observation. Judaism universally accepted kabalah despite lack of such observation and admittedly, they might have accepted Torah mi'Sinai on the same basis. Tyuvta l'JP, tyuvta!

(This is not either a disproof of Torah mi'Sinai, it just means to point out that the "anti-conspiracy proof" is proof is fallacious and inconsistent.)

jewish philosopher said...

"it is considered heretical by almost all frum people, if not all, to say that Zohar is a made up book"

Quote one rabbi who says that.

"Judaism universally accepted kabalah despite lack of such observation"

So? I never said that a lot of people cannot be fooled. I said that a lot of people will not knowingly and willingly conspire together to fool others without someone breaking the conspiracy and revealing the truth. That's how we know the Holocaust was not a hoax and neither was the Apollo moon landing or the plane hitting the Pentagon.